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Moira Allen – Editor – Writing-World.com

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moira allen

Moira Allen is the Editor and creator of Writing-World.com for close to 15 years. She is an expert in teaching about the business of writing and honing the craft of writing.

I have followed her website for a few years now and she has graciously let me pick her brain with my own questions and her website is an education in itself. She has now generously granted me this wonderful interview.

Moira is honest, pragmatic and grounded in her approach to writing and the business of writing. She has much to teach us.  Let’s welcome Moira Allen.

PSW: Your love of words show in your newsletter. How did you decide to be a writer?

MA: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making up stories in my head. But even that, is think, stems from the fact that I came from a family of readers. So “stories” were something that were just a natural part of my life. They were all around me: my mother read to me from as early as I can remember, so I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t being exposed to “storytelling”.

I grew up surrounded by books, and by the notion that books and reading were important. I could nearly always manage to be left alone to “do my own thing” if I were reading – or at least pretending to read – because the family considered reading to be one of the most worthwhile things that one could do. Often, however, I’d be hiding behind a book and actually making up my own stories and acting them out in my head

It simply seemed natural, then, to want to start writing those stories down when I became more able to do so. And that’s when I ran into the magic of non-completion – I worked on the same “novel” for years! When you’re young and constantly growing and changing, your ideas of “the perfect story” keep changing too, and I’d get to about chapter 4 or 5 and decide to start over at the beginning. (Unfortunately that tendency hasn’t really gone away…)

I’m sure I flirted briefly with other ideas about “what I would be” when I grew up – I recall discarding “ballerina” fairly early. I know for quite awhile I was sure I wanted to be a naturalist, but mainly because I enjoyed reading what naturalists wrote about nature and animals, and I wanted to write the same types of things. I got cured of that when, in college, I worked at a zoology museum and found out that today’s naturalist did quite a lot of cutting things up.

But I think all along, I was pretty convinced that “when I grew up” I wanted to be a writer. I still do. But then, I’m still waiting to grow up.

PSW: How has your writing talent help you grow creatively?

MA: I think writing changes how one sees the world. I know that many people don’t imagine writing as being an “active” type of career. But it’s certainly a mentally active one! It changes one’s approach to looking at just about anything, because it becomes difficult to look at something without automatically starting to think about how one would describe it or explain it to another person.

From there, that means that one is on longer simply a passive observer of life. One is always looking deeper, looking around corners, looking for meanings, looking for patterns. Sherlock Holmes accused Watson of seeing but not “observing”. I think that as one becomes a writer, one moves from simply seeing (“oh, look, pretty lake”) to observing – and interpreting. (“How would you describe the color of the water? How does the sun strike it? What is the impression or feeling that it gives you – warm sparkles or a sense of cold dread at the bottomless depths? Who’s in that boat out there? Is that an innocent family outing or a murder about to happen?”)

One of the things one seeks to do as a writer is to take what one sees (or imagines) and enable another person to see it. That extends to seeking to enable another person to see things that no longer exist – e.g., the world of the past – or things that have not existed yet – the future, another planet, etc. Writing enables us to see “creatively” because we want to be able to express, creatively, what we see.

PSW: What is the best way to practice the writing craft?

The one that works for you. Seriously. I am SO not a fan of articles that say to be a good writer, or a successful writer, you “must” do this, that or the other. You’ll have one person saying that it’s best to get up at 5 a.m. And write while you are “fresh.” Another advocates writing in the afternoon. One person is convinced that you must writer detailed outlines; another believes in flash cards; another in “clustering,” another in flying by the seat of the pants.

There have been many mantras about writing that be passed around the community. Basically, the writing community tends to latch on to a piece of advice and , because it was uttered by an “expert,” it’s taken as gospel and passed on as such, over and over and over again. For awhile, for instance, it was considered absolutely vital that a writer maintain a journal. You just HAD to have someplace to jot down your thoughts, ideas, inspirations, etc., every day. I can remember reading article after article extolling the importance of journaling. I don’t see that advice very often anymore – it seems to have become less “in fashion” – but for a time everyone just simply “agree” that this MUST be THE thing to do.

Similarly, the piece of advice that gets passed around constantly is that you MUST write EVERY day. Then there are lots of pieces of tangential advice that try to handle the fact that, let’s face it, most of us CAN”T manage to write every day. So we’re told that we should, but… as long as we just write 100 words or 500 words or a journal entry, we have “fulfilled” the requirement. No one tends to question who came up with the “requirement” in the first place.

The problem with these “best way” recommendations is that when you aren’t doing it or cannot do it or think it’s a total waste of time to do it (can you tell I never got “into” journaling?), it’s easy to feel that you’re not doing “everything in your power” to be a writer. And if you’re not doing “everything” that you should be doing, you must not want it enough, and if you don’t want it enough, maybe you’re not REALLY cut out to be a writer in the first place!

So… the best way is YOUR way. If you find that your way isn’t actually working for you, then it’s up to you to examine what you’re doing and develop a system that works better. One of the first steps in that exam is to make sure that you’re not trying to follow someone else’s way, and failing to understand why THEIR way isn’t working for YOU.

PSW: What is your typical writing day like?

It usually involves quite a lot of NOT writing. I do not write every day. When I do, and I’m really settling into it, there ‘s a lot of “to-ing and fro-ing.” I sit down. I try to concentrate. I get up. I walk around. I get coffee. I put on the laundry. I sit down. I drink the coffee. I write a couple of paragraphs. I get up. The coffee is gone; need more. I pace the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil. I make more coffee. (Oops, laundry needs changing now!) I sit down. This all takes usually an hour or two, and then finally like a switch gets flipped, and I hit the “zone” and just keep typing. THEN, I could probably type for hours. I will usually write 1/2 to 2/3 of my piece and then go back to the beginning and start rewriting it – perhaps because I can’t really write the end until I’ve made some necessary modifications that occurred to me as I moved forward. The end of whatever I’m writing needs to flow logically from the beginning – so if, halfway through, I’ve seen a somewhat different direction, or I didn’t like the way I was expressing something, then I need to go back and do my next pass from hat point and try to push the flow all the way through to the finish.

And then I need more coffee…

PSW: What is it like being in the writing business?

MA: It’s a bit of a combination of wonderful and terrible. It can be wonderful, because there is no good reason to be in this business if it isn’t something you love. And so, wonderfully, you’re doing something you love. But it can be terrible because you’re in an incredibly competitive business – there are more active writers out there today than ever before in history. So it can be extremely frustrating, and I think more writers are feeling the pinch of frustration today than ever before. Ironically, our worst competition isn’t “good” writers, it’s “bad” writers. If you pick up a poorly written book, and you’re new to reading, it’s going to turn you off to the process – so every writer is harmed by the plethora of truly bad, unskilled writing that is flooding the market place through “do it yourself” and free venues.

Another hazard in the “writing business” is that many people assume it’s about “writing” and forget that it is, also, a “business.” that means all the issues of “doing business” apply. If you want to get published, you have to learn how the publishing business works. You have to learn how to find markets, develop appropriate submissions, track income and expenses, track submissions and maintain your writing AS a business. Creativity is only one ingredient in a successful writing “business”.

PSW: Your newsletter is an education in itself. How many years have you been sharing this information?

MA: Writing-World.com was founded in 2000, so it is about to head into its 15th year. The website itself offers more than 600 articles on just about every aspect of writing of every level of expertise. The newsletter is just a small part of that. Writing-World.com is one of the largest, if not THE largest, sites for writers on the web today, with the largest archive of material and one of the largest visitor rates.

Before that, I worked with Inkspot, which was in every sense the “predecessor” of Writing-World.com. Inkspot was one of the first and foremost “communities” for writers on the web, with a host of resources for writers – it was one of the first out there when the Web was still shiny and new. Prior to that, I had set up my own little “advice” site called “Tips for Writers” – I eventually transferred all that material over to Inkspot, and then to Writing-World.com. Writing-World.com was born from the ashes of Inkspot, which was “killed” by a new owner, and we were able to inherit a lot of the material that had formerly been posted on Inkspot. We just went on from there!

PSW: Do you recommend a writer to specialize in one type of writing?

MA: No, not really. I think it’s too easy to assume that you do only one thing, or like only one thing. Getting out into the “writing business” often means getting out of your comfort zone, and writing for types of publication you might not have imagined working with. It means learning to write different lengths and even different styles. There are different requirements for magazines, newspapers, online publications, blogs, etc, – and one thing tends to lead to another.

By exploring and pushing your boundaries, you may discover that there is some other aspect of writing that you never imagined you’d be good at – and you find that you like it even more than what you THOUGHT you would be writing. In a world that tries to pigeon-hole people, it’s silly to pigeon-hole yourself! Don’t ever assume, “Oh, I’d never be any good at that,” or “I’ve never done that, so I couldn’t do it.”

You may also find that the type of writing you’re comfortable with, or assume you WANT to do, is not one that will lead to a “successful” writing career. This is a career where flexibility and versatility are real advantages.

PSW: What advice do you have for new writers?

MA: Let’s go back to the issue of being aware that “a writing business” is a BUSINESS. You wouldn’t imagine going into any other business without learning the ropes. So don’t imagine that you can be truly successful as a writer without leaning how the writing and publishing business works. A lot of writers feel that their job is just to be “creative” – and then they hope someone will tell them how to take the next step (e.g., find an agent, find a publisher). But the thing is, you’re competing with the ones who DO go out there and do the research, read the articles and the books and the blogs. If you aren’t one of them, you don’t have a chance. The person who is prepared and educated is ALWAYS going to come out ahead of the person who says, “I just wrote this great book, but I have no idea what to do next, can you help me?”

The wonder of today’s online world is that writers have access to unimaginable volumes of information for free that, in my early days, you had to pay for! If you wanted to be a successful writer 30 years ago, you had to subscribe to a writing magazine or two, you had to buy books (lots of books), and you might want to take classes at a real-world night school. Today, most of what is in those books and classes can be found online for free. And yet too many new writers aren’t taking advantage of that.

So educate yourself. Find out what the writing business is about, how it works, and how to make it work for you . Don’t be scared off by the horror stories that you hear about how “no new writer can ever get published.” EVERY writer who is published today was a new writer at some pint. Of COURSE new writers get published! They get published all the time! That’s how they stop being “new writers.”

When you DO hear horror stories, identify the source. Are you being told “you don”t have a chance with traditional publishing” by someone who has a vested interest in convincing you to buy THEIR product or service? Are you being told this by someone who wants validation of the path THEY have chosen?

Finally, I supposed perhaps that most important attribute a new writer can have is PATIENCE. We live in a world where instant gratification is considered not only the norm but some sort of divine right. I want to be published – next week! Why SHOULDN’T that happen? Traditional publishing – the kind that gets your book in front of hundred of thousand of readers rather than literally, a few dozen – DOES take time, patience, frustration (lots of frustration), research, and more patience. Too many writers today are settling for what they can get NOW, rather than hanging in there for the far greater reward that comes from enduring the frustration, the disappointment, and the passage of time. Great writers don’t settle – they endure. We aren’t taught “endurance” much anymore, so those who will are those who win.

Moira Allen, Editor
Writing-World.com

Author of “Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer,” “The Writers Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals”

Moira teaches us that with a little courage and persistence you will win in the writing world. Her practical advice you too can live your dreams. Thank you so much Moira for sharing what you know so well and your words or encouragement.

For more information visit: Writing-World.com

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Happiness – Abraham Hicks

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The best thing you could do for anyone that you love, is be happy! And the very worst thing that you could do for anyone that you love, is be unhappy, and then ask them to to try to change it, when there is nothing that anybody else can do that will make you happy. If it is your dominant intent to hold yourself in vibrational harmony with who you really are, you could never offer any action that would cause anybody else to be unhappy.

—Abraham

Excerpted from the workshop: Chicago, IL on April 25, 1999

Thoughtful thursdays # 68 The 35 Essential Insights of The Buddha compliled By Neil Legault

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The Buddha is one of my favorite teachers. Thank you to Mr. Legault for compiling these important teachings.

There’s a Buddhist story; one of the Buddha’s students approached him and asked “Are you the messiah?” No, he replied. “Well are you a healer?” “No.” He replied. “Well are you a teacher then?” “No.” He replied again. “Well then what are you?” Buddha replied ‘’I am awake.’’

Believe nothing. No matter where you read it, no matter who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and you own common sense.”

First, rely on the spirit and meaning of the teachings not on the words. Second, rely on the teachings not on the personality of the teacher. Third, rely on real wisdom. Not superficial interpretation. And fourth, rely on the essence on your pure wisdom mind. Not on judgemental perceptions.

If you knew what I know about the power of giving, you would not let one meal pass without sharing it in some way.

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Neither fire nor wind, neither birth nor death, can erase our good deeds.

You yourself as much as anyone in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.

There is no fire like greed, No crime like hatred, No sorrow like separation, No sickness like hunger of heart, And no joy like the joy of freedom.

Health, contentment and trust are your greatest possessions, and freedom your greatest joy.

Look within. Be still. Free from fear and attachment, know the sweet joy of living in The Way.

The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care. And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.

There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.

The tongue, like a sharp knife, kills without drawing blood.

Words have the power to both destroy and to heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.

Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten.

Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, is fashioned by mind. If you speak and act with a polluted mind, suffering will follow you, as the wheels of the oxcart follow the footsteps of the ox. Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, is fashioned by mind. If you speak and act with a pure mind, happiness will follow you, as a shadow clings to a form.

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.

Hatred does not cease through hatred at any time. Hatred ceases through love. This is an unalterable law.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

What we think we become.

Fill your mind with compassion.

Pay no attention to the faults of others, things done or left undone by others. Consider only what by oneself is done or left undone.

An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.

Avoid all haughty, conceited, proud, and arrogant minds, and remain peaceful and subdued.

Generate compassion for lowly beings, and especially avoid despising or humiliating them.

Do not be jealous of others’ good qualities, but out of admiration adopt them yourself.

Do not look for faults in others, but look for faults in yourself, and purge them like bad blood.

Since you cannot tame the minds of others until you have tamed your own, begin by taming your own mind.

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

Abandon wrongdoing. It can be done. If there were no likelihood, I would not ask you to do it.

But since it is possible and since it brings blessing and happiness, I do ask of you; abandon wrongdoing.

Cultivate doing good. It can be done. If it brought deprivation and sorrow, I would not ask you to do it.

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.

Buddha’s last words: All conditioned things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Try to accomplish your own salvation with diligence.

World Blog Tour – 21 Century Marketing

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I have been invited to participate in the World Blog Tour. Here’ show it goes.

The World Blog tour is a concept of paying it forward. Someone invites to to join in, someone else invites some one else and so on. Essentially it is a chain letter for blogs. The objective is to bring do a good deed by mentioning other peoples work. You also must answer the same questions below. I want to thank my fellow writer and personal historian Deborah Perham of A Lifetime Legacy for inviting me on the World Blog Tour. Be sure to check out her blog: alifetimelegacy.com.

What am I currently working on?

I am currently working on interviewing inspirational creative people who have overcome the challenges of running creative businesses and lifestyles. I am also writing positive thinking and inspirational pieces. Creative writing like poetry and free association come up occasionally too. I love the feeling of passing insights to my audience and my objective is to validate each and every one of our authentic lives. No life is the same but we are the same in generalities. Often we don’t know about other peoples struggles so writing and sharing them has a healing effect and hopefully motivate change in a positive direction as well.

How Does My Work Differ From Others Of This Genre?

I am not sure how it is different other than I am the one saying it. Those who need to hear what I have to say will be drawn to my work. I started writing with gusto just a few years ago and I loved it so much I have been running with it ever since and have not looked back. Writing is healing for me and words have such power. The power to heal or destroy. My words are intended to heal.

Why Do I Write What I Write?

I write to validate, validate, validate. I know what it feels like to not be listened to or validated. It is extremely important to me that whoever I am dealing with knows I hear them. It is so frustrating when you want to be heard and no one listens. I do this through writing. So as a public service on my blog I do a lot of interviews to give back to those who have inspired me and pass on the information for others to be inspired.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

My entire writing process is based on free association and stream of consciousness. I have an idea and just write till I feel it is enough and then I edit or change. I don’t censor myself I just let my mind take over. I have been amazed at what I write. I found an essay I wrote a few years ago and I was amazed and the depth at which I wrote. The words just flowed. It was like someone else wrote it.

Shout out to some impressive people I have the pleasure of knowing.

Deborah Perham of A Life Time Legacy who is connecting generations through her personal history preservation business. Her website explains in depth how to keep the memories and your life alive for generations. Her dedication and enthusiasm for personal history is unending. Check her website: alifetimelegacy.com.

Karen Sackowitz of Karen Sackowitz Communications who is a professional writer and personal historian in the business of consulting and business services. The written word is gracefully put together for your business. Brochures, web content, social media messages are just a few of the services her company provides. Check out her services at karensackowitz.com.

Linda Villano of SerendipiTea who has the best tea importing company on the planet. Yes the planet, she imports tea from all over the world including exotic places like the Azores and Guatemala. She is generous with her knowledge and is focused on creating a great product and reducing the carbon footprint. Visit her website for a tea education: serendipitea.com.

Martie McNabb of Memories Out Of The Box who will create a unique personal history book for you without words. She is a visual artist who puts all your old memorabilia into a chronological book with your lifes story in it. It’s the kind of book to pull off the shelf, grab a beverage and tell the story with your own words. Visit her website:memoriesoutofthebox.com.

Tiffini Minatel-Schreiber of Tiff’s LIC (k) Dogwalking and Playgroups, LLC who is a successful and compassionate business owner. She is one of the original dog walking business owners in Long Island City, NY . She loves dogs and it shows in her professionalism and commitment to the dogs left in her care. To contact Tiffini visit her facebook page.

I have had the pleasure of interviewing each one of these extraordinary women. You can see their interviews on my blog: purelysimplewords.

Pass it on. World Blog Tour-21 Centruy Marketing. Thanks again to Deborah Perham for inviting me.

 

Detachment repost from July 6, 2014

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Detachment And Other Stuff

I had a disappointing situation this weekend. I had wonderful plans that were thoughtlessly canceled. That led me to spiral down the all too familiar slippery slopes of despair. The disappointment was a reminder of a past belief that no one can be trusted. That is something that drives me crazy: someone you can”t trust. Say what you mean and mean what you say. But was that belief the truth?

I tried to find a way to cope with the situation. Especially since I have a tendency to over react at times like these by turning my emotions viciously into gut wrenching personal attacks on myself.

I needed to stop. It took about half a day of ping ponging between being furious at not having control over the situation to remembering I need to detach to get perspective.

Detachment , to me, is allowing situations unfold or fold up in their own given time. I am reminded that it is not my timing that make things work out for the best. It is not my controlling or fussing that makes things go any faster. However I find waiting really frustrating. I want things my way and now. Well, that is the nasty co dependent, needy side of me speaking.

The nasty co dependent, needy side of me reeks havoc on my life and relationships and especially my thoughts. Co dependency is a product of my past but still alive and well living in the outskirts of my subconscious, waiting to destroy what ever I perceive as a hurt.

What is the truth behind all of this?

1. It is my beliefs and thoughts that are causing my own grief. Yes, I have the right to be disappointed but having my thoughts whirl around like a squirrel in a cage is maddening and extremely unhelpful.

2. Things don’t always go as planned. I forgot this one. Sometimes it’s just a matter of a misunderstanding and perhaps a readjustment. Or not the right time. Or not in my best interest.

3. I can’t control what others do. It is not the end of the world if someone disappoints me. Other peoples poor behavior is a reflection on them not on me.

4. People are not always loving all the time. This is an opportunity to say Ouch at the disappointment but remain open, peaceful and hopeful with the situation.

5. Time always reveals the truth behind what ever is going on, whether I like it or not.

6. All situations are mirrors of what I need to take a look at. Interactions with others bring up feelings. Believe it or not people don’t cause feelings. The feelings that come up belong to me.

I ask these questions:

What would it be like if I made the effort not to think about these perceived offences?

What would it be like if I made the effort to stop the rushing negative thoughts?

What would it be like if I said yes to everything as a form of acceptance?

What would it be like if I practiced being really strong for myself for a change?

What would it be like if I made the effort to improve only my life by examining my own behavior?

What would it be like if I remembered just how darn lucky I am to realize that all situations are unfolding as they need to?

What would it be like if I remembered just how lucky I am to change myself?

I know that as time passes my feelings will subside and clarity will come forward. I will learn what I need to learn and move on. If I have not learned the lesson a similar situation will come up and I will be given the chance to examine myself again.

It is my good fortune and luck to be awake and aware enough not to crawl under a rock and hide from life’s ups and downs.

It is my good fortune and luck to not hide behind any distraction and sit with the pain however uncomfortable it is.

It is compassionate and rewarding to experience suffering to understand what others might experience. Here is the miracle of connection.

From my suffering I can relate to another’s suffering. I know the comfort I need so I can comfort another.

How fortunate to get to the point of letting it go. That does not mean I am not disappointed. I am just not going to invest any more emotional energy on it. I am releasing my attention to what happened.

Here is the crux of the situation. The arduous climb, the crucial point. Here is my chance to mature and be a positive influence to the world at large.

I thank all that were involved in aggravating me. This is another chance for me to get to know who I am.

You are my teacher and I am truly grateful.

John P Pickett – Actor

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Welcome John P Pickett, actor and percussionist. Born in the northern bayous of Louisiana John is no stranger to the world of acting and music. In the music world he is known as Voodoo John and plays congas, bongos and timbales. I have watched his demo tapes and whether he is acting evil or comedic his transition is flawless. His acting experience began as a child doing plays for his family and classmates which naturally transitioned into adulthood. He played supporting roles in the movies: Tommy the Great, Gumbo Vision and The Promise. He was featured in Sin City 2, Machete, Man of the House, She Gets What She Wants, Serving Sara, Pendulum and Any Given Sunday.

His theater credits include: An Evening with Myrna, Vivat! Vivat! Regina!, Brigadoon. John has extensive training with the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute , Actors Arena, Bright Lites Studio, Alex Newman Casting Director Workshop, Ryan Giorioso Workshop, Brent Caballero Workshop, Audition Techniques Workshop, Brook/Allen Casting Workshop, Shakespeare Workshop and the Institution Theater Improv Workshop.

PSW (purelysimplewords): Welcome to New York John and thank you for sharing your time and experience with us. What brought you here to New York?

JP (John P Pickett): I moved to New York September of last year (2013) with my friends, Myrna and her husband Daniel. We had a mass sell off of most of the items we didn’t think we would need, packed a U-Haul with the remaining items, loaded up the F-J with the pups and left Austin, Texas on Labor Day.

PSW: What was your reason for moving here?

JP: I had a full time job and was a part-time musician in Austin, Texas as are most of the people that live in Austin. I lived in Austin for nine (9) years and played in a couple of bands. The first band I played in was called “70 Through Selma”. It was a trio but definitely not a power trio. As the band slowly progressed playing mostly open mics Myrna Cabello came and auditioned as a singer. She was amazing and I later found out she is a working actress. After a couple of gigs and getting tired of open mics we decided to form our own band. We decided to make it a Latin-Blues band. Additional musicians, including Daniel, were gathered and Myrna and the Gris Gris Blues Band was born. (Sometimes bands should not be named after a long rehearsal and many drinks.)

We recorded a CD, Myrna Cabello/Letting Go. We were fortunate to have some notable musicians play on the CD such as Rock Roll Hall of Famer, Jerry Martini who was a co-founder of Sly and the Family Stone. When it came time for the inevitable CD release, Myrna wanted to do something different. So, Myrna developed a multimedia stage show around the songs on the CD. From the great response we got, Myrna suggested that I take a serious look at acting. Prior to that I did background work in movies and one independent film shot in Dallas, Texas where I lived prior to moving to Austin. So, I began taking acting classes in Austin and was cast in a couple of short/student films.

Myrna came to New York and had a very successful three (3) day acting intensive at the Actors Connection. From the intensive, she returned and said let’s move to New York. So in a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland “Let’s put on a show” kind of way it was decided we would move to New york. After many starts and delays which included a burst appendix on my part, we made it to New York.

I guess you can say it was one giant leap of faith. Not moon landing leap but big nevertheless.

PSW: Do you like New York so far?

JP: I love New York. You know, I’ve never been to New York prior to moving here so my first time seeing New York outside of television or movies, was when we crossed the George Washington Bridge into New York.

PSW: I read your extensive and impressive resume, tell me about your role in “The Promise”.

JP: “The Promise” was an independent film I did for a friend when I lived in Dallas, Texas. My role was that of the main characters best friend. The story is based on the two (2) main characters promise from high school to get married if neither are married by a certain age and the situations involved when one is more committed to a promise than the other.

PSW: Was “The Promise” based on a book?

JP: No it was an original script.

PSW: What are the challenges to being an actor and musician?

JP:They are both hard and challenging industries. In both, the goal is to get booked. As a musician, do you play the style of music that suits the venue, can you bring in people and will you play for little or no pay. As an actor, how good of an actor are you, does your look fit the idea of the role and are you an established/bankable name.

PSW: Are there benefits to the type of work you do in acting and music? You must meet a lot of girls.

JP: (Laughing)

PSW: Girls like musicians.

JP: Girls may like musicians but very few middle-aged musicians. The benefits come as you get established. Here it is about getting started, seen and known. I just completed a movie on Staten Island with the working title of “Frankenstein vs. The Mummy”. I played an unsavory character of “Carter”. I believe the scheduled release date is toward the end of the year. Who knows? If the right people see the film it could be a spring board but you keep grinding it out.

PSW: What was your life like growing up in Louisiana?

JP: I had, what I consider, a normal childhood growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport is in north Louisiana close to the Texas/Arkansas border. At that time Louisiana was like two (2) different states with the line drawn through Alexandria, Louisiana. I have an older brother and sister which makes me the “baby” of the family. All in all, growing up in the 60’s and 70’s had to be the best time because of my family. Louisiana was and to some extent a conservative state and I can say I am not a conservative person.

PSW: You are not supposed to be conservative. You are an artist. When you are an artist you have license to do the weird wonderful things artists. do. You can be unusual. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If people don’t like it:tough on them. When you are young and you don’t know any better you want to fit in but who you are and what you are always comes out.

No matter what a person does, no matter how hard you try to fit in somewhere else it is not going to work. If you are not in a place you are supposed to be it will not work out. If you are meant to be in the theater that’s where you will be. I am a firm believer you must follow your dreams.

When was the first time you felt strongly about acting?

JP: I guess it was in first or second grade. My teacher was somewhat progressive for the time and developed a play around the song “Puff the Magic Dragon:. My role was that of “Little Jackie Paper” (who loved that rascal Puff). As I was growing up, going to the movies and watching television I thought I can do that. It can’t be that hard. Well, it is. I guess it was always in the back of my mind but at the time there was nothing to move it forward. So, instead, I started playing music, percussion, in junior high school and have continued playing in some form since then.

PSW: I know the name of your band was Myrna and the Gris Gris Blues Band and you played congas, bongos, timbales and assorted percussion instruments. What kind of music did your band play?

JP: Initially it started out as Latin Blues but morphed more into a more contemporary rock with a touch of Latin Blues. We played mostly original songs written by Myrna and Daniel with the occasional covers to fill out the set.

PSW: What is your favorite music?

JP: I like the blues, zydeco, which is a style of music from South Louisiana. I also followed bands from New Orleans such as the Neville Brother, The Radiators, The Subdudes, Funky Meters and Dr. John. I guess you can say I like jam bands such as The Grateful Dead and Little Feat.

PSW: What will you do to increase your skills and knowledge?

JP: I will continue taking classes here in New York because acting is an ongoing process. Myrna started me in acting classes when we were in Austin and continues to be my best coach. I took more classes in Austin with the last being the Actors Arena with Terry Kiser who is a very established actor best known as “Bernie” from “Weekend at Bernies”. Here, in New York, I’ve taken classes at the Actors Connection.

PSW: What insights have you learned that you would like to pass on to others who want to persue a career in acting?

JP: Study, observe, research. There are a lot of methods of acting and there is no right or wrong. I am inclined to lean toward the Strasberg method. But no matter the method/style, you have to bring yourself to whatever role you play and believe in the work you are doing.

PSW: Is your family supportive of your pursuit of acting?

JP: Yes, my family is very suppoetive. They don’t always understand what I am doing but they support me. In fact, my mother and father were my first audience. I would put on little plays, mostly around the holiday, with my brother and sister but my best performances when I was young was the acting I did to get out of chores and going to church. I had asthma as a child and learned early on how to use that to my advantage.

PSW: On a personal note, what makes you happy?

JP: Little things. Memories of the times shared with friends and family. The little things that made me laugh, watching an old television show or movie from the past that brings back happy times. A good song will also bring a smile to my face.

PSW: Do you think you run more on your gut feeling or facts?

JP: My gut. For each character, of course, you have to do your character development but once that is done it still comes back to a gut feeling for me.

PSW: If you could have any super power in the world what would it be?

JP: Growing up my superheroes were Batman, Superman, Spiderman but I think it would be great to be invisible. I could watch and observe what is going on. If I saw someone doing something stupid I could slap them in the head and say stop it.

PSW: Why do you have “Voodoo Man” as a reference to your name?

JP: As you know I am from Louisiana. Long ago my friends in Shreveport decided to go to the New Orleans Jazz Fest. On the first trip I went to Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo and I bought a chicken foot necklace. Every time we would go I would add something like a gator foot, boars teeth and an iguana foot I got on a trip to Mexico. Over time a “Voodoo” necklace emerged and my name went from “Chickenbone” to now “Voodoo”. “Voodoo” John was also a character I developed further in the band along with other characters like “Voodoo” Claus for holiday shows and “ Voodoo” Libre for other shows in which I wore a Mexican Libre mask. I still have the necklace.

PSW: I saw the necklace in the photo section of your website. It’s a real Voodoo necklace as far as I am concerned. Tell me about your website.

JP: Myrna created and designed my website: johnpickettactor.com. My demo reel is based on movies I have done and class work that was taped. My goal is to have the demo reel contain only work I have done and delete the class scenes. I like the class scenes but they are soley a learning experience and not representative of film work.

PSW: How do you get into character?

JP: When I receive a script for an audition or role, I read through it first and learn the lines. After that I work on the character depending on the action in the script or a backstory I develope for the character.

PSW: Where do you see your career going in the future?

JP: My goal is to be a working actor. To continue learning the craft. I really don’t have a desire to be famous. I leave that for the current “reality stars” on the “unscripted/scripted” shows. I remember a time where there was more creativity in television. Now, you just point a camera and people act stupid.

PSW: What are you thankful for?

JP: I am thankful for everyone who has been in my life and helped me along the way. My family, Myrna and Daniel, Rachael, Stacey, Stephanie, Bernadette and Brandye from Dallas and all the drinking buddies from Ben’s Halfyard House. Pedro Martinez, Andrew Levy, Walt Collins and Mike Crossan who allowed me to continue working for the company from Austin here in New York. All my acting coaches and classmates over the years and being allowed to fail in order to achieve. And I can’t forget Ester and Jorge.

PSW: What is a typical acting day like?

JP: On a typical acting day I try to be the most prepared I can be. Have a good idea of the character, know the lines but be willing to change depending on direction. I also try to get to the set early. I have always done that even when playing music. For me, getting to a set or gig early helps me put the trip behind and relax and concentrate on the job at hand. When I was playing music I would get to a venue about two (2) hours early to make sure everything is set up correctly and make it easier on my bandmates.

PSW: Will you be doing music gigs in New York?

JP: I don’t know if I will continue playing music in New York at this time. Mainly because I sold all my equipment prior to moving. It takes time to re-aquire equipment that was obtained over the years. Maybe I will but on a smaller scale.

PSW: Thank you again John. And the best of luck in all your endevors. As a native New Yorker I feel it is my duty to take you on a little sight seeing.

At this point we loaded our selves in the car and started sightseeing. I took him on a mini tour of Long Island City and Astoria.

JP: I enjoyed the personal tour of Long Island City, Astoria Park, Roosevelt Island. It gave me a prospective of New York I may not have seen otherwise and a different view of Manhattan. Thank you very much.

After spending some time with John I realized he is a very laid back guy. It doesn’t seem too much bothers him. However, I am deeply impressed by his leaving all he knew with a leap of faith, courage and belief in his path and come to New York. Most people don’t have the burning desire to change their lives for the better like John has. He is a role model for anyone who wants to pursue their heart’s desire.

I hope John Pickett is an inspiration to all of of you. It is my sincerest hope that everyone takes the same leap of faith as John did and march forward toward the path of your dreams.

To contact John go to his website: johnpickettactor.com.

 

 

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Crisis and Benefit

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Sorry for the long silence but I had crisis after crisis.  What I mean buy that is my computer, cell phone and car all broke down at the same time.

Other garden variety problems came up too. Like my attitude towards the things I could not control. I began to get so stressed and unhappy I was a walking basket of negativity. It started with negative self talk of put downs and a pity party. Poor Me, Why Me, etc.

When I realized I was just adding to my own misery I stopped and started looking for what was good and what action I could take.

First, after putting the car in the shop the mechanic told me it was the recently replaced alternator that was under warranty which was replaced at no charge.

Second, my friend rebuilt my computer tower for less than two hundred dollars.

Third, my cell phone is being replaced.

After I calmed down and took one tiny action instead of hiding from each crisis all worked out fine.  And that is good.

So what’s the take away here. Keep moving, don’t isolate, any action is the right action.

Phew, glad it’s over.

Has a crisis hit you lately? Good. Don’t hide from any thing that challenges you because you are  strong and clever enough to sail through it. Keep going you will make it.

 

 

 

 

 

Beliefs – Robert Fulghum

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“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. Than laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

Robert Fulghum

Insightful Mr. Fulghum

Dr. Christiane Northrup

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Thoughts are an important part of your

inner wisdom – and they are very

powerful.

A thought held long enough and

repeated often enough becomes a belief.

A belief then becomes your biology.

Dr. Christaine Northrup

James Mottram, Casting Director

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James Mottram

James Mottram

 

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Welcome to the first of many fascinating, strange and wonderful interviews for purelysimplewords.com blog. The objective here is to share inspiring stories of how important it is to follow your dream.

 

 Meet Mr. James Mottram, he has been a Casting Director and Assistant Casting Director for such films as “Precious”, “NY Undercover” and “Suits”.

 

 Actually James and I are old friends who lost touch a very long time ago. Through the miracle of Face Book we were recently reunited and got caught up on the past twenty years. In this interview James will enlighten us on what casting is and his current role in the Casting business. He will also share what he has learned and will pass those lessons along to you.

 

 Casting has been around ever since humans have been doing theater and not much has changed. In the early stages of a theatre/movie production the cast is picked through auditions in front of a panel. The panel consists of a producer, director and choreographer (if necessary). Through the process of elimination finalists are chosen. It is not just the ability to read lines or dance or sing. The panel looks for chemistry between the actors. This is an important component to make any production successful.

 

 Thank you James for taking the time to chat with me at purelysimplewords.com (PSW) about your experience in Casting.

 

 PSW: How did you get started in the Casting Business?

 

 JM: Thank you for having me here. I started working a job at a telephone answering service that a lot of actors and casting directors used to get work. I started asking the actors when they checked in if they did extra work. If they said yes and were union I directed them to call certain casting directors. It worked out where a certain casting director liked my work in helping find appropriate actors. They eventually got a film and brought me in to cast all the extras.

 

 PSW: What made you move from NY to CA?

 

 JM: I had wanted to try my luck out here in California. Since I wasn’t getting any younger I decided to just go for it. My Mom had passed away and there was nothing keeping me in New York. I can still assist in casting extras in New York because I have a New York cell phone number and a computer.

 

 PSW: How long have you been doing this work?

 

 JM: I have been doing this work for twenty plus years.

 

 PSW: Whom do you deal with e.g. actors, directors and writers?

 

 JM: People who do extra work that are union and non-union. I mostly deal with actors and Assistant directors who give me the extras breakdown (what they need for any given day).

 

 PSW: What were the three most difficult things you have done or had to go through in your career?

 

 JM: The first is an unreasonable director who wants things to happen last minute and no matter how hard you try you can’t do it. For example, this one director who was also the star of the movie changed his mind at 11 PM one night and wanted to do a different scene for the next day. That would entail using 10-15 kids, which was going to be impossible since the call time as 7 AM, and the kids had to get permits in order to work. Since it was so late that was not going to happen. The second is unprofessional actors, who don’t show up on time and when they do get there they give you a look like I am here, deal with it. And the last thing, sometimes they just come to meet their future life partner.

 

 PSW: Have you had any jobs in CA?

 

 JM: My most recent job is where I cast background on a small project, which needed about 50 people for a 7 PM call going till 4 AM, and I was just hired for the job about 2 PM the same day. However I made it happen and got them all the people they needed and everyone was happy.

 

 PSW: Describe you ideal day?

 

 JM: My ideal day is when a director knows what he wants and the actors show up in wardrobe ready to work and all is good.

 

 PSW: If your life were a movie, who would play you?

 

 JM: Woody Harrelson

 

 PSW: If you could have one super power, what would it be?

 

 JM: Curing Cancer

 

 PSW: If you could spend a day with one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?

 

 JM: It would be my late boss Sylvia Fay. She taught me so much about the casting business and I feel there is so much more I could learn from her. I want to tell her thank you for the time to teach a no nothing kid all about the casting world and I will always remember her and thank her.

 

 PSW: What are your favorite movies?

 

 JM: I like scary movies and old movies like “Meet Me In St. Louis” starring Judy Garland.

 

 PSW: Would you recommend Casting as a career? Why/why not?

 

 JM: Sure I would. It is so rewarding and does your heart good being able to hire someone and give him or her work; it is not a 9-5 job. It’s more like 5 AM to 9 PM. sometimes seven days a week. So if you don’t want to work those kinds of hours don’t get into the casting business because your social life will go out the window.

 

PSW: What is the strangest thing that happened to you on the job?

 

 JM: I wouldn’t say it was strange but I worked on the movie “Precious” and cast a young girl to play a jump roper. Well they wound up firing one of the lead girls and upgrading the girl I hired from an extra to a principal actor. That made me very happy.

 

 PSW: What do you do for fun?

 

 JM: I watch tennis matches on TV, volunteer to walk dogs, listen to music and people watch.

 

 PSW: What do you do in your free time?

 

 JM: I love to go for walks and just stay home sometimes and read.

 

 PSW: Are you a morning person or night person?

 

 JM: Morning but when I can I love naps.

 

 PSW: What do’s and don’t do you advise for anyone wanting to be in casting or acting?

 

 JM: Be professional and don’t take rejection seriously if you want to get into acting, study the craft. Look into doing some theatre (you won’t make any money) but you will get experience and learn most casting directors. When a director receives actors’ headshots, resume and business card the first thing they look at is where they studied and the theatre they have done.

 

 PSW: What do you plan to do next?

 

 JM: More casting, it’s time consuming and not a 9-5 business. A lot of hard work but it’s so worth it giving people jobs.

 

  Thank you James for your generosity in sharing your knowledge of the Casting business. To contact James email him at j_mottram@aol.com.

 

 James is truly an interesting person and full of life. I hope he is an inspiration for you to stretch yourself and follow your dream just the way James did.