People Let Me Tell Ya

Since I enjoy this blog and its title SO very much, I think it’s only appropriate I write my farewell as well.

Star has left, but Ace is still in the cards for another term here at Gotham.

Connie only left last Friday–and I was with her last night at Gotham’s Open House for the new spring term–but I still really miss her.  I didn’t realize it until last night.  We were sitting and chatting and doing our usual Gotham thang, and everything we were vibing all the way.  Something about last night had us on the same brain wavelength and I’ll miss her coming in and jiving with me on a daily basis… and I don’t think I realize how well we came together until we broke up (not in the dramatic sense).

**People let me tell ya ’bout mah best friend…**

Getting crazy callers, and giving each other these looks that slightly vary depending upon the type of caller.

Picking up the phone with a caller that for some technological or physical reason is WAY TOO LOUD, and she’d look at me, covering her giggling smile, while pointing to the volume buttons on the phone.

How often we’d share our “Yeah, I’ll guess you’ll just have to eat it” joke.

Discreetly picking up calls from our Gotham classmates.

Going on a yogurt-winning field-trip downtown to Soho for some Writer’s Mind stones.

Becoming overwhelmed yet satisfyingly overfed by a thirty-person Write-In turnout.

Wearing bows.

Reminiscing about the status of chicken from Schnippers.

**Cue end of Harry Nilsson’s “Best Friend”… slow fadeout.**

I know she’ll be around, more often than not, but I’ll still miss sitting next to her week to week.

XOXO

Ace.

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A Farewell of Sorts

My time with Gotham is soon coming to an end, but it served its purpose. I got to hang out with the awesome “Gotham Overlords” (again, it’s qualified by awesome, so they’re not the bad kind of overlords. Just literally over me, being the intern), take an awesome writing class, make new writerly friends, and surround myself with writing, writers, and writing ideas.

In the time since January, I’ve started lots of new writing projects:

  • My Scandal spec script (still working on that. Suffering from draft fatigue, but I haven’t quite given up on finishing it.)
  • I’ve been maintaining my current blog constarstudiestv.wordpress.com and continued to write Castle recap posts for the website TVOvermind.com.
  • I started a new blog, focusing on reading children’s books, with an eye for diversity in science fiction/fantasy over at ofchildishthings.wordpress.com. That’s thanks to the Children’s Book Writing Intensive I took.
  • I started writing articles for a blog called BlackGirlNerds.com. I’ve written three so far. Here, here, and here.
  • And I think I want to do Camp NaNoWriMo (which I just discovered people pronounce wry-mo, as opposed to the way I’ve been saying it all these years, ree-mo. Oops, but also, duh. I’ve never been around people in real life who’ve known what it was, so I’ve never heard it spoken aloud). They have Camp Nano in April and July of this year, with adjustable word counts and the ability to work on any type of project. I’ve got a young adult fantasy idea I’d like to play with and this could be a great time to do so.
  • I am taking spring’s Science Fiction/Fantasy writing class, because it’s a genre I love and would love to read and write more of. This connects perfectly with my desire to do Camp NanoWriMo–we’ll see if it actually ends up hindering it…

That’s a lot of writing! This writing/blog overload is probably why this blog hasn’t been too heavy on the posts. Hopefully as the new interns come in and Suzanne travels with them, she’ll be their Ace and their blog will flourish beyond all our wildest dreams!

It’s been a blast being a Gotham Intern, if you’re looking to be a part of a fun community and surround yourself with writers and people thinking and talking about writing and you have some free days in the week, definitely check it out.

It’s a farewell of sorts because it isn’t really goodbye. I’ve seen it proven that once you’re a part of Gotham, you’re always a part of Gotham. There are so many former interns who help out at registrations and events and the write-ins. Interns take classes and stop by the office fairly often. So I’ll still be around.

Until my next Gotham Adventure!

~*Star

Engage With Your Page

 

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Last Saturday afternoon I worked a Write-In at Two Moon Cafe in Brooklyn with the completely hilarious and ridiculous instructor Pete Jensen.  We both had also worked the Write-In that previous Friday night, where I joked with him, saying he better come up with some good prompts because I was planning to participate.

Saturday came and we had a good crowd of about 12 or so people, half being walk-ins.  The muffins, brownies, and shortbread cookies were DELISH, and the coffee was pretty good for a not-coffee-drinker.  Enough about the food.  Time came for Pete to deliver, and from that came the prompt:  Calling in sick.

The twenty minutes flew by.  I remember physically writing and being in the moments of thinking of words and of how to spell them and how to arrange them.  Then, time was simply up.

The moment to share comes, and as usual, people aren’t too hasty to go at first, which is normal and akin to every experience I’ve ever had in a free-writing space.

One young man did go first, his entire piece taking place in dialogue, and it was very funny. A woman went next, and hers too was all dialogue.

I really, REALLY wanted to share as well, though I’m usually to a bit too shy to raise my hand. Fortunately, Pete had a sense I had something to contribute, so upon instinct turned around and asked me to share.

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It was quite a thrill.  It’s been a short while since I’ve shared anything aloud, and it really did a great deal much for my confidence.

The great thing about writing prompts is the free spirit of it all.  Write whatever comes to mind, no pressure to think or do anything in particular, because by nature its an impromptu, of the moment exercise.  The cool thing about Write-Ins is people are only allowed to say positive things.  So I basically walked away feeling satisfied by the muffins, but with an extra tier of awesome by the excitement of sharing and the kind, supportive, and interesting feedback.

EVERYONE who shared read something intriguing, particularly a poem one young woman shared.

I’m probably going to hang by the next Saturday Write-In, whether I have to actually work it or not, because it was quite the experience and I look forward to it again.

~ Ace.

ace

P.S. Good job, Pete.

Taking Gotham Home

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If you haven’t already, make sure you’ve checked out our awesomely gorgeous new brochures. They are fantastically designed and has the information you need to begin to learn about our classes and the other fantastic things we offer. It’s apart of our on going redesign phase.

One of the great things about the brochures is the artwork inside. I loved it so much that I took two of the pages and hung them in my apartment–one in my room, one at my (messy) desk. The Winter 2014 center page is a gorgeous illustration of NYC with the Gotham logo splattered across the sky. Kind of like the Bat-Signal in a way—Gotham needs me to write! And the Spring 2014 cover photo (which is probably now visible on your local yellow box) feels warm and spring-like and encourages at me to “WRITE!

If you feel similarly moved, post one of our brochure pages on your walls, at your desk. Gotham always wants to motivate you to keep writing, keep being inspired by this great city in which we live. If you want, share your photos of Gotham at Home.

Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

via Goodreads

Gotham, being the awesome writing classes school that it is, sometimes gets sent books! Recently, we received Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror from Penguin books. As soon as it came out of the box, I whipped my head around because I LOVE Science Fiction and Fantasy! I wouldn’t say I’m the most in depth in terms of knowing books and authors, but it’s still the genre I am most attached to, so,–outside of TV writing– it’s the genre I want to write for. The ideas I have in my head are usually of the Speculative Fiction genre. Stories about mermaids and genies and magicians etc. So of course I grabbed on to the book and devoured the advice and exercises. This isn’t any kind of commissioned review, the opinions are certainly my own and I decided to write about it because I actually did use certain techniques and ideas from the book to inspire my work.

Things I gained from the book:

  • Even though speculative fiction might feature space or dragons or warlocks, the best way to keep the story (any story) universal is to focus on family. This doesn’t mean blood relations, but the relationships between the characters. Work families, school families, etc. Harry Potter’s friends were his family; we love the magic, but we also love the friendships. The most memorable thing about Star Wars, besides awesome lightsaber battles, is “No, I am your father.” Focusing on relationships between people makes all readers relate to your story, even if they don’t relate to your world. “Human detail in inhuman fantasy” allows the reader to identify with the world.
  • Enjoy use of the word “said” as a marker of dialogue. Overusing specific dialogue tags can sometimes bring the reader out of the story or tells rather than shows the reader how a character is feeling. “Said” allows for a faster read, as well. The reader glosses over them, allowing them to move straight through the dialogue. Use the character’s words and vocal/nonverbal attributes of speech to express meaning.
  • Stop using “was.” Be active.
  • Ruin your villain’s life. Push him too far to get him where he’s truly evil. Does he realize he’s a villain and not care? Is he vindicated by a form of righteousness? How does he achieve his evil? What are his limits and short comings. Why do his henchmen follow him?
  • Magic: What is the source of magic? If it’s granted by a higher being, it must be less powerful than that being and probably has conditions. What is he cost of using magic?

I learned a bunch more, but they’re incorporated into questions and ideas about projects I’d like to work on. I’ve got stories in my head featuring genies and mermaids and androids, so this book was perfect for me. Now! Write also does mysteries, I’d love to check that one out next, they’re one of my go-to genres when looking for a book to read (I love Agatha Christie).

Check out Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. It just might jump start some of your ideas, it did mine.

Brooklyn Write-in!

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This Saturday, I helped our lovely Gotham overlords at one of their weekly write-ins out in Brooklyn at Two Moon Art House and Cafe. Two Moon is wonderful and quiet and delicious. The other patrons seemed to respect the writing time and were quiet themselves. Two Moon has delicious pastries–I don’t really like lemon flavored pastries, but I ate a whole slice of lemon pound cake. Twas delightful.

One of the prompts for the write-in was “the empty house.” Everyone got some time to write and a few shared. We had quite an international group, with an Indian woman whose been here for years, a British photographer, and a British woman with a name from Zimbabwe currently living in Barcelona. They shared some great stories, stories focusing on the empty house, on its occupants, and on a neighborhood surrounding such a house. It’s always amazing how the same prompt can inspire such different perspectives. I had to leave a little early, to make it back to Harlem from BK, but I’m glad I was able to help. I love exploring this city and getting to travel to new parts.

Going out to Brooklyn made me ache for spring to arrive so I could adventure without fear of frostbite. The cafe made me feel like I was out of the big city for a while, despite the one little truck honk towards the end of prompt one’s writing silence. If you ever go out to Union Street on the NR, check out Two Moon. And if you have twenty bucks and it happens to be Saturday at noon, come to a write in! It really gets the juices flowing!

In-To-In-Ten-Sive

Last Saturday, the 22nd, I took my first One-Day Intensive here at Gotham. It was a draw between In(Verse), a new class taught by one of my lovely coworkers Britt Gambino, and the ever popular Screenwriting. By the previous Friday afternoon, the cards had it so that I’d take Screenwriting, with Raven Burnett, and so that’s exactly what happened.

Walking into Xavier High School, I felt… stylish. For the first time in my life I’d actually walked into high school with a solid ounce of combined confidence, integrity, and purpose. For the first time in my life, being in high school had purpose. Of course, thank goodness high school only served as the backdrop, because I highly doubt actually walking into high school for the purpose of having to attend high school would ever emit the feelings I actually had on Saturday–not to mention the fact I am looking forward to not going to my high school reunion or any other alumni event that has to do with my life between the ages of 13 and 17. That day, learning was a choice and an action, all of my own doing… things that are actually not always so easily claimed in life.

I have to say, though, it was nice having my own desk again. A desk individually built for one person–me being that one person that day. In college, we mostly used board room tables… in offices, the tables are long, too, to fit an array of supplies and general stuff that isn’t yours, and you may not even ever use. It was nice having a corner–even if that oxymoronically meant physically being in the middle of the room–carved out just for me. My desk, my corner. And, I didn’t feel as if I had to hide in said corners–real corners this time–like I used to when I was younger… not so much to shy away, but to purposefully disengage with an experience I didn’t want to have. I sat in the first seat of one of the center rows, and nothing about if felt exposing or forced.

Over the first half (before the 40 minute lunch break) a LOT happened. I took pages upon pages of notes, and at many points my concentration was so intense–hence the Intensiveness about the One-Days–I’m pretty sure I was able to feel the blood pulsing through my brain. For however much is usually pumping up there, I think I was using a little more than usual. And, it’s not as if anything was rushed or convoluted, it was simply very compelling. Learning about story structure and going into specifics of things like character and genre, among others, was purely intriguing, enough so that things kept unfolding.

The second half, boy was I happy I had that solid slice of pizza. The bulk of the lecture had been covered, so part two essentially covered the rest of story, the biz, and movie clips.

The exercises were really fun, too. We had three, and I was personally a bit timid about sharing mine because I felt so unfamiliar with writing for screen on a piece of paper, but the people in the class were super nice, and many of them a bit more experienced, which didn’t make me feel insecure, but comforted that there was more knowledge and engagement in conversation to go around. I actually did share one of my exercises–it was a fun, experimental exercise–and I’m glad I did because at least I walked away having shared one thing, no matter how minor or small.

My teacher was a super cool, down-to-earth guy who had some conflicts with the DVD player, but other than that, gelled with the rest of the class. He was funny, which was a great ice breaking interaction to have with a group of strangers… who have writing in common… so strange writers?

I DEFINITELY look forward to my next One-Day, because there will be one, and hopefully it will be with my separated-from-birth-yet-somehow-a-wee-bit-older twin BRITT, because I know her class rocked. Every time I walked by, I saw the blood pulsing through the veins of each of her students’ heads.

~ Ace.

 

Telephone Me

Before working at Gotham, I had this huge phone anxiety.  Though I actually prefer talking over the phone to texting, I don’t particularly like making customer service, doctor related, or any other type of “official” phone calls.  Calling schools to ask for information, rescheduling appointments, seeing if something is in stock, getting clarification on a policy.  I’ve always felt mousy and intrusive with my calls, as if I’m bothering my doctor, or the official organization or company I need information from.  Saying it aloud, never mind writing it down, makes this sound silly, but when I pick up the phone to dial, it’s true.

Phones are inherently a disconnected connection.  You’re talking to someone live—hopefully—but you’re not sensing any type of body language or energy.  It’s not so much the significance of lacking a visual on the person; the real point is that the physical connection is not in any way there.  Tone and attitude can be relayed over the phone, but context gets lost, because I don’t know what you’re really doing or what’s happening on your end, and you don’t know the same of mine.  There’s also a lack of sympathetic quality over the phone, because even though tone and attitude can be picked up audibly, such things are still vulnerable to being misconstrued, even more so with this added interference of long-distance than in real life.  There is essentially no place in life safe from the workings of miscommunication, but if you’re trying to resolve a relationship for instance, take this as first hand, and meet face-to-face.

It’s a mixture of a multitude of things really, another being that in this technology age where email, texts, and personal phone numbers leave one virtually open to contact on a 24/7 basis—no more heavy 10 PM rules of etiquette—people feel constantly accessible, so when they answer their phones they think it’s okay to rush you off.  Whether the context of the call is professional or personal, the feeling and thought of being so openly accessible is already planted, and thus behavior follows as pattern regardless of what kind of phone call one is making or answering.  I’ve made a series of phone calls this winter to inform people about canceled classes due to our snowpocalypse in NYC this year, and it’s interesting how many people really cut the phone call short.  I sense it automatically, sense it before I even consciously acknowledge it, when people say in short, quick sequence, “Okay, okay,” expecting me to end it there, and now put on the clock, I spew out the rest of the need-to-know information I want to make sure they get.

Then there’re the people who talk over you.  It’s difficult not to interrupt on the phone, because you don’t see a face and so can’t truly gauge if they’re done, so you take that break after what seems like a conclusion, and then they cut you off yet again.

The worst, I feel, are the environmental issues.  Sounds of other people in the background, whether of mine or the other line or both.  At which point this becomes aggravated by another issue of it’s own, being accents, tones of voice, and even personality that contribute to how low or high in volume someone is.  Not to mention, it doesn’t help that I when I listen to Lady Gaga on the train ride home, I ram her up, so sometimes it’s my own hearing, though occasionally my lingual understanding, too—meaning how chemically my brain works to understand phrases, words, and structure of what other people are saying.

Multidetermining factors.  That’s a psyche term from my street-smart psychology index.  Multidetermining factors are all around us.  From the front to the back to the side to the left to the high to the low to the everywhere.  What’s great about small encounters like the telephone conversation, is it can be a metaphor for greater circumstances that are produced by multidetermining factors, as well as the fact that as a metaphor it serves as a real life examination and exercise for dealing with real life situations on the small scale.

Living in New York City has always been hard for me because of the multitude of people.   The hordes look bigger than they are because NYC is such a small space to fit this great abundance, constantly growing, and with that rapidity, making up for those who leave.  It’s not the people I feel overwhelmed by, but the emerging personalities that come from them.  And, the close quarters seem to only magnify them, leaving any given moment at any given time in the NYC area subject to a potentially exemplary “New York moment.”  The frequency of these moments are so great, a week can hardly go by without a handful of unusual instances, sometimes even a series.  The frequency also, over time, influences personality and perception so that these things become “normal.”  The point is, everything is multidetermined.  Not only am I glad answering phones at Gotham has subdued my anxiety about phone calls personally, particularly it’s helped with my anxiety due to people at large.  Every phone call is an opportunity to open up to the world, regardless of how brief and disconnected and surface and even minuscule.  Every call is a chance to practice, being social and being open.  It’s those hard moments, whether experienced live or on the Internet, in person or on the phone, via text or instant messenger, that make connecting so empty.  That emptiness leads to an array of untamed emotions.  It’s because I don’t know whom I’m talking to, and they don’t know me.  Each phone call is a challenge.  Maybe instead of it being a challenge I have to overcome, taking my wins and forgetting my losses, it can be a challenge to grow, having joy in my successes and learning lessons from those more bitter moments.  A challenge above all factors, multidetermined and not, to be more compassionate, to others and to myself.

~ Ace.

Increased Appreciation of Tech Support

It lasted over half an hour, I really did want to give up…

As an intern for Gotham, we do all sorts of the normal intern-y things, including answering phones. These calls range from registration, cancellations, and general information. And we’ve got a number of people who take our online classes who aren’t necessarily fluent in computers, so they call us to help them sort that out. This call was a confluence of Internet Explorer being glitchy on our website and the lady calling not being fluent in computers.

I’m surrounded by senior citizens and they always come to me with computer troubleshooting. My dad, my grandma, my across the hall neighbor… I’ve often joked that I should set up a class and charge a little something for it to teach senior citizens computers. It’s still a distant thought, but I don’t really have any official credits to this other than “I’ve had a computer since I was 9.” Anyway, this call seemed to be in my wheelhouse. But it increased my appreciation of workers in tech support.

I’ve always considered myself to have a healthy appreciation of those who work in customer service– I’ve worked in food service and still work in theater Front of House, so I’m very aware of customer service jobs and the frustrations they often entail. But customer service and tech support often have a key difference. When I’m helping a patron at the theater or a visitor or a museum, I’m dealing with them face to face. Their problem is directly in front of me when I am trying to solve it. In tech support, these inquiries come over the phone. So not only am I not dealing with the customer directly (I hate phones probably mostly for this facet of it), but I can’t see their problem either.

I can work from memory. The woman I spoke to today was using Internet Explorer on Windows 7. I haven’t used a Microsoft computer or browser in ages, so helping her was working off memory. I also tried to replicate some of what she was seeing. I was helping her to install Google Chrome, since that usually works better for the intricacies of our online classes. But she didn’t quite know what I was trying to tell her to look for. So that made it difficult. And I couldn’t see what she was looking at, so I couldn’t tell her if it was really there and she just didn’t know or if it really hadn’t downloaded yet. But she was very nice and patient and understanding about her lack of computer skills, so she didn’t fuss back or get verbally frustrated.

We restarted her computer and eventually found it. She had kind of been staring at it for a while, but I didn’t know because I couldn’t see what it was. Finally, she was able to log in to her class and… I left her at that. Now that she had the new browser, I left her to try her problem again and told her to call back should it not work. It’s been about 30 minutes and she hasn’t called back, so I’m hoping it worked. But I also imagine she might have been as tired as I was from the ordeal, so maybe she set the computer down for a bit to clear her mind. Hopefully she can access what she needs to access.

But wow that really solidified my respect for tech support. To solve someone’s problem basically out of mid-air. You may be able to replicate it on your end, but you can’t be guaranteed that what they’re seeing is what you’re seeing. Or that they’re describing what they’re seeing accurately. I spent 53 minutes on that call. We installed Chrome, restarted the computer, and fiddled around with trying to find the URL box for a while. All with me trying to direct her how to find things using my distant memory of Windows OS. I’m sure tech support staff has more technical background and office support for replicating issues, but it’s still pretty amazing.

Respect your technical support and customer service reps. If you’re in tech support or customer service, respect your customers. Everyone practice niceness and patience, even if the customer/support technician isn’t. You don’t know what they’re struggling with on the other end of the interaction (in person or online).