Thursday, November 29, 2018

Very Exciting News


Two months ago I was able to put two of my books, Green Shoes and Starfish, in the Netflix/HBO procurement catalog, which is where producers go to look for fresh story ideas for films and TV.  Last night I checked my email and learned an international film studio has expressed an interest to option the Film and TV rights to my book, Starfish On Thursday. Next week I'll be speaking with the company to discuss negotiations.

As a relatively unknown author, there will be a limit to how much they'll offer me for the initial option--I won't be on the Anne Rice plan quite yet--but as far as I understand it, there's a payment for the option, along with contracts, and during the period of time the option is (12 months-5 years) they decide if they want to purchase the full rights and make the film or tv show. If they decide to go ahead then there would be more money and more contracts, and probably an agent.

I looked up the company and noted they seem to have a bunch of big name stars in their projects. I saw Colin Firth and Laura Dern and Alec Baldwin and Selma Hayek and Ben Kingsley, so this sounds like a serious company indeed.

I'm not sure yet if they have specific stories in this collection that they're interested in, or all of them, or just one of them. Anyway, it should be interesting to find out the details and I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

VALENTINE FOR MY MOTHER


This is from my first book, the essay/poetry collection GREEN SHOES MEAN I LOVE YOU. It's a poem based on my mother's memories of what it was like during the Cuban Missile Crisis when she was a new mother of 19 and my big sister was a year and a half old. For more information about this collection, please visit www.amieryan.com

Friday, October 26, 2018

The First Time My Mom Was Dying

In each of my three essay collections I tried to add something extra. In Green Shoes Mean I Love You I added a recurring funny bit called ACTUAL QUOTES BY AMIE'S MOM. In Starfish On Thursday I added a series of fictional letters. For my third collection, Secrets From The Star Jar, I made the extra a longer story told in installments. I'm including the first installment here.

THE FIRST TIME MY MOM WAS DYING


My mother asked me if we should go get a treat. "How about a sundae at McDonald's?" she asked me. "Yeah!" I squealed. I was six. I already knew which kind I'd get, too: hot fudge.

Later, we sat in the middle of that sunlit McDonald's, the hum of cashiers at one end, the happy chatter of kids all around. My mother sat on one side of the table and I sat on the other, my legs too short to reach the floor. I swung them, happily, back and forth as I dug into my sundae.

And then my mom said she had something important to talk to me about. Even with that odd beginning, I didn't sense anything wrong. The sundae still tasted good for a minute.

"I'm not going to be alive much longer," she told me. "I'm dying." She said this with a relaxed smile on her face. If you hadn't heard what she had just said, you might have described her as looking happy.

I paused in my eating, not having an emotional reaction yet but organizing what I'd just heard. My mother looked normal: hair fixed, red lipstick on; she looked the same as anytime we went out. My mind ran through the different ways someone could die: an accident, a murderer, disease. But with an accident, you wouldn't know in advance. Same thing with a murderer.

So that left disease. I understood a little bit about diseases, mainly from watching movies on TV. Only a few months earlier I'd seen a movie called Love Story and the lady in that movie looked pretty too, right up until the second she died. Love means never having to say you're sorry. In fact the lady in that movie didn't even know she was sick until the doctor told her so. That's how it worked: a doctor told a person they had a disease and then the person said "How long have I got?" My mother looked pretty, just like that lady in the movie.

"Do you have a disease?" I asked her.

Her smile stayed on as she answered me: "No, I don't have a disease."

I detected something wrong then. I wondered if she was lying to me. I had stopped eating my sundae.

"I just always knew that someday when I was 32, I'd die," my mom began. "I can't explain it. I just always knew. And I turned 32 on my last birthday so that means it'll happen sometime this year."

I sat, listening.

Still with a smile, my mother began to describe how hard this would be for me. How much I'd miss her. How I'd remember every time I had sassed her or not eaten all my dinner and I'd wish so hard I could go back and be better, but it would be too late.

"Because I'll be dead, and you won't have a mother anymore."

She described all of the times when I would especially miss her: when there was no one to brush my hair or iron my clothes or fix me lunch. Imagine Mother's Day! Oh, she told me, that would be hard and sad. And Christmas. And my birthday! Easter. Halloween. Thanksgiving. She wouldn't be there for any of those days, ever again, for my whole life.

My TV knowledge was protesting this idea. "Can't a doctor do a surgery or give you medicine?" I asked her.

"No," she said, and she was definite. "If it was a disease then maybe they could, but this is a mystery so there's nothing they can do."

I was all done with that sundae.

That night in bed, and the next day at school, and for a year of nights and days, I imagined my future life without a mom. I wondered which day would be the day it happened.

And I did regret not being good every second. It never occurred to me to wonder if she would regret anything, like how often she hit me. My mother spent that year acting normal and reminding me often about how her time was almost gone.

And then it was her birthday and she turned 33 and we had presents and cake.

The next day I came to her, confused. She wasn't 32 anymore. She hadn't died. I wasn't sure what that meant.

"I know," she said. "I guess I'm not going to die right now after all. I guess it's just a mystery." She smiled at me.

I felt so angry. I'd cried about it a lot of times and she was staying alive. It was confusing. I wanted her to be alive. I should have been happy, not angry. I wondered if this was proof that I was a bad kid.

I wondered if my mom had been lying about it the whole time.
I wondered why she'd do that.


Amie Ryan is the author of Green Shoes Mean I Love You, Starfish On Thursday, Secrets From The Star Jar, and Marilyn: Loved By You. For more information, please visit www.amieryan.com




Friday, August 3, 2018

Marlo Thomas Is An Actress


In 1974 my family loved watching Marlo Thomas on her TV show, That Girl. My mother would always refer to her as 'that darling Marlo Thomas' or by her longer name, 'that darling Marlo Thomas I just love her'.

We also loved I Dream Of Jeannie and Bewitched. Jeannie had a master who stoppered her into her bottle when she was bad and Samantha wasn't allowed to be her true witch self unless her husband couldn't fix his ad campaign and then she was allowed to do magic, so he could take the credit. These things we accepted without question. For awhile, when I'd daydream about what kind of a grownup I'd be, I thought of only these two choices: a Jeannie or a Samantha.

That Girl threw us for a loop because the star of the show (Marlo) was a career girl who had a handsome man who wanted to marry her (which is usually where the story would end, with happily ever after) but That Girl loved her boyfriend AND her career, and she wasn't ready to get married. She had stuff to do and so handsome man would have to wait. It was the strangest thing I'd ever heard. I was five.

And when Marlo Thomas (not as That Girl, just as herself) went on TV and told everyone to watch her special, Free To Be You And Me, we made sure to watch. Marlo and her famous friends sang and did skits about new ways of thinking about men and women. My favorite part was when Marlo sang a song called Parents Are People. It featured Marlo doing all sorts of things I had thought of as being Man Jobs: Marlo as a cab driver, Marlo as a police officer, Marlo as a baseball umpire. Marlo sang "Mommies can do almost anything" and the world felt bigger when I heard her sing those words.

A few months later, I used that show to almost win an argument with my mother and that was when she started referring to Marlo as 'that damned Marlo Thomas'.

When I wasn't at kindergarten, I did what a lot of kids did back then: I got shooed out of the house and told to Go Play. This was partly due to the fact that times were safer then but it was also because my mother had no interest in spending time with me. "Amie entertains herself very well," my mom would tell other grownups and I'd know this was supposed to be a compliment. It never felt like one.

One of my mother's favorite phrases was "find something to do" and that was how, one day, I decided what I'd do would be to go see how my rabbit was doing. We had buried her four days earlier.

Actually she'd only been my rabbit a few days when my mother decided living in a cage was making my rabbit sad and that being set free to live in the woods behind our house would make my rabbit happy. When I disagreed, my mother sang the Born Free song and said it would be SELFISH to make my rabbit live in a cage and GOOD to let her go free and asked me which I wanted to be: selfish or good. So I was stuck. I had to say Good.

So we set her free (as free as the wind blows) and the next day my rabbit was dead in our vegetable garden and my dad said "Oh look at that, the slug bait pellets look just like the rabbit food we were giving her" and that was the end of my rabbit. We had a pet funeral and my dad said serious words and I played my kazoo. Solemnly. Kind of.

I can only guess the death process had not been clearly explained to me. I wasn't sure what I'd find when I used my mother's garden shovel to dig up the shoebox. I thought either it would be empty because my rabbit would be in Heaven or she'd look like she was sleeping.

What I found was a LOT more interesting. I had no idea any of it was supposed to be icky and so none of it was. I looked and looked and felt like a scientist (I thought maybe I already was one). My rabbit was all bones but she still looked kind of rabbit shaped, just like dinosaur bones were dinosaur shaped and Halloween skeletons were people shaped. A thing's bones on the inside looked like the thing's outside. I felt smarter just thinking about it. After a while I reburied the box and ran in the house to tell my mom all about what I'd learned.

She was washing dishes, a cloud of suds under her hands. When I told her I'd seen my rabbit, she asked me if I was pretending. Once I started describing the worms (great big fat ones that wiggled but didn't seem to be going anywhere, and how did they get in there?) she turned and vomited into the sink. Right on top of the soapy dishes.

Have to wash those again, I thought, but did not say.

Once she recovered, she was all voice. It was disgusting. I was disgusting. "Everyone knows you don't dig up dead things and LOOK at them!"

"What about dinosaurs?" I asked. "People dig them up and look at them and then put the bones in museums and people go and spend money to look at them."

"That's different," my mom tennis whacked the argument right back to me. "Those are scientists that do that."

"Then I'll be a scientist!" I announced. This was becoming a great day.

"You can't," my mom said, and she was wearing her mean smile. "Only men can be scientists. Ladies can't, they don't let them. It's a rule."

I paused, hearing this wrong thing. And then I said the thing that would forever cast a pall over Marlo in our house. I said "What about that Marlo Thomas song, Parents Are People? She sang Mommies can do anything."

And then my mom's smile went a little bigger as she went in for the winning point: "She said ALMOST anything. And don't forget, Marlo Thomas is an actress. Actresses say made up things all the time."

I hadn't figured that one in. I had forgotten about that word: almost. ANYTHING, that word was as big as the whole world but that word ALMOST was a tricky one. It could erase stuff at the last minute. I dropped my mother's gaze and studied the pattern of the green tile floor and felt small again.

My mom reminded me we were going to my grandma's later and told me to get cleaned up. Grandma was my mother's mom. "And use a lot of soap!" she reminded.

I liked going to see Grandma. She wore her hair in a beehive (some of it real and some of it bought at the store and clipped in) and bright lipstick and sparkly earrings. I'd always draw her a picture and she'd always make a big deal over it. It was our thing. This time I spent a lot of time on the picture. I wanted it to be really special: a grownup picture, a scientist picture. I took a big piece of white paper and began by drawing a line down the middle. I would draw two pictures and I would call it: My Rabbit Before And After. It was going to be great.

My parents were used to me bringng a picture along so neither of them thought to look it over. They would later regret this decision.

At my grandma's, a lot of relatives were there: aunts, uncles, and they all fussed over me. I was everyone's darling, even more so when I told them I had a picture to show them. I remember my grandma clapped her hands together and said "Oh! A picture! Oh Amie I can't WAIT to see what you've drawn for me!"

I stood in front of the group and began my presentation. The left side of the picture was my rabbit Charlotte, the way she'd looked when she was alive. The right side was labelled with words (in careful capitals) and arrows pointing to what I was describing. I had labelled WORMS and EYE HOLES and MORE WORMS. You get the idea. For some reason, my audience looked strange. I took this to mean my presentation needed more pizzazz.

"You may be wondering about the worms. I did too. My dad explained it to me, these worms are called Maggots and a maggot is a worm with a really important job" (cut to my mother shooting a lethal look at my father). I explained my father's theory to them: how maggots are like garbagemen who do an important job and we're glad they do (I had pounced on my dad the instant he stepped in the door and asked him about the worms. He'd be in trouble later, for 'helping').

Still silent, my audience. I pulled out the poem. "I've written a poem too and this poem is called The Maggots and My Rabbit." I began the first few lines and suddenly my mother was yanking me by the arm, hustling my butt into the kitchen. This made me very upset, not the arm yanking but having my poem interrupted when I wasn't even done.

"NO MORE," she ordered. "No more talking about the rabbit. No pictures. No poems."

I got a thought in my head and my mother read my mind and squashed the thought: "And before you say it, no SONGS, either."

She meant business. And there was more. I wasn't allowed to say the WORD rabbit for a whole month. I tried for a loophole (the Easter Bunny) and another loophole (Bugs Bunny) and my mother said if I said Bunny or Rabbit even one time in the next month, the Easter Bunny would be told not to come to our house ever again.

I was ordered to sit at the kitchen table and think about what I had done and then to apologize. I sat there awhile, thinking about how unfair it was I should have to apologize for making my grandma a really good picture. I sat there a lot longer than my mother expected so when she came back in she had a piece of cake on a plate, a bribe she set down in front of me. When I apologized, I could get cake. Also I should draw my grandma another picture, "a nice picture" my mother specified.

She had more: I shouldn't even know the word Maggot, it was a yucky word and no one should know it. I told her it was the right word, that it was in the dictionary so somebody had thought that worm was important enough to have its own name and to put it in the dictionary so people could know it.

My mother glared at me and I stopped talking then.

I drew another picture. I drew it really badly, on purpose. The lines were all over the place and I colored outside the lines and it was a yucky mess and I was glad. It was a brown scribble with a dash of gray scribble. It could have been anything. I took the picture into the living room for my grandma and told her "Here, it's a picture of a cat. It's just a cat. It doesn't do anything."

My grandma had gotten lots of my pictures and knew how well I could draw. Even though this picture was an on purpose mess, she said "Oh I love it, oh Amie I like this picture" which proved that either my grandma had no taste and didn't know a good picture from a bad one or that she was just a big liar.

"And what else?" my mother reminded.

"I'm sorry you didn't like the special one I made for you," I told her. I thought maybe if I reminded her it was special, she might act nice. I was wrong.

My grandma continued to ham it up. "Oh Amie, that other picture! OOH it scared me!" She made an elaborate scared face to demonstrate. I wondered if she was lying some more or if my grandma could really get ooh scared from a kid's crayon picture.

And so I was forgiven. And offered cake. I said "No thank you" to the cake.

When it was time to go my mom helped me into my coat and handed me my rabbit drawing. "Oh you forgot my drawing!" I said to my grandma, and tried to hand it to her.

"Oh no Amie, I like the other drawing you did. I'm scared of THIS one."

I responded as my mother's daughter: I gave her a guilt trip. "You don't have to keep it. If you really hate it, you can throw it in the garbage can." I looked so pitiful, I thought I had her for sure. No way would a grandma ever throw a kid's drawing in the garbage can in a million years.

But my grandma was a master. She bent down so she was at my eye level and said "Amie, I wouldn't want THAT picture even in our garbage can!"

My mouth fell open. And before I could recover and say anything else, my parents got me out of there.



This story originally appeared on the website SMITH: The Moment, and can be found in my first collection, GREEN SHOES MEAN I LOVE YOU, available at www.amieryan.com 

PS: I happened to send this story to Marlo Thomas herself and was delighted to get this response:





Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday, July 23, 2017