Ach, Meine Liebster!

Blog awards are for newer bloggers looking to be discovered. I don’t really qualify anymore (I passed the 5,000 Followers mark yesterday!). But a couple of years back, I was delighted to have this chance to introduce myself:

Mitch Teemley

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What’s a Liebster? Ach, I thought you’d never ask! The word is German for “lover” but, in this case, means finding new blogs to love. Liebster is also big on the number 11, proving it’s better than all other awards (because “it goes to 11”).

11 Facts About Me

  1. My name is Mitch, which, according to one source, means “little loaf of bread.”
  2. I have some German ancestry, but only pretend to know the language.
  3. I used to go by the nickname “Og,” labelling my first apartment Og Hollow, until a Swedish guy asked me why I’d named it “Eye Socket” (I don’t know Swedish either).
  4. I have a gorgeous and wonderful wife I don’t deserve (she frequently reminds me).
  5. I have two brilliant, wildly creative, adorable young adult daughters (phone numbers withheld).
  6. My childhood paper route remains the longest job I’ve ever had.
  7. I’ve made a living as: a paper boy (see…

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Tips for Writers: Write What You Know?

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A successful writer friend once went tiradical on me when I mentioned the literary admonition, “Write what you know.”

“I hate that!” she shouted.

“Why?”

“It restricts you! What if you want to write about something you’ve never experienced?”

Interestingly, that very week I’d invented a two-storey tall talking bird named Aviar for my fantasy novel The Wishing Map. I confess, I have never personally known any two-storey tall talking birds. But I did know my father-in-law, an irascibly lovable, salt-of-the-earth Arkansan. And he was the model for Aviar. When my wife read the passage, she said, “Oh, yeah, that’s Dad.”

What my normally insightful writer friend seemed to have missed was this: “Write what you know” doesn’t mean “restrict yourself to direct experience.” It means: write the underlying truths you’ve observed about people, their quirks, motives, fears, hopes. You can invent the window dressing (giant talking bird, Viking warrior, alien overlord), but base what shows through that window on your personal experiences. This includes milieu: Have you ever felt awkward at a social event? Use that to describe your beggar hero’s feelings in the court of Kublai Khan.

And don’t forget nuances: Purely invented characters are never as nuanced and quirky as real people—so steal and adapt! Use real people as sources for your characters’ vocabularies and syntax, habits and mannerisms.

Also, even when you base your major characters upon people you know (a good thing), inject a little of yourself into them. It will make them real. Because you are the realest person you know. And your personal investment in your characters (yes, even the evil ones) is what breathes life into them.

An acting teacher named Richard Boleslavsky once had a terrified actress come to him for help. She’d been cast in the role of a cold-blooded murderer, and felt there was no way she could bring the character to life. So Boleslavsky asked her if she’d ever been kept awake on a sweltering summer night by blood-hunting mosquitoes.

“Oh, yes!” she replied.

“Good. And what did you do about it?”

She went on to describe how she’d cold-bloodedly plotted each mosquito’s demise. And then it clicked.

Her performance in the play, Boleslavsky reports, was chillingly perfect.

So write what your mind knows. And what your heart knows.

And invent the rest.

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Billy Graham Dead? Don’t Believe It!

“The people’s pastor,” Billy Graham is dead. Or is he? He ranked decade after decade as one of the most admired people on the planet, and yet he was the first to admit his flaws. And that, perhaps, was the key to his strength: he was us. Unlike other admired leaders, the Dalai Lama, the Pope, Billy Graham seemed to represent all of us:

  • He prayed at the National Cathedral for the victims of 9/11, and in New Orleans for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
  • In the American south he refused to “preach Jim Crow,” insisting on speaking to all of God’s people. In my own adopted city of Cincinnati, he brought black and white people together in large numbers for the first time after the riots of 2001. Black and white leaders still speak of the changes that began that day.
  • He counselled world leaders, not politically but personally—trying for political influence at one point, then abandoning it and asking God’s forgiveness. He spoke of that same forgiveness at Nixon’s funeral. He convinced President George W. Bush to renew his faith and quit drinking. President Bill Clinton said, “When he prays with you, you feel like he is praying for you, not the president.” He was the only preacher the contentious president of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, was willing to listen to.

Real humility can’t be faked. It comes from knowing who you are, and who your Creator is. Billy returned again and again to the message of John 3:16, a message displayed so frequently that we forget how cosmically important it is: We were created for a love relationship with God, but have turned away from that purpose, bringing death (alienation from Him) upon ourselves. And so He has reached out to do what we could not–restore us to eternal life with Him and one another (in the original language “eternal” refers not only to infinite time but infinite quality of life).

The Apostle Paul said that if the message Jesus’s followers embrace is false, then they are to be pitied (I Corinthians 15:9). But if it’s true, it’s everything: “The only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).

Billy Graham never forgot that. 

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

~Billy Graham

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The Wishing Map 104

There is nothing we fear and desire in such equal measure as the unknown.

Mitch Teemley

Wishing pix-Title-(framed)

Note: To read The Wishing Map from the beginning, click here.

The Wishing Map

Chapter Twenty-One: “Hey-fah for the Sea!” (Continued)

Previously: Gina’s sword kept tugging her toward the water in search of the Questing Beast. So the fisher folk agreed to take her and her brother to sea.

⇔ ⇔ ⇔

The Dores had seenMaerith and Shelcor’s sloop from a distance, but never up close. Now, as they boarded, they saw that it had no quarters for sleeping, presumably because it was only taken out during the day. It was remarkably graceful with its up-swept bow, raked mainmast, and submerged seal-tail stern; it seemed almost as if it were made of sea and sky.

“OK! We’re going!” Gina shouted at her sword. “Gimme a break!”

Shelcor smiled. “I’ll secure that sword for yer.”

“Trust me, it’s not going anywhere without me.”

“Yer cannot be too certain.

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A Filmmaker’s Journal

Green Means Go!

Concept art for in-the-works monster movie parody.

I jumped the gun last year and announced that I was about to sew up a deal to write and direct a new feature film. Well, it took half a year…

but the deal is finally sealed!

I’ve been greenlighted (Hollywood talk for “the money is in the bank”) to finish writing the screenplay and start location-scouting for an over-the-top indie spoof of 1950s/60s monster movies!

I’ll post updates as things develop!

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Call Me Forrest

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My daughter calls me Forrest Gump. She has this theory that I’ve not only met most of the world’s famous people, but that I (accidentally) caused most of the major events of the 20th century. Silly, I know. All I can say is, “Daughters are like a box of chocolates…” 

I did once meet a motherlode of celebrities in a single night, however.

As a young actor trying to drum up a career, I’d launched a street theatre group called The Right Pithee Players. We performed at a few Renaissance festivals, but weren’t setting the medieval (or modern) world ablaze. Until one day…

We got a call from Walt Disney Studios. They were planning their 50th anniversary celebration and had chosen a Renaissance theme. The back lot would be inundated with maypoles, minstrels and mead. Someone at Disney had seen me do my Right Pithee Players character, a boastful bard named Peter Pratfall, and decided he would be the perfect host. So “he” was hired to emcee, as well as mingle and amuse with the Pithees. I quickly re-wrote the script in my schticky style, and was in the performers’ tent getting ready, when I ran into…

Mickey Mouse! Who was, in fact, a cigar chomping four-foot-tall guy with a gravelly Brooklyn accent (you can’t make this stuff up). It was his first night back on the job after a two month suspension. It seems he’d been “leading” a marching band and stopping to shake hands. And each time he did, the real drum major would march on, forcing him to run to catch-up. Mickey had had enough. So he raced up to the drum major and—in front of roughly 10,000 fans—kicked him where the sun don’t shine.

During my emceeing, I began to name some of the celebrities present (Julie Andrews, Robert Redford, Carol Burnett, the Mickeys: Rooney and Mouse), and boasted that I could do a spot-on Cary Grant impression.

Later, as I mingled, a little girl sitting on her father’s lap asked me to talk like Cary Grant. So I did. She giggled. And then her father, whom I hadn’t looked up at until then, remarked, “Say, you do me pretty well.” We traded Cary Grant impressions until Mr. Grant finally conceded that mine was superior, and promised to do it my way from then on.

Call me Forrest.

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I am with You Always

Be Strong

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