Archive for the ‘Faculty news’ Category

Ross Klavan’s (a) “Schmuck”

August 12, 2014

Ross Klavan, the charismatic voice of the creative writing program and one of our beloved screenwriting faculty members, was kind enough to share some of his thoughts and process for his novel, Schmuck with The Write Life blog.schmuck

Schmuck takes place in 1960’s New York, where Jerry Elkin and Ted Fox rule the radio airwaves. Between Elkin’s zany dialects and impressions and Fox’s golden, straight-man voice, they’ve got it down pat. But if listeners could hear between the lines, they’d notice an undertone of tension between the hit team. Jerry resents Ted for his dismissive attitude towards TV offers, and his ability to sweet-talk the ladies. Even his own son gets the girl, Sari Rosenbloom, an eighteen year old bombshell that Jerry can’t get off his mind.

Between seedy, well-connected mobsters, a head-swiveling femme fatale, and a son that just doesn’t get it, Jerry navigates this post-war, Jewish-infused, zany, larger-than-life landscape.

Schmuck was published by Greenpoint Press and is available through their website, which can be found by clicking here: http://www.greenpointpress.org/gb_book_schmuck.html

You can also purchase the book on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble.

Schmuck is loosely based on your father’s radio show. Why write something so close to home?

The most famous joke about show business is the one about the guy in the circus who sweeps up behind the elephant. You know which one I’m talking about. He walks behind the elephant with a broom, clearing all the elephant crap and cursing to himself about how much he hates his job. And when somebody says, “If you hate it so much why don’t you quit?” He says, “What?! And leave show business?!” I’ve lived all of my life connected to show business and I’m sort of the guy sweeping up behind the elephant…and also the guy writing about the guy who’s sweeping up. All writing and performing is obviously based in your self since you’ve got no other place to begin. I’m lucky that my own personal lunacy–mishegas as the holy men say–leans sharply toward a combo of the masochistic and exhibitionistic. That means that I can exploit my own experience and then beautifully alter, embellish, form, shape, structure and compose until it both seems real and strangely heightened, both at the same time. It’s either that, or I go back into analysis.

Does your artistic work take from your real life often, and is it hard to balance between what’s real and fictional?

My work almost always takes off from real life, at least to start out. As for the line between real and fictional—I don’t know, it’s not so solid for any of us, I think. I like to jump back and forth across that line or blend both sides or step aside and see what gets called up from the dregs. That’s an incredible pleasure. Dream experience—that’s real experience, too, just a different kind. And like I said before, I’ve spent all my life around show business and I like writing about show business—not major movie stars and big money deals, for some reason that’s a snooze for me. I like the other levels. Clowns and jokers and radio guys who live in a world of TV. Where people are desperate and striving like their life depended on it and not usually succeeding. The screenwriter who can’t sell anything and who ends up shot dead by his mistress and floating in her pool, to me that’s a better story than the big names who end up on the cover of “Vanity Fair.” It’s plays more in my imagination. For a while, when I was younger, I supported myself as a reporter doing grunt journalism and you were supposed to be accurate above almost anything else. Eventually, my mind started to develop hemorrhoids. Even if you’re not going to be in the arts, I highly recommend living by the imagination as long as you’re not walking off a cliff.

“Schmuck” has been said to blend zany humor with a deadly somber undertone. Was it hard to write in such opposition?

It’s much more difficult to live with that opposition, which many of us do. It’s sort of like, one minute it’s all “ha-ha-ha” and you recognize the Absurd…then, when you see how absurd it all is, you start to feel it’s all so sad there’s not enough tears in the world to cry, and then you start laughing again because you hear yourself thinking that and it all seems so ridiculous. I tried to give Jerry Elkin that quality—underneath it all, he knows that we’re all sharing a misshapen rock spinning around in space and nobody really knows what the hell is going on.

Jerry Elkin is loosely based on your father. Has your father read the book, and if so, what does he think of Jerry?

My father died ten years ago so he hasn’t read the book—at least, I don’t think he has. I like to imagine that if he’s out there in that Great Radio Station in the sky, that maybe he got a few laughs out of it. He had a pretty wicked sense of humor that stayed with him until the end.

Do you have a specific process that you use when you write, and does “Schmuck” differ from your usual process because of it’s roots in your own life?

A theater director once told me that he went into rehearsal with a specific goal in mind for each particular session and then, when he got there, it was time to go home even if rehearsal only took five minutes. For some reason, that’s how “Schmuck” was written. Every time I sat down to work, I had a specific problem to solve—not a number of pages—but a chapter or a scene or a sequence of scenes to finish. Just what felt right. When that was done, I headed for the couch, lay down and put the “New Yorker” over my face. I also kept a notebook of ideas and lines and things to look at or change when I hit the next draft. Every project has something of its own character. I usually start off with a process of free association, just riffing and coming up with scenes and ideas that light up, even if they seem to be totally unrelated. Then, if I haven’t completely cracked up, I start finding some kind of narrative line that connects what scenes I’m going to use.

What the most important thing that you want to convey to an audience when you write, and how do you try accomplish that?

That’s an incredibly tough question to answer so I’ll hide from it as best I can. One way of looking at it—only the book itself can answer that question, otherwise there wouldn’t be a reason to write it. Also, you don’t want to get between the reader and his or her experience of the book–a writer has no business being there, you should be off working on something else or taking a nap. Then, overall, I’m going for something that’s tremendously alive and vital, or I hope it is, anyway—I don’t have any grand theories that make sense and I’m not smart enough to have any mind-bending ideas. But I hope the reader comes away at least with a feeling of life and enjoyment—like they’ve been hit in the head with some kind of weird tuning fork. And in a book, I think, you do that by rhythm, tempo, structure and a certain kind of language.

Sari Rosenbloom has been compared to Daisy Buchanan. Was this an intentional inspiration, and how else does “Gatsby” fit into “Schmuck’s” world?

Oh, yeah, there’s a definite “Gatsby” thread running through the story. Partly, that’s because I wanted to convince my audience that I’d actually read at least one great book. Also, growing up, I spent all too much time not too far from the real Gatsby House—or what was supposedly the house Fitzgerald used–and I got a feel for the parvenu’s outlook. Then, at one point, I started to think of “Schmuck” as a sort of “Gatsby” that’s told through the eyes of Meyer Wolfsheim, the Jewish gangster character, the guy who fixed the 1919 World Series. Which, by the way, is not a bad trick if you can get away with it.

You’ve written scripts for Miramax, Paramount, and TNT. How does your script writing differ from your novel writing?

At the gross level—which may be our favorite—a script has more people involved and you get a lot more money. But aside from the practical–there’s a common level in all narrative writing, I think, from commercials to novels to feature films. You’re dealing with characters and stories and people and you’re trying not to bore anyone. I wrote the film “Tigerland” which starred Colin Farrell but I did the script off the first draft of a novel I’d written. I’d worked out the story already, so it was much easier than starting from zero. For prose fiction–a novel can rest more in its language, going directly into the reader’s psyche, a mind dart. A screenplay has to do that also but it has to unfold in the reader’s imagination as a film, so that even a character’s consciousness is there to be literally seen, heard and understood in a medium that’s going to be watched and that takes place in time, somewhat outside of the viewer’s control. At some point, even if it becomes second nature, you have to care about that when you write a screenplay. I love film—I’d have to say that film and a kind of molecular understanding of what it is to write a screenplay have only been of the greatest help in other kinds of writing, especially prose fiction. It teaches you to move a story, not to be precious with yourself, to make everything count.

Your wife, Mary Jones, is a painter. Does her artistic vision bleed into your work, and vice versa?

Mary’s a terrific artist and I’ve probably learned much more from her than she’s learned from me. Her courage and seriousness and willingness to take chances, her connection to her own work and her respect for it, her ability to let it change…that this is part of everything she does and that she wears it lightly, I’ve gained from all this now for a long time. When we first knew each other many years ago, I remember once she lost a lease on her studio and was looking around for a new place. I asked her why she didn’t just rent a cheap apartment, what difference does it make where you paint? And she said, “Because during those times when you’re not selling anything or you’re stuck or you feel like everyone hates your work, it’s important to have a place to go that reminds you who you really are.” Maybe writers have to have a version of that, too…and since we don’t need a lot of brushes or canvases, it can just be in the mind.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Ah ha! The old advice question. Sometimes I hear writers say that there’s more bullshit out there about writing than there is about sex…but actually, I think, a lot of the writing advice is pretty good. It’s just…what do you do with it once you hear it? How do you make it your own? Can you actually sit down and use it? Then there’s this—I think what most of us want when we go after advice about writing is for somebody else to do the real work for us. I’m not talking about specific craft questions. But we live in a world that’s got a large sign across the sky that says, WARNING: DON’T BE ALONE IN YOUR IMAGINATION! And effort, pain or frustration? Forget about it, they get chosen last for the team. But that’s exactly what writers have to do and where they have to go, hour after hour. Real problems with writing are solved by writing. Eventually. Maybe painfully and with much frustration. OK, on some days, more easily. On some days, it’s like a tight muscle opening. So the best advice is that, ultimately, there’s no advice—you have to do your own work, day after day. Abandon all hope! Nobody can do it for you. And if you’re having one of those days when you think everything you’ve done sucks, you don’t deserve to live and you’re wasting your time at the pad or the keyboard…well, after you’ve screamed into the pillow, try not to have too much to drink and then, take a look at your stuff and try to see very, very specifically, exactly what it is that’s turning the blade in you. Try to see exactly what it is that you don’t like. Because that, exactly, can be fixed. With a generality, you’re screwed.


 

Ross Klavan’s work spbossklavanans film, television, radio, print and live performance. His original screenplay for the film Tigerland was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, he recently finished an adaption of John Bowers’s “The Colony,” and he has written scripts for Miramax, Paramount and TNT, among others. The “conversation about writing” he moderated with Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer was televised and published as “Like Shaking Hands with God,” and his short stories have appeared in magazines and been produced by the BBC. An earlier novel, “Trax,” was published under a pseudonym. His play “How I Met My (Black) Wife (Again),” co-written with Ray Iannicelli, has been produced in New York City, and he has performed his work in numerous theaters and clubs. He has acted and done voice work in TV and radio commercials and has lent his voice to feature films including Casino, You Can Count On Me and Revolutionary Road and the new Amazon web series Alpha House, written by Gary Trudeau. He has worked as a newspaper and radio journalist in London and New York City. He lives in New York City with his wife, the painter, Mary Jones.

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Michael Mailer film: HBO in Oct

October 23, 2013

Mailer filmFaculty member Michael Mailer, producer of more than twenty feature films, recently returned from the Cannes Film Festival where his film Seduced and Abandoned premiered. “It was an exciting time walking the red carpet,” Mailer said. The film stars Alec Baldwin and James Toback.

Seduced and Abandoned is a nonfiction film, part mediation on film and the filmmaking process consisting of interviews of film legends such as Polanski, Bertolucci, Scorcese, Copola, and part adventure tale following the ups and downs of Alec Baldwin and James Toback as they attempt to set up a remake of Last Tango in Paris (but this one is set in Iraq called Last Tango in Tikrit) at the Cannes Film Festival,” Mailer said.

HBO bought the film for US distribution and will be airing it this fall, on Oct 25. Mailer is currently working on a new picture in Louisiana.

faculty member Nancy McKinley: laughs in print

October 16, 2013

Nancy McKinley promises ‘Halloween Party laughs’ in her short story, “Love, Masque & Folly.” The story is included in the short fiction anthology VOICES FROM THE PORCH, available for advance sale from Main Street Rag.

BookPorchesAnth

Kaylie Jones Books joins Tumblr

August 30, 2013

KJB

Kaylie Jones Books, an imprint of Akashic Books, has added Tumblr to their social media efforts. On this blog, writers from all walks of life and experience levels may enjoy “Get Your Words Out” – a series of tips for writers – as well as other updates.

Visit the KJB Tumblr site: http://kayliejonesbooks.tumblr.com
Visit the KJB website: http://kayliejonesbooks.com

New releases for faculty member Ken Vose

July 24, 2013

Vose books

NORTHAMPTON HOUSE PRESS RELEASES FORMULA ONE RACING SERIES AS E-BOOKS

(New York) – July, 2013.  Northampton House Press has re-released the Pete Hawthorn Formula One series of racing thrillers, by former racing driver Ken Vose, for Nook, Kobo, Kindle, iPads, and other e-reading formats. 

Oversteer takes the reader into the glamorous and high-risk world of international Formula One racing. When driver Pete Hawthorn goes to Rio for the Brazilian Grand Prix, he sets in motion a chain of events that will solve a decades-old mystery: the disappearance of his father in the Brazilian jungle during the 1970 World Cup Rally. 

Dead Pedal is the sequel to Hawthorn’s Brazilian adventure. When three members of an exclusive racing society fall victim to a mysterious killer, questions arise as to whether their deaths were related to racing or to their wartime involvement with the WWII anti-Nazi resistance in France. The answer lies somewhere along the tortuous 1000 mile route of Italy’s famed Mille Miglia. 

Ken Vose spent twenty years in the film and television industry as an editor, producer, writer and director.  His screenwriting credits include Greased Lightning starring Richard Pryor as NASCAR race driver Wendell Scott. Vose, who resides in rural Pennsylvania, is currently at work on the third book in the series. Boost will take Hawthorn to the fastest racecourse on the planet – the Bonneville Salt Flats – to investigate the suspicious death of a fellow driver who crashed during a practice run for an attempt to set a new World Land Speed Record. 

Northampton House LLC publishes carefully selected fiction – historical, romance, thrillers, fantasy – and lifestyle nonfiction, memoir, and poetry. Its mission is to discover great new writers and give them a chance to springboard into fame. Watch the Northampton House list at www.northampton-house.com  and Like them on Facebook – “Northampton House” – to discover more innovative works from brilliant new writers.

For more information about Ken Vose and his other works, visit his website at http://kenvose.com/.   For more info: (570-685-7428).

Kickstarter success for producer Susan Cartsonis

July 17, 2013

Carrie Pilby

Wilkes faculty Susan Cartsonis, along with director Susan Johnson and producer Suzanne Farwell, have recently achieved success utilizing Kickstarter to fundraise. The team set a goal of more than $50,000 to be raised between Jun 18, 2013 – Jul 13, 2013. The goal was met two days prior to their deadline and funds continued to roll in for the final weekend.

Susan Cartsonis

Susan Cartsonis

The creative team was raising funds to adapt the novel Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner into a script. Carrie Pilby was among the first novels published by the Red Dress Ink imprint. In its first print run, the book sold more than 50,000 copies and was subsequently reprinted and published under various other imprints to keep up with international demand.

Susan Cartsonis, a member of the Wilkes film faculty, is known for What Women Want, Beastly, Where the Heart Is, and No Reservations.

More info about the Kickstarter campaign is available here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/braveartfilms/carrie-pilby-the-movie

More info about making Carrie Pilby into a film is online here: http://www.carriepilbythemovie.com

More help from Visiting Editor Veronica Windholz

June 5, 2013

Residency guest speaker Veronica Windholz has added to On Close Reading, her resource site for writers. The long-time editor first developed the website as a research archive for the workshop she developed and led at the Norman Mailer Colony, but she has since added information that all writers can access and apply to their creative toolboxes.

On Close Reading includes resources and guidance in the areas of composition, revision, and storytelling. The Editing Clinic includes lessons on Composition, Revision, and Storytelling.

In addition to editing resources, Windholz has added a selection of video clips from her most recent visit to the Wilkes University creative writing program. Graduating MAs will have the opportunity to interact with the editor at the upcoming summer residency.

In August 2013, Veronica Windholz will celebrate forty years of editing top-selling fiction and nonfiction for the major New York publishers.

advisory board member Susan Cartsonis honored

May 22, 2013

Faculty and advisory board member Susan Cartsonis was recently honored for her accomplishments in film by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America at their 6th Annual Women of Distinction luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Susan offered this speech at the luncheon:

Thank you so much for this honor. I’m excited to be sharing this day with Lisa Greer and Amy Brenneman. While I’ve been TOLD I’m being honored as a Woman of Distinction for my accomplishments in film, if we’re being really honest here, it’s about Stan. Stan Seidel was my life partner of seventeen years, and all around great guy, who died suddenly in 2000 and way too young at 48 of the complications Crohn’s Disease. Stan’s the real reason I’m being honored. And I’m more than ok with that.

Susan Cartsonis

Susan Cartsonis

I’m proud of the role I played in helping Stan prevail over his disease to become as he always said with truth behind the joke: a “well respected member of his chosen profession”. Which was screenwriting.

Stan used to call me, his “helpmeet”, which I thought was a word he just made up until I looked it up, Googled it last night, and found it is a combination of two roots from Hebrew, one meaning “to rescue” or “to save,” and the other meaning “to be strong.” The roots merged into one word, so did their meanings.

So I’d like to share this lovely award with all of the Women and Men of Distinction and helpmeets who have been and are caretakers for people with Crohn’s and Colitis and other debilitating diseases.

Those caretakers include people here like Miriam Scharf, who was Stan’s therapist. Miriam helped him break through creative barriers so that he got to see his work on the big screen, and got to be a well respected member of his chosen profession. Also, Dr. Ed Feldman, who reassured and comforted Stan about his condition from the moment Stan arrived in L.A. and encouraged him to go on adventures around the world, even when it presented a logistical nightmare due to shipments of medications, refrigeration, and risks. Under his care in the 90’s we went to London, Paris, Milan and Florence and the South Pacific—but not to Thailand or Mexico… (for those who weren’t there, there was a big laugh here—because it’s widely known that you have to be extremely careful about travel in these and certain other countries if you are vulnerable to these diseases.)

I share this also with friends like Kevin Goetz, whose late mother had M.S. and who takes care of others with M.S. now through a foundation he established in his mother’s name. And with friends with aging parents who are dealing with the challenges of giving and getting them help.

And I share the award with those of you who are caretakers I haven’t met or I don’t know about because you quietly, even secretly take care of someone in your life.

Secrecy is a big thing with bowel disease especially in the movie business. Not very glam. When Stan died it was a huge shock to people who knew us well. That’s because Stan didn’t want anyone to know anything about it. I respected Stan’s wishes not to discuss his disease publicly —which was hard. But I did it.

As a caretaker you gain a lot of wisdom and perspective along with the feeling that you too are sick without actually BEING sick. Caretaking taught me a lot about the nature of illness and life and death.

But once someone is gone, how do you continue to care for them? Well, in my case it’s by accepting this honor, and supporting important research about what ultimately killed Stan. That’s what he would have wanted. So thanks to you all for shedding light so that Crohn’s and Colitis can get the attention and funding it so deserves. I accept this award on behalf of all of the caretakers in the audience today and beyond. Thank you.

***

To learn more or to make a donation to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, visit the CCFA website.

Introducing Northampton House Press

May 1, 2013

Northampton House Press LLC, a company founded in 2011, is buzzing with activity–and involvement from the Wilkes commuity.

EmpyresNew titles includes Blood & Honor by Wilkes alum Chelle Ang, Ordinary Angels by Joan La Blanc, The Mirror of Aberrantine from alum C. M. Mullane (Chad Mullen), and Empyres: Bloodblind by Wilkes alum John Koloski.

“It’s thrilling to see my book become a reality,” Koloski said. “I thought nothing could compare to seeing the e-book online, but then I held my first galley copy! That beautiful glossy paperback came with a note from Dave Poyer stating that there’s nothing like a new book in one’s hand. He was absolutely right!”

Koloski has also taken on the role of Science Fiction and Horror acquisitions editor, while Joan La Blanc acquires Romance, Wilkes faculty member Bob Arthur manages Poetry acquisitions, and David Poyer acquires all other genres.angels

The Wilkes connection to Northampton House Press doesn’t end there. Poyer said, “Works are in production from Neil Shepard, Rashidah Abu-Bakr, and Ken Vose, along with several books by graduated program members.” This semester, Wilkes student William Horn is interning with the publishing house.

“Northampton House publishes carefully selected fiction—historical, romance, thrillers, fantasy—and lifestyle nonfiction, memoir, and poetry,” Poyer said. “Its mission is to discover great new writers, especially those graduated from accredited MA/MFA programs who have not yet achieved commercial recognition, and give them a chance to springboard into fame.”

arthurThe publisher aims to bring something new to the marketplace and to readers, particularly the kind of works that may be overlooked by large trade houses. “Watch the Northampton House list at www.northampton-house.com,” Poyer said, “and Like us on Facebook to discover more innovative works of high quality from brilliant new writers.”

Lennon’s Mailer Biography News

April 17, 2013

lennon-jacket-220Norman Mailer: A Double Life, by J. Michael Lennon, will be published by Simon and Schuster on October 15, 2013.

J. Michael Lennon, Norman Mailer’s archivist, editor and authorized biographer, teaches creative writing at Wilkes University, and is the founding president of the Norman Mailer Society.

Lennon has a new website where news about the book, related events and signings, and more is now shared online. Visit www.jmichaellennon.com. The site will be regularly updated, and you can sign in and comment on the displayed materials.

J. Michael Lennon

J. Michael Lennon

J. Michael Lennon was authorized by Mailer and the Mailer estate to write his biography, and as such, had access to family and friends, and to unpublished documents, notably Mailer’s letters (Lennon has edited the letters for publication by Random House, Mailer’s longtime publisher). He has interviewed more than 80 people for this biography, but most important of all, he knew Mailer for decades before the latter’s death in 2007.

Norman Mailer: A Double Life reflects Mailer’s dual identities: journalist and activist, devoted family man and notorious philanderer, intellectual and fighter, writer and public figure. Mailer himself said he had two sides “and the observer is paramount.” Readers of Lennon’s biography may find this self-assessment to be debatable.

Norman Mailer: A Double Life will be 800+ pages in length (around 330,000 words), contain a bibliography, 43,000 words of notes, an index, and about 55 photos which will tell the story of Mailer’s life in another way. It will sell for $37.50, but pre-ordered is $24.28, or $19.99 for an electronic version. You can also order it via the website.