Confessions of a “go for it!” guy

Folks perceive me as a “go for it!” guy, it seems, and
they all ask me how I do it.  They wonder what quality I possess that allows me to
walk forward while they feel stuck at square one on their
journey to achieve their own aspirations.

They’re usually surprised at my answer, because manifesting
aspirations, in my opinion, has little or nothing to do with who you are or
what type of person you are.  No one
would accuse me of being a type-A personality, for example.  I am also neither fearless nor infallible.

So what’s the secret? 
How do I live into being the manifesting “go for it!” guy?  It’s not who I am; it’s what I do.  And it’s very simple. 
I wake up every day, and I make an active choice to ask and answer two
questions:

1.     What’s one thing I can do today to move me
closer to achieving my aspiration?

Every day, Saturday and Sunday included, I do one
thing.  It could be as easy as
sending and email or making a call. 
It could be something larger. 
It could be resting and spending time with my family or friends.  It could be working out.  The bottom line is I make a conscious
effort to check in with my journey every day and land on something I can do that
truly moves me closer to realizing my chosen aspiration.

Even more important, no matter how large or small that thing
is, I remember “it’s better than nothing” is something!  If I did nothing that day, there’s a
100% chance I’d feel bad.  This
way, there’s at least a chance that I walk out the day feeling…okay.  And sometimes great.

2. Do I trust myself
to get my “one thing” done?

Walking the walk is usually a lonely and tedious business.  More often than not, there’s no one in
the room nudging me onward other than, you know, me. 
Making good on my promise to myself to do “one thing” is the
difference between standing still and moving forward.

Anyone who’s been in any kind of relationship in life knows
that trust isn’t an automatic thing. 
Trust is built.  I’ve gained
a level of trust with myself by being honest with myself.  If I think, for whatever reason, I
can’t do my chosen “one thing” that particular day, I accept it and don’t beat
myself up for it.  Then I ask
myself question #1 again, this time putting the emphasis on “can do” instead of “one thing”
when I ask it.

As I’ve kept promises to myself over time, I’ve grown to
trust myself more.  Now, as the
“one things” I tend to come up with each day are larger and more challenging,
it seems that my answer to the “Can I trust myself?” question is typically
yes.  I have a track record now and
credibility with myself.

I can’t promise you what works for me will work for
you.  I have, however, learned
this:  everything you try—even if
it doesn’t work—gets you one step close to discovering what really does work
for you.

And for those of you who are wondering…Yes.  This blog post is my "one thing" for today.  🙂

My good friends at the Great American Pitchfest invited my to write an article for their holiday newsletter, and I thought it would be great to share it here with all my favorite TRUE LIFERS who are honing their mad skills in preparation for a great 2010.  Enjoy!

Tips From the Trenches: Three Things I Learned That Will Improve Your Pitch


by Bill True

Pitchfest7 (re-printed from the Dec. 2009 edition of The Great American Screenwriter, published by the Great American Pitchfest)

One of the highlights of October's Austin Film Festival was getting to teach a class on pitching scripts alongside The Great American Pitchfest's very own Bob Schultz. But that wasn't the only thing that made the experience great. I remember sitting there in the class and marveling at the creativity and ingenuity represented in the ideas that the students were bouncing off us.

Yet, as good and rewarding as the experience was, I had to admit that there was another underlying emotion. It was concern that, though we were having fun in the safe environs of the class, not many producers or executives would have the patience to suss out the proverbial diamond in the rough as we were doing. What I mean is, it was one thing to have a couple of pitch veterans in front of you and guiding you to the right words to convey the movie embedded your great idea. The folks working with us in the room, however, were gonna need a little more–a little "something"–if they were gonna stand on their own in the wild and wooly environs of Hollywood.



After the class, I asked myself how I would distill the advice Bob and I had given into some simple and easy-to-follow process that anyone could follow and improve his/her pitch. Maybe even elevate it to production company executive-worthy status. Based on our reaction to listening to a bunch of real pitches by real and serious screenwriters (not to mention the hundreds of pitches both Bob and I have heard and judged in the past), here are three tips to help you take your pitching game to the next level.



1. Remember that stories and ideas are two different things — This is a pretty sticky thing to talk about because movies are based on concepts, right? It's the really cool idea ("It's about vampires…but they're teenagers.") that spurs everything else forward. Aha! There's the rub, and it's in the words "everything else forward". Movies are based on ideas, but they're experienced in action, as something that moves forward. That's the long way around saying they're experienced as stories.



It's one thing for some production company exec to say, "I got this great idea!" She can do that because she'll hand that idea off to some writer to flesh it out–to put a story around it. When you approach a producer or executive, they assume you've already done that work and put some flesh around the bare bones idea.



That said, it's important to understand the difference between an idea and a story. Ideas, I tell people, are static. They're like little points of light floating around in some conceptual cloud of thought. They could represent a particular character or setting or time or event or theme…or whatever. But if you say something like, "It's about vampires," okay…you got a bunch of vampires standing there. And they ain't doing nothing. Now what? You could even say something like, "It's about vampires, but they're in high school," but what are they doing in the school? It's still static.



Stories are taking all the ideas in the concept cloud to their nexus, which means putting them into some sort of action. You do this by describing a change. That's what stories do…describe a change. Some person is in some situation at the beginning of your story. At the end of the story, they're in a different situation. In the middle, some sort of action is the catalyst for that change. It's as simple as that.

Remembering that you need to express your ideas in terms of that change–that story–is important because producers and executives don't want to go through the work (and they shouldn't have to) to figure out how to put your ideas in action. After all, they don't buy ideas. They buy stories expressed in script form, and the whole idea of the pitch is to get them to read your script in the first place.



2. Focus on the most important thread in your story — If pitching your script was a category on the game show Jeopardy!, this would be the answer to the question, "How do I avoid that look of confusion on peoples' faces when I talk about my script?" The pit that people fall into is that they think they need to convey all of the "texture" within their script for listeners to get it. Or even more troublesome, they say with all confidence, "There's more than one main character in my story." If you ever find yourself doing either of these, you're gonna get the look. People are going to be confused, and that's bad news for you.



As I continue to write, and continue to talk about my writing, I am constantly reminded of the first piece of advice I got from my first screenwriting mentor. This advice has been repeated time and time again to me by other great writers and agents and executives. Here it is: "Movies are about one thing." They're not about texture, and they're not about a bunch of people. They are about following one person on a journey that changes him. They're about that one person's one story. That's the thread.



The trick is how to convey that thread. This is what I tell folks. Movie stories operate by establishing the rules of the universe in which your main character inhabits. In screenwriting terms, we call this the set up. The rules speak to the limits imposed on the character within the context of their universe and what that character is lacking to feel fulfilled in that universe. From there, you put the character in a situation (which is kicked off by the inciting incident) that is at odds with them achieving that sense of fulfillment. Then you talk about how the character overcomes the obstacles presented as a result of that situation. Presto! You have a movie story.



In the most basic sense, that's all you're required to convey in a pitch. It's simple, it's clear, and it speaks to the thread. You don't need to provide any more than that up front because pitches aren't designed to answer all of the listener's questions. They are, in fact, designed to elicit questions, specifically, the single question, "Can I hear more?" A smart and experienced listener will understand that there there is texture inherent to the movie your pitch represents. If they want to get a better feeling for how you envision that texture playing out, they'll ask you. And if you get to that point, my friends, you're officially having a good meeting. A very good meeting.



3. Practice pitching to anyone and everyone — A frequent comment I hear from new screenwriters is something like, "Yeah…I get all those concepts, but they're difficult to execute in the make-or-break moment of the meeting." I nod at them, and I tell them they're right. From there I have compassion and empathy, but no sympathy.



I know those people need to learn the same difficult lesson that I had to learn and that every screenwriter that ever amounted to anything had to learn. The only way you get better at this pitching thing is to, you know, pitch. You go
tta practice pitching your movie to anyone and everyone around you. Over and over again until people are sick of hearing it. And then you pitch it some more.



The last people on Earth who want to hear another word about the projects I am working on is my family, Yet, last night at dinner, my 14 year-old son accidentally inquired about my latest spec, LIGHTSEEKERS. What do you think I did? You bet! I gave him the full-blown pitch. He knew Dad was working on a "kinda horror script", but he didn't know much more than that. Taking the opportunity to talk through it with him gave me one more pass it to see if I could explain it in a way that people "got it." Even more important, pitching my 14 year-old gave me a view into how someone of his age (an important segment of the horror target market, those teen guys are) would react to the story.



I remember reading in the late, great Blake Snyder's book, Save the Cat, about how he pitched ideas to strangers in coffee shops. Heck, yeah! I do that all the time. For one thing, not only is it good practice, but strangers in coffee shops (or wherever) have no vested interest in being anything but completely objective in their response. If it's good, you'll know. If it doesn't connect, you'll know that, too.



The bottom line is that practice truly does make perfect. The more you do the work in practice, the more "natural" and the more "in the zone" you can be in the meeting. Plain and simple. And, for the record (tough love alert here), being shy or being an introvert isn't an excuse. We're all shy. We're all introverts. If you can't bring yourself to talk about your work with a total stranger, you're probably in the wrong business. Dem's da breaks.



Remember these three tips. Practice them. If you do, I am confident (even more important, you can be confident) that when you get your shot to pitch your movie to the big guys, you'll be ready. And you'll have significantly improved your chances to knock 'em dead.

Big things, small packages

Is it age or experience?  I don't know if I am willing to go so far as to claim "wisdom".  But what is the catalyst for the realization that the biggest things in life–the most important ones, at least–happen in the smallest and quietest ways?

In spite of knowing for the last 24 years that "Success is not a destination' it's a journey," I've continued to pursue the moment.  That thing out there, presumably that tells me that I've arrived.  Personal, professional.  What have you.  And when this arrival happened, there must be some sort of ticker tape parade or something.  Right?  And the feeling–man, oh man!–the feeling of the moment would linger.  I could hold onto it for the rest of my life, knowing.  Content in that knowing.  Complete.

Uh huh.  Sure.

Because that's not the way it works, is it?  Moments don't linger.  They come and go.  When they're gone, that's it.  Onto the next thing.  Makes chasing that moment a little silly, huh?  Because what is it?  It's a myth, that's what it is.

Success can't be a destination because destinations are kinda nothings.

I went to the Grand Canyon this past October.  I hiked out to the rim and stood there for, like, 10 minutes.  That was my arrival.  And then I hiked back to camp.  Yes..it was a great 10 minutes–one that I'd looked forward to since I was a kid.  But the moment, itself, was small. Just Lori and me standing there.  A couple of "Wows" and a picture or two on my iPhone.  No big deal.  And then it was done.

Yet, it was somehow greatly satisfying.

That's because getting to the Grand Canyon, I think, was the big deal.  Everything around it.  And the small moment at the canyon's edge was really special in terms of how it related to all the other stuff.  The getting there, which was far more than half the fun.  I mean, on one hand, it was a moment 25 years in the making.  That's a journey of the "holy crap!" magnitude.

Standing there at the edge of the canyon together, we looked at each other.  We knew we'd arrived, figuratively as well as literally.  Finally.  That was…huge.

I guess my point is that I am realizing every time I have pushed for the big moment, the big deal, and held that moment on a pedestal, I've been disappointed.  The moment never seemed as important as I'd made it out to be.  And I'd have it, go to bed, and wake up the next morning and I'd still have to pee and put my clothes on and brush my damned teeth and let the dog out and get the kids up and off to school and do my day just like I always have to.  There is no moment in life that transcends all that.

At this point in my life, I am finally waking up to that.  I'm seeing why it's the journey that's so important, and why the most important moments in life are so small.  It's because the moment is nothing without the rest of life–real life–alongside it.  If I work toward a moment to escape life or distract myself from my life, I'm on the wrong track.  The moment isn't self-referential.  It doesn't celebrate itself in a vacuum.  It's sole purpose and reason for existence is to acknowledge a point along the journey.

It's the moment's relationship to peeing and putting on my clothes and brushing my damned teeth and letting the dog out and getting the kids up and off to school and doing my day like I always do that makes it special.  That makes it outstanding.

Fitting is the word, therefore, I would use for this, my favorite picture of last week, courtesy of my beloved and her wonderful "to do" board.  On Tuesday the 8th, RUNAWAY was finally released on DVD.  It seems to be doing quite nicely in terms of sales and rentals, and I am grateful for that.  After the long and–god, what do I say?  Arduous?  Difficult?  Overwhelming?  I dunno.  What I can say it that after 10 years (I wrote the original short story in 1999), it all came down to this.

Rboard RUNAWAY released.  And we still needed a pooper scooper.  And jeans for
Indi.  And gloves for Jonah to go on his school trip.  It happened in
the midst of life.  The fact that she put it on the board was a loving
recognition of something in life that day, not above it or beyond it. 
Part of it.

I don't know if I am making any sense.  This is all kind of stream
of consciousness here.  My first attempt at trying to put this into
words.  Having it on the board, and not doing much (although Lori and I did steal away for a quick celebratory toast later that night) other than the stuff I needed to get accomplished that day seemed to honor the RUNAWAY journey more than any ticker tape parade ever could.  The quietness of the moment gave deeper meaning to everything that went into arriving at this particular destination.

Not to get all Christmassy on y'all (though it does seem appropriate), but the whole conversation brings to mind this passage in the second chapter of Luke:

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

That Mary…she had the right idea, I think.

Big journeys.  Small moments.  Pondering.  Life.

Yeah.

Here's to you and all your small moments this season, TRUE LIFERS.

Mr. Livingston, I presume?

There's a thing about being a writer.  It's kinda important.

In order to be a writer–a real writer–you gotta do one thing.  That's, you know, write.

My website and my biography and every damned thing I publish about myself attests to this notion that I am a screenwriter.  A professional screenwriter, no less.  Truth be told, however, it's been awhile since I have felt like either a "professional" in the movie biz or a "screenwriter."  Talk, talk, talk with no walk, is what it's felt like.

The reality is I haven't been a writer lately because I have failed to meet the most basic of litmus tests.  Stick the little slip of paper in my beaker brain and it comes out unchanged.  Empty.

All that's changing now.  I am doing something now that I haven' done in awhile.  I am not just talking about working on a new script.LSActual  I am actually working on a new script.  FADE IN is a reality, and FADE OUT is just around the corner.

I am relieved that when I am in conversations nowadays, I don't have to feel like I am telling a white lie when people ask me about what I'm "working on."

Thank god.

Writing.  It's good to have you back, stranger.  Don't ever stay away that long again.  In fact, just don't leave.  I need you.  For so many reasons, in so many ways, I need you.

Finnigin, Begin-igin

Here's the deal.  When the going gets tough, Bill gets silent.

I know this about me, but I haven't clued you in.  Well, you probably got the idea, anyway.

IMG_0284 This causes a host of issues.  I stop calling friends and family.  I pull into myself and disconnect.  People get hurt–and often angry at me.  They just wanna know what's up.  They worry.  They wanna help.  But I don't let them.

I don't know why this is my way.  Most times I wish it wasn't.  But over the course of my life, I have come to accept it as my process and due to my introverted nature.  It's not that I don't try to change it (for those of you who know me, think of how much MORE communicative I have become in tumultuous times!), but it's a slow turning at best.  I don't know that I will ever be anything other than what I am today.

And, to my great comfort, I am finally okay with that.

So…to all of you that worry, to all of you that mutter, I am great.

You see, my life took a sudden turn this past summer.  With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, I see exactly how and why it happened.  I can track it back–back and further back, even.  But in the moment, it–all of it…meaning the really, really good and the really, really bad–threw me for a loop.  Kicked me in the ass, in fact.

My hindsight, though, has also shown me this: that it's all good.  I've lived long enough to know that no matter what you think you're gonna do, sometimes the Universe has other plans.  Bigger, better plans, in fact, but it means that big and bold things are going to cross your path.  You have to make choices, and you have to act.

Over the past few years, folks might get the idea that I am an impetuous person.  I do make decisions boldly, and I do make bold decisions.  True.  But I honestly wouldn't qualify myself as impetuous.

I think things out.  When I do that, like all writers, I suppose, I look at the end first.  What is the end I am looking for, and what end do I think is most likely as a result of this course of action?  I assume–again, probably because of my writerly nature–that there will be a certain amount of drama and conflict in the middle.  Assuming the end result is worth it–I make the leap.  I trust that everything is going to work out in the end.

The trick is that my process is faster because it takes into account that there will be fallout.  I don't require everything to be sewn up nice and neat-like in order for me to act.  I don't know whether very many people make decisions that way.

Sometimes I've been right, and sometimes Ive been wrong.  To my credit, more right than wrong, I believe.

Over the past several months, as life has handed me a gigantic bowl of lemons, it magically turned to lemonade right before my eyes.  I didn't ask for it.  The Universe put it there.  With hindsight again, of course I can tell you exactly why it's there now and how it got there.  That it was always meant to be there, but that's a much longer conversation.  And probably requires a lot of beer.

The upshot is that it required me to make a choice and then act.  And…I did.  On the surface, this choice and action could look like something controversial.  To some it could look that way, and I wouldn't blame then for thinking it.  Those who know me, however, know controversy has nothing to do with it.  And those who take a moment to look just below the surface nod their heads and go, "Ohhh…  I get it."  And it all makes sense to them.

Okay…all obliqueness aside, if you have been following me at all you know that there have been changes in my life.  800 lb. gorilla changes.  Half of these changes I simply don't want to talk about.  Not that I don't love y'all, but it's the kind of stuff that is best to simply let be.  On the other side of things, I am glad to talk your ear off…and I probably will.

Life has shifted for me…fresh and forward, and yet back to where it really all began in the first place.  Funny.  Most days I just smile and shake my head.  Huh…

I do not live in Minnesota anymore.  I left it.  Quickly, yes…but for Zach's sake as well as mine I think it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.  I have gone west, toward my destiny–personal and professional.  And I am done with anything other than keeping my eye on the prize–personal and professional–every day.

More later.  Because now I wanna talk.  Now I need to talk…to share.  There's so much!  Yet, there's been this awkward "thing" hanging out there.  That gorilla.  I am wondering if we can all just nod at it and move past it?  That's what I'm doing here–acknowledging and moving on, because I don't want to do the silent treatment thing anymore.  Not with you, TRUE LIFERS (ah..!  How long has it been since I wrote that?!?  Feels good).

Alas, here's to the end of silence.  Here's to welcome back.  To the past, to the present, and to the future.  To True Life.

New beginnings and coming home

RunawaypostersmallLook up..!

You see it, huh?

Yeah.  I know.  It's been a long time, hasn't it?

Look right.

See that, too?

A long road, to say the very least.

Today, both are stretching, blinking in the sunlight.

Today, both are coming back.  Back where they belong.

They stand at each of my shoulders, keeping me company and keeping me focused and on the right path as I, too, stretch, blinking in the sunlight.  As I, too, am coming back.  Back to where I belong.

Today, TRUE LIFE returns.  Welcome back, old friend.  Maybe now we can get back to business, eh?

And today, I have official written permission to announce that RUNAWAY will be released on DVD on Tuesday, December 8.  Just in time for Christmas!!!  Remember that when the time comes!

As soon as all the marketing and publicity stuff starts rolling in, I will, of course, keep all of you in the loop.

Right now, my compadres and I are going to enjoy this bright, sunny day.  Feel free to join us!

Memories of AFFs past

I don't know if I've ever posted this story before.  I am in the process of completing an e-interview for the Austin Film Festival to post on their website, however, and thought that it seemed appropriate to sneak preview-ify with a little retrospectacle from my first visit to Austin, TX.

After the Friday night screening of SHOP GIRL at the Paramount Theatre, I somehow ended up chatting over beers for hours with director Anand Tucker and stars Jason Schwartzman and Claire Danes.  I kept pinching myself.  I mean, whoulda thunk?  As I recall, I finally landed in bed around 2 AM.

I woke up feeling slightly hungover.  I also woke up feeling completely LATE!  I was scheduled to be on a panel at 10:15, and a quick peek at my cell phone informed me that was in exactly 25 minutes.  I didn't shower.  I barely splashed water on my face.  I think I brushed my teeth.  I threw on jeans and a T-shirt, and tossed a sport coat on for good measure.  I wanted to at least look, you know, somewhat “professional”.

Right as the panel was beginning, Kelly Williams, the film festival director walks in and taps me on the shoulder.

"Hey, Bill.  You're going to the awards luncheon today, right?"

Now…when a film festival director asks you a question like that, how are you supposed to answer?  "Absolutely!"  …Right?

Not me.

"No…I'm heading out for a run and a shower after this panel."

Kelly got this look on his face.

"You sure?  It would be great to have you there in support of your movie."

"One of our producers, David Viola, is the guy with the actual 'film credentials',” I told him.  “I'm here on a panelist's badge.  I don't think I can get in.  Maybe David should go."

I grabbed my cell phone.  "You want me to call him?"

"No, no, no," Kelly insisted.  "David can do what he wants.  We'd love to have the writers from all the competition movies at the luncheon.  I’ll get you in.  Just show up."

All right, I thought.  I sighed.  The shower would have to wait.

After the panel, I got my run…sprinting across downtown to get to the Austin Club in time for the luncheon, that is.

I get to the door, and a very nice person working security informs me that my name is not on the list.  I try on a "Kelly Williams told me…"  No go.  After five minutes or so of trying to wrangle my way into the place, I turn and start heading down the steps.  It’s not gonna work.  Just then…

"Bill True..?  RUNAWAY..?"

Next thing I know, a very official-looking person holding a clipboard is grabbing my arm.  She's literally dragging me back up the steps and into the main ballroom.

A minute later, I find myself seated at this table right in front of the stage.  Across from me is the cast and crew from one of the other movies in competition.  These are the folks that were going to win, I thought, because they were sitting at the table closest to the stage.  I was very happy for them.

And then a strange thought occurred to me.  I was also sitting at the table closest to the stage.  And Kelly Williams had been acting very strangely when I said that I wasn't planning to…  Could it be?

Naaaaaaaaaah!

I put the thought out of my mind completely.  I sat back and enjoyed the free meal.  I had a glass of wine.  I chatted.  I got to listen to Harold Ramis talk about how some of my favorite movies of all time came to be.  I got to see Karl Williams win his legendary screenplay hat trick (I am convinced the guy can't write a bad script!).

And then someone got up on the stage.  And then they were talking about the "Narrative Feature Award."  And I was taking a swig of pinot.  And then, all of a sudden, I heard the title of my movie.

And then I heard nothing.  Because no one was talking.  It was like a bomb went off.

I scan the room, waiting for someone to rise.  Everyone else is scanning the room, too.  It felt like hours were passing.  Dawn was breaking quite slowly in the molasses of my conscious mind. 

I eventually turn to the guy sitting next to me and chuckle: "I think we won."

He grabs the wine glass out of my hand and starts slapping me on the back.  "Dude!  YOU WON!"

Oh, my god!!!  He was right!

I spring to my feet.  Now I feel like a real fool because everyone was staring at me.  But I dare not move, lest I be wrong.  I wait for some other screenwriter to head toward the stage to accept an award.  'Cause I don't win stuff like this, I reminded myself.

There are no takers, and the people at me table, like, pushing me toward the stage.  I still don't know what I am doing, but I decide it's safe to mount the stairs.  And then people are shaking my hand.  And then they put this thing in my hands that weighs about 15 pounds.  And then I'm in front of the microphone.

And as I scan the expectant faces of Hollywood's best and brightest, about to open my mouth and wing my first-ever acceptance speech, a profound thought occurs to me: I really wish I had taken that shower this morning.

The Gift of Exhaling

I have been holding my breath since I was 12.  For those of you in the studio audience who are counting, that's 31 years.  Three decades.  And [read with sarcastic tone] thanks for counting in the first place.

Whether you're counting or not, it's a helluva long time to wait to exhale.

One day when I was 12, my mom asked me to grab something out of her dresser drawer.  There, I found a picture: the smiling faces of three of my siblings as children–ages ranging from about 12 down to about four.  But there was a fourth child in the picture–a beautiful little girl about age 10.  She was smiling like the rest of them.

What struck me, though, was that she looked so much like my siblings.  Like she belonged.  Part of a set.

When I asked my mom about the little girl in the picture, she broke down in tears.  Over the next four hours, I heard a story that my 12 year-old brain could barely wrap itself around.  By the time my mom stopped talking, we were both exhausted.  And all cried out.

The little girl in the picture was my sister.

I won't go into all the details around her departure from my immediate family.  The past deserves to stay in the past.

But she was gone.  Strangely enough, adopted by the brother of my mom's first husband and his wife, which legally made her a cousin to my three other siblings in the picture.  Sometimes God has a wicked sense of humor.

Occasionally, I would hear reports about her from my siblings, who would see her at family gatherings of the "Mom's 1st husband's family" variety.  But I had never met her, never seen another picture.

Late last fall, one of my other sibling's called me and told me that she and my sister had not only been in contact, but had experienced a full-fledged reuniting.  They got each other back.  The four children in the picture were back in the picture again.

Then came the best part of the news: that my sister had expressed a wish for me to be in the picture, too.

The upshot of all this is tomorrow, after 31 years, I get to join my siblings–my sister included–at a family gathering.  Robbye, Zach, and I are going to my sister's cabin to meet her and her husband and all their kids for a day of fun and (apparently) of devouring every type of barbecued meat imaginable.

I am a little nervous, but in a good way.  To think of it brings to mind the final scenes of THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.  The ones where Red is heading across the border to meet Andy Dufresne in Mexico.

"I hope to see my friend," Red says.  "I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams."

I hope, too.  And I am hopeful.

More than anything, I am grateful.  Finally…to exhale.

Happy New Year!

Hey, everyone.  It's been awhile.  Feels like we haven't touched base since last year (I never get tired of that one).

I know we have a lot of catching up to do.  I promise to dish on all comings and goings in short order.  Today, though, I just wanted to say hi and I'm back.

While you're waiting…Over on Facebook, this "25 Random Things About Me" list thing is all the rage.  I got suckered into it, too.  It was kinda fun, and I thought I would share my list here as well.  Enjoy…

1. I had both a pet squirrel named Frosty and a pet crow named Sidney when I was growing up.

2. I grew up on an 80-acre farm nearly three miles from the nearest tar
road and about 13 miles from the nearest town. Most people don't
believe me when I tell them this. They think I grew up in some suburb.

3. I have eaten field mouse fricassee, courtesy of my wildlife management college roommate, Pat.

4. I am a convicted thief. It's a long story.

5. My first name is not William–it's Wilmont. And to the best of my
knowledge, my grandfather, my dad, and I are the only people in the
world who have or had this as our first name. (update! my friend Brett informed me that there is an NFL player with the first name Wilmont.  I am NOT ALONE!)

6. I spent the better part of the first day I met my wife, Robbye,
avoiding her at the harvest party we were both attending because I
thought she was too young for me.

7. I lived in my car for a month when I was 19 because I wanted to experience what it felt like.

8. When Robbye and I got married, I changed my middle name to Austin,
after my great-grandfather that came to the US from Ireland.

9. Although I went through most of my life as "Wilmont James True III",
my birth name was really "Wilmont James True Jr.", the same as my dad.
My dad didn't want me named after him, so my mom named me after my
grandfather when my dad was away at work. As a result, the Social
Security Administration thought my dad and I were the same person for
many years. They still think my grandparents are my parents.

10. I turned down an offer to perform off-Broadway when I was 20 in the
Tim Rice rock opera, BLONDEL. I'd been the title character in the US
premiere, and Tim liked my work. I moved to LA instead to pursue an
offer to attend the screenwriting program at USC, which I never ended
up actually attending.

11. I was a 7th level letterman in choir in high school (my only
letter), and I think I am still in second place for highest number of
letter points achieved in the history of my school (the highest number,
10 more than me, was achieved by my friend Deb Berndt the same year).

12. I was a store manager for Radio Shack in the late 1980s. At the
time, in fact, I was the only part-time salesperson every promoted
directly to store manager. I attribute this distinction more to the
fact that no one wanted to manage the store as opposed to my mad sales
skills.

13. I have been general manager for two small retail chains: one for pet supplies and the other for Black Hills Gold jewelry.

14. My two high school jobs were working on the City of Isanti
maintenance crew (where I painted all the fire hydrants one summer and
managed the city sewage plant the next) and playing drums in my
parents’ country & western band.

15. I am allergic to horseradish.

16. I begged Robbye to take me to see THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING
PANTS 2. And, hell yes, I cried…just like I did over the first one.
(“Why did Bailey have to die?!?”)

17. I am red-green colorblind. But it’s a rather insidious disorder,
because I can see certain shades of red and green but not others. I
have oft bought a piece of clothing I thought was grey only to find out
later that it’s the crappiest shade of green. No wonder why it was 70%
off.

18. I don’t like the sound of my own voice.

19. Amy Jo Johnson (the Pink Power Ranger, who was briefly considered
for the role of Carly in RUNAWAY) was afraid to meet me in person after
she read the script for RUNAWAY. When we finally did meet, she couldn’t
stop laughing because it turns out I was “just a suburban soccer-dad
type.” She is, btw, the only celebrity I’ve met that truly excited my
kids.

20. I unexpectedly aced the ACT (35 out of 36), getting a perfect score
on (of all things) the math section. The Physics and Math departments
at my college both offered me scholarships to study in their fields.
But I was a theatre major.

21. I finished the Twin Cities Marathon in 4 hours and 10 seconds. I
would have made my goal to finish in less than 4 hours, but in a moment
of K-2 proportions, I ran 50 yards back to retrieve my running partner,
who had stopped running.

22. I am known for coming up with horrible titles for my own works
(e.g., RUNAWAY was MICHAEL’S LETTERS, INCARNATION was THE ANGEL ON THE
HORSE).

23. The only fan letter I have ever written was to Elvis Costello (via his website). And I was thrilled when he answered it!

24. I only recently realized I love sauerkraut, thanks to my wife, and that my favorite sandwich is a Rueben.

25. I almost died at age 17 from chickenpox, as they threatened to grow
on my central nervous system. I missed nearly six weeks of school
because of it and had to finish my junior year at the same time as I
was starting my senior year of high school.