Category Archives: kids tv/film

I Wrote for Kids and I Liked It

As you might be able to tell if you’ve checked out the front page of the site, I’ve had a couple kid-friendly credits to my name recently, with Step into Christmas over (obviously) Christmas and my piece in the Puppet Theater family-friendly performance this month.

I’ve also been in the planning stages with a writer/musician friend of mine on an original musical for kids. And I wrote that spec for Vampirina for the Nickelodeon Writing Program competition.

vampirina

(If you do not know what a Vampirina is, she’s an adorable Disney Jr. cartoon.)

The Vampirina script was so much fun to write… like, I actually… ENJOYED writing it? It was challenging because I’d never set out to write for the preschool audience before, but I wrote it without *too many* crippling anxiety attacks.

Next up is a spec script for the Amazon Prime kids show Just Add Magic. Because having a second current spec is always good and my old ones are (a) outdated and (b) not kids’ shows. I know I’m kind of taking a risk choosing Just Add Magic… I watched the entire series and, though it hasn’t been announced as renewed OR cancelled yet, the current “final” episode felt very, well… final. Like I feel like if it returns it will be one of those reboots, like when we get a new Doctor on Doctor Who, but with less, you know, burning.

doctorwho

So even if it does come back, it would be like writing a Peter Capaldi and Bill script when they’re not around anymore. It may be instantly outdated the second the show gets renewed (assuming it does, which it should, because it’s wonderful).

But I want to move forward with it anyway because I kind of love the show and actively WANT to write an episode of it. It was on Nickelodeon’s “accepted shows” list for shows they’ll accept as entrants into the preschool track of their competition, but I didn’t get into it until after the submissions were due. I’m going to just write it anyway, even though it may not even make their list next year since it’s technically not a preschool show like a lot of the others were.

So that’s… five projects either done or in development (“floating around in my head” and “Skype convos and shared spreadsheets” totally count as in development, shush) in less than a year. And I really enjoy it. And I think I’m maybe… dare I say… *good* at it? Or at least, my voice lends itself well to this style of writing. Yes, I’m comfortable saying that. My voice lends itself well to four-year-olds, people! But also to, say, ten-year-olds. I have range.

I don’t know why it took me so long to steer my writing down this path. I’ve wanted to write for kids basically since I started writing. I just sort of never did it because there was always a “real script” to be writing first. So I’d kill myself over the “real scripts” that languished in the awful development hell that is my brain, and nothing would ever feel “finished.” And because nothing ever felt finished, I never moved onto the “fun projects” that I’d been reserving just for my own time, i.e., not something I’d share with my writing group.

But why did I think I couldn’t bring in children’s scripts to my writing group? Other people have before. And why didn’t I see it as “real writing”? Maybe I needed the first door to open with Step Into Christmas to make me feel like it was a viable path for me to start down, because before that it was like “ok, so I write a script for kids… and then what?” None of my usual submission places take kid scripts. But now it’s like… just write what you feel like and figure out what to do with it after. And I don’t have to STOP writing for adults. It just makes sense to, you know, write what I like writing and to do that more often in my life. Some things in retrospect seem very obvious.

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D-D-D-Do You Have It?

I recently applied for the Nickelodeon Writers Fellowship, along with likely thousands of others who probably already have tv credits to their name. It was my first foray into the world of writing spec scripts, and I wrote an episode of Community. So now, NBC, you are not allowed to cancel this show at the end of the season so that I can maximize this spec’s shelf life (#sixseasonsandamovie).

Of course, since I submitted the application on February 28, I have been thinking about all of the things I must have answered horribly wrong on the short answer responses. They only give you 50 words to answer why you want the fellowship, and I didn’t go funny on my bio, and maybe I should have, though I was afraid of seeming naive and unprofessional. So there’s no way I said everything I wanted to say. I’ve been needing to get my real answer out of my system for weeks. So, I now present…

“What I Wanted to Say” (In Well Over 50 Words)
I am the biggest Classic Nickelodeon nerd. I used to have a blog recapping episodes of classic shows, Television Without Pity-style. (It is still apparently the top result when you google the immortal Busdriver Stu Benedict’s quote “Passengers will refrain from KILLING MY SOUL!!!” from Pete and Pete. Which I’m sure people google all the time.)

I grew up with Nickelodeon from the days of Pinwheel and You Can’t Do That On Television through their early 90s Golden Age. I remember Special Delivery and Marc Summers’ Halloween special. I had the Finders Keepers board game that my mom insisted on returning to the store after she realized you had to hide the game tokens by throwing your own crap from around the house into a cardboard box.

The Finders Keepers boardgame, in all its 80s glory.

In all its 80s glory.

I entered Slime Time for a good four years straight and was never called. I would seriously sit there willing my phone to ring and have it be the Slime Time people on the other end. I entered the Super Toy Run that the boys always seemed to win. I didn’t enter Nick-or-Treat because I was too embarrassed to answer the phone saying “Nick-or-Treat!” only to have it be my aunt.

The station ID bumpers and other Nick commercials are forever lodged in my brain. I could recite about ten of them right now. I remember Picture Pages, and Bananaman, and DangerMouse. And I’m probably one of the only people in the country who worries about what will happen to the Nick Time Capsule now that Nickelodeon Studios is long gone.

I tried to write an episode of Rugrats once. I think it started out as an episode of Rugrats and then morphed into my own original story. It involved ordering a birthday cake. I also was always making up pretend adventures where my brothers and I were the characters from the various Nicktoons. The first three Nicktoons premiered on August 11, 1991 (and I knew that without having to google the date), and that summer we spent a week or two up at my uncle’s lake house in New Hampshire. Nickelodeon promoted the hell out of the upcoming cartoons, so in the weeks before they actually aired, I’d make up my own stories about them based on the bit of info from the teaser ads. I was not happy when I’d been playing Angelica for weeks only to watch the show and discover that she was a heinous little bitch.

I also watch shows that I am far too old for and should be embarrassed to admit to liking. Drake and Josh could be fun, and I was convinced that Zoey 101 was a great show if you removed Zoey from it (nothing against Jamie Lynn Spears… the character was just way too perfect at absolutely everything and had zero faults). And I loved iCarly. Loved it. I was out of college when it premiered, but I didn’t care. One time, when I was still working at my scientific research publishing company, I was out sick and, of course, watching after-school iCarly (did they still call it Nick in the Afternoon by that point?). To my complete surprise, I saw an issue of my journal in one of the kids’ lockers. My scientific research journal that no one younger than college-age bio majors would ever read. I immediately had to download the episode so I could pause it and confirm. And then I sent a screenshot into my company’s newsletter with the lame excuse that I had been flipping channels and “just happened” to see it. I am probably the only person, except maybe scientists who watch tv with their kids, who cared that an issue of Cell was in iCarly.

I’ve known for a very long time that my dream job would be writing for children. Whenever I think of my favorite books, movies, or tv shows, a wide majority of them are written for kids. I want to give future kids the same memories that I had with Doug, Clarissa, and Pete and Pete. I want future 23-year-olds to shamelessly watch kids shows I wrote because they’re just that fun and awesome. I wish I could convey all of this in 50 words or less, but I can’t. They’ll just have to interview me I guess.

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Oh, hello there, blog.

Oh blog, you have been so neglected! I miss you. I’ve been doing a lot lately, most of which is just mindless and frustrating. I spend my free time dreaming that I’m not doing what I am actually doing. So. New idea, write some of this stuff down. If anything, it will be fun to look at and laugh later.

What I learned today: Minkus is going to be on Girl Meets World!

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This is awesome. Don’t insult the man with the Perky’s.

I really hope the show has the same self-aware silly-comedy-with-a-heart of the original. And that it stays on the air long enough for to me kick open the doors and demand a job on the writing staff (that’s how it works, right?). Back in the day it felt like every single actor in my age range was on Boy Meets World at least once. I used to imagine that I was an extra on the show — Topanga’s random friend-for-an-episode or something. Because it’s normal to dream about being an extra rather than an actual character. Dreaming big, right there. Though I also used to imagine that I was Stephanie Tanner, so either my confidence was higher or my standards were lower for Full House.

My lunch is just about ending, and I still have to email a friend who I never get to talk to anymore. Because of the aforementioned mindless frustration. But my goal is to come back later tonight and blog about my venture into writing tv scripts. Should we take bets on if I actually get to write this post tonight? Will it end up being another case of see you in three months? I hope not.

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12 things I learned from My Girl

I was nine years old when My Girl came out in 1991, two years younger than main character Vada Sultenfuss. You learn a lot in those two years between 9 and 11, especially if you were a sheltered Catholic school girl who hasn’t even read Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret yet. Here’s some of the especially important things I learned from this epic coming-of-age movie.

1. What happens at a funeral.

And what happens when you get old… apparently you can sing classic standards whenever you want and no one can do anything about it.

2. A girl can never wear enough blue eyeshadow.

Technically, I had already learned this by age 3 from dance recitals.

3. There is basically nothing good to look forward to about being a girl.

Nothing.

4. Surround yourself with people who are intellectually stimulating.

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Vada was a mini-Daria in the making.

5. Mood rings are the coolest things ever.

I had to go out and get one from the Limited Too. And pick up a flannel scrunchie while I was there to match my flannel shirt.

6. How to write poetry.

“Flesh all a-mesh or rocky road; either way, it’s about desire.”

7. You did not touch my grass.

It puts the grass in the basket.

8. That I will always and forever associate this song with bumper cars.

And that bumper cars are a great way to take out some aggression on someone.

9. How insanely long your period lasts.

5to7days

And how I had never thought before about how you would manage to go swimming during it.

….And how awkward this movie can be to watch with your parents.

10. Kissing a boy involves saying the pledge of allegiance?

And that there’s a time when spitting on your hand becomes grosser than kissing a boy.

11. It’s ok to bawl your eyes out at a movie.

12. No really, it is.

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He catches a ride on a friendly pterodactyl

Because most of the important things I’ve learned in my life can be traced back to Sesame Street.

I’m doing NaPlWriMo again this year (and you should too!), and while I do have a few ideas for full-length plays bouncing around in my head, I’m kind of at a loss of which one to start and where to begin. There’s a blog post on the site raising the question of what makes a play a play. When is something a play versus not a play? Whenever that question is raised, I always find myself back in Kate Snodgrass’s playwriting class and hear her telling us that a play, even in a format as short as ten minutes, needs to have a beginning, middle, and an end–that is, that it has to tell a full story. That conversation never fails to get this old Sesame Street song stuck in my head.

It sounds pretty basic, but when you have to sit there and think about something you’ve written and make sure it has those three distinct parts, it’s actually helpful advice. One thing in particular about the ending in a play versus a tv episode or a comedy skit is that at least one of your characters has to have changed in some way. Again, sounds basic. But when I was writing The Mouse, for example, the draft that went to KCACTF had a different ending than the draft that ended up in the Boston Theatre Marathon (and published). The feedback from the judges at KCACTF was that the current version was just a skit because the protagonist had decided to quit and find a job that took her seriously. In my mind, that was a change because she went from nervous and weak in the beginning to standing up for herself and going after what she wanted. But if her walking out signified not *enough* of a change, she needed instead to pull her boss onto her side and force him to see that she was necessary (even if in his mind she’s a necessary evil). It still kills me to have had to change the original ending because I loved that version. But was it a play, or was it a sketch-comedy skit? I ultimately went with the version that left it in “play” territory. But I’m still not 100% satisfied with the ending.

So it’s not always as “well, duh, obviously” as it sounds. In fact, the major problems with all of my full-length plays, no matter how far along they are, can be summed up by this beginning/middle/end journey:

End: The Prayer Bargain is STILL struggling with its ending. It’s like almost all there except for the one “crystallizing moment” that ties it all together and makes the audience have that “wow, this was a good play” feeling rather than the “ok, time to get home now” feeling. Maybe if I can put into words how exactly Molly and the rest of the family change and spell out what the beginning, middle, and end is, I can get the ending to work better.

Middle: Directive 47 has its structure all set in place now but needs some help figuring out what the events of the plot mean for each of the characters. Their journeys need to be more clearly defined. They all need to find their own friendly pterodactyl to fly away on. (Which–nuns flying on pterodactyls–that sounds like a much more awesome story than the one I’m writing, though it could also be interpreted as fundamentalist “world is 6000 years old” propaganda, and we wouldn’t want that.)

Beginning: Whatever idea I decide to focus on for Naplwrimo, I don’t know where I’m going to start. The song starts off with Seymour waking up… I don’t even know who my “Seymour” will be. Why is it so hard for me to even name characters in the beginning?

So there’s lots to work on. But I bought a Naplwrimo hoodie from their Cafepress store, so now I’m all geared up for writing, because I have a hoodie now, right? That makes it official.

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