Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!It’s on this day more than any other that I miss my father; Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday.

Sure, he liked the football and the food, but what made it special for him was that family gathered simply to be together and to give thanks for all their blessings, even in the slim years. No presents were ever exchanged and any past wrongs were generally forgotten and forgiven. The holiday elicited the best from people simply because of its focus on gratitude.

I have much to be thankful for this year. I recently received word that my fifth packet material will serve as my FINAL packet of my Goddard graduate career. The 40 pages contained 37 pages of a rewrite to my creative thesis NIKI SWEET TALK MOVES and a three-page process letter, thanking my advisor for her astute notes and filling her in on other changes that could not be slipped into the slim packet.

I am ecstatic that I made it. But more than that, I am thankful.

This journey began more than a few years ago when, after receiving my Professional Certificate in Screenwriting from UCLA and having won a few screenplay competitions, the film and documentary professor at UNH-Manchester invited me to teach scriptwriting for the Communication Arts Department. Once inside the classroom I was hooked. I love working with the students of UNH.

“How do I do this full-time?” I asked the then chairperson of the department. No guarantees that it would lead to full-time work, of course, but my first task was to enroll in an MFA program and secure that advanced degree.

It was my mother who helped me next.

After she flew from California to hang out with my children so I could travel to Providence to run the ScriptBiz Screenwriting Seminar of the Rhode Island International Film Festival, my daughter and I took my mother on a thank you trip up north to Hero Island, Vermont to see the summer training grounds of the famous Lipizzaner stallions.

On the drive home on Interstate 89 South I saw a sign for Goddard College. I took the exit and we walked the grounds of the school. No doubt between summer sessions, it was quiet, peaceful, and inspiring. “This is where I want to get my master’s someday,” I told my mom and my daughter.

“Why aren’t you here now?” my mom asked.

Good question. In the next couple weeks I applied, was accepted, and began my incredible journey.

In all honesty I attended primarily to get that piece of paper—my diploma—that would allow me the opportunity to possibly spin a part-time teaching gig into a full-time one. But I received far more than the promise of parchment.

I quickly realized that while UCLA had prepared me well for the world of scriptwriting, I had much more to learn. Yesterday as I met with a director who lives nearby, I told him how amazed I was by the process of my education. I learned how much I didn’t know. And how to recognize and fill-in the gaps in my education as I proceed on my own.

I will always be thankful to Goddard for equipping me to face my journey. The rigorous assignments of the countless critical papers have helped me to study films, plays, scripts, poetry, novels, and stories in a more in-depth way than I had ever before known. And that has helped me—and will continue to help me—as I approach my own writing and rewriting.

Goddard has taught me to fish.

So, thank you. Goddard. Mom. Husband. Kids. Fellow classmates. Students. Friends. Family. Colleagues. Writer’s Group. Neighbors. Internet. Post Office Employees. And more.

And Dad. For not only helping me to appreciate this holiday above all others, but for instilling in me a sense of excellence and hard work that I hope to never outgrow.

Photos above taken by my husband on our Summer, 2007 vacation to Cliff Island, Maine. Top photo: lobster boats at dawn. Center photo: he took for me since “107” has become the number that signifies my father; it was his caddie number when he was a kid in Cleveland; it is also the title of a short screenplay I wrote that tells one of his incredible brush with the mob stories. Bottom photo: taken on the ferry as we left Cliff Island. Sad when you consider how many months it will be before we return. Happy when we realize how many memories we made there and for which we can be thankful.

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