Friday, December 29, 2006

Time Passages

While a participant in corporate America, I didn't think I had enough Time to do everything I wanted, from hanging out with friends to writing to dating to reading all the books on my To Be Read shelf or catching up on movies. But even then I believed that, in most cases, people choose how they use their Time.

Often, we get so caught up in the self-perpetuating swirl of busy-ness we forget we have some control over our schedules. We run around, overbook ourselves and our families and relinquish our powers of choice. How many times a day does someone you encounter complain about lack of Time or being too busy?

Almost everyone should be able to find 15 minutes a day to do something she/he has been meaning to do, such as 1) call a friend or relative and stay in touch 2) work out 3) pursue a favorite hobby/activity 4) any other thing she/he has wanted to do but has put off.

It's ironic that because I'm waiting to hear from so many people--literary and acting agents, editors, whether or not I'll get this or that audition or part, etc...some days Time seems to pass too slowly. Because I don't have a day job or kids to fill my days, I'm no longer sure how to prioritize projects. Lately I've been spending more Time than I'd like considering all of my options instead of simply doing. Instead of moving forward.

How well do you use Time? Here's to a New Year's resolution to improve, whatever that means to you.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Out of Control

Why are my closets so organized? Why is my condo so tidy? One reason is because the state of my belongings is one of the few things I can control in my life as a Gainfully Unemployed. In my world where a large chunk of my success is determined by others approving of my work.

I can remind my various agents of my existence, but I can't ensure that they'll submit me for any auditions. I can send mailings to casting directors, but I can't make them choose me for an audition after the agent submits my headshot. And, no matter how well I say the copy, I certainly can't make the client choose me from the videotaped auditions...especially if they had a tall blonde in mind.
Nor can I control:
1) scheduling. Shooting on the independent feature film I was originally asked to save two days this week for...has now been postponed until early next year.
2) timing. I can write award winning manuscripts, but I can't make the editors who've requested them respond. I will sell, but when?

As you might imagine, all this can be extremely frustrating. Last night I attended a Winter Solstice yoga class. We were asked to write down something we wanted to let go of and throw the piece of paper into the fire. I chose to rid myself of frustration. As my second effort caught fire (the first fell to the bottom of the fireplace. Hmmm. I needed to see the thing burn.), I did feel calmer.

Can I control how long the feeling lasts?

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Princess and the Bean

Newsflash: I got not one, but TWO parts in an independent feature film. I found out less than 24 hours before I had to report to set, and was told only that I'd be a bitchy passenger with a date in one of the lead's taxi and another day, a pharmacist.

My 'date' informed me that we'll have to make out. Hmmm. 1) The only time I've ever had to kiss a fellow actor was in high school while attending Northwestern's Cherub program doing the love scene from Romeo & Juliet. 2) This guy, though nice and interesting, is a smoker. With smoker's breath. Note to self: bring Altoids.

Last night we shot the end of the taxi scene, where I pay and we get out of the cab. To get what they wanted: Me and my date were crammed into the right half of the back seat. On the floor at our feet: the sound guy and his fuzzy microphone. Later, for a different angle, we had to maintain our positions as best we could despite the addition of a hot, bright, spotlight on the seat next to my date...

Because I'm so short, I sat on two sandbags, filled not with sand but lumpy beans. Beans are not comfortable.

The shoot went from 7PM to 1:50AM.

Also, copy and paste this address
for a review and picture of the recently completed 2006 Chicago Bar Association musical revue.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Defining "just right"

How do you know when you've prepared for something, as the littlest bear would say, "just right?" When are you exerting too much effort, or not enough?

I had to play piano for an audition last week. For the past couple of years, the only piano playing I've done is to pound out my notes for various singing performances. I hadn't played any of the pieces I used to play semi-well.

The day I found out about the audition, I decided to work on a Brahms waltz. I practiced. Then the script arrived, and it looked like I'd have to play and talk at the same time. I practiced. And practiced.

The audition coincided with the worst December snowstorm here in years. That morning, I watched the weather reports. I practiced. And practiced. I left an hour and a half early for the suburban studio. Fortunately, hardly anyone was on the roads which had just been cleared, and I got there in record time.

Upon arrival, I learned:
1) Playing and talking were separate.
2) I only needed to play a few chords, not a whole piece.
3) Tho I'd pretty much memorized all 3 paragraphs of copy, they only wanted me to do the first two (the last was the longest, and rather technical).
4) Many people had cancelled their auditions and were rescheduling for another day.

Could I have allocated my time more effectively? Do you think it's better to be too prepared?

Will I get the part? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

See and Hear Princess Passion Fruit

My first animated voiceover role is now available! Visit, choose Strategy Games, and click START!.

I recorded my lines using my home equipment, and via the magic of editing and art...voila.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Being a Cow

Ever heard the phrase "cattle call?" Recently an agent sent me on one. The audition was from 10-3 at a photographer's home studio, and people could stop by anytime.

I arrived around 10:30. Fellow actors of all ages and types lined the stairway up to the photog's apartment. Everyone who came down said "Wow" upon seeing how many of us waited. As we inched our way up the stairs, a clipboard with a short registration form made its way down the line.

I was #43. All we had to do was give the photographer several warm expressions. I left around 11:00. Yesterday I ran into a woman who said she had gotten there around 2:00 and was #271!

Hope you're not wondering if either of us got the gig.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

In the Spotlight

Last Tuesday I found out I got a principal, paying role as a nurse in a patient training video. The script arrived late that afternoon for the shoot, which was Wednesday. I had to memorize several pages of copy about how to use a blood pressure monitor.

I showed up the next morning a few minutes before 8:30, my assigned call time. The producer introduced me to the director, who looked at me and said, "You're early."
My call time had been changed to noon. When I returned, they weren't going to need me until after lunch, which was supposed to be at 1:00 but wound up being at 1:30. That's showbiz.

Then I learned that I'd be saying my lines to several extras, one man I'd worked with before. He of course assumed I was an extra too, but then I showed him all the lines I'd had to learn.

Finally around 2:00 came hair and makeup. I'd pulled my curly hair into a neat ponytail, and the makeup woman tamed any frizz. Garbed in a labcoat (and a skirt, tho I stood behind a table and my legs couldn't be seen), I made my way to the set.

One of the clients came up to me. He asked if I'd had more hair at the audition, and that after looking at so many people on the tape he couldn't remember. He asked me to read some of the script, so I did. Then he smiled and said something like, "Oh, yes. You were the only one who said it that way."

So that's the key to getting acting work: be lucky enough to do what the client is looking for.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

No longer an extra

Thanks to a friend who recommended me, I auditioned for and got a speaking role in a short, low budget SAG film. Which means union actors can be in it, but won't get paid unless the film makes money, and non-union actors like me can work with SAG actors. Basically the plot revolves around 18 actresses who interact with one of the main characters. His two friends comment on the action.

The holding area was at the house of the female lead, a few miles north of me. At first my call time was 7:00 AM, then fortunately got changed to noon.

I was to be the last one filmed. I spent an enjoyable afternoon talking with some of the other actresses and the hostess. As time went on and the other actresses completed their parts and left, it felt a bit like 10 Little Indians. Finally only the hostess and I remained.

My turn came. The crew was small but efficient, and the director knew exactly what he wanted. My off the cuff fast-talking skills had amused him and the main actor, so that's what I did...he'd suggested and I'd planned the subject matter but each take was improvised. After only a few takes for two short scenes, my part was, as they say, in the can.

The film will be entered in festivals and used on the director's reel to help him get larger projects. And when I get my copy, I can use it too.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Princess Passion Fruit

Recently I invested in a professional microphone, studio headphones and some piece of equipment to make both work with my computer, in an effort to be more marketable for voiceover work. The time had come to record and submit auditions.

I responded to a post seeking a female to do animated bonus episodes for a website, promising I had my own setup to record. They asked if I could record a few lines of dialogue for Princess Passion Fruit.

Naturally, when I sat down to record into a free software program called Audacity and convert it to MP3 format, nothing worked. Couldn't hear myself in the mic. Nothing was recording. Aargh. I tried everything...replugging stuff, clicking on this and that. Finally I restarted my computer and, like magic, everything worked.

After sending in the recording, was informed I'd gotten the gig. One short online rehearsal via a fun, free Internet phone service called Skype, then on to recording the final version. The minute I started to record, the phone rang. And again. Believe it or not, the phone rang yet a third time. I could have turned off the ringer, but one of the calls was the director of a SAG independent telling met I'd gotten a speaking part! More on that later.

Have now submitted all the dialogue for two five minute episodes. Waiting to hear if it's approved....

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Helping a Friend

Have you ever gone to an author booksigning?

On Saturday, I spent the day in Champaign, IL helping a friend at a booksigning on Homecoming day. She picked me up at 7:30, we drove 2+ hours, had a quick lunch and went to the bookstore. From before 12 to 5pm, we manned a table near the store entrance.

The book: HOW TO RUIN A SUMMER VACATION, a young adult novel by Simone Elkeles about a girl who has to travel to Israel with her estranged father. 100 copies were stacked high, ready to sell.

The football game was being broadcast throughout the store. A few shoppers wandered in...some didn't even look our way. Simone bravely asked any girl who looked like she might be a teenager if she liked to read and adults if they knew any teenagers.

By 3:30, the game had ended and the store was packed. Simone's cousin bought a book. An author friend bought 6. A friend of mine bought 3, and a friend of his bought 1. The store kept 6 that she signed. That's 17 sold to people we knew.

She (we) sold 37 books in approximately 5 hours. That may not sound like a lot, but from what I've heard is great for a first time author. Many who didn't buy took bookmarks advertising this and her two upcoming novels.

Got home at around 9pm.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Stranger than Fiction

No, I'm not talking about my dating life today, it's a movie filmed in Chicago with lots of famous stars and Chicago actors in the cast.

Got to see the world premiere of STF at opening night of the Chicago International Film Festival. Stars Dustin Hoffman and Will Ferrell were there (complete with red carpet crowds and hoopla), and each spoke briefly.

Anyone interested in life choices, novel writing and love should enjoy this movie, one of the best I've seen in a long time. Both LOL funny and touching.

I spent 4 days working on this film...though for one I never went to the set. There is a scene with Dustin and Will in a college hallway, with me as a "professor" and another woman as a "student". We are the only two extras, and D & W walk right by us. But due to the tight shots, you can only see the side and back of my head for a second. Behind me at the movie sat a fellow extra, also a professor, who had even gotten a line. Can't see him at all. An acquaintance had several lines in a key scene, couldn't see him either.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Gainfully Employed?

Acting wise, a busy week...had three rehearsals for a PAYING gig...diversity training for high level execs from a major corporation. Several actors performed two scenes, and facilitated group discussions. Very interesting, but a lot of lines to learn in a short time.

Plus, in addition to the audition I had Monday, had two on Friday: at a talent agency for two different medications, and then at a photographer's studio for a print ad.

For one of the medications, I was asked to record the copy on my ear prompter. This is a small tape recorder that plays back in my ear via an ear plug similar to the kind newscasters wear. However, for some reason, I didn't have it set to start at the right time. Then I skipped a key word. Then things were going great but my tongue got tied. Fortunately the auditioner said everyone that morning had had problems....

Will I get any of these parts???

My horoscope today said this was a good time to publish a book...

Monday, September 18, 2006

It's a Small World...

Had an audition today at a production studio in the suburbs. When I got there, I discovered that one of the owners had recognized my name and wanted to see me. What a surprise. He had directed a cable comedy news program I co-anchored when I was in grad school---twenty two years ago. Not only that, but an 8x10 picture of the show's entire cast and crew, with me sitting at the news desk, and him standing in front of it, has been on his office wall all this time. I'd also known his wife, a producer of the project I was auditioning for.

Will "it's who you know" help me get the gig? Or was I too stunned by this blast from the past and auditioning for someone I hadn't seen in over twenty years to focus properly?

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

One step closer to "THE CALL"!?

BIG news: I have a literary agent! This means she will submit my books to editors at publishing houses now. Through a confluence of events, she'd read my first contemporary, the sixth novel I've completed, and the first two chapters of the sequel. She called to offer representation if I tweaked the last chapter in the direction she suggested. That chapter is now on her desk, along with more of the sequel. The contract is signed.

This weekend, singing Beethoven's 9th Symphony at Navy Pier. We rehearsed (in a courtroom, appropriate since the groups are made up primarily of lawyers) with the orchestra for the first time since May. The echo after our big chords was thrilling!
And seeing almost two hundred people working together to create one sound is rewarding.

What's in your life right now that you find rewarding?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Time flies...

when you're trying to figure out something on your computer.

Recently I completed my commercial voiceover demo CD, which I need to send to talent agents I'm registered with and new ones, to see if they're interested in representing me. This means I need a colorful design for the jewel box and matching labels for the CD.

I'd tried using software already on my computer and printing on regular paper, but wasn't impressed by the results. So I looked on the Internet and found free label/CD design software. First I figured out how to download Avery's, but after installation wasn't that thrilled with the color and graphic choices. I did manage to create a basic CD label, but it took a while. I moved on to Memorex. That had exactly the type of design I had in mind, but I had to figure out how to customize the text. Next I researched card stock and stick-on labels, then went to buy some and CDs to make copies of my demo. Forgot to get the cases; fortunately a store on my street had those.
By the time I created and printed the box inserts and labels, made demo copies and put the whole shebang together, I still had to choose which agencies to send to and compose a letter and create mailing labels.

I'd thought all this would only take a few hours, but it took most of one day and part of the next. Off to the post office to mail the results.

And then....the waiting begins. Many agency websites say they listen to everything they receive, but only contact those they are interested in, which could take more than a month.

Friday, August 11, 2006


When you have a day job, it's easier to do what you have to do. You know what is on your plate and when those projects are due. You know what's expected of you and how many hours you need to put in. If you don't follow through, you'll be reprimanded or fired. The gainfully unemployed must assign themselves tasks and find the inner fortitude to work on their own every day. I'm certainly not going to fire myself if I don't complete my to do list. But I will be disappointed in my lack of progress.

Yet the temptation to enjoy the nice weather, to browse online or in stores, to schedule lots of social events and long lunches remains. Who'll know if I take the afternoon off? It's a Friday, after all. Many people leave early on Fridays, especially in the summer.

Who'll know? I will.
Back to work.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Some people need positive reinforcement more than others, just as some plants need more water to survive. This may be shallow, because confidence should come from within, but...

For me, attending the RWA National conference in Atlanta last week provided a thorough soaking that should last for months. Not only did my standing room only workshop with RWA Hall of Famer Jennifer Greene earn rave reviews, many attendees (both published and not, people I'd met and those I hadn't) said they'd voted for me in American Title II and knew I'd sell soon. I also ran into a published author who said she'd judged one of my contemporaries in a contest and gave a very high score, which she usually doesn't, because she thinks I have so much talent. And the praise continues in various online posts.

Also, I learned in Atlanta that one of my medievals won a contest and the editor judge requested a full manuscript. And Tuesday night, I got a call that one of my contemporaries finaled in the Maggie Awards, frequently cited as one of the most prestigious contests for the as yet unpublished.

So thanks to everyone who has supported and encouraged me. Who supports and encourages you?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sondheim Pictures

Here are several pictures from the Sondheim in the Park performances I did last weekend...we don't look nearly as hot as we were! And check out Sondheim himself, in the tan blazer and blue shirt, standing amongst the crowd...

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Command Performance

Friday July 14
Weather: the hottest day so far this year.

AM: Cram rest of Sondheim lyrics for this afternoon's Sondheim in the Park festival performances. Dress in white. Shoes: comfort or cute? Comfort.

1:00 take bus. Review lyrics on bus.
2:00 rehearse at Cultural Center. We run our set of songs to the interest and applause of passers by, then review some problem spots. Still not quite confident with beginning of Have I Got a Girl for You, where I have little solos. Simple lyrics but challenging rhythms. I downloaded the song from iTunes and ran through it many times.
3:00 supposed to have sound check at our performance space in the Lurie Garden.
But, it's POURING rain. All look out windows in despair. Was our preparation, our memorization for nothing?
3:20 rain has miraculously stopped. Sun comes out. Group heads over to Millenium Park. Air is so humid it's hard to breathe. Audience begins to gather, sitting on puddles on rock ledges. Sound people set up our microphones but there's no time for a sound check. Makeup is melting.
4:05 Performance number one begins. Word is that Sondheim is on his way. Several my friends, mom, sister in law and niece and nephew are in the audience. More people gather as we begin to sing. Much applause. No Sondheim.

5:00 Sondheim due at any moment. Several sightings occur, but I can't see him as places have been called. Despite sweltering heat and relentless sun, several friends decide to stay for performance #2, a couple more friends arrive. We sound great. No Sondheim, despite rumors.

5:30 Audience begins to scatter. We get word that Sondheim has finally arrived. Would we be willing to reprise a song for him? Wow. I will get to sing for the great composer and lyricist, tho for the chosen song I don't have as much to do as in some of the others. As we sing his music, I can see him watching and smiling. He applauds with the remaining and newly arrived audience.

A once in a lifetime opportunity, well worth all of the effort.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sondheim Performances Approach

Had rehearsal Saturday...learning the second set of Sondheim songs is a challenge. One song has a 4-part chorus that is spoken, with each part saying similar words but in different rhythms. Really put my triplet and eighth note counting to the test.
One more rehearsal, at the park itself, for staging. Meanwhile, I'm memorizing, memorizing! Is it: A is one is who is A? Or: A is one is A is who?

On another note, pun intended, this morning I got booked to be an extra one day next week for a new feature film (one of the only ones in the near future) shooting here. I'd seen the listing but had decided not to send in. I'm not in the mood to walk up and down the street or be a commuter. I've worked with one of the casting people several times before and he called me, for a nice sounding, smaller party scene.

And, should have an audition for a commercial this week. On the other hand, the two additional days I was scheduled to do for the documentary were cancelled, to be rescheduled. One has to be flexible in this business!

Finally, almost finished with book number 8!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Fitting in

Sunday was the first rehearsal for four performances of two sets of Sondheim songs I'll be doing mid-July as part of Sondheim in the upcoming festival of the great composer's in Millenium Park.

I got the gig via a forwarded e-mail from a friend. They were looking for "good sight singers" because "rehearsal time would be strictly limited." I responded by listing some of my singing experience in musicals and with a symphony choir. I am a good sight reader, learn quickly, sing on pitch and can easily hold my notes even when standing next to someone singing something different. My concern was that my voice quality wouldn't be good enough. (IMO, a great voice is a gift that should be used to its fullest extent.) But I didn't have to audition.

Friday, I received a three inch thick packet of music to learn, and was pleased to see that I had been assigned a small solo, right in my range. Sunday, more than twenty singers of various ages gathered in the designated rehearsal room to rehearse the first set of songs. Without much ado, the music director launched us into the opening number. No part pounding to be sure we had the notes, no slow rehearsal tempo. She took off on the piano at performance speed.

Each soloist had a better voice than the next. When everyone joined in, and Sondheim's mulit-part harmonies and huge chords filled the space, I got chills.
My heart beat a little faster when we moved on to the next song with my solo bits. I missed a cue or two that first time, but so did several of the others. I hit my notes. Whew. As part of the group, I fit in.

Today's message: if you have a gift or something you love to do, find a way to do it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Everyone has a special skill

My special skill happens to be talking fast. REALLY fast. Fast enough to be on America's Funniest People, where the head writer of an annual musical revue I was in happened to me and has found a way to incorporate a fast talking bit for many years since. Night after night, before hundreds of people, I've done a high speed radio traffic report, a voice mail system, 101 dull motions, summarized the millenium, and last December went over the new Medicare Part B plan. In about a minute.

Most recently, the outgoing president of the Chicago Bar Association asked me to read the list of all the people he wanted to thank but wouldn't have time to if he did it. The day before the luncheon, he e-mailed me 118 names. Clearly I'll do a lot for a free lunch. Fortunately I was familiar with many of those on his list.

Little did I know there'd be 500 people attending the event in a huge ballroom, or that there'd be assigned seating and I'd be right in front of the head table. After the president introduced, I made my way to the microphone. I got my first laugh by saying "this won't take long" and holding up the 5-page-list I'd taped together.

As usual, I received laughter, huge applause and many compliments from luminaries of the bench and bar. A chief judge wished I could do his motion call and make his days go faster.

Now I just need to find a way to earn money with my special skill.
What's yours?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

New York, New York

Even the Gainfully Unemployed need to take a vacation once in awhile. I jetted off to New York, primarily to see Ralph Fiennes from front row center. Fabulous. In addition to seeing three other shows such as the play Julia Roberts is in, I attended an RWA chapter's luncheon with more editors and agents per capita than most conferences. So even while on a whirlwind vacation I managed to fit in some productive and enjoyable networking.

Now back to reality...which for me in the short term means completing my work in progress because I've already had a request for the full manuscript. On the acting front: had an audition, the first I've been on that asked people to come in their pajamas. And, got a call from a producer of the documentary I worked on last week saying they should want me to work again soon. Finally, looks as though I'll be participating in four Sondheim in the Park performances mid-July. More to follow!

Monday, June 05, 2006

When one door closes?

Went to see The Break-Up Saturday. Faithful readers may recall that last July/August I spent several days riding up and down Michigan Avenue on Vince Vaughn's tour bus, and then returned in March to be an extra in the final scene. Well. That bus scene is not in the movie. AT ALL. And, the credits start to roll before Jennifer A reaches the corner I'm standing on. Sigh.
Now I await the DVD release date to see if the deleted scenes include the one I worked on.

The scene is funny... Vince as Gary gives his tour of Chicago, talking about Mrs. O'Leary's cow and the Water Tower. Then he launches into a discourse about his ex-girlfriend (Jennfer as Brooke). After a few takes, his improvisations made it hard not to laugh.

On the other hand, yesterday I got hired to work on a documentary. One day for sure with at least one more day likely.

Today's motto: don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

More on Patience

The view last night from my condo. It's relaxing and soothing. Those of us whose lives often revolve around waiting need to find ways to enjoy and appreciate the journey. Logically we know that sitting by the phone or checking our e-mail every five minutes won't make editor, agent or job application responses come any faster, yet the urge is there.

We want the world to acknowledge our efforts. To recognize that we are talented, creative individuals who deserve to be published, represented, hired. Yet only rarely do the recipients of our resumes, submissions and queries operate at our hoped for pace.

Yesterday I spoke with two friends also mired in waitingland. One had submitted over a month ago to an agent who'd loved her pitch. For a few days she actually belived the agent would grab her manuscript as soon as it arrived and read it immediately. She'd forgotten that in person enthusiasm doesn't often translate into speedy replies. Phone tag with one company and a cancelled, not yet rescheduled interview by another frustrated a friend who naturally wanted potential employers to share his readiness to work.

Comments welcome on ways to stay on course and remain productive instead of allowing the emotions of waiting to divert us.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Waiting for Friday

Last night in Chicago was the official premiere of the Jennifer Anniston/Vince Vaughn movie, The Break-Up. (Yes, they were both there, according to the newspaper.)

Friday the movie opens for the general public. Why am I waiting for this day? Because I spent several days working as an extra and have been waiting since last summer to find out if I can be seen or not.

Vince Vaughn plays a Chicago tour bus company owner. My main role was as a tourist riding his bus. The other 35 passengers and I spent hours riding up and around Michigan Avenue with a police escort, with and without Vince doing his lines. I also filmed one day at the end of March...apparently the ending needed to be reshot. Even though it was unseasonably warm here and all civilians were in shorts and sandals, us hard-working extras slogged about for the entire day amidst fake snow, wearing our heaviest winter attire.

I know I'm on film, because I saw a still when, a month after the first two days of riding on the bus, we were called back to film another day and had to be sure our clothes matched exactly. But will shots with me in them make it into the final film? In a few days, I'll know for sure...

Friday, May 26, 2006

American Title II results!

I recently returned from the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Daytona Beach, where the official announcement was made of the winner of American Title II. Unfortunately, it's not my novel, FOLLOW YOUR HEART. Close but no cigar.

But I still had a great time. Check out the ocean view from my room! I had breakfast with 6 other AT II finalists and last year's winner for JANE MILLIONAIRE, Janice Lynn, and two editors and the publisher of RT. I lunched with Dorchester's direct marketing manager. I met with Borders/Waldenbooks romance buyer, caught up with and received sympathetic hugs from numerous friends, brought home a bunch of free books and was invited on stage during the awards lunch with the other finalists to say our names and book titles and share the moment with winner Gerri Russell.

The good news: Dorchester is still considering FYH.
And we AT II finalists now have a blog:, where we'll post news of our paths to publication now that the contest is over.

Huge thanks to everyone who voted for FYH.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Usually a most loquacious sort, this week I'm in a holding pattern that renders me silent. They say patience is a virtue, but that doesn't make having it any easier. Because those who are gainfully unemployed can spend an inordinate amount of time waiting...for contest results, word on auditions I've had or submitted to, replies from agents and editors who have requested submissions, for the start of an online class I hope will help with a work in progress.

In the meantime, I rely on discipline and drive to move forward, live in the moment and write new pages.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Contest success!

This week two of my manuscripts, THE BETTER BRIDE, a medieval, and my contemporary, MY LIFE AS A STAR, finaled in contests!

In the romance writing world, both published and unpublished authors can enter various contests. Most are offered by individual RWA chapters, others are sponsored by publishers or authors.

Here's a brief overview of reasons for entering: To get: 1) feedback from first round judges 2) if your entry makes it to the final round, recognition in online groups, the national romance writer magazine, and from editors and agents who judge the final round. These editors and agents can, and do, ask to see more material from finalists. 3) gain credentials for query letters and pitches. So far, four of my manuscripts have finaled in a total of 16 contests. 4) validation that someone, somewhere, likes your work.

Reasons not to enter: 1) Money. Most contests have entry fees ranging from $10 to $30. Though there are some e-contests, many require several copies of the entry and also return postage. 2) Contests often have different requirements...various page limits or requiring a one page or two page synopsis. If you don't already have what that contest wants, you can spend a lot of time reworking your manuscipt...time away from writing new pages. 3) Luck of the draw. Sometimes, one judge will give my entry a perfect score, say a 60, while the other gives it a 37. The night before I found out FOLLOW YOUR HEART finaled in American Title II, where editors from Dorchester selected the finalists, the same material recieved horrible scores from a chapter contest. So you never know. 4) Feedback. On occasion, I'll enter a work in progress just to get reactions. Judges may give low scores without backing them up with reasons, or conversely high scores without sharing what resonated with them.

Next post: choosing which contests and which manuscripts to enter.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Spring Fling and Work

It's spring, and romance writer conferences are in the air! 1) Attended the Desert Dreams conference in Arizona where I had the opportunity to talk with assorted editors and agents. 2) My chapter, Chicago-North RWA, had its Spring Fling conference this weekend. Guests included best selling authors Jennifer Crusie/Bob Mayer, Alesia Holliday, Mary Alice Monroe, agents Nadia Cornier and Nephele Tempest, and editors Margaret Marbury (Red Dress Ink & MIRA) and Rose Hilliard (St. Martins). Speakers offered humor, motivation and practical advice. We had attendees from as far away as Washington state and Florida.

I'd been hearing that the historical market was making a comeback, but the message this weekend seemed to be only sexy historicals.

I still get MANY questions about how I structure and fill my Gainfully Unemployed days. As when I had a day job, I make a list of tasks I need to accomplish on a given day and rank them in order of importance. Then I work my way through the list. Do I have enough to do? Yes. Is it sometimes challenging to stay motivated and disciplined? Yes. But I'd think that even those with bosses looking over their shoulders have days where their to do list is daunting and they'd rather be outside appreciating the weather...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Another day, another movie

Today I'm going to work as an extra again...for a British film shot documentary style. The extras casting director had called for other days but I wasn't available. So she called again yesterday, for this afternoon.

Extras need both a flexible schedule and wardrobe. They also need to be able to carry overstuffed backpacks/garment bags or wheel a suitcase, make their way to the filming location and have lots of stamina. The shoot can go 12 hours or time is 1:30PM, so I could be there until 1:30AM or even later.

I'm going to be an on-camera reporter, and need to bring conservative suits and upscale casual options, plus suitable outerwear. As usual, no red or white or loud prints.

Fortunately the weather is nice, so I shouldn't freeze/boil doing exterior shots.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

How much is enough?

Everyone with a day job has employer-set goals. You need to sell this many widgets, bill this many hours, reach that target, attend these meetings. At the company I worked for, all kinds of goals were handed down from those on high, who presumably put significant analysis and effort into goal setting and measurement.

But the Gainfully Unemployed must make their own goals and schedule. So how much is enough? What tasks do I need to accomplish, how many hours do I need to work each week to feel I've made enough progress? How do I assess that progress? What is a reasonable percentage of the day to spend on pursuits that aren't income producing, such as singing in a choir, volunteering as an adult literacy tutor, judging writing contests or working on committees? How much "time off" do I deserve?

I'm still working on the answers.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Whirlwind Dallas

Zipped down to the Dreamin' in Dallas conference...appx 180 writers gathered to network, enjoy a booksigning and learn about the craft and business of writing romance novels.

Are historicals coming back? Is chicklit in a slump? The grapevine says yes to both, again proving the cyclical nature of the market. Most everyone advises "write the book of your heart," but will that leave you on the cutting edge or behind it?

Met a lot of "newbies," those fresh-faced writers who, no matter their age, have just gotten on the romance writing roller coaster and still have stars in their eyes. Who knows, maybe they will sell as a result of their first editor/agent appointment?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Attention to Detail

I keep lists so I don't forget to do things. But what happens when I forget to write something down because I'm so focused on the AT II contest or other life events?

Cases in point: 1) realized I'd neglected to pay my March assessments. Which resulted in a $100 late fee. 2) had mailed an entry form for a writing contest and paid the fee but didn't pay attention to when the e-entry was due so I could follow up. Fortunately, the contest coordinator notified me that tho the mail delayed arrival of my form, it was postmarked on time so I could still send the entry.

Coming next week...another day as an extra on THE BREAK UP! Report to follow.

Still time to vote for FOLLOW YOUR HEART in the American Title II contest at

Monday, March 20, 2006

American Title II: THE FINAL ROUND

YES!! Great news! FOLLOW YOUR HEART, my historical romance novel set in medieval England, made it to the final round of Dorchester Publishing/RT BOOKclub Magazine’s American Title II contest, run along the lines of the TV show American Idol.

Finalists have already survived four rounds of online competition: Best Opening Sentence, Best Hero/Heroine, Best Story Summary and Best Dialogue Scene.

Your vote can help me become a published author. I hope you'll vote and tell your friends.

Two ways to vote now through April 2 for Round 5, Best Romantic Scene:
1) Visit, then click American Title II on the left under Website Spotlights, or visit

2) Simply send an e-mail to with FOLLOW YOUR HEART as the subject.

Thank you for helping me achieve my dream of becoming a published author. FYH couldn’t have made it this far without your votes.

Note: scenes contain explicit language.

Ruth Kaufman

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Time Management & Success

The Gainfully Unemployed face unique time management issues.

Do you get a vacation when 1) you're not going to a day job? 2) you're working for you?
Is a work week still Mon-Fri when there are always more pages/articles to write?
How do you not feel guilty/lazy when you take a week day off? Are non-paying but potentially valuable gigs work...such as the independent short film I'll be doing one day next week?

Questions like these are why I'm keeping what I call a Success Journal...each day I record every accomplishment in a notebook. I see what I've done at a glance, and know that each day I am laying the groundwork for my future.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Audition

For those who have never auditioned, here is my take on the experience.

1) GETTING AN AUDITION in the first place
For most auditions, you'll first need a headshot (8X10 picture, Chicago is moving to color from b&w) and an acting resume. If you haven't ever acted before, consider taking a class.
1. Continuously scour industry publications and websites to find some that interest you and follow each audition's submission instructions.
2. Submit to casting agents/directors.
3. Obtain representation with one or more agents.

a. In Chicago, some auditions can be secured by calling a theatre at a specific time and reserving a spot. If you don't get a spot, you can go anyway as a "walk-in" and hope they can fit you in. Commercial/film/TV auditions for speaking parts are usually done through agents.
b. Casting person or agent calls you with information.

Depending on what you're auditioning for, you now must either prepare a monologue or two (lengths and types provided by the auditioner), a song, learn copy that has been faxed to you, read from a script available at the audition.

a. You go wherever the audition is and bring copies of your headshots/resumes. You'll sign in, then wait your turn. You'll face anywhere from one to a dozen auditioners. You do your thing. Then maybe redo it if you're offered direction.
b. The call back: sometimes they narrow the field and call you back to either do the same thing you did during the audition or something else.

a. Now you wait. Most of the time, if you don't get the part, no notification will be given.
b. You get the part.

I once heard for many the ratio is 27 auditions to one part.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Waiting...still waiting

Today Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine is supposed to notify the finalists who have been cut and thereby reveal who makes it to the final two now that voting in Round 4: Best Dialogue Scene, is over.

Checked my e-mail early. Nothing. Checked my email around 9:30 Eastern time. Still nothing. Went to an appointment, came back. STILL nothing. Talked on the phone for an hour with a former client. Zippo. Had late lunch. Nada.

Stared at my email waiting for news. I know, I know. A watched pot never boils.

In previous rounds, notification e-mails have come well before noon Central time....but not today.

I've tried a few times to focus on other projects, but my concentration just isn't there. Any suggestions on ways to handle waiting?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Last Call to Vote in Round 4: American Title II

The links to vote for Best Dialogue Scene, Round 4 of Dorchester/RT BOOKclub magazine's national publishing contest, have changed. RT BOOKclub has revamped its entire web site. Visit to cast your vote for my entry, FOLLOW YOUR HEART.

Two finalists will remain for the next round, Best Romantic Scene. Will FOLLOW YOUR HEART move on? Stay tuned...

This week, going to an opera, shooting three cable programs in one evening, the AT II contest, meeting with my literacy student, a few social events, plus preparing and sending requested submissions detoured me from actual writing. I'm also working on an article for the Romance Writers Report about Muses. Do writers have them or not?

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Welcome to my new blog, now part of my new web site,! Thanks to my designer, Heidi, who created a place that represents my modern medieval sensibilities. I plan to update my blog more than once a week, and add writing related content and news to my web site once a month. Thanks to everyone who is interested in my adventures as one who is Gainfully Unemployed. I hope you'll visit often.

There's still time to vote this week for Round 4, Best Dialogue Scene, in Dorchester/RT BOOKclub's American Title II contest. Your vote can help FOLLOW YOUR HEART make it to the final two!

One of my newest adventures is volunteering as an adult literacy tutor. It's something I've wanted to do for years, because reading has been such a huge part of my life, I can't imagine growing up without the enjoyment good books. But for various reasons, millions of adults read at a second grade level or less. More on this in future posts.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

So what does a Gainfully Unemployed do all day?

I keep getting asked what I do all day. Perhaps people think I'm ensconced in a beauty salon, reclining on a chaise as one manicurist works on my hands and another on my toes, while my page fans me with one hand and drops chocolate into my mouth with the other. Perhaps they have no clue how they would schedule/fill their time if they didn't have a day job. Or perhaps they are just curious.

Here's yesterday:
6:34 up and into exercise clothes
make coffee and read paper
check emails
8:00 turn on FIT TV and do whatever show is on. 23 minutes of slowrobics.
finish writing intial web content and send to web designer
11:00 change to jeans/nicer shirt and take bus downtown for lunch meeting at chicago bar association. cruise through Fields on the way. pick up Subway sandwich.
12:15 leave meeting as it starts. Hop cab and hurry to near Sox park. Why? Emergency call from an agent. They had to get me on tape ASAP. Had I dressed for an audition? No. Did I have my ear prompter, which they said they wanted? No. Did I have time to race home to get it? No.
12:45 arrive at agent, memorize copy for Honda delarship ad. Other last minute auditionees do have their prompters and audition attire because they came from home. Remove glasses, while everything is fuzzy tape ad.
1:15 Race back to Loop. No cabs in area, fortunately bus arrives promptly, to Red Line to Loop.
20 minutes late for first tutoring session at Literacy Chicago. I'd called my student and told him I'd be late.
1:50 Tutor
3:05 cruise through Filenes. (I was already right next door.)
3:30-5:00 I'd brought my AlphaSmart, sort of a laptop but weighs only 2 lbs. Bought beverage at Borders and wrote 4 pages.
5:00 Corner Bakery to have soup. (ok, and a brownie.)
5:45 go to chorus rehearsal for Beethoven's 9th. Altos get released early, at 7:15.
8:00 home. final email check, transfer pages from Alphasmart to my computer, print some stuff and get organized for next day.
9:00 Watch Project Runway.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Vote now! American Title Round 4

Yes!! I’m thrilled to reveal that FOLLOW YOUR HEART, my historical romance novel set in medieval England, has made it to the final four in Dorchester Publishing/RT BOOKclub Magazine’s American Title II contest, run along the lines of the TV show American Idol.

Vote now through March 5 for Round 4, Best Dialogue Scene at:

The two finalists receiving the fewest votes will be eliminated. The winner will get published.

For more info about the contest, finalists and judges, visit:

Thank you for helping me achieve my dream of becoming a published author.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

FOLLOW YOUR the Final Four?

Will FOLLOW YOUR HEART make it to the Final Four in Dorchester/RT BOOKclub's national American Title II contest? Tomorrow morning I'll post the news here, or visit and check out the American Title II box that should be in the upper right hand corner!

Thanks to everyone who voted in Rounds 1-3....

Friday, February 17, 2006

Web site coming soon!

My web site is coming soon! The design is underway, and looks fabulous. My blog will be integrated somehow. Now I've got to get moving on writing all the content...

Yesterday I was a juror for part of a PSA filmed by one of Chicago's public TV stations. All we had to do was sit in a jury box.

Finished novel #7 and am contining with #8. Last year I worked on both at the same time, so I already have over 100 pages.

Coming Monday update on the American Title II contest.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Web World

Creating a good web site involves a lot more work than one might think. From colors to mood to content, bunches of decisions need to be made in advance. After frustrating, time consuming attempts to create a free site on my own, the results were nothing like I wanted. I couldn't even figure out how to change some of the template copy. Finally, I gave up. I want to spend my time writing the content for the pages, not doing the technical work. So the designer hunt began. I visited dozens of author web sites and viewed the designers' portfolios. I studied how the sites were arranged. I chose we got along great via e-mail and she agreed to do my site. Construction is under way! Looking forward to creating a visually interesting, content-rich site.

Friday, February 03, 2006

My Highlander: The Source Set Diary

My Highlander: The Source Set Diary is finally online, on the Highlander Worldwide site! Visit

to read about details about my adventures in Vilnius...complete with fabulous pictures from the set!

Other reports are available too.

Three more days to vote for Round 3: Best Story Summary at

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Latest News

  • Started work on my voice over demo CD: one two hour session to lay down a variety of commercial snippets. Ended up with more than two minutes, from upbeat retail to dialogue to comforting housewife. Now have to get some industry feedback, then add music, sound effects and condense to one minute. My voice over II teacher Jeff and his partner, both working voice over actors, helped me with every take and were quite complimentary. You can hear Jeff's demos at: or lots of demos at their agency,
  • RWA National accepted the workshop I proposed with RWA Hall of Fame author Jennifer Greene about persistence at any stage of your career. Now we need to come up with some great stuff to complete our outline.
  • Five more days left to vote in Round 3 of American Title II, Best Story Summary at thanks to everyone who has voted or plans to vote!
  • Almost finished with novel #7!! Less than 30 pages to go...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Plenty of time left to Vote...

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to vote for FOLLOW YOUR HEART, my historical romance novel that is one of six finalists remaining in Dorchester Publishing/Romantic Times BOOKclub's American Title II contest. The winner receives a publishing contract.

Voting for Best Story Summary continues through February 5 at Or you can send an email to with FOLLOW YOUR HEART in the subject line. If you could forward the info to a few friends, I'd truly appreciate it... every vote counts!

Coming soon: my website! I have selected a designer who will begin working on it next month.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Fabulous news! My historical romance novel, FOLLOW YOUR HEART, has made it to Round 3 of Dorchester Publishing/Romantic Times BOOKclub’s American Title II contest. Six finalists remain. The two receiving the fewest votes for Best Story Summary will be eliminated. The winner receives a publishing contract.

I'm thrilled... FYH received great comments from all 3 judges.

Vote now through Feb. 5 at Click on the American Title II box in the upper right corner.

Please tell your friends! Thank you in advance for your support.

In other news, participated in a wonderful weekend workshop with a casting director and agent. The twelve of us prepared both commercial and TV or film auditions and were critiqued on camera. An interesting mix of people, from a Shaw Festival actress to models plus the intense focus of our teachers made for a busy two days.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lady of Leisure?

Another Vilnius picture...Trakai, an medieval, reconstructed castle.

There are those who assume because I no longer have a "day job" that I am living a life of leisure.
Yes, one goal of quitting was to make more time for friends. However, I'm operating on a fairly strict schedule:

Up before 7
Read paper
Check E-mail
Workout for 20-mins to 1/2 hour (this morning: hip hop dancing)

These are some of the projects I'm working on:
Finish ms #7: goal of 25 new pages per week
Submit to acting and writing agents: research agents and customize query letter/submission based on each agency’s requirements
Write website content and choose colors/layout/links
Taking an advanced commercial workshop: review and prepare 18 pages of scripts they faxed
Prepare for tomorrow’s audition for an agent
Finish voice over class
Prepare online workshop that starts 1/22 for Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Coming in Feb: rehearsals to sing Beethoven’s 9th at Navy Pier in Sept
Literacy for adults training/tutoring

I am putting in more hours than before. But enjoying the work far more.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Frog in the Well

Do you remember the word problem of the frog in the well? He's trying to climb out, but every time he jumps X feet higher, he slips Y feet if the well is a certain height how long will it take him to get out? This week I feel a bit like that frog.

1) Of the 3 auditions I had recently, two I got myself, one from an agent: didn't get any of the jobs. On the other hand, another talent agent I'd submitted to wants me to come in for an audition. On the other hand, the two new agents I aquired recently haven't called yet with any auditions.

2) Entered my work in progress in it's first writing contest. One judge gave it a near perfect score, the other a good score but not high enough to final.

Of course I don't expect everything I send out to acheive the desired result. Setbacks don't mean give up, they mean work harder. I am thinking serene thoughts, as inspired by this photo I took of the pool at an AZ Marriott resort.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

How to be Gainfully Unemployed

I have been getting many questions about how I fill my days. The real question is: how did I fit in a corporate job?

In addition to a project list divided into sections such as writing, acting, personal, and home projects, I have a weekly writing goal of 25 new pages. This does not count editing, researching, submitting, or entering contests. I also want to increase every month the number of submissions I have at a time, whether to contests, agents, editors, upcoming conference appointments,etc.

Here are some of the projects I've been working on:

1) website. After researching web designers and wasting time thinking I could create the kind I wanted by myself, I finally chose one and am working on content so when she's ready to work on design I'll be ready.
2) I just joined the board of the Chicklit Romance Writers of the World. We had a 2 hour online meeting this week and I have to figure out exactly what my position is and do something.
3) acting auditions: see post below.
4) getting more acting agents and a writing agent
5) finishing my manuscript in progress, which fortunately a couple of industry people are already waiting to see
6) the American Title II contest
7) preparing an online workshop I agreed to do later this month for Hearts Through History Romance Writers
8) judging 7 55 page entries for a contest

Each night I set goals for the next day based on what's already on my schedule. I am a morning person, and the kind of person who can only play when all work is done. This is starting to be a problem, because I have so many projects and enjoy doing them that my work is never done. I'd hoped to take weekends completely off and just play, but today I wrote 7 new pages.
Nonetheless, thanks to my mom I now have TiVo, so I can catch up on my favorite shows at night.

While I miss daily contact with the people I worked with, and clients who after so many years became my friends, I don't miss the work I did.

Fortunately I have a good friend who is also a writer and has other pursuits. We check in with each other once a week to make sure we're staying on track. I schedule at least one social event a week, but usually end up with more. I'm still involved with several Chicago Bar Association groups and have monthly meetings for those plus my local Romance Writer meetings. I'm taking a weekend acting workshop. I've also started exercising six mornings a week.

This is just a taste of how I can be Gainfully Unemployed!


Every so often, I've been checking The Source official website for the promised posting of my journal detailing my Vilnius set visit. It's not there yet.

I just found out that Adrian Paul wants my journal posted on HIS website instead! How cool is that. His site is ; I've been informed my journal should be there soon. As soon as it's up, I'll post the link here.

On the acting front, lots going on! Got a callback for a part in short student thesis film...and have a print ad audition next week. Plus am going to try out for one of my favorite musicals, Urinetown. Had to pick out new songs, they want 16 bars each of contrasting comedic songs. There are two parts I think I could play, but the auditions are Equity too. So many people sing better than I do, but they said comedic acting is also important, so who knows. And in September, the Chicago Bar Assn Symphony is doing Beethoven's 9th at Navy Pier for their 20th anniversary; I'm going to sing in that. Reharsals start in February.