“I don’t know why you would want to leave this place,” her friend, Babu said with finality. “Silly Scilla, silly Scilla,” he taunted as he left her room and went outside to greet the guests that had already arrived. She plopped down on the small velvet chair and gazed at her 24 year-old image in the wavering mirror.
“I will so leave this place,” she said turning to throw the words over her shoulder. She sniffled and lifted her head and gazed into the misty reflection of her uncertain eyes.
“Do you have it in you? Do you really have it in you?” she asked her beseeching face.
A brisk knock on the door pulled her from her reverie, and she knew she had just seconds to answer her own question.
“Yes,” she said to the mirror, pushed back her chair, and dashed around the room, searching for any tool or amulet that would help in the contest.
“Come in,” she said after concealing her finds among the folds of her dress. The door was slowly and deliberately pushed open. “It is time,” Mamm said, filling the doorway with her commanding figure and flowing dress.
Walking through the cavernous granite hall, she passed by the two lines of smiling faces and well wishers. “Good luck,” one said. “I know you will succeed,” another said. She smiled at these wonderful souls, but had to force back tears, for she knew she might have to wait a long time to see them again.
Then she and ten others were released into the garden. She watched as some sang, danced or stood still and chanted. Then she remembered the seeds she’d taken from her room. The mustard seed she said to herself. All of life’s answers can be found within that tiny seed. She let each seed fall onto the earth, blessing each one with a heart-felt prayer. She plucked a few violets and placed them in her hair. My own reward, come what may, she said to herself. She absentmindedly poked the ground with her toes as she strolled the garden and watched the others.
Then she felt it. Something hard in the dirt. She knelt and scooped aside the dirt. A small purse, she whispered, her eyes widening.
Mamm walked around the garden, enjoying the contest, then glanced over at Scilla. “It is time,” she said.
Scilla rose, walked to the revered hall and joined the line of ten that stood before the Grand Seven. The well wishers, thousands of them, sat around the hall. Each of the contestants in their turn now had the coveted opportunity to present their find to the grand seven.
Why am I doing this? Scilla asked herself. But, she knew the answer. It was her destiny. She knew the purpose of the contest. And she knew her reward was one of the most coveted in the universe. She also knew that among the innumerable rewards, the challenges would sometimes appear impossible to confront.
Am I really going back? Will I really have to forget all this, except for just a few fleeting moments?How could I ever forget this?
“Next,” said the Grand Seven in unison. She stepped forward.
“Little Scilla, you understand what you have chosen?” they asked. She nodded.
“Then show us all what you have found in the garden,” they requested.
She pulled the tiny purse from the folds in her dress. It shimmered as if alive. The whole crowd gasped.
“Open it,” the Grand Seven requested.
With trembling fingers, she undid the clasp. She peered in, but as she did, a rainbow of colors and gold light flew from the purse, throwing her hair back and nearly blinding her. The crowd gasped again, as the brilliant light swirled and coalesced, becoming an all encompassing vision.
It was a life. A little girl’s life. They all watched as the girl was born, grew, became old and wise, then lay down to pass over – and return.
“We’ll see you in eighty seven years, Scilla,” they all said.
And she was gone, like the memory of a kiss in the wind.
By Geoffrey Zimmerman
Now and then, I look back at the years and experiences that have brought me to where I am. I take stock – assess past decisions, adventures and fortunes. I recall at the age of 12 years taking a “job” as Assistant Stage Manager in my small home – town’s community theatre group. I distinctly recall the laugh I got while performing a puppet show for my third – grade class. I recall standing in a long line of second – grade kids, where we were all rehearsed and were asked to “portray” a famous line. A rolling stone gathers no moss was my line.
I recall walking down the long hallway on the fourth floor of the Konover hotel in Miami Beach. The year was 1984. I sat for nearly an hour before I was ushered from the production office to the large office of Don Gold, the Production Manager of Miami Vice. Mr. As I glanced around the room, sweating bullets and pretending not to notice, I saw Mr. Gold read my resume. He set my resume down on his desk, stood up, held out his hand and said, “Welcome aboard.”
Thus began my one – year, 24 episode stint as Supervisor in Charge of Picture Vehicles for the show. I was 22.
My mind and imagination were open. I had no impression or daydream of what was to come, but within an hour of shaking Mr. Gold’s hand, I found myself seated at a makeshift desk in the locations department’s office, pouring over the rough draft of “One-eyed Jack,” episode 2 in the life of the famous TV show. Although my purpose was to glean information and descriptions on vehicles needed for the show, I also took note of the writing.
Over the next few days, I was busy gathering photos, sitting in on production meetings and dealing with vehicle owners. But, I realize now, that as the production progressed, I was being educated, subliminally, over time. Perhaps it’s like growing up in a beautifully appointed Victorian mansion, while subconsciously developing a keen eye for interior design. Without realizing it I was learning what it takes to write and create a slick and compelling TV script, a teleplay.
During production, we received 2 to 4 revisions over a five day period as we approached the shooting start date. After about 6 or 7 shows, I found I was able to predict which shows would be good and which would be mediocre.
In the interest of professional discretion, I will omit the episode’s titles, for my opinion and those of my peers and co – workers are just that – opinions – and I wish not to discredit anyone who may have played an integral role in this trend-setting TV show.
When I got a chance to take a good look at the first drafts, subsequent revisions and final scripts, I was awed. Those 30 pages I would take from my “mailbox”, (a manila folder thumbtacked to an enormous corkboard) and use as my to do list contained broad strokes and little detail. But with these stories, I noticed a cohesion, a decisive beginning, middle and end.
I could also sense the pace of the show as more detail was added. Some episodes were heavy with action. Some were dramatic – and some spent time on questions of international smuggling, or the inverse, Internal Affairs. In the action-oriented shows, the dialogue was short and reactive, like, “Take a left,” or “Call for backup.” This added immediacy to the scene, and wasn’t lengthened as the script expanded to include more character or action detail. With the dramatic scripts, (romances or shows with emphasis on vice’s impact on families), the dialogue took center stage, allowing us a deeper look into the lives, feelings and thoughts of the characters. Looking back now, I see that it was all pretty simple; to speed up the pace and get your heart beating faster, make the cuts shorter. To bring out the hankies, slow down the pace, and let us meet the people. Add to this formula just the right music, and you have mesmerized viewers – and a hit.
But, the kicker was the cohesiveness, the central thread that kept the show together. The show’s look. This came from the powerful and decisive hand of Michael Mann. Although he wasn’t on set or in the production meetings, his word reigned.
The dogma he set forth for the details of the show made its way through the ranks. He understood how to get his ideas to the (small) screen.
By Geoffrey Zimmerman
How do you tell someone their work isn’t great? How do you tell them you were looking for something that would allow you to comment with more than just “I liked it”?
Dealing with other writers can be stressful, nerve-wracking and sometimes downright irritating – but it can also be stimulating, educational and rewarding. It’s all in the planning, approach and attitude.
View talking with another writer as a job interview. They have something you need and you know you have something they need.
How do we conduct this interview? We prepare. We read the work submitted. We take into account the genre, the circumstances, and the author.
Let’s say I was critiquing the first draft chapter of a new writer’s romance novel. Picking it up, I know not to expect much, and the work will need polishing.
I look for the basics – The Hook. Does the writer reel me in and take me into their world? Do they answer the five W’s? - Who, What, When, Where, and Why? How do I feel when reading through these first pages? Tired? Anxious? Angry? Frustrated? Is my interest piqued? Critiquing is one thing, but laying it on the line is another.
Surprisingly, I have an easier time telling a writer why I think their work is worthy of pursuing and potentially a good candidate for publication. I have little difficulty finding well-used phrases, devises of expression, or a smooth transition and well-planned points of view.
But, if I feel edgy, angry, put off or frustrated, sometimes I have a hard time seeing what’s missing. At these times, I just go with my gut. I usually step away for a while and muse on my reactions during the reading experience.
Recently, I was asked by an author to look at the first 30 pages of book 3 in a romance trilogy. After a few pages, I sent an email to the author, stating that I thought we should talk about her work.
We all love this – feedback – “someone has actually read my stuff, and has something to say about it.” I think it’s akin to taking the SASE from your mailbox – “There’s a chance – a chance…” It’s the possibility we all thrive on, so communication is gold to serious writers.
When the author called, I briefly told her I thought her descriptions were “ ethereal,” and that I had a hard time following the story and wanted something more concrete. She couldn’t quite follow what I meant by ethereal, so we set up a meeting.
I wish I could say that I had prepared for our meeting – after all, it was to be a gathering of writers designed to act as an introduction and a critique-fest for the author.
I envisioned at least five other writers, all seated around a table, all of us putting forth our interpretations of how to improve the author’s work. I though I’d be just one leaf on a tree.
No one else showed up. It was fine – at first. We made small talk about what might have happened to the rest of the group – and then suddenly I was in the spotlight.
“Let’s see… what were we talking about?” I said, rifling through the three pages I had printed and brought with me.
I had also brought my own novel, a screenplay of the same novel, a contact sheet, and a book entitled, The Power of Point of View. Usually when I’m reading a book I like, I refer to it with regard to what I might be doing at present. In this case, I decided to leaf through the pages of The Power of Point of View, hoping I’d find some leg to stand on when discussing the “ethereal” work.
“Head hopping… they discuss head-hopping in here.” Head hopping is the act of a writer frequently shifting from one point of view to another. It can be disorienting for the reader. “I’m a head-hopper, but I’m never one to keep with convention – that’s why people love my work. I’m non-formulaic,” she said. That was a lot to take in.
“But, it’s confusing,” I told her. “I have a hard time keeping up with who’s who,” I said, and placed a finger on some lines from her work. Reading aloud, I found a few “ethereal” sections where, for paragraphs descriptions of past events, feelings, thoughts, dialogue, etc. were poured forth – “Ethereals.”
“Yeah, but if you had read the first two books, you would know what I’m talking about,” she said. “But, I hadn’t, and I don’t,” I said, frustrated.
“You’re a male. Women love this stuff,” she said. At this point I stopped. Not because I’m a male, but because I had to reassess my approach.
Let’s take another tack, I thought to myself. I hoped that reading some of the pithier passages from my story might show my ideas. So, I opened my novel and leafed through it until I found what I hoped would demonstrate a more concrete approach to narrative. I read a few passages. “I can see it. I’m there,” was her response. It made me feel good. I love reading my stuff to folks, bringing them into my world.
Did I fail? No. Was I unprepared? Yes. I had little to back up my contentions. And the book I had brought spoke to neither this writer’s weaknesses nor her strengths.
I suppose the “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine” dynamic is always a little like joining a tug of war without knowing who’s on your team. Of course, I did get what I wanted out of the deal, an affirmation that my words can paint pictures – but I got no real beneficial criticism.
On the other hand, I failed to give the author what she wanted or needed – good, solid, well founded and well backed up advice. I dropped the ball and got a pat on the back. Even score? Hardly. But, who’s counting?
The menacing late morning sky presaged change to the small bayside village of Lanvik as Lenny Danielsson sat on the undulating tundra overlooking Smallwhale Bay.
Barely five miles away, the sky from sea to horizon was fraught with dark clouds that rolled forth like billowing oily smoke.
He peered upward and the wind threw his hair back. Above him, wispy clouds raced inland across the crisp blue sky. His rough fingers worried a group of smooth age-worn runes and he looked down at the shiny stones, beckoning them to bring him luck. He prayed the incoming storm was not an… continue reading “A Memorable Day.”
His name was Jay and whenever I hear the name, it reminds me of this boy. The name Jay, to me, has a singular meaning. It means Jay Bauer. We were twelve when we met. I don’t recall exactly how we met. He probably came up to me and said “Hi”, and that was that. Those kinds of things happen when you’re twelve years old.
He took me to his house. It was very close to mine. Only ten or twelve houses away, and it was relatively big, much like mine. Our neighborhood contained nice, large colonial houses. A comfortable upper middle class neighborhood, with trees, sidewalks and mailmen that knew you by name. My mother didn’t work, something I didn’t think strange or uncommon at the time. Nobody else I knew had working mothers either, with one exception – “Frankie” Bailey, the mother of one of my closest friends. She was a… continue reading Jay
Here’s a true story that I wrote way back when I was working on the t.v. show Miami Vice – Geoff
I love you, Lorraine. I haven’t seen you in years and years. And, most assuredly I will never see you again. Before I met you, I know no one had ever said these words to you. Maybe by now they have, but I’ll never be sure. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I know you are selfless, unquestionably devoted, and maybe someone cares. I do.
Ah, to live in Miami. The biggest vacation hot spot on the East coast, and probably the country. I live in a bungalow in Coconut Grove. Not a town, but an official village, just south of Miami proper, directly across the bay from Miami Beach.
I sit along the sidewalk, (on the sidewalk, actually), at the local bar, The Village Inn, taking it all in. I wear a Speedo and twist in my seat, the white wrought iron chair pinching my bare thighs, and peer down Grove Avenue. I can easily make out the bench where I sat two years ago, alone, drunk, thinking deep thoughts of what was to lie in the future. So ironic.
My first night in this town. I came to the Village Inn with my brother, his girlfriend, (at the time), and their friend, Hope. We drank, laughed and danced to Jimmy Buffet. I had drank too much and was feeling dizzy, so I came outside to clear my head, and sat myself down at that bench. My first night in town. I peered left down the road, then right, then left again. Left seemed more interesting to me. I wondered what lay that direction. Now I know. I’ve been living on that road for a year now. I walk that road in a skimpy bathing suit and flip flops to go to the store to buy cigarettes.
I’ll never forget that first night in town.
Down that road. …The waitress pulls my… continue reading.
A very short story I wrote ages ago. Enjoy. – Geoff
He rose early this morning. The mist before his face carried the scent of impending doom.”What if the plan doesn’t succeed?”, he pondered. Teeth. Breakfast. Coffee. Smokes. Teeth again, and he was off, over the balcony. Ten feet down. An hour and a half later he was at the wooded clearing he had so carefully chosen one week before. “Why did I brush my teeth?”, he thought. He waited. Bad to be early. The cold air bit at his nose. He waited. No way to turn back now… continue reading.