Hollywood @ Your Library

Hollywood is what dreams are made of, that hasn’t changed since the very first feature films were made. Why not use that dream to encourage more people to visit your library? Hollywood @ Your Library would be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to children that reading and writing is how dreams becoming reality on the big screen.

WRITING FOR HOLLWOOD would be set up on the display table at the library entrance. To make it easy for children to understand how the writing process flows, place material left to right: the source material, the screenplay and the DVD/Blu-ray cases. An example would be the Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) screenplay and the movie case. The English Patient (1996) display would include the novel, the screenplay and the movie case. To demonstrate the variety of material used, you could also include All the President’s Men (1976)  for adaptation of a non-fiction book and A Few Good Men (1992) as an adaptation of a play for live theatre.  You might need a separate table for books on writing screenplays by authors like John Truby, Robert McKee and Linda Seger.

Note: Since not all libraries have a large selection of screenplays, this problem could be solved with some coordination between libraries and inter-library loans. If Town A had their Hollywood At The Library on July 15th and Town B had their event on August 5th, that would allow enough time for the materials to transfer between libraries. Although it’s not the only source, the Newmarket Press Shooting Script Series has a wide selection of screenplays.

THE HOLLYWOOD EXPERIENCE is an opportunity for local filmmakers to discuss what is involved in making a movie. The library would set up a schedule when individuals with various skill sets could talk about the roles they’ve played in making films. Keep it short, perhaps 20 minutes per speaker, so there is always a fresh face at the microphone. If there aren’t any filmmakers living in your community, another option would be to invite people who have been Movie Extras/Background Performers to speak about their experience on a movie set.

READ THE LINES Audience members would be invited to read several lines from a movie script. Once the readings are finished, show the movie. The Truman Show (1998) doesn’t include nudity or extreme violence, but it would be up to librarians to use discretion in choosing the screenplay to use. Librarians always seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place; protecting freedom of expression, while trying to respect community standards

THE HOLLYWOOD FUN QUIZ is an activity for members of all ages, so it’s important to include questions that are easy for children to answer and some more challenging questions for adults as well. One of the best sources for the quiz would be the Internet Movie Data Base: http://www.imdb.com.

Soundtrack Clips: Titanic (1997), Frozen (2013)

Adaptation or Original Screenplay: Avatar (2009)/Original,  Arrival (2016)/Adaptation

Who is speaking?: Show the image of a well known character, such as Donkey from Shrek (2001), and have the audience guess who did the voiceover – Eddie Murphy

What Year?: Star Wars (1977), Cars (2006)

I hope that librarians will enjoy reading this blog and find it helpful.  I’ve been writing screenplays for about fifteen years, and it all started when I picked a screenplay off a library bookshelf, just out of curiosity.

J. Paul Cooper









My Favourite Resources

If I was to recommend one video to writers at any stage of their writing careers,  it would be a speech delivered at the 2010 Ontario Writer’s Conference by Canadian science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer. The speech can be found on http://www.youtube.com in three parts and it takes about a half-hour to watch. It’s also useful to visit his website, http://www.sfwriter.com as an example of how you can build a successful writing career.

A website which I visit at the beginning of every month is http://www.placesforwriters.com. Many of the listing are for literary journals inviting writers to submit short stories. Writing and submitting short stories is a good way to begin the process of establishing yourself as a writer and I’ve submitted several short stories to journals listed on the website.

The BBC Writersroom http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom has it all. The website content includes interviews with screenwriters, articles on how to improve your writing, scripts for radio and television that you can read, and a listing of opportunities for writers. Make sure you pay attention to submission criteria in the Opportunities section, because sometimes only  writers living in the United Kingdom are qualified to participate. There are, however, open calls for international writers as well

I often visit the website for Overdrive http://www.overdrive.com, which supplies eBooks to libraries in several countries. The website allows me to check the progress of my eBook, What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper. I enter the title in the search box, and then in the section Find In A Library, I type “Canada” or “United States.” The results list the libraries where it’s available, and whether or not it’s being borrowed. If you’d like to check where a print book is available, you can use http://www.worldcat.org.

When you’re watching the credits scroll at the end of a Hollywood movie, you’ll often see the symbol for the Writers Guild of America. If you’re curious about how screenwriters join the union and how much members earn, visit http://www.wga.org. Many countries have similar organizations representing screenwriters; in Canada, it’s the Writers Guild of Canada http://www.wgc.ca. Keep in mind that a screenwriter’s earning potential, whether or not she belong to a union, is also influenced by how much her work is in demand, and how good her agent’s negotiating skills are.

I hope that this week you write, because the world needs your voice, your passion.



Writer’s Block – A Creative Solution

A some point along your literary journey it’s going to feel like you’ve hit a wall, that you’ve run out of ideas, that your writing career is over. Before you panic, it’s important to avoid negative self-talk. You are not an idiot. You have not forgotten how to write.

Imagine you’re on a long hike up a mountainside. After you’ve been walking for a couple of hours you arrive at a place on the trail where there’s been a landslide It’s blocked by debris. You’re intelligent and you have enough strength to continue, so it’s not a matter of whether you are capable of finishing the journey. The issue is how important it is for  you to reach your final destination,  and whether you have the patience to pause and consider all your options.

Staring at a blank page or computer screen is about as helpful as staring at a pile of rocks blocking a mountain trail, and being overwhelmed by how impossible the situation seems.  My suggestion is that you continue writing, which will keep your creative juices flowing, but switch to a different format. If’ you’re writing a novel, take some time to write an essay. If you’re working on a non-fiction book, write a short story. If your main project is a play for live theatre, write an article for a newsletter, magazine or online literary journal.

The reason it’s important to switch your attention from the main project for a brief time, is to allow your self-conscious to search  for a solution, rather than focusing all your attention on the problem.  It’s time to relax,  not panic. Consider the world we live in; there are only seven notes, but they are used to compose symphonies, there are only twenty-six letters in the English alphabet, and yet every day new books are published.  That is the limitless potential of the creative mind.

Developing self-confidence as a writer begins with finishing projects, but you don’t have to feel like a failure if you encounter writer’s block. Your God given talent, and the endless flow of creative juices will allow you to find a solution. You will succeed.

Marketing Your Writing

How do you get your book or eBook noticed, when self-published books and eBooks are flooding the literary marketplace like a biblical plague of locusts? I self-published an eBook, What If? A Collection of Short Fiction by J. Paul Cooper (ISBN: 9781311893451) through http://www.smashwords.com in May 2016.  Here are some of the marketing ideas I’ve used.

Submit an announcement about your book to alumni organizations. Although people are often referring to universities and colleges when they mention alumni associations, schools at all levels have websites dedicated to their former students. If  your post is sent to the former students of your graduating year, it might reach hundreds of potential readers. If your announcement is sent to everyone subscribing to the alumni newsletter, it could be in the thousands. Do an online search for every school you’ve attended and find out how you can make an announcement through their websites and newsletters.

Send an e-mail message to libraries.  As a result of sending over two hundred  e-mails, my eBook is available through Overdrive on eleven library websites:

Canada: Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Surrey, Saskatchewan Library Consortium

United States: Los Angeles, Buffalo, Nashville, Lexington,  Hillsborough County and Durham County.

You’ll have to decide whether or not it’s worth the effort. Even though I copy and paste the message, it’s still a tedious, time-consuming process.

Subscribe to Winning Writers. http://www.winningwriters.com. They occasionally send out a list of subscriber accomplishments, but you have contact Winning Writers and let them know about your book or eBook.

Send e-mails to radio shows. In 2001 I had a Young Readers’ Novel published, Fluffy: A Cat’s Tale. I contacted an American radio show and told them about my book.  As a result, my book was mentioned on a nationally syndicated radio program listened to by thousands in Canada and the United States.

Start a blog. If you decide to start a blog it’s going to require commitment, but if you’re willing to write consistently, it’s a great place to announce all your successes.

Open Mic Opportunities.  Public readings are an excellent way to raise your profile and promote you book or eBook. Pubic reading opportunities can be found through libraries, independent book stores and writing organizations.

If you’re writing a book, keep notes of marketing ideas that come to you while you’re still working on the project. It’s encouraging to know you have a plan for the next phase in the process.

J. Paul Cooper