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Great American Fiction Contest Winner

I’m pleased to announce that I’m one of this year’s Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest winners for my short story, Twelve Miles — 48 Stops.

This is gratifying because F. Scott Fitzgerald was so closely associated with this publication. As many of you know, I’m working on a film about his time in my home town of Westport, CT. Getting published by the Saturday Evening Post as I’m knee deep in Fitzgerald footage feels karmic, as if there’s some sort of Mojo happening.

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The title represents the distance traveled by a young African-American girl to work each day to the A&P where she works at a  cash register. The idea came from shopping at my local Stop & Shop where most of the workers, black,  come by bus from Bridgeport–most of the customers are white and live in Westport. It took years to find a way to write this story without it feeling preachy or contrived.

An early version bounced around for years, and then after seeing the documentary film Ten Feet From Stardom, I figured out what needed doing.

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Davida, the young girl in the story, was inspired by a remarkable woman who I used to work with. She showed her kids my story, using it to start the discussion on how things were when she was growing up. I can think of no better impact for a story.

And so as 2013 comes to an end, I’m very grateful for all the good things that happened this year.

Thanks so much for visiting and reading. Happy Holidays.

One Hundred False Starts by F. Scott Fitzgerald

fitz essay coverLast week I obtained a copy of ‘One Hundred False Starts,’ an essay written by F. Scott Fitzgerald that ran in the March, 1933 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. The essay captures what appears to be real ‘false starts’ Fitzgerald had experienced as a writer.

Snippets, phrases, names, scenarios, often unintelligible scraps of thought, all captured on paper to jog his memory to flush out the idea at a later date. As a writer who has dropped the ball on countless sparks of so-called brilliance, it was comforting to feel the struggle, the joy, and the confusion over bubbles of inspiration that felt flat upon later inspection.

Fitzgerald concluded that the key to avoiding a future filled with false starts is to begin with an emotion, one that’s close to you, one that you can understand. He was talking about himself, but his words resonated because I’ve grappled with false starts for years. My output is not nearly as prolific as others. I often lose interest in an idea that at first glance appears to be the mother lode.

This fool’s gold typically lacks an emotional connection, it’s one of the reasons I struggle to co-write songs, all too often the team is writing about things that have no meaning for me. I might intellectually get the concept, but I’m not feeling it, it doesn’t pump through my veins with urgency.

Fitzgerald also said in the essay:

Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves—that’s the truth. We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.

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People often ask why I didn’t write a memoir about my divorce. They wrongly believe that My Year as a Clown is a thinly disguised novel for what actually happened in my marriage. My Year as a Clown works because I understood the underlying emotions that were in play during those difficult days. Perhaps more important, I put enough distance between the writing and the events to create a narrative that harnessed those emotions in ways that made my characters feel real even though most of the facts are fictitious.

When I set out with my partner, Richard Webb, to do this Fitzgerald film for the Westport Historical Society, I had no idea what I was really getting into. I got chills holding letters from Scott and Zelda when we were in Princeton reviewing personal correspondence. And now, as an added bonus, I’m learning about Fitzgerald’s process. This is like taking an MFA in Fitzgerald at a University without all the hassle or tuition.

The adventure continues . . .

 

The Great Gatsby: Westport, Connecticut, a documentary film

Scott and Zelda zooming off from their 1920 summer home in Westport, CT.

Scott and Zelda zooming off from their 1920 summer home in Westport, CT.

In 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda summered in Westport. During their four month stay, The Great Gatsby was conceived, inspired by the locals, the mansions and the town.

The Great Gatsby: Westport, Connecticut tells the story of why some believe Westport was the source of much of what Fitzgerald conceived for one of America’s greatest novels.

Keir Dullea will narrate our film. Many other Westporters are making contributions and the project is for the Westport Historical Society.

We intend to talk to a variety of sources who have given much thought to this period in Fitzgerald’s life and we’ll see where it leads . . .

But at this time I would like to recognize Barbara Probst Solomon for her outstanding article on this very subject written for The New Yorker in 1996. The team is very excited about having the opportunity to interview her on film to learn more about her views on Fitzgerald’s time here. Her work provided the inspiration for all of us to want to know more.

Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction

Mary and Me at the IPPY awards May 29, 2013. My Year as a Clown won the silver medal for popular fiction.

Mary and Me at the IPPY awards May 29, 2013. My Year as a Clown won the silver medal for popular fiction.

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