Once Upon A Goat

We frequent a coffee shop that uses a goat emblem. I always call it goat coffee. In honor of my students from this week and my Dad, I’m going to write a short story for you every time I end up at the goat coffee place.

I’ll try, anyway.


North Wall Vines


Brighton nestled deeper into the prickly vines. Thorns and sticks scratched her face and hands. Gloves. Next time she would remember her rough gloves.

Right. Next time she had to randomly jump into the vines on the North wall to avoid The Boys she would definitely remember gloves. Maybe carrying gloves should’ve been her go-to action all along, since avoiding groups of people seemed to be her lot in life.

“Come on,” Samuel called out. “She doesn’t want to talk to us.”

Brighton listened to the six retreating footsteps. There should really be seven, Brighton observed. Someone was hiding. Probably Marius. He was always working harder than the others for her affections.

Give up now, she thought, while you still have half a day left to explore the world.


Brighton’s breath caught in her throat. She bit her lip to keep her mouth closed. Don’t cough, don’t cough.

The cough broke free, throwing her head forward into thorns, her hands back against the rock wall to steady her. Coughing and coughing and more coughing. Air seemed in very short supply suddenly.

Hands reached through the vines, parting them like curtains. The hands gently settled on Brighton’s shoulders and pulled her out of the green chaos into the golden hour of twilight. She couldn’t think but coughing, her body shaking, her eyes closed. A flask of water pressed to her lips. She gulped.

Heat surrounded her. She sighed. She opened her eyes to The Boys. All smiles. All aglow. All offering shy pats of encouragement and care, all ready with another flask of water, all focused on her comfort.

She took a deep, free breath. Closed her eyes.

They only want your good, she told herself. And that’s the problem, isn’t it?

“Are you alright?” Samuel asked, the chosen leader. He stood beside Marius, whose hand was still softly gripping Brighton’s shoulder. Samuel might be the speaking leader of The Boys, but Marius was definitely the bravest when it came to winning Brighton’s affections.

Brighton sighed again. She offered a smile. Smiles in return. The group relaxed again, happy to be released from any guilt. They only wanted her attention and her comfort, after all.

The slimmest boy, Peregrin, stepped forward to offer a handkerchief for Brighton’s bleeding face. The thorns had caught her harshly and left an angry stain of red across her cheeks. It isn’t queen-like, she thought, to hide from my own subjects. Especially when they simply want my company. Selfish.

“Samuel,” Brighton said. “Must you always follow me?”

He grinned.

“Only when you lead us on such good adventures.”

Brighton had to smile at this. The rest of her life would be leading them on adventures, as dictated by her tribal leaders. Queen. Warrior. Adventurer.

And yet.

“Well, let’s be off,” she said, knowing that every boy would follow her. Knowing that every single one of them longed to be chosen. Knowing that no matter who she chose, she would have their loyalty until her last breath. Knowing that no matter how many vines she hid behind, none could stop the future of a Wandering Queen, even if that queen was only thirteen years old.

She accepted the offered handkerchief for her face and strode away from the wall, Her Boys falling into step behind and around her.



A Special Report From A Reader Near You: The Queens of Literacy

Here’s a new thing I’m starting.  Rants.  On things I find randomly on Pinterest.

So.  I guess it has come to the attention of the Internet that there is little to no swearing in the Hunger Games trilogy.  Apparently this bothers people.  I guess that’s because in current American culture a huge group of people believe that the only appropriate, human response to pain and suffering is swearing.

I’ll give them this:

1.  A lot of people swear.

2.  A lot of stuff is hard to express in any other way than swearing, especially in a short amount of time.


1.  Not everyone swears.

2.  Katniss is a woman of few words.

3.  Panem ISN’T modern America.  And believe it or not, not every culture swears.

4.  Suzanne Collins obviously likes to express character reactions in words other than “swearing.”

End of first rant.

Potter fans, please realize that I have a deep respect for J.K. Rowling, her stories, and her accomplishments.

Let’s talk about this idea of a “best seller” first.  What, dear people of the Internet, is a best seller?  Is it a book that sells so well that the author is commissioned to write sequels?  One that is so beloved and bought that movies are made from every single book in the series, and those movies go on to become giant blockbusters?  Or is a best-seller a book that lasts for decades and makes an impact not only on the readers, but on the market and storytelling in general?

The Hunger Games, the Harry Potter books and the Twilight series did and are doing ALL these things.  They are ALL best sellers, in every way.

Why is it ok to belittle a successful author?  Why is it acceptable to hate a person who worked just as hard to create a world, a story and a series as another author?  Why is that same author’s work derided when she ends her books happily?  And, if the Potter books are about friendship, loyalty, sacrifice and true love, why don’t the readers practice these things?

Let me tell you the beauty of the Twilight story, from someone who watched the movies.

Twilight is about a normal girl, someone who has nothing going for her except a pretty good dad.  Somehow this girl, who isn’t even very pretty, has no talents to make her noticed, isn’t incredibly smart and doesn’t have any experience with real life, catches the attention of a man who is far older, wiser, smarter, prettier and more accomplished than she is.  Instead of running from him in fear, she faces the one person she should never have attracted and begins the greatest con I’ve ever watched.  She keeps him interested in her until (epic spoilers) he is forced to turn her into an immortal, powerful, beautiful, alluring creature with little equal in the world of humans.  She is suddenly everything she wasn’t–accepted, accomplished, pretty and with purpose.  If you listened closely to the last movie, Bella says, “I suddenly knew what I was supposed to be all along.”  And you realize….

Twilight wasn’t telling a love story at all.  Twilight was and is a story about an ordinary person who fought her way into extraordinary.

Now let’s talk about Mr. Potter, the king of the nerd reader world.  Harry begins life as an extraordinary person.  He is hailed as the defeater of the most powerful wizard ever.  He is taken to a school for wizardry and every semester he uses his extraordinary skills as a friend, a wizard and a warrior to fight evil.  He always prevails.  Has he suffered much?  Yes.  Has he lost much?  Yes.  But in the end the story of Harry Potter is about an extraordinary boy who did extraordinary things in the face of terrible opposition.

We are not wizards, those of us who love the Potter books.  Most of us are horribly ordinary people.  And yet we scoff at the Twilight books and hail the Potter books.

Both J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer gave us gifts.  They told wildly different stories, but they showed us the same thing: people can achieve extraordinary things, no matter the opposition.  Both of them shouldn’t have become millionaires, the odds were stacked against them.  But they worked hard and took the literary world by storm.

Even if you don’t like the Twilight books, or maybe you’re one of those Potter haters (you better not post on the Internet–I think it will instantly kill you), have a little respect for a person who prevailed in spite of the odds.  Maybe you hated their work, but that’s all it is in the end–their work.  No need to attack the person.


“By the 1990s script development in Hollywood climbed to over $500 million per annum, three quarters of which is paid to writers for options and rewrites on films that will never be made.  Despite a half-billion dollars and the exhaustive efforts of development personnel, Hollywood cannot find better material than it produces.  The hard-to-believe truth is that what we see on the screen each year is a reasonable reflection of the best writing of the last few years.

Many screenwriters, however, cannot face this downtown fact and live in the exurbs of illusion, convinced that Hollywood is blind to their talent.  With rare exceptions, unrecognized genius is a myth.  First-rate screenplays are at least optioned if not made.  For writers who can tell a quality story, it’s a seller’s market–always has been, always will be.  Hollywood has a secure international business for hundreds of films each year, and they will be made.  Most will open, run a few weeks, close, and be mercifully forgotten.”

~Robert McKee, Story

My DP friend has forcibly loaned me his copy of Story.  I have a lot of trouble reading non-fiction, which is why I didn’t read it in film school when my teacher repeatedly recommended it.

Well I’m reading it.


And I take great comfort in the above passage.  To some people this may sound depressing–a lot of my friends have little respect for most of the movies coming out of Hollywood.  If this lot is the top-of-the-line, what hope do we have for future films?

That’s where my own self-conceitedness takes flight.  I know I can write better or at least as good as those films.  I was taught screenwriting by an expert.  Mentored by genius writers and storytellers.  Critiqued by friends and family and you, whoever you are.

But mostly, I really, really, really want to make films.  That will be seen.  And you can’t stop someone when they really want something.

Hollywood taught me that.