An Experiment in Conscious Publishing

May 2, 2016

In just a little over two months, my memoir will be published by Laughing Cactus Press, an imprint of Silver Boomer Books. I’ve been upside down with joy, fear, stress and more fear about it, but every day I’m finding ways to move forward. Set up book release events, revamp the website, makeover my web and communications presences, reach out to friends and readers from all walks who might relate to my story…

So this morning, I find it wholly serendipitous that one of my favorite writers and teachers of creative nonfiction is on the path to publication of her memoir at the same time I am. Shari Caudron has chosen to create Conscious Publishing, a venue for literary honesty, and a platform for discussion about the path to publication, specifically the publication of one’s own true story. Hooray Shari! I look forward to following along, and I invite any other interested writers to do the same.

by Shari Caudron Writing the memoir was easy compared to the thought of putting it out there—to be read by real people with real thoughts and feelings and, worst of all, opinions.What if I humiliat…

Source: An Experiment in Conscious Publishing


5 Tips for Writing about Family 

June 4, 2015

This week, my essay “It’s all Relative” was published on The Manifest-Station. It’s all about family, and how I’ve turned a few dysfunctional situations into opportunities for growth and appreciation. (If you’d like to read it, click here!) This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my own family.  Over the years, I’ve written many screenplays, novels, and memoir exploring my own familial relationships, and as you probably know from your own attempts, it’s sometimes hard to achieve enough distance to write about your own family in a way that others who don’t know you and don’t especially care about you will want to read. Here are some lessons I’ve learned about writing about my own family: 

1) Dig deeply enough in your own experience to find the universal meaning.  Do some journaling and think about what the moral of your story is, what a person can learn from this dilemma. Get philosophical. This doesn’t mean you should state explicitly what the moral of your story is in the finished piece of writing, but by becoming aware of your personal story’s universal themes, you’ll be able to write something that transcends the details and can move and inspire others. 

2) Turn your frustration into questions. In exploring the question at the heart of your story and seeking enlightenment, you’ll produce work that others find valuable. Whatever it is that drives you to write, be it injustice, survival, or grief, shape your story in the spirit of curiosity rather than vengeance. By staying curious, you’ll automatically give yourself enough distance from the pain of your own experience to write about it objectively and universally.

3) Remember, they’re only human.  Those who have hurt you come from their own unique experience. They’re probably just doing the best they can. By seeking to understand where they’re coming from and giving others the benefit of the doubt, we can develop characters who are multi-dimensional and complex, rather than flat and stereotypical.

4) Seek healing. Ask yourself, where is the common ground? Where can I (or my character in this story) learn, change and grow here? How can I reconcile the injustice, mistreatment, or tragedy and see it as an opportunity to become stronger?   Just as we need to resolve conflict through growth in our own lives, so do our characters in our stories. 

5) Identify your wants and your needs. After you write a rough draft, it’s a good idea to explore these two questions: What do I (or my character) want? What do I (or my character?) need? These two simple questions will help you set up your story conflict, by giving your protagonist, in this case yourself, a goal. They will also help you find your resolution, by pointing the way towards an outcome that may not give you what you want, but will give you what you need. The magic of these questions is that not only will you write a more satisfying ending, you’ll write a less predictable one. By setting up the reader’s expectation that your character will (or will not) get one thing, and then having them attain something else entirely, you can take them on an inevitable yet unexpected journey. 

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to learn more about Shaping True Story, you can follow me on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, follow my blog, buy the book, contact me about a consultation, or join my mailing list. 

Guest Post: Thoughts on Long Day’s Journey into Night

March 7, 2015

A student in one of the courses I teach for Antioch University’s Individualized Master of Arts wrote a terrific, concise critique of O’Neill’s classic play, which is shaped from true story. This is her first foray into the world of writing online. She does such a great job of summing up this play and analyzing it, it just has to go “live.”

Yours truly,

Candace LongDaysJourney

Thoughts on Long Day’s Journey into Night by Julia Marks

Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, Long Day’s Journey into Night, is a semi- autobiographical treatment written sixteen years before his death, but as per his wishes, produced posthumously. One can assume there are two reasons for this request; the first being that he felt the need to explain who he was and where he came from. Second, he did not want to answer the subsequent questions after revealing such painfully personal information. The title hints at the play taking place in a single day, but also intimates that each of those single days repeats over again and again for a life time, until night is death. One by one, those left behind may escape the repetitive, destructive behavior of the long day spent with the addicted, sick, and unhappy family that make up so many of our journeys.

The theme is repetitive; there is a meal, an argument, alcohol and drug abuse, illness. Another meal, the same argument, more alcohol, more morphine, illness; eat and repeat. The day is representative of the formative years of O’Neill; he is found in Edmund. The theme may be repetitious, but the unity of plot is familial love. On the face of it, the family appears dysfunctional, and it may very well be, but there is true concern among all members for one another regarding their individual shortcomings and illnesses. The play is an outstanding character study in love above all.

Julia Marks is currently pursuing an IMA in Creative Writing at Antioch University Midwest with hopes of not only publishing her writing, but teaching creative writing after graduation.

The Shape of an Essay

February 19, 2015

As some of you may know, I love to shape true stories. Recently, one true story that I shaped into an essay was accepted for publication in the online literary journal Full Grown People.  If you have a chance to read it, please let me know what you think!

Yours Truly,

Candace Kearns Read

For Your Consideration

January 7, 2015


The only way I know how to write a great script is to read a lot of them. Here is Nick Hornby’s Oscar-Nominated screenplay, adapted from Cheryl Strayed’s gripping memoir WILD.

5 to 7 opens Starz Denver Film Festival

November 13, 2014

Saw it last night. I can’t argue with this Review. If you’re one of those people who likes that sort of thing (and I am!) you’ll enjoy it. image

The Grief Garden

August 28, 2014

Biopic Review: Papusza

November 13, 2013

Last night I saw the Polish film Papusza, a black and white period biopic about a poetess who belonged to a band of Polish Roma (Gypsies.) She suffered incomprehensible loss of innocence and love in her lifetime, until she finally turned her back on poetry and in fact, books themselves. From the sanitarium late in the film she declares, “If I had never learned to read, I would have been happy.”

Not for the faint of heart, this film. Serious and sad, it is also masterfully shot and edited, unfolding like a cinematic poem, in short, rhythmic waves. In this way, form follows function, as all great films based on true stories must, and a deep personal feeling is evoked, much like the emotional impetus of poetry itself.

In the end, we’re left of a deep and compassionate understanding of this woman and her tight-knit and often persecuted culture. Written and directed by the husband and wife duo Krzysztof Krauze and Joanna-Kos Krauze, the film is part of the Women+Film Voices slate of offerings at the Starz Denver Film Festival, and screens again this afternoon. More information on the film and the festival can be found here.

NEBRASKA Film Review

November 11, 2013

NEBRASKA Film Review
Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways) packed the Ellie Caulkins Opera House on Saturday night for the Starz Denver Film Festival “Big Night” Red Carpet Presentation. Image

This was a hilarious and sweet look at family, love and Midwestern America. The director, in an interview here, tells us that the film is about kindness, and that’s true. Black and white cinematography provide a stark, chilly background to the warmth these characters dig up from their depths. Bruce Dern’s performance is classic, and totally captivating. Payne has a knack for taking a character’s rather ordinary journey and infusing it with heroism, until every man becomes Everyman.
Overall, this is a quirky, beautifully shot, and touching film. It’s a comedy and a portrait of a culture. While the film delivers a fun, almost lighthearted, story and plenty of laughs, it also makes us think about how we live with the choices we make.
There’s still another week of great films being screened at the festival, so catch some if you can! 

Film Review: Labor Day

November 6, 2013

Red Carpet Signage

The Starz Denver Film Festival opens tonight, November 6th, at 8 p.m. with its Red Carpet Presentation of Labor Day.

Labor Day offers a disturbingly effective trifecta of performances by Josh Brolin (Juno) Kate Winslet (Titanic, The Reader) and 14-year old Gattlin Griffith. The script, well-designed, if speckled with implausibilities, weaves a story of love, loss and recovery that is both intense and intimate. The chemistry between Adele (Winslet) and Frank (Brolin) builds slowly and with incredible tension. Given that she’s an agoraphobic wreck and he’s an escapee from the local prison where he was serving time for murder, their relationship is difficult to swallow, yet these accomplished actors and their wounded characters make it utterly convincing.


As the story unfolds, quick flashbacks reveal glimpses into their tragic pasts and eventually shed light on how they each came to be in such dire straits. The storyline stays centered on Adele’s son Henry, who narrates the film with reflections on the awakenings of passion and keeps us rooted in a strange combination of fear and hope that the inevitable capture will come.

This experience of confusion between rooting for the heroine and her son to be saved and wanting to see them all run off to start a new life together provides an eerie echo of the experience of passion itself, with its mixture of fear, dread, glee and excitement. No less artfully, the theme, stated by Frank early in the film, that “people are often misled by the truth” resonates throughout the story, until the end. And when, in a climactic scene, Henry tells a suspicious bank teller that they’re withdrawing all that cash so they can make a run for it, she laughs at his “joke” while handing the money over, proving Frank’s theory to be true.

This is a film that lures us into its grips from the opening shot with its sinister yet alluring music. A canopy of Massachusetts foliage provides both shadow and light on the approach to a small riverside town filled with busybodies and well-intentioned clerks.  Reitman has succeeded once again to cull magnificent performances from his actors as well as craft a visual delight.

The quirky relationship Griffith has with the new girl in town, who opens his eyes to ideas such as emancipation and incest, offers welcome needed relief from the claustrophobic experience of Adele’s house, which she only leaves once a month “for supplies” and where she transforms from victim to impassioned heroine.

The plot is steady and nearly seamless, the performances packed with power and nuance, and the dialogue crisp, spare, and inspired. All of these strengths make it easy to overlook the occasional obviousness, tinges of predictability, slight contrivances, and even the Hollywood ending tacked on needlessly. For all its subtle manipulations, this is a film that on the whole does not fail to penetrate our typical notions of love with it suspenseful dance between fear and romance.

While not based on a true story, Labor Day’s screenplay was adapted from a novel by Joyce Maynard and written for the screen by the director. The loaded, poetic dialogue, unifying theme, and tightly focused storyline are perfect examples of the level to which anyone crafting a character-driven drama should aspire.

Tickets are still available for this and many other films at the festival, which runs through November 17th.

Release: Paramount Pictures, December 25, 2013 (Limited)

Candace Kearns Read is the author of Shaping True Story into Screenplay, a handbook for screenwriters adapting from real life.