Tuesday, December 25, 2007


I'm stuffed. Not with holiday food, with stuff.

In the spirit of starting 2008 in an organized fashion, a lot of stuff has to go. I'm working my way through every drawer, every closet, every file folder and my storage closet...ruthlessly. Ha.

It's hard to get rid of the lovely Tahari evening dress I bought in 1993 to be a bridesmaid. But the thing is almost 14 years old and just doesn't look flattering on me anymore. Same with some suits purchased in the 90's for my former day job. Nice fabrics in excellent condition, but they just don't suit. Ha. Goodbye, eyeshadows, lipsticks, blushers and creams accumulated via years of makeup promotions. Farewell, magazine and newspaper articles on topics from flat abs to plotting a novel I've carefully clipped and saved but rarely refer to.

What/how much do we really need? How many pairs of shoes? Jeans? Types of hair gels? Pairs of pajamas?

But how can I part with a few vintage dresses that were my mom's? The very cool 1950's drinking glasses my great aunt gave me? I never know what sort of self-costuming a show or movie might require, so I've kept some stuff. Just in case.

I joined freecycle.org...an amazing Yahoo! group where you offer stuff you no longer want and can request stuff that you do. Within hours I gave away my Clavinova--a full size electric piano from the late 80's that still works great except for the C# key. Took up too much space in my bedroom, and I only played to pound out notes/the alto part in music I needed to sing. It went to a young woman who was so happy to gift it to her musician boyfriend. How nice when extra stuff goes to a good home. I then bought a much smaller Yamaha keyboard that fits in a closet.

Then there are books...very hard for me to give those away. Though I don't keep every book I read, I want those that have made their way to my 'keeper' shelf and my numerous medieval England research books. Seeing them lined up neatly on their shelves is somehow relaxing and reassuring. And then there's the bookcase with books to be read...

I'm off to the Salvation Army to donate several bags of oldies but goodies. And then to Target. In case I need new stuff.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Patrick Swayze and Me

I was in a bar with Patrick Swayze last night until 12:30AM.
And, if you know who he is, Travis Fimmel, too.

This is because I was an extra in their new pilot for A&E, The Beast. Not for any other reason.

I've been an extra on more than 55 productions, and have often been in close proximity to the principals (aka stars). But as a Dirty Dancing fan, seeing PS in person and watching him act in take after take was particularly cool.

Being an extra is rarely glamorous. We waited in a cold, spartan holding area for more than six hours on hard plastic chairs, then were on set--the smoky and cold bar--on and off for several hours. A few people smoked cigarettes (including PS) and they also blew in some fake smoke.

My call time was 12:00PM; we didn't wrap until 12:30AM. For not a lot of money. But, I enjoyed delicious food (including very tasty salmon and turtle cheesecake), and fun and interesting conversations.

One of the reasons I continue to work as an extra is to observe and be a part of the creative filming process. I got to sit mere feet away from PS and the director. I heard them discuss the various shots and takes and what they needed to do on the next take...it's interesting to see the personnel interact and make changes. It's also fun to see the movie or TV show and know what went into producing it.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Inner Peace

As we rush around doing the busy-busy this time of year, maybe we need to stop for a moment to reflect on how we spent our 2007....how we chose to spend our time and what we chose to think about.

I don't mean trying to reflect while you're in the middle of wrapping presents or running errands or on the way to a social event. I mean sitting down in a quiet room and taking a few quality moments to go over what you have accomplished this year. What you have learned.

Most of us are so caught up in where we're going next or all the stuff we should be doing that we don't make time to appreciate where we are. Some of us tend to think, "Another year is passing, and I still I haven't ______________." For me, the blank is filled by "sold a book." This thought process, of course, leads to frustration and ruminating about what I could have done differently. Even when many aspects of selling a book are beyond my control.

What if I could turn that thought around and think about what I did do? If I could think, "I wrote another manuscript this year. And completed the extensive revisions my agent requested, to her satisfaction. And started two new novels." Those accomplishments should be a big deal. They should mean something. But my mind whips past any achievements to, "What's next? Why haven't you written more pages on your next books?"

The challenge is not being too hard on myself while remaining motivated and disciplined enough to move forward. Sometimes that seems to be a fine line.

I need to make more room in my head for gratefulness and gratitude. I need to allow myself to appreciate my successes and experience inner peace.

What can you appreciate?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Does any work get done in December?

Word is that many literary agents don't submit during December. Rationale: The publishing industry slows down and agents don't want their clients' manuscripts buried and moldering on editors' desks.

These agents say it's better to submit after the New Year. But I wonder, won't that result in a deluge, and overwhelm editors with envelopes and packages? If a month's worth of submissions is held back, how many will arrive the first week of 2008? I'm curious to know how editors prioritize when they receive dozens of manuscripts at once. There must be some editors who make their way through the pile chronologically...

Hmmm. Is this a chicken or the egg situation?

It's well known that many other industries also slow down this time of year, while everyone scrambles to decorate, buy gifts and cook for the holidays and attends seasonal functions. What does all this lost productivity cost our economy? Why don't corporations just accede to this national trend, and give employees off from December 15 to January 3rd, instead of going through the motions and requiring everyone to show up at the office?

I know I can't afford to take off an entire month just because of holiday hustle and bustle. Financially--well, I don't get paid vacation days and don't want to abandon all hope of earnings. Mentally--sometimes I feel guilty if I take the weekend off. No way could I play or party for two weeks.

I've also heard of an agent who prefers not to submit on Mondays or Fridays. And they say publishing slows down in August, too.

Maybe that's one reason many authors have agents: to trust that they know the market better than we do.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Multiple Personalities

What a variety of parts I've been asked to portray recently...from a corporate district manager (cast without an audition) to a doctor (auditioned and got the part) to a weed (auditioned, don't think I got it). Yes, the voice of a weed.

Sit back for a moment and imagine how you'd use your voice to convey the demise of a weed.

First I tried various short, high pitched shrieks, but they grated on my ears, even when I sat further back from my microphone. Gaspy groans ended up sounding too much like Meg Ryan in that famous When Harry Met Sally scene.

By this time my throat was starting to hurt. I wondered if my neighbors could hear the screaming. It's very hard to scream quietly. Finally settled on a sort of gurgly sound.

This week, went on two more print looksees. One was for bad hair...you can't imagine how big my hair gets if I brush it while upside down. And if I don't flatiron my bangs, each piece goes a different direction. They wanted a mugshot type look; not sure if I came across mean enough. And, they saw over 200 men and women in 8 hours.

The next day, coincidentally, went back to the same photographer for a "nice lady next door" print ad for a well-known prescription drug. I saw blondes, redheads, brown haired women there...in 5 hours who knows how many they will see. The photographer did remember me from yesterday...

I can only hope I've assimilated enough information from watching many seasons of America's Next Top Model to pose competently and connect with the camera.

Moving from on camera, VO, and print to live theatre...I'm in a musical revue, where, among other things, I'm zombie lawyer and a tap dancing cheerleader who does the splits...

Monday, November 19, 2007

RWA National 2008 Hotel

For those planning to attend RWA's National conference next July in San Francisco, here's a heads up about the hotel. Fortunately it's in the middle of everything...shopping, food, sights...all in walking distance.

San Francisco Marriott

Lobby area: is under renovation. A new, focal point lobby bar is on its way as is a new entrance and registration desk. There is a Starbucks and several restaurants, but see Trish Milburn's post about other convenient eating options. The Garden Terrace will seat fewer people after the second floor renovation than it does now.

Rooms: The guest rooms are fairly spacious and, as you can see if you go to the link, provide beds with lots of pillows. Farthest from the elevator is an even larger room offering seating area with a couch and two chairs in addition to the two chairs in a regular king room.

Other: Check in is 4:00 PM, though they happily gave me a room when I arrived at around 11AM. But very few people were checking in at that time, and I don't know how crowded they were the night before. Internet access is $12.95/day. This is one of those hotels with mid-rise and high-rise elevators. There is a health club (24 hours) and a pool; the spa area was recently renovated.
Taxi from the airport: around 25 minutes and $40.
Shower head has various speed/strength options. Flat screen TVs.
The staff was very friendly and helpful, particularly those at the Concierge desk.

Picky Notes:
The blow dryer hung on the only hook in my room.
The closet, in a king bed room at least, is fairly small for two people to share. There were at least two spacious drawers.
If you care about a great view, check to make sure your room has one.
At this time, there are no beverage machines on the room floors.
The line for taxis can be long, but it was easy to get our own taxis.

Conference space: is huge. Most rooms and registration are beneath the lobby but there are some meeting rooms on 4 & 5. The main ballroom is bigger than last year's.
Check out the floor plans.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Persistence Paying Off?!

Faithful readers, I have an announcement: yesterday I felt like and believed I am a working actress and author. Here's why:

In the late afternoon I spoke with my literary agent...she said liked all the changes she'd asked me to make on my latest opus, that it was now a stonger book. Whew. And that she'd submit it right away, after I sent her 4 copies of the new version. (Some of you may think, 'why can't she make the copies?' But often it's up to the author to do that.) So I fired up my printer. Fortunately I had enough paper and toner to print 1404 pages.

Meanwhile, I was learning my lines for a Walgreen's training video that started at 10:15 pm, and glancing over copy for an audition I have for two corporate videos today.

I carried the huge stack to UPS and overnighted the 4 copies, thrilled to have this off my plate and on hers. Then I went to two hours of my high energy three hour improv class, and drove to the burbs for the Walgreen's shoot. I had three scenes, finished at 2:20 am and got home at 3.

It's still hard for me to believe that all I have to do is say the lines, and the producer/director/writer will be happy with my performance. Not to say that they don't ask me to try different things on each take, or adjust my position or how I hold a clipboard or whatever...but then I do what they say and they are happy with that. Not that this is always easy...to remember lines and say them with the right inflection/emotion while turning at a certain moment without moving out of camera frame.

I guess part of me still wonders if I am an actress.

I am.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

When NO turns into YES

Sometimes NO doesn't really mean NO...it means 'try again' or YES.

A recent post ("Close but no Cigar") bemoaned my 19 vote loss in the national Romance Writer of America board of directors election. Rest easy, faithful reader, because I am now on the board! A director in my region moved to another position, and the board appointed me to fill the vacancy. I am enjoying learning about my responsibilities, and look forward to the first board meeting.

An editor I know has read part or all of FOUR of my manuscripts. One might think that, since she didn't want to buy any of them, she'd be done. But she just asked to see part of another. Yes, again I have proved close but no cigar. Is the fifth time the charm?

When I first mentioned the premise of ms #9 to my agent, she wasn't thrilled. But she read the first 50 pages and changed her mind. Now I'm waiting to hear on final revisions...

Some might find victory all the sweeter after you'd thought you'd already lost.

The question is: what steps can I take in the future to avoid the emotional roller coaster of turning NO to YES...and go directly to YES? Or are timing and luck, not my actions, the controlling factors?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Yes, you're booked. No, you're not.

The good news: lately I've had a lot more incoming calls from people who want to book me. In the past week I've had inquiries about a quick turnaround 300 page VO job, a VO role in an animated movie and, from a producer I've already worked with, my turnaround time for several upcoming projects. An agent called to book me for an MOS (without sound) video project tomorrow. I'd already been booked for two days in November for corporate training.

The not so good news: The 300 page job didn't materialize. Found out this morning that the MOS project was canceled. Because the client is doing the corporate training in another city, I'm no longer needed. Have not yet heard from the producer.

I need to start taking these potential/scheduled bookings with a grain of salt, and not believe they will happen until they actually do. But it's hard not to have expectations when I wind up cancelling appointments so I can go to a shoot or say no to other things because I think I'm booked.

Not only can scheduling change at the drop of a hat, sometimes I need to jump through a lot of hoops. I'd auditioned for a narration job from home. Then I was asked to record two short sections for the director...but they wanted them ASAP. Next they asked me to record the entire script because the client still hasn't decided. So I did, at an advertising agency. It was great to meet some of the people involved, and doing the recording in person was better submitting from home because I could give them the exact tone/pace/energy/emphasis they wanted. But they recorded over it by mistake, and asked me to go back that afternoon and do it again. Which I did.
Will I book this project? Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Look See

Got a call yesterday from one of my talent agents to go to a look see on Monday for for a print job that shoots Wednesday. The pay is good because it's a national print ad and direct mail. All I have to do is look nice, go to a photography studio and have my picture taken any time during the six hours they're seeing people.

Six hours of look see. If they spend 5 minutes on each, that's 72 women. 3 minutes each ups the number to 120. The last look see I went on was around 1 minute. That could be 360 people.

Far better odds than the lottery to be sure. And the studio is only 15 minutes from my condo. I'm sure some will have to schlep in from the burbs.

What can I do to stand out in sea of middle aged brunettes (no blondes, for some reason)? Clearly hair style is important. Many times I've heard that clients/directors see what's in front of them and don't think, "We like this actress, but want to change her hair." Do I go in with my natural curls? Try a sleek ponytail? Or invest the time to straighten my hair? In my experience, most women will probably have straight hair. So my curly hair might be different. Too different?

Then there's wardrobe..."Nice casual." A sweater set? A blouse? What color, to not blend in or be too bright, when I don't know what the background will be?

You see how easy it is to overthink what amounts to less than 3 audition minutes. But the stakes are pretty high...1) a sizeable print job to add to your portfolio and bank account 2) getting booked makes you look good to the agent who sent you and could keep you on their radar so they'll submit you for other projects. 3) you can tell other agents that you're getting work, which might make them want to submit you.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Usually I am very disciplined about getting my work done, even with few official deadlines and no boss looking over my shoulder. But these past two weeks, I have been a dawdler.

Instead of starting a new book or writing more on any I've started, I've gone out 12 evenings in a row. I've put away my summer clothes. I've cleaned my condo. Done laundry. Talked on the phone. Zoomed around the Internet.

Last week I scheduled something every day at lunch, which broke up the day in a funny way.

What do you do to get back on track?

Maybe I just needed a break, some time to refill the well. Or maybe I just don't feel like I'm really working unless I'm immersed in a book and turning out lots of new pages. Maybe I should acknowledge that there are different forms of work: I performed in an improv show Monday night, was an extra for almost 12 hours on Tuesday, finished a non-paying article before deadline, sent out a bunch of auditions, sent voiceover Web site updates to my designer...but I still wonder, is that enough?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Close but no cigar

Faithful readers may recall that one of my manuscripts was runner up in the national 2006 American Title II contest. Yes, it's quite an accomplishment to have my manuscript chosen as a finalist by a publisher in the first place, and additional accomplishments to have survived several rounds of online voting. But--it placed second, nonetheless.

I seem to be collecting "close but no cigar" tales.

I ran for Region 2 Director on the national Romance Writers of America board. And lost...by .9%. That's right. Not even 1%, .9. Or 19 votes.
In this race, as in ATII...was it my fault? Should/could I have worked harder to secure votes? Did more people mean to vote, but just not get around to it, as with political elections? Or did those 19 members vote for the winner because she is a multi-published author, while I continue to aspire?

And in the voiceover world, 1) I'm in the final 2 to narrate a DVD tour of a hospital. The director wanted me to record an additional section of the script, which I did Monday....no news. 2) Also this week was "in the lead" for a critical role in a computer game, with a voice "perfect" for the character. They also asked me to record a short second audition. But they found someone "not as good" who will do the role for free.

Sigh. It's wonderful and encouraging that my work and I are good enough to consider so seriously. On the other hand, it's also frustrating to come so close and not prevail. And not know what to do differently to win the next time.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Expectations and Follow Through

I believe if you say you're going to do something by a certain time, you should do it. Or at the very least, communicate about why you can't meet the deadline and reschedule.

Cases in point:

1) Many man meetings (I won't even call them 'dates'. IMO a date is something you look forward to vs. an attempt to see if there could be something to look forward to) these days start off with only a day and vague time period. I'm a planner, and find this lack of specificity a bit frustrating.
I was supposed to meet a guy for coffee last Wednesday morning. He'd said he'd call to finalize. Never heard a word.
Am supposed to have lunch with another guy today, who also said he'd call to set a time. Will he? Less than two hours until noon...

2) I was told (in writing) that I'd hear back on something important by the beginning of last week. So, expectations raised, I waited. Monday went by. Tuesday. Wednesday...nothing. I called Thursday afternoon. And learned it would be two more weeks.
Am I getting the runaround or is this a legitimate mixup/miscommunication?
Is it that difficult to send a quick e-mail if plans, schedules or intent change?

The morals of the story:
Don't make promises you can't keep. Conversely, don't expect others to actually do what they say.

Some good news: the beginning of my time travel manuscript finaled in a contest and goes to an editor or agent for final round judging...

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Everyone has a different honesty meter. I'm the kind of person who'd return an extra penny a store clerk might hand me. I'm just not comfortable with any kind of dishonesty. But many people feel differently.

An example:

Had lunch with a guy I'd met at an event where the upper age limit was 48. So attendees could logically conclude everyone there was 48 or younger. The guy told me his age...not 48. Not 49. Not 50. 54! Is that fair? Is an untruth a good way to start...if he/she can lie about that, even if they fess up, what else will he/she lie about?
I know 1) dating over 40 is tricky 2) people on sites like Match list themselves at a younger age so as not to be excluded from searches...but still.

Another example: I was told something specific and exciting about an acting job that was later partially recanted and at the actual shoot didn't appear to be true at all. Maybe the situation had changed. But, if so, no one explained what had happened. Or things could be at work behind the scenes that I'm not aware of so it could still prove to be somewhat true in the future. Or possibly it was all a well-intentioned mistake (as happened with another recent shoot). But to me, at this moment, it seems like a misrepresentation. A miscommunication at the least.

How far are you willing to go?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Waiting for the call/e-mail....

ASAP. How long do you think that is? Soon...how long is that? Later...does that mean the same day or later in the week?

When you're waiting for other people to get back to you, and their response is necessary before you can take the next step, move in a different direction or make other plans, even ASAP can seem like a long time. Any of these qualifiers can vary depending on the information under consideration. ASAP, when someone is reading a 375 page novel, will be much longer than if she'd simply promised to get back with a date for lunch.

When is follow up appropriate? Is 'no news' really 'good news,' like they say?

It's not like I'm sitting by the phone (well, except when I'm at my desk because the phone is on it), doing nothing but waiting with bated breath. But let's say I have an audition, and know the shoot date is a week from Wednesday. I know they won't call unless I get the part, but I never know when they WILL call if I do. So booking another commitment for that day might not be a good idea. Just in case.

What if a friend asks for several good dates for lunch, then she doesn't choose one? If another opportunity comes up, do I schedule that, or keep those dates open? Should the answer be different if the opportunity is a paying acting job or lunch with a different friend?

Maybe instead of telling someone ASAP, soon, or later, we should consider being more specific in the first place.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ya gotta spend $ to make $

Being a working actress is expensive. I need:
Current headshots.
Postcards of said headshots to send as reminders and audition follow ups.
Regular haircuts, because I have to look like my headshots.
Classes, because agents/casting directors like to see actors honing their craft. And, the classes are often good networking opportunities when the teachers are industry professionals.
Voiceover demos, a Web site and subscriptions to audition sites.
Business cards.
And now: the video slate. Most actors are supposed to be on Actors Access, an audition and casting clearinghouse. More auditions are requesting an Actor Slate, which is a one minute video showcasing your personality. I had a half hour on camera interview, where the questions ranged from 'What's your favorite movie and why?' to 'Share a favorite childhood memory.' It went so fast, I can't remember half of what I said...I'm waiting to receive the edited version.

In other news, some days I wonder if I exist in the real world with the general populace or only in the solitary Twilight Zone of my imagination. Case in point:
The phone doesn't ring. Meaning no incoming auditions.
The only emails I get are from Yahoo! groups. Meaning that no one is responding to any of the auditions I submitted.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Extra, Extra

FOUR days of extra work, the most ever in a row for me. Two were for an Aquafina commercial starring Lou Piniella, a Cubs player and I think someone from the Milwaukee Brewers. I did this one for the $, not love of baseball. Spent from 7:30AM to 6:00PM at Joliet's baseball stadium. Knew assorted fellow extras. Despite frequent application of 55 SPF, some sunburn. We were assigned various reactions to the action on the field.
The next day, we went to Wrigley Field and repeated what we did the day before... moving from section to section, even the upper deck and skyboxes. VERY hot, even with an umbrella between takes. Fortunately, only from 7:00AM-Noon.

The next two days, spent thirteen hours each waiting to be called to the set of a major motion picture. Basically got paid to talked with friends old and new, eat, check e-mail, read. However, the reason I do extra work is to see actors/directors in action. Not to sit around.

These were the 54th and 55th projects I've worked on. Have I had enough of being an extra? Time will tell.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

No Angelina for Me

I did get to work on the movie Wanted. With James McAvoy, who was in The Chronicles of Narnia and The Last King of Scotland. Not Angelina Jolie. Apparently, she had wrapped the day before. A suburban night shoot, in a grocery store, from 6pm to 1am. I knew four of the other extras, so catching up with them was fun. I am definitely "in the camera"..but of course it's all in the editing.

Today I'll be taping what's called an Actor Slate for one of the online audition services I'm registered with. It's to show casting directors what I look and sound like and for them to get a sense of my personality. I'll be interviewed for around 20 minutes, which will be edited into a minute. Stay tuned to see if it helps me get any auditions or jobs.

And I signed up for a second voiceover audition site. To be competitive there I'll need a fourth demo: narration. I have a tendency to talk fast, and my voice isn't as deep or husky as a lot of narrators, so I consider this the area that needs most improvement.

Who said, 'to make money you have to spend money'?

Writing wise: finishing an article for the national romance writer magazine. Almost done with the significant revisions my agent requested on my latest novel. A new challenge, because as I go I'm second guessing myself. I keep pulling out of the story and thinking, "Is this what she asked for? What if she doesn't like this new scene?" Will endeavor to turn these thoughts around, to "Aha. She's going to LOVE this!"

Monday, August 13, 2007

Me and Angelina Jolie?

Over a week ago I'd committed to working Tuesday as an extra on the Angelina Jolie movie Wanted. When you're an extra, you need to be available the entire day and night.

But when it rains, it pours...I got a call for a "big" audition Monday afternoon.

What's an actress to do? Say 'yes' to the audition and cancel the movie? Or stand by a commitment?

Not that being an extra is highest paying or most important acting gig, or that I couldn't go on living unless I see Angelina in person (reportedly Brad's in town too), but I believe a commitment is a commitment. The scene is supposed to be a small one, so my absence would be noticed more vs. if I bagged a huge crowd scene. Plus the extras agent wouldn't be thrilled if I canceled the day before, and might be less likely to book me in the future. Also, no matter how big the client, an audition is still an audition. There's no guarantee I'll get the part.

What did I do? I knew Monday was a night shoot, which, based on what I know of union rules, made it likely that Tuesday would be too. So I told the agent this info, and she went ahead and booked me for the audition. Then I decided to check if the Wanted extras agency had any clue about Tuesday's call time. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't know until the current day's filming wraps.

Guess what? The scene I was supposed to work on has been postponed. So I'm good to go for the audition. Then Monday early evening, I got a call with the new date for the Wanted shoot.

Sometimes things that seem complicated work themselves out.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What is acting?

When most people learn that I'm an actress, they ask, "What are you in," probably assuming I do theatre or film.

Just so you know, dear Reader, there are many other acting opportunities out there that pay better than theatre and take less time. Granted, they aren't Shakespeare. Most do not involve character analysis or digging deep within to find emotion.

Recent projects include:
A photo shoot for the National Restaurant Association. They had an e-learning project, and needed actors to portray diners and waitstaff in a restaurant, among other things.
Corporate role playing for a training program involving high-level executives.
A bawling bride for a corporate scavenger hunt.

It is this last upon which I wish to elaborate. I had to sit in the park across from the Sears Tower, dressed all in white down to my sneakers with rhinestones and up to my wedding veil, waiting for teams receiving clues via cell phone to pry 2 passwords out of me. I was supposed to cry.
As one team of around eight peppered me for information, a former corporate America client came up to me.

"What are you doing? Are you ok?" she asked. Cleary she feared for my safety and sanity. "If you need me, you know where to find me," she said.

I called her after the event ended and assured her all was well.

Sure, it would have been nice if she'd seen me in a movie or a national TV commercial instead of crying in a public park with my wedding veil flying in the breeze.
Maybe someday.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pepper in my Nose

I just put pepper in my nose.
Am I four? Am I drunk? No. I am auditioning to sneeze for a radio commercial. They want real sneezes.
Smelling pepper didn’t work. Sniffing it. . .nope. So I put some up my nose.
My nose burns. My eyes water. Yet I’ve only produced two useable sneezes.
Hmm. Can I copy and paste those two so it looks and sounds like more?
Supposedly this pays very well.

Yesterday I auditioned for a speaking role for the same commercial. So there is a chance I could get both parts and get paid twice.

Another insertion of pepper into one nostril. Then the other. More burning. More eye watering. No more sneezes. Not even close. Hmmm.
How long will my nose hurt?
The sacrifices I make for my art.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Jerry Hadley

Jerry Hadley died yesterday, at 55. He'd shot himself in the head.

If you haven't heard of him, today's Los Angeles Times describes him as "one the most versatile and important U.S. opera singers." He sang at the Met and other major opera houses, made many CDs and won three Grammy Awards. He was gifted and acclaimed. Yet reports say he was filing for bankruptcy and was being treated for depression.

Why do I care? Because I've been a Jerry Hadley fan for years and have some of his CDs. His recording of Candide is one of my favorites.

Because in 2000, Jerry Hadley was Gatsby in the Lyric Opera's production of The Great Gatsby. And I was the waitress at his two parties. For several weeks, as a non-singing actor, I had the privilege of standing on stage within feet of him. I got to watch and hear him rehearse and give 9 performances. This was as amazing to me as it would be for an avid sports fan to dribble with Michael Jordan or toss a few with a Superbowl veteran.

I have always been in awe of the musically gifted. For many years I wished I were talented enough to make singing my career. I couldn't understand why incredibly gifted singers I'd met and heard had no interest in pursuing their gifts beyond a hobby.

So for me, just being permitted to stand with my tray of fake hors d' ouevres amidst so much talent was incredible. To get paid to be surrounded by and intermingle with such a high caliber of singers was icing on the cake.

Jerry was as nice and friendly as he could be. No star attitude. I remember these moments in particular:

1. Once during rehearsal, the director yelled at me. In front of the entire cast. Jerry made a point of coming over to me and soothing my nerves.
2. Jerry held a champagne glass that a waiter was supposed to take from him at a certain point. During one rehearsal, the waiter didn't remember. I happened to be standing nearby so I just went and got it. He thanked me, and asked the director if I could take the glass from now on. (No, the director wanted Gatsby to have a personal waiter.)
3.We were talking about his career and all he'd accomplished. Yet he said he was just grateful for the work. Even a talented, successful performer such as he didn't always know where his next gig or paycheck was coming from.

Of course I don't know the circumstances that led him down this sad path at such a young age. Maybe the burden of fading talent after reaching such heights is harder to bear than not having enough in the first place.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What's in a Name Take 2

So I sent 10 new titles to my agent for my new book, in order of my preference. Unfortunately, she only liked the last one but not enough.
Back to the drawing board. Already have a brainstorming list of more than 50 possibilities...I like some of them a lot. Will she? Plan to ponder a few more days and then send another Top 10 list.

As to the pen name, no revelations on that front yet.

Attended the national Romance Writers of America conference in Dallas last week. Caught up with a bunch of friends and got 52 free books. Some days events began at 7:00AM and continued to the wee hours...1950 published (from household name famous to those who've just made their first sale) and unpublished authors from as far away as Australia and dozens of editors and agents. Lots of booksignings, more than 10 workshops every hour, meetings/networking, and fancy parties (many invitation only). And a booksigning with over 400 authors that raised almost $60,000 for literacy in TWO hours!

Monday, July 09, 2007

The End

How many movies and books have you read that had disappointing endings? You were caught up in the characters, engaged by the story until the very last minute, but weren't satisfied when the credits rolled or you closed the book.

As I neared completion of my 9th manuscript, I faced this problem. How best to resolve all that had gone before? When writing a romance, there are usually2 main characters: the hero and heroine. They have to end up together. The only question is how. My work in progress is not a romance. It has 5 main characters, each of whom deserve a satisfying conclusion. Three people seemed to work themselves out fairly easily, thanks to a brainstorming session with my sister. That left two. I knew where they would be in the final scene, what they would be doing. But not what they would say. Or what the final sentence would be.

Though usually don't have writer's block, for several days I stared at a blank page. The characters stared at each other because I had no words for them.

Then, this morning, inspiration struck. I knew exactly what I wanted to happen and what they needed to say.

I have now completed NINE manuscripts...

Monday, June 25, 2007

What's in a Name?

Shakespeare wrote, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

But in today's fast-paced, multi-media world where we are exposed to hundreds of advertising messages every day, names do matter. The product, the title must stand out and catch the reader's or viewer's eye.

Which is why my literary agent says I need:
1) a new title for my novel in progress. I'm all for whatever she thinks will sell, and have been brainstorming with my sister and friends.
2) a pen name for my other manuscripts, which are a different genre. I'm working on coming up with a snazzy name I could get used to being called.

Side A of the pen name debate goes like this: An author's name is her brand. When you pick up a book, you want to know what you're getting, whether it's gritty science fiction or sweet romance. To meet readers' expectations, each subsequent novel must deliver. So if you change genres or styles, you need a different name to avoid disappointing or confusing readers.
Other reasons include:
--a publisher may require an author who sales have lagged to start over with a new name.
--some authors are considered "too prolific," which apparently readers think is bad. (example: Stephen King wrote as Richard Bachman)
--you are the wrong gender perceived as appropriate for a genre; ie: only women should write romance novels
--your real name is hard to pronounce, spell or remember or too similar to another published author
--shelf positioning: the ends of the alphabet may be too high or too low on the shelf

Side B says: It's hard enough to build name recognition. Writing under two names can mean two Web sites and two publicity/marketing campaigns.
If a reader likes an author's writing, she'll follow that author anywhere in any genre.
Thanks to word of mouth, publicity and the Internet, many readers know that, for example, Nora Roberts is also J.D. Robb and Stephen King was also Richard Bachman....so why bother having two names?

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I'm in the Top 100

The finalists in the National Public Radio Talent Quest are soon to be announced...unfortunately my phone has not rung.

However, my entry, Someday is Now, made it to the People's Choice Top 100 out of 1451 entries, after over 135,000 votes!!! That's the top 7%. Did not make the judges Top 100 list.

On the one hand, pretty cool. On the other, close but no cigar...


Thursday, May 31, 2007


Hurrah! I booked a TV commercial. This will be very interesting, because there's no copy to learn. I'm supposed to review a list of questions they might ask and will improvise answers while trying to fit in some key words.

As usual, it's self-costume. Which means I have to comb through my closet and iron and bring whatever I think corresponds to their suggestions...everything from shirts to pants to shoes to jewelry. Since I'm a mom, I have to remember a wedding ring.

They weren't thrilled by my hair (too curly, too black). So I'll be getting up early to make sure it's straight. Can't do much about the color, though.

Only once so far have clothes been bought for me. The wardrobe woman called ahead to ask my sizes and colors that I thought looked good on me. She had a bin full of clothes on set for me to try. I wound up wearing my own jeans and their wool sweater, which fit perfectly. She sold it to me for $10.

Not sure yet where the commercial will run...all I know so far is "local markets."

Last chance to vote in National Public Radio's Talent Quest and help me be the next NPR host! Voting ends June 2.
Listen to my entry at www.publicradioquest.com/node/1437

Monday, May 21, 2007

Please VOTE for entry 1437

It's not too late...there's still time to vote for my entry in National Public Radio's Talent Quest...
American Idol for radio.

Visit www.publicradioquest.com/node/1437. I've gotten some wonderful comments so far, many from people I don't even know, but would appreciate yours. You do have to register with the site to vote...I hope a slight inconvenience to help me pursue a dream.

Thanks in advance...

Monday, May 14, 2007

VOTE FOR ME by June 2!!

I have entered the Public Radio Talent Quest and need votes by June 2nd to become a semi-finalist.

It's a long shot, as there are already around 1000 entries, but...here's the link to mine, which proposes a program called Someday is Now, about making time to follow your heart:


Please forward if you know anyone who might be willing to vote.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Ruth Talks

My voiceover Web site is up and almost complete! Check it out: www.ruthtalks.com.

Do you know anyone who needs voice or on camera talent?

You never know what connections will lead to work. A client of an attorney friend of mine wanted her to be in a real estate video. My friend thought of me. Which led to two hours yesterday of taping for her client, who may hire me for future projects. The videographer might too.

I need to get some input on rates. I charged her my current hourly rate. But there was a lot of copy to record. Despite numerous script changes as the shoot progressed and the volume of verbiage, they were happy with some of the sections on the first take. Only a couple of times did we have to do another take because of a mistake I made...most were because of trains, kids playing outside, the client not liking the copy when she heard it read aloud etc.

So would it have been better to charge a project rate, which would have been higher?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

If a tree falls in the forest...

Four performances down, four to go of the one act play I'm in. So far our largest audience has been 16 (3 were friends of mine) in a theatre that seats 30. And after having only 9 in attendance the night before (8 were my friends/family!!), 16 felt like a real crowd.

After all the hard work and time the cast and production staff has put in, we deserve full houses. But how to convince people to see our show--a new play by a new company--when there are dozens of established theatres and hundreds of musical performances competing with us?

The actor who plays my son has to write a suicide note, then shoot himself. Each night when he comes backstage, he hands me the note to read. Each letter is different, each incredibly sad. Reading them, I hope, has helped me reach the appropriate level of despair.

Next project: singing Faure's Requiem with a symphony chorus and orchestra.

And in the next few weeks my new voice over site should go live. It will be interesting to see how soon it pays for itself. Note the positive attitude.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Running the Emotional Gamut

Sunday afternoon: As previously reported, I'm in a one act play. The role: the mother of a teenager who commits suicide. The director had seen me do a monologue while auditioning for a theatre festival (which I didn't get cast in) and called to offer me the part. He says I'm not reaching the depths of despair he wants for my short scene near the end of the play and that I'm self conscious on stage. Unfortunately, now I feel even more self conscious.

Just as a lawyer doesn't have to know how to practice every type of law to succeed, an actress doesn't have to be skilled in every type of role. I never aspired to be a dramatic actress, but agreed to do this part to step outside my comfort zone. Well. Some comfort zones exist for a reason.

Of course I want to do well. I made a commitment, even tho I'm not getting paid. I don't want to be the weakest link in the cast and not match the emotional levels reached by my fellow actors.

Sunday night: a friend asked me to record female voices for an animated Web site, for pay. I had to sing three part harmony with myself and create three different characters on the fly....no script in advance. This was challenging but also lots of fun.
After each take, when he told me what he wanted, I knew exactly what he meant and knew I could do it. And I did.

Lightbulb moment: Is that the difference, knowing I can succeed at the VO work even as I doubt I can do the serious drama?
If so, how do I convince myself I can also succeed in the play?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Actor and Technology

I'd e-mailed my headshot/resume for an internet hosting opportunity. A few hours later, the assistant producer e-mailed that the H/R looked fine, but they needed to see me on camera.

I don't yet have a demo reel online as more and more actors are doing and more places are requiring. So I set up my digital video camera and recorded the sample questions they'd sent. Now I just had to figure out how to upload the video to my PC and then to YouTube as requested.

I plugged the camera into my PC with the cord provided, and tried several media programs on my PC. Nothing. The software refused to recognize my camera.
Then I realized the cord depicted in the manual looked different than the one in my hand. Fortunately I live above a Best Buy. I ran downstairs with cord and manual. Hmm. They said I needed a Firewire cable, assuming my PC was Firewire compatible (as opposed to USB).

What's up with that? I'm trying to be an actress, not a computer geek! $35 later, I ran back to my condo, new cable in hand.

Can you guess what's coming? My PC was not Firewire compatible. So I unplugged everything from my tower, then lugged it to Best Buy. Fortunately, the guy at their Geek desk was very helpful. $39 and 10 minutes later, I had a new Firewire card. I lugged the tower back upstairs, and reconnected all the cords and cables. The hardest thing: prying the new cable out of its industrial strength plastic package.

Lo and behold, my video zipped straight into the software!!!
Now I just had to figure out YouTube. How hard could it be? Kids do it, right?

Let's just say it took way too long to set up an account and get my video up. Even longer to figure out how to send the link to the assistant producer.

But finally, appx 4 hours and $75 after I began, I had conquered technology, and successfully uploaded my 32 second recording. My reward: the assistant producer emailed her thanks for getting a demo to her so quickly. And, maybe, I'll get the gig?

Monday, April 02, 2007

To Schedule or Not To Schedule

Scheduling for the Gainfully Unemployed can be very frustrating. Particularly for those like me, who prefer to know what they're doing and where they are going every day.

An extras casting company asked for all availability in April (for them you have to be available all day and night). Yesterday I had an audition for a theater festival; you weren't supposed to audition if you had any conflicts Thursday-Sunday for the month of June, and had to list any non-negotiable conflicts for May. As I left a recent audition, the client asked, "You aren't going out of town in April, are you?"

I've already agreed to do a small but important role in a non-paying one act play with 8 performances this month. And I'm singing in a chorus that's performing twice in early May.
There could be days the internet TV channel I'm going to be one of the hosts for wants me to work.

If I say 'yes' to one booking, and then a better opportunity and/or one that pays more comes along, can I cancel the first without seeming unreliable or offending the first person and company that booked me? I've heard that's why some theatres have understudies...it's in the contract that if an actor gets a higher paying gig they have the right to not do the play but go make the money.

I try not to worry about over/under scheduling, but it's challenging when you're at an audition, see when the callbacks are supposed to be and know what you already have in your calendar for those days. Of course I don't know if I'll get a callback. But I wouldn't bother to be at the audition if I didn't think I might.

Should first come, first served be the rule? Or just take what comes and deal with conflicts as they arise? The key question: how to stop worrying about it?

In other news, the adventures of Princess Passion Fruit continue at http://pressstartmovie.com/bonuslevels/endgame2.html

Thursday, March 22, 2007


I am pleased to report that actingwise, this has been my busiest week ever. And it's only Thursday morning...

Monday night: worked as an extra on Michael Keaton's directorial debut film, The Merry Gentleman, until 2AM.
1) Got cast in a one act play with 8 performances in April. The artistic director of a new theater company had seen my recent audition for a theater festival.
2) Had an audition for a corporate video.
Wednesday night: Cold readings of scenes from plays in progress for a playwright group.
Thursday: national commercial audition coming up this afternoon.
Friday night: Asked to be in a "table read" for a new play. It's just what it sounds like, actors read the play in front of a small audience so the playwright can see how his work comes across.
Sunday: getting new headshots taken.

Could it be that all of the ground work I've done is finally paying off???

Monday, March 12, 2007

Easy come, Easy go

Friday one of the talent agencies I'm registered with called about an audition for this morning. She e-mailed the copy, location and wardrobe requirements. I was good to go.
Two hours later, she called back and said the client now only wanted to see men.

These are things I cannot control. What I can control somewhat is how many outgoing audition efforts I make.

I'm registered with several services, some free, some fee, that e-mail with opportunities. I scope out online resources. From March 4-10, I submitted for 11 voiceover auditions--most of which recquired a custom recording, 3 auditions I learned about online, sent pictures to a new production company, went on 2 in person auditions (one for a movie and one for a theatre festival, both no pay), contacted a new writing website with video content about being a freelancer. How many per week is enough? Until I get a part?

As of this writing, no callbacks, no parts. Nothing.

I'm also:
--in contact with a photographer to get another new set of headshots because I'm not that happy with the ones I had taken in January.
--talking with a Web designer about creating a voiceover website.
--awaiting the finished products from yesterday's recording session: the updated/re-edited version of my commercial demo and my new character demo.

After all that is done, I'll send my new materials to my current agents and to other agencies I'm interested in.

Then there's extra work. Though I've been an extra in more than 50 movies and thought I had my fill of the long days for little pay, I haven't done any since last summer. And there are several interesting projects coming to town. So recently I updated my information with 2 extras casting directors. One first opened registration with people he'd already worked with, so maybe he'll submit us first to the director.

One can hope.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Two Husbands in Two Hours

Last week I got an industrial video for a major insurance company. The character was a wife enjoying her empty nest lifestyle. No script, but improv based on her profile.

I look very young for my age. When I met my "husband," he took one look at me and said he was too old. I agreed. He had white hair and just looked older. When we went on camera in a part of the production company's offices, conversation flowed. He made up a story about our first meeting, I made up a story about what we wanted to do when he retired. I think we did a great job of portraying a married couple, tho we'd just met.

As we completed different angles, another man entered the room. I assumed he was the next character to be filmed. Turns out he was my new husband, a slightly younger version with salt and pepper hair. At least I'd gotten to chat with Husband #1 for a few minutes before shooting, but Husband #2 sat in the chair next to me, we said 'hello' and off we went. We did the same thing. Husband #2 might have looked more age appropriate for me, but Husband #1 was smoother on camera.

Doubt I'll get to see the finished product to see which husband made the cut...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

One step forward, two steps back

Recent developments: the first 25 pages of one book finaled in another contest, and will be judged by an editor. Yea.

However, another book, the one my agent sent out... got its first rejection. Ouch.

Supposed to have a 1/2 day shoot for a commercial tomorrow. Interestingly, I didn't have to audition, just e-mailed my headshot/resume as requested. Then, via e-mail, was asked for a few more pics so they could assess my "look," and told they'd call Friday afternoon to discuss. I didn't get a call, so I assumed they didn't like the additional pictures. But Saturday morning, I had another e-mail that I was cast and would receive info when I responded. Which I did. Have not yet received copy or shoot details...hmmm.

As someone who prefers plans to sponteneity, this is a bit stressful....

And remember that VO job I bid on...? On 2/21 the contact said the person chosen would be notified in a few days. No notification for me. Sigh. I'll never know how many people I was up against, if they ultimately didn't like my voice/interpretation of the copy or if my bid was too high.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bidding Wars

I'm registered with a voiceover directory that sends e-mails with audition info. If interested, you record the audition copy (on your professional quality microphone with software you've bought) into an mp3 and send it to the client. Then the client listens, and if interested, asks for your rate.

This week I recorded potential copy for a Web site and got asked for a quote for 3-4 minutes.

What is 3-4 minutes of my voice worth? A friend who has done literally hundreds of voiceovers says this is a long time (as opposed to a 30 or 60 second commercial) and that I should get $500. But if I wanted the job I could say $300.

Several months ago I got $500 for voicing two 3 minute scripts, which took me about an hour to record. That's $83 per minute of my voice. Or $8.30 per minute of my time. But I haven't gotten another gig since then.

I have no idea how good the competition is, or what they are bidding. Should I go below $300 to increase my chances of getting the part, which may or may not lead to more work in the future? Or would doing so undervalue my skills? Go with the $83/minute rate and charge $250?

I told the client $300.

And haven't heard back...

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Superbowl and the Average Joe

Ten lessons the average Joe or Jane can learn from the Superbowl:
1) Second is never good enough.
2) Athletes get paid to catch the ball, but don't get fired when they drop it. No matter how many times.
3) Practice does not make perfect.
4) Companies were willing to pay $2.6 million for their commercials but couldn't be bothered to communicate what the product was in a way we could remember.
5) Viewers jump up and down and scream for every good play. Yet most of us don't get nearly that excited about important things that happen in our own lives.
6) Even stars can screw up under pressure. (Billy Joel sang way off key).
7) Watching fans wave their arms is boring no matter the venue (during Prince's half time show).
8) Don't wear black while dancing on a dark stage.
9) Don't wear white when it's not flattering.
10) Next year, TiVo the game and save hours on recaps and useless commentary.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

One Day at a Time

Today's questions: "How much is too much to accomplish in a given day? How much "down time" do we need?

It's barely noon on a Sunday as I write this, and I've already read the paper, worked out, edited and printed agendas for two meetings I have tomorrow, written an article about a seminar I attended, printed off and prepared to mail a copy of a 350+ page manuscript for my agent, caught up on e-mail and talked to a friend. Still on the list are: finishing another article, preparing for an online writing workshop I'm giving starting next week (with an author who has sold more than seventy books. We'll be reprising and adding to the workshop we did at a national writing conference about persistence at different stages of your career), and researching what I'll want and who can design my soon to be created acting and freelance writing Web sites. Plus laundry and a couple of other household and home organization chores.

I could choose to be distracted by pursuits such as Web surfing, TV watching, reading. I could choose to procrastinate. But then I'll just have all the more to do tomorrow.

So much of our life is spent planning for the future, both short and long term. When a friend wants to have lunch, when we're scheduling a meeting, doctor or other appointment, we whip out our calendars (mine is still a print Day-Timer) and plan around all the things we've already entered. How many times a day do you think or say, "This weekend I'm going to (fill in the blank)? Or "Next week I've got to..."

When do we live in the moment, and appreciate what we are doing here and now, instead of always looking toward what's coming next? I think many days we're so busy rushing from one scheduled event to the next we create our own stress. And we also create a false sense of urgency because there are so many things we think we HAVE to do. Don't we also have to make time to decide what we really want to do with our time?

Time is our most valuable commodity. We owe it to ourselves to do the best we can to choose and control how we use it, rather than allowing it to control us.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Worry Wart

Do you ever worry too much? I'm familiar with most of the platitudes designed to keep one from worrying: "don't worry about things you cannot change," "do the best you can, it's all anyone can do," etc.

But sometimes, niggling thoughts burrow into your mind and stay there. If they dig deep enough, they can distract your concentration from the tasks at hand. My worry of the moment has to do with possible (perhaps not probable) scheduling conflicts from auditions I have today and tomorrow and the vagaries of how to prepare for events that might or might not arise. What is "the right thing?"

Who said, "When it rains, it pours?"

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The TelePrompTer

Have you ever used a TelePrompTer, the thing that displays scripts so that news anchors can read them while looking into the TV camera? It's not as easy as it looks.

First of all, there's usually a person scrolling the text and trying to keep up with you (there is an automatic setting but that can be tricky). Talk too fast, and you may run out of words before the new ones scroll into view. Talk too slow, or take too long a pause, and a new sentence may appear before you can finish the one you're saying.

Second, you have to read in a smooth flow and without moving your eyeballs too much (up/down/side to side), while maintaining a pleasant expression (not looking like you're trying to read) and sounding friendly, not stiff.

Fortunately, it's a skill somewhat like riding a bike, and I learned how to do it in college.

Today I auditioned to be the co-host of a new health TV show, and had to read the introduction from a TelePrompTer. Apparently, plenty of other people in Chicago say they can use TelePrompTers, because the woman who ran the audition told me they're auditioning all week. That's showbiz.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Process Trailer

Though I've been on more than 50 movie sets, I didn't know what a process trailer was until last night, when I went to shoot my second day as a noxious cab passenger for an independent feature film. It's used to film car scenes and make it look like the driver is actually driving.

The cab was mounted on a trailerbed attached to a truck, with spotlights all around. The director and crew rode outside the taxi, on the trailer. We made our way up and down Michigan Avenue until 2:00am. The "taxi driver", my "date" and I were toasty inside the cab, leaving the crew exposed to frosty late night lake winds. As you might expect, passers-by and other cars slowed to check out our brightly lit setup.

One of the things I had to do was smoke. It took me a while to get the hang of deftly using the cigarette lighter and lighting the cigarette...the things we do for our art!