blogging

New Blog Posts in Other Places!

Hey everybody, just letting you know I’m still out here and blogging–but it’s showing up in other places! Here’s some links to two recent blogs I did about the work I’m doing creating my own films with Tremendum Pictures:

TREMENDUM PICTURES MAKES MOVIES. PLURAL.

I recently read that 80% of all short film makers never make another film. That’s a pretty terrible statistic. There’s probably lots of reasons for people not taking a second dip into the filmmaking pool, but the biggest has to be that making a film is really, really, REALLY difficult. Earlier this year, I finally finished my first short film as a writer/director, The Shift, after an exhausting year and a half of work. There were times I wondered if I still would have made the film if I knew at the beginning how much blood, sweat, late nights, feelings of self doubt, favors, mistakes, computer crashes, and, yes, tears it would eventually require. That 80% statistic resonated with me in a big way… READ MORE.

And…

MAKING MOVIES IS AN ACT OF FAITH: THE 205th

I wiped the wet brow under my sweat-soaked cap and shut my eyes tight against the setting sun. The grips barked calls to one another across the city park parking lot while my D.P. presented me with the very real possibility that we might not get the shot. This was, after all, the most complicated scene in the entire film–a tense “oner” that would see a smoking gun, blood splatter, and a character fall to the ground. We needed, probably, at least an hour of rehearsals to get the timing and the performances right.

We had five minutes. Three after arguing for two over whether or not it was even worth trying… READ MORE.

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I Did a Guest Blog and You Can Read It Now

Guest Blog Alert!

As I mentioned in my previous post, while I am taking a bit of a short break from writing full posts right now, I did manage to crank out a guest blog a couple of weeks ago for author, blogger, and teacher of how to write memoir, Marion Roach Smith.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 11.38.23 AM

I was invited by Marion to contribute to her blog on the topic of my choice. Since Marion’s focus is on helping others write memoir (and because she specifically requested I write to that audience), I chose to write about the very first rule I laid down for myself as I began to write my first book–two words I figured no writer of memoir should EVER put together. Which two words are those?

You can find out on Marion’s site, in my post, The Two Words No Memoir Writer Should Ever Use. (You saw that title coming, didn’t you?)

PLUS:

Marion generously offered me some space below the blog to include an excerpt from one of my books. I chose a piece from Raised By a Dad Man, a comedic, self-contained little short story about how I got the better of two high school bullies in a most unconventional way. Those who have read the book often cite it as a highlight. I hope you dig it.

More regular-type blog stuff coming soon!

Hey, Where are the New Blogs?

Hi there.

This is just a quick note to say I haven’t died, found a job or otherwise passed into a state that renders this blog invalid in my life.

It’s been about a week since I’ve posted anything, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost interest in this blog or that you’re not going to see how this current story of unemployment ends. I’ve just been so focused on the latest draft of Worlds Apart that I haven’t had brain space for anything else.

Soon, the draft will be completed and at that time I plan on blitzing this blog and (hopefully) post days at a rapid rate. I’m still making notes, still filing reports, I’m just not fleshing them out into fully formed blogs. For those of you that are still in this with me, that will change. Promise.

See you again soon.

-Brock

P.S. I did craft a guest blog recently and the blogger graciously allowed me to attach an extensive excerpt from Raised By a Dead Man to it. That should land any minute now and I’ll be sure and let you all know when it does. So, y’know, at least there’s that.

 

Day 44 – Faith/Religion in the Blog: Sprinkle or Shower?

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Saturday – October 11, 2014

powerI was on deck as the Stay-at-Home Dad today, a role I fill with complete and total adequacy. It wasn’t quite supposed to work out this way, but Erin had a lot of places to be and I trust they weren’t all “day spa.” I’m actually quite happy to be the parent on deck. I think the (quite excellent) job Erin has done raising our kids at home over the past 12 years is maybe the hardest job a person can do. It’s child-rearing, it’s cooking, it’s cleaning, it’s taxiing, it’s giving comfort and aid, it’s educating, it’s disciplining–it’s all of that, 24/7. No real breaks or vacations. I think I could do a more than adequate job if I had to, minus the cooking part. It probably helps that she loosened the lid a bit and our household already runs like a well-oiled machine.

Since it was Saturday, I started the day by taking Cami out to the Heart of the Horse Horse Therapy Ranch for her half hour ride. Once again, she had a hard time letting go. She let everyone know, forcibly, that she wanted a couple more laps before she was willing to be her usual, agreeable self and get down. Seeing her assert herself like that and make her wishes known is a new thing. I like it.

The rest of the day was spent in the house with the kids, sneaking in an occasional bit of writing here and there. At 4pm I had a church priesthood meeting at the Stake Center.

I’m going to try to unpack this as best I can:

Mormons attend church according to geographically designated “wards.” Everyone who lives within certain boundaries attends church at the same time, in the same building. A Bishop and his two counselors run the ward according to the direction they receive from the Stake President, who leads the stake. A “stake”* is made up of about 6-10 wards. The Stake President gets his direction from the Area Authority who leads many Stakes. You can can follow this on up the chain to the President and Prophet of the Church himself, Thomas S. Monson.

*Why “ward” and “stake?” I don’t know. We’re not crazy people and we’re not building tents or killing vampires at our churches, so the designations only seem right to me by virtue of the face I’ve been using them all my life.

But let’s stick to the local level.

So, this afternoon was a meeting at the Stake Center–the chief meetinghouse where the Stake President has his office–of all the priesthood brethren in the Fresno East Stake. In the Mormon church, boys and men 12 years of age and above hold the priesthood. This means I ill-advisedly number among them, but I’m glad for it on several levels–not the least of which is the brotherhood we all enjoy.*

*Right now, admittedly, my interaction with everyone is a bit different than usual. Those at the meeting who met my eyes all asked the same question: how’s the job hunt going? I’ve lost a bit of my identity in that way. I may as well wear a badge that says “Hello, My Name Is Unemployed.” It’s okay, though. I understand how it is. It’s always nice to know what to ask a person to create an instant conversation. Makes things easier. 

To get further away from the point of this blog and back to the topic at hand, I’m giving all of this background info so you can begin to understand the frame of mind everyone was in today as we went into the meeting. You see, there is a rumor there are big things about to go down.

The rumor is this: that all the ward boundaries are about to be redrawn. While there have been slight adjustments from time-to-time, if this rumor pans out, it’ll be the biggest change in over 25 years.

It’s a necessary change because of the shifts in population growth over time. For example, my current ward, the Fresno 7th Ward, was one of the smallest wards–if not the smallest–in the Fresno East Stake when we moved in 10 years ago. Now, it’s far and away the biggest. We’ve got people sitting in the choir section and on the floors in the foyer because we’re just too big to handle right now.

If the change does happen, it’s going to quite difficult for many people. Our closest associations happen at and through church. Friendships will be tested as people will be moved to different buildings and simply not able to be in as much contact with each other as before. I remember when this happened to a friend a friend and I between 6th and 7th grade. Our ward split and he went one way and I went the other. He got new friends and I didn’t see him as much. I hated it.

This time around, I’m looking forward to it. It didn’t happen in today’s meeting, nor in the second, general adult meeting in the evening, but I don’t think anyone really thought it would.

Still, there’s a sense of finality in the air. Tomorrow, we have another special meeting. We’ll see what happens.

* * *

I didn’t go to the second meeting because I took my turn with the kids again so Erin could go. To her surprise, a friend of ours, Jennifer Ward, was one of the featured speakers and she made lengthy reference to this very blog. She even quoted a fair bit of it. I gave permission for this to happen, but didn’t think to ask during which meeting it might occur. And I didn’t tell Erin about it. She was somewhat… shocked to find that suddenly the hundreds of people in the chapel with her were learning all about her unemployed state. I was super bummed I missed it.

Jennifer’s purpose was to hold this blog up as a positive example of how to share faith online without being preachy or hitting someone over the head with it.

I hope that’s what I do, if that’s what I’m doing at all. My faith is not my focus here, but my faith is a big part of who I am so naturally it’s appropriate at times to share that perspective and insight. Sometimes it’s a sprinkle, sometimes a shower.

To be honest, I’ve never been particularly interested in preaching to the choir in my writing. It’s a far more interesting challenge to try to reach outside of my world to reach others. It’s just more exciting to me.

You all are better judges than I am. This particular entry was obviously a little heavy on the Mormon of it all, but I don’t think I go to this well too often.

Do any of you read other blogs by people of faith? Does it bug you when they don’t shy away from that, or do you appreciate it for what it is?

Day 41 – Why I Refused to Give My Daughter a Cell Phone, and Then Did Anyway

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Wednesday – October 8, 2014

Elora

Elora

I promised Elora she would get a cell phone when I did. Which, my shiny crystal ball reveals to me, is never. Why? Because I don’t believe in cell phones. Oh, I know they exist, but only to tempt and torment man. Somehow we went from being to able to talk–talk!–to people the next house or city or state over from the comforts of our home, to being able to talk to them from giant stretch limos in 80’s movies, to just sending written messages with bad spelling, to putting pictures of our private parts in each other’s back pockets. I shudder at the thought of what comes next. Alexander Graham Bell would weep.

I don’t want any part of that, and I CERTAINLY don’t want my kid dealing with it. It used to be the devil would possess our bodies to make us to do horrible things, but that’s so old school. Now, he just puts a cell phone in our hands and all of the sudden we transform into rude, inconsiderate, loud, obnoxious people.

Heaven forbid the only one who can hear you yakkin’ it up with your mom in the line at the grocery store is you.

No, no. Of COURSE you have to take that call that text right now. We were just having a live conversation is all. If it was important I’d be texting you.

Hey guy, why don’t you take that selfie right here in the movie theater? I mean, it’s not like you’re making any sounds. And, please, I can just pretend the tiny, bright, glowing screen in front of me is part of the 3D effect. Wow! Everybody wins!

I’ve made it clear to Elora over and over again that the cell phone is just not happening, but still she has continued to protest. Her pleas consistently fail to move me. I mean, at this point, I take a perverse joy in refusing her. And she knows it.

Which is why a cell phone was the perfect gift for her 12th birthday today.

Erin put the phone in a box-within-a-box-within-a-box. When Elora got down to the last box, the phone started ringing. She opened it, pulled the phone out, and then immediately put it back in. There was no scream, no excitement, just pure disbelief.

Here, I’ll show you:

So, two questions:

1. Why did I allow this? Besides all the safety advantages, Erin finally convinced me that it would be a good idea for Elora to learn about cell phones now and how to properly use them while we still have some influence and control over Elora’s life. So, there are rules like turning the phone in to us at night and “Be where you are.” Stuff like that. The fact is, she will get a cell phone eventually because the only people who don’t are weirdos like me. We can teach her proper use.

2. How do unemployed parents afford to give their child a cell phone for her birthday? Well, first of all, just because we’re unemployed doesn’t mean we’re broke. Not yet. Second of all, that’s what’s great about a grandparent with a family plan. We paid just about nothing.

* * *

We cleaned the house today instead of doing just about anything else. Was fun to take short breaks to watch the strong reactions to my blog “Day 32 – Why It’s Important to Write Like No One Cares” roll in. I learned that wa what was a very clear headline in my head meant something entirely different in the minds of others, as demonstrated by this rebuttal blog (rebuttal blog! milestone!). So, yeah, had some disagreement. The good kind.

I still maintain that if you put your writing out there to be consumed by the public then no matter what you say you’re not just writing for yourself. Acknowledging that fact can make you a better writer. Write like no one cares, then change their minds.

* * *

Scheduled a phone interview with a company in Utah. This would be completely different from the company there I was looking at before. It’s a reassuring thing just to have an interview. When you send out so many resumes and you don’t hear back for a while, you start to think maybe what you have to offer just isn’t desired. That you’re not employable. That’s a deeply stupid attitude, as my 17 constant years of employment will attest, but that’s the emotional part of this game.

I acknowledge that emotion, I embrace it, I move forward.

Day 32 – Why It’s Important to Write Like No One Cares

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Monday – September 29, 2014

Wait... am I writing the blog you're reading right now?? But how--how is that even POSSIBLE??????

Wait… am I writing the blog you’re reading right now??

Today is the one month anniversary of my unemployment, and none of you got me a gift. I’m hurt, but I’ll try not to take it personally.

One month into this and I don’t have a job. Today, anyway, I’m surprisingly okay with that. I still have great faith the right thing will come along. A day like today helps me keep that faith.

I woke up late to discover Erin had already taken the kids to school. That was a gift. I average about 4-5 hours of sleep each night and I do okay with that, but when I get to sleep in it’s like a life-altering experience. I was well-rested for our morning walk and then I was able to settle in for a long morning of writing while Erin and Violet went to a meeting. Also a gift.

Heard back from the company up North about my interview. Apparently, I didn’t botch it bad enough that they ran away screaming. I will be doing a second interview, though not for another two weeks. Their hiring process is a little involved, but that’s good. We’ll both know if I’m the right fit or not by the end of it and if there’s one thing I don’t want it’s getting into a situation that isn’t right for me. That will just make everyone miserable, including my eventual employer. Money is important, but personal happiness and fulfillment is far more crucial and those things don’t cost a thing.

* * *

Okay, that was the update. The rest of this blog is going to be a bit of a rant about writing. Feel free to get off the train now and I’ll see you again at the station tomorrow.

* * *

Got chewed out on Facebook (goodnaturedly) for not posting a blog today. Occasionally, for a variety of reasons, there are blogs I write in this unemployment series that I choose not to make public. Some people are not okay with this, and that is fantastic.

If I’m going to ever be any kind of writer or author (obviously a goal), I need people to want to see what I’m coming up with. That may seem obvious, but I’m often amazed at how many blogs I read where it feels like the writer is just talking to themselves. What I mean is, if you want to be a writer–and I’m going to define writer as someone who writes things they want others to read–then you’ve got to, in some way, write to an audience. Even when writing deeply personal things, which is what I tend to do, you have to make your written word appealing in some way, i.e. of benefit to the reader. Either to entertain or to inform or both.

Basically, you have to write as though no one cares. And then make sure they do.

I’m not going to pretend I’m always successful at this. But I do try, and that’s the point. If you’re not trying to write for the benefit of others and are writing simply so you can get something off your chest or in the hopes that people will find you accidentally brilliant* and stroke your ego, then you’re doing it wrong. Why are you even hitting ‘Publish’ on your posts? You’re putting your thoughts to the wind, and the wind doesn’t care. The wind will treat your writing badly (as it perhaps deserves), tossing it to the gutters.

*And let’s face it, every amateur at anything hopes they can be accidentally brilliant. They hope that they’re an untapped talent that will be amazing at whatever it is they’ve chosen to do straight off, without putting in any of the time and learning necessary. Basically, we all want to know kung fu.

The issue of writing what is relevant to the reader is one I wrestle with constantly as a memoir writer. An interesting story is only half the challenge. The second half is how to present that story in such a way that it reaches people where they are. It has to be meaningful to them in some way, even if it’s deeply personal to me. This goes to theme and zeitgeist and a bunch of other things that I don’t want to get into in a blog that’s supposed to be about unemployment, but suffice it to say that there’s a real challenge to try to write something (memoir) in such a way that people will pay for what they can get a million times over on the internet for free (personal blogs).

My hope is that what I can do in a book length project is far more accomplished and thematically complex and interesting and entertaining and satisfying than what I can do in a blog. This blog traffics in the disposable, as do all blogs with posts ever getting archived and pushed down the list. A book should be a cherished thing, I think, and greater than the sum of its never separated parts. That can only happen when you’re thinking outside of yourself even as you may obsess over yourself (in memoir) or the story (memoir and everything else–don’t get so deep into your story you forget to bother with whether anyone else can understand it).

To bring it all back around again: instead of a blog, today I posted a short excerpt from my new book, Worlds Apart. I’ve been working on this book for a few years now and I’m so close to the end I can smell the ink on the pages. Posting this excerpt isn’t the case of a writer sharing what he intends to do (never share too early), this is something I’ve mostly already done and I want to share a piece of it with you. I think it’s a pretty good piece.

Did I do it? Do you read that and think, “Yeah, that’s interesting to me” or “I can identify. I want to see how it turns out?” If so, then I’ve done my job with you in the teaser. If not, then maybe it wasn’t your thing or I’m still finding my way towards the thing that will make my story special to anyone who isn’t me. Time will tell.

Thanks for indulging me.