Investing in your Nerdy Chicks

As 2013 draws to a close, people are starting to reflect on what has happened and identify things to focus on in the future, especially in the new year to come. I’ve noticed that a lot of people are talking about investing in women.

Of course, this isn’t a new idea. Just a year ago, billionaire businessman Warren Buffet said that he believed that harnessing the full power and potential of women would be what saves the U.S. economy.

On an international level, Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai brought the need to offer women equal educational opportunities to light, both in her advocacy for women’s education and her valor and courage when she was almost assassinated for those views. A report from the George W. Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative called INVEST IN AFGHAN WOMEN: A Report on Education in Afghanistan uses Malala’s example to make the case for why we should invest in girls’ education.

Just last week, Catherine M. Russell, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, gave a speech about increasing the opportunities for women to participate in politics and government. She said, “We know that that investing in women and girls – helping them unleash their potential – is the right thing to do morally – and the wise thing to do strategically.”

Here at Nerdy Chicks Rule, we are strong believers of investing in women – especially in girls. If you have a Nerdy Chick in your life (as I do), you already know that the more you invest in her now, the easier it will be for her to reach her full potential. So we’ve come up with some tips to help you invest in the Nerdy Chick in your life:

  • Encourage

1074test_tubesIt seems pretty obvious – the more you encourage someone, ANYONE, the better he or she will do. Somehow, though, there are people that believe that encouragement alone is not enough. A few years ago, on January 14, 2005, then president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers, made it clear that he believed that there was an innate difference in the ability of men versus women in mathematical ability. And yet, studies have shown that there aren’t innate differences in ability between boys and girls, just in the ways they are encouraged to pursue certain fields or careers. (We’ve even blogged about this here earlier this year.) So, if you believe in your Nerdy Chick, encourage her to try things, pursue her interests, follow her heart. If other people try to dissuade her, encourage even harder.

  • Inspire

Another one that seems pretty obvious, but bears some discussion.

wedu logoIn 2012, two graduates of the London School of Economics, Mari Sawai and Mario Ferro, founded an organization called Wedu. Their goal is to create access to higher education for women in Southeast Asia through microfinancing, mentorship and counseling. What I found really great about their approach is the mentoring. These women understand that it is not enough to have ability – Nerdy Chicks need role models, something to aspire to. For your Nerdy Chick, be a role model. And if you aren’t the right role model, find her one. Connect her to other people who can support her. Give her a network and a community of people who believe in her. Over time, that will only make her exponentially stronger.

  • Invest (money)

The last thing I want to quickly touch on is the importance of money. As a country, we’ve been talking a lot about saving for the future and ways we can figure out how to pay for things like mortgages, health care as we age, college costs, and a lot of other things. And while we all know that saving is essential, I wanted to give a concrete example of what a difference it can make.

growing savingsMy oldest daughter is 12. In six years, she’ll be going to college. If I gave her just $20 a month, every month for the next 6 years, when it is time for her to pay for college, she’d have almost $1700 set aside (and that’s assuming a relatively conservative 5% annual interest rate). If I gave her $50 a month (around $10 a week), she’d have about $4100 for college. These things can mean the difference between being able to afford a higher education or not. It’s one of the best ways to invest in your Nerdy Chick. (Click here for a great simple calculator to estimate savings.)

Encourage, inspire, invest. Three simple steps that can make a big difference.

Nerdy Chicks and Losing

Scantron-Bubble-TestI like to joke that I don’t like to play games that I can’t win. It’s a way to show my competitiveness, and also a way for me to brag a little bit about my abilities. But the truth is that I don’t like playing games I can’t win because I really cannot handle losing.

A lot of smart women feel the same way I do. And it turns out that our inability to face losing might be what is holding us back.

The data shows that in elementary school, girls get better grades than boys, with both performing equally well on standardized tests. But by the time they get to high school, boys open up a lead in standardized test scores – an average of 33 points higher than girls on the SAT – even though girls graduate high school with a higher average GPA.

After we move on from high school, things get worse. Girls – or, women, rather – really start to lose ground to men. In the US, women represent almost 60% of college students but later earn roughly 77 cents for every dollar earned by white men. Although 54% of advanced AP/Honors math students are girls, fewer than 25% of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs are held by women. Even without citing hard statistics, we all know that when it comes to leadership, managerial, or executive positions, women lag behind men significantly.

As parents and educators of Nerdy Chicks, there are many issues that lead to these gaps in achievement that we cannot change in a day (or in a single blog post). But there is one thing that we can start to address that could quite possibly make a difference: the way we give our Nerdy Chicks feedback on their academic performance.

good gradesOne theory about why girls do better in younger grades has to do with the ability of girls to perform well at the social side of education. Girls learn self-control earlier, follow instructions better, and generally behave in more acceptable ways than boys. In other words, they are “good.” Probably, these things collectively help them learn better, and often, they get praised for their academic performance in a way that is linked to their “goodness.” When you tell your daughter that she is very smart or a great student, it can start to sound like being smart or being a good student is something innate, something she was born with, something that is as much a part of her as her hair color or her nose.

For the record, I’m guilty of doing just this. I have often told my daughters how smart they are in the same breath that I tell them how beautiful they are. Even though one is changeable and the other is inherent.

The feedback that we give boys is very different. Because boys are often less conscientious, they are encouraged to try harder and put in more effort. The result is that boys learn that trying hard or putting in effort is far more important that what grade you get. Over time, this might be what accounts for the ability of boys to succeed.

Studies have shown that when students face advanced material that doesn’t come easily, boys react to the difficulty by continuing to try hard and put in an effort. Girls, on the other hand, may view the difficulty as a sign of the failure of their brains to handle it. They’d rather not try something and fail at it, because that would just prove that they aren’t “good” or “smart.”

In other words, boys play games they can’t win because they believe that they can figure out how to win with enough effort. Girls stop playing when they can’t win. You know, like I do.

I’ve been this way for so long that, even though I recognize the logic here, I’m not sure I can change. I’m not sure I can find the confidence to try something I might not be good at, to publicly fail, to “set myself up” for potential embarrassment. But I think I’d like to teach my girls a different way. So from now on, I’m not going to praise my kids for being smart – I’m going to praise how hard they tried. I’m going to link their success to their exertion, and I’m going to make their effort, not the grade they get, the goal. Whenever possible, I’m going to make them play a game they can’t win. Because, hopefully, I’ll be able to convince them that not winning today doesn’t mean never winning – that every loss will bring them closer to winning one day.

On that day that they win, I will cheer. I will be proud of them. And, probably, I won’t ever play with them again. Because I really can’t handle losing.winking face

 

 

REMINDER

If you haven’t entered the BOY PROBLEM Giveaway, today is your last day! Click here to enter.

 

 

Aimee Winner: An Interview with a Real Winner

mama cruiseOne of the things I’ve been looking forward to about this interview is the opportunity to write the following sentence: Aimee Winner is, well, a real winner. (No more puns about winning, I promise!) I met Aimee on one of my first visits to Howard County, Maryland, where she is an award-winning music educator. But more than that, Aimee is the kind of woman a lot of us hope to be when we grow up – accomplished (she has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Music Education with a voice principal from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ), professionally successful (one of the choirs she directs is routinely seen singing in the opening ceremonies of the Baltimore Blast Soccer games at Mariner Arena, singing the National Anthem at Camden Yards for the Baltimore Orioles and competing at The Festival of Music in the Parks at Hershey Park), personally successful (she is married with a beautiful 2 ½ year old son, Jonah), and just overall fun.

 Something Aimee is fond of saying is, “Be kinder than necessary today, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” Well, if that’s not advice from a winner, I don’t know what is. (OK, I lied about not making any more winning puns. It’s my interview, I get to do that!) Thanks for joining us today, Aimee!

Let’s start with the obvious question: how awesome is it to be an official Winner?

The students get a kick out of my last name being Winner. They say I always win. I love that, even though that isn’t necessarily true, but because it is my last name.

Well, I think it’s true. 🙂 As a “winning” music teacher, what are your favorite things to listen to?

Geesh, this is such a tough one. Being a lover of music makes it hard to pick a favorite. On any given day I could find myself listening to Claude Debussy, JS Bach, Stephen Sondheim, especially “Into the Woods” or Leonard Bernstein, Ella Fitzgerald and more recent artists like Fleet Foxes, Carla Morrison, Sufjan Stevens, Kings of Convenience, Coldplay, Alicia Keys, and Adele!! I could go on and on.

Recently, I have been rocking out to Ra Ra Riots new album “Beta Love”. I can’t get enough of them (all of their albums are great), and I had the privilege to see them for my birthday in January at the 9:30 Club in DC!! What a fun night with my hubby!

How did you become interested in music?

I was inspired by my mother, who is also a lover of music and has taught elementary music for many years. I grew up in a musical home and starting singing at a very young age. I also began to learn piano and violin in elementary school. I continued singing in choir, playing in the orchestra and performing in the musicals and plays through high school each year. And now, I’m devoted to making music and sharing her love of music with others forever and ever. 🙂

What’s one of your favorite experiences as a musician? jelly profile

My absolute favorite experience was during my senior year of undergrad while attending Westminster Choir College in 2004.  I had the amazing opportunity to perform in Westminster Symphonic Choir at Lincoln Center when Broadway and operetta united in the New York Philharmonic’s semi-staged performance of the musical “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein. The cast included Broadway’s “Wicked” Kristin Chenoweth as Cunegonde, Patti LuPone in a star turn as The Old Lady, Paul Groves as Candide, and Sir Thomas Allen as Dr. Pangloss/Narrator. “Candide” featured Bernstein protégé Marin Alsop conducting the New York Philharmonic, Wow! I still get goose bumps and smile when I think about how incredible it was rehearsing and performing on the stage at Avery Fischer Hall. I have such fond memories that I will remember for my lifetime from that week in NYC.

Any memorable experiences teaching music?

Well, in 2007 I was the silent music teacher for 5 weeks while I was on vocal rest. Yep, silent. I carried around a notebook or my laptop to communicate.  It was quite and interesting experience that I hope I never have to do again! I was able to teach music using a lot of technology and focusing on a student lead classroom. It was actually a tough time in my life because I didn’t talk at all for 5 weeks and my voice was in danger of being damaged for life. I chose not to talk at home or in the classroom and I couldn’t sing in fear of hurting my voice and losing my livelihood. But in the end the voice rest saved my voice!! You don’t really realize how important or special something is until you almost lose it forever.

Wow! That’s pretty amazing! I can’t imagine teaching without talking. (But I’m not surprised that you found a way to do it!) But it goes to show how important music can be…so tell us, how does music help kids to become nerdy?

Music is such an amazing outlet that reaches everyone young and old!!!  I find that music really allows kids to express themselves and have fun. Music meets you where you are at any moment. I love that kids can just soak it all in; laugh, play, move and make music. “Music expresses what words cannot” I love teaching music to kids because we have so much fun and nothing else matters when they walk in my classroom. Just right now and that moment, to be free and have a good time.

How do you see the music that is being produced today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?

Music today totally empowers girls to be smart. I love it. There is so much inspiration and fun in music that is being produced today. These songs make girls realize that whatever life brings you are going to be okay. There are so many messages about believing in yourself, finding beauty in yourself and moving on when you are stuck, keep trying, standing tall.

Tell us about a musical nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.

There are so many wonderful and inspiring ladies out there, but I think the first one that comes to my mind is the beloved and much-honored star Julie Andrews. I grew up watching her in Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. There is just something about her natural elegance and beautiful singing voice that has always drawn me to her.  As a child she helped me find my love for music at such a young age. I would still love to play either of those roles on stage because of her! She is simply amazing.

Do you have a personal “theme song,” perhaps one that speaks to your inner nerdiness? So, I have two…. Or hundreds… right?! Again, such great songs to choose from, but…I would have to say “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. It’s about doing everything in your power to fight for what you believe in. Elphaba sings of how she wants to live without limits, going against the rules that others have set for her. We are unlimited. No one will bring you down. If you haven’t heard it, or better yet, seen the show Wicked, it is a MUST see/hear!

IMG_0405And/or

“Get on your feet” by Gloria Estefan not only because it is so energetic and gets me moving, but there was a particular Parks & Recreation episode that was especially funny, with the highlight of Amy Poelher and posie on thin ice during her character’s campaign. Amy is brilliant and stunning! Love her!

What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?

One of my favorite achievements is that I get to direct a musical with my 4th and 5th graders each spring. It is amazing to watch the transformation of the students over the six months on working on the show. This year I am working on Winnie the Pooh, KIDS. Each year seems like it will be the best experience, but it just keeps getting better and better each year. I am so proud of the kids for taking a risk to perform on stage and work so hard. It is so much fun building the relationships and experiences with them and seeing them transform during our time together, building memories of a lifetime. Shows in the past have been: Emperor’s New Clothes, Jungle Book Kids, Honk Jr. Aladdin KIDS, A Year With Frog and Toad KIDS, Willy Wonka Kids, 101 Dalmatians KIDS, Aristocat KIDS.

This has been such a fun and thoughtful interview – thanks for all your great answers! But now for the fun part…If someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it?

I would go to NYC and see a show on Broadway in a heartbeat! I don’t get there enough to enjoy the talent and magic of the stage. I sure miss it.  

Can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?

There are not many things in life that are more enjoyable than a nice cup of tea. We always have few different choices in our cupboard for morning, noon or night.

What kind of music have you taught your son Jonah? aimeejonahhay

He and I are always making music together, playing guitar, banjo, violin, piano, drums and singing – usually marching too. There is never a dull moment in the Winner house!

What’s one thing musical you’d like to do in the future?

I would love to direct a treble boy’s choir. That would be something I haven’t done yet and would love have in my life as a director. Treble boys is such a pure and rich sound.

Thanks again, Aimee, for talking to us today. To learn more about Aimee, visit her on the web at http://web.hcpss.org/~aimee_winner/. And, in her honor, go sing something!

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Michelle Rhee

File:Michelle Rhee at NOAA.jpgToday’s Quotable Nerdy Chick is someone I have admired for a long time. Michelle Rhee is the daughter of Korean immigrants who has become a force on the American education stage. Not everyone agrees with her positions — I can’t say that I always do, either — but it is impossible to deny her passion for school reform and her commitment to every child’s right to a quality education.

Michelle started her career as a teacher in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1997, she founded The New Teacher Project, a non-profit organization that has trained over 43,000 teachers to work in many of our country’s city schools. Between 2007 and 2010, she was chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools, and when she left that position, she founded StudentsFirst, an organization which is devoted to political advocacy on education reform issues.

Quotes from Michelle Rhee: 

  • “As a nation, we should get engaged and involved in changing laws that are not serving kids.”
  • “Are we beholden to the public school system at any cost, or are we beholden to the public school child at any cost?”
  • On the perceived failures of the public education system: “I have talked with too many teachers to believe this is their fault. I know they are working furiously in a system that for many years has not appreciated them — sometimes not even paying them on time or providing textbooks. Those who categorically blame teachers for the failures of our system are simply wrong.”
  • “My job is to hear all the input, and then as the leader, then decide which are the things that I think are going to move student achievement forward in this district. And I have to make those decisions. That doesn’t mean that I’m not listening. It just means I have to choose to take into consideration all of that input.”
  • On teacher’s unions: “People often say to me the teachers unions are here to stay, that they are big players, that I have to find a way to get along. I actually disagree with that. It’s important for us to lay out on the table what we’re willing to do, but what our bottom line is for kids. The bottom line is that if you can’t come to agreement then you have to push your agenda in a different way, and we’re absolutely going to do that.”
  • “Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don’t know how to read, I don’t care how creative you are. You’re not doing your job.”

To learn more about Michelle Rhee, click HERE.

Nancy Kennedy: Working for Nonprofits

nancyOne thing that has always impressed me most about my former neighbor Nancy Kennedy is that in addition to everything else she does, she is, and always has been, a wonderful cook.  She produces a complete meal from her cozy kitchen almost every night and, having been a guest at her table on many occasions, I can say that every mouthful is delicious. I’ve asked her more than once, “Does your husband know how lucky he is?” (If he doesn’t, I hope he’s reading this now!) But Nancy is also a highly organized and super-efficient leader, who has spent most of her adult life working for non-profits, either as a volunteer, or an employee. She has been president of Stone Academy PTA, Council PTA, and ECW (Episcopal Church Women), and has worked in the schools and community in other volunteer positions. Prior to that, she worked for the American Red Cross, and now she is volunteer coordinator and office manager for OLLI at Furman University, her alma mater. Thanks Nancy for joining us today!

If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Don’t worry about most of the stuff your friends and classmates say about you.  They are kids and they don’t know what they’re talking about.  

Ha! J You’ve spent most of your career working for nonprofit agencies. How is this rewarding to you?  It’s certainly not financially rewarding, but I am fortunate that my income is a supplemental one and not the one we rely on for groceries and mortgage payments. 

The American Red Cross is a wonderful organization, and one that I was proud to represent as a spokesperson and fundraiser.  Most people know the Red Cross responds to disasters, but many forget that we have ALL benefited from Red Cross programs through swimming lessons, being watched by a Red Cross-trained lifeguard, or knowing that our children are cared for at school by teachers who have completed Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes.  I enjoyed educating the public about ALL of the Red Cross programs, and as a result raising funds to support those programs.

In April, 2011, after 13 years as a stay-at-home mom and community volunteer, I went back to work in a part-time position at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Furman University.   While there’s no age requirement, members of OLLI at Furman are generally 55 and older and most are retired.  They come to OLLI to take classes ranging from Latin to Woodcarving to Shakespeare to Genetics.  There are no tests, no homework, and no papers.  Most of the classes are taught by our members and all of our instructors teach for the joy of teaching because they are not paid for their efforts.  In addition to classes, we have social events, tours, speakers, and special interest groups.  Our program provides a way for seniors to continue to learn and also provides members the opportunity to stretch themselves further through volunteering, OLLI leadership, and teaching.  I love my job for many reasons, but I think one of the best parts is that it is so nice to work in a place where everyone is happy to be there. It’s a joy to see our members enjoying their retirement years, learning new things, making new friends, volunteering together in the community, and supporting each other.  (And working at my alma mater is a HUGE bonus!)

What skills are needed to work for OLLI? What is required of you so that the program is successful? My responsibilities include managing the office, managing our two college student workers, and working with membership, volunteers, and social events.  I say I do the “fun stuff”—the extra things beyond classes that help enrich the OLLI experience.  No two days are alike and many of our days are crazy busy, especially at the beginning of each term.  We have around 1,000 members excited about coming back to “school,” and they come back with questions, they drop and add classes, new volunteers come in, and there is just a lot going on.  Anyone who works in our office must be able to work through frequent interruptions.  I don’t mind those a bit. 

One of the main talents I employ at work is encouraging people to volunteer and helping them find the right volunteer job.  This seems to be one of my biggest gifts; I’ve been successful in many different areas in recruiting volunteers and getting the most from them.  I’ve had volunteers I’ve recruited for PTA, my kids’ swim team, and Sunday School teaching say that they can’t tell me no.  That ability is one of the traits that helped me land this job.  I wish I could tell you how I do it, but I’m really not sure why I’m more successful at recruiting volunteers.  I know how I like to be treated when I volunteer, so I guess I try to treat others the same way.

Yes, I remember being recruited by you once for a PTA event. I couldn’t tell you no either! Work aside, what’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?  I love puzzles—any kind.  I enjoy doing all of the puzzles that are in the newspaper:  Sudoku, crosswords, Jumble, Cryptoquote, and Scrabble.  I always have a few Words with Friends games going.  I love working on jigsaw puzzles, although I still haven’t forgiven my husband for his gift several years ago of a 2000-piece puzzle.  It’s a beautiful scene from a coastal town in Italy, but it’s mostly sky and water, hence it’s all blue except for a tiny sliver of town.  I still haven’t finished that one….

Like I said in the introduction, you are a wonderful cook! Tell us about something (a skill, a secret recipe, a tool) that contributes to your success in the kitchen. I do like to cook and reading cookbooks is one of my favorite things to do.  (That sounds a bit nerdy, doesn’t it?)  I’m lucky to have family (and friends!) who will try just about anything; that makes it even more fun. Several years ago we got a new stove.  It’s dual fuel—it has a gas cooktop and an electric oven.  I just adore it.  Soon after, I received a very nice set of pots and pans for Christmas, and then treated myself to a really good set of knives.  That was when I realized how important good tools are.   I truly believe my cooking has improved immensely since I’ve had a gas cooktop, good pots, and a decent knife.

Thanks for sharing your tools of the kitchen and tools of the trade! OLLI is lucky to have you.

To find out more about OLLI, click HERE. There is an easy map at this site to help you find OLLI programs near you. I’ve been to a few here in Beaufort. Some OLLIs have age restrictions, but many are open to all ages.  Check the site for more details. 

 

 

The Quotable Nerdy Chick: Madeleine Albright

File:Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.jpg

 

Madeleine Albright is a Nerdy Chick extraordinaire! She has served our country as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations and as the 64th United States Secretary of State — and, oh, by the way, the first woman to ever hold that office. She has a PhD from Columbia University, she has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she has served on the Board of Directors of the New York Stock Exchange, she is a Professor of International Relations at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, and just to top all that off, she is fluent in English, French, Russian, and Czech. Oh, and she speaks and reads Polish and Serbo-Croatian, too. I wonder if she has a cape and mask to go with all those superpowers?

Quotes from Madeleine Albright:

“Even before I went to the UN, I often would want to say something in a meeting – only woman at the table – and I’d think, ‘OK well, I don’t think I’ll say that. It may sound stupid.’ And then some man says it, and everybody thinks it’s completely brilliant, and you are so mad at yourself for not saying something.”

“It’s one thing to be religious, but it’s another thing to make religion your policy.”

“I love being a woman and I was not one of these women who rose through professional life by wearing men’s clothes or looking masculine. I loved wearing bright colors and being who I am.”

“I really think that there was a great advantage in many ways to being a woman. I think we are a lot better at personal relationships, and then have the capability obviously of telling it like it is when it’s necessary.”

“I’ve never been to New Zealand before. But one of my role models, Xena, the warrior princess, comes from there.”

(FYI: Xena is one of my role models, too!)

Read more about Madeleine HERE or HERE.

 

Jocelyn Rish: Award Winning Writer and Filmmaker

I met writer and filmmaker Jocelyn Rish at an SCBWI Carolina’s conference. I was immediately struck by how modest she was despite the fact that she had recently won two major (but very different) awards for her writing. In 2009 she won the Highlights Fiction contest, a very big deal in the children’s writing world. Then she won a generous grant from the SC Film Commission to fund making her award winning story Saying Goodbye (another award!) into a film. Impressive, right?

This past spring I was thrilled to be able to watch Saying Goodbye, which Jocelyn produced with her brother Brian Rishat the Beaufort Film Festival. It is a sweet and funny movie. (You can enter for a chance to win a copy below.)

 Jocelyn graduated from Duke University with a major in psychology and a minor in computer science. She is simultaneously working on two novels and her filmmaking. Thanks for joining us today Jocelyn to answer questions about writing for film, and being nerdy! 

If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? You know that little voice in your head – the one that keeps whispering at you to quit being so scared? LISTEN TO IT! It’s trying to keep you from torturing yourself with the “what if” game years down the road. Be brave, be bold. 

How can I get a little voice in my head that tells me to quit being scared? I need one of those! Just kidding, the last thing I need is another voice in my head. Do you have a favorite way to flaunt your brain power?I love using big words. I’m actually kind of obnoxious about it, even though I don’t mean to be, they just pop out before I can stop them. And now I’m making it worse by learning a new word each day and using it to write a tweet tale on twitter. If you want to play along, come find us at the hashtag #15tt.

You won the Highlights fiction contest a few years ago. Now you are winning awards for your short film. What are some 

differences between writing for children and writing for film? The biggest difference is in HOW you tell the story, and I don’t mean format, although that is a big difference too. When writing a story people will read (children or adults), you have a lot more freedom. You can describe things using all five of the senses. You can explore what the characters are thinking and feeling. But when you’re writing for film, if it can’t be seen or heard, then it doesn’t happen. You can’t describe the way the tang of fresh cut grass reminds the protagonist of picnics with her dad, or that these memories make her sad because her dog ran away during one of these picnics. Unless you go the easy route with a voiceover, you have to figure out other ways to convey these thoughts and feelings (plus hope the actors are strong enough to express complex emotions visually).

My short film Saying Goodbye was actually a short story first, written from close third person POV, focusing on the protagonist’s thoughts about what was happening around her. My brother Brian and I worked together to translate it to a screenplay, and it was a definite challenge – we ended up using flashbacks and switching some of her internal dialog to actual dialog. If you’re interested, you can do a comparison yourself – the original short story is here: http://www.sayinggoodbyemovie.com/story.pdf and the film is available to watch for free here: http://www.sayinggoodbyemovie.com/content/watch-saying-goodbye

Thanks for offering the comparison!  Did anything unexpected and wonderful happen to you while writing the script for, and filming Saying Goodbye? The main character of Alma was based on my maternal grandmother, who had passed away in a nursing home a few months before I wrote the short story, so writing it helped me feel more at peace with her passing. And so many wonderful things happened while filming that I could write pages and pages about it, but I’ll pick two:

One, we filmed in an actual assisted living community and the residents and staff were warm and welcoming and sooooo excited to be extras in the movie. They were very inspiring and exemplified the “carpe diem” spirit we tried to convey in the film. We had a special screening for them when the movie was finished, and I still get teary thinking about their reactions to seeing themselves on the big screen.

Two, as part of the grant we won from the SC Film Commission, we worked with students at The University of South Carolina and Trident Technical College. These students were dedicated and talented and so much fun to work with. I now refer to them (all nineteen of them!) as my babies, and I’ve been so proud as they’ve gone on to work on shows like The Vampire Diaries, Drop Dead Diva, Army Wives, and several Hollywood movies.

I can understand your pride. It is great to see the ripple effect of your work. So do you have plans for future films? We recently finished our second film High Heels & Hoodoo, which is a complete 180 from Saying Goodbye. It’s a supernatural story that’s part spooky, part funny. We’re just now starting the film festival circuit with this one. After that, I’m not sure. My brother and I have talked about trying a feature film next, but that will involve raising a lot of money, so we’re still debating our next step.

How is brain power an asset to your career? On the writing side of my career, my brain power turned me into a story sponge. I grew up as a mega bookworm (which is a subspecies of a nerdy chick, right?), and I absorbed so many lessons about story structure and characterization and the crafting of words from reading. Now many of these aspects of storytelling are like second nature, so I can let my creative side take over when I write.

As for my career as a film producer (can I call it that if no one is paying me?), the most important thing is organization. There are so many moving parts that a producer is kind of like a plate spinner – and if one plate gets neglected, they all come crashing down. So this is where I get to indulge my not-so-secret love of spreadsheets. From budgets to actor availability to which props are needed for a scene, I track everything in spreadsheets in all their tab-filled, color-coded glory.

I know there will be more award winning fiction and films in your future, Jocelyn, and I look forward to experiencing both!

 To find out more about Jocelyn, visit her website, or follow her on Twitter. You can find out more about her movie, Saying Goodbye, here. More on her movie High Heels and Hoodoo can be found here.  

Jocelyn has offered to send a copy of a DVD of Saying Goodbye! All you have to do to enter to win the DVD, which contains outtakes and more, is leave a comment! Contest ends at midnight on September 23 and a winner will be selected using Random.org on Monday, September 24.  

Have a peek at the movie trailer here! Don’t forget to comment.