An Open Letter About Why I’m Not Attending the Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference

Here’s something a little off-topic for today.

Last year I attended the morning session of Vermont’s 17th Annual Women’s Economic Opportunity Conference, which is presented by Senator Patrick Leahy. Note that I said the “morning session”, and not the entire conference.

Why?

Because the entire thing came across as patronizing, condescending, and a waste of time. It came across that women were automatically at a disadvantage in business (because they’re women, duh), but beyond that, that we all need hand-holding and coddling to protect our delicate feminine sensibilities in the mean old world of business ownership.

There was little to no practical information that wasn’t easily accessible with an internet connection (seriously, do they not think we know how to use Google?). The content seemed geared more toward a 1950s housewife who was looking for advice on how to start a little business on the side between her homemaking and childrearing duties, rather than any kind of serious business owner. Where was the information on things like financing, hiring employees, time management, remote work, or anything else applicable to a business being run this decade?

This year’s agenda doesn’t look any better. With workshop titles like “Money Habitudes” (seriously? we need “cutesy” titles like this? oh, right, because we’re female and we can’t handle serious business topics), “Strategies to Transform Peer Aggression in Girls” (how about addressing the peer aggression among their mothers first?), “Skills of Effective Work Conversations”, and “Feeling Like a Guppy in a Sea of Sharks?” (why would I not be surprised if all the “sharks” they discuss are your male bosses/coworkers/etc.?), I’m honestly disgusted with the way this conference is presented. Don’t even get me started on the “Lean In for the Rest of Us” workshop…

The keynote speaker is another point of contention for me. Burton has taken the vast majority of their business and employees out of Vermont. Why on earth would I want to hear from their president? Why not hear from someone who has built a true Vermont-based business, one that keeps jobs here in Vermont and helps create a better state to live in?

My final gripe about last year’s conference was the fact that the opening speeches basically felt like a campaign rally for Leahy. I’m not a fan, and I’m not crazy about having to sit through a half hour of him talking to what seemed to amount to a room full of fangirls (screams and cheers at the end of every sentence gave me a headache). I almost walked out half way through, which in hindsight would have been a much better use of my time). And it didn’t go unnoticed that his wife, who was supposedly co-presenting the conference, barely spoke at all. I noticed that this year she’s not even on the agenda.

The one thing I can say about this whole conference, though, is that it does motivate me to explore the possibility of starting a conference that would actually be useful to the current generation of savvy female business owners in Vermont. There’s obviously a need for it (or this wouldn’t be in its 18th year), and there’s obviously a real lack of anything useful in this space.

I entered #ProjectFilmSupply

wildflower

#ProjectFilmSupply, from The Music Bed, is a great contest for short filmmakers with some amazing prizes. I’ve entered a short film concept titled Wildflower. It’s more uplifting than a lot of my stuff, with strong fantasy elements. Here’s the blurb:

Lily has always been happy alone. The real world is bleak and uninteresting. The world she’s created in her head is infinitely more welcoming. But there’s a darkness there that she’s barely even aware of. When Van comes along and tried to break into Lily’s world, she resists him with all her might. He’s a stranger, and he has no business there. But Van won’t give up so easily. He’s determined to break through to Lily and bring her into the light, and show her just how vibrant the real world can be. With little dialogue, Wildflower will rely largely on contrast and strong visuals to show Lily’s journey and ultimate transformation.

The grand prize (chosen by the people at The Music Bed) for this contest is pretty amazing, and includes:

  • Custom score by Tony Anderson or up to $7,500 in Licensing from The Music Bed for your film.
  • Canon C500 + Lenses (Two Week Rental)
  • Featured editorial on No Film School about your final film.
  • $1,250 Zacuto credit
  • $2,000 in Film Licensing Credit for Film Supply
  • $2,500 Kessler credit
  • A ton of gear, including some rentals and some to keep

It’s a fantastic bunch of prizes. The second and third prizes include more credits and gear.

Which brings me to the point about voting! The second and third prizes are chosen by popular vote. So, if you’re so inclined after reading the blurb above, I would greatly appreciate your votes! It only takes a second (you will have to confirm via email). I’d also appreciate it if you’d take a moment to share it via Twitter, Facebook, etc. Thanks!

How I Write Screenplays

I know I’ve written in the past about how I write novels (and novellas), but the process of writing a screenplay is quite a bit different, for me at least. I’ll try to break this down as simply as possible, but please ask questions in the comments if you want clarification on anything!

I’m currently working on a supernatural road trip screenplay that’s tentatively titled Not Like This. That title may change later. It’s a big departure from what I normally write, as there is no current love story in it. I’m not sure if that’s a reflection of where I’m at in life or not, but it’s definitely a challenge to write something like this.

But enough about what I’m working on right now. On to my process!

In September of 2013 I attended the inaugural Stowe Story Labs, which did a LOT for my screenwriting technique (admission for the 2014 Labs is still open). One of the most useful things from strictly a screenwriting perspective was Chris Millis’s outlining/planning process (Chris was on the Labs faculty last year and will be again this year). While I’m still not great at sticking to it exactly during the rough draft process, it does give me a solid foundation on which to actually write.

So, after I had a rough idea of what the premise was, I wrote out an outline based on Chris’s outline guide. That took me a couple days. Some of it is pretty vague, but it give me certain beats I need to hit along the way.

On previous projects, I’ve gone back and forth between Celtx and Adobe Story, but in the rough draft stage, I’m not really crazy about either. This is partially because neither is great on mobile. Celtx is expensive for an  iOS app (around $10 I think), and the Adobe Story iOS app doesn’t include editing capabilities. Plus, the formatting always seems wonky to me.

I like to write on my phone when I’m out and about (or in bed at night without my laptop). If I suddenly get inspiration for a scene, I will totally write out a few hundred words on my iPhone. But I hate to keep multiple running documents for a project.

So this time, I’m trying something different. I’m using the Fountain markup language and Google Docs. Fountain makes it super simple to format my screenplay regardless of the device I’m using, while Google Docs lets me access my file from anywhere.

One nice bonus is that Adobe Story will recognize very basic Fountain formatting without any real issues. If you use any of the advanced Fountain formatting options, it won’t. But the basics are all there straight from the plain text file. This is useful for checking page counts as I go in Story. That’s the one big downside to Docs: it doesn’t seem to be very accurate when it comes to font sizes and page counts. I’m using Courier New 10pt rather than the standard Courier 12pt to get my page count roughly the same as it comes out in Story.

Now, after I finish the rough draft (I’m right around 35 pages at the moment, and expect it will end up around 90-100 pages in the end), I’ll use an actual Fountain converter to create a file compatible with Adobe Story so it will recognize the few advanced formatting options I’ve included (mostly forced scene headings so far).

After everything is in Story, I can check things like pacing using Story’s advanced tools, and generate other reports. At this point I’ll print out the entire screenplay so I can do a round of edits on paper. Then, I’ll start a new Story document and retype everything in and make additional edits along the way.

And that’s basically it. With this particular script, my plan is to go straight from draft two into pre-production. The script will be locked until we actually get actors involved, at which point changes may be made to fit the characters better. Changes may also need to be made based on our budget and locations available during the actual filming.

One thing I’ve done on previous screenplays, but have avoided doing with this one is to pre-cast the script. In other words, I find actors/actresses I’d like to play the various characters, in an effort to better picture them as I write. But I haven’t done that with this one, as I want to remain open-minded when I actually cast the film.

If you have any questions about my process, ask away in the comments!

A new business venture for the ladies!

I’ve decided that this is the summer to make some big changes in my life. And that means I’m launching a new business!

Glitter and Pepper is a new subscription box service offering up unique Grab Bags of jewelry and accessories delivered on a monthly basis! It varies from other subscription boxes on the market in that it focuses on providing unique, custom boxes for every subscriber, rather than a one-size-fits-all box where everyone gets the same stuff each month. Each box will also include vintage, handmade, and/or artisan pieces, making them truly unique.

I’m not quite ready to launch yet, but you can sign up for email updates to be notified when Glitter and Pepper launches. And everyone who signs up for updates during this pre-launch period will get a coupon code for subscription discounts when the service officially launches!

More updates!

I’ve been sadly neglecting this blog lately. For that I apologize. But I have good reasons!

First of all, I’ve been very busy working on a music video for my friend’s awesome new band. We’re just about finished with it (we’re going to finish editing on Thursday). It’s been a labor of love since late spring, and it’s finally come together. And honestly, it’s exceeded everyone’s expectations, including my own.

NaNoWriMo is coming up! I’m going to try to participate again this year, though I might do the rebel thing and finish some half-written works that I’ve been procrastinating on rather than starting a new project.

Here in northern Vermont, I’m gearing up for winter. The weather has been beautiful so far this fall, but it’s supposed to turn cold this weekend, and I doubt we’ll get much more warm weather before spring. Of course, the approach of winter means a million things to do, including winterizing my house. Not my favorite task…

Pin Savvy: 101 Tips to Get the Most Out of Pinterest

My new Pinterest ebook, Pin Savvy: 101 Tips to Get the Most Out of Pinterest, is now on sale! And for the first 25 hours, I’ll be offering it at 25% off — just $9 instead of the usual $12.

It’s only available at the discounted price on Gumroad. It can also be purchased at full price via Sellbox.

Here’s the blurb:

Pinterest has quickly gone from being “the next big thing” to being “THE big thing” in social media.

With nearly 50 million users, it’s hard not to take notice of Pinterest. Top brands and users have millions of followers, many active re-pinning their content and spreading their reach even further. And according to some stats, Pinterest users spend significantly more on the brands they follow than their Facebook counterparts.

As a brand or business owner, Pinterest is a great emerging marketing channel. Particularly if your customers are women (it’s estimated by some that somewhere around 80% of Pinterest’s users are female). But how do you capitalize on it? How do you become part of the Pinterest community, valued by its members, rather than just another spammer?

Pin Savvy offers up 101 tips for using Pinterest to promote your business or brand. Everything from setting up your profile to optimizing your website to be more pinnable to running contests on Pinterest is covered, all in bite-size bits you can quickly absorb and implement!

And when you buy Pin Savvy now, you’ll get access to any future versions of the ebook, at no additional charge!

I’ve been busy!!!

I know I’ve been neglecting this blog lately. But the truth is, I’ve been very busy!

I’m almost finished with the initial draft of my upcoming book on color theory. The deadline for the final section is less than two weeks away. I’ve still got a TON of work left to do on it (someday I’ll learn not to procrastinate), but I’m 99% sure I’ll meet the deadline without issue. Of course, then I’ll have to dive into edits, etc., but that part always goes much faster for me.

A couple months ago I wrote a short ebook about Pinterest, aimed at businesses who want to make the most of the site. I finally got around to formatting it and I’ll be releasing that on Tuesday, July 9th on both Gumroad and Sellbox. I’ll post links when it’s live. I’m putting it on sale for $12, basically what you’d spend on lunch. And anyone who buys it now will get access to any updated versions in the future at no extra cost.

I’ve also been working on a couple of other side projects which I’ll hopefully be launching this summer. (Also, can I just say how the hell is it July already???)

I started writing for another new blog recently, too. It’s not live yet, but I’ll be sure to link to it when it is.

Summer is always busy for me, so don’t expect a lot of updates until Fall. But at some point I’m going to get back into blogging regularly!

A new side project

I’ve just started a new side project/business that I wanted to share with everyone. I’m now doing tarot readings via Etsy, under the shop name Lux Astri (which roughly translates to “starlight” in Latin).

I’ve got eight different spreads available right now, starting at $10. So check it out, and order a reading if you’d like!

I’ll also be adding some tarot ebooks and spread collections in the future. (As soon as I get time to write them, of course.)

Is that a “donate” button?

You may notice that I’ve added a PayPal donate button to the bottom of posts appearing on this site. I thought it deserved a bit of explanation.

I don’t expect donations. I’m going to continue writing on this blog for as long as I feel like writing on this blog. But I’d like to be able to write more, and donations might allow me to do that.

Plus, this site does cost me money. I have hosting and admin costs. That’s money going out of my pocket every month. It’s not much, but then again, I wouldn’t expect to get much in the way of donations.

Don’t feel obligated to give me money. If you read this blog and enjoy it, that’s all I can ask for. Pass it along to your friends. Share it on Twitter or Facebook if you feel like it. Or just read it yourself when you have time.

But if you’ve enjoyed this blog, and you’ve found the content useful, and you have a couple dollars to spare and you feel like throwing them my way, now you have a simple way to do that.