Category Archives: Tell Me a Story

I can’t say goodbye to 2017 fast enough

I’m being harsh…psyche. Between the serious PTSD I have from not only moving back to America (post-Brexit) but the now constant post-Weinstein sexual harassment stories floating about. I grew up in production, literally.

I got my first job at 20 years old picking up trash from a tarmac after seeing Biggie step out of a plane with a set of twins. That was the first day I was aware that how I looked was how I kept working. I’m a hard worker and dressed mostly in baggy everything so I wouldn’t have to repel the comments, but none of that saved me. None of us. And we’re below the line. I’ve had directors stare at my boobs through entire meetings, props hug me too tight while asking if this was sexual harassment. I even had an AD on a long running tv show ask me to run so he could see my titties shake. When I didn’t (because I didn’t have to) I wasn’t hired on that show again. It had been a lifeline in a young freelance career. Many crew went on to higher positions behind the camera. That opportunity was cut off from me because I didn’t throw my boobs around.

Then I watch this administration do everything in it’s power to demolish poor and working class people, and I’m about to look for a job…again. Freelance life is boring and I just want a full time gig without the sexual harassment.

I want to go to work, collaborate with talented sane people, make something beautiful, come home too tired, hang out with my husband then count my money as I fall into a deep secure sleep.

That doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

Highlights of our Masterclass with Isaac Densu, Commissioning Editor, All 4 Shorts

I wrote this for The TVCollective @  Simone Pennant is doing the good work.

Snippet of recent MasterClass with Isaac Densu on Monetising your Online content.

Isaac Densu commissioner from Channel 4’s All4Shorts recently joined us for a #TVCMasterclass taking us on a whistle stop tour of all things online.

Isaac spoke extensively about his role at Channel 4 and the projects he has been involved with.  Rich Kids go Shopping being one of the most popular shorts series not only because it hit the 16-25 year old demographic, but also chimed with the brand of the station and it’s thumbnail a instant audience grabber.

MasterClass Highlights:

Nine things to consider when pitching to Isaac or anyone at the AllShorts at Channel 4:

  • Know their audience. Do your research on the channel’s brand.
  • Don’t waste time writing a wordy pitch document – keep is short, sweet and straight to the point.
  • Send an email with the title, a simple overview, contributors, thumbnails, a taster tape (optional) as well as samples of your previous work.
  • Make it an espresso shot – Again short, sweet and straight to the point.
  • Make sure your pitch and idea is as complete as possible.
  • Stick the spoiler at the top, then justify/reveal.
  • Make your short between 3-7 minutes long, unless there’s a big reveal. Don’t over complicate it.
  • They’re looking for new ways to tell stories: factual, documentary, tech films.
  • Niche subject matter with broad appeal. Think, who’s going to share this and why.

Shorts Tariff: £3k per airing, £18k for the series.

Want to avoid broadcasters and go it alone? Isaac top tips for monetising your content:

  • Key – build partner you can collaborate and consolidate with.
    More views, more money.
    Platforms already consolidated tend to be  more profitable.

“If creative professionals were to get together bringing with them their fans and followers to one central location, think of the potential audience they would have”. 

  • Share your audiences with each other.
    As Producers, rely and support your peers.
    Work with established YouTube partner who have followers if you already have content.

“Imagine walking into an advertising agency telling them you have 400 hours of premium content and to find advertising to fit around it”.

  • Build a website with other independent Producers and Directors.
  • Lastly generate generate a buzz around your content.
  • And never underestimate the power of the thumbnail.

Making Time for Writing: Walking Towards the Fear

It takes everything in me some days to sit down and write. We’ve all read it all before about successful writer’s habits, advice, routines, trying to glean some comfort in seeing that somebody went to bed really early or slept really late or drank 1000 cups of coffee in four hours before they, I don’t know, threw up all over their work and did it all again later.

But the thing that still grips me is the fear. The fear of exposure because as Nikita Lalwani blogged, all great stories are based in truth. It’s the exposures to me that draw me in. Seeing the weakness in characters allows me to be kinder with myself because that connection and tenderness is what allows me to be both tender and brutal with my characters.

But allowing myself to be myself in my writing is really the hardest thing. My self-censor has re-risen since moving to the UK from The States. Everything is double checked for tone, a lack of cultural similarities that makes jokes fall flat. Entendre has no mirror.

One thing the fear keeps me from is joining a writer’s workshop. Hell, showing my work to anyone in general, except my trusted few, ties me in knots and makes my writing sound like a robot wrote it. There’s that fear of exposing that I’m scared.

But when I’m tender with myself. Really let me say what I want, how I want to…it flows so beautifully. I can close my eyes and see the words, the space, the person, feel the mood.

I want us all to walk towards that fear. That discomfort leads to a joy.  Those of us who are writers, in the ‘cause I gotta’ category, we gotta do it. But I think that we all need some sort of support.

If you want to move past the fear, this website is the place to begin moving past your fear and grabbing hold to your passions. Share your stories with me, anonymously if you must. But share with me.

Prince Died


Prince died. I don’t even know what that means. I walked in the door and Ben was there, hugged me and I started weeping.


Prince is wrapped up in my burgeoning sexuality, concepts of love and romance, friendship, commitment, weirdness, boldness, confidence, blackness, integrity…plus a lot of stuff I don’t even know. Mommy started buying his albums in 1978 and I have no memory of musical life without him.


All of my friends growing up were Prince fiends. I always said that if I ever met him I’d shake his fingertips, then my uterus would fall out, then I’d die, then he’d touch me and I’d be resurrected. When I got older, Carl and I would use Prince lyrics as writing exercises. I have some stories based on The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, Forever in my Life, and If I Was Your Girlfriend. I wrote poems based on When 2 R N Love, a lot of poems in my teens to that as a matter of fact.


A lot of my childhood icons have died in a matter of months. I’d started writing about Vanity earlier, but got sidetracked by a barrage of celebrity deaths that I just muddled through. Vanity and Prince. My youthful loves.


When I’m about to do something scary and take a risk, I listen to Baby I’m A Star. Always will it’s my #1 theme song. I listened to it on my wedding day, every time I stepped on stage to tell a story it was my walking in strut music. Bad day: Baby I’m A Star. Good day: Baby I’m A Star. Indifference: Baby I’m A Star.


Money Don’t Matter 2nite. Got me through 2008-11.  I was singing it to Ben last week.


Me and my relationship with clothes and brocade fabrics bitches.

But it’s also about us facing our own mortality.

Demigod- it would be like if we were in ancient Greece and someone was like, oh, Apollo fell out of the sky today, or Dionysus died.  Died?!! Get the fuck out of here.


Latchkey kids were raised by Prince. He’s the nasty talking uncle you want, but you never saw that side of him, he was always sweet with you. Our parents were working but they were just meeting him too. But as adults who knew what he was talking about. But he taught me the word masturbate. I was 12. That learnt me quick. I don’t know if this hit gen x more or not…i don’t know. I know my mom is a mess. She’s the one who started all of this.  She was in her 20’s still when she met him. But we’re from chicago and come from a funk soul tradition. He’d opened for Rick James, so that’s the space


In mourning. I have a friend who recently lost her father, that’s real talk, but she reached out to me in my time of grief.


Prince is still dead. It still sucks balls generational gap filler. I’m 13 years older than my little sister. She was upset too, crying upset, and she’s pretty practical about this kind of stuff.


She doesn’t know a life w/o VCR’s, microwaves, remote controls.


8:28p on EasyJet- I don’t have too many more of these in me.


Arms of Orion in an airplane with dead Prince.


Growing up my best friend Dana and I would ask what our favorite love songs were. Hers was Stevies’ Always, fine choice, but mine was Adore.

He helped shape my concept of love and romance as well as sex.


I developed a strange romantic worldview. Because I listen to words. And his words gave me a view of men that were confident, vulnerable, sexy, sexual, thoughtful, sweet, smart, funny, cunning, witty, poetic, talented.


And the thing is the boys my age were like that then. Because the listened to him too. Black radio loved him, at least in Chicago they did. He created the space for them to have more dimensions to their masculinity.


I remember waiting with a tape to try to get Erotic City recorded from WGCI when morning radio host Bob Wall was suspended for playing the whole thing.


Then as a teenager, he did the Batman soundtrack. The first one. w/ the Scandalous Sex Suite, him and Kim Basinger!! Whoa! (And then the rumour that she bought him a town in like South Dakota or something…ask the innerwebs…) By then I was fully ready to have sex and now that I had the soundtrack…almost all Prince sung and the ones I received as flowers.


Did I lose my virginity to Prince? Probs. I remember the boy and the music a lot of moany, gravely, breathy business.


In college, I broke up with my 1st & only college boyfriend at the same time I got my first CD player. First CD I bought was The Box Set. I hadn’t heard some of those songs since my mom had boxed up her records.


I’d taken 2 actual albums 2 college (cause I started with my double cassette player with a record player that I’d gotten for my 16th BD and was already obsolete I digress).

The roots soundtrack & Vanity 6 (I can’t even on Vanity, though in brief, she was jolt to the kind of woman I was supposed to become vs. the kind I wanted to be.)


[Nothing Compares 2 U {full disclosure, so was Bitch Ass Nigga-Onyx} my friends wold pass notes with the lyrics to Pink Cashmere on them. We were all obsessed. And had come from all over the country as Black kids to The Mecca and found each other.


Prince, Howard…sex, love, unity, pride, 17 Days, Pink Cashmere, Erotic City on CD!!! Diamonds & Pearls, STROLLIN’! I LOVE STROLLIN’!!! Strollin’ just made me tear up on a flight to Spain.


So here I am today, living in England & hear the terrible news. I guess I haven’t been quite right since. It was too much public. As public as I am about him, I needed a minute. It’s taken me days to write this when it should take me weeks. I need the amount of time it takes for Jet to come out at least. The space.


I am Violet the Organ Grinder, will die but I won’t go away.


Here’s a church, here’s a steeple, here’s a muthafucka that I’ve got to blow away.

Here’s my chance to cure the ills of the people, but not until I make this muthafucka pay. Oooh baby, I count the days.


Great day in the morning, my choir sings a pretty song.

Everyday I’m wit yo ass is another day wasted I swear is a day 2 long.


Countin’- like Frankie Beverley w/o Maze, I’m countin’ muthafucka I count the days.


That got me through tough freelance jobs.


When I was a kid, my mom got drunk. Drank too much at a wedding on the Northside and was driving us home south. She was throwing up out of the car at stop lights then flew down Lake Shore Drive. There’s a curve that if you take too fast you’re a goner, I didn’t know it then but do now, and it’s terrifying to think she did that. As we got closer to home Let’s Go Crazy came on the radio and I blasted it along with the air conditioner (it was summer). The song stayed on until we pulled in front of our apt building. I rarely remember that. I think I wrote a story about it as well, then put it out of my mind. I knew she loved the song so we sang loud and stayed alive. The next day she had no recollection of what had happened. First blackout. A year later she was in rehab. Thank God for Prince, she said.


My mom said it felt like a member of the family died. Gutted was the word she used and in 40 years, I’ve never heard her use that word, and both of her parents are dead. But I guess that’s what all of this is about. There’s not a significant event in my life be it grief or joy that he wasn’t there with me in song & spirit.




Gentrification Blues #3

This weekend was hot. It was the official beginning of summer. I barely left my house. When I did I was again confronted with the changes in my neighborhood. It’s like the rats on a ship or roaches in the dark metaphor. Into the blinding sunlight and mildly scorching heat came the ghostly bodies of my new neighbors. Mouth dryingly pale and still without manners. It’s going to be a fun summer. I love sitting on the stairs of the library, now known as my office, and having to stare down the Park Sloper with the baby crying because it’s hot and mommy can’t take it in the library SCREAMING like that to cool it off or leave because she’s got a great spot to get some sun on her legs.

So here I am sitting alone listening to my iPod scribbling furiously on the stupid story I’ve been hacking away at, I mean writing, for like 2 years now…. “Sorry, what? No, no one’s sitting there.” What could I say? No one was sitting there. I wasn’t prepared to act crazy and have imaginary friends. So down she sits and my table’s perfectly placed for two ways to get sun and put the baby under the umbrella. The screaming baby. The baby screaming so loud that my Erik Satie makes my head hurt and hands shake cause it’s too loud and grating. I stare at the mother who apologizes profusely, but what am I supposed to say? “I accept your apology, but it would be better if you took your SCREAMING MONKEY home.”

She started doing all the things mothers do to make their children shut up, to no avail. I start shifting. I’m already hot and uncomfortable and writing outside and feel weird. How do I describe how I felt with the future sitting there raising hell and a mother who kinda didn’t give a shit. (Now, let me say that I have friends with kids and I know it’s a tough job and adults don’t want to be cooped up with kids all day. But I also know that that’s why I don’t have kids and really resent being subjected to other peoples problems.)

I guess it’s just that I’m seeing something more and more that disturbs me about this neighborhood I love so much. Too many babies. When I’m dictator, I’m putting a moratorium on procreating in Prospect Heights. Go to Queens to fuck up your kids.

If you build it…they will come?

So I have started a storytelling night at Bar Sepia and I have no idea what I’m doing. Whoo. That felt good. Now maybe I can organize it or something. I know, I’ll write out my mission statement for it here:

Mission Statement:
To create a safe space to share real life stories and making our neighbors (and new neighbors) know each others humanity thus strengthening our neighborhood.

That sounds awfully lofty. Does it even mean anything? Speak plainly kiddo.

I want the newbies in Pros. Heights to hear the stories of us old timers and for us to hear them. I’m doing this for myself because I don’t particularly take a shine to the newbies. I think they’re arrogant and rude for the most part and inconsiderate of the people who’ve lived here before them. I know, it’s still part of my gentrification blues. I know, they’re not all demons and some of them are struggling. But the ones who are buying million dollar apt’s and giving the finger to us poor renters, well fuck you too.

So that’s why I wanted to open a forum to help me with my own prejudices and tell some stories. I also want to be able to tell my own stories. It’s funny how everyone has a certain idea about why I want to do this. But it is really something I’d do for free. Sure I need money, but I know the money will come. It always does. I want to do it out of love. That’s what always brings me money.

My first month was excellent. I was nervous but I knew I had some great stories coming my way. This is what I do. I tell stories. I have to get over myself. I’m still censoring myself publicly. I want to tell riskier stories but get freaked out by it in front of my friends. It’s like, am I too fat to tell this story? WTF? This world’s done a number in my brain.

So I’m building it. I hope they come. I want to be cool as a cucumber and just trust that I do what I do.

We’ll see next Monday.