Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday sick-blogging: Rock 'n Roll Reading

I'm home sick today, laying in bed with my laptop at my side. Not fun.

Last week, I asked if, while writing, you created a playlist or soundtrack to not only accompany you while writing, but to serve as an official anthem for the work. Not everyone does it, I'm sure. I find it to be helpful and an entertaining facet of the writing process. Or maybe it's just a distraction. No matter.

Also mentioned last week was music/book blog Largehearted Boy's Book Notes series of interviews, which allows authors to talk about the music that inspired them while writing their most recently released book/novel/whatever.

Today, as I drowsily scrolled through my blogs, I discovered that indie siren Juliana Hatfield was being spotlighted, talking about her new autobiography/memoir When I Grow Up.

Here's a sampling:

"Don't" by Dinosaur Jr.

The Blake Babies (my first band) were recording during the overnight shift at Fort Apache studios in Cambridge, MA, and Dinosaur Jr. were making their album "Bug" in the daytime. I arrived early one evening and happened to catch Lou Barlow, bassist and occasional song-contributor of Dinosaur, doing a vocal take of this song in which he scream-sings "WHY DON'T YOU LIKE ME???!!!" repeatedly. It hurt my throat just to listen; Lou was throwing his whole body and soul into it. He seemed to be trying to destroy something with his voice, or to exorcise some evil demon.

It was maybe the most authentically tortured and anguished vocal performance I'd ever had the pleasure (or horror) to witness. Lou really meant it.

He came out of the recording booth and went into the bathroom and spat up blood. That's how hard he had sung. Scary, but righteous, I thought. Maybe rock and roll should hurt. If it doesn't, maybe you're not doing it right.

Now, reading this reminded me of another genre of books I read voraciously (well, when I'm not 10 books into a detective series, that is): Music history or musical bios. And, oddly enough, I find that the best autobiographies in the rock genre are often written not by the big name stars, but lesser-known "almost stars." Which is why I have high hopes for Hatfield's book. I was never much of a fan of her music, but from what little I've read (Rolling Stone had an excerpt), I think it'll be an entertaining and memorable read.

Another example that falls into the category of lesser-known music personality with a good book is Dean Wareham, formerly of bands Luna and Galaxie 500. Wareham's tales -- aptly titled Black Postcards -- of touring, band tension and drug abuse are engaging and brutally honest, making for a great peek into the industry a lot of us only see through the filter of television, radio or iTunes.

I guess the point of this note is to remind you all -- and myself, to a degree -- that while it's great to read stuff in the genre you are writing in, and want to work in, it's doubly helpful to branch out and find other kinds of writing you enjoy. It'll only help your writing get better, and ideally, more diverse.

What are some of the genres you enjoy reading?

Writers' Warning - Consulting Service


(Writers' Warning is a new section we're debuting here on ScreenwritersLeague.com where we post about suspicious and potentially risky services and companies. Not all practices mentioned are necessarily dangerous for writers - some might be completely legit and just sound fishy at first. We only report the facts and encourage comments from people who know better and can speak on behalf of the situations/companies.)

I recently heard back from one company regarding a query letter I sent out. The response I got sent up a red flag. The company, let's call it X Management, since I'd rather keep this to the event and not name names, is a respectable company by everything I've read. I called X Management to see if there was a specific person I should address my query email to (a good practice if you have the time) and sent my personally addressed email. A few days later, I received a message that X Management has a new service to "weed out" writers who aren't serious about breaking into the industry.

Because they receive hundreds of submissions, X Management offers a consulting service that guarantees they'll read your script. For $125, they'll give you one page of notes on your query letter. For $500, they'll read your script. The WHOLE thing (!). People who don't participate will not be considered. The reasons that the email cited for this were: it's become too much of a financial burden for the company to read everything and this is the only way it can continue to accept unsolicited material, writers who aren't "interested and motivated" won't participate, and rather than just a rejection letter, writers will receive personalized notes. I kid you not, those are the three reasons.

This is obviously not something I plan to do. As I said, everything I've read about X Management makes it sound like a great company - indeed, there's a reason I submitted to it. And consulting services are not uncommon. I can understand offering them and know a lot of companies specialize in providing feedback for a fee. I just can't get on board with a management company that claims only serious writers will pay for their consulting services, and that only those "serious" writers will be considered for potential representation. The word 'management' in the company's name seems misleading to me now.

Anyone with any sort of positive experience with "consulting services" like this should feel free to post. I might be making mountains out of molehills, but I have never once heard something like this talked about as anything other than a less than legitimate practice.