Category Archives: Starbucks

Small Packages

I rode my bike to Starbucks (in the rain — never done that before and it was fun) and am now sitting outside finishing off a “for-here” tall organic latte. My original plan was to sit here and write, but the inside was filled with retired guys shooting the bull, and so I’m outside enjoying the cool breeze, light misty rain and traffic noise.

And I was still going to write a scene but I got a phone call telling me I was needed elsewhere, so when I finish this cup I will leave.

But that gives me time to ponder the fact that the best things DO come in small packages.

A tall latte is better than any other size.

There has never been a Coke ™ as good as the 8 oz. bottle.

And there is something particularly delightful about a preschool dance recital when the youngest angel there (all of 3 years old) who is dressed in a bonnet and bloomers and is “Mary” and has a “little lamb” and has just completed dancing on her tippy-toes and pointing her foot and striking a couple of sweet poses —

Decides her lamb is in her way and hauls off and kicks it about three feet so she can finish her dance.

The view from Starbucks:


Have a nice day.


Filed under Coffee, Misc., Starbucks, Writing

Divine Secrets of the Nicholl Fellowships (FINAL-ly)

(thrid in a series)

The phone rings.

It’s Greg Beal.

He is calling to tell you that you are a Finalist in the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Competition.

Because he’s going to give you ALL SORTS OF DETAILS THAT YOU WILL NEVER REMEMBER OTHERWISE — be SURE you have something to write WITH and ON. If you don’t, ask him to hold on while you get it. He won’t hang up and offer the Finalist slot to somebody else.

At least, I don’t think he does that any more.

(Tis joke, tis joke.) (Plus, he informs me he no longer gives all that info on the phone. Instead, you get it in writing later. So, don’t worry about the writing with and on part of my above advice. Carry on!)

Ask a million questions, write down the answers as much as possible, and when that call is finally over —

You have only begun to suffer.

(Tis joke, tis — oh wait. That part is true.)



I have to tell you that, because whatever pressure/anxiety you experienced waiting for this call? As soon as the euphoria wears off? You’re going to experience it tenfold waiting for the phone call that tells you whether or not you’re a Fellow.


Let’s slide over that part. You’ll learn it the hard way.

Instead, what do you need to know as a Finalist?

First, I’d back up a few months. All the way to May, when you first enter. Maybe even earlier, depending on your financial situation. Because the first thing you need to be prepared for is “Nicholl Week.”

Since the Academy flies all Finalists and Fellows to Los Angeles for Nicholl Week (the week of the Nicholl Awards Dinner) you will be going to LA!


And the Academy picks up the tab — your travel expenses, your hotel, your meals.


(Note: If you live in LA, you can really skip this part, you know. Unless you just want to laugh at what outsiders have to do to get ready to visit the City of the Angels.)

What that leaves for you if you don’t live in LA is:

Transportation in LA.

A cell phone.

Comfortable clothes that make you feel confident.

And what that also means is — you need to be able to pay for whichever of these things you don’t already have. So if that is going to be an issue for you. Or if buying new khakis or jeans or whatever is going to put a strain on you. Or buying something nice to wear to the Nicholl dinner is going to put a strain on you?

You should be setting aside a little money all year long so that when you get this call, you are ready for it. Add (another?) part-time job to your schedule if you need to. (When are you going to write?) I don’t know what it will take, but give this serious thought. You need to think about it now, “What would I do?” and plan for it, so that when you get the phone call, you won’t have that hanging over your head when you have so many other vital things to prepare for.

What’s the worst thing that can happen? You save the money and don’t make it to the Finals? Well, go to LA anyway. If you’re serious about a career, you need to do that. Just keep building your fund until you’re able.


A rental car is the only really practical transportation. If you really really don’t drive it will be MUCH more difficult and that requires a different kind of prep for which I’m not prepared to advise you. So for these purposes, we’ll talk rental cars.

What if you’re reading this right now, waiting to hear if you’re a Finalist, and you’re thinking, holy crap I’m broke, I can’t rent a car!

Seriously. You need one. This is a huge opportunity for you, and you need to make the most of it. You need a car. You need to figure out a way to get one. Do you know anybody in LA who will loan you one? Give you a couple of rides if you need them? (You will get to take a guest to the dinner, you know. Maybe somebody would help you out for a chance to go to the dinner?)

I can’t resolve that issue for you, I’m sorry to say.

And truly if you work this right (and I’m going to talk about working it right in another entry), a couple of rides won’t be enough, so, find a way to rent or borrow a car.

And you will also need (at the very least) a Thomas Guide. If you are a Finalist or planning a trip to LA, order it now. Open it. Find “1313 N. Vine Street, Hollywood” on it (if you’re a Finalist, that is). Mark it. Figure out the best way to get there from your hotel. Find Farmers Market. You’ll want to spend time hanging there, most likely. Maybe with friends. But even alone it’s a cool place to eat well without breaking the bank, a place to soak up vibes. (The Grove is there, too.) Once you know where you’re staying and where you have meetings, you’ll want to mark various locations of Starbucks. (To be explained later.) Familiarize yourself. You’ll be there in a few weeks.

Note: If you’re in Texas or a lot of other places around the US, the Thomas Guide is the LA equivalent to our Mapsco.

And if you can afford it — and I encourage you to afford it — rent a car with GPS. And try really hard to afford it. Seriously.

If you do have GPS, stay in the airport parking lot long enough to figure out how to enter your first location before you drive away. Do not look at it and think, “I’ve been here before, I have a Thomas Guide, I know my way around, I don’t have time to fool with that thing,” and plot routes and try to read your Thomas Guide while driving for three freaking days before you finally decide to give it a try and then realize you have been a total idiot for not using it sooner.” I, um, know such an idiot.

If you have a laptop, sign up for a month’s T-Mobile Hotspot access. You can sit in Starbucks and research or surf the net and chill.


Why Starbucks? Wherever you have meetings, there is always a Starbucks nearby. It’s smart to arrive early (or get close by early) and be able to relax in Starbucks, collect yourself, and then waltz into your meeting cool and (hopefully) calm. Um, watch the caffeine. You don’t (necessarily) want to end up wired by the end of the day.

But more importantly (especially this year) is that they have so gloriously supported Akeelah and the Bee, written and directed by Nicholl Fellow Doug Atchison. In fact, you can buy the DVD at Starbucks right now!


This is a wonderful movie. If you haven’t already seen it, see it NOW. Because not only is it a wonderful movie, but it also won the Nicholl for Doug in 2000.

Also, if you know a child between the ages of 8 & 12, check out the Starbucks “Akeelah and the Bee” essay contest.


If you don’t already have one. Get one. Buy one of those with minutes you refill as you need them if you only want one temporarily. Just have one. It could save your life. Literally and professionally. Not to mention your wits. (More on that later, too.)


You must feel comfortable and look like a writer. The good news is, that can be done without spending a lot of money. This is a casual business. Only agents dress up. You don’t have to. In fact, you’ll feel very overdressed (and probably uncomfortable) if you do. It would be easier to overdress than underdress for a meeting if you’re a writer, though I don’t necessarily advocate sweatpants. (I also do not recommend you clicking the “sweatpants” link with a full bladder, or with coffee in your mouth. You’ve been warned.)

The exception would be the Awards Dinner. That is what is described as dressing “business” if men wear suits or sports coats in your business. So, if you’re a guy and don’t have a suit or sportcoat, remedy that. Borrow if you need to, or buy something. And remember, only agents wear Armani. You don’t have to break the bank.

For women, it’s a bit more complicated, but not really. I’ve seen female Fellows accept their awards in everything from a business suits to long dresses. You can check out the pictures of the last few years here by clicking on “Fellows” in the left sidebar. That should help you feel more comfortable about it all.

These are the main expenses I’m thinking of right now. I’ll amend if I think of more stuff. Only you can figure out what this amounts to in dollars and cents, but I hope it gives you a general idea.

Next, preparing for Nicholl Week, all those phone calls, etc., etc. (without eating your young alive while waiting for the Other Call).


Filed under Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Los Angeles, Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, Screenwriting, Starbucks, Travel, Writers

Pride in Fellowship

I am unabashed in my pride at being a Nicholl Fellow. It wasn’t an easy achievement.

Thus it is a source of even greater pride to share some of the current news about some of my fellow Fellows.

First, a journey back in time….

In 2000 I was a Finalist with the script DREAMERS, but did not receive a Fellowship. It was still a fabulous year and the week I spent in LA with the other Finalists and Fellows was terrific. It was there I met Doug Atchison, a writer/director whose script AKEELAH AND THE BEE not only won a fellowship for him, but also attracted the attention and support of a lot of people, resulting in:

Opening in theaters April 28th!

If you’ve been in a Starbucks lately, you’ve seen the promotions. I’ve begun my collection of Akeelah memorabilia:

akeelah pic.jpg

One year later, I’d somehow managed to actually win the Fellowship with a different script, REDEMPTION. Another terrific week (and lest you wonder, yes, winning is more fun) and more new Finalists and Fellows to meet, and that brings me to my fellow Fellow, Bob Edwards and his winning script, Land of the Blind.

land of the blind.gif

Its North American premiere is at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City in May. Damn, I want to be there. (sigh) If anybody goes, let me know?

Hopefully it also is coming soon to a theater near you.

And finally there is a different kind of pride. I just got the following email from yet another Fellow, Scott Fifer. To see his latest project, please click here.

"TunaHAKI makes me feel loved."

And that’s just what makes me proud of my fellow Fellows this week.


Filed under Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, Movies, Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, Screenwriting, Starbucks

HL,WT (second in a series)*

Another day, another Starbucks


I had my new Christmas camera and was trying it out. Just snapped off some shots, nothing too good.

Snap-snap-snap. Is this thing on?

A stool with a view:

Another view — and wouldn’t you think somebody would have messed with those letters by now?

Finally, another shot through the window: cute dog.

Hey. I never claimed it would be exciting.

*Have Laptop, Will Travel


Filed under Starbucks, Writing

HL,WT (first in a series)

I don’t think anyone can explain the appeal, nay, the siren song, of a laptop for a writer.

Not all writers. But an awful lot of them, from J.K. Rowling to — me.

Why would I want to write in a crowded (or empty) coffee house? Because — whatever happens there?


At home? Surrounded by stuff I should do. (Not that I would abandon my laptop to actually do that stuff — but just knowing it’s there can disrupt my delicate creative psyche, cough-cough.)

At Starbucks?

Plug in my headphones (even if I’m not listening to anything — it cuts down on strangers asking me about my computer, about the wifi connection, anything else a stranger might decide to ask if they see somebody sitting there WORKING, for pete’s sake). See my comfy chair? It’s purple. And velvet!

And we’re off to the races. People laughing? Talking? Not my problem. People spilling things? Not my problem. People asking for directions? Not my problem.

Now this is my nearby neighborhood Starbucks. Not all Starbucks are created equal, and yes I know you don’t believe this, but they do have a different ambience. Which is why this is the first in a series.

Have Laptop, Will Travel.

I know you can’t wait for the next episode.


Um, right.


Filed under Starbucks, Writing