Writing As A Second Career: There Is No Expiration Date On One’s Dream

WRITING AS A SECOND CAREER: THERE IS NO EXPIRATION DATE ON ONE’S DREAM

Beverly Gandara’s Biography:

A New York native, Bev attended Brooklyn College and Marymount Manhattan College before beginning her screenwriting studies at the Gotham Writers Workshop. She currently resides in the southeast with her husband, Armand whose experiences inspired Concrete Wings.

Before the advent of the Internet, faced with early retirement from a career that spanned decades as an assistant to some of Manhattan’s prominent executives in the profit and non-profit sector, I searched for a way to keep occupied and stimulated. Cleaning out drawers seemed like a valuable enterprise.

Have You Checked Your Drawers Lately?

Hiding in my desk drawer was a treasure trove of story outlines along with scribbled notes on unusual behaviors I witnessed, entertaining quips I heard, and memorable quotes, eagerly waiting to be fashioned into readable formats. I wrote poetry as a child, but my adult writing consisted of procedural manuals, progress reports, and carefully crafted correspondence.

Clearly, I had tales to tell but had no idea how to begin until I retrieved a brochure from a charismatic young man introducing screenwriting classes to passersby on a busy Manhattan street. The seed was planted.

I attended the classes, bought my first textbook Standard Script Formats Part I (Screenplay), by Cole Haag, and began writing screenplays. I thoroughly enjoyed storytelling through scene-setting, character description, and crisp dialogue. My goal was to finish a script.

With support from my husband, I wrote a coming-of-age-story inspired by his experience as a naïve teen sent out of Cuba on the eve of the Bay of Pigs Invasion to retrieve smuggled family jewels and help settle his parents in America. The adventure took him from Havana to Madrid to New York and freedom. After several re-writes, I accomplished my goal, finalized the script titled Concrete Wings, and shared it with select friends and family. Some were kind, others genuinely excited for me, and then there were those with stifled giggles and raised eyebrows. I secured it in my desk drawer after registering it with the proper authorities.

  1. U.S. Copyright Office https://www.copyright.gov
  2. The Writer’s Guild of America East https://wgaeast.org

Studying That Which You Love

I continued to study the art and craft of screenwriting. I read books by the masters, Syd Field, Michael Hague, Robert McKee, and Linda Seger. I attended seminars, read screenplays, www.simplyscripts.com, and watched movies. I worked with coaches and joined local film and writing organizations.

I Found The Following Links Helpful

  • Stage32 www.stage32.com offers extraordinary opportunities for learning the craft of writing.
  • The Gotham Writers Workshop www.writingclasses.com, where I began my screenwriting program, lists a wide range of writing courses, whether it is screenwriting, memoir writing, article writing, and more.
  • The Writer’s Digest www.writersdigest.com offers many courses, including non-fiction, freelance article writing, memoir/life story writing, and screenwriting.
Network, Network, Network!

Advice from one of the many books about the art and craft of screenwriting dealt with what happened once a project was completed. The suggestion was to ask everyone they knew if they had contact with anyone in the movie business. I discovered a friend of a relative’s friend had a son who went to school with a boy whose aunt worked in a movie studio. Bingo! I called her and, at her suggestion, sent her my first script, Concrete Wings. Unbeknownst to me, she bundled it with a project of her own and submitted it to a major studio. My first thrilling experience was when I received a phone call from her and heard the words, “Congratulations, you made it through door number one.” I had no idea how many doors there were to get through nor what that meant except that it was a good thing.

Several weeks later, she called and said: “Congratulations, your project made it through door number two, mine did not.” That’s when I found out about the bundle. As she was my only contact, I relied on her for information, and while she was disappointed about her project, she seemed happy for me and assured me we were now like family. I was excited and devoted, now that we were family. She was set to receive a finder’s fee had my script been produced. Sadly, it never made it through any further doors. The family disintegrated, and the contact ceased to exist. No money, no love. She closed the door. I realized then that every creative endeavor is, after all, a business. If one wants their work to be seen, heard, or read, one must sell not only their talent but themselves. As the Internet grew, my networking increased, and I met the loveliest creatives in all phases of moviemaking, some with whom I’ve established long-term relationships. Mostly everyone I met was in a similar situation, talented creatives with grand dreams, hungry for any morsel of positive reinforcement.

Never Give Up On Your Dream:

I read an interesting article written by a young woman whose first screenplay gained notice and prominence until she was asked, “What else do you have?” Having no other work to offer, her success was short-lived. Lesson learned.

It was time to write another screenplay. I shared an idea I had with my girlfriend and her husband, both actors, about a young, disabled woman stalked by a dangerous retiree with a hidden criminal past. Jack Knight and I co-wrote Unprotected Witness. We had a reading at a small theater to raise funds. While it generated some interest, it was not enough to bring it to the screen, so I placed it in my desk drawer.

By the time I tackled my next screenplay, co-written with a man bursting to tell his compelling story, the Internet was in full bloom; networking was easier. My new partner’s one goal was to win an Oscar. Failing that, he quickly lost interest in the entire process. After two years of invested time and energy, he decided the story was too personal and no longer wanted it out in public. Sadly, I added it to my desk drawer.

I found a scribbled quote: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill.

Moving Forward:

Enjoying the writing process, I wrote two more screenplays on my own. Two producers suggested I turn Concrete Wings, my first screenplay, into a novel that would make it easier to sell to Hollywood. I let that seed germinate.

After several years, I was confident enough to bring my work out of the drawer and entered a few well-known contests. My screenplays were placed as semifinalists and finalists. I did not realize those were considered accomplishments; I only knew I didn’t win. I returned my work to my desk drawer.

Up until that point, I had written dramas and drama thrillers, so I wrote a comedy. Rent Money, about an independent virgin bookkeeper working for two sexually active men in the Radio and TV Barter business in Manhattan in 1965.

It was the easiest screenplay I wrote, and I laughed through the entire process. I entered it into several contests; it placed in five, and it won in the sixth. I earned the Golden Palm Award at the 2012 Beverly Hills International Film Festival for Best Screenplay. There I was, giving a speech at a black-tie, red carpet event, my moment!

Doors Open And Close; Shall We Leave Them In A Jar?

Doors began to open. There were agents, attorneys, producers, and a deal. My goal expanded to the possibility of seeing my work on screen. Cast and crew were brought together, and I eagerly skipped through the development process. Unfortunately, the powers that be did not proceed with the project. While disappointed, I am grateful for the experience. My desk drawer was filling up.

I had up until that point believed that one should never shut any doors but leave them in a jar. Those were the lessons I learned working in Manhattan. No entries were ever closed. Either a deal was done, or it wasn’t – hands were shaken, well wishes were sent, and if the deal could not be consummated, the message was always “maybe next time.” So, it was natural for me to approach my writing career, doors in a jar.

I continued to network and building relationships with colleagues who come and go. Some have over-promised and under-delivered, but no doors are shut. I work with writers/directors on their projects, so I stay busy and happy. My screenplays don’t age; I do.

Be Proud Of What You Have Accomplished Thus Far

Remember the two producers who suggested I convert my first script to a novel? Well, they are no longer in the business, but I removed the screenplay from my desk drawer and accepted that challenge. Writing a book is vastly different than writing a script, but I completed it quickly, and Concrete Wings; A Tale of Tyranny and Freedom the novel earned:

  • 2017 Literary Classic’s Seal of Approval with a recommendation for school and home libraries
  • 2017 The Readers’ Favorite Five Star Seal
  • 2018 Florida Book Festival’s Honorable Mention
  • 2017 New York Book Festival’s Honorable Mention

My second novel, Soaring in Silence; One Woman’s Triumph Over Fear earned:

  • 2019 The Readers’ Favorite Five Star Seal

My third book, Women, Work and Triumph; Interviews with Fascinating Women earned:

  • 2020 The Readers’ Favorite Five Star Seal

I am proud of what I have accomplished as a screenwriter and author, beginning my writing career after retirement.

Learning Is An On-Going Process:

I am currently entrenched in marketing my books. Every day I am challenged and, therefore, learn new skills. I created a website through www.godaddy.com, an author Facebook page, a Twitter account, and fun. My books are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine stores where books are sold. They are in libraries and our local art museum. I speak at book clubs and small groups and have done book signings and radio and written interviews. I’ve moved my work from my desk drawer to my bookcase shelves.

Of the many lessons I learned from business, those below remain a way of life for me as I continue to write.

  1. Courtesy counts.
  2. Never offend.
  3. Acceptance and respect go a long way.
  4. Follow-up.

I urge anyone with an un-fulfilled dream to never give up. Success is not always measured by what one becomes, but often by what one overcomes.

For more information about Bev, visit:

Website at https://bevgandara.com
Twitter https://twitter.com/@BevGandara
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/authorbeverlygandara
IMDb Pro at www.imdb.me/bevgandara

Also read How I Got a remote writer job while traveling the world

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