By Lenora Livingston
In my lifetime, I have spent a lot of time, money, and effort trying to improve my writing skills. I have taken long courses and short courses, attended writing seminars, and joined writing groups. But the best advice ever given to me came absolutely free from Mark Weston.
Who is Mark Weston? The younger generations probably wouldn’t have the slightest clue who he was. Actually, the older generations might not recognize his name either. But, if they were around in the 50s and 60s they probably still remember the words to the jingle in the Brylcreem commercials on their black and white televisions. Brylcreem was, and still is, a pomade hair styling product for men. The commercials said a little dab of it made men’s hair excitingly clean and disturbingly healthy, but they must beware of using more than a little dab. The catchy jingle, which was implanted in my memory almost six decades ago, goes somewhat like this:
Brylcreem – a little dab’l do ya
Brylcreem – you look so debonair
Brylcreem – the girls will all pursue ya
They love to get their fingers in your hair!
Mark was the handsome man who made the mistake of using a tad too much Brylcreem and the girls couldn’t keep their fingers out of his gorgeous head of hair.
Mark performed twenty years both on and off Broadway, along with being in numerous films and television commercials. After being stricken with Bell’s Palsy, a sudden weakness of the muscles in half of his face, he became a successful writer of stage productions, screenplays, and documentaries. He taught writing skills free of charge, because he wanted to give back what was given to him.
I had already learned from taking acting classes that the most successful actors are those who get “naked on the stage.” That doesn’t mean they have to strip their clothes off. It means they strip themselves of anything that blocks their emotions. I learned from Mark that the page is to novelist what the stage is to actors.
Mark gave me the best advice ever when he simply said to me, “When you write, if you feel it, your readers will too.” When he said that, it was as if a light bulb turned on in my head. Being inclined to not show my emotions, I knew it would be difficult to do, but I had to do. It wasn’t easy getting naked on my pages. It would have been much easier to walk down Main Street buck naked. When writing Where’s Stephanie, I knew I was on the right track when I found myself laughing and crying while writing. Now that it is written, when I read Where’s Stephanie reviews on Amazon or on my webpage, I know without a doubt that Mark’s advice worked. My readers say they laugh and cry when reading my book.
Sadly, Mark Weston passed away before receiving his autographed copy of Where’s Stephanie. I presented it to his widow, Linda Herskowitz.
Lenora Livingston has written two books, Where’s Stephanie and West Columbia, USA; two screenplays, including Where’s Stephanie; Character Education Word of the Month educational program; numerous articles for newspapers (5 yrs); monthly community newsletters (4 yrs). She earned her BA and MAT from the University of South Carolina, plus continued post masters studies at The Citadel. Visit her on her webpage and FaceBook.