Camille Winbush [Interview]


Today’s interview subject is a wonderful person who I feel as though I have literally watched grow up and become the amazing performer that is making incredible moves in the world of film and television today. It’s Camille Winbush! She appeared in Jim Jarmusch’s absolutely incredible cult classic film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai before she was even aged into double digits. She showed a flair for the world of acting, and has only gone on to prove herself to be one of the finest actresses of our time.

Seriously folks, from watching her battle it out on screen with the legendary Bernie Mac for 5 seasons on one of the greatest television sitcoms of all time known as The Bernie Mac Show, to her success on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, right on up to the film Bachelor Lions that was released this year, Camille has proven herself to be an unstoppable force who can not be stopped. We have some wonderful words from her below, most notably that she has come to the realization that creating her own content is absolutely crucial, and that is the path she is on now. I cannot tell you how amazing this sounds to me! I am so excited to see what the future holds for Winbush, although obvious further success is almost guaranteed with her level of talent.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the immensely talented individual that is Camille Winbush!

You have been acting for practically your entire life! When did you personally decide that the world of acting was one that you want to make a living in?

I started acting when I was two years old. At that time I had no idea what acting was! It was just something I grew up doing. Honestly, I don’t think I really appreciated or understood the magnitude of the business until I was about nineteen or so. 

What was your very first gig you can remember getting? How old were you, and do you remember anything from that experience that you still incorporate into your work as well?

The first job that I can remember doing was a show called Viper, which was about a talking smart car. I believe I was around four at the time. There was a big fight scene in which the guy who played my dad got punched in the face and I started crying because I thought he was really hurt. The director loved my reaction and thought I was the best little actress he’d ever seen. And then my mom had to explain to me it was all pretend. I learned that real tears help book jobs and to this day I can make myself cry in less than five minutes. 

You role as Pearline in the cult classic Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai was just downright delightful! Has there ever been talk about doing a Pearline-centric sequel given that she read the Hagakure? If it were to happen, what direction would you want to take her in as an adult?

Let me start by saying that Forrest Whitaker and Isaac de Bankolé were such cool guys to work with. They both had a calming presence on set. Jim Jarmusch was also great, and a real character in his own right. There has been fan talk about RZA producing a sequel with Pearline as the lead, but I don’t know that it will ever happen. If it did, I’d love to see her take on some of the same characteristics as Ghost Dog and become a bad ass neighborhood underground superhero of sorts. 

You spent some of your formative years brilliantly portraying Nessa on The Bernie Mac Show, which is one of the greatest of all time, in my opinion. We’ve spoken with a few other folks who have spent a lot of years inside a world with a TV family, and I am always curious to know how closely it really felt like a family? Did you have a sense of closeness with your on screen family members?

The Bernie Mac Show definitely left a lasting positive impact on my life. I spent five years with that cast and crew, and essentially we were together on set more than we were at home. We were blessed enough to actually like each other so we did become a real family. So much so that every Friday night after wrap we would all get together for what we called “the bump and grind” which was the whole cast and crew partying together doing karaoke, eating, and dancing. We pretty much had a family reunion every weekend. I like to think everyone on that set had a part in shaping me to be the actor and woman I am now. 

If you were handed the opportunity to portray any inspirational figure in American history, who would it be?

I would love to play a young Maya Angelou or Nina Simone. I feel like there is so much depth to them and their stories need to be told the right way. (No shade) So to be able to play either of them would be a welcome challenge and an honor. 

We always like to ask this question to our statue award friends: Where do you physically keep your well deserved NAACP Image Awards? And does their physical location hold any sort of significance to you?

My NAACP Image awards, along with every award I’ve ever gotten in life ranging from gymnastics to young entrepreneur, is kept at my parents house. Not saying that I don’t appreciate them, but I’ve never been the type to dwell on physical memories of achievement. So I don’t need to see them everyday as a reminder of what I’ve accomplished. I think my parents have earned the right to show them off. Without them I wouldn’t have any of them anyway!

 


What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I recently came to the conclusion that I am meant to be self sufficient and can no longer work for other people. With that being said, my future will revolve around projects that I create. With everything from owning a small business, to producing my own shows and movies. I also filmed a project earlier this year called FraXtur with a great team of people so hopefully that will be out soon. And follow me on social media because you know, 2018. Instagram & Twitter- @camilleSwinbush 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The last thing that made me smile was my five year old cousin asking for an Eskimo kiss. Which she calls “Nose”. 

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Sarah Darer Littman [Interview] (By Ava Trembath)

Editor’s Note: So, regular readers of TWS will know that we just did a book review for Sarah Darer Littman’s novel Anything But Okay, available October 9th. I have to let you all know that it was not my own original curiosity that led me to wanting to talk with Sarah and check out her latest book. It was actually my soon to be teenaged daughter Ava Trembath who asked me if I could reach out to Sarah Darer Littman to do an interview. So, of course, in wanting to be a cool Dad, I did just that. I had no idea that Littman would ended up being one of the nicest people I would ever digitally meet, and become someone I would dare call a friend! So, while all credit is due to Ava for constructing the idea to have Sarah on the site, I thought it was only right that I let her take the reigns, and have her ask the questions on this go around.

And if I am being honest and candid here, I have spent the last two months talking with folks from the world of horror, so I am probably not in the best mental state to be asking questions to the greatest Young Adult novelist of this day and age. So, who better to chat it up with a YA mastermind that an actually young adult themselves, my amazing daughter and future astronaut for NASA or that weirdo Elon Musk or that weirdo “president” of our’s so called “Space Force” who digest a new novel a day on average. So, ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Sarah Darer Littman with questions by the amazing Ava Trembath. Enjoy!

Ava Trembath on Anything But Okay:

I really liked this book because it had real life problems that are happening today.I liked that it would switch between Stella and her brother and that her brother’s point of view was in emails and texts to his friend even after he died.I also liked that it was told from his sister’s point of view.Some authors would write it from the main person who’s affected by what’s happening not from the rest of the family.In this book it shows that it affects all of the family and even friends.I love this book because it is interesting, sad, funny, and amazing.

What was your favorite book to write and why?

LOL, I always compare this to someone asking which is my favorite child. I suppose there are a few that are special to me in different ways. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite book to write – it was probably one of the harder ones given the circumstance, but In Case You Missed It is very much a book of my heart. It sold to Scholastic and that evening I went to an author event with Gregory McGuire at the public library with my mom. We had a wonderful time, and when I dropped her back at her apartment, I told her “I love you, I’ll see you when I get back,” because my son and I were invited to TED in Vancouver to see Dave Isay of StoryCorps accept the TED award. We had an amazing time, and I was texting Mom pictures. When I got off the plane my phone rang, and my boyfriend called and said Mom was dead. I compare the feeling of that call to having a limb ripped off without anesthetic.

That was in mid March, and the book I’d just sold on proposal was due in August. Writing that book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it ended up that one of the themes of the book was learning how to carry on when everything feels completely bleak and the future is uncertain. It ends with hope, but without everything tied up neatly in a bow and happily ever after.

I also love my middle grade fairy tale retellings, Charmed I’m Sure and Fairest of Them All CHARMED I’M SURE, because I got a chance to go back to the original (vs the Disney) fairy tales and examine them in a humorous way with a modern feminist perspective, by telling the story through the teenage daughters of the original characters. There’s another book in that universe coming out in 2019.

 What is your favorite type of books to read?

I like reading books – Fiction, Non-Fiction, YA and middle grade, historical fiction, historical biography, poetry, picture books. I think that’s what has enabled me to be a versatile writer – able to write edgy YA, humorous middle grade, to do business writing and write political opinion. Reading widely helps me make connections that other people might not make.  

What is a type a book that you want to write, but haven’t yet?

I’d love to write a picture book. Note I say write, not illustrate – I am artistically challenged. Stick figures are about the best I can manage.

I’d also like to write a dystopian novel because there seems to be more inspiration every day when I read the news. I keep bookmarking news stories in a “Book Ideas” folder. I’m particularly interested in the intersection between teenagers and technology, because I see how much new technologies impact my teen readers, both positively and negatively. It’s not just the teen readers either. When I visit with classrooms, either in real life or via Skype, I ask classes that have read my cyberbullying novel, Backlash, to raise their hand if they’ve had something hurtful written about them online. Inevitably, most of the kids in class raise their hands. I tell them that as adults, we’re supposed to be modeling the behavior, and we’re not doing a very good job of it. That’s one of the reasons I gave up regular political writing in mid-2017 – it just got so toxic that it was affecting my ability to write fiction, and fiction is what pays for my mortgage and health insurance.

Are you a cat or dog person? Or both?

I am most definitely a dog person. I LOVE dogs, and always felt there was something missing in my life during the (thankfully short) periods of my life when I wasn’t able to have a dog. True story: Mom prohibited Dad and me from going to pet stores together, because every time we did that we came home with a dog!

I actually like cats, too,  but unfortunately I’m seriously allergic to them. Just another reason to be a dog person.

What is your favorite place to write/read?

I was a single mom when I started my writing career, so I’ve learned to be able to write anywhere and everywhere. I’d write in the carpool pickup line, in cafes, on the train, in doctor office waiting rooms, you name it. Now that my kids are older, my favorite place to write is my study, where I’m surrounded by bookshelves with my favorite books. Here are are two walls of bookshelves – there are more on the other walls and downstairs. My favorite place to read is everywhere! I have library books downloaded onto my phone so I can read if I have a moment while I’m out and about. I also love taking relaxing baths at the end of the day and read in the bath. So far have managed not to drop the iPad in the water, but did ruin a book once : )

 What made you want to write?

I’ve always loved to write as a way of self expression. As an introvert, I’ve always found it easier to find my voice in writing than through speaking out loud. But it’s more than that. By nature, I’m a very curious person, and I write to answer questions. Through researching the questions and the act of writing about them through whether it’s for a column or my fiction, I’m able to find some clarity – and hopefully pass that on to readers.

Are you a night owl or an early bird?

I’m more of an early bird, although I’ve worked to become slightly more of a night owl because my husband is one. Otherwise there are times when we’re both working intensively on our separate projects where we end up being like two ships that pass in the night for weeks on end. I’m definitely more focused in the morning, especially if I work out.

Do you think that people other than young adults would like your books?

I do! My books are classified as young adult and marketed to that audience, but as far as I’m concerned I write for thinking human beings of all ages and gender identities. It’s one of the reasons I get frustrated about how my cover designs tend to be very gendered, as compared to male authors who write books with female protagonists. I wrote a blog post about that for #kidlitwomen month. http://sarahdlittman.blogspot.com/2018/03/branding-or-gendering.html

What is your favorite book/author and why?

Ha! That’s another really difficult question. I love so many books it’s hard to chose just one. But if you force me, I’d probably say The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. My most influential author is George Orwell. I have my MFA students read his essay “Politics and the English Language” because I think it’s so important to the understanding of good writing, and how language can be used for both clarity and for obfuscation, particularly in politics.

Do you like to write with pen and pencil or typing on a computer better and why?

I like to jot down ideas with a pen and paper, especially when I’m trying to brainstorm or work out a problem. I do most of my serious writing on a laptop, however,  because I can type as fast as I think. Writing longhand is too slow for my brain when it comes to getting words on the page.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My dog Benny (aka “the writing assistant”) makes me laugh constantly, especially when he throws his toys up in the air and they land behind him and he’s like “Where did it go?”  Reading Ava’s review definitely made me smile!

 

 

Anything But Okay by Sarah Darer Littman [Book]

“Stella and Farida have been best friends forever, but lately things have been tense. It all started when Stella’s brother came home from his latest tour with the US Marines in Afghanistan paranoid and angry. But Stella won’t talk about it, and Farida can tell she’s keeping something from her.Desperate to help Rob, Stella thinks she just needs to get him out of the house. She definitely didn’t expect going to the movies to end with Rob in handcuffs for assaulting one of her classmates after his anger spiraled out of control.When a video of the fight goes viral, everyone has an opinion of Stella and her “violent vet” brother.The entire school takes sides, the media labels Rob a terrorist sympathizer, and even Farida is dragged into the mess despite not being there. As the story continues trending, Stella will have to decide just how far she’s willing to go for the truth, even if it means admitting her own failures.” – sarahdarerlittman.com

I feel the need to preface this piece by stating one simple fact that I hope you all acknowledge and know that I am dead serious about…..this is an absolutely amazing book, and even more, I feel as though it should be required reading for every single student, teacher, parent, hell, PERSON, who is ever going to try even in the slightest to understand the youth of today, especially when it comes to anyone attempting to understand the trials and down-right hardships of anyone who is coming back from “Over There”, as well as the families who are forced to deal with the reprecusions of a war that no one can understand.

I also have to state a fact that has been in my brain since reading Anything But Okay, and that is this: I don’t believe I have ever read a “Young Adult” novel before. I was a young adult once, but even then I don’t believe I ever managed to partake in YA reading. When I was in 6th grade, my mother had to be called to my elementary school because my teacher was concerned about me reading Howard Stern’s Private Parts at such a young age. True story. I did read Goosebumps as a younger child, but I never even manage to move into Fear Street as a pre-teen or teenager. I jumped right into the Fletch series, and Hemingway very early on. That same 6th grade year, I also had to have my mom come to my school to defend my school project on Tim Allen where I casually mentioned that the huge Home Improvement star once sold cocaine for a living, and then show a clip to the class from Toy Story. Basically I was a pretty messed up kid, and grew up way too fast. But, that’s not important here. The point is, I have never been well-informed on the YA world. Until now.

And I am honestly convinced that I am not in the wrong for my aversion to the YA world when I was an actual young adult. I firmly believe that they were not writing books like Sarah Darer Littman is writing now. To be honest, maybe the lack of the internet, and the fact that I was a latch-key kid from the 90’s might have something to do with it, but I honestly don’t remember being taught or reading anything that was as compelling and tragic and inspiring as I have read in Littman’s Anything But Okay. I came into adolescences during a time when things seemed pretty much okay. If everything was trembling around us, we didn’t really seem to notice. That is definitely not the case for the characters that Littman is currently writing about, and is definitely not the case for her readers in this day and age.

Anything But Okay is an absolutely brilliant depiction of what it means to be an American teenager in this day and age. While the storyline seems so specific at first, you would soon realize that is really isn’t. This is a far too common storyline, and that definitely makes me sad. The plot points of this amazing novel are not only accurate, but entirely plausible in the saddest ways possible. Littman obviously did some incredible research when she decided to tackle the idea of PTSD in the modern world. And what makes it so much more special is that it comes from the perspective someone close by, and actually focused on their own personal struggles in dealing with the situation.

And while the idea of PTSD is definitely a major plot point in the book, it’s not the only lesson to be learned within this text. Throughout my reading of this amazing novel, I became enthralled with the character that is Farida. I truly believe that if you read this book, your perception of the character Farida will truly say a lot about your own personality. Read the book, you will get it. Farida simply tells it like it is. And Sarah Darer Littman perfectly drives the point home when she mentions the idea that Farida is expected to represent her entire culture each and every day just be living as a kid of Iraqi descent. This is a concept that I truly believe that people really don’t think about enough. But this is just a testament to the amazing talent of Littman.

Folks, young and old, you NEED to check out this book. It’s one of the best novels the decade. And if it doesn’t change your life in a positive way, you should probably reevaluate your entire existence.

Anything But Okay will be available on October 9th, 2018 from Scholastic Press. Discover more info at sarahdarerlittman.com

 

Greg Edmonson [Interview]


I am so damn excited to share this incredible interview with you fine folks today! But, first I want to take you on a personal journey as to why I am so personally affected by today’s guest, the Award-winning and absolutely brilliant musical mastermind, Greg Edmonson.

As many of you may know, I am not particularly the most knowledgable person, or even a fan of, the world of science fiction. I am always under the opinion that the real world is scary enough (and this was pre-November 4th 2016 America & Brexit-era UK, even). In fact, I have been known to call in some friends to help me out when we have guests on that may have had some great success on projects like Star Trek, Star Wars (DO NOT confuse them, all my fellow casual series watchers! Also the Captain Kirk/Star Wars joke isn’t funny. I know, I tried it.), or anything that has really had an impact in the world of fantasy and science fiction. Specifically I tend to call on my dear friends over at the Super Geeky Playdate podcast, as Brady, Bryan, & Adam are my most trusted confidants in the world of geekdom. If you’re not already listening to them, you owe it to yourself to do that.

But, I do tend to find myself dabbling in the field ever so slightly, which can even lead to unhealthy obsessions which seem to be a real commonplace for fans of these genres. But for me, it’s always with projects that sort of teeter along the lines of fantasy and science fiction, but don’t contain a completely impossible sense of realism. It’s as though they have taken something that may seem impossible at the time, but have simply implemented the impossible into true to life scenarios. And that is the paradox that I love and enjoy in projects like the series Black Mirror, the video games in the Fallout franchise, the entire catalog of writer/director Charlie Kaufman, and of course…..FIREFLY!

I was a late addition to the world of Firefly. I knew the show existed, but didn’t get into it until about 8 years ago on a Sunday sitting in a trailer in the desert outside of Doha, Qatar. I watched the entire series in a day + Serenity, and instantly joined the plethora of fans in the Firefly cult following who are rightfully pissed that the show never got to continue on. I could rant about this part of the show’s history, but that proverbial horse has been beaten into non-existence at this point. If you are unfamiliar, a quick Google/YouTube search will have you spiraling down an enraging rabbit hole worse than anything Tim Burton could have ever put out.

And I am not trying to blow smoke up my guests ass as I segway into finally talking about our amazing guest today when I say that the score and original music of Firefly is absolutely incredible and extremely crucial to what the show became. I’m not sure if this has already be proclaimed, and I’m not likely to look it up, I am going to say it now: If the ship Serenity is the 10th member of the crew, the music is the 11th. It’s that damn empowering, and not to mention the BEST opening title song from any television series in history. I wouldn’t even say it is “arguably the best”, because it’s really not up for debate. I honestly feel as though a proclamation of this nature will not require any gear up for on-line hatred. Who can really debate this?

So with all of that blabbering in mind, I am just so damn excited to share some words from the man who performed a crucial element in the world created by Joss Whedon. The show would have been great without Greg’s involvement, but I dare say it wouldn’t have been OUTSTANDING had he not been so kind to throw his amazing abilities into the already extremely talented mix of artists who made the show possible. And the amazing Mr. Edmonson has been so kind to tell us all about it right here, Folks! And as our guest tend to do, he has also gone on to do even more amazing work! In fact, some of you may be tuning in for different reasons than Firefly, and are screaming at your keyboards right hoping I wrap this shit up, or have not even read this portion. And that’s okay. I just hope that you enjoy this amazing interview with one of the most talented humans the world as known that we are so fortunate to have grace our digital pages.

So Folks, pleas enjoy some great words from the brilliant Greg Edmonson!

*****

How did you find yourself working as a composer of film, television, and more? What drew you to this line of work? Was it a deep-rooted ambition that you can always remember having, or did you simply find yourself in this world one day?

I originally moved to Los Angeles to work as a guitarist, but early on I got an opportunity to write for Hanna Barbera (the animation company). Soon that led to working with Mike Post who was doing quite a lot of television (L.A.Law, Quantum Leap, etc). I found that I really enjoyed writing to picture. The difference between being a composer versus being a player is a little like the difference between being a director as opposed to being an actor. The director has much more responsibility, but is ultimately in control of how the project turns out.

Also working with the brilliant musicians in Los Angeles was and remains such a joy. To hear them bring something to life that you wrote is a wonderment that I have never tired of. I find myself incredibly grateful every single time that I set foot on a recording stage.

So even though I was trained as a musician, the opportunity to work as a composer just fell in my lap and I ran with it! I think that it is one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

I will just come out and say it right from the jump, and I believe that many of our readers will agree with me here…..Your work as a composer on the cult classic television series Firefly is hands down the best there ever was. I will argue that forever and with anyone. With that, I am curious to know what your thought process was in scoring this legendary program that was taken from us far too early? What elements from the show did you feel needed to be emphasized with your work?

How I got the gig was somewhat of a miracle. Everyone in town wanted to work with Joss Whedon, given his great success with Buffy & Angel. But Joss wasn’t really taking calls from agents, so his office just told you to send in a CD and they would get back to you if they were interested. So I sent in a CD and promptly moved on to something else.

But one day the phone rang, and his office asked if I would be free to take a meeting with Joss.

Our 5 minute meeting stretched into something much longer. We were just having fun talking about music and arguing about what was the best Jeff Beck tune (ha). We really hit it off and as I was leaving he told me to tell my agent that I had the gig. To this day I don’t have any idea what they responded to on my demo CD—-but I was thrilled.

They gave me the 2 hour pilot which was so good that I truly thought—I am working for 10 years on this show, because I saw what Joss had done. He had created a fantastic universe with 9 main characters who had such wildly divergent pasts that the story lines could go on forever without repeating themselves! Genius!

I loved every single member of the main cast. They were all so very unique! For instance, every one of the 4 women characters (Jewel, Summer, Morena & Gina) were incredibly strong— BUT in completely different ways. Nathan, Adam, Ron, Alan & Sean were just perfect. Anytime that our cast was on screen (especially all together) it was a joy to write for them. I still think that Firefly had the best casting job of any show that I have ever seen.

TV shows rarely hit their stride until the secondd half of the season, or even the start of Season 2. It takes a while to see what is really working and then build on that. Firefly had the magic from day one and it only would have gotten better as time went on. Joss had created this amazing post-apocalyptic world, where your resources determined your life parameters (not unlike the history of our country)—-so you could have six shooters and laser guns all exist in the same world. Anything could work! And since the cultures were all thrown together the music could be anything that the picture justified. So we mixed in all manner of ethnic instrumentation along with traditional instruments and I have used that combination ever since. Thank you Joss!

The work schedule was grueling, but not one single time did I ever sit down to write when I didn’t consider myself the luckiest man on the planet to be working on that show. So many wonderful opportunities to write. Big action cues, quirky & suspenseful music, all alongside emotional and heartfelt – it was all there in one fantastic show.

It was always fun to write for Mal and Inara—he loved her but he could never quite actually say the words. It just left him too vulnerable. But great writing and great acting revealed what was in their hearts in spite of their words. That type of nuance is a treat to write music for—sometimes music can say what the words don’t say. 

As you probably know after the show was canceled, I wrote a piece at the end of “The Message” to try to say goodbye to the show. It was a funeral scene with the whole cast standing in the falling snow and it just felt like I needed to find some closure to this incredible journey. I was deeply saddened to see Firefly end so prematurely, because I knew that the best was yet to come. It was already great and it was only going to get better (and better)! This was a show that just doesn’t come around very often.

To this day I remain in love with all things Firefly. It was an honor and a privilege to work on it.

You have had so much amazing success in the world of film and television, and especially in the world of video games. For the latter, I am very curious to know what it is like to compose the music to a video game in comparison to a feature film or television series? What sets it apart? And having worked on all three iterations of the Uncharted series in a 4 year span, what did you find to be the most challenging on the second and third go around? What were some things to wanted to accomplish whilst working on these projects that would set each game apart from the other?

I think that writing music for video games is very different from film or TV. In film & TV you get a final edited version of the picture and your job is to become a part of the story telling process. Games are never really done until the very end, so you must rely on the game director (Amy Hennig on “Uncharted”) and the team that puts the music into the game (Jonathan Mayer and the Sony team) to help guide you. With this guidance you use your imagination to visualize what the final product might look like. And then you start writing.

Games allow you a freedom that seldom exits in other formats—since there is no dialogue yet, you can write grand melodic gestures that would not be possible if all of the dialogue was in place. Also the time that you have to write is really incredible with a game. Sometimes it can stretch over a period of years. Film/TV is mostly limited to weeks or maybe a couple of months depending on the project. I so loved my time on “Uncharted”. It was a joy to write that music and I was surrounded by a supporting team that is as good as it gets.

As we moved on from Uncharted 1, it actually got easier for me to write the music. I knew the characters and what Amy was trying to accomplish. It really hit a sweet spot starting with Uncharted 2 which raised the bar for the whole video game universe. The score to Uncharted 3 was recorded at Abbey Road in London and is my best work in games so far. How very lucky I was to have been involved with such a great project!


For your work on Uncharted, you were awarded a pair of BAFTA trophies. We always like to ask our statue holding friends this one question: Where do you physically keep these awards? And does their physical location have any kind of significance?

I keep my award stuff in my studio, but for me, at least, it just documents a point in time. What I love and what matters more to me are the relationships and the friendships that are ongoing. While I am honored and thrilled to win awards, I am even more thrilled to have friends that will last a lifetime.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

Who knows what the future holds? I am actively seeking projects that I really can find an emotional connection with. I really love to write melodic music that has some emotional impact to it, and if I can help to bring that out in a story—mission accomplished!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I do a lot of it. For a thousand different reasons, I consider my life to be so very fortunate. And more than anything else these days, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that I have had. And I am excited to see where the journey leads next!

Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story!

Check out this wonderful video that a fan isolated for the aforementioned scene from “The Messenger” featuring Greg Edmonson’s amazing work. If this doesn’t make you choke up in at least the slightest, please check that you are indeed human:

 

Erin Whitehead [Interview]

Hello Folks! I am STOKED to have today’s guest on our digital pages. She is an absolutely hilarious person, and has some great words to share with us today. It’s Erin Whitehead! She is fantastic, and also happens to be 1/4 of the comedy group Wild Horses, which we have had the great fortune to have had 2 of this amazing group’s other members on the site previously! We have had Stephanie Allyne, Mary Holland, and now the wonderful Erin Whitehead! That’s 3/4 of this amazing group you should all know and love. So….Lauren Lapkus? What’s up?!

I can honestly say that I am most bummed that I live about as far as you can get from the Los Angeles area when I see any one of the Wild Horses stars promoting their show, or showcasing how awesome it inevitably turned out.  But thankfully, the internet exists, and Erin has done so many amazing things that you all already know and love! She’s worked on brilliant comedy series like HBO’s Animals, Bajillion Dollar Propertie$, the previously mentioned Stephanie Allyne directed short film The Fun Company, and so much more!

Again, we are so excited to have Erin become a part of the TWS family! She gave us some wonderful answers, and we are so excited to share it with you all today! Enjoy!

When did you first decide that you wanted to join the world of comedy? When did you decide that making people laugh was how you wanted to earn a living?

For years, the idea of professional comedy wasn’t something I was drawn to. Even though I’ve always loved eliciting laughter from family or in any social situation, I saw myself as a serious, dramatic actor. I had done improv in college, majored in writing, and then moved to LA and immediately dropped both those things in lieu of intense method acting classes. It was years of paying thousands of dollars to insane teachers whose style was “break you down to build you back up” before I realized it was kind of awful and decided to take a break and get into an improv class just for fun. And that’s when I found UCB. In my very first 101 class I was like, oh, this it for me.

We have had the honor and privilege to have already spoken with two of your three other Wild Horses co-stars, Stephanie Allynne and Mary Holland. But, its been a year since we last spoke with Mary, so I am curious to know how things are going? How are you enjoying working on the show?

Wild Horses has now been together for 5 years and I still think how lucky we got to somehow come together. It’s the most fun I have onstage – having conversations with people with whom I share as many similarities as differences. I’m constantly astounded by or learning from a different point of view and getting to entertain an audience at the same time. It’s this really fun, easy chemistry that feels so rare and has sustained itself. We currently have two monthly live shows at Largo and UCB. I still think it would make a great tv show, which was something we tried to get off the ground a while back and didn’t end up happening, so who knows what the future may hold for us.

And we never got to properly ask Stephanie and Mary because I am a stupid, stupid person, but, how did the 4 of you manage to team up? What made you all decide that you wanted to work together on a show like Wild Horses?

Hey, listen, don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m so stupid I once watched the 1998 movie The Avengers on cable all the way through thinking it was the 2012 Marvel Avengers and going, how does anyone think this a superhero movie?

[Editor’s Note: 1998’s The Avengers was directed by our old friend Jeremiah S. Chechik. It’s not the best, but you know, we love Jeremiah!]

So, Wild Horses happened sort of by chance. The four of us were friends who had started hanging out as a foursome occasionally (craft nights hosted by Lauren, a Beyonce concert). And then the Portland comedy festival All Jane asked Lauren if she had an all female team she could bring up to perform. I think she just asked the people she figured would be fun to travel with and do a couple shows with. It was just a free friend trip and some improv. We performed together and it was just so fun and effortless so we continued when we got back to LA. The format of our show The Perspective came about because we liked the idea of a comedic version of The View; Women sitting around talking, except it’s rarely about current events and we all genuinely like each other. It’s essentially how we are if we’re all out to dinner, only onstage.

And now for the dreaded question that I almost hate to bring up, but feel like if we don’t keep the conversation going, nothing will change: What are your thoughts on the world of comedy for women right now? With everything that has occurred in the last year or so, are things getting any better for women? What do you still believe needs to be done in order for real change to occur?

I don’t really differentiate women in comedy from just women in the world, specifically in this country for the purposes of this conversation. Celebrities and comedians have a public platform and have been able to bring some horrible but unsurprising behavior to light, but it’s just a small sampling of what women everywhere deal with from men. I’m sure everyone’s tired of the word “Patriarchy” (a guy I know recently joked it’s his “trigger” word haha) but that’s what we’ve been living in and what’s been normalized for generations. I think you pretty much answered your own question, which is we have to keep the conversation going. Keep peeling back the layers of this deeply ingrained misogyny that lives in both men and women. Less than a year after #metoo becoming a hashtag, the conversation is already shifting to what this means for men, how to heal the men who have mistreated women. I’ve heard a few men express how scary it is to be in this time where anyone can say anything and they’re believed… which is of course the same as saying they don’t believe women. We’re still very concerned with how this is an imposition to men. Why? It seems so straightforward to me: Women are less violent, smarter, funnier, better at communicating and emotionally more intelligent than men; just let us run everything.

Between acting, improv, stand up, writing, and more, you have manage to delve into just about every possible way of being hilarious in front of audiences. I am curious to know what you preferred method of creating comedy would be? If you were destined to only work in one field, what would you want it to be?

I’ve actually never done standup! I have pages and pages of notes and scraps that are waiting for me to get over my fear of learning and failing publicly (necessary steps in becoming good I am told, ugh). I love both writing and acting (I include improv as part of acting) and choosing between them feels like choosing between two selves. Ultimately, though, I feel more freedom and joy when I’m performing. I have so much fun feeling out viscerally what works and what doesn’t and adjusting as I go. The most gratifying laughs I’ve gotten have been when I’m performing my own material – it’s like the writer and actor both get credit and neither feel left out. So, I guess my ultimate career would be acting in a show or movie of my own creation. Although honestly, if I could get paid to just come up with ideas that other people execute that would be fine, too.

[Editor’s Note: Please refer to the “stupid, stupid man” comment from earlier when I mentioned something about Erin’s “stand up”. Making assumptions is a terrible idea, people. Trust me]

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I honestly have no idea… hopefully something involving the above answer?

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Walking into my grandparents’ house in Maine and smelling the familiar scent of pine and wood and salt air and fireplace and plain bar soap.

Also, a dumb joke in an old Archie comic I was reading. All their stories seem to end in terrible puns and I just adore terrible puns.

Shelley Callahan [Interview]

Hello Folks! Welcome Part II of our showcase on the brilliant Children Incorporated. Today we have a wonderful interview with the group’s Director of Development, the brilliant Shelley Callahan! She has some more information to tell us about Children Incorporated and more, and we are so honored that she is gracing our digital pages to tell us a bit about her work with this amazing organization.

So Folks, please enjoy these amazing words from the great Shelley Callahan!

Can you tell us about how Children Incorporated came to light? What inspired you to become a part of such a noble cause?

Our founder, Jeanne Clarke Wood, started Children Incorporated in 1964 out of her home after personally witnessing the deprivation of children in Guatemala. She began by simply writing letters to seek assistance for the 95 children she met on her travels, and today, thanks our supporters around the world, we now have work with nearly 300 projects in 23 countries and have served more than 300,000 children.

I started working with Children Incorporated in 2014 after having spent eight years working with a non-profit that I founded called Books on Wheels. Books on Wheels provided free books to children living in low-income neighborhoods around the United States. I traveled around in a school bus promoting literacy. It was amazing.  Around that time, I also go involved with a few international non-profits – one that ran a medical clinic in Haiti, and another that provide clean water solutions to indigenous populations around the globe. From those experiences, I grew to learn about the importance of giving back and working hard to give the poor a voice, and I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to working for an organization like Children Incorporated that did just that.

Can you share any examples of how Children Incorporated has impacted the lives and well being of children? Is there a particular event you can tell us about that people should know about?

We touch the lives of so many children every day! I just returned from a trip to visit our affiliated projects in Guatemala and met with many of our sponsored children there. Because of our work, kids from dangerous neighborhoods are getting an education in safe environments, and they are learning skills such as sewing, cooking, and computer repair that will help them get jobs when they graduate. Its more than just helping kids in the present – we work to ensure that children also have a chance at a brighter future.

I really love our On the Road blog series, where I have opportunity to share stories from children and families we support. It is incredible how we are able to help some of the most vulnerable people in the world by focusing on their individual needs – from providing them with food and clothes, to shelter and medical care, to mattresses to eyeglasses– the list just goes on and on.

https://childrenincorporated.org/category/on-the-road/

 

What is the best way that folks can help your organization succeed? 

Children Incorporated provides for the needs of impoverished children through two primary approaches: our sponsorship program and our special funds. Sponsorship provides an underprivileged child with basic and education-related necessities such as food, clothing, healthcare, school supplies, and tuition payments.

This vital support allows kids to develop to their full potential – physically, emotionally, and socially. Sponsors positively impact the lives of the children they sponsor through the simple knowledge that someone cares about their well being. This gives children in need hope, which is powerful.

Individual, one-time donations to one of our many special funds support feeding programs, income-generating projects, health and education assistance programs, as well as critical projects like school expansions, medical clinic repairs, housing improvements, and more.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Children Incorporated is located in Richmond, Virginia, and there is a great publication in our city called RVAMAG, which reports on all sorts of issues while also having fun. Today they posted a picture on their Instagram of a hedgehog pretending to be a pineapple, and it is quite literally the cutest thing I have ever seen.

 

Learn more about Children Incorporated at their website:

https://childrenincorporated.org/

 

Philanthropy Thursday: Children Incorporated [Feature]

When you think about it, charity can be a tough business.  As Larissa MacFarquhar writes in her best seller Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, “The life of a zealous do-gooder is a kind of human sublime…confronting it, you see its formidable nobility, and at the same time, you sense uncomfortably that you would not survive it for long.”

That sublime ambition is what Children Incorporated tries to bring to its donors and supporters – a sense of connecting someone who can give with someone who so desperately needs help.  Since 1964, Children Incorporated has extended its reach to over 250,000 children, spread across 23 countries and through over 300 programs and outreach projects. Operating without religious or political affiliation, and with a lean staff of 16 located at headquarters in Virginia, sponsorship donations and volunteer support are the lifeblood of the organization.

For people like Shelley Callahan, Director of Development for Children Incorporated, the everyday work of global charity relief is less of a superhuman exercise in sublime divinity than it is simply magnifying the many generous actions of donors, supporters, and others who can only give “a little.”  “Working for Children Incorporated has made me a much more considerate and patient person,” Callahan observes, “but it’s also made me realize that the most important thing anyone can do is give back. You can do something small, and make a huge difference.”

Since it was founded by Jeanne Clarke Wood in 1964, Children Incorporated has engaged in direct sponsorship of specific children.  After witnessing poverty on a trip to Guatemala, Wood began writing letters to friends and colleagues asking for donations that would specifically match them with one of the 95 children she met on her travels.  Since then, all of the organization’s work has revolved around connecting donors to individual children. As the organization reaches these children all around the world, they also find ways to engage in other local projects and relief efforts that help improve the children’s lives from the outside as well.

Direct sponsorship is behind one of Children Incorporated’s current high-profile projects, inspired by the 20th anniversary of the self-help best-seller Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson.  The book proved a boom for Children Incorporated in 1997 when Carlson wrote about giving to charity, “There are many find agencies to choose from, but my personal favorite is Children Incorporated…the experience has brought tremendous joy and satisfaction to my family.”  “Dr. Carlson’s mention was one of the most meaningful things to ever happen to our organization,” says Callahan. “Thousands of impoverished children were helped as a result.” Now, Carlson’s widow Kristine is continuing that legacy, partnering with Children Incorporated to generate 2000 new sponsorships, with the Richard Carlson Memorial Foundation pledging $5000 in matching donations.  

For Callahan, working on behalf of Children Incorporated involves travel to points near (Appalachia, the inner city, and the reservation) and far (the rainforests of Bolivia and Southeast Asia).  Callahan not only manages the organization’s communications, but is the social correspondent for the web series “On the Road,” where she is able to highlight individual and community success stories and bring evidence of the effectiveness of donor support into the digital spotlight.

Her job also means celebrating the recent accomplishments of Children Incorporated’s successful community based projects, such as the recent effort to add seven classrooms to a school in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.  “It’s easy to see the impact of these projects on the lives of individuals,” explains Callahan, “but we also see how the entire community benefits.” The new classrooms, for example, meant that there could be adult literacy classes offered at night for the first time, and members of the community have pooled their resources to buy AC units for the new buildings.  “We can claim that our reach is more than twice as much as the individual children we directly sponsor, because it always includes siblings, family members, neighbors, and others who benefit.”

 


The same goes for another project in Bolivia, Villa Emelia, a home for women who are transitioning from living on the streets.  “It’s a place to stay, with their children, as well as a factory that makes garments and school uniforms to give them new job skills and work towards sustainable living situations.”  The Catholic nuns who have partnered with Children Incorporated in the region have also developed a program where they purchase property that the women can pay the mortgage on as they earn.  “They had eight plots of land that were ready to go, and we were able to step in with the funding needed to actually build new homes.”

Callahan explains that each new project must be carefully planned and vetted before donors are approached for support.  “We always have a general idea about what we can do, but we need to assess everything before we fundraise, and then look to our existing donor base and ask them is this what they would want to support?”  Looking towards visits to Sri Lanka and India this summer, Callahan says that recent efforts are geared towards broader environmental issues like clean water solutions, as well as the more traditional efforts of providing shelter, clothing, and basics for sponsored individual children.

While many efforts are focused overseas –such as providing growing shoes and group homes to children in Costa Rica and Nicaragua – Children Incorporated also has projects in several states, notably in the Appalachian region.  “We have a lot of coordinators in Kentucky that have made for a great partnership, but we also have programs for children in Arizona and New Mexico, and inner cities like Detroit, and locally in Richmond and Washington DC,” Callahan explains.  “Most people think of urban poverty, but rural poverty in the mountains is a real challenge. Beyond the beautiful scenery, you have kids who live miles away from their schools, where the only transportation might be the school bus, with roads that are inaccessible in the winter.  Many of these kids live with extended family, separated from their parents because of abuse or neglect.” While American children, unlike their foreign peers, are at least guaranteed some sort of education and basic health care, they still lack many of the basics. One of Children Incorporated’s more successful programs is “Backpack Feeding” – literally stuffing kids’ backpacks full of easy-to-make food on a Friday, since they might not have access to food until school resumes on Monday.  “Poverty looks different in the U.S.,” says Callahan, “but no child is better or worse off – poverty has an impact wherever it is. Our programs remind kids that someone is looking out for them when they don’t have that anywhere else in their life.”

That brings Callahan back to the central point of the mission she shares with Children Incorporated:  the life of charity isn’t at all about realizing the potential of her own goodness, but simply a way to facilitate and magnify the generosity of others.  “There’s so much that each person can do for a child’s confidence,” she reflects. “I didn’t realize how privileged I was to have parents who kept me safe and educated and encouraged me to do things, until I meet children that didn’t have that. We don’t have to be superheroes to make a difference – I don’t do anything out of the ordinary except to tell these stories and be a voice for the voiceless.  We just want people to understand that it’s very easy to give back, it’s important to do something outside of yourself, because every gesture you make in that regard, whether it’s for Children Incorporated or somewhere else, is very valuable.”

 Grammy-award winning artist Rosanne Cash who has been a supporter of Children Incorporated for 30 years sums it up perfectly:

“The personal attention to the children and programs is exceptional and rare, but what is really unique about Children Incorporated is that they know who they are. They have a vision for their best, most productive self; one that retains their uniqueness and effectiveness, and they are acting on realizing that vision. You can trust them. You will know you are truly helping real children, in real time, and you will know how every penny you give is spent.”

Learn more about Children Incorporated at their website:

https://childrenincorporated.org/

 

STAY TUNED FOR PART II ON CHILDREN INCORPORATED, COMING TOMORROW (SEPT. 14TH) WITH A WONDERFUL INTERVIEW WITH SHELLEY CALLAHAN HERSELF!!!