Friday, March 29, 2013

My Unreal Reality Show Experience

By Ron Glaser

A year after retiring from work, I found myself watching a lot of ‘reality’ TV shows. After a while, I began questioning whether these shows were portraying ‘real’ events. I wondered how many wives decide to leave their husbands and children and travel across the country to move in with total strangers. I noticed on Storage Wars that there could be fifty people surrounding an abandoned storage locker, but the same four or five guys always managed to get the winning bid.

I was discussing my suspicion about these shows with my brother Sam, who works in New York.  “Listen,” he said.  “I have the same feeling that you do.  I’m not sure just how real these reality TV shows are.  I have an idea.  My friend Paul Cox is an associate TV producer for the A&E Network.  Why don’t you come up with your own idea for a real reality TV show and I’ll give it to him?”
 It didn’t take me long to come up with an idea.  I wrote a short summary of what I envisioned would be a true reality show and sent it to Sam.  The idea was simple: have a reality show about a regular guy, a retiree, a real person, me.

 Sam gave the summary to Paul, who thought it had potential, and asked my brother to have me write a pilot script as a next step.   I thought that was funny because the idea behind reality TV is that it is unscripted and the cameras are simply there to follow the subjects in their daily lives.  But I am smart enough to know that producers and directors want to have a good idea of what a show is about, even if it is an unscripted one.  So I put my efforts into writing a pilot script.

Having never done this before I just Googled ‘TV scripts’ and was able to find one that I used as a template for writing my script.  One month later, I sent the pilot script to Paul Cox.   Three weeks after mailing it, I was sitting in Paul’s New York office.
A totally unreal experience, me a retired auto parts manager, sitting down with a TV producer to discuss a script I wrote!   Paul is a nice guy, very down to earth.  We sat across from each other, each with a copy of my script, Paul with a red pen.  He took control of the conversation.

 “In the first scene of the pilot, you wake up at whatever time you wake up?  I think we should have an alarm clock go off.”

 “Why?” I asked.  “I’m retired.  I don’t have to wake to an alarm.”

 “It will give the show a little  ‘oomph’ to get started.  Someone just waking up doesn’t have the same impact as that buzzer.”

“Okay,” I agreed.  “I’ll set the alarm but no earlier than 7:00.”

 “That’ll work.”
“Now in the next scene, you turn on the coffee and go outside to get the newspaper.   That by itself is a little boring.  How about if we bring in some rain and fan machines to add a little drama to the weather?”

“Fine with me,” I thought.   I was thinking it would really be neat to see how they do those special effects.

 “You know, when it really rains, I take an umbrella when I go for the paper.”

 “Okay,” said Paul.  “Let’s have a tech modify the umbrella so one of the ribs breaks from the wind coming from the machines and the umbrella turns inside out.”

I’m not crazy about getting wet and told Paul I would have to change clothes after getting the paper and he said he wouldn’t film that part.  Too boring.  ‘Too boring’ became one of his favorite phrases.
After I get the paper, I usually eat a bowl of cereal with milk, so that was in my script.

 Paul said it was not a problem, but he would want to see me fill the bowl all the way up to the top so when I bring it to the table, the milk and cereal spill over and onto the floor.

 “Oh.  I’m usually careful about that,” I responded,  “cause I don’t want to spill the cereal.  I really don’t want to come across as some klutz that can’t even carry a bowl of cereal to the table without making a mess.” 
 Paul understood how I felt but reiterated his favorite phrase; it would be too boring for the audience.  He suggested we leave something in the middle of the kitchen floor that I trip over, causing the cereal accident, as he now referred to it, and that way it wouldn’t be that I was just clumsy.  I told Paul I wasn’t sure I could fake this tripping well enough to make it look real but he told me not to worry.  They would have a stunt person do it and shoot the scene at the level of my feet, and have that person wear the same shoes I was wearing.  The TV viewer would be no wiser.

“So this is how reality TV works,” I thought.

We went through the script methodically, line by line, with Paul changing almost everything I had written.  My only real objection came when we discussed an after-lunch scene when I usually take a little nap.

 Paul said, “Yawn!” and I understood his meaning.

 I defended my script.  “I know it seems boring to watch someone sleeping, but it’s supposed to be a true reality show, and that’s what I usually do after lunch.”
 “Tell you what,“ Paul said.  “We’ll film thirty seconds of you napping and then we’ll have your dog come in, jump on you, and wake you up.”

 “Paul, I don’t have a dog!”

 “Not a problem.  You’ll have one by the time we start shooting.”

 “Are you going to just bring one in for the show?” I asked.

“No, you’ll need to go buy one.  If it was our dog and the animal rights people found out you were a fake dog owner, they could cause all kinds of trouble.”

 “Do you think I could buy a cat instead?  My wife hates dogs.  She can’t stand to be around dogs, let alone own one!”

 “Nah,” said Paul.  “Cats are too quiet.  We a need a dog that barks.  A big one.”

I could see that my reality show was going to force me to make some big changes and create problems with my wife, but I was thinking the tradeoff would be the money we would make.  I started picturing us on the morning talk shows too. 

 “We haven’t discussed this yet, Paul, but how much money will I make doing this show?”

 “If it were an ‘entertainment’ show, you would make $5,000 a week, industry standard.  But this is a reality show.  The people on reality shows aren’t actors and they don’t get paid.  They’re just happy to be on TV.”

I explained my disappointment to Paul about not getting paid.  Especially given that we had to buy a dog and all. 

 “Paul, do you think we could do something to make it an ‘entertainment’ show?  Five thousand a week is a lot of money and I could really use that.”

 I could see him thinking deeply.  After a few minutes his thoughts had crystallized.

“Possibly.  We would have to get you an Associate Actor’s Guild card.  Shouldn’t be a problem.  We could carry the show on the books as ‘entertainment’ but broadcast it as ‘reality’ because that’s where the viewers and ratings are.  But we would really need to punch up the script.” 

 “So this is how I see it:  You get up to the alarm; knock it over when you reach for it but it keeps buzzing.   You jump up annoyed and stub your toe on the night table.  You scream from the pain so loudly your wife is already running to the kitchen to get ice for you.  On her way back to the bedroom, she trips over Rusty and now she is yelling from her own pain and cursing and yelling she is going to kill the darn dog.  Meanwhile, your neighbors hear the commotion in your house and call the police.  The police sirens are blasting away.”

 “Wow!” I said.  “That sounds exciting.”

 “Yeah,” Paul nodded.  “There’s just one thing that bothers me.  We need the dog.  And you’ve made it clear how much your wife hates dogs.  She’s cursing it and threatening to kill it.  Not good.  That will turn off a lot of viewers.  We have four months until we start shooting.   Do you think you could get a different wife by then?”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Aggression in Black and White by June Pair Kilpatrick

Pet-Farm Zebra
Aggression in Black and White

Prancing, full of springtime,
The young zebra knows nothing of his own dark continent
Where, beside still waters, golden-maned kings
Kill quickly, dragging down three hundred pounds of
Lunch for a lean-flanked pride with a
Taste for tender black and white stripes.

Not knowing, he fears not, taking frisky pleasure in
Terrorizing hoofed kindred who share his pasture
In these gentle Virginia hills.
Charging a small herd of goats, he scatters them,
And their scattering is his reward:
(A grazer, he knows no need to sink teeth in flesh.)

The zebra veers and executes a  zesty prance,
Exulting in his power.   He
Struts, then slows and stops,
Scanning the meadow for fresh targets,
Astutely avoiding three buffalo
Who graze and give him not a glance.

An old sheep with twin lambs eyes him nervously.
You can almost hear her whisper to her young:
“Ignore that silly beast, the one in black and white.”
But he spies them and charges, head down.
Closer and closer he gallops till mother flees
Despite herself, and the lambs dart, pell-mell.

When the three are scattered in three directions across
Dandelion-dotted grass,
The zebra pulls up with a gleeful dance that says,
“Ha, ha; gotcha!”  After all, no blood was shed;
The victim has lost nothing but her
Breath, her dignity, and her peace.

“This meadow is going to the dogs,” she mutters,
Gathering her lambs and resuming her
Cropping with trembling heart.
For what does an old mother sheep know of
Aggressors in black and white stripes
Bent on terrorizing peaceful grazers?
                                                                        --June Pair Kilpatrick
                                                                          Copyright  2013

June is a member of the Virginia Writers Club, the Prince William County Arts Council, and Write by the Rails.   Her memoir, Wasps in the Bedroom, Butter in the Well:  Growing Up During the Great Depression was published in April 2012.

Monday, March 11, 2013

News from the VA Writers Club

VWC Board of Governors Meeting - March 20  10am - 2pm
First quarterly business meeting and work session of 2013.  Location: Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Meeting Room, 145 Ednam Dr., Charlottesville, VA 22903. (From 250 W., take first left after entering the Boars Head Complex and look for signs along sidewalk.) For more information, please contact Betsy Ashton, VWC President.

Virginia Festival of the Book - March 20-24, 2013
The 19th annual Virginia Festival of the Books is a celebration of books, authors, and reading. It is produced by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and has become the largest educational book event in the Mid-Atlantic, drawing a cumulative annual attendance of more than 20,000. The Festival, which takes place March 20-24, 2013, is held in venues throughout Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia. It features hundreds of authors, illustrators, storytellers, and other publishing professionals in every genre. Full details on the entire five-day event are available at
On Wednesday, March 20 at 6 PM, the Virginia Writers Club and Poetry Society of Virginia will be partnering to present the following Festival panel discussion - "Getting it Together: The Process and Power of Anthologies." Moderator: Sarah Collins Honenberger; Panelists: Gary D. Kessler, Linda M. Layne, Sofia M. Starnes, and Jack Trammell. Location: Northside Library, 300 Albemarle Square, Charlottesville, VA. Following the presentation, panelists will be selling copies of their respective anthologies.
On Saturday, March 23 from 9 AM to 4 PM, the Virginia Writers Club will have an information booth at the book fair, held during the Festival's "Publishing Day" event at the downtown Charlottesville Omni Hotel. If you would like to volunteer one-hour promoting our club and our VWC chapters, please e-mail Linda Layne, VWC Executive Director.
On Sunday, March 24 from 1 PM to 3 PM, the Blue Ridge Writers Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club will have a book tour launch event, "The Magic of Words," for their Blue Ridge Anthology 2013 with readings by contributors. Special guest Rita Mae Brown.
VWC MEMBERS FEATURED AT THE 2013 FESTIVAL:  (Many thanks to our Secretary, Laurie Jensen, for compiling this list!)

Sarah C.
Getting It Together: The Process and Power of Anthologies
Gary D.
Linda M.
Sofia M.

Getting It Together: The Process and Power of Anthologies






The Hanover Book Festival is back!
News from Joanne Liggan, President - Hanover Writers Chapter VWC
The Hanover Book Festival is back! We had to put it on hold in 2011 and 2012, but we are planning to resurrect the book festival this year.  The date is Saturday, August 10, 2013, and the location will be 8094 Liberty Circle in Mechanicsville, VA. Mark your calendars and check the website ( We will be adding information as it comes together and will get the application forms downloaded to the website as soon as we’ve ironed out all of the details.
      In the meantime, we are taking proposals for workshops. If you would like to present a workshop, please submit a proposal to my email ( Include a title, explain the topic, and give an approx. amount of time needed for the presentation. Our committee will review all proposals and choose those we feel will get the most response. Time and space is limited, so not all proposals can be accepted. Workshop presenters will receive $50, free display space, and a free lunch. The deadline for all proposals is Friday, March 15, 2013.
      By the way, there will be no loud music or other distractions this year. We will be focusing all our energies on selling and promoting your books.  Looking forward to seeing you all there!
For further information about this year’s festival, please visit the website at

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Writers Club, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Contact: Linda Layne, VWC Executive Director,

Friday, March 8, 2013

Women’s History Month Celebration at NOVA-Manassas

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College will present a series of discussions in Colgan Theater.

Led by NOVA-Manassas faculty members, the discussions are free and open to the public with free parking in student parking lots (Lot B). The campus is located at 6901 Sudley Road in Manassas. Contact Chalet Jean Baptiste at for more information.

March 19
12:30 to 2 p.m.
“Writing Women Back into the West”

March 20
3 to 4:30 p.m.
“Perspectives on Power: Women, Hollywood and Economic Opportunity in Corporate America,” “Wordles Featuring Women in European History” and “Women AT Each Other: The Plight of Our Less Supportive, Critical Selves”

March 21
5 to 6:30 p.m.
“Gertrude Bell and Her Role in the Creation of Iraq”
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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America’s largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College’s website,

Carlene Mackereth
Public Information Officer
Northern Virginia Community College

Thursday, March 7, 2013


THIS is March madness
Confetti flakes swirl and hurl
Like mosh pit dancers

--Leigh Giza

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Carol Covin: How Did You Teach Your Grandchildren Your Grandma Name?

I was quiet about my Grandma name when my grandchildren were born.

I figured they’d call me Grandma Covin, just like I’d called my grandmother, Grandma Last Name.

However, one grandchild had no other grandparents and one grandchild’s grandparents chose different names for themselves.

So, I became simply, “Grandma.”

When [WbtR author] June Kilpatrick was a little girl, her aunt gave her a nickname, June-bug.

Though she saved her children’s furniture intact, she had no grandchildren of her own.

But, she did have step-grandchildren.

Taking the naming process into her own hands, she decided to adopt her childhood nickname and become Granny June-bug.

But, how to instill this into her grandchildren?

Before they were born, the process started.

She created counted cross-stitch embroidery pictures for their nurseries.

She sewed a Noah’s Ark picture to tell them stories.

All were signed with her soon-to-be Grandma name, Granny June-bug.

And, of course, she used her Grandma name whenever she saw them.

Still cute as a button, even now at 80, Granny June-bug she is.

I found out my grandchildren had fully adopted my name when they learned to read and write.

One picked out a license plate at a yardsale, “World’s Greatest Grandma.”

The other wrote me a note, “Dear Grandma, You are awesome.”

And, a second one, “I have two Grandmas and your one of my favorites.”

Full disclosure: I pay my grandchildren $1 each time they write me a note.

You will also enjoy my post, Why Would You Put Butter in the Well? about Granny June-bug’s memoir of growing up during the Depression, Wasps in the Bedroom, Butter in the Well.

It includes an interview with Granny June-bug.

How did you decide on your Grandma name?

Did you make one up that is unique to you?

Did you pick a family tradition name?

To you and giving your grandchildren a time capsule, their Grandma.

Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers

Sunday, March 3, 2013

NOVA Manassas Campus Professor wins more acclaim at Indie Soap Awards

Kathryn O’Sullivan and Paul Awad picked up more awards for their Web series “Thurston” at the Fourth Annual Indie Soap Awards ceremony Feb. 19 in New York City.

Sponsored by We Love Soaps and the Indie Series Network, the Indie Soap Awards champion independent scripted, serialized storytelling on the Web. O’Sullivan won for Best Costume Design and Awad won for Best Cinematography. Awad was also nominated for Best Director (Drama).

O’Sullivan leads the Theater Program at the Manassas Campus of Northern Virginia Community College. She is also co-executive producer, creator, writer and costume designer for “Thurston.” Awad is co-executive producer, director, cinematographer and editor for the series.

Among the “Thurston” entourage attending the red carpet ceremony were three-time Emmy nominee Colleen Zenk who plays Agnes Snead in the series, NOVA professors Lisa Nanni-Messegee and Todd Messegee who play Jo Maxwell and District Attorney Stewart, former NOVA student Garry Westcott who plays Marshal Robinson, and Garrett Brennan, a student at NOVA’s Loudoun Campus who was nominated for Best Breakout Performance (All Shows) for his role as Owen Snead.
“Thurston” is a Western drama about residents of a remote mining town and their struggle for survival in the 1880s Kansas Ozarks. The Web series has won six awards and received numerous nominations. The series was recently named an Official Selection at the 2013 HollyWeb Web Series Festival and the 2013 LA Web Series Festival. Both festivals will be held this spring in Los Angeles.

For more information, go to or contact O’Sullivan at

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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America’s largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College’s website,
Carlene Mackereth
Public Information Officer
Northern Virginia Community College