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Oakdale Confidential:
An As The World Turns Novel

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Admit it, you do.

You think you can spin five days a week, 52 weeks a year, 50 or 70 (!) years worth of story as well as the people who are currently doing it. Better even!

But how do you get started?

I get that question all the time, so I thought I'd put some basic guidelines down in writing.

First of all, you need an agent. A legitimate agent. What do I mean by legitimate? Well, first and foremost, someone who doesn't charge you a penny for the privilege of being represented. Someone who makes money when -- and only when --you make money. It would be nice if said agent had contacts in the daytime industry and had already repped a soap writer or two. (Shows can not read unagented material, it opens them up to lawsuits down the road. Plus, an agent serves as a gatekeeper. If a person whose livelihood depends on getting you a job thinks you have writing ability, it tells those hiring that maybe you have some writing ability -- or else why would the agent be wasting his/her time?)

Then, you need some credits. Produced plays, optioned screenplays, published novels work best. This will demonstrate that you have mastered the art of storytelling, dialogue, action, romance, all the good stuff.

Your agent will take your previously produced material and submit it to the shows. If The Powers That Be decide you have potential, you will be commissioned to write a sample script from an existing breakdown (a summary of the episode). This script will not air.

If they like your sample script, you might be hired on a trial, usually 13 week basis, to write dialogue for a half dozen shows that actually will air. If the 13 week trial goes well, there may be another 13 week trial, and then another, with possibly a contract to write scripts down the line.

Most potential soap writers come it at this lowest, script level. (A few do come in straight as breakdowns writers or, in rare cases like ATWT's Hogan Sheffer, go straight to Headwriter right out of the gate).

The usual career trajectory is script writer to breakdown writer to Headwriter... and often back to breakdown or script.

The fact is, Headwriters burn out and need to recharge their batteries a bit by writing breakdowns or scripts. Guiding Light's Lucky Gold took a spin in the Headwriter's chair and is now back to doing breakdowns. Hogan Sheffer wrote ATWT breakdowns for several months after stepping down as Headwriter before moving on the Headwriter gig at Days of Our Lives this summer. The list of musical jobs is endless. Because writing soaps is really, really hard.

For a first person look at how to snag that dream job, check out this interview with GL's Kimberly Hamilton.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Here is a photo of Maura West (Carly) autographing a copy of Oakdale Confidential for a fan, and here is one of Jennifer Landon (Gwen) doing the same.

Sidenote: Can I tell you how much I love Jen Landon?

I got a chance to interview her backstage a few minutes after she won the Emmy this year for Outstanding Younger Actress in a Daytime Drama. I asked her if she felt that her moment in the spotlight was being short-changed by everyone asking about her late father, Michael Landon? After all, no other winner was asked about their parent so frequently.

This is what she said: I like talking about him. I can experience him in the way that people talk about him. There are times when he’s mentioned that feel kind of inopportune or gratuitous, but those are rare moments, when it comes from a very aggressive place. Most times it’s really genuine. I think he did touch a lot of people, and it feels cool that I get to hold on to him that way. I think if you lost your parent, unless you get morbidly sad every time somebody brings them up, you get happy when people say they knew him. It’s cool, because then they’re not dead in the same way. Even if they’ve passed away, their life still has this odd inflation in it from all the people who knew them, so it’s nice.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Inturn, a new CBS online reality series in which eight unnaturally attractive young people go through a host of challenges in the hope of winning a 13 week contract role on As the World Turns, debuted this week.

The aforementioned unnaturally attractive people will not only have to audition against each other, they'll also have to live together in a Brooklyn loft. And, at one point, the idea was that, in addition to acting-type challenges, they would have to engage in some production work, as well.

If that's the case, then may the best photo-copier, lunch-orderer, phone-answerer win! (Because, believe me, no matter what the job title, that's what all production entry-level jobs come down to. Not that they aren't fun in their own way, but glamour isn't exactly part of that particular equation.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Jennifer Ferrin has left her role as Jennifer on ATWT (as poor Jen expired, Camille-style, from a daytime form on consumption). CBS.com offers a video backstage pass to her last day on the set. (It was shot before Benjamin Hendrickson's (Hal) death, which makes her taking about him even more emotional).

And for those who are asking: What did Jen die of, exactly? Her baby had a blood cancer, and she didn't catch blood cancer from him. So what did she die of?

My theory is, she was at the hospital with Johnny and his blood cancer. She didn't take care of herself, was stressed, didn't eat right, and so her immune system was depressed. Since hospitals are the best place in the world to catch an infection, she caught something opportunistic, was too weak to fight it off, she went into sepsis and died.

That's my theory and I'm sticking with it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


And she's blogging!

She apologizes for taking the past two months off from her duties. But it's hard to blog while being held hostage by your new husband's cousin. Or stranded on a deserted island that turns out to be a golf resort. With your ex-husband.

Read all about it now!

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Time moves funny in the publishing business.

By traditional standards, "Oakdale Confidential" hit the shelves pretty quickly. We had our first meeting about it in May of 2005. My proposed outline was approved in September of 2005. I turned in a first draft in the middle of November, got notes over Thanksgiving, turned in another draft in December and a final set of notes on New Year's Eve.

The manuscript was copy-edited in January and on the shelves at the end of March. (We also shot the cover, with Terri Colombino, Maura West, and Alexandra Chando in January).

conversely, "Peek-A-Boo," a short story I wrote in March 2005 and which was accepted in July, has just made its appearance in the August 2006 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Go figure...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


The July 18 issue of Soap Opera Digest has an article, "Fit to Print: The Art Behind Publishing Soap Crossover Books," looking at the bestselling success of Oakdale Confidential, The Killing Club, Robin's Diary, and Hidden Passions.

Each of the titles hit the New York Times Bestseller List upon publication (with Oakdale Confidential holding the #3 spot for two weeks). What the article doesn't mention, but what I found fascinating a mere few weeks ago is that Bad Twin, the Lost tie-in book, did not do nearly as well as any of the above soap titles.

After the success of Oakdale Confidential in April 2006, I was certain the Lost book in May would be huge. After all, this primetime show's audience is almost five times larger than the audience for As the World Turns, AND their fans are notoriously, what's the word I'm looking for? Ah, yes, nuts. (I mean, freeze-framing a split-second view of a map and then putting it on the Internet so that other Lost-heads can ponder its significance? Makes throwing a wedding reception for Bo and Hope seem rather normal in comparison, no?)

And yet, while Bad Twin did make the Times List, it failed to crack the top ten, and the buzz, despite several plugs in that bible of pop culture, Entertainment Weekly, died rather quickly.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Despite the lower ratings, daytime has proved again and again and again that it can make their audience BUY STUFF. And what can be more important to potential advertisers than that?

Daytime, in a word, rules.

Monday, July 10, 2006


In response to my post, The Problem With Black People, a reader has recommended I actually get to know some Black people so that I will no longer have this problem.

Never one to turn down a reasonable suggestion from an acolyte, I promptly followed their advice. Results here, here, and here. ;)

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I have no problem, in principle, with people coming back from the dead on soaps (I had a much bigger issue with an entire season of DALLAS being a dream, rather than just bringing Bobby back from the dead like a normal soap person).

But what always gets to me is that the bereaved takes one look at their formerly dearly departed and, nine times out of ten, thinks, "There's my dearly departed back from the dead!"

Now, I've never personally experienced this phenomenon, so I don't know for a fact how I would react under the circumstances. But it seems to me that a more reasonable reaction would be, "There's someone who looks SO MUCH like my dearly departed!"


My favorite back from the dead soap returns:

Roger Thorpe GL
Laura Spencer GH
Simon Frasier ATWT
(I also liked the recent return of Robert Scorpio on GH in theory, but not in execution).

My favorite all time back from the dead return:

Chester Tate on SOAP. Leading his wife, Jessica, to utter the immortal line that I believe ALL soap characters should employ. "We thought you were dead, Chester. And, of course, being dead, we did things which we wouldn't usually do when you were here because being dead you are not."

If only GL's Harley had thought to say so to Gus, he could have recognized the logic of her statement and skipped the whole pill addiction thing.