• “a report back from the emotional front”

    A lovely instructor and talented writer at Fairfield University’s MFA program shared that as writers we’re expected to “report back from the emotional front.” I loved this phrase as soon as I heard it because that’s exactly what good writing does — it showcases the raw, beautiful, messy humanity of an instant, a relationship, a life. As writers, that’s our job. We define what matters so we can construct the language that will best highlight its worth. That’s good story-telling, but I think it’s more than that. I think it leads to good living, too.

    And I think that’s why so many of us are tormented.

    When you flex your emotional muscle so often, so well, it makes for compelling fiction, and a hyper-empathetic life. (Exhibit ‘A’: Me, this past weekend.) While I intend to reserve this space to explore issues related to writing, occasionally an event occurs that consumes you so completely, it must be addressed. I’m sure other creative types can relate to this phenomenon. Everything else just takes a brief pause. I do not want to write that scene. Or polish that dialogue. Or outline that story. Or tweak that treatment. Or read your goddamn notes. I do not want to do anything. For the moment, I need to weep.

    Why have I cried with such fervor the past few days? I think it’s been mostly about the abrupt perversion of innocence. Childhood should be a sacred era, a time when little minds and little hearts can develop and grow at their own pace. I believe in the profound impact a healthy, balanced, nurturing childhood has on one’s adult life — which, if you’re lucky, is a hell of a lot longer than your childhood. I’m thankful for mine, and I weep for the loss of theirs. Toward the bottom of the hierarchy of needs is safety. A child must feel safe to thrive. And I think a parent must, too.

    But how can they now? How can they ever again?

    When these big, disturbing, multifaceted horrors hit the mainstream and into my personal emo-sphere, after the shock and awe, I reach for Serious comfort. For some, Serious comfort may mean a gallon of Butter Pecan, or a night watching old movies with your inner circle, or a fleece blanket and a favorite book. For me, in this case, Serious comfort could only be delivered by one man. Someone so apropos, so authoritative, so nurturing, so restorative, they gave him his own show.

    Honestly, don’t you wish you could tuck him and the whole piano into your pocket on weeks like this one? Since this is an impossibility, I’ve been watching old episodes online, surrounded by a mounding snowbank of Kleenex, later to be caught Googling: “men’s red cardigans.”

    Sidebar: The only person I know who adores Fred Rogers as much as I do is Kristen McGregor, children’s media expert (MA from Columbia’s Teachers’ College), TV producer, writer, performer, child advocate, my co-creator on children’s TV developments, and the tallest bridesmaid of my beautiful crew (to debut this June). The only major difference between Kristen and me (besides nine inches of gorgeous Canadian leg), is that she has so much energy and ambition for each day she wishes she didn’t have to sleep.

    (I love sleep. I sleep as often as possible….I haven’t been able to sleep much these past few days.)

    Anyway, back to Fred. As a Presbyterian minister, children’s entertainer, and musician, Fred Rogers loved the song “This Little Light of Mine” and sang variations of it quite often in the Neighborhood. Somehow, as I’m awoken with these horrific thoughts, these thoughts about broken promises that childhood can be childhood and that we must be good shepherds, caring for our precious lot of little people in our world, images of another candlelight vigil a mile long dancing in my head, the terror is replaced with a quiet refrain. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine….” You know the one. But in my sleep-deprived stupor, the lyrics have been tweaked:

    “This little writer life, I’m gonna let it shine.

    This little writer life, I’m gonna let it shine.

    This little writer life, I’m gonna let it shine,

    Let it shiiine, let it shiiine,

    Let it shiiine.”

    And you know what? A lot of days, it doesn’t shine. Most days, in fact, it’s not so shiny at all. Most days, it’s just me, hunched at my little wooden desk in the cozy office off the kitchen, cold coffee and a lit candle by my side — I learned long ago that knowing a candle’s lit prevents me from sleeping at my desk. Next to me, atop a darling library card filing cabinet, sits a clipboard (yes, a real, old school clipboard; this is not a new Apple product/app), upon which I write every literary “loose end” I must remedy in every piece I’ve ever worked on. Each project has its own torturous page. “Mention that she used to practice kissing on Teddy Ruxpin,” or “weave that quote back through,” or “add that the trunk was always kept in the attic,” or “James wears flip-flops year-round — no matter what,” or “the dog’s not dead yet, fix.” Basically, I really, really hate that clipboard.

    But I digress.

    Despite the usually unshiny, non-glamorous life that is being a writer, I had a shiny day the other day, so I think it’s worth mentioning, and I know it’s worth some big exclamations of gratitude. (My dear Lary Bloom, please excuse the next two sentences, for I know you hate:”!”) First off, the cast and crew who brought it to life — bravo!, and an individual “shout out” to LLP’s Amanda Phillips Atkins. She’s a dream to work with — one of my all-time favorite developer/producers!)

    BIG thanks to the friends who texted me screenshots that night…so sweet.
    I spent the evening channelling my inner “Christine Prancer,” squeezing my beautiful and wildly supportive mom, and, naturally, drinking and gambling with some of the best gal pals on the planet.
    (LOVE you, KC, TF, AD, JS, KD, and LTT!)

    From TVbythenumbers: “Help for the Holidays” garnered a 3.0 household rating with OVER 5.6 MILLION UNDUPLICATED VIEWERSIn addition, “Help for the Holidays” was the #1 cable program of Sunday and the #1 cable movie of the week….The Sunday premiere of “Help for the Holidays” BOOSTED HALLMARK CHANNEL TO BE THE #1 RATED CABLE NETWORK IN PRIME TIME among households (2.7 HH rtg) and the #1 rated cable network for day among households (1.5 rtg), W25-54 (.8 rtg), and A25-54 (.7 rtg). The film now claims the distinction as HALLMARK CHANNEL’S MOST WATCHED ORIGINAL MOVIE OF THE YEAR among W25-54, A25-54, and total viewers, and the 2nd highest-rated original movie of the year among households.

    Writing is, and has always been, my healthy salvation. Whatever your healthy salvation, I hope it comforts you during this harrowing week and holiday season. In the meantime, may we each celebrate the “shiny little moments” in each others’ lives, and be filled with gratitude for the simple pleasures each day brings.

    Today, mine is this transcendently wise reminder from the magnificent Mr. Rogers:

    “I’m just so proud of all of you who have grown up with us. And I know how tough it is somedays to look with hope and confidence on the months and years ahead. But I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger: I like you just the way you are. And what’s more, I’m so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know that you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe, and to help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods. It’s such a good feeling to know that we’re lifelong friends.”
    (To listen/watch Mr. Rogers share this message himself click here.)

    And with that, I say, especially on days like today, it’s such a good feeling to know that we’re friends, too.




  • Blog Debut Night: “This is how literary debutantes come out to society now. THIS is your coming out!” – kind friend

    Hello beautiful people,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for visiting the very first blog post of abbeycleland.com. If I could “cheers” you each right now, I would. (Tonight, it’s all about the $9 Barefoot Pinot Noir, FYI.) Though this site will continue to become more sophisticated and tech-embracing over time (I would use a typewriter if I could, so please bear with me), I’m absolutely delighted it’s up, and truly touched that you’re taking a minute out of your day to give it a gander.

    It’s my hope that this blog will serve as an open space for me to share some of my adventures in writing, explore new topics (at least somewhat) related to the literary life, and learn from friends who treasure story-telling as I do. While studying and working in Columbus, New York, Connecticut, and Los Angeles, I’ve encountered some extraordinary people — the kind that are as generous as they are creative. And let me tell you, these people are fiercely creative. So, I plan to conduct some special feature interviews here, as well. And no, they won’t be Diane Sawyer-style brilliantly probing chats…I write fiction! If it gets too heavy or too pedantic, I’ll start making things up. Let’s shoot for 3 parts educational, 2 parts pure frivolity, and 1 part Triple Sec and see how it goes, shall we?

    Next, I need to gush some massive gratitude to the incredible fiancé, friends, family, and industry folks who have been so supportive, patient, and all-around lovely toward me as I navigate this writer life. You people are “my people.” You’re beautiful and I love you. Sure, I make my living weaving words together (and sometimes apart), but some sentiments are just better captured with a picture. So, without further adieu, tonight, you all have made me feel like this:

    Lastly, and maybe not “leastly,” should you be of the Hallmark Christmas movie-watching variety, I invite you to check out my first TV movie to be produced, called Help for the Holidays. It’s protagonist is an elf. Need I say more?! See below for some stills and information.

    The next blog post just maaay feature a picture of me and some of my favorites watching it in my home. I maaay be dressed in an elf-inspired ensemble. I maaay be covered in cookie frosting. I maaay be a twinge tipsed. Clearly, there’s a lot up in the air. =)

    In the meantime, be merry, friends, and big thanks for reading.



    Eva La Rue, Dan Gauthier and John Brotherton Provide ‘Help for the Holidays’ in Hallmark Channel Movie

    Sunday, November 25, 2012

    In Hallmark Channel’s new film “Help for the Holidays,” actress (““) stars as Christine, one of Santa’s elves who is assigned the task of helping a little boy in Los Angeles as his family is in dire need of a wake up call.  (““) and  (““) portray Sara and Scott VanCamp, the boy’s mother and father, whose Christmas gift shop, Holly Daze, is booming. As a result, Will (, ““) and his sister Ally (, ““) are often left unsupervised, with the exception of when Sara’s brother Dave (, “One Life to Live”) is available.Enter Santa’s little helper, who interviews to be the kids’ new full-time nanny, while secretly hoping to bring happiness and joy back into the holiday.

    Scott and Sara VanCamp own a successful Christmas gift shop, Holly Daze, but they are having a hard time keeping the Christmas spirit alive in their own home with their children, Ally, 12, and Will, 8. Ally and Will are disappointed every year on Christmas, thinking their parents just don’t have time for them anymore. Sara and Scott have lost the spirit of Christmas, and frequently ask Sara’s brother Dave to watch the kids while they work long hours. Will, who loves the holidays, asks the Santa at the downtown Christmas Village to revive his parents’ spirit.At the North Pole, Christine is an elf who wonders if there is more to life than making toys. Sensing her unhappiness, Santa calls Christine into his office, where he gives her a special assignment. She will go to the VanCamp family’s home to bring the family together for Christmas. She must never reveal herself as an elf, and she must not get emotionally attached to anyone she meets. Christine has heard of other elves who have broken these rules and never come back to the North Pole.Before she goes, Santa gives Christine a magical book that answers any question she asks about the real world, and a purse that produces anything she needs out of thin air. Lastly, Santa transforms her elf ears into human ears, and Christine is ready to make her journey to Los Angeles, where she finds herself in a small, sparse apartment of her own. She meets Sara and Scott at Holly Daze, where she interviews to be a nanny and begins to realize getting this couple to love the holidays is going to be a tough job.

    “Help for the Holidays” premieres Sunday, December 9 at 8/7c on the Hallmark Channel.