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ChiTownScreenwriting with Kat O'Brien - Issue #5 | Some Mom Wisdom

ChiTownScreenwriting
Welcome back to ChiTown Screenwriting with Kat O'Brien!
In this week’s issue:
  • On Writing and Creating & Being a Mom
  • Tips and Tricks: You’re Ready, Find Your Inspo, How to Story Bible
  • Wisdom: Warriors with Our Words and Our Actions
  • Workshops and Events: Professional Development & Fitness Fun!
  • Writers You Should Know: Modern Muse & Inner Compass Mom

A Letter From Kat
This week’s issue of ChiTown Screenwriting celebrates Motherhood with those who are deeply involved in *creating* in different ways.
I want to raise a glass to everyone balancing the energetic struggle of caregiving and the myriad responsibilities associated with that, while trying to maintain an active creative life. It’s draining. It’s hard.
And it can also be incredibly rewarding in unpredictable ways.
One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned about being a mom with a creative life is that my greatest wins have been unexpected. The shots I didn’t even know I was taking, and making. There were opportunities that I showed up for, and persevered through, giving it my all – and lost – only to discover it wasn’t about some pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. (It was about the rainbow. And me learning how to manage expectations.)
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we, as artists, respond to the expected, but unknowable. Or the unexpected. Changes in our professional and personal routines and responsibilities can have a tremendous influence on the sustainability of our creative lives.
No doubt, this pandemic has challenged us in many ways as well, disrupting all of that, again and again. This pandemic has had an outsized impact on women in the workplace, on caregivers, on working moms.
For this issue, I put out a call for submissions to mom creators to send me their free-range thoughts on juggling motherhood + their creative identity/work, to share about their creative work and projects or those of moms they know that ChiTown Screenwriting should spotlight.
Thank you to everyone who sent me submissions, and to everyone who may do so still! Here’s to the moms hustling to make their dreams come true, to the moms who may be on hiatus from producing and publishing but who still are looking to connect and create.
Here’s to all of you!
On Writing and Creating & Being a Mom
Texting with my producing partner, Natasha
Texting with my producing partner, Natasha
THE JUGGLE IS REAL by Kat & Natasha
Working with Natasha for the past few years as my producing partner has been one of the most supportive creative adventures of my life. Fellow mom. We both have young children around the same age. And we both struggle to balance our various roles and freelance gigs, and having an ongoing text thread — sometimes just sending gifs — has been an empowering way to keep ourselves going. We may not be getting our movie done as quickly as we’d hoped, but working together has been a fierce reminder that we’re in it for the journey and the long haul. Having a creative partner in each other, who understands the need to take breaks, have time with our families, and who gets how sometimes the day can escape from us, makes the collaborative process more fun, less stressful because we know the other always “gets it”.
The Juggle Is Real. Me and Natasha ^
The Juggle Is Real. Me and Natasha ^
A REWRITTEN LIFE by Bethany Lopez
First came the questions. Why hasn’t he crawled? Walked? Talked Milestones missed. Every other child in Mommy and Me passing him up. Was I just being a nervous first-time mother? My heart told me I wasn’t.
The teacher took me aside. “Call the regional center. See what they have to say. What could you lose?” Only all my plans. Only a whole future. Soccer and music classes replaced with evaluation after evaluation. Imagination, movement, strength and speech all scrutinized. In my home they came to judge, scrawling a new path for us, erasing the one we had made.
At Christmas, the formal diagnosis. Autism. Anger first. Then sadness. And finally defeat. Some say mourn the child you thought you’d have. The one that you felt was promised to you. Others say “What’s to mourn? My child is perfection.”
The therapies are grueling, and I imagine him screaming, trapped in a world I cannot access. He sees my world through gauze and he’s desperate to join me in my dimension. Other times he likes to hide away from colors too vibrant and noises too loud. His outbursts are blinding. His furious scratches scar my arms. Maybe this is him trying to join my world. Stuck at a revolving door always just missing an opening. His rhythm perpetually off by a beat.
It’s lonely here. In this space far from my child. Far from others whose lives are consumed by playdates and zoo visits that I can never join. He runs away from me in public places. The gauze over his eyes and stuffed in his ears.
Therapies continue. Never ending. Forever present. We’re constantly second guessing ourselves. What choice will we make that will accidentally erase any progress we’ve made? I’m spent. I burnout. I need something, anything to show this is working and we made the right choice.
And one day, tears blossom in the gauze. He locks onto my eyes and suddenly I know he’s crossed over and I know he knows I’m his mama. One day he says, “I love you”. He’s finally here. In that revolving door he found an opening.
I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Other mothers of autistic children will never hear “I love you.” I’ve been given the gift of his voice. His questions his wonderings. I will get my chance to explain my world.
My son is autistic. It took me time to accept this because I am not perfect. But he is.
Bethany Lopez is a writer living in Los Angeles.
Bethany Lopez is a writer living in Los Angeles.
(DE) SANITIZING STORY TIME by Laurel Felt, PhD
Back in the not-so-distant day, I would skip over stories’ “challenging” parts when reading aloud to my daughter.
Sasha is 4 years, 3 months, and 14 days old.
She used to be younger.
I remember the first time I cracked the cover on the original Curious George book. Sasha was settled on my lap, her thumb corked in her mouth, and I was aghast as my eyes scanned the page. I renamed the monochromatic monkeynapper “Dada” and tried to gloss over George’s wrongful imprisonment (by a uniformly white, male, and rotund police force). THIS was the book that inspired a thousand sequels?
When we first read Pinkalicious: Soccer Star, I omitted the goth-esque girls’ unnecessary taunts. I would have crossed out the words entirely but for fear of Sasha noticing the edit, demanding explanations, and raising hue and cry.
So when we got to Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls’ entry on Hatshepsut, I would dance around the misogyny. That was a tricky two-step since it meant zhuzh‘ing the female pharoah’s entire story. It got to the point where I couldn’t remember what I’d reframed, what I’d surgically excised, and what I’d chunked out wholesale. Did I pare down the (overly long) sentence about what a “legitimate leader” looked like? Did I skip the informal, expository question? 
One night, it might have been four months ago?, I was reading on autopilot and rattled off written words that Sasha had never heard before. I orated it all, including the part about Egyptians’ attempts to remove all traces of Hatshepsut’s successful, 25-year reign. When I realized what I’d done, I peered around at Sasha’s visage. Did she get what I’d said? Was she even listening? She appeared unperturbed, still slurping on that always-there thumb.
All righty then – easier at day’s end NOT to tango between the plot points. So I began to read the real text every time. Until one day, when I was feeling more alert and less comfortable with sexist treachery, I got back to my zhuzh‘ing. 
As I concluded my sanitized tale, Sasha asked, “What happened to the part when they smashed the statues?”
I was gobsmacked. She HAD been listening. 
So I resumed reading all of the words but I’d pepper in my POV – “I don’t like that choice. Girls can be pharoah and boys can be pharoah. She doesn’t have to wear a fake beard! That’s silly!”
Cut to last night. I decided to address the why. I explained that some people don’t want girls and women to do the same jobs as boys and men, etc etc, concluding my “Sexism for 4-Year-Olds” lecture with the word patriarchy, kinda tongue-in-cheek. I intoned the word in the same way I’d say Darth Vader, D-Strux, or Lex Luthor. 
To which Sasha replied, NOT.EVEN.MISSING.A.BEAT, “We don’t like the patriarchy!”
Damned if she didn’t pronounce it right.
I gaped. Then laughed. And echoed, “We don’t like the patriarchy!!!”
It felt like a parenting win, a “Check out this delightful human” moment, and a life lesson all at once. This is what’s possible if we lay the groundwork, bathing our kids in stories so they can easily identify the heroes and the villains + critically questioning injustice so our kids can problematize and problem solve… 
This is what’s going on “beneath the surface,” proving that still waters run deep…
This is why I can’t just curate a “good book” collection or stop at the talk back. As my daughter grows and evolves, I have to grow and evolve, too, modifying my modus operandi, guiding (and stumbling) our way across new territory…
… so we can smash the patriarchy (instead of statues). And that’s just for starters.
Laurel Felt is a Los Angeles-based writer, educator, and scholar of children's media, play, and learning. She was proudly born and raised in Chicago (ish -- let's call a suburb a suburb).
Laurel Felt is a Los Angeles-based writer, educator, and scholar of children's media, play, and learning. She was proudly born and raised in Chicago (ish -- let's call a suburb a suburb).
On My Feed: Tips & Tricks
When we fall out of our creative routines – no longer faced with deadlines from specific projects and assignments, whether professional or academic, it can be tough to get back into it.
It’s so easy to tell ourselves we aren’t ready, or to give into feeling writers’ block. One of my story development tricks is to create a multi-part story bible for TV and features alike – whenever I have some creative energy to pour into my writing but not quite the energy I need to write and draft a script.
First, remember, you’re always ready.
Second, if you’re tired and too spent to write, read or watch. Go to your inspos. Reading and watching something fabulous always fires me up to write something.
And if that something isn’t fully defined yet, I start a story bible to low-stakes organize my thoughts and ideas. Allows me to just sit and write, while still feeling productive.
Kat O'Brien
Just in case anyone needed to see this today. Friendly reminder. #Wednesday #Writers #Wisdom

PS on that note, looking for your creative soulmates? We're all hanging out at #chitownscreenwriting. Engage and connect with fellow creatives.
https://t.co/Vb2PeTqcUv https://t.co/6IzR3VSQug
Kat O'Brien
Hey 👋#Screenwriters! How do you get past Writer's Block? My go-to? If you're feeling stuck, revisit your reliable favs. Observe, reflect, interpret, and decide how you're gonna apply that to your own #writing. Always helps to broaden our perspective.

#Wednesday #Writers #Wisdom https://t.co/T0GbL0xMgt
Kat O'Brien
#screenwriters: Story & Show Bibles and what goes into them? Maybe we should do a #scriptchat @ScriptPipeline @blcklist? Shout out to @farook112 and @FlairandSynch for inspiring this 💖 for our #WritingCommunity. Here's the quick take away 🧵 https://t.co/jtB19pmrx1
Writers' Wisdom: What I've Been Loving
As a writer, I find that when the world feels heavy and I don’t feel funny, or can’t find the comedy, I shift genres and focus on non-fiction, channeling my creativity into activism. I think there’s some wisdom to this approach as a writer, as a way to keep yourself writing and creating, even if it’s not in the genre or format you typically explore.
I’ve been loving moms taking action to be changemakers for a long time and this week, I’m spotlighting two fierce moms channeling their creative energy into being the change they want to see in the world, and bringing everyone else with them. Sharing their stories below for your inspiration!
MAY IS NATIONAL WATER SAFETY MONTH: DROWNING PREVENTION
Halle Quezada is a mom, teacher, and local organizer – and a produced writer, director, editor and one of the stars of We Still Teach, which put teachers on television broadcasting lessons from their living rooms– to yours– during pandemic school closures. Throughout the show, Halle’s work was an incredible example for using art as a tool for social change, to organize and inspire activism. May is National Water Safety Month and I wanted to bring back her video lesson (32:05) to help raise awareness for a public water safety campaign she’s been actively working on to get the City of Chicago to install life rings along our lakefront. You can follow Halle on twitter @HalleQuezada for the latest on this critical campaign.
MOTHERS AND SONS RALLYING TOGETHER FOR CHANGE 
Jil Ross, local author and film maker, organized a group of mothers and contacted policymakers and asked them to join her on Mother’s Day to rally together and address concerns around gun violence and the outsized impact of it on Black and Brown males – and, at the same time, to celebrate their sons.
The recent shooting of Daunte Wright shook Jil Ross to her core. She was out of the country and turned on the news to see the latest update in the Derek Chauvin trial for the murder of George Floyd when the killing of Daunte Wright was reported. Hearing how he called his mother after being pulled over by police, the anguish of Katie Wright as she listened to her son being shot to death was just too much. Too relatable as a mother with a son in his twenties. “When I returned home to the U.S., the next day, I learned of the killing of fourteen-year-old Adam Toldeo. Whether from the hands of police, gang activity, or careless gun violence – we are ready for it to stop. It has to stop!” Ross said.
 #TheMotherAndSonMarch was founded in the spring of 2021, in Chicago Illinois. We are mothers who formed a coalition due to the national trauma caused by the deaths of Black and Brown males. We are mothers committed to ending violence and aggression towards our children and replacing it with understanding, love, education, training, and opportunities.
You can follow @Jil_Ross and the growing movement for the latest: motherandsonmarch.org #motherandsonmarch @motherandsonmarch
Jil and her son
Jil and her son
On My Calendar: Writing Workshops & Events
We are in a unique time for unprecedented virtual access to amazing workshops and opportunities to continue to learn and engage as a community of content creators and collaborators. Thanks to my creative partner Tamika J. Spaulding @tjmadeafunny for curating this wonderful list for us!
Alliance of Women Directors & Seed & Spark
Monday, 5/10 @ 5pm CT
(suggested donation)
Writers Guild Foundation & Business of Creating
Tuesday 5/11 @ 4pm PT
CAAMFest & Warner Media
Friday, 5/14 @ 2pm PT
Creators Writing Room
Friday, 5/14 @ 6pm-7pm PT
On My Calendar: #SelfCare & #FitnessFun
Everything we do as writers and content creators connects to our writing because our writing is all about filtering our life experiences in some way. Making time for #selfcare and #fitnessfun is really hard for me because I tend to schedule it last in my day, but the more I intentionally write and tweet about it, the more I am accountable for doing this for myself.
I’m always looking for a way to multi-task: can I do creative calls while jogging, biking, elliptical-ing? Eventually I’ll get to a place (maybe/hopefully) where I don’t feel like I always gotta multi-task. One way I know I can always be present exercising is doing #fitnessfun with my fam and friends.
This weekend in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, #fitnessguru #fitfriend #fitmom Luci Grause of Skip & Scoot is leading some fun for the whole fam, and folks of all ages!
Sat 5/15 11:00amKids Fitness with Skip & Scoot (family focused)
Join Skip & Scoot for fun and interactive movement games, kid friendly obstacle courses, sensory experiences, and action songs to promote fitness for children’s brains and bodies!
Sat 5/15 11:45amPhysical Fitness Challenge with Equinox Lincoln Common + Skip & Scoot* (all ages)
Channeling all athletes of all ages to participate in an outdoor physical fitness challenge!
- 2-minute AMRAP (cardiovascular health)
- Curl up test (muscular endurance)
- Push up test (muscular strength)
- Trunk lift (flexibility)
*Physical Fitness Challenge is free, donations to LC Legacy Team appreciated.
You can go here for more on Move For Kids, a weekend of activities benefitting parents, families and caregivers of Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Writers' Spotlight: Someone You Should Know
Modern Muse Bridget Boland is a shamanic energy healer certified by The Four Winds, an award-winning writer, Forrest Yoga teacher, birth and death coach, and former attorney. She’s also badass mom and has taught me so much about finding my voice through motherhood, and finding my energetic boundaries in juggling motherhood with all the other roles I strive to be present for in my family, with my friends, with teaching and public service so that I can be a warrior + “slashie” and told me about this awesome new book just released from one of her clients – about mindfulness and creativity in relationship to motherhood.
Part memoir, part prescription for the overwhelmed mom, Inner Compass Mom shares author Danielle Kloberdanz’s transformation from disillusioned mother of four to a happier, purposeful, and joyful woman, free of the feelings of inadequacy that had plagued her. Kloberdanz felt lost and overwhelmed as the mother of four active young children. Where was her real ‘self’ in all the many-layered role as mother, household manager, and wife? How could she find her way back to the happiness and sense of purpose she had lost? Kloberdanz turned inward, looking for answers. She turned outward, to the books of spiritual leaders, philosophers, and scientists like Brené Brown, Eckhart Tolle, Julia Cameron, Deepak Chopra, Shefali Tsabary, and others. In her spiritual coming of age, she found encouragement and inspiration among the their teachings and tapped into their insights for her own path to a life-changing transformation. She discovered she already knew the way from within, from her own inner compass. Kloberdanz shares their combined wisdom and her own insights in a readable, relatable guide to find more peace and happiness while raising a family.
Connect with #chitownscreenwriting
Writers and creators, in Chicago and around the world, please share ChiTown Screenwriting with anyone you think might enjoy it, and be sure to let us know how ChiTown Screenwriting can uplift or support you and your projects.
As this grassroots movement finds its voice and expands our reach, we’ll continue to solicit content contributions in the areas of:
  • advice on writing and creating
  • tips and tricks on twitter (tag me @uknowkatobrien if you got some!)
  • wisdom, think: self care, mindfulness, changemaking and more
  • workshops and events to continue our professional development, and foster opportunities for connection, and collaboration
  • as well as writers and creators you should know
  • cool projects launching that we should spotlight
Who’s someone that I should know, ChiTown Screenwriting creators? Ping me @uknowkatobrien.
If you enjoyed this, or have writing/creative life questions I can unpack and answer, or are looking for support to promote your work and projects, reach out and let me know? And please share widely! #grassroots #letsgo
Thanks for reading, and see you next week #chitownscreenwriting!
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Kat O'Brien
Kat O'Brien @uknowKatOBrien

ChiTown Screenwriting is a movement, a mindset, and a publication that I write and edit. We're building community by connecting creative collaborators to opportunities.

Each issue features advice on writing and creating, tips & tricks, wit & wisdom, workshops & events, and spotlights on artists you should know. Within those formats, we're sharing and unpacking strategies to navigate the business, as well as writing prompts and lessons in the art and craft of screenwriting to navigate professional development in the creative process.

As a screenwriter, producer, and changemaker with over 20 years experience in the film industry based in Los Angeles, and connected around the world, I'm here to share my own experiences as well as curated content in the form of wisdom and resources through conversations with my creative partners and collaborators, as well as special guest contributors from the ChiTown Screenwriting Community, and other inspirations throughout the twitterverse. I'm also a professor, wife, and mom and am always discovering new ways to find balance and sustain my creative goals and am excited to share that with you! 

Whether you're in Chicago or just love the ChiTown collaborator mindset (good peeps, generous support!), join us to connect to a community of creatives seizing opportunities to sustain their dreams, and support their professional/personal work/life goals. 

ChiTown Screenwriting is a local community that will welcome you when you visit to work or play in the City of Big Shoulders, with international reach, breadth, and depth of perspective. 

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