After the story had been chosen for a movie, somebody still had to figure out how to get a full length film out of about a thousand words. This is where superwoman comes in, or as she is more commonly known, Sally Meyer. Sally is a screenwriter. To be more specific she is a fantastic screenwriter. She has written for many films and shorts including, Your So Cupid, Christmas Oranges, and Christmas for a Dollar. She has also even tried her hand at producing and directing. In short, she is just all around awesome and I couldn’t have found a more fitting writer to transform Miracle Maker.
Here is the interview I had with her:
Tell us a little about yourself.
Sally: I was born in Staffordshire England, and was raised there until I came to the United States, in 1974. Growing up, we were a little like the Firth kids in Miracle Maker. We always had food to eat, though. My mother was a single mother raising four children. We didn’t have a television, (that’s aging me) while I was little, and so my sisters and I spent our time reading books, playing outside until dusk, and making up our own adventures.
Perhaps that was one of the blessings of being poor, because it gave me such a love for a good story. I loved to escape into a good book. We always waited by the door for when the postman would drop our weekly girls magazine through the letterbox. And we devoured it page by page.
How did you get involved with this project?
Sally: I have had the blessing of being able to work with Covenant on other films, Christmas Oranges, Christmas For A Dollar and He Knows My Name. Ron Brough sent me the booklet written by Ann (Acton) and asked if I thought I could make it into a screenplay. There are a lot of layers in the book, that I could pull from, and I jumped in. I loved the simplicity of the story, and the message. I love that I along with everyone else who either read the booklet or watched the movie can know that we can make our own miracles and they don’t have to be large. Also I think we can provide a miracle for those around us, by simple service and love to all.
What was you favorite part about making this movie?
Sally: Oh so many things, I loved being on set with all the children. I love children and dogs, chickens not so much. And, it was really wonderful to see their delight and innocence as they tackled their parts. I really enjoyed working with John Lyde again. How he can make such a wonderful movie, breaking all the rules (no children, no dogs) and in a matter of weeks, I just can’t figure out. But he does it over and over again, and continues to put out these films that are family friendly and uplifting. I also had the pleasure of working with Marybeth Sprows, one of my dearest friends. It’s always like a party when Marybeth and I get together on set. Also working with my daughter Caitlin Meyer Stewart, who played the part of Sarrah Cronin, was a delight. I think watching the actors put their own special touches to the characters is one of my favorite parts. Of course I imagine them as I write, but then once on set, the actors make that character their own. I never get tired of seeing how it all unfolds.
Is there a funny story you could share about the filming, or a particular scene that would be interesting readers?
Sally: Oh, there are so many stories!! One was the last day of filming and we had a full day, many extras, a baby being born, oodles of children and a dog. And then … the heavens opened literally and we had a huge downpour for about an hour or so. We had to stop filming and just keep the cameras and ourselves dry. This of course put us back on our schedule, but John once again managed to finish the day and get the shots off.
Being with the kids is always fun, Kalea Atkinson who plays Rae Grant is a hoot, she’s a very dedicated little actress, and when we filmed any scenes with Kalea, she was able to make it her own, and steal it. There were times when everyone had to really bite their lips not to burst out laughing until John said ‘Cut!” We never knew what spin she would put on her scenes.
There are a lot of scenes that I love. I love when Mary Keating (Shaunna Thompson) says “Help me out of bed.’ as she’s jumping out on her own two feet. I like the ending scene when the baby is born, and Elias Grant (Adam Johnson) realizes what a miracle another little girl coming into his life is.
I love the last scene with Matthew (Jasen Wade) and Oliver (Cooper Johnson) part ways. The lines are so sweet and tender as Matthew says goodbye to his friend, and lets him know that there are other people he must go to. So many metaphors there to our Savior and his mission on earth.
Working with Brian Krause is always a pleasure and once again he worked his magic as he created the multi faceted character of James Booth. He was able to soften as the story unfolded, much like Ebeneezer Scrooge, which I patterned his character on. It’s hard to play a bad guy who softens, and get it right.. we just don’t like him at all when we first meet him, but we care for him at the end.
Any scene with Agnes (Anne Sward) and Bessie (Karen Baird) was a delight to watch. They are such seasoned actors and it was a joy to work with them.
I loved working with all of the actors, Melanie Stone (Lily Booth) and Jake Stormoen (Thomas Keating) were wonderful in all their scenes.
And I can’t forget James Schafer whose beautiful score is the cherry on top of the cupcake for me!! It’s such a beautiful score, which pulls you into the story from the opening credits to the end credits.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about this movie?
Sally: Well, there’s a little secret, in that as I wrote the movie, I decided that I would use the names of my family, my children and grandchildren as the characters’ names. My father’s name is James Booth, my mother’s maiden name was Lily Booth. Caitlin Meyer Stewart played Sarrah Cronin which is the name of one of my daughters. Sarrah. And Jenny Grant was named for my oldest daughter Jen. So, that was a fun little thing I did, that no one will notice except myself and my family, but they loved it.
How do you feel about Miracles?
Sally: One of my favorite miracles in the bible is when Christ heals the ten lepers. It resonated with me as a child growing up in England, as I read that story. I could not understand why the other 9 never went back and thanked Him. Perhaps this is something we all should take to heart, that He has blessed us so much, by giving His life for us, and taking our sins upon him, that we should always thank him, daily, and not be like those who forgot in their joy of being healed and went on their way rejoicing.
I loved the message of the story that Ann wrote, and how we sometimes look for bigger things to come, while ignoring the small daily miracles that occur in our lives.
I was able to meet Ann at the premiere and that was such a wonderful evening and being able to stand there with her after the film, was a great experience for me. Without her story, there would be no movie, and I’m grateful to her for writing such an inspiring message.
I believe in Miracles. I hope you do too.
I wanted to use this post to tell you about the publishing journey for this project, and how a little children’s book evolved into a full movie. I originally submitted Miracle Maker in 2009. It was the first thing I had ever submitted to a publisher. Okay actually that isn’t quite true. During the “New Writer” phase I talked about in the previous post, I just started piling stuff up and I wanted to do something with it. Now remember I didn’t know I was a writer, so I didn’t anything about how writers got anything published. So I decided to use logic. (Just so you know the logic of publishing is it’s own animal, but we’ll talk about that another day.) I had a Christmas story that I wanted to publish, so I took out one of my favorite books and found the publisher inside the front cover. Then of course it was TO THE INTERNET * insert amazing announcer voice here*. I looked up the publisher’s address. Didn’t look at submission guidelines, didn’t know not to include my own terrifying artwork, and I believe my query went something like this. I know this isn’t very good, but I kind of like it and I was sort of hoping you could make it wonderful. Well, shockingly that manuscript was returned. They did include a very short and professional form letter letting me know my story would not be published. Again, shocking.
With Miracle Maker I had the help of a critique group (which I highly recommend) who helped me learn about submission guidelines and query letters. It took 7 painful months before a wonderful editor pulled it from the slush pile. I got the email that they had decided to publish the book early one morning. I was just flipping through my emails, laptop in hand, about to sit on the couch. When I saw this email with the publishers name attached. I opened it quickly and in scanning saw the words, ” We have decided to publish your manuscript.” I was so stunned I missed the couch entirely and ended up on the floor yelling, “Oh my gosh!” over and over. I ran through the house yelling the news. The hubs was excited for me, and I’m sure the kids were too, but since most of them were under 12 I don’t think they really understood what I was excited about and really just wanted to go back to bed.
The project changed a lot after that. Because of the recession we had to wait for publication because the book market was just as slow as any other market and the publisher had some projects piled up that needed to be made first. Then we had to find just the right illustrator. In determining and contracting at this point a lot of changes started to happen to Miracle Maker. It went from being a sort of medieval fable, to a Christmas book, to a Christmas movie with a western theme. I hadn’t know they were going to make it into a movie. I was just told they were working on something and that they didn’t want to tell me about it until things were more solid. I imagined all sorts of things at this point. I was sure they were going to make a musical out of it, which I still would love to see. In the end, when they told me about the movie and the addition of a booklet I was blown away, but I didn’t fall off my chair again. It felt too unreal.I just sat there stunned and tried to not freak out over the phone. I had never even dreamed of having something I’d written become a movie. And now I had three projects from this one little book.
For the third day of Miracle Maker blogging I wanted to post this great video that shows the power of kindness. We all talk about how terrible this world is getting. If we want to change we have to start making those little differences in peoples’ lives everyday.
So, yesterday I told you my AHA moment when I got the idea about how service is working miracles. Today I’m going to give you the background behind the actual story, and how I began writing. Well, the idea about service just kept rattling around in my brain and in my fingers, because I got really into doing service. It was an amazing experience. I would make food and then pray where I should take it, because after all, who doesn’t want to make miracles. Now keep in mind I didn’t have a job then and just a few little ones, so I had lots of time to fill. I don’t know if I really started it to be kind, or just to have something to do while the hubs worked some intense hours. Whatever the reason, I was on a mission. I would help anyone I could. I had so many amazing experiences where I literally felt like I was being used as the Lord’s hands. It was awesome. Wish I could say I kept it up, but instead I had another baby, got a job, and generally got caught up in life. But for a glorious six month period I actually was a real miracle worker. By this time my husband, bless his heart, figured out that I was a writer, still hadn’t clicked for me. I had sketched out a Christmas something-or-another for a party at the last minute. ( My only speed.) He was sure it was brilliant. I promise it was only a little better than average. You need to keep writing he said. So I did. I had a job baking biscuits, and pies that started really early in the morning (like O dark thirty early) and I would just bake and think and write out some ideas. I wrote a Christmas story, a song, a bunch of crazy poetry– Believe me I am no poet. Well all this stuff just kept pouring out of me and I had nowhere to put it. In 2002 we moved to a little town in Northern Washington and not long after, I met a wonderful woman named Liz Adair. She introduced the world of writing to me, and I found out there were lots of us who talked to the voices in our heads– and it was a good thing.
I attended writers meetings where I wrote on a monthly prompt and made up short stories. Then one day I actually started scheming out a novel. I went on vacation, sat on my mother-in-laws porch,drank herbal tea for a week, and I wrote my guts out. Here I had a gloriously lovely time finishing up the most hideous piece of literature that the world will never know. It was a fantastic experience that produced an incredibly flawed book. My mother wouldn’t even edit it because she said it was a mess, but the story was okay. So no grammar, check! Plot, it could use one, check! But oh the characters. I loved them, and that is when I fell in love with writing. So I kept working and working and progressing. Still can’t figure out where a comma goes, but it’s a lot better. Fast forward to 2006. Still writing, but busy. Kids, work and that life stuff. Then my husband got really sick, like in a bed for a long time sick and we lost everything during a two year health struggle. I was running a daycare out of my home, but it didn’t pay half of what the hubs job had.
During a particularly bleak day when the power was about to be turned off for the second time, ( The PUD lady hugged me it was really sweet) I went upstairs and decided to write down this story that had been banging around in my head for years and become a famous author and save my family. Now, any of you who have been published are at this point laughing hysterically, because you know that being an author isn’t really high paying gig, but I didn’t know that at the time.( SHHHH don’t tell any of the other authors who don’t know yet, they might write some really great stuff.) I wrote the story down in about fifteen minutes. It took about two years of editing and a wonderful critique group at a writers group to get the story where I wanted to submit it, but the main idea really just flowed out. And here is the interesting thing. When I read back through what I had written, it was an answer to a prayer. I had thought I was writing to save my family, but what I read was my answer to save myself. It was a very personal answer about how I could be happy while I was going through this horrible time in my life where everything was falling apart. All the lessons I had learned were there, and I could use them to save myself. I started to do service again and found happiness. Life got better over time, although there were many years of struggle ahead. The most important thing though, is that God had given me an answer to overcome this trial. He knew me and my struggles. I could get through this. And that is the story of how the Miracle Maker story came to be.
Okay, here it is. The first day of our twelve days of Miracle Maker blogging blitz. So, on this first day of blogging, I am going to post a little bit about why I wrote this story. Well, it all started way back in 1998, almost two years before I ever even thought about writing or being a writer. See, I’m not one of these authors who have known that I wanted to be an author from embryo. Writing sort of snuck up on me (I think it should be sneaked, but it sounds too weird.) So I wrote a little here and there, an article of two for the school paper, essays, silly poems. I just thought that was what everyone did. It came easy to me, but I had no idea that I could use it. So in 1998 I was a young mommy and I went to a women’s church meeting to escape for a few hours and feel like a real person. They did some crafts, showed us some new recipes, and of course they fed us. At that point in my life someone else cooking for me could get me to go just about anywhere. Come to think of it, it still does. Anyway, back to the meeting. They handed out a little pink heart with a quote on it. It wasn’t anything fancy, but the heart basically said that we could be the answer to someone’s prayers. It was a kind of wow moment for me. The thought that I could be an answer to someones prayers was huge for me. And at that moment. . . an idea was planted.
I took a shot of the actual paper I saved in a journal.
Okay, so the turkey’s been eaten, the shopping is started, and I saw Santa at the mall. You know what that means? The Christmas countdown is upon us. Only 26 days till Christmas. In honor of the countdown I am going to start a little counting of my own. Starting tomorrow, I am going to be doing twelve days of blogging for Miracle Maker. I’ll have back story, behind the scenes, and lots of fun stuff. For now, I’m going to give you the link to get your copy of Miracle Maker. It’s a great way to start a new holiday tradition in your house. Check it out, we just made #2 on the Deseret Bookshelf.
The official trailer for the movie is here. Can I get a WA-HOO! I still can’t believe that something I dreamed up in my head is now coming to life. Thanks to everyone at Mainstay Productions, and the cast and crew who worked so hard. It looks amazing.
The Miracle Maker is coming. . .
This time it’s to the screen. I can’t believe it. A movie based on Miracle Maker. Oh, we are getting all kinds of fancy up in here. My granddaughter (pictured above) is showing me how to pose on the red carpet. ( I told you we were getting fancy.)
Thanks so screenwriter- Sally Meyer, Director- John Lyde, Mainstay Productions, and an amazing cast and crew. Miracle Maker will premiere in Utah theaters in November. It will also be released to video in time for Christmas. John Lyde made a great montage of some of the stills. You can check them out here.
P.S. BTS stands for Behind the Scenes.
For those of you who are still waiting for the picture book version of this project, it looks like we will still be waiting until next year. A bummer, I know, but the ideas that the illustrator has are going to make it a totally new version. Booklets will of course be on sale again starting in mid-October and are perfect for neighbor gifts, visiting and home teaching, and stocking-stuffers.
So, you want to be a writer. You’ve decided to stop arguing with the voices in your head and give them some free reign. Now what do you do? Well, first and foremost you need to write. You may find that the story inside your head is a little harder to get out on paper than it was floating in your brain. My advice if you are in this place, keep writing. Puke it out on paper, and yes I say puke because it probably won’t be pretty. Don’t get too caught up in the things your aren’t doing right, or if anyone else will love it. Just get it out. Keep writing and be in love with it for as long as you can because tomorrow comes THE EDIT.
If you could insert the theme from JAWS here it would be really good. Now, I forgot to mention that before you start to edit it is helpful to put your book away for at least a couple of weeks. Fall a little less in love with it so that when you hack it to pieces in editing, and if your smart you will, you won’t be so distraught. Keep writing on something else during this time, or just take a little break. Notice I said little break. It is very easy to slip into the I’ll write tomorrow ideal.
Now to the editing. There are many amazing books available to help you with your editing journey. But some general things to look for: First off does it make sense? Does it flow? Did your character keep brown eyes throughout the whole book or did they turn blue halfway through? Sometime it can take months, or years to finish a book so things change. Sometimes your writing becomes so much stronger from first to last that it will require a few changes.
I am a confessed non-grammarian.( I’m sure this is plainly visible to those of you who are.) So how do I ever get my jumbled commas and splices into ship shape order? I use others as a reference. I edit and get help doing it. (I hate it more than walking barefoot across thumbtacks, but I do it.)You have to have legible copy when you try to publish, even in self-publishing. Especially in self-publishing.
Let me say that again and clearly. No one can be moved by your writing if they can’t understand what you are trying to say. I’m not telling you have to be a perfect writer to succeed. Heaven knows I struggle, but you have to get your manuscript to that place one way or the other. For me the “other” is to send it through multiple critiques and correct, and correct, and learn, and correct. You will get better at anything if you keep at it long enough. Don’t use your writing weaknesses to give up if you truly want to do this. You also have to get comfortable with people reading your stuff. This can be really scary, so take your time use baby steps if you need to. Give it to your grandma first, or your best friend. Let them praise and encourage you, but then you’re going to have to find reliable critique partners who won’t tell you your ugly book baby is beautiful. They are great people, but no help at all to you in growing as a writer. You need people who will help you get that baby the plastic surgery it needs.
Every writer struggles with something. Maybe it’s plotting, or dialogue, or emotion. Maybe your like me and dangle your participles all over the place. It doesn’t matter. Let go of the fear that if you are not a perfect writer you will fail. That is a myth that keeps many wonderful stories from getting printed. I am going to make you a promise. If you keep writing and learning and growing you will achieve your dream. You will be a writer. It may take months, years, or we both may be sitting around with dentures when the acceptance letter comes, but I will happen. So, I guess what I’m saying in this post is that your first step is admitting you have a problem. ( Oh wait that’s something else) Your first step is to write, and love it, and grow. The rest will come. You will find your way, but you have to take the first step and write.
It’s out!! A Christmas Village is up for sale on Amazon. This has been such a fun and unexpected project. I am so happy to be able to publish with these ladies. It has been an unforgettable experience. If you need a special boost to get you in the mood for Christmas this is just the thing. It also makes a great gift- How’s that for a plug?;)
Here’s a little more info on each Novella:
Christmas Gift by Ann Acton – Christmas for Amanda Grover is usually a chaotic marathon in search of the perfect gifts. This year, she thinks she’s got it all under control—until she’s roped into doing service on Christmas Eve. What should be a simple night turns into a series of chaotic events and a gift she never expected.
Amy’s Star By Liz Adair: A Spider Latham Christmas Story – A new star rises above the southern Utah town of Kanab and draws some surprising visitors on Christmas Eve.
At Whit’s End By Terry Deighton – When Whitney Saunders and her husband buy their first home, it jump starts her desire to make everything, especially Christmas, perfect. She soon finds out it’s more work than she thought, and she begins to wonder what perfect really is.
Here’s the link: A Christmas Village ONCE YOU GET THERE JUST TYPE IN Ann Acton and both the ebook of Miracle Maker and both copies of A Christmas Village will come up. I tried to link it directly to my page, but that was an epic fail. Can you say learning curve. 🙂 Thanks everybody.