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Hanging on to the Towel

August 15, 2019

When you are a writer struggling to find an audience for your work, it is hard to stay focused.  Whether you are a novelist trying to get an agent or publisher to read a book proposal,  a playwright trying to get his work produced, or a screenwriter trying to find a producer to option her work, it can be a frustrating life.  You will have significantly more failure than success.

As a result, it’s hard to accept that much disappointment, and continue to move forward.  You may feel your work is improving, you may receive some positive feedback from peers, or you may feel your foot might be edging in the door (“A publisher is considering your work”) only to have it slammed shut on you (“They’ve decided to pass.”)  It’s easy to see why most aspiring authors give up.

A few years ago, I felt that I was on the cusp of success.  One of my screenplays won thirteen different contests (and placed in a number of others) and was even a semifinalist for the Nicholl Fellowship. The Nicholl is the most prestigious screenwriting contest in existence–just being in the quarterfinals earned requests for my scripts from producers.  I had a manager, a few option offers from producers, and then…nothing.  It all fell apart.

It was easy to get discouraged.  I started to wonder if I was going to be one of those people who got this close to their dreams, only to have them “brush by me like a stranger in a crowd” (A line from Field of Dreams).  A good friend of mine (also a writer and filmmaker) reminded me that what was happening wasn’t a Kevin Brodie problem–it was a screenwriter problem.  He was right, and remembering that helped.

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A few years of worsening health and emotional turmoil also put the breaks a bit on my writing career.  I eventually shifted to playwrighting, which did see my work produced (if only for one night) and did earn me an agent.  The excitement I was finding in playwriting sent me back to my screenplays, and I spend most of the past two summers revising them.  It was heartening to realize I still believed in them–and also felt that I more I worked, they were getting better.  It was time to start again.

So, for the first time in five years, I placed in a contest–the StoryPros Awards.  I was a finalist.  It was a contest I had won before, but I was still very pleased to be a finalist.  It’s not as good as winning, yes, but it was still validating.  People out there like my work.  Some even think I should win a contest. It was exactly what I needed.

So now I have four stage plays, five screenplays, and a teleplay.  What is most important is that I am once again confident about sending them out into the world.  Even if I don’t place in the next few contests, that StoryPros result will continue to encourage me.

Maybe I will have the success I dream of, or not quite that but still a good career,  or none of it will work out.  The only thing I do know is that it isn’t yet time to give up.


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