Where To Begin When Writing


Except for my children’s books, all of my previous published works have been non-fiction. Giving myself a challenge this year, my daughter suggested that I should try my hand at fiction.

“Write a novel,” she said. “Do something different.”

That thought kind of frightens me, because it is really out of the box in which I have been living, out of my comfort zone. There are so many great novelists out there, I am somewhat intimidated to jump into their pool.

Recently, for my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) voting duties, I watched Frances McDormand in the series, Olive Kitteridge.” I enjoyed the series so much, I ordered the book the series was based upon.

Elizabeth Strout, the author, has such a way with words. From the very first paragraph I was drawn in and couldn’t put it down. It is this kind of writing that really makes it challenging for me to think I could be as talented to paint pictures with words as she does in Olive Kitteridge.


Copyright Sandra Hart 2015. All rights reserved.

Be Careful What you Wish



Be Careful What You Wish

Harvey Weinstein, Oscar producer/distributor and the longtime defender of human rights and political freedoms, in reference to the murders in Paris of the cartoonists at France’s satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo by terrorists wrote yesterday, “This preamble hopefully illustrates the humanity and the affection that I think people have for cartoons. From the Sunday funnies like Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie that helped us through the Depression, to Peanuts and Doonesbury, they sometimes provide better wisdom than known philosophers. I’ll take Charlie Brown over Rene Descartes, and put Linus in Socrates’ class, any day of the week. Although it’s Lucy who has the voice of a cartoonist — ironic, funny and eye-opening.”

How very much I relate to his thoughts. When I was a little girl in the late 1940’s living on a farm in Ohio, one of the popular radio shows was called “Archie Andrews” from a comic strip of the day, “Archie”.

Growing up in a farmhouse surrounded by cornfields and livestock, far away from the nearest neighbors down the dusty road, the concept of living in a place like Riverdale with best friends in the same building or next door fascinated me. When my brother clicked on the radio on Saturday mornings so we could eavesdrop on what adventure Archie and his friends were having that week, for that small moment in time, my brother and I lost our isolation and became part of Archie’s family.

Archie’s parents, Mary and Fred Andrews became our parents. His high school, Riverdale High, not the one-room schoolhouse that my brother attended, became ours. Everything about this teenager and his friends Veronica and best buddy, Jughead, were interesting to two kids living a less-than-exciting life on their grandpa’s farm. We longed to live in Riverdale and go to a school just like Archie’s.


Well, as my story unfolds, a few years later, it would be that life threw us a piece of that emancipation pie. We were headed toward Archie’s teenage dream life. I clearly remember looking back, the dust beneath the tires of Daddy’s shiny new Ford slowly obliterating the view of the house as it got smaller and smaller going away from Grandpa’s farm. We were traveling eighteen miles east to live in a real house and in a real town close to Daddy’s work.

My brother and I soon found out that life on Archie’s radio show was much more exciting than it was in our smog filled industrial town. It wasn’t the Riverdale my brother and I had dreamed about. We got our wish alright and we couldn’t wait to graduate from our high school so that we could leave. We would be free to follow our Archie dream once again.

From the time we eagerly drove away from life on Grandpa’s farm those many years ago, I have lived in exactly six places. Several were big city apartments, several suburban houses near big cities and the one that means the most to me is the house on an ocean cliff with the view that fills my heart every day I look out it’s windows. I can stretch my arms wide without touching anything, see and hear no neighbors and have the silence of only what nature brings to me. This house gifts, yes, gifts me peace from all the static in the world around me. Freedom to live where and how I want.


Now in every writer’s toolbox is a thread that ties everything together. It contains the embryo, or idea of the story you want to tell and how it sews neatly together the message you want share with your reader. A quilt of words.

This particular quilt I’m sewing today is, ‘be careful what you wish for in this life’ and be sure to be ready to protect it.

I have been able to live in what I believe to be the greatest country in the world with the best choices in life available. For me, FREEDOM is one of the most important words in the English language. Freedom of Religion. Freedom of Speech. Freedom to be me.

So little Archie girl beware of what you wish. Your dream life in your imagination from the radio or Archie comics may never come true if you and humanity are not careful to honor, appreciate and protect the right to dream.

I don’t ever want to feel stifled. I don’t ever want to feel, as a writer, that I am in a box knocking on the lid crying, “get me out of here!”

Copyright Sandra Hart 2015. All rights reserved.




If there’s any woman in the music business that I really admire, not only for her talent, but for all of her accomplishments, you may be surprised at my answer. It’s Dolly Parton. When you see Dolly, the book cover that you’re looking at is not really what you get.

This year she is celebrating 50 years in the music business. She is smart beyond brilliant, an excellent musician and lyricist and savvy businesswoman. Dolly has it all rolled up under her big curly wig. With Dolly, if you think she’s a Tennessee back woods woman you better think again. In her industry she is a force to be reckoned with. That’s for sure.


Dolly has sold more than 100 million records and written more than 3,000 songs, has 17 Grammys and has been inducted into the country music Hall of Fame and as icing, she received the Kennedy Center honors in 2008. Not bad for a Southern country girl I would say.

And if that accomplishment is not enough for one entertainer, in 1986 Dolly became co-owner of a theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee that was renamed Dollywood. It has doubled in size since she bought it. She also has an interest in a waterpark and dinner theaters in three different states.

Please bare with me, we don’t stop there. She’s co-owner of Sand Dollar Productions which produced Father of the Bride, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Common Threads: Stories from Quilts and a documentary about AIDS that won an Academy Award.


My having been in the entertainment field on a less important level most of my life, a truly testosterone dominated industry, getting respect is a hard earned task. In the latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter, the advice that she gave for women going into any business, I just love. It kicked me upstairs.

She said, “If you really believe in what you’ve got to say, or got to offer, what your talent is – and if you believe, that gives you strength. In my early days I would go in and I was always over made with my boobs sticking out, my clothes too tight, and so I really looked like easy prey to a lot of guys – just looked easy, period. But I would go in, and if they were not paying close attention to what I was saying, I always said, ” I look like a woman, but I think like a man, and you better pay attention, or I’ll have your money and I’ll be gone.”


When asked by the interviewer if she was familiar with Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In she asked what it was. When told Lean In is a book, her reply was just as simple and honest as can be.

“I’ve leaned over. I’ve leaned forward. I don’t know what “leaned in” is. Lean in to God.”

That is pure Dolly. You have to love and respect that woman.

Sitting here at my computer and writing on a daily basis, I realize it’s women like Dolly Parton who have always felt free to be who they are and comfortable in their own skin – they are the women who have paved the way for the rest of us creative types to say it like it is. The freedom to be ourselves. The final truth is, the older I get, the easier it is to be the real me.

Hats off to you Dolly Parton and thanks!


This nine to five girl hard at work.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2014. All rights reserved.

Hits and Misses


The other day I went to see Woody Allen and John Turturro in “Fading Gigolo”. I have worked for both of these actor/directors, so in spite of the fact that Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 55% Green Tomatoes, I gave it a chance. And you know what? I liked it. I very rarely have allowed myself or my tastes to be dictated by the critics. If I like the actors, I always have been curious to see for myself. Fading Gigolo.

Well I have a story to tell about that if you are willing to read on. Proof that, sometimes, unfortunately, the critics are right.

Fall of 1996…………..


I did a small scene while sitting in a fake loge in The Paramount Theater, a grand old abandoned movie theater in Newark, New Jersey that was built in 1895. Illuminata was a period piece so I was dressed in a long black corseted ball gown appropriate for theater going in the era. The problem was, since the loge was only for decoration there were no steps leading to it. I had to climb a high ladder to get to the space with the crew holding it steady and my underwear in full view. In any other circumstance I would have been mortified, but work is work, and the reality is, well, reality. And,of course, since it was a fake loge, there were no seats for my fellow actor and I. It was just a dark, dirty area that had never been used- ever- for anything except for architectural appeal. Naturally, on a movie set there is an answer for everything. The problem was solved quickly by wooden orange crates being hauled up and placed just far enough apart to look like seats and to keep the scene realistic.

Take one. Take two. Take three. In the space of an hour we were carefully descending the ladder to the safely of the theater floor. It was at that point after the adrenaline of working subsided that I felt a severe itching and burning on my back. Naturally would it be anything else but in a spot beyond my reach. I gave up trying to feel it with my hand and decided as uncomfortable as it was, it probably was a stave in the corset pinching my back. So with a ‘show must go on’ attitude, I took my place in the regular balcony seats as instructed by John, so that he could get a close up of my clapping hands to be used for a stage scene audience reaction with Susan Sarandon who was playing an actress.

Finishing and still in pain, I headed into the wardrobe area to be undressed by the wardrobe assistants. Underneath everything I removed, they discovered an inflamed area that looked like a spider bite. It was. The nurse on set gave me some antihistamine and ointment.

It took about three weeks for the bite to heal, but much longer for the movie to be released. Usually, movies come out a year after they have rapped. Not Illuminata. It was at least about two years before I saw a tiny ad in the movie section of the newspaper with Susan Sarandon’s name so small it was almost invisible. That alone should have hit me over the head as an omen of what was to come.

I excitedly, finally, was going to see the movie, see me, and enjoy the fruits of my hard work and spider bite. Well, the movie was so bad, for the first time in my life, I didn’t stay to see if my scenes were in the movie or not. It was such a disappointment. It was awful. To this day, I still haven’t revisited the film.

So, I guess the moral of or lesson in this experience, is that in life, none of us is immune to hits and misses. Even creative geniuses like John Tuturro.

(Actual review: Turturro tricks you into thinking there’s magic realism streaming through this ode to art and commited love – despite there being little magic and not a trace of reality to speak of.)