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Words about words, brands, names and naming, and the creative process.

#sparkchamber 072417 Hal Ackerman

An honor and a privilege to have Hal Ackerman in the #sparkchamber today. Formerly an Off-Off Broadway playwright, then a Los Angeles screenwriter and UCLA professor, and now a Brooklyn short story writer and novelist, Hal is an inspiration!!

He is co-chair emeritus of the UCLA Screenwriting Program. His book, “Write Screenplays That Sell...The Ackerman Way” is now in its third printing, and is becoming the text of choice in a growing number of screenwriting programs around the country.

He has sold material to all the broadcast networks and major studios. His play, Testosterone: How Prostate Cancer Made a Man of Me, was the recipient of the William Saroyan Centennial Prize for Drama. Under its more accurate title, “Prick,” it won Best Script at the United Solo Festival.

He has published two ‘soft-boiled’ murder mysteriesStein, Stoned won the Lovey award for best first novel in 2010, and was followed in 2011 by Stein, Stung

His short story collection, The Boy Who Had A Peach Tree Growing Out Of His Head… (and Other Natural Phenomena) has just been published.

And listen to this: Sweet Day, read by Academy Award nominee Robert Forster 

1.] Where do ideas come from?

Usually I pillage some semblance of events from my own tattered life. The novel I am currently immersed in is from a story told to me four decades ago that has stayed with me.

2.] What is the itch you are scratching? 

The story is about a young Jewish guard and a German POW here in the states during the Second World War. It lingered with me for decades. I tried unsuccessfully to sell it as an HBO film. When Elie Wiesel died, I reread Night and also his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. In it, he says that a person who listens to a witness becomes a witness. That was it. I wish this amazing story were in the hands of a more competent writer, but it is mine to tell as well as I can.

3.] Early bird or night owl, tortoise or hare?

When I first lived in NY, I was a complete night person. Moved to LA and became a day writer. I’m back in Brooklyn and I work school hours 9-3. I guess I turn out stuff fairly quickly. Then send it out prematurely. Then rework it. Then send it out again too soon.

4.] How do you know when you are done?

There is that wonderful quote I have seen attributed to more than one person: “No work of art is ever finished, only abandoned.” I have been to a reading where an author was reading from his Pulitzer Prize winning book … in which he had made hand-written deletions and additions. So I guess the answer would be, if I ever get good enough to get it right, which means never.