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Fifteen Years of Making Dreams Reality (and no signs of stopping!) May 29, 2010

Posted by shannonmuir in animation, Memoir, Uncategorized.
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Today’s my birthday as I write this, and it got me thinking about where I’ve been and where I’m headed.

I knew I wanted to tell stories for years, going back to when we had to incorporate all the week’s spelling words into short stories. Mine were rarely short. One even got so much praise it got featured in a school exhibit at a local mall. There’d even been a decent couplet poem the year before that got the same treatment. I didn’t think anything of it then, though, I was just a kid having fun.

It was an event just a little over fifteen years ago that changed my life forever. I’d been interested in an animation series called VOLTRON and insisted on sending story ideas to the company. Being from a small town of 7,000 and a stoplight (it’s since grown to over 8,000 and got three lights as I write this), I didn’t know how things were done. I’d first sent them to my local television station, who forwarded my letter to the company, and I received a fan kit in return. This wasn’t an acceptable answer to me, I wanted to know what people thought of my stories! Luckily, the fan kit had the company’s direct address. So I sent the ideas again, included with a few more my younger sister and I thought up, this time straight to the show’s executive producer… then didn’t hear anything for months. I honestly thought I’d been forgotten about.

It was a cold winter day in March. I was eating one of those dime ramen packs – Oriental flavor Maruchan brand – from a ceramic microwavable bowl. Mom had gone out to get the mail, but seemed to be taking an awful long time to get back in. I ran to the window to see what was going on. Out in the cold, Mom stared at an envelope with a blue foil logo. I strained to see it from the distance, and realized I knew that logo. World Events Productions, the producers of VOLTRON! I shouted for Mom to come indoors.

That letter turned out to be from Head Writer Marc Handler. He’d been out of the country for the past several months, and just now seen our materials. The show wasn’t being continued, but he wrote a review of our material. Marc felt we had a lot of potential, and if we stayed with it, would have success in the future. Before that day, I’d never considered the idea of writing professionally. Not once. Here, a professional told me I had promise, a professional who has remained a friend.

The next couple years saw their share of missteps, but one thing that did come through came from a total fluke. Having learned some lessons from World Events Productions, when I took an interest in the show JEM, I wrote the toy company asking simply for the address of the production company. I never said what I wanted it for. Thinking me an adult, my letter was forwarded to the Senior Manager of Production, Carole Weitzman. She called my house while I as off at high school and my mother answered, who had to explain things to Ms. Weitzman. Interestingly enough, that didn’t deter her; she still requested that I call. So I dragged myself out of bed WAY early (Sunbow was in New York, and I lived in Washington State) and had a thirty minute conversation with a Senior Manager of Production. I told her my main intent, even after being told JEM wasn’t going to be continued, which was to get in touch with Christy Marx, the name I’d seen on so many JEM episodes. She promised to forward materials to Ms. Marx but couldn’t guarantee a response.

I did indeed get that response, a ten page letter and materials to further my learning of animation writing. Not to mention a friendship with Christy Marx that has lasted over ten years. I can’t put a price on that.

After that, I worked things out with the local school district to go to college half-time my senior year, since there was a university in the same town. I’m surprised my high school classmates knew me. One of them, when I went to my ten year reunion, thought I’d become a childrens’ book writer. By high school graduation, I’d earned the equivalent of 26 college credits, which allowed me to complete a dual BA in Radio-TV and English in five years.

I spent a year and a half after college working in the local area, too scared to make that big huge leap to the big city. But Christy Marx is one smart cookie. When a friend needed a housesitter for two weeks, she convinced me to come do it, get a taste of LA and decide if I wanted to stay. June 20, 2001 marks five years in the City of Angels, so I guess it worked.

In those five years, I’ve worked in animation production on two series, spent several years as an Administrative Assistant at a bookstore/software store for writers, done temp work in the lean times, and currently help coordinate an office building of writers in live-action television. My fan interest in VOLTRON paid off by getting to contribute to creating the official starmap when a sequel series was released as a paid consultant. I’ve earned a Professional Certificate in Screenwriting from UCLA Extension, including my first structured class in animation writing from Greg Weisman and Kevin Hopps. I’m slowly getting over my shyness and appearing on panels at San Diego Comic-Con and Gathering of the Gargoyles. And now I’m bringing all my knowledge to a monthly column on Animation Writing and Production published at Suite101.com on the Internet.

I find it difficult to believe that all these elements just randomly came together, that some teenage girl in a small college town would eventually come to Los Angeles and make the strides I have. After not quite twenty years of being an Agnostic, I’ve found my way into Christianity. It’s tough to explain, but it feels right, like all the other elements in my life. God’s got a plan, a huge plan, and far be from me to fight it.

Better buckle my seatbelt. I expect a bumpy ride ahead, with thrills and disappointments galore.

All seems pretty self-serving doesn’t it, going on about myself? I admit to some degree it is. But one thing I strive to communicate is always believe something’s possible. You never know until you try. My story’s one illustration.

And it’s not over yet.

Thanks for reading my ramble.

written July 10, 2001

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