The Willing Seduction

by FRAN TABOR

Let me believe you for a little while;

Let me dwell within your smile,

Let your touch overwhelm all I’ve known

Let me live

                within

                     the vision

You have shown.

When the sun chases misty stars away,

Let me pretend, you will stay.

A Sentimental Final Journey to Montana

This feature by Carol Marino originally appeared in the August 22, 2021 Flathead Valley Daily Inter Lake “Good News” Column.

As we made plans last spring for my mother’s funeral, we were lucky enough to find a florist in Cincinnati who was able to provide flowers as Covid-19 closed businesses and the availability and transport of myriad goods across the country. We hadn’t even considered that floral shops were having trouble replenishing their inventory. The funeral director told us he would see what he could do. 

When we arrived at Mom’s visitation a beautiful spray of white flowers (the color we’d requested) lay atop her casket and tall flower urns flanked either side, which were later carried to the church for her Mass. 

After her graveside burial, the cemetery director encouraged us (due to Covid, both Mom’s Mass and burial were limited to 10 immediate family members) to take home some of the flowers from the casket spray, also explaining that the deer would just eat them. We appreciated both her candor and the flowers.

I brought home a small bouquet, which we’d carried the 2,000-mile drive back to Montana. I found a place in the center of the house and placed it on top of a painting of Italy given to me by a close friend. A world traveler, Mom had visited Italy more than once. The bouquet has been there now for the passing of five seasons.

A couple of weeks ago I was doing some “purposeful” house cleaning in preparation for a mini-family reunion. As I was dusting the sideboard where the now dried bouquet of flowers lay, I thought that maybe it was time to let them go. After some mental and emotional deliberation, I made up my mind, but didn’t know how to go about it. I couldn’t just throw them away. I couldn’t toss them in the field. I didn’t want to burn them either. It was a delicate matter.

Mom had always planted plenty of flowers around her home. I decided I would place the bouquet in my garden and settled on a corner where African daisies were in bloom.

In her last years, Mom, who was 93 when she died, would often tell me she wanted to make one last trip to Montana. She and her husband had visited us at least once every year since we moved to Montana in 1985. Mom came traveling alone after her husband’s death in 1995. Mom loved Montana and never tired of its beauty or those family treks to Glacier Park.

I would tell Mom we would love for her to come visit, but now she would need to travel with a family member. Even though her mind was still sharp, her hearing, mobility and stamina were issues. I stressed to her that air travel was different now, that it can be all too easy to be stranded at an airport, or worse. She had even been stranded once on a tarmac for six hours with our two kids on their way to Istanbul for a Mediterranean cruise she hosted after our daughter’s high school graduation.

Well, Mom never did get the chance to come back to Montana.

But I’ll think of her every year as I plant the garden in the spring, harvest in the fall, and as the first snow of the season covers the ground.

In her own way, Mom is here in Montana with us once again. This time, forever.

Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 406-758-4440 or community@dailyinterlake.com.

October Book News

On September 5, four Flathead Valley Mystery/Crime Fiction writers shared their views and experiences in a panel discussion held on the back lawn of Lake Baked Bakery in Bigfork.

The panel consisted of Leslie Budewitz, Christine Carbo, Debbie Burke, and Mark Leichliter. Leslie is best known for her cozy mysteries, such as the Spice Shop Mysteries set in Pike Street Market, Seattle., as well as another series set in a fictional mountain town like Bigfork. She has also just published a crime thriller under the pen name Alicia Beckman, entitled Bitterroot Lake. Christine has published several books in her Glacier Mystery Series. Titles include “The Wild Inside”, “Mortal Fall”, “The Weight of Night”, and “A Sharp Solitude”. Mark, a well-known writing instructor from Wyoming and Colorado who now teaches writing classes at FVCC, has recently published his first procedural crime novel, The Other Side, which takes place on the shores of Flathead Lake. He has also published other words under the name Mark Hummel. Debbie has self-published six mystery Thrillers with Passion set here in Northwest Montana, including “Instrument of the Devil”, “Stalking Midas”, “Dead Man’s Bluff”, and “Flight to Forever”.

All four authors followed their presentation taking questions from the audience, and concluded by having copies of their books available for sale. This is the second year for this event, which they hope to make an annual part of Bigfork’s Labor Day Weekend celebrations.

IN ADDITION:

Join Barbara Schiffman: On Fri 10/8 (3:00-4:30pm), for a fun and interactive workshop for screenwriters and filmmakers on “Pitching Your Script or Film in 3 Minutes or Less” at the Bigfork Independent Film Festival (live in downtown Bigfork MT from Fri-Sun 10/8-10). What I will share is also useful for pitching your novels to agents or publishers, or to producers who might want to adapt them to film. There will be prizes for top pitchers. Get workshop info on Facebook at https://fb.me/e/9zWhag38l or http://mtbiff.com – where you can also get the BIFF screening schedule. Come see 2021’s best Montana indie films on the big screen and meet some of the filmmakers.

Also, Barbara and her husband/co-writer Glenn Schiffman’s screenplay “The China Horse” was recently named a Drama/Family Feature Quarterfinalist in the 2021 Creative World Awards. About a teenage girl who doesn’t want to live but finds her “reason for being” while traveling from Chicago to Montana with a stubborn old woman who doesn’t want to die, this script was written long before Barbara and Glenn planned to move to Montana. You can download the script to read what they wrote, including climactic scenes set at a private ranch in Deer Lodge, at https://writers.coverfly.com/submissions/view/331514 .

MORE NEWS:

Shira Marin has edited and project managed a children’s book entitled “Silas the Civet”. The book was written by a 90-year-old great-grandmother, as a legacy for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Book edited and managed by Shira Marin

SPECIAL NOTE:

This year’s Flathead River Writers’ Conference is scheduled for Saturday, October 16 and Sunday, October 17. Due to continuing Covid issues, this year’s conference is being held online. More detailed information about speakers, workshop topics, prices, and registration can be found on the Authors of the Flathead Website.

Speak Up to Get Read!

by Barbara Schiffman

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has been quoted as saying, “According to some studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death… This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than delivering the eulogy.”

If speaking in public feels worse than dying, it’s no wonder most writers hate to talk about their work or themselves. Writers prefer sharing their thoughts and stories on paper or electronic devices, over pitching to agents, editors, or producers, and being interviewed at book signings or conferences.

This used to be true for me, until I learned how essential it is to speak up to get read.

As a screenwriter and creative producer in Hollywood, I often needed to “pitch” one-liners or brief story synopses to agents, directors, or producers. I was also a panelist at writers conferences and was interviewed on podcasts about my personal development books.

To learn to Speak Up without a pounding heart and hoarse voice, I found support:

In the mid-1990s, I attended the entertainment career accelerator program Flash Forward. It included activities and tools for achieving a big career leap in only 4 weeks that would normally take a year. For me, this was getting my scripts optioned, which required getting them read by as many people as possible, a terror-provoking task. FYI, I produced a staged reading of one script and got a new agent who got it optioned!

In 2004, I joined the popular speaking education organization Toastmasters International. In 2006, I co-founded the first Toastmasters club specifically for creative writers; it’s still going strong and now open to non-LA writers via Zoom. I also recently found a new Zoom-only global Toastmasters club for writers (for info on either, email me at MontanaScreenwriting@gmail.com).

Toastmasters is slanted towards business presentations but also offers support for storytellers. My favorite Toastmasters tool is their impromptu speaking exercise Table Topics. Designed to practice thinking and speaking on the spot, you get 2 minutes to speak about an unexpected topic without preparation. I find this fun and invigorating, and am now comfortable “making it up” as I speak.

Preparing speeches in advance and delivering them without notes is harder for me. But I’m in good company; Mark Twain, who sold his books via public speaking tours, said, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

Prepping a pitch is easier with a template for structuring what you might say. I’ve taught multiple pitch formulas at writing workshops that can be customized. A good pitch, aka “logline,” is basically your story in 30 words or less. It’s best to tailor your pitch depending on whom you’re talking to, what type of script or book they seek, and how many minutes you have to interest them in reading yours.

The shortest pitch template is What if…”What if a boy discovers an extra-terrestrial whose spaceship crashed and can’t get home (the film “E.T.”)? What if a slick-talking lawyer vows to his son he’ll tell the truth for 24 hours to prove he can be trusted (the film “Liar Liar”)? What if your narcissistic wife mysteriously disappears on your anniversary and you’re suspected of killing her (the novel and film “Gone Girl”)?

Some pitch tips: Elaborate on your basic premise if more details are requested. Be prepared to share the beginning or “inciting incident,” how the stakes escalate as things go increasingly wrong, and how it all ends. Don’t make your listener guess the conclusion — this is annoying and implies you haven’t worked out the story’s trajectory.

Writers of all genres should also get comfortable speaking about themselves to agents, managers, book reviewers, and book signing audiences. One tool I learned in Flash Forward was having 3 “memorable things” about me ready to share. This helps you stand out from all other writers. It’s even better if your memorable things relate to what you’re writing or pitching (but not required).

One example: my husband Glenn is a specialist in Native American ceremonies; when we lived in Burbank CA we had a ceremonial tipi in our backyard. We also co-developed a feature film concept about a multi-cultural romantic triangle set on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation during the 1890 Ghost Dance movement. (Sharing this personalizes our story-pitch and makes us memorable writers.)

So what’s your story — in 30 words or less? And what’s something memorable about you?

Ultimately, if you’ve prepared and practiced your brief story-pitch plus some memorable things about you, opportunities to Speak Up will arise and you’ll be ready to enjoy them!

**On Friday 10/8/21, get more templates and practice your pitch at my 90-minute workshop for writers and filmmakers at the Bigfork (MT) Independent Film Festival. For workshop or private logline and pitch coaching info, email me at MontanaScreenwriting@gmail.com.

What Kind of Reader Are You?

By Janice McCaffrey

In Janet Skeslien Charles’ The Paris Library, Odile the main character interviews staff and patrons with the question, “What kind of reader are you?”

Pondering the question, I took the time to examine my reading habits. Here’s my answer. I either read furiously or not at all. My favorite genre is historical novels, but a good mystery helps keep my brain figuring out the puzzles of ‘who done it.’

My book club has expanded my horizons and introduced me to many other cultures that I otherwise would have missed. For example, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, The Vanishing Half  by Brit Bennett, A Single Swallow by Zhang Ling, The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles, and Dot Jackson’s Refuge.

This summer I enjoyed Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell. I identified with the discomfort and inconveniences while sympathizing with the characters’ personal and family problems.

My non-fiction favorite authors are Michael Lewis, The Big Short, Money Ball and When Bubbles Burst and Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, The Story of Success, and What the Dog Saw. And I almost always research the historical novels I’ve read to sift through the fiction for the facts.

Asking myself this question helped me get to know myself better.

How about you? What kind of reader are you?