Willamette Writers Will-Call

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March 2, 2011 by David Gillaspie

You Still Have To Do The  Work

Not NYC from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Do you belong to a writers’ group?  Not a critique group, a writers’ group. 

Do you go to monthly meetings?  Not a bar to drink beer during the meeting, or sitting in your car outside the meeting, but actually opening a door and going inside.

When you go inside, does anyone know who you are?  If not, don’t worry, you’ll get recognized when you’re dues are up.

Do you know other writers?  If not, this is the place.  Mingle.  Be friendly.

But not too friendly.

If you’re in the mixer room with coffee and cookies, strike up a conversation.  Ask someone what they’re working on, then listen as if you give a damn and not just waiting for them to take a breath so you can tell them your latest project.

It’s called manners.  Be a good listener.  Be interested.

But not too interested.

When the woman you’re listening to explains that she writes with a partner, keep listening. 

Don’t interrupt with “Where is your partner?”

Remember this is a writers group, not a single’s club for marrieds, or a cheater’s meet and greet.  If they have a partner, keep listening.  Since it is a writers group, the partner will show up.  They’re writers, they’d better show or else they’re bad writing partners.

After the writer runs out of steam talking about their story, ask about their background, which classes they’ve taken.  You might have some in common.

The president of Willamette Writers teaches a screenwriting class at a local college, Portland State.  The company’s office manager teachers a story class at Portland Community College. 

Good classes to take.  Wait for a break and mention if you’ve taken them.

If the writing partner shows up, be polite.  Express amazement that anyone could have a writing partner if you don’t have one.

Don’t be concerned if the writing partner is a man and he acts as if you’re after his writing partner.  Remember, you’re just mingling, not stealing partners.  If you need to steal anything, steal some inspiration.

Since every writers’ meeting has a keynote speaker, steal inspiration from them.  They’re used to it.  That’s why they are the speaker and you are the audience.

The writing partners leave when the man says “Let’s find a seat” and spins an about-face in front of you.  Read what you will in that body language message, just don’t follow.

Find your own seat in the big room and tune in.  You might find a guy like Hollywood screenwriter Randall Jahnson (The Doors, Mask of Zorro, Dudes) showing, not telling, why Portland is the perfect place to reinvent yourself as a screenwriter. 

You’d be surprised to find a guy onstage looking like a healthy Steve Jobs in black pants and black long sleeve crew neck shirt.  Is he a beatnik without a beret?  A hipster with a goatee? 

Or a dad with an eleven year old who wants to do right by his kid.

Portland vs LA in the family fun competition?  Portland wins.  Eventually even Disneyland loses a little sheen as The Happiest Place On Earth.  And speaking of Sheen, now that Charlie remembers he has kids, LA doesn’t seem to care about kids. 

Where were the Lohan’s when their girl posed for mug shots?  Where were the Barrymore’s while their girl played teenage tanker?

Where was Mackenzie Phillips‘ dad?  Oh, that’s where? 

Someone in the audience asked Randall Jahnson what current movie he feels takes screenwriting where he would take it, or which movie does he wish he’d written.

One answer:  Social Network.

He explained how technology is changing the way we think by using the  hyperlink-like segments of the film that jump around the way our minds do when we click on internet links.

With that he closed by advising the audience to make friends with code writers and comic book guys, game developers needing storylines, and actors.

Mr. Jahnson came to Portland to reinvent himself as a screenwriter, to give his kid has a chance for a normal life.  Willamette Writers brought him in to lay tracks toward future screenwriting here.

All Aboard The Portland Train.   

By David Gillaspie

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