Category Archives: People

Tim Jackson’s Film: Joan Walsh Anglund’s Life

In 1958, Joan Walsh Anglund and her husband Bob moved to a 1750s home on Kings Highway South. The young mother began writing, and drawing small books.

Without her knowledge, Bob submitted one of her works to Harcourt Brace. “A Friend is Someone Who Likes You” soon became enormously popular.

For the rest of her life, Anglund wrote at home. Her children’s books and poetry sold over 45 million copies worldwide. Meanwhile, she raised 2 kids: Joy and Todd.

Tim Jackson dated Joy while both were at Staples High School. Her parents became big influences on his life. Bob was “the man of a thousand great stories and impressions.” Joan was “the steady voice of inspiration and reason.”

Their home was a place where everyone talked, laughed and tried to figure out life.

Joan Walsh Anglund and her husband Bob. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

In college in 1969, Tim introduced the Anglunds to his new girlfriend, Suzanne. Sixteen years later, they were still together. Joan asked if they were going to have kids.

When Tim said “probably, eventually,” Joan replied, “Well, it only takes one day to have a baby.”

Ten months later the Jacksons’ first son, Max, was born. He turned 33 this month.

Right now, Max is composing music for a film Tim is making. “Joan Walsh Anglund: Life in Story and Poem” is a tribute to thee 92-year-old best-selling author/illustrator.

It’s narrated through a series of first-person oral histories, accompanied by her art and unpublished poetry.

It also describes her own story of tragedy and triumph — one that has never before been told.

Joan Walsh Anglund and Tim Jackson. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Jackson has had quite a life himself. He sat behind the Nixon daughters when the Beatles appeared on “Ed Sullivan” in 1964 — an event that launched his musical career.

He got kicked out of the Staples orchestra for “not being serious.” His band, The Loved Ones, opened for the Rascals at Staples (and provided the sound system the Yardbirds used there).

Jackson majored in drama at Ithaca College (and eventually left, drawn away by Rob Carlson’s Benefit Street band). He went on to play drums in several bands (and open for Bruce Springsteen).

He toured with Tom Rush, LaVern Baker and others, and recorded often. His ’60s band — The Band That Time Forgot — has performed for over 30 years.

Jackson acted (he’s Joe Kopechne in “Chappaquiddick,” due for release next month), earned a master’s in education, and taught for 20 years (mostly film history and production).

Whil teaching, he made 4 documentary films. “When Things Go Wrong” — about Robin Lane — won Best Documentary at the New Jersey International Film Festival. (He was in her group The Chartbusters, the 11th band to be broadcast on MTV.)

The Joan Walsh Anglund film focuses on a woman who, like Lane, is strong, capable, and enriches lives through the arts.

A Joan Walsh Anglund drawing. (Photo courtesy of JWA Archives)

Jackson’s documentary uses storytelling, illustration, animation, poems, music and rare home movies to convey her eccentric upbringing, 3 childhood tragedies, 6o-year romance with Bob, and unexpected success.

“Our world is in turmoil,” Jackson says. “We need stories of personal triumph and celebration.”

He hopes to appeal to Anglund’s worldwide fan base (which included, in its heyday, Eleanor Roosevelt and Queen Elizabeth).

“This oral history honors the wisdom of age,” he notes. “It will encourage people to tell their own stories.”

It could also spur the publication of many short poems she wrote — only a fraction of which he includes.

Next year, Houghton Mifflin releases a special 60th anniversary edition of her first book. It will coincide with the completion of Jackson’s film.

He’s got a unique Westport perspective on Joan Walsh Anglund’s life. And now he’s ready to share it with the world.

(Tim Jackson is raising funds for his editor, composer, animator, Photoshop artist and a producer’s honorarium. He also needs to pay for stock footage and post-production, including color correction and sound editing. All contributors receive screen credit. To help, and for more information, click here.)

 

The Little Red Gingerbread On Long Lots Road

It’s one of the most recognizable houses in Westport: the red “gingerbread” house at 55 Long Lots Road, just east of Hall-Brooke.

For the first time in 60 years, it’s on the market.

As befits a home built more than 150 years ago, it’s got a back story.

Plus a bit of mystery.

According to Tad Shull — a current co-owner and musician/writer in New York, who spent his childhood there — it was constructed as a caretaker’s cottage or gatehouse, elsewhere on Long Lots.

It was moved to its present site in the 1870s by William Burr, who inherited it from his father. Additions were built in the 1920s and ’60s. From the street, it still looks much like the original.

55 Long Lots Road. The entrance to Hall-Brooke is on the left.

It may (or may not) have served as a 1-room schoolhouse. But it has a definite connection to education: Burr Farms School opened in 1958 a few yards away. (It was demolished in the 1980s; all that remains are athletic fields.)

The most intriguing tale is this: Shull’s parents bought the house in 1957 from Elaine Barrie — the 4th (and last) wife of John Barrymore.

Shull had heard that the actor used the house as a “love nest.” It’s uncertain whether Barrymore lived there; Barrie bought it after he died in 1942.

Shull also heard rumors that Barrymore had an affair there with a married woman,  Blanche Oelrichs, who published poetry under the name Michael Strange. Shull found a book of her poems — with her handwritten annotations — on his mother’s bookshelf last fall.

More lore: Stevan Dohanos’ famous “Thanksgiving” painting may have used the red Long Lots house as its model/inspiration. (“06880” posted that possibility last year; click here, then scroll down for several comments confirming it.)

Stevan Dohanos’ “Thanksgiving” painting. Recognize this house?

And, Shull adds, he heard from Tony Slez — who once owned a gas station at the foot of Long Lots, where Westport Wash & Wax now stands — that his Polish relatives worked as onion pickers on the road.

Shull says that as a youngster he was teased for living “next door to a mental institution.”

But he calls his boyhood “a paradise. There were plenty of kids around. We had a pond with frogs. It was a great place.”

His family hopes that whoever buys the house will preserve it. And — even if only part of its history is true — the red gingerbread that everyone passes on Long Lots has quite a past.

10 Questions For 1st Selectman Candidates

Anyone can ask the 1st Selectman candidates what they think about taxes, traffic and the future of Main Street. Their answers may not be surprising.

But “06880” wants to know more. We’d like to know what makes these men (and woman) tick. And what makes them Westporters, as opposed to politicians.

So we asked each candidate the same 10 questions. Here are their replies. I chose the fairest way to post them: alphabetically. But — since as a “W” I’m always last — they’re in reverse order. Hah!

What got you to Westport?

John Suggs:  My wife and I were looking for a community in which to raise our newborn twins, with great schools, friendly neighborhoods and unique community character. A place that our kids would always be proud to call home. That is Westport.

Jim Marpe:  Our family moved to the New York City area 30 years ago at the request of my employer, Accenture, following a lengthy expatriate management assignment. By coincidence 2 of our best friends had moved to Westport while we were overseas, so we had already visited several times and gotten a preview of the community. Our daughter was entering elementary school, so the world-class quality of the school system was the primary attraction. But the other attractions were the physical character of the town, the cosmopolitan atmosphere and the wide variety of activities that did not exist in similar places we had lived.

Melissa Kane: I began coming here as a child and have loved it ever since.

TJ Elgin:  My grandparents helped save me from a dark path with my father.

John Suggs and his dog Monty. The photo was obviously taken between October 1 and March 31.

What kept you in Westport?

Suggs: The friendly people, the community ties and the schools which have become a second home for our children.

Marpe:  The Westport public schools are the primary reason we stayed, but by then we were involved in leadership roles with a variety of interesting community service organizations that help a wide cross-section of Westport, including Homes With Hope, the Westport Weston Family Y, Green’s Farms Congregational Church, the Rotary Club, Westport Country Playhouse, the Young Woman’s League, and Neighbors and Newcomers of Westport. My wife, Mary Ellen, was a successful small business owner for over a decade (Westport Academy of Dance). Moreover, we had come to appreciate the wide variety of high quality amenities that Westport offers (Library, beaches, Longshore, performing and visual arts, attractive open spaces) as well as proximity to New York City. In the end, it’s the great friendships we have developed with an amazing array of interesting and involved Westporters that will keep us here for many years to come.

Kane:  My husband proposed to me way out on a sandbar at Old Mill Cove. We love this town and wanted to raise our children here. The overall character, roots in the arts, and the people make it an easy place to love.

Elgin:  My family and friends.

Favorite place in Westport to relax?

Suggs:  Golden Shadows back porch in Baron’s South.

Marpe:  Compo Beach (South) on a summer evening with friends and a picnic dinner. Certainly not Town Hall!

Kane:  Walking on the beach.

Elgin:  Compo Beach.

Favorite place to go when you’re NOT in Westport?

Suggs:  Cape Town, South Africa.

Marpe:  Any place that has small, family-owned vineyards and wineries and a small, quiet inn.

Kane: Hiking in the White Mountains with my family.

Elgin:  Stratford Pyramid Shriners.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe, in the 2013 Memorial Day parade. Behind him are State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, 3rd Selectman Helen Garten and 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner.

Musical group you’d most like to see at the Levitt?

Suggs:  The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

Marpe:  The Rolling Stones.

Kane:  Ben Folds.

Elgin:  Lights, she is from Canada.

Favorite annual event in Westport, and why?

Suggs:  Staples High School Candlelight Concert. The music by our talented students together — during the holiday season — makes my heart soar.

Marpe:  Memorial Day parade. Truly a local event with a family focus that reflects our small town character, honors our residents who fought for our freedoms, and marks the unofficial beginning of summer.

Kane:  Memorial Day parade. It’s the most wonderful small town, magical event one could imagine. It really captures the spirit of the town like nothing else.  My children have been in it; I love to watch and participate in it. I am also always humbled by the sacrifices that were made by our servicemen and women.  

Elgin:  Fireworks because it’s my first real date with my soon-to-be wife, and Lobsterfest because of old friends I never get to see.

Melissa Kane (right) with her mother, Judith Orseck Katz.

If you could wave a magic wand and change anything about Westport, what would it be?

Suggs:  The traffic congestion.

Marpe:  Traffic would flow easily and freely through all our intersections. The Waze and  Google Maps apps would cease to divert traffic from I-95 and the Merritt Parkway onto our local streets. Our drivers would obey all speed limits and traffic regulations, and observe safe driving etiquette. And our streets would magically widen to become “complete streets” with sidewalks, pedestrian- friendly crosswalks and bicycle lanes, along with plenty of room for cars to pass.

Kane:  Making it a place our children could come back to and our seniors can stay in.

Elgin:  The entitlement. We live in a world where we all need to help each other and our surroundings, to have a brighter future for our planet.

Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts?

Suggs: Neither. The Sherwood Diner.

Marpe: Dunkin’ Donuts. But my real choices are Coffee An’ and Donut Crazy.

Kane:  Coffee An’.

Elgin:  Neither. I don’t drink or eat from places that I don’t know where their products are from.

TJ Elgin and his fiancee, Denise Bahr.

5 words to describe Westport?

Suggs:  Compo, Cribari Bridge, beautiful, home.

Marpe:  Cosmopolitan, active, creative, caring, innovative.

Kane:  Forward-thinking, beautiful, engaged, active, community.

Elgin:  Historical, environmental, artistic, educational, proper.

5 words to describe yourself?

Suggs:  Persistent, dedicated, devoted, father, husband.

Marpe:  Hardworking, proactive, principled, optimistic, collaborative.

Kane:  Collaborative, optimistic, determined, down-to-earth, objective.

Elgin:  Generous, knowledgeable, noble, wolfy, strong.

Westporters’ Puerto Rico Saga Ends Well

In the long weeks following Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico, a Westport family did not know the fate of a loved one.

With most cell towers ruined, the Vazquez family could not contact Felix’s mother, Carol Bruno. That was the first part of a story aired the other night on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt.

But the network looked for Carol.

And found her.

The reunion — by satellite phone — was also aired.

To see the entire segment — a bit of good news, in a continuing tragedy — click here.

(Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

 

One Westporter’s Wondrous Cuba

After a welcome thaw in US-Cuba relations, much about the island 90 miles from the Florida Keys is once again uncertain.

Hurricane Irma inflicted severe damage. Mysterious illnesses have afflicted American embassy personnel in Havana. President Trump has pledged to roll back President Obama’s policies of openness.

Which, says Maite Hernandez, makes this the perfect time to visit.

The Westporter’s parents were born in Cuba. When Fidel Castro took over, they fled to Miami. They soon moved to Puerto Rico, which reminded them of home.

Maite Hernandez and her father Tony.

Maite grew up among her parents’ Cuban friends. She learned to love their food, and heard stories about their homeland.

In 1997, she and her siblings visited Cuba for the first time. She felt like she was home. She met cousins who had never left the island. Immediately, it felt as if they’d grown up together.

She returned twice, in 2011 and 2013. Every time she leaves, she feels as if a piece of her heart remains.

Westporters are curious to learn more about Cuba. They’re fascinated by what they hear: the 1950s cars, the art nouveau and art deco architecture, the beautiful beaches.

Cuban architecture …

They tell Maite they want to visit before things change. Yet, she says, they don’t know how to go there, or have concerns about political implications.

She has an easy answer. Her brother Sixto is the founder of Cuba Travel & Scouting; she’s the Northeast representative. Utilizing family connections, the company offers tours that don’t adhere to government-imposed choices of sites, hotels and restaurants. Each tour focuses on Cuba’s rich history, natural beaaty and architectural wonders.

Westporters who have traveled to Cuba appreciate the experience. Emily Blaikie calls it “one of the most magical places I have ever been. The people are lovely. So are the sights and sounds. And the food is delicious.”

“06880”‘s tagline is “Where Westport meets the world.” Maite Hernandez wants her neighbors and friends here to know that — despite all the bad news recently — a wonderful world awaits them, just a short plane ride away.

… and a classic car.

WestportWrites — And Adds Espresso Machine

The Westport Library is a place to do many things beyond reading: Hear book talks and concerts. Work in the MakerSpace. Check out DVDs. Get coffee.

Add to the list: Learn to write.

WestportWrites is a year-long program. Monthly mini-conferences and workshops all lead to a writers’ conference next fall.

Rachel Basch (“The Listener,” “The Passion of Reverend Nash”), literary agent Dawn Frederick and a panel from Westport writers’ groups kicked things off earlier this month.

This Monday (October 16, 6 p.m.), Patrick McCord talks about the brain’s role in the creative process. Future topics include the feminist young adult voice, screenwriting, memoirs and more.

As part of WestportWrites, the library is partnering with Staples High School’s English department. Jessica Bruder (“Nomadland,” “Burning Book” spoke to 225 students there, prior to her library appearance).

Plans are underway to collaborate on next fall’s conference. Teachers are excited about opportunities for talented writers — and those who might be turned on to an activity they never considered before.

But any library can sponsor workshops. The Westport Library is taking writing a giant step further.

A generous anonymous donor helped them buy a new Espresso machine — and it has nothing to do with coffee.

This Espresso is an on-demand book publisher. Authors provide PDFs for the text and cover (the library has templates). Espresso prints in black-and-white or color. It adds a soft cover, and trims the pages to different sizes.

In other words, it allows authors to self-publish.

This Espresso machine has nothing to do with coffee.

You’re not going to get Jane Green-size press runs. But it’s perfect for printing small numbers of books. You can also prototype a larger run — avoiding costly mistakes with pagination, or putting the Foreward at the end (true story).

Westport Library manager of experiential learning Alex Giannini, and program and events specialist Cody Daigle-Orlans, are enthusiastic about their new tool. They offer short consultations on it with interested authors (email westportwrites@gmail.com for more information).

There’s also a Westport Library in-house graphic designer to help with the cover (for a fee).

If the Espresso machine sounds like something that belongs in the MakerSpace — now moved to the balcony area during the library’s Transformation Project — it does.

In fact, Giannini says, the goal is to make next October’s writer’s conference and book fair be at the same level as Westport’s April Maker Faire.

Write on!

 

Don’t Forget Caribbean Hurricane Victims

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by natural disasters. Westporters have recently been asked to help hurricane victims in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.

The town has responded strongly. Nearly all of us know people in those battered places.

Most of us do not know anyone in Barbuda or Dominica. Yet those Caribbean islands were devastated too.

Lynroy Henry works in Westport as an athletic coach. He’s asking for help for the many Barbudans and Dominicans now living in Antigua, after Hurricane Irma drove them from home.

His organization — Roots of Bolans — will personally deliver much-needed items to Antigua.

The list includes:

  • Non-perishable foodstuffs and dried goods (sardines, tuna fish, milk, rice, sugar, flour, beans, etc.)
  • Pampers, baby formula, feminine napkins, toiletries
  • Cash for purchasing building materials locally

Donations can be dropped off at 10 Bay Street. For more information, call 203-919-0921.

Hurricane Irma damage on Barbuda.

Weaving Through Westport’s Worst Intersection

In a town filled with traffic lights and stop signs, you’d think one of the busiest and most confusing intersections in town would be tightly regulated.

You’d be wrong.

The Weston Road/Easton Road/Main Street clusterf*** has long defied explanation. Despite traffic funneling from downtown, Cross Highway, the Coleytown area, Weston and the Merritt Parkway — and headed out in all those directions — the confusing, chaotic and dangerous area remains a transportation Wild West.

Quite a welcome to Westport, for those coming off the Merritt. Quite a potential death trap, for all of us.

Over the years, a variety of recommendations have been floated. They range from traffic lights everywhere, to an English/Massachusetts-style roundabout/rotary, to blowing the whole thing up and starting over. (Just kidding on the last one.) (Kind of.)

Recently, Facebook’s Westport Front Porch page has provided a place to discuss the intersection everyone loves to hate.

Jeff Mitchell used Google Earth View to explain his ideas for improvement. Now he’s shared them with “06880.”

First he showed the current situation:

To orient yourself: Weston Road near Cross Highway is at the lower right; Merritt Parkway Exit 42 is just off the top of the photo, in the upper left. Traffic coming from downtown on Main Street is at the lower left.

Next, Jeff offers Solution #1:

It would make the section of Main Street from near the Merritt to the merge by the old Daybreak Florist 1-way, headed toward town.

That would eliminate 2 hazardous merges — in front of Daybreak, and going to the Merritt — but would make life tough for people living on Wassell Lane.

It would also shunt more traffic into the Weston Road/Easton Road intersection. However, Jeff says, replacing the current blinking yellow light with a full stop light — perhaps for rush hour only — could move traffic more quickly to and from the Merritt.

Jeff’s 2nd solution is this:

It would convert all current merges to 3-way stops. This would eliminate all hazardous merges, while keeping Main Street 2-way.

There would be more “formal” stopping and starting — though perhaps no more than currently occurs, with hesitation over who goes when.

Solution #2 would involve construction, including possibly moving a utility pole.

Jeff met last weekend with Avi Kaner. The 2nd selectman had posted several other complex alternatives on Westport Front Porch. They’d been proposed by state engineers in the past. All would take eons to approve and construct — and may include the contentious taking of land by eminent domain.

Of course, these are state roads. It’s their decision what to do, and when.

“06880” readers: What do you think? Click “Comments” to weigh in on Jeff’s plans — or offer your own.

And if you like it just the way it is, we’d love to know why.

Unsung Hero #19

If you were in Westport at any time from the 1950s through 2003, chances are good there are photos on your mantel, and in your scrapbook, by Bob Satter.

A noted portrait photographer, he shared a studio next to the Green’s Farms post office with George Cardozo. His work included plenty of famous Westporters — but he made everyone he photographed, no matter how ordinary, feel important.

They looked great, too.

Bob Satter

Satter — a generous, gentle man who is now 93 years young — mentored many photographers. The best of them learned his tricks of entertaining clients during shoots. The more relaxed they were, the better the photos.

He melded his vocation and avocation in the name of his 28-foot sailboat: “On Location.”

A proud veteran, Satter was named grand marshal of Westport’s 2014 Memorial Day parade. He volunteered in 1942, and served as a radio operator in World War II. He flew 25 missions as war raged in Europe. Satter was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and 2 battle stars, and the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters follow.

2014 Memorial Day parage grand marshal Bob Satter.

He lost much of his hearing during the war, and became an expert lip reader.

Bob and his wife Jean had 2 sons, Keith and Blair. She died last spring.

Bob and Jean Satter with their children, Blair and Keith, in the 1960s.

Every Westporter of a certain age knew Bob Satter.

Now every “06880” reader does.

(Hat tip: Carmine Picarello. If you’d like to nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Max Lance’s Life Journey: “Not As Stupid As I Thought”

“Life is a journey — not a destination.”

Every adult knows that cliche to be true. Every young person who hears it rolls their eyes.

The other day, Staples High School Class of 2002 graduate Max Lance looked back at his journey on Facebook. That’s normally not the place for long-form writing — but it’s fascinating, and worth passing along.

So this is for every parent who worries about a child’s life choices — and every teenager who wonders what the future may hold. Max writes:

Ten years ago, I was a caustic and combative 23-year-old kid who considered myself a complete failure and blamed everyone else for my mistakes. I dropped out of NYU 3 years earlier to pursue stand-up comedy for a living, because I was certain that was a sound life plan.

My career had gone nowhere, I had over $70,000 of student loans for a degree I never finished, I couldn’t hold down a relationship or a job. I watched a lot of my comedy friends get very successful, and it felt like everyone I went to high school with was working on Wall Street and had their own 2-bedroom apartments on 2nd Avenue in the 60s.

Realizing something had to change and maybe a college degree wouldn’t be a total waste, I applied to the USC School of Cinematic Arts for screenwriting. I figured that if I got in, I’d move to L.A. and finish my degree. I was admitted, but in my first week of orientation I learned I couldn’t just complete my last 2 years of college and get a bachelor’s. I had to attend 4 years of undergrad from the beginning.

Max Lance in 2012, at Fenway Park. He was working on a soccer project with the Liverpool team. They were in Boston to play Roma in an exhibition match.

I rebooted. I took on another $50,000 of debt and worked harder than I ever did in my life. I interned, I worked part-time jobs around my class schedule. And I wrote like crazy. Every single day, churning out features, pilots, and specs, all of them pretty terrible. I was especially proud of a script called “Eskimo a Go Go,” about a team of ragtag Alaskan strippers. The rights are still available.

I realized I lacked the natural talent for writing that a lot of my classmates had. If I wanted to make anything of my life and career, I would have to substitute extremely hard work, perseverance, and stubbornness. I would also have to get over my go-it-alone mentality and learn that maybe everyone else wasn’t a total idiot.

Max found a writer’s group on CraigsList. He continues:

I also volunteered with a non-profit called Young Storytellers, mentoring 5th graders to write a 5-page script that is then performed by professional actors in front of their whole school. Honestly, I only volunteered because I heard it was a good way to get a writer’s assistant job. I never really cared for kids that much.

While I never got the job, I did meet another volunteer. She was the happiest, most optimistic, funniest, most beautiful, and creative person I ever encountered. Three weeks later Jen Bailey and I had our first date, a picnic in the park because I was too poor (and cheap) to afford a real activity.

The small writers’ group met every Tuesday night for the past 8 years. Fellow members earned accolades and awards. Max did not.

After continuing to bang my head against the wall with comedies that went nowhere, I had an idea for a heartfelt dramedy with a female lead. I really wanted to write a great part for my actress fiancée, who had finally convinced me that marriage wasn’t the worst thing. As much as Jen supported my writing, and as much as she agreed that I was an expert on women, she thought she might be able to offer a bit of help when it came to writing the script’s female roles. We co-wrote our first movie together, “Best Funeral Ever,” and submitted it to Nicholl — the most prominent amateur screenwriting contest in the world — a few weeks before we got married in 2015.

Max Lance

That fall, after a failed career in stand-up and a decade in screenwriting that went nowhere, Jen and I reached the finals of the Nicholl with the first movie we wrote together. We got to the top 12 of the contest, but were not in the winning 5. There were a lot of silver linings — we got repped and the script went into development — but we didn’t win. And we weren’t making any money off writing.

Last winter, I came to terms that screenwriting would always be a fun and creative hobby on the side. I could write for an hour first thing every morning, but I had more of a gift for finance and accounting than storytelling. I got a part-time job doing finances for a book publisher, which I’ve really loved. But Jen decided we were having a baby and I needed to find a way to pay for the kid in her growing belly. I realized I would need to find a good salary, health insurance, and a 401(k). I put out a call for full-time accounting jobs.

Around that time we had an idea for a new script. We were huge fans of The People v OJ Simpson. We watched the show every Tuesday and drank a carton of orange juice. We thought it’d be fun to spec the O.J. show by writing the story of the “If I Did It,” book deal and TV interview between O.J. and publisher Judith Regan.

We wrote a badass, complicated and powerful female lead who carried the script. We took our writer’s group’s advice every step of the way. They suggested we tack an extra 40 pages to the TV script and submit the feature for the Nicholl.

In September Jen’s belly grew to the point where we both weighed the same. The job hunt had advanced to where I received multiple full-time accounting job offers. Meanwhile our script, “The Queen of Sleaze,” advanced in the contest, all the way to the top 10 finalists. It was only the 3rd time ever that anyone reached the finals twice with 2 different scripts.

On September 27, 2017, I got the best news of my life. Jen gave birth to our daughter, Bayley Makena Lance, at 3:07 p.m. She weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces, looks exactly like her mother, sleeps for most of the night, and made me cry with joy more in the first 33 hours of her life than the first 33 years of mine. She is currently sleeping on my belly while I balance my computer on my lap and punch this out. It is the happiest and most content I have ever felt in my life.

Max, Jen and Bayley Lance.

Five days after giving birth, Jen and I were notified that we won the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. It was the 10th time I entered the contest, with 8 different scripts. I turned down the full-time accounting jobs.

I wish I could feel like I’m amazing and really talented and lucky, but none of that mattered in the slightest. I stopped pretending that I knew everything. I put my faith and trust in other people, and surrounded myself with highly talented, smart and creative friends. I listened to what they had to say.

Rather than seeing someone new as competition or a contact, I started looking at other creative people as allies. I decided that quitting wasn’t an option, so I forced myself to wake up early every day, and write no matter what.

Best of all, when I met the most amazing woman in the world, I didn’t run away from the terrifying prospect of marriage and family. Granted, I wouldn’t say I sprinted towards it either. Jen dragged me toward family and stability like a lop-sided tug-of-war match. But when I fell into the mud, I dove head first.

I wouldn’t tell any of this to the pissed off 23-year-old version of myself who felt like his life was going nowhere. I wouldn’t ask for a do-over on any of the mistakes he made, or make any changes along the way. But with my baby girl on my stomach, some money in the bank, and the future looking brighter than ever, I am so unbelievably happy that he wasn’t as stupid as I thought.

(Hat tip: Jordan Schur)