So this is the first blog post in a loooong time that hasn’t been a podcast episode or a reminder about some upcoming appearance. A job in academia tends to preclude a lot of basic writerly pursuits.
I’m sitting right now at a Starbuck’s in San Jose, CA, across from the San Jose Repertory Theatre, where I’m awaiting the start of the CINEQUEST Film Festival Writers Celebration. The screenplay I wrote with Jim Pinto, a horror-western called Death Wind, has made the Top 10 in the screenplay contest. This is not the first Top 10 or finalist status; DW got 2nd place at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival–L.A. and Top 10 in the Writers on the Storm screenplay contest, both of which felt like real achievements, except for the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” result. I’ve also participated in a bunch of panels at conventions like World Fantasy, Mile Hi Con, and, hopefully, World Horror in a couple of weeks. So I’m fairly accustomed to appearances in front of a crowd of people, sharing the stage with other writers and creative people.
However, this is my first real film festival. I feel familiar with the literature side of writing, but screenwriting is an amalgam of the words and the visuals, and I’m a huge movie fan, so this is a brand new arena. Screenwriting requires many of the same skills as fiction writing, but there are others, such as the intricacies of format, brevity, and a much tighter narrative focus than a novel allows.
Of course, I’m hopeful that we’ll win, but I’m not expecting it. Our Top 10 placement in Writers on the Storm gave us the detailed feedback that helped some things in the story click into place. We wrote another draft, and that one is the one I feel great about. Cinequest will be judging the previous draft. C’est la vie.
So I’m not expecting to win, but I am hoping for a chance to put the story idea in front of the right people, and say, “Hey, we’ve already done a new draft. How about I send you that one?”
A peculiar corollary to this Cinequest experience is that it’s being held at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, the same hotel where I attended the World Fantasy Convention in 2009. That convention proved to be one of the turning points in my writing career, where I felt for the first time that I had truly joined a community of professional writers, geeks like me. I had found my tribe, all of them with high degrees of talent, experience, hopefulness, and awe. Authors I had been reading for years were suddenly real people standing in front of me, and I was part of their tribe, too. All creative people, writers in particular, should experience this.
Maybe I’m hoping for another experience like that here. A Writers Celebration. A different kind of writer, but only slightly.
Oh, yeah. That, and a movie deal.