Monday, July 31, 2017


S.U.L., Suberterranean Upper Lifeform, a government-church acronym given to this species of mole-people.

Descendants of a thousand founding families who pioneered the Core of the planet. The SUL were rediscovered in 3654 of the Night Mare's reign.

The SUL culture is inward and mystic, influenced by the ethylene gas in the air of their underground city. Ethylene is believed to have opened the minds of 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.

Friday, June 2, 2017

FEST in Espinho!

I've been invited to co-teach a workshop with Melissa Leo (actor) and Jen Gatien (producer) and me along as writer/director at FEST- New Directors New Film in Espinho Portugal. I'll be on a film jury as well.

The stars align. Just when I'm trying to get It's a Nightmare off the ground an opportunity to re-educate myself arrives. Talking movies, teaching movie making, and watching movies, all on the coast of Portugal...I feel my luck and am so grateful for the opportunity. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Janitor's Daughter

        "My father's a janitor." I said. " My tuition is covered by a welfare scholarship. My mother takes in laundry for a rich white family who bought my clothes and loaned me the Benz."
        That's what I told the blonde social queens of our convent school in response to their question,
        "How much money does your father make that you can afford to be here?"
        It was 1970, we were sophomores at a girl's finishing school, the Benz was an old 1959 190SL, and it was a 16th birthday present from my father. I thought I'd said too much, gone too far with a narrative whose details didn't seem plausible. They'd know I was making it up, mocking them as they mocked me.
        On the contrary, they loved my frank humility, and for a few weeks I became a favored pet.
        We were never to ask questions about money, and everyone at school knew it. It was considered incredibly rude. The story about my father being a janitor came out as a knee-jerk reaction. I was a kid at boarding school, sometimes forgetting that my skin color made me different, because there were other girls who had accents and customs that identified them as more foreign than me in the school of 300 girls.
        The social queens came upon me in a courtyard during lunch. I remember it clearly, the wall of blonde varsity volleyball team that stepped in front of me, blocking my way. It wasn't aggressive, it wasn't overtly hostile, but it was a challenge. Prove yourself to us. They were trapping a wild animal for observation, and for their own protection, as my behavior in captivity was still an unknown, they did it as a group.
        They'd grown up together, gone to parochial elementary and junior high in segregated, though it was called exclusive, neighborhoods before coming to the convent for high school. They were a gang of we don't think we're mean girls, we just think we're better than you. They were determined to take down, or absorb into their pack, any lone wolves who appeared to threaten their dominion over the realm of smart, pretty, and going places.
        I was a boarding student. They were day-dogs. I don't know why we called them that, but we did. They'd started at the convent as freshmen. I'd been living there since I was eight. It was more home to me by then than home. I knew secret places to escape. I knew the old nuns and the cook and the pastry chef. I knew how to live in community, how to get along with different cultures.
        By high school I had already met this particular beast untethered, white privilege that assumes its superiority, in the guise of nuns bending over backward to accentuate our differences with blatant attempts to cull us from the herd. You could usually see them coming, the ones with veils flying and heels tapping, hurrying with offers of extra-help because of course you people always need it. Some openly treated my sister and me as if we were charity cases, though our parents paid the same tuition as everyone else.             Early accusations of plagiarism, or the times I had to take repeat tests alone to be certain I could replicate my answers, negated the fact that my sister and I had taken an arduous day long test to skip grade three when we first came to the convent. But these were things of the past. Surely my credibility and bona fides at this institution had already been firmly established after a seven years tenure? But now, here it was again, prove yourself worthy.
        My father wasn't a janitor, he was an aerospace engineer and he had helped to put man on the moon. The only janitor I knew personally worked at the special education school where my mother was a speech pathologist. Mr. Quimby was his name, and he was right off the boat from Ireland, where he said his people were considered niggers too. He sold Mama Irish Sweepstakes tickets once a year. He told wonderful stories and bawdy jokes. I could almost smell the peat smoke and hear the flutes and concertinas in his brogue. He had apple cheeks and a big belly laugh and a closet full of cleaning supplies. He was lovely, and I learned from him that lovely people do many things for a living, but it's not what measures their worth.
        For weeks the social queens gathered at lunchtime to hear stories of my Janitor's daughter's life, so foreign from our own. It was a colorful saga - of many people living together crammed into a one room shack, with no running water, and an outhouse. I shared the secrets of washing clothes in river water slapped against big rocks, and introduced the notion of foraging for food. I embellished Mr. Quimby's colorful history of poverty and pretended it was my own.

        Sister Kathryn was my favorite nun. She was our movie star beautiful, virtuoso violin playing, dean of students. She stopped by my room one night, several weeks after the janitor's daughter was born, and invited me to meet in her office the next morning. There she confronted me with my stories, and was incredibly knowledgeable about the details of same.
        "A janitor's daughter? How would your parents feel about the way you've described them? They've worked very hard to achieve what they have." She admonished.
        "I think they'd laugh. They'd know why I did it." I said.
        "Why did you do it?" She asked sincerely.
        "I just told them what they wanted to hear. They don't want the truth, that I'm just like them, or that heaven forfend, I might even be smarter, prettier, and happier then they're supposed to be. They want stories that make the world make sense to them. So that's what I gave them. It's what they want to believe, that they're better than me. What do I care if they believe that my father's a janitor? What difference does it make, especially if I'm the architect of that belief?"
        We were silent for a while. I could see she'd understood. I was hopeful.
        "You'll have to apologize." Sister Kathryn said at last.
        "WHAT?! But they're just stories!" I cried, desperate not to be humiliated in front of that pack of she-wolves.
        "You lied." she said.
        I wrinkled a brow and pouted,
        "White lies." I offered. "Who was hurt by them?"
        Here her face clouded and she looked down at her hands and at the wood floor.
        "Your stories first came to our attention when we noticed a large uptick in scholarship donations. Many were given in your name." She confessed.
        We stared at each other, and then we burst out laughing, then I started to cry.
        "That's why I have to apologize?"
        She nodded sympathetically.
        "Will you get to keep the money if I do, for someone else?" I asked.
        She shrugged.
        "I suppose so, no one will take back a donation."
        The time and place were fixed for my apology. An informal tea in the French parlor at the convent, with Sister Kathryn, the four social queens and their mothers on a Sunday afternoon. I was to host them all.
        I spent the entire weekend writing and trashing hundreds of apologies. But I couldn't figure out how to serve the brief and still win. I was spitting angry and tearfully frustrated at my hopeless situation when Sister Kathryn paid me a visit in my room, now a landscape of wadded paper balls. She looked at the tears rolling down my cheeks.
        "Having a hard time with it?" She asked of the obvious.
        I nodded and snorted.
        "I might be able to help you." She said.
        I looked at her, surprised and hopeful that there might be rescue.
        "I think you've lost sight of where this all started. It's always best to go back to the beginning." She smiled reassuringly. She handed me a handkerchief plucked from her sweater sleeve and left my room.
        Back to the beginning? How was that helpful? Where it all started? Back to the beginning? Then it hit me. Absolutely true and simple and to the point.
        I took a clean sheet of paper and wrote one sentence on it. Then I cleaned up my room.

        The French parlor was so called for the Louis quinze style gilt and brocade furnishings, the ornate portraiture on papered walls edged in mahogany wood, and Aubusson rugs. The room had an over done opulence that said money, once upon a time.
        The social niceties were observed that day, it was a finishing school after all, where we were taught how to ice our enemies in the nicest ways. Chit-chat, observations on the weather, it was southern California, so almost always nice, and the traffic, almost always bad. The mothers wore mink coats against the chill of their air conditioned Cadillacs. The furs were now laid on a settee with shapely legs in the corner, the fur turned in to monogrammed silk linings. Large carat weight diamonds winked on well manicured hands, like headlights, blinding when caught in the sunlight through tall windows.
        Suddenly I was on. The clink of sterling against china hushed, and I could feel hungry expectant eyes urging me on to the main attraction, my own humiliation. Maybe I imagined it, or in the reinvention of memory it's become more dramatic than it was, but it seemed like the moment in an epic battle where the hero must prove her metal to move on, or fall away to nothing. The many headed mother-daughter monster salivated in unseemly triumph before me. They saw me already smacked me down, the lying outlier who dared to take them on as equal, while they fed at my neck. Or maybe they just wanted to watch someone grovel, to make themselves feel superior. I'll never know.
        I smiled. I remember doing it because it made me feel less afraid once I had. I took the room in, this tribe of blonde women who hated me on general principal, and Sister Kathryn who I knew had my back, but wasn't allowed to show it lest it appear as favoritism, or, god forbid, pity.
        "I'm sorry for misleading my peers," I began, reading my prepared sentence. "But I didn't know how to respond when they asked me how much money my father made."
        It took a moment for it to sink in, for the diamonds to dim, for the mother's smiles of triumph to become forced and social, for the girls to begin imagining their own punishments for this compounded social comeuppance. It took everything I had not to be smug. They'd been hoist on their own petard. They'd assumed I didn't know how to play the game. But Sister Kathryn saved me. She showed me all the game pieces I had to play, and I didn't want to blow her rescue. I didn't want to be lessened in her esteem.
        It's funny to me now and rather charming that my revenge was so inventive. I see now that even in losing there was victory.  Story is a powerful tool. But the ability to shape narrative should never be taken lightly, nor fiction and feeling be allowed to supplant the truth. I know now that I was always worthy and need not have passed anyone's test, but then if none of that had happened, I wouldn't have had this story.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

UPDATE: The Gold Stone Girl

Nine years ago I sat down to write a film script about women, our dreams and nightmares. It became three books, and then three audio-books, and now at last book one, It's a Nightmare, is a script. It's a cinematic story, a new world built on our own, that lends itself well to the visual medium.

I love this journey with Mina. She's hard and feisty, she does what it takes to make her dreams come true in an action adventure story with a female of color in the lead, without a gun!  Many lessons  have been learned and earned along this path. Mostly about honoring my own dreams and purging my nightmares

The script is a semi-finalist in the Series Fest/Rose McGowan Featuring Women Initiative 
Script Competition

and a quarter finalist in the Screen Craft China-Hollywood Screenwriting Fellowship

 It's a Nightmare is entered in a few other film/media competitions in the hope of  bringing Mina to the attention of potential partners. May this cautionary tale spread its roots into deep rich healthy loam.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

SULIS of the SUL

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.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

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.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

We Killed a Nun - memoir excerpt

by Nicole Quinn
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.