Spring Books and Movies and a New Summer Course

Enrollment in my writing course for adults doubled this semester, so I’ve been invited to teach a summer course. The weekly Thursday night class in general writing begins in June and runs through mid-July. I also teach a summer course on social media.

I will add summer registration links. In the meantime, both courses this spring have been enhanced to include new readings, demonstrations and material. In the writing course, I’ve incorporated study of writings by Rudyard Kipling, Shirley Jackson, William Ernest Henley, Ray Bradbury and O. Henry. Students read their work aloud in class this week and next week’s class features a lesson on resources, including books about writing based on lectures by my favorite writer, Ayn Rand, who wrote bestselling fiction and non-fiction for stage, screen, print, broadcasting and literature. Rand additionally wrote for journals, newspapers and for certain editions of books by Leonard Peikoff and Victor Hugo.

BurbankAdultSchoolAyn Rand’s lectures on writing were adapted for two outstanding volumes, The Art of Fiction and The Art of Non-Fiction. For motivation, I suggest reading screenwriter Brian Koppelman’s 202 Practical Writing Tips, which are excellent. Proper writing practices are also addressed in All About Social Media, which offers an essential guide to creating, using and maximizing Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (contact me if you have any questions). These general courses are for personal enrichment and students represent a range of personal and professional interests. This semester includes the usual mixture of musicians, actors, writers and entrepreneurs and also an engineer, an attorney, a chiropractor and a studio executive, so the environment is relaxed, studious and inclusive. Classrooms have free wifi and courses include my visual presentations. The campus is located near Bob Hope Airport.

This spring’s Festival of Books at University of Southern California’s campus is on my agenda this week and, later this month, I plan to attend an event in Santa Monica featuring Objectivist co-author Don Watkins on his new book. I’m reading a novel by the late John O’Hara that Robert Benton recommended to me and I look forward to reading a new book by Georgetown University scholar Randy Barnett on the Constitution (for HarperCollins with a foreword by George Will). I finished filmmaker Mike Binder‘s exciting first novel, a political thriller set in London (for Macmillan’s Henry Holt and Company). I plan to post a review.

Besides my contract work, I’m entering stories in competitions and studying, developing and exploring new projects, which takes time. I plan to return to Turner Classic Movies’ Classic Film Festival in Hollywood this month for new insights and interviews on motion pictures. I’ve recently enjoyed several movies with good scripts—Zootopia‘s the best film in theaters and I recommend the new movie about Hank Williams, I Saw the Light, Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition (expanding soon) and The Weinstein Company’s wonderful musically-themed 80s film Sing Street, opening soon—and I look forward to the new Jungle Book picture by Jon Favreau based on Kipling’s tales. A sneak preview I saw at Disneyland last week looks terrific.

2016 Communication Courses

2016 Communication Courses

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Click to Register

Early next year, I plan to offer my media courses again. I finished teaching my first writing course this month and repeated the social media course, too. Both are scheduled to return in February 2016.

Registration starts this week. Enroll in my 10-week Writing Boot Camp here. Register for my 10-week All About Social Media course here. Both courses take place on a campus north of Los Angeles.

Students in the writing course learn how to prepare for writing as an exercise, how to build, write and edit the piece, and how to write with the audience, context and format in mind. Each student will have an opportunity to have his writing evaluated. The 10-session series for general adult education includes a final writing assignment.

This fall, the class, which consisted of those writing for Hollywood, blogs, reports for work and fiction, read or studied literary works by Hans Christian Andersen and O. Henry among others when we weren’t reading and studying student writings, outlines and themes. I refer prospective students to this much-appreciated endorsement from a producer who enrolled in both one of my courses and several of my workshops:

Scott Holleran is the best instructor in his field in the Southland. He is also incredibly talented as a writer and blogger. He has one of the sharpest minds I have encountered anywhere. He is brilliant and creative and very skilled in all facets of communications, journalism and adult education. His instruction has had a tremendously positive impact on my life.”

Writing Boot Camp’s outline is: the pre-writing phase; choosing format, topic and theme; writing within the genre; making lists, doing research and creating the outline; the writing phase; checking one’s work and the editing phase.

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Click to Register

My social media course covers proper social media management, including instruction in creating campaigns. This features a full examination of one’s brand, goals, context, contacts and connections, and is rooted in my premise that being social is a natural part of being human and that success must be measured by what one gains from the experience. Accordingly, students learn all major social media, including through live demonstration and step by step instruction and analysis, based on my thesis.

All About Social Media’s outline is: basic orientation; conducting introspection; Facebook; Twitter and LinkedIn; visually-driven media, such as YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest; differentiating from other media; pitfalls and live class demonstration. A final presentation by each student is also part of the course.

Registration for both courses is now open (if seats are available), so register online (All About Social Media and Writing Boot Camp) or, after January 4, feel free to call (818) 558-4611 to enroll over the phone. Please note that these courses are not yet available for online attendance.

Burbank Public Library

Burbank Public Library

I also gave a blogging workshop this month sponsored by the Burbank Public Library, which was standing room only. The 90-minute class in downtown Burbank was packed with bloggers, artists, entrepreneurs and published authors and screenwriters and the program director was kind enough to add more seating, so I hope that everyone gained value from the lesson. I appreciate the greeting assistance from my former students Jeff and Rayne and I enjoyed meeting everyone. If I missed answering your question or you thought of a question afterwards, feel free to contact me.

Private individual and group instruction is also available if you’re not able to attend class in Southern California. Contact me for details.

Civil War Stories

Civil War Stories

Photo by Matthew Brady, National Archives

Photo by Matthew Brady, National Archives

Part of this year’s American Civil War exhibit, “Empire & Liberty: Civil War and the West”, at the Autry National Center of the American West includes an occasional academic affair and I recently attended such a panel discussion, titled “Invisible Injuries: Civil War Veterans and the Legacies of Violence.” The event was informative and sobering.

Two scholars, Dora Costa, a UCLA professor of economics and author of Heroes and Cowards: The Social Face of War and Roxane Cohen, a University of California, Irvine psychology and social behavior professor, and moderator William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, examined several aspects of recent studies about Civil War soldiers, including certain demographic and relational breakdowns, injuries and deaths.

They addressed their research into war-related trauma among Civil War veterans and their communities and the long-term psychological consequences of the war. Among their findings, which readers can explore here, are that 19 percent of enlisted soldiers in the study were between the ages of nine and 17 years old. I had known from my education and studies with John David Lewis that those who fought in the war were especially young. I had not known, however, that 95 percent of those enlisted were volunteers, more than any other war since the American Revolution. The presentation gave me a sense of life the United States at the time of the Civil War while demonstrating that the long-term effects of war on communities, states, countries and the culture are serious, devastating and transformative, if realized decades later.

Their resarch shows that unit cohesion, such as how many in the company were related by blood, similar age, community, ethnicity, etc. and/or how closely soldiers related to one another as friends and comrades, enhanced a soldier’s ability to heal and survive. Another positive impact apparently came from strong social network support, such as moral support through picnics and parades, which had measurable improvement on mens’ ability to survive and sustain injury after the war. Even celebrations around Christmastime and Thanksgiving correlate to mens’ higher survival rates and longer lives. Scholars also explained that companies were constructed differently; the Union companies were kept largely intact, while the Confederacy constantly replenished its company troops on the idea that new recruits would motivate the men to learn to fight.

Additionally, Costa attributes the rise of trench warfare to the huge proliferation following the Napoleonic Wars of small arms. When I asked her about survivability rates among abolitionists that enlisted—survivability rates were highest among deserters and free black men in the Union Army who were not assigned to fight in battle as often—Costa said they died in greater numbers because abolitionists were more motivated to fight to win and end the war to abolish slavery, which the Civil War did, in fact, accomplish. This was a fascinating program, part of the Autry’s “Empire & Liberty: Civil War and the West”, which I plan to review in a future post.

What’s New

New to the archives are my 2006 interview with actor Sam Elliott (Grandma) about his role in a TV movie and other work (read the Sam Elliott interview here) and my 2011 interview with Robert Osborne about Liza Minnelli (New York, New York), who spoke about her movies and late parents, director Vincente Minnelli (Meet Me in St. Louis) and Judy Garland (A Star is Born). Read the interview about Liza here.

Sympathy_vote_FINAL_1007I’ve added a 2013 newspaper article about an unsolved murder in Illinois that happened 49 years ago today. The 21-year-old victim was the twin daughter of a wealthy CEO running for the United States Senate and her name was Valerie Percy. She was stabbed and bludgeoned to death in her bedroom while the family, except her stepmother, who awakened during the crime and became an eyewitness, slept in their lakefront home. The homicide remains unsolved, though the author of a book (pictured) names a prime suspect. Read Murder in Kenilworth here.

I also want to add my interview with an author of a book about Iran’s 1979 attack on America because the Iran deal is unfortunately imminent. I’m enthusiastic about my recent interview with Bob Hope‘s biographer. Besides articles, speculative writing and work for others, plans are underway to make more interviews, including several unpublished transcripts, available.

In the meantime, this summer’s writing workshop at the local library was a success, so I’ve been asked to teach a class on blogging, which I plan to do later this year. I am making a new low-cost webinar series this fall for which I plan to include a media booklet to help entrepreneurs, businesses and artists create, relate and distribute what they make and do. It’s in progress, so please stand by, as I know some readers outside of LA have asked about attending classes online or via streaming. I hope to post more information soon.

Hurry to register for next week’s 10-week courses here in suburban Los Angeles: an all-new Writing Boot Camp (register here), which explores writing habits and methodology and includes a checklist. Writing Boot Camp is fun, lively and streamlined (click/touch here to register). Registration is also open for All About Social Media for maximizing Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (register here). Contact me about private sessions.

Look for new book, product, home video and, of course, movie reviews. I have to admit that I am excited about the new season of Fox’s Empire (read my review of the first season here), which is purely an indulgence in escapism.

Writing Resources

Writing Resources

BPLCentralSmalljpgIn anticipation of (and for after) tonight’s free storytelling workshop at Burbank Public Library (go here) on how to make yourself the hero of any new writing project, here are three writing resources.

Leaving aside books and manuals for style, grammar and the mechanics of writing, the best recent books for a general writer are based on lectures by my favorite writer, Ayn Rand, who wrote bestselling fiction and non-fiction for stage, screen, print, broadcasting and literature. Her writing lectures were adapted as two concise volumes, The Art of Fiction and The Art of Non-Fiction, which are available at relatively low cost (click titles to buy). The lectures, which I’ve studied, and these two books have influenced and improved my writing. I recommend them without reservation for the serious adult writer, though I think the advanced writer and the intellectual writer will gain the most value. They contain rare, great insights and indispensable tips, tools and comparative excerpts from literature. I’ve returned many times to these two books, which I find extremely useful for the smallest details and for addressing and solving the most serious writing problems. What I like best about these works is that Rand emphasizes writing she likes and why she likes it, as against only breaking down what’s wrong with most modern writing. When I began to write movie reviews on assignment, I returned to her brief comments on writing book reviews for the general reader and applied the ideas.

For day to day motivation and encouragement, I also suggest reading screenwriter Brian Koppelman’s 202 Practical Writing Tips, the majority of which I think are legitimate and/or valid, some positively brilliant.

I plan to go into more detail about writing resources, including daily rituals and the writing habits and history of the world’s best writers, in my new writing course this fall. Registration for my all-new Writing Boot Camp in suburban Los Angeles opened this week. The 10-week course covers general writing, essential principles and a checklist for perfect writing with emphasis on setting the proper pre-conditions, choosing a format, topic and theme, getting and staying motivated, best practices and good resources. Writing Boot Camp will be fun, lively and streamlined for beginning, intermediate and advanced adults. Each student will have an opportunity to have his writing evaluated. Space is limited, so register soon if you want to attend (click/touch here to register).

Registration is also open for All About Social Media, which offers an essential guide to creating, using and maximizing Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Contact me to let me know if you have any questions about the courses. I’m heading to the library for tonight’s workshop in the meantime.

Writing Resources

Booting Up My New Material

Registration for my all-new Writing Boot Camp in suburban Los Angeles opens today (register here). The 10-week course covers all general writing formats, from business writing and blogging, social media and e-mail to fiction or non-fiction in script, manuscript or memoir.

I plan to explain essential principles and furnish a checklist for perfect writing. Particular emphasis on proper pre-conditions and writing guidelines includes:

  • Selecting format, topic and theme
  • Motivational and relaxation techniques
  • Writing, editing and clarifying
  • Best practices
  • Good resources

Writing Boot Camp will be fun, lively and streamlined for beginning, intermediate and advanced adults. Each student will have an opportunity to have his writing evaluated. Space is limited, so register soon if you want to attend (click/touch here to register today). Registration is also open for All About Social Media, which offers an essential guide to creating, using and maximizing Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (register for the social media course here).

Private instruction is also available. Contact me for details if you’re interested.

BPLCentralSmalljpgOtherwise, I’m offering my August 6 writing workshop, sponsored by Burbank Public Library (for details, read here), at no charge. It’s free. The evening class examines storytelling and how to make yourself the hero of any new writing project. Speaking of heroes, my op-ed defending the legendary Bob Hope and Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport appears in the Los Angeles Times-owned Burbank Leader (read the article here). In case you missed it, I argue that Bob Hope’s self-made status suits both the city’s and airport’s history.
The self-made man and the history of a place also inform my summer series for Chicagoland newspapers. Towns north of Chicago are the scene for the world’s first Girl Scout cookie, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only bridge ever built, invention of Christmas lights, visits from Teddy Roosevelt, even America’s first recorded serial killer. The articles are part of a new collection of North Shore stories. Sort and read by article index here. Keep checking the link because there are more to come.
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