Being the weird girl is never easy, but in a dystopian future where women are licensed as domestic pets, it's a nightmare. Mina is a magical foundling raised by sage off-gridders who teach her to feign compliance. But talent will out, and Mina’s dreams threaten the Night Mare’s rule. Discover the trilogy today!
S.U.L., Suberterranean Upper Lifeform, a government-church acronym given to this species of mole-people.
The SUL are descendants of a thousand multi-ethnic founding families who pioneered the Core of the planet before Ulger blew the blue orb apart, and it reformed as the Pangeic-like continent of Blinkin.
The SUL were rediscovered in 3654 of the Night Mare's reign.
The culture is inward and mystic, influenced by the ethylene laced gas in the air of their underground city. Ethylene, they say, influenced the Oracles at Delphi.
SUL are unwelcome in Winkin City as too delusional. Fantasies are free floating and anyone might catch them.
But the Night mare likes a good oracle, so they are tolerated at the Manus Market and as homesteaders in the ruins Off-right.
PAP, the name taken from the ancient Paparazzi, a photographer who pursues celebrities to get photos of them.
The word Pap was derived from a character name in Fellini's La Dolce Vita. A name given by the Night Mare to babies randomly selected at birth to have cameras implanted in place of eyes. Paps supply the screen feed in Winkin City. Their tongues are removed to improve focus.
DREAM DRIFTER, personal guard to the Night Mare. Imported early in her reign to rid the world of dreamers.
Heron-headed thugs, white-eyed dream addicts in shabby wool overcoats and sunshades. The smell of a Drifter is like wet towels mildewed in a locker.
Squijal, is the term used to describe how a Dream Drifter moves, the way a slug slimes across marble.
*Dream Drifters are seriously allergic to the sweet fruit of the planet. If consumed they grow to 10x their ginormous size and rampage for fun.
We killed Sister Cordelia sometime our first year at the Convent. She was old, old enough to die, too old to teach fourth grade mathematics. Past her prime to handle ten, often unruly, little girls, let alone two sets of twins.
Ria and I weren’t really twins, at least not by appearance, a fact that would plague us both well into adulthood. We weren’t even twins biologically: three crucial months separated us in age, and two separate wombs had conceived us, but we had been adopted simultaneously as infants. We shared the same familial neuroses, at least in the formative years, so it’s not surprising that if a nun were to be killed, we would do it together.
1964 was our first year at the Convent. It wasn’t actually a convent, but rather a boarding school where Catholic girls were finished, turned out into the world as “Gentlemen’s ladies”—a phrase, which under contemporary scrutiny, conjures a host of meanings.
The school seemed out of place, out of time, set on thirty gate-enclosed acres, replete with riding trails and armed guards, smack in the middle of southern California blue-collar suburban sprawl. Tiny pastel houses had sprouted around its once agricultural perimeter, into a relatively unremarkable city. The world had continued outside the iron gates, while all the trappings of the late 19th century were doggedly preserved on the inside.
Sister Cordelia Marie, Lear’s virtuous daughter, though now pickled and past her glory, drilled us mercilessly with rote math equations, daring us to be wrong. Ria and I usually were. We’d skipped grade three, the year multiplication tables were memorized. We had bypassed that grade in order to enter the Convent, which was, for economic reasons, dropping a class a year, the one we would have been old enough to enter. We were offered this advancement in an effort to save us from the racism of the small California neighborhood our family had integrated only the year before.
Claremont is a college town, boasting six well-regarded institutions of higher learning—Pitzer, Scripps, Pomona College, Claremont McKenna College, and Harvey Mudd, as well as the Claremont Graduate School. Baseline road divided the mountains from the valley, divided blue collar from white, white from non-white. We moved just above Baseline, into a pretty white house with black shutters, a half circle drive, and columns of scrolled iron work, despite the petition drawn up to keep us out. We moved there sometime in the summer of 1963, under cover of darkness, with whispered voices, and flashlights casting eerie beams along the newly painted walls.
We first enrolled in a local parochial school and fared well there, academically at least, despite the school bus that refused to stop for us until Mama stood in the middle of the road daring the driver to hit her, the dog feces hurled at our cars, the dead animal in the mailbox, the garbage can heaved at our front windows, the cold shoulders, and muffled expletives from our white neighbors. We took all this as elements of being different. We accepted it as part and parcel of changing entrenched attitudes and racial stereotypes, because Mama said that’s what we were doing, and she had a knack for making terror fun.
We were surprisingly unafraid, unscarred by the hate of those around us. At least I was until a Valentine’s card was presented to me, amid a chorus of snickers, by a ruddy-faced thug, who regularly taunted my sister and me on the school bus.
The card: “Happy Valentines Day Nigger” was scrawled in No. 2 pencil across pink card stock, liberally ornamented with red hearts and silver glitter.
Nigger. I had heard the word, in jest or in hypothetical debates about racial constructs between my parents and their peers. But I had never seen it written down. At first I wasn’t sure what it said on that Valentine card, but whatever it was, it had a sort of permanence in that form, like history. I endeavored to sound it out, trying to remember what the rule was for vowels followed by a double consonant, finally taking it to Mama for a translation.
Mama cuddled me onto her lap, that Saint Valentine’s Day when I was seven, the day I became a nigger. Perhaps that’s why I recall the event at all. It was a rare luxury, a cuddle from a woman who rarely took time away from earning money, determined that we would never want. Mama normally exited the house shouting out a general, “c.y.k.” (consider yourself kissed). So the Valentine’s Day cuddle meant something, something important, and that something became the Convent.
Sister Cordelia, pruned and pinched, wimpled in stiffly starched grosgrain, would hover just in front of each girl, firing questions on fetid breath. She was stone deaf, forcing her to focus on your mouth, her features scrunched in an angry frown, as if her whole face were required to read the answer from your lips. A correct response to any equation always seemed to disappoint her, not allowing for the pain she was entitled to inflict, when learning was not in evidence.
The thump, was a flick of the middle finger off the thumb making contact with the head at very close range, administered with a sneer of disdain. This was Sister Cordelia’s weapon of choice. Every nun had her own personal arsenal—rulers, chalkboard erasers, ping-pong paddles.
Ria and I always got thumped. It seemed as if somehow our dark skin made it harder to teach us the harshly elegant lessons of civilized life. We were the only Negroes, after all, in the whole school of three hundred girls. Two more would arrive the following year, and another the year after that, but in the beginning it was just the Jacksons: Maria and Nico.
There were other “exotics” housed behind the iron gates. The armed guards were there to protect the daughters of parents whose grandeur was commensurate with their bank accounts. South American ranch owners; Panamanians, still flush with funds from the canal; Mexican cattle barons; Chinese, rife with assets from Hong Kong’s healthy economy; and Korean politicians’ daughters, who arrived with at least one suitcase filled with spending cash specifically.
They rubbed elbows with debutantes from Pasadena and San Marino, learned English and western manners so they could return home to the arranged marriages as improved assets and more than just virgin blood on the sheets.
Ria and I were the unwitting heralds of a new day. American Negroes, the descendants of slaves, who could afford the education and lifestyle heretofore proffered only to the elite and white, or brown-but-foreign.
We didn’t know that’s who we were. We were eight years old, little girls embarking on a new adventure: boarding school, just like the books we’d been read of English bairns shipped off to learn the ways of the world. Those ways included racism, classism, and sexism, but not yet, not among little girls. In the beginning we were all tarnished, all of us were too “something” to be perfect ladies. Too fat, too thin, too tall, too shy, too much for our families to bear.
Sister Cordelia didn’t die right away, but lingered in some malignant stupor, some threat of return, until the bells finally tolled her demise. No one blamed us. But when I look back, there seems to be no other explanation for what happened that day.
The Gilrain twins were identical in looks, though not in personality, and maybe that’s what drew us together—each of us knowing what it was like to be compared to someone else, mistaken for someone else, just when you’re trying to figure out who you are.
When we killed Sister Cordelia the Gilrain and Jackson twins were holding a full-scale war behind the deaf woman’s back. We never expected her to turn around, never when she was writing mathematical terms on the black board in that painstakingly parochial script. We could always count on at least a few minutes of unsupervised frenzy, while she wrote the next set of torturous equations. But she turned that day, her veil whipping out behind her, a black sail, the malevolent crusader’s banner.
It must have seemed a dumb show: four girls in brown and white units, button down shirts disheveled, desks as barricades, wads of lined paper lobbed across giggling heads into enemy territory. Chaos reigned, and we were its servants.
Sister Cordelia’s face shriveled in horror. She sputtered. She waved a bony digit at us. She gasped and her eyes widened. She fixed on me. I remember the pale blue of her eyes, Delft china stippled with small red veins. She clutched at her habit, as if it were a skin that had suddenly grown too tight. The color drained from her face, leaving it pale and wrinkled, blank parchment on which naught was writ. She wheezed out her final denouncement,
“You’re … killing me!” Then she crumpled, a heap of black cloth, onto the wide oak desk before us.
The clock ticked. Ten pairs of owl eyes, wide and staring, mouths agape—tick, tick—a loud pulsating rhythm, rivaled only by the rabbit thumping of our hearts. We sat down. This admonishment had been unusual and extremely effective. We waited to see what the reprise to such a display could possibly be. But she didn’t move. Neither did we.
Some of the girls finally fled, screaming. But the four of us were loath to leave Sister Cordelia Marie alone in that room. She’d never been warm, her temperature just high enough to keep her other foot out of the grave, until that moment when we watched it drop. But in that moment we cared. There had been something naked about her actions, something vulnerable and true. We knew she shouldn’t be left alone, laid open like that.
We never talked about it after that day. We never had to explain what happened in that classroom prior to her attack. No one asked, and we never volunteered. No one counseled us, as might have happened today in the light of any traumatic incident that is also school related. Life just went on—same school, new math teacher, less thumping. We’d killed a nun, and we’d remained innocent.
Nicole Quinn’s script An Act Of God has been named the Web Series winner in the 2016 ScreenCraft Pilot Launch TV Script Contest and we recently asked her to discuss her past, present, and future in writing.
A varied and prolific writer, Nicole’s feature film Racing Daylight, a love story across time, stars Melissa Leo and David Strathairn. Her short plays are published by Playscripts inc. The Gold Stone Girl trilogy, a feminist-dystopian fantasy, is available for Kindle and on Audible and iTunes.
ScreenCraft: Can you give me an overview of your writing experience and background? Where and when did your storytelling roots begin?
Nicole: I’m a storyteller. It was confusing for me as a child because my stories were often called lying, which is maybe why it remains a guilty pleasure. I’m adopted, and because I know little concrete information about who I might have been, I’ve allowed myself to be anything. The abandoned child of clandestine spies was a favorite at age five. Pretending proved muscle building for my imagination. Convent boarding school and UC Berkeley added humanities to my understanding of the craft.
I was an actor first. I came to writing after the birth of my first child. I found that I liked it, and I could play all the characters in the piece without ever leaving home. I got my WGA card in 1993 and collaborated with some amazing artists in the studio system at the time, John Singleton, Jodie Foster, Meg LeFauve, Carol Polakoff, while never getting anything made.
It’s hard to get anything made in the system, and stories that don’t fit a mold are even harder to get financed. I didn’t want to spend my time issue rigging stories about race and gender. My interest is human stories, where those issues are part and parcel of the plot and not just gratuitous tokens to inclusion.
ScreenCraft: Tell me about your writing community…
Nicole: Our region is rich in artists, the Hudson Valley, specifically Ulster County, so it’s a wonderful place to collaborate. I sit on the board of the Rosendale Theatre Collective, a community owned single screen movie theater, and co-chair its programming committee. I belong to Actors&Writers where I get to perform in new works by talented professionals. The Woodstock Film Festival is here, BCDF Pictures, as well as Storyhorse Theater. Many theater, film, and television professionals make their homes here. It’s been possible to host table reads with some of the best talent in the world. There’s much cross pollinating, and it’s a bucolic landscape to boot.
ScreenCraft: Where did the concept of your Pilot Launch contest-winning web series, An Act of God, come from? How does it fit in with your body of work?
Nicole:The idea for An Act of God popped into my head when I was wondering how to get what goes on in someone’s head, while they’re thinking and not speaking, center stage w/o voice over. I was thinking about the short form model and what content might hold me on a small screen. Not an intimate and niche story, but something fast moving and set on the world stage. I was also considering how we consume media now, and how a story told in 10-10 min bites, when seamed together, would make a reasonable 100 min movie when consumed as long form on a larger screen, if you considered the scene breaks from the beginning. And so I was off.
I often write with actors in mind for the principal roles. Usually they are people I know, but not always. I didn’t know Giancarlo Esposito, but then a friend was working wardrobe in Texas on a film he was in and she asked him if I could send him a script, and he said yes. Two years later he showed up for his first costume fitting and I was totally shocked and amazed that this incredible artist responded to the work and came to give me the gift of taking my characters and making them his own. You never know if you don’t ask.
I write in whatever medium the story demands. I intended to write The Gold Stone Girl as a screenplay and eight years later I had a trilogy of novels. It was too big a story to be a movie, it wanted a longer form. So now, I’m puffing it up as a limited series. I like the whole story series, much more familiar on the BBC. A finite number of episodes to tell a great strong story, then it’s over and on to something new and equally engaging.
ScreenCraft: How do you typically approach stories? And can you give an overview of what your writing process involves?
Nicole: I’m a complete story nerd. I think story is everything. It’s history, it’s art, it’s human nature. Sometimes I think writers are like fly paper, or like flowers pollinated with memory as story floating around in the ether. Sometimes it’s a place, or a scent, a sound, a breeze. I tend to think in pictures, so I write what I see in my head. It’s word music, painting a landscape of language.
ScreenCraft: In your career as a screenwriter thus far, what craft or business lesson has made the biggest impact or was the hardest won?
Nicole: Believing in myself, my work, that’s been my hardest battle. Not giving up. When someone says you can’t do that, now it automatically translates in my head to, okay, you can’t do that. That doesn’t mean I can’t.
I like learning new things, and I find that if I think like a beginner there’s more possibility for genius. The more I think I know, the more limitations I tend to put on myself. Once I unshackle myself from doubt and fear, then anything is possible. It’s not like I’m inventing the wheel after all, they’re just stories.
ScreenCraft: What was your experience at ITVFest?
Nicole: ITVFest is yeasty. So much energy and excitement for media storytelling in all of its aspects. It’s also world inclusive and very diverse, not what I expected when I read Dover, Vermont. So shame on me for my assumptions, and congratulations to ITVFest.
I’ve had meaningful conversations that were not all about the economics of the business, but about the bones of the craft, which is so much more interesting to me. I’m sure business conversations were to be had, but I tend to run from them. My tragic flaw.
ScreenCraft: Did you glean any surprising or useful storytelling or business insights from your time at ITVFest?
Nicole: Yes absolutely! I loved the VR, panel, where I learned a lot of useful info about this new landscape I’m considering how to write for. I loved the TV tent where I watched amazing short content both comedy and drama. All well produced and often introducing me to worlds I didn’t know. Exciting!
I chatted with John Rhodes and Dominique Holmes, with women writers from the workshop tents, stimulating and creative.
ScreenCraft: And what’s next for you, career- and project-wise?
Nicole: I’ve adapted Shakespeare’s As You Like It into a contemporary gender bending romp which I plan to shoot in my meadow (Arden) summer 2017 – Like You is the title. I’ve applied for funding to make the pilot of An Act of God, while I work on the pilot and series bible of a three season limited series adapted from my trilogy, The Gold Stone Girl, a feminist-dystopian fantasy.
I also narrate audiobooks, which is another form of storytelling I suppose. I have a new one out on October 18th, The Next, by Stephanie Gangi, a wonderfully literate modern ghost story.
We are excited to announce the winners and finalists of the 2016 ScreenCraft Pilot Launch TV Script Contest! Culled from over 1,700 submissions, Trace by MW Cartozian Wilson has been named the Drama winner, 101 Ways To Be A Better Personby Megan Bacharach has been named the Comedy winner, and An Act Of God by Nicole Quinn has been named the Web Series winner.
In Trace, a rookie special
agent shattered by the murder of his family has a new case dropped in
his life by their killer, but in order to keep his position on a task
force of highly-skilled misfits, this trans man must contend with his
hyper-macho partner, who has known him since they were teens. It’s a
timely, exceptionally well-written drama pilot that both honors and
subverts one of the quintessential television genres and formats.
101 Ways To Be A Better Person centers
on a twenty-something woman with sociopathic tendencies who commits to
blindly following a list of self-improvement initiatives as a promise to
her late mother–the only person she ever cared about and the only
person who believed her to be capable of good. It’s a distinctive,
tonally ambitious comedy pilot with a clear concept, inexhaustible
sources of external and internal conflict, and offbeat, complex central
An Act Of God is a
character-driven thriller that tells the story of a woman who suffers a
thrombotic ischemic stroke caused by blood clots. Physically comatose
but able to step outside of her body with full consciousness, she must
investigate her recent suspicions that her husband of twenty years has
begun using the company they jointly operate to make chemical weapons.
The dark and engaging web pilot employs an intricate narrative structure
and fourth wall motif that plays exceptionally well to the online
The following pilots were selected as the competition finalists: DRAMA Bog Walk by Dominique A. Holmes Alt Alexby Danny Baram Aeternumby Heidi Nyburg Heaven 2.0by Craig Soffer Forever Flowers by Erin Granat Wildcat by Sam Cooke & Hussain Pirani The Divinity Cycleby Nelson Downend Thee Bronx by Megan Doyle Waterloo by Chuck Griffith
COMEDY Nextby Jason Director & Ayla Harrison Intelligents by Scott C. Reynolds Welcome To Heiding by RJ Buckley Puritan Placeby Peyton McDavitt Classified by Elizabeth Stamp U.N. Lovableby Andrea O’Malley Georgie Girlby Ned Kissam We’re Not Togetherby Jordan Rane The Slopeby Eudie Pak
WEB SERIES Between Us Girlsby Courtney Hope Thérond & Emily Claire Utley
Not Just Another Day In Roach City by Monica Cote
White (Trash) Magic by Keatyn Lee Global!by Nathan Alan Bunker Black Girl Magicby Yolanda Brown Herringsby Keith Chamberlain Just Four Unclesby Paul Sprangers Bombay Kitchenby Sharon Wasjwol Who I Amby Jakob Austin Burgos
In addition to the ScreenCraft team, the judges included: Georgia
Ranes, Executive Assistant to VP of Production at HBO; Ari Lubet,
Manager at 3 Arts, the company behind such shows as ORANGE IS THE NEW
BLACK, BROOKLYN NINE-NINE, SILICON VALLEY, PARKS AND RECREATION, 30
ROCK, THE MINDY PROJECT, LOUIE, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, SAINT
GEORGE and more; Sam Forman, screenwriter, HOUSE OF CARDS on Netflix,
THE BRINK on HBO, HAND OF GOD on Amazon; Elizabeth Phang, Screenwriter
of 90210 on Fox, THE EX LIST on CBS, THE STRAIN on FX and HUNG on HBO;
and Jen Grisanti, whose students have sold 40 pilots (5 have gone to
series) and who has helped to staff over 75 writers on TV shows.
Grand prize winners Wilson, Bacharach and Quinn will receive cash
prizes, consultations with the ScreenCraft team, personal introductions
via phone to top managers, agents and producers who specialize in drama
and comedy TV development and production, and passes to attend ITV Fest
in Dover, Vermont October 5th-9th!
Congratulations to these winning writers and finalists, and thank you
to our judges and to everyone who submitted projects; we read a number
of remarkable pilots. View the quarter-finalists and semifinalists here.
WEB SERIES An Act Of God by Nicole Quinn Between Us Girls by Courtney Hope Thérond & Emily Claire Utley Black Girl Magic by Yolanda Brown Bombay Kitchen by Sharon Wajswol Conjure: Friend Like Me by Tira Adams Global! By Nathan Alan Bunker Herrings by Keith Chamberlain Homeless Man by David Gregory Infected by Steven O’Grady Jaquan Jones BFD by Ted Nusbaum Jingle Man by Paul Bissett & Catherine Prosser (Music & Lyrics by Peter J. Casey, Paul Bissett & Catherine Prosser) Just Four Uncles by Paul Sprangers Not Just Another Day In Roach City by Monica Cote White (Trash) Magic by Keatyn Lee Who I Am by Jakob Austin Burgos