Shortlisted at Last

There was an interesting piece in the March 2006 issue of Vanity Fair. It seems that the 31-year-old screenwriter, Zach Helm, transformed his career after he wrote up a manifesto for himself. I wish I could share this professional life-altering document with you but only excerpts have been released here and there.

Of course I am sure that at some later date we will have the opportunity to read the complete work, for $24.99, but wait there’s more ~ for an additional $14.99 you can buy the companion workbook to put down the bones of your own manifesto.

It’s not as if Mr. Helm wasn’t making a comfortable living in L.A., quite the contrary. He had established himself a reputation as a professional writer and had a steady build of work from 1997 on, but no one could see his work. He decided he was done with cleaning up other people’s scripts and giving up creative control or participation in his work’s development.

Well, it seems to be working a treat, there are multiple irons in the fire:

Stranger Than Fiction, with Dustin Hoffman and Will Ferrel
Mr. Magorium’s Emporium, with Natalie Portman
Thomas Johnson, a TV pilot
Good Canary, a play going to Off Broadway
And yet another film, The Disassociate

So, did Mr. Helm find the magic bullet with his manifesto? Yes and no. He declared exactly what his intentions, wants and needs are, and what he is no longer willing to do because it didn’t fulfill him. Bravo Mr. Helm. Bravo. Seriously.

I am a firm believer in expressing your needs to the universe and having the universe serve it up. Anyone can do this. There are only two rules to this: one is to be very clear in expressing those needs. It seems the universe needs succinct communication, “Just the facts Jack, we don’t need your stinking back-story.”, and second you must declare them aloud or at least write them down in black and white.

And lets get a couple things straight first ~ No, the universe does not fulfill your mean spirited requests. There is Karma to take care of that so toss your vendetta list. Also, please don’t confuse this with getting three wishes for letting the genie out of the lamp either. Seems the universe expects you to do your part and isn’t going to just deposit millions into your bank account or fill your in-box with offers from perfect, willing specimens of your preferred sexual type. And if you go that route first you are just prolonging your agony, but that’s okay. It means that universe is available to take my requests.

Would that make it easier; to think of it like calling in your song request to your favorite radio station? In the age of iPods, does that analogy even work?

(Okay, now my dark roots are beginning to ache.)

I had already been thinking of much the same thing before I read the piece in VF about Zach Helm’s manifesto. I had decided that I wanted my obituary short-listed.

Let me explain; one of my favorite sections in The New York Times is the obituary section. While everyday does not hold something fascinating, I actually have a file of clips just for obits that catch my eye.

Maybe that seems strange but I’m not the only one who is fascinated by them. Marilyn Johnson has recently had her book, The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs and the Perverse Pleasure of Obituaries, published by HarperCollins.

In the Times review of her book the last paragraph reads, “For Ms. Johnson, we are now ‘living in the Golden Age of the Obituary’: after earlier lulls in which the obituary desk was literally something of a dead beat, we have entered an age of ‘expansion, innovation, entertainment and world-class one-ups-manship’ in obituary writing.”

And apparently Ms. Johnson found differences in the style with which obits are written in The United States and across the pond in The United Kingdom.

“A great British obit doesn’t read like a prosaic resume. It’s an opinionated gem of a biography, informed by all kinds of history, high and low, including gossip. … In contrast to the obits written by Jim Nicholson, (an American Obit writer) - who said his ‘loyalty was to the family’ of the deceased and who tried hard to identify with his subjects – the quintessential British obit, in Mr. Johnson’s words, ‘doesn’t pull any punches in consideration of the dead’.”

Can you imagine? The local obit writer calls on family, friends and neighbors of the recently departed and puts all the juicy details in the paper. No more hiding behind the public persona. Mr. Lion’s Club president’s philanthropy as well as his philandering right there for all to see. Years of rumors making the rounds at the pub about good old Mitch Wexler and his fondness for wearing women’s knickers finally confirmed. Talk about your poetic justice, which sounds worth the price of a subscription to The Independent to me!

So you see where I am going with this?

I want my obit to be full of the life I have led. I want girls and young women to read it and be inspired. Not because I changed the world or even a few minds but because I never stopped believing that I could.

I want them to see that I was NOT, a victim of, or a survivor of, but a person who thrived despite childhood sexual abuse. That I learned to define myself by my actions and not the actions of others and a healthy sense of humour and the ability to laugh at yourself can save your life.

They will read that I kept a promise to my mother and finally learned to play the drums in my 40’s and continued to do so into my golden years and was known to join local bands to accompany them for a song or two. Especially after a couple pints of Guinness at her favorite pubs in her adopted country of Ireland.

That I left behind a healthy and happy eighty-one year old son, (grandchildren/great-grandchildren if he chooses to procreate) and a husband who still asserts that I was the greatest love and friend of his life after 70 + years of marriage.

They will read that my part-time neighborhood where we had a flat along Bleecker Street in Manhattan, my favorite writing escape, will miss my presence, generosity, wit and laughter in the restaurants, shops and cafes.

They will be intrigued that, during a time of financial struggle, I developed a moist, delicious, high protein/high fiber bread recipe intended to help pay the bills. The universe having other plans righted our position financially and I later turned that recipe over to struggling & battered women who used it to turn theirs and that of their children’s lives around.

And that I was found in our beloved country estate in Ulster County, with a good glass of robust red wine, The New York Times opened to a glowing review of my latest novel and a bar of partially eaten 90% dark chocolate was on my bedside table next to me where I was found to have died in my sleep with that mischievous grin I was known for, serenely planted on my now still face.

They will be amused to know that my family and friends, per my request, will gather for a weekend of great food, music, libations and celebration, culminating in a grand display of fireworks, in which my ashes are packed, over Shawangunk Ridge.

So if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of living left to do.

Dedicated to yours truly for finally giving myself “permission.”

©2006 Dawn Marie Kelly, all rights reserved.
posted by Angel @ 10:00 PM |


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