When You Realize What Makes You Happy

LIghtning boltPicture this: It’s Sunday morning, the last day of your academic spring break, whereby you spent most of the time working, doing some aspect of your full-time job or your writing hobby that you do. You are tangled up in all of the stresses that make up your everyday life when all of a sudden … magically … it … appears … whether it is divine providence or by the hand of your own Fairy Godmother (why should Cinderella be the only one?). There it is, literally, in black and white.

Bippity, boppity, BOOM.

You breathe.

Like a thunderbolt from the sky, Tom Muha, and his Sunday article in The Capital, is staring you in the face. In the “Achieving Happiness” column, he writes this week’s tips: Here are steps you can take to ease stress.

People can tell you to let things go, to allow time for yourself, to worry less and live more, yada, yada, yada…but often, you don’t pay attention. Why? Because you are too stressed out to give it any time.

As your Fairy Godmother mystically urges you to lean forward, sip your coffee, and read on, you become engrossed in his tips. You wonder why you’ve never taken the time to do some of these things he’s mentioning that will ease stress. You wonder why you’ve been so hard-headed.

You are so mesmerized, you decide to write a blog post because you’ve been thinking about it for three full days, as you’ve periodically referred to the article you tore out of the paper.

Muha wants you to do some of the following things: Choose to be happy and value it. Realize that happiness is an inside job, and you have to picture yourself being happy. Do it now. Why wait? Practice both appreciation and forgiveness. Create positives that can help counterbalance negatives. Practice being happy and make others happy. Attitude creates gratitude, and others enjoy people with good attitudes. And lastly, always keep your spirits up through meditation, prayer, or communing with nature, no matter what the challenges you face are.

Those were his suggestions in a nutshell.

Simple really, yet so overwhelmingly tough to consider putting into practice.

You remember that time you were in Italy with your husband, sitting outside enjoying a meal, watching people smile and laugh and talk with each other over long lunches; you remember watching the Italians laugh heartily, enjoy their food, laugh some more, and spend countless hours together over wine, the scent of romance in the air, and not a sign of stress to be found.Cecconi's

You remember thinking we’ve got it all wrong back home. You remember the saying you heard all those years ago when you were working in baseball—long, long hours—in addition to working a second job. Those words echo even now: “Work to live; don’t live to work.”

There is a time and place for stress, you recognize this for sure. Couldn’t you take some things off of your own plate that you put on it? In your own ambitious state, you could dump at least a few of them for the time being, you think. You realize this is possible. You realize you have the power to do it.

You learn something you had previously refused to acknowledge before.

Finding balance, happiness, and easing stress are your own doing. You have to admit you bring some of it to your own table.

And perhaps you also learned that Fairy Godmothers—or Godfathers—can come to you in many forms, perhaps even disguised as an article in your hometown newspaper.

FairyGodmother

Snow, Spring and The Dad in Baseball Girl

March 20, 2015. My backyard in Maryland.
March 20, 2015. My backyard in Maryland.

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This picture above was taken minutes ago in my backyard in Maryland. It’s the first day of spring, and Maryland is “supposedly” in the South. Sometimes you wouldn’t know it. Like today, when the birds should be chirping and tulips should be starting to come to life.

This weather is for the birds. And by “the birds,” I mean the Bay City Blackbirds in Baseball Girl. Won’t you consider hunkering down with a book written by a struggling independent author and see what happens in the love triangle among a ballplayer, a sports writer, and a woman who works in baseball before the official start of this season? I promise that you don’t have to love baseball to like the story…perhaps just have a dad you love(d) a lot. It’s the most important relationship in Baseball Girl, and the driving force in Francesca’s ability to grow.

JessicaThis pretty photo was sent to me by a former student who also happened to work in baseball.

Have a great weekend, all. Think Spring.

And baseball.

It’s All About Love

BBGirlAd
Yet another marketing piece I’ve created: an ad to help promote Baseball Girl.

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One of the things I’ve had to come to grips with lately is that if you have created something that is independently yours, whether it’s in the role of author of a book, director of an indie film, or maker of lovely art, you will always be working, always promoting. Additionally, you have to believe that you are your own brand and must act as the innovator, marketer, branding expert, and salesperson of the work you have created.

That’s a lot of responsibility to put on one mere person who probably can’t afford to do this craft without another full-time job or source of other income.

So those of us in this arena must learn to be our own best marketers and promoters, similar to P.T. Barnum, that harmless deceiver of the circus all those many years ago. “Without promotion, something terrible happens—nothing!” he mused.

P.T. Barnum, the harmless deceiver
P.T. Barnum, the harmless deceiver

He also said, “Whatever you do, do it with all your might. Work at it, early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring a single hour that which can be done just as well now.”

The truth of the matter is, once you’ve created something that took you years to finish, you actually do want someone to enjoy it, read it, watch it, love it. The problem arises with promotion—how do we get someone to read our work, see our film, admire our art? And furthermore, how do we hope those people will spread the news?

When I launched Beneath the Mimosa Tree three years ago, I found myself rather on the ball. I wrote press releases, sent the book out to local media, made phone calls, donated complimentary copies, and promoted the hell out of it on  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and this lovely blog. Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly busier, both at work (and writing a textbook) and with my family, especially my children who are involved in many sports and activities. There are only so many hours in the day. There is only so much time I can devote to spreading the word about Baseball Girl.

You probably feel the same way if you are similarly an independent artist. It’s exhausting. I sometimes scratch my head and ask myself why I do this? Why this hobby of mine so important? Why I want people to read my work and like my stories?

P.T. Barnum was also known to have said, “Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity.”

I think he may be right.

I can’t explain my need to do what I do and exhaust myself in the process except to say that both my novels were my expressions and they were made with love.

So in the end, I suppose it is all about love.

Women Writing Women & A Quick Update

Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen in Becoming Jane
Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen in Becoming Jane

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Yesterday, in a tribute to Women’s History Month, I sat on a panel along with other female writers at the Aberdeen Library. Our moderator, Laura Fox, associate professor of humanities at Harford Community College, asked insightful questions in order to get all of us panelists talking about the female characters we write.

Our panel consisted of published authors Karin Harrison, Jen Vido, Lynn Reynolds, Terrie McClay, Diane Wylie, and yours truly. All of us have written more than one book, and all of us write because we love it. For some, it’s a hobby; for others, it’s a vocation. Nevertheless, we all write because we feel compelled to tell a story, and our female characters keep us coming back.

MaughamThere was a good crowd in attendance, most of them wanting to hear from authors about our process, what got us writing, and then, what got us to publish our writing. After the session, I talked with a woman who said she never reads fiction—all nonfiction—and I tried to explain to her what an escape reading fiction is; it allows us to go to places we might never have gone before. I hope she takes my advice and picks up a piece of fiction just for fun.

Ultimately, all on the panel expressed their drive to write characters that come from the heart. You have to write about something that interests you. This doesn’t mean that you should only write what you know; several on the panel write after conducting extensive research or because they want to understand how they would handle a certain situation (such as dealing with breast cancer or having someone try to steal your farm away). Others write to unveil how women can often be unsupportive of other women, as Jen Vido scribes in her Piper O’Donnell series.

At the forefront of all of our thinking, I believe it was apparent that we all have a common goal: to entertain with our stories. Our fiction does not have to be good vs. evil; in fact, many of us said that we do not write an “evil” antagonist, such as Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. Often, it’s an inner struggle that our main female characters are tackling or a notion that has them perplexed, such as whether or not she is capable of great forgiveness. In the end, these female characters have to come to a realization or an understanding of who they are and who they can become.

Flowers:BaseballIn Baseball Girl, my latest release, it was a conscious choice not to make one of the men in the love triangle “evil.” That would be too easy. Instead, making them both good men who have different life experiences makes each of them unique, though perhaps not a good fit for the main female character, Francesca. Likewise, she is coping with the death of her father—a loss greater than she can imagine—and must learn to grow despite his absence.

The best part of meeting other female writers and hearing their stories is the sense of belonging it provided. To know we are not alone in our writing and publishing struggles and successes is comforting. In that room yesterday, I sensed all of us silently rooting for one another to produce the best novels we can; to entertain our readers in the best ways we can; and to never lose sight of why we write…because we know we can.

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On another note…

I’m feeling very proud today. Baseball Girl has hit #82 in Hot New Releases in Contemporary Fiction and #96 in Sports Romance. Thank you for all the love and support.

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Readers Share Baseball Girl on Social Media

I said this earlier in the week, and I mean every bit of it: I am touched by my friends and supporters.

Thank you so much for helping a little independent author like me get the word out there. It’s word of mouth, sharing on social media, pinning, and talking it up that are seriously the best promotional tools for any indie author. Please know how much I value your support, encouragement, and kind words.

As a quick tribute to those who have helped promote the news of Baseball Girl, I thought I would share some of the photos they have been sharing on social media.

I’m truly tickled by your efforts.

If you ever take the novel on vacation with you, and you want to snap a photo in some cool, exotic location, or if you’re just reading it somewhere cozy, feel free to Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram it to me. I’d love to share your photo.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone, and thanks for reading.

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From Mary
From Mary
From Amy
From Amy
From Mariana
From Mariana
From Chrissie
From Chrissie
Chrysti
From Chrysti

“Baseball Girl” Is Now Available

BaseballGirlFinalCover

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After almost three years in the making, my new novel entitled Baseball Girl, is now available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The follow-up novel to Beneath the Mimosa Tree is another contemporary romance that uses baseball as a backdrop. The story revolves around Francesca Milli, whose father passes away when she’s a freshman in college and nineteen years old; she is devastated and copes with his death by securing a job working for the Bay City Blackbirds, a big-league team, as she attempts to carry on their traditions and mutual love for the game of baseball. The residual effect of loving and losing her dad has made her cautious, until two men enter her life: a ballplayer and a sports writer. With the support of her mother and two friends, she begins to work through her grief. A dedicated employee, she successfully navigates her career, and becomes a director in the team’s organization. However, Francesca realizes that she can’t partition herself off from the world, and in time, understands that sometimes love does involve taking a risk.

I’ve immersed myself in the world of these characters for many, many months now, drawing on my own experiences working in baseball to set the scene for this story.

Publishing again as an independent author by my own choice, I have been responsible for all of what this book entails, from the cover design and concept to the writing of the story to editing the story, and then to applying technology to get it in your hands.

Now it is exactly where I want it to be. Ready for you to hold it in your hands and read it.

Thanks in advance for your support, and I look forward to hearing from you if you choose to read Baseball Girl.

* * *

To those who helped me along the way, you have been properly thanked inside the pages. Thank you, again, for all the support and time you gave me.

* * *

Below is the PROLOGUE for the book…to entice you to take the journey with Francesca, Joe, and Jack.

P R O L O G U E

My father was forty-four years old when we saw our last game together in person. He was weak and pale, and yet there we were at the ballpark. Despite his rapidly declining condition, he somehow managed to wear a sheepish grin as I wheeled him up the handicapped ramp and he saw the field, the white lights. There was mist in the air. I was afraid something might happen to him that night, and that I’d have to explain to my mother that God waved him home during a baseball game. My father would have joked, saying it was divine providence, that God knew—and seemed to respect—his affinity for the game; he would kneel to what he believed was a great cathedral—its patterned grass in the outfield, bleached white bases, and perfectly rounded pitcher’s mound. He often told me, especially when I was very young, that he could hear the angels sing every time he entered a ballpark.

It was tradition that the two of us would attend every home game on Sundays. Right after church, we’d sprint home, change out of our dress clothes, jump into shorts, jerseys, and sneakers, and zoom off in the car. Like children excited to see the circus for the first time, both my father and I felt its uniqueness, knowing that every time we went to the ballpark, it would be a new game, a different memory, and an experience we would share forever. The car radio dial was always set to the pregame show as we both listened to player interviews and anxiously awaited the announcement of that day’s starting lineup.

My mother rarely ventured to the ballpark with us. She didn’t care for the game too much, which I never understood. Not liking America’s pastime was a sin to me, and she never understood why I preferred to wear a numbered jersey as opposed to a tutu. She was appalled at times by my father’s insistence that his little girl must learn and like the game. Sometimes I’d hear them arguing after I went to bed at night, my mother imploring him to allow me to do other things in my spare time, like sing in the choir, join the gymnastics team, or dance ballet.

I didn’t particularly love gymnastics or ballet. My singing voice was not one that warranted an audience. I was much more in tune to watching the pros turn double plays and hit game-winning RBIs. I was vested in the team because my father was vested in the team. I was enthralled with baseball because my father was enthralled with baseball. I loved the game because my father loved the game. If people ever try to tell you that you can’t learn to love something, they’re wrong. I learned to love baseball—every fair and foul ball, every interminable rain delay, and every hot dog with mustard I could buy. I loved the way the sun would set behind the arched, brick walls, the way the grounds crew unfurled the tarp in inclement weather, and the way the music vibrated my seat when the team tied the game in the ninth inning.

Love. Pure and simple.

It’s difficult to describe love sometimes, and even more difficult to put into words a love you have for someone or something, either while you have it, or later, when it’s gone.

My father passed away on a Sunday. On that eerie late morning, as I woke to a sense of gloom and understood the inevitable was about to happen, I turned on the radio and sat with my dad as we listened to the pregame show. Yet, on that day, not even baseball could lessen the pain that would consume me as I watched that demon Leukemia suck every ounce of energy out of his still young, but tired body.

I was eighteen that afternoon in early May when he passed and was just completing my first year of college. My sister, four years older than I, had come home for the weekend, leaving her infant and husband behind to be with my mom, dad, and me. All three of my father’s girls were in the room—my mother held one hand on one side of him, and my sister and I were on the other side—as he peacefully left this world, just as the rookie Clarkson hit a lead-off homer to start the game.

After he passed, I never stopped going to those Sunday games that year. I was determined to continue with the tradition, even if it meant I had to go by myself. I wasn’t a groupie, a collector, or an autograph seeker; in fact, at that time, I cared little about the pomp and circumstance that revolved around the sport of baseball and the players. That’s not what it was about for me.

For me, baseball was about my father. About sharing the day with him. About getting to know him little by little during our chats at the ballpark when he’d tell me stories about his own father and his father’s father. I gained precious insight into my family and our traditions by spending time with him, and I wouldn’t trade one minute of those cherished moments to sing in a choir, join the gymnastics team, or perform ballet for a visiting queen.

I’d never trade it. Not for one—not one—minute.

But what I didn’t expect were the lessons the great game of baseball would teach me, and how it would affect me for all my years to come.

The Grand Budapest Hotel: Worth The Visit

GrandBudapestHotelI haven’t seen many films this year, and that’s a crying shame for someone who claims to be a movie buff. Life’s kept me busy, so I’m looking forward to snuggling on the couch when some of these films hit OnDemand. However, I was able to sneak in Begin Again and The Grand Budapest Hotel.  I loved both of the films, and we were treated to hearing Adam Levine and Maroon 5 sing Lost Stars from Begin Again on Oscar Night. I blogged about this after I saw the film, so you can read my impressions here.

RalphFiennes
Ralph Fiennes as Gustave

However, as for The Grand Budapest Hotel, do yourself a favor and book your stay now. The film is quirky, fun, silly, goofy, and the camerawork and scenery are hilariously utilized and bring this story to life. The film takes place in the 1930s at the Grand Budapest Hotel, which is a popular resort. The concierge, Gustave H., who is played by Ralph Fiennes (if you know me well, you know I absolutely drooled over Mr. Fiennes when he starred in The English Patient), executes his role brilliantly. Gustave H’s lobby boy is named Zero, and he becomes Gustave’s protege (and friend). Gustave loves providing excellent service to the hotel’s guests, and in the opening scenes we learn he particularly enjoys sexually satisfying some of the elderly women guests at the hotel. Rather suddenly, one of Gustave’s lovers dies (played by Tilda Swinton), and Gustave finds he has inherited an invaluable painting. He then becomes the chief suspect in her murder. And so the plot thickens…

This film by director Wes Anderson is wacky, entertaining, well-written and acted, and is a sheer pleasure. I loved the lines, the costumes, the sets, the special effects, all the guest stars (including Jude Law, Adrian Brody, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray), and especially Edward Norton, an actor whose work I’ve come to admire (The Painted Veil, The Illusionist). Norton and Fiennes make the film fun. You will enjoy the ride.

Edward Norton
Edward Norton

The film won for the following:

Best Achievement in Costume Design: Milena Canonero

Best Achievement in Make up and Hairstyling: Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score: Alexandre Desplat

Best Achievement in Production Design: Adam Stockhausen (production design) and Anna Pinnock (set decoration)

Reflections on Turning 30, 40, and—oh, God—50.

Fairytales

I remember when I was little and I looked at someone who was nearing 50 and thought—Jeez, you’re old. You will be dead soon. You are half a century.

Ten years ago when I was about to turn 40 I had a meltdown–of epic proportions. Things weren’t going too well for me at that time, but luckily, I was able to turn it around. I lost a bit of myself. I thought turning 40 was bad. And it was. The 30s had been so good to me. I loved the way I felt, had babies with my husband, and had supportive girlfriends who were experiencing the same things I was. We talked of motherhood, work, and spouses and love.

This turning 50 thing is going to be a cinch next to turning 40. I’m certain of it. Because the 40s were a time of self-reflection and growth as well. I can (sort of) look back on these past 10 years fondly.

Lots of things have brought me to this conclusion, mostly personal things I’ve been through: striving to earn an MFA in my 40s with young children (which was one of the most fulfilling things I have done educationally), publishing a novel that was in my head for 20 years, and watching my children grow into self-sufficient teens have all been gratifying during my 40s. I feel pretty good about myself these days, and I have learned the hard way not to give two rips about what other people think or say about me. I know who my friends are, have family that means the world to me, and I continue to challenge myself with projects at work, like writing a textbook for the first time with my colleagues.

I find solace with regard to aging when I consider this question: would I want to go back in time and do it all again?

I can honestly answer “no” to that one; while life hasn’t always been easy and there have been some small and big hurdles to overcome, I’ve grown and changed and grown and changed, and I don’t expect that to end during the next 10 years.

As my father said to me recently, “I’ve loved every age I’ve been.” His birthday is today, and he is 70-something. No need to go any further than that. But I remember these words he uttered, and I tend to agree with him.

While not every second of every age has been glorious, they are my years, my memories, and my experiences. They say you should not judge someone unless you have walked in their shoes. The beauty is, no one but me has walked in my shoes.

Even if the feet that will slip inside them are almost half a century.

10 Things That Baseball Idioms Have Taught Me

GloveMy second novel, Baseball Girl, has been prepped and is almost ready to make its appearance on Amazon. The main character, Francesca Milli, learns a few things from her love of baseball in the novel, as you will see if you decide to read it. And although I wrote the main character and modeled some of her experiences after my own life working in professional baseball, she is not me. Therefore, what I’ve learned from baseball may be slightly different than what Francesca learns. I thought I’d share the Top 10 things baseball idioms have taught me.

  1. Coming home means the world to me.
  2. It’s important to touch base with people you care about, and often.
  3. Being on the ball helps make you successful.
  4. If you’re going to throw someone a curve ball, be prepared for what comes afterwards.
  5. Playing hardball works sometimes, but it’s not a guarantee for success.
  6. In life, don’t expect to always bat a thousand. No one is perfect. There’s plenty of room for making mistakes.
  7. If you’re going to strike out at something, make sure it’s something you love. And then, try again.
  8. If you’ve got two strikes against you, swing anyway. You never know how far that next ball might travel.
  9. When you do hit a homerun, don’t boast, make everyone feel a part of your success, and share the joy with those you love. Those who truly love you will be happy for you.
  10. If you’re going to go to bat for someone, make sure it’s someone who is worthy, and who would likely do the same for you.
BaseballGirlFinalCover
Coming Soon!

Conquering Friggatriskaidekaphobia: The Fear of Friday the 13th

Steph's Scribe/Stephanie Verni:

Another Friday the 13th is upon us. Here’s a post I wrote about Friday the 13th and its superstitions.

Originally posted on Steph's Scribe:

Say it with me: “I am not afraid of Friday the 13th.”

Did you say it? If you did, you get a gold star. Well done!

If you were able to say that out loud and actually believed the words you said, you have conquered Friggatriskaidekaphobia, or the fear of Friday the 13th.

Seventeen to 20 million people in the United States are afflicted by this fear, according to a study that was conducted by the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina.

The number 13 has been thought to be an eerie number for centuries:  as a numeral, the number 12 has been typically thought of as a number of completeness. There weren’t 13 apostles, there were 12; there are not 13 hours on the clock, there are 12;  and there were not 13 gods of Olympus, but 12.

Bad things have happened on Fridays such…

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Romantic Comedies for Valentine’s Day

Steph's Scribe/Stephanie Verni:

I might add a couple of new ones to this list, but there is no doubt these are my favorites. Hope you get to relax and watch one with your special person this Valentine’s Day!

Originally posted on Steph's Scribe:

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If you don’t want to fight-fight for a reservation at a restaurant or if you happen to be spending the holiday solo, have no fear. We can laugh and giggle at some great rom-coms that have been made over the years for our viewing pleasure. They may be light and airy, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a touch of sweetness to them all.

Now, I realize not everyone has the same sense of humor, nor does everyone have the same taste in romantic comedies. That said, I decided to post a list of my favorite romantic comedies—ones I either own or have bought for someone else to own for sentimental reasons (you know who you are…).

In fact, when I was putting this list together, the only clear winner for a spot at number one was “When Harry Met Sally.” It’s my absolute favorite and still makes me…

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Hollywood Comes to Annapolis in March

AFF_logo-blk-loresWho said neon lights and movie premieres can only take place in Hollywood? Next month, Annapolis will play host to the third annual Annapolis Film Festival (AFF) as it brings some bling to town from March 26th through the 29th. Movie lovers will get to see some edgy and intelligent films as Annapolis showcases some of the best independent features, shorts and documentaries.

St. John’s Key Auditorium will host Opening Night with the Loews Annapolis Hotel as Festival Central and O’Callaghan’s Hotel as the main venue for Panels and Workshops; the Festival screening venues include Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, St. John’s College – Key Auditorium, Asbury United Methodist Church on West Street, St. Anne’s Parish Hall and Annapolis Elementary School.

Special showcases will include films by and about the African-American, Jewish and LGBT experience, and the Student Showcase which will feature 12 shorts. Other film topics include sailing, comedies, veterans, mental health, global politics, world cinema and conversations with surprise industry guests.

“Coffee Talks with…” is an intimate opportunity for VIP pass holders to hear behind-the-scenes talk about the business of directing, acting and producing. These breakfasts with muffins and coffee take place at Crush Winehouse, 9-10 am, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Show your support for this wonderful showcase by reserving your seats now. Annapolis Film Festival adult tickets are $12; senior and student tickets are $8. The four-day Festival Passes are currently $95 but will increase to $105 March 1. Four-day student passes are $40. All four-day passes include the Opening Night film, the After Party and unlimited films and panel discussions. One-day festival passes are available for $40.

Festival Passes can be purchased at www.annapolisfilmfestival.com. There are a limited number of passes available, once sold out, they are gone. Tickets will be available online after March 1 when the full schedule is released on the website. Visit the website for times and locations of all events. Up-to-the-minute changes in schedule can be followed on the AFF Facebook Fanpage and Twitter. For more information, subscribe to our weekly e-blast by signing up on the website.

The full-length features and documentaries (confirmed to date) in our 70 film line up are:

Narrative Features

Adventures in Comedy, directed by Tom McCaffrey. This mockumentary shows the cut-throat world of stand-up comedy and follows the struggles one comic faces as he gives his dream one last shot.

Appropriate Behavior, directed by Desiree Akhavan. Shirin struggles to become an ideal Persian daughter, a politically correct bisexual and a hip young Brooklynite. But she’s not quite Persian enough, not quite gay enough, not quite anything enough. After being dumped by her girlfriend, this endearingly superficial narcissist plots to win back her ex.

Behind Closed Doors, directed by Audrey Estrougo. Nathalie is a 30-something Parisian with a simple and joyous life. She likes her job, adores her colleagues and is about to move in with the man she loves. But one night, a lift home from a co-worker ends in a terrifying event that changes everything.

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Felix and Meira

Felix and Meira, directed by Maxime Giroux. Felix is an eccentric French Canadian, who has devoted his life to rebellion against his wealthy family. Meira is a young Hasidic mother burdened with the feeling that something essential is missing from life. A quirky love story set against the backdrop of Jewish Montreal.

Five Star, directed by Keith Miller. Gang leader, Primo, has been a member of the Bloods since the age of 12. John, a fatherless teen, grapples with entering this life while Primo decides whether to leave it all behind. Distinctions between fiction and real life are left intentionally ambiguous.

Gabriel, directed by Lou Howe. Rory Culkin delivers an electrifying performance as Gabriel, a troubled young man, convinced that reuniting with his first love will bring him the stability and happiness he craves.

Little Accidents, directed by Sarah Colangelo. A teenage boy goes missing in a small town devastated by a recent mining accident and three strangers are drawn together in a tangle of secrets, lies and collective grief.

Midnight Sun, (U.S. Premiere) directed by Roger Spottiswoode. Set amongst the ice fields of Northern Canada, a young boy defies nature to reunite an abandoned polar bear cub with its mother.

The Mystery of Happiness, directed by Daniel Burman. This romantic comedy features Santiago and Eugenio who are inseparable friends and business partners enjoying everything life has to offer. When Eugenio suddenly disappears, Santiago reluctantly engages Eugenio’s neurotic wife in the search.

Night Has Settled, directed by Steve Clark. In 1983, Oliver Nicholas (age 13) is poised to enter the precocious teenage world of first-sex, vodka and possible love in New York City. When an unexpected trauma occurs, what was supposed to be an exhilarating rite of passage becomes skewed by an incomprehensible depression, and a house of interior horrors.

Runoff, directed by Kimberly Levin. The beauty of the land cannot mask the brutality of a farm town. Matriarch Betty (Joanne Kelly, TV’s Hostages) confronts some harsh realities and meets the challenge when presented with an illegal but well-compensated job offer.

Secrets of War, directed by Dennis Botts Tuur and Lambert are best friends in a Nazi-occupied Dutch village who pass their days playing soldiers, mimicking a war that seems far removed from their everyday life. When Maartje joins their class, the young girl stands out as different from her classmates and they form a unique bond with her based on adventures, mischief and shared confidences.

Set Fire to the Stars, directed by Andy Goddard. Elijah Wood stars as the neurotic and artistic college professor John M. Brinnin who, in 1950, brings Dylan Thomas (Ceylin Jones) to New York for a now-famous tour, praying he can successfully keep his hell raising hero out of jail long enough to make it to the stage.

Wildlike, directed by Frank Hall Green. Mackenzie (age 14) flees to the Alaskan wilderness, helpless and alone, when the safety and trust of family is suddenly ripped away from her. A chance connection with a loner backpacker offers the key to her survival.

Wildlike
Wildlike

The Zero Theorem, directed by Terry Gilliam. Christoph Walz, two-time Academy award winner for Django Unchained and Inglorious Bastards, stars in this movie from legendary director Terry Gilliam as an eccentric and reclusive computer genius plagued with existential angst.

Documentaries:

Above and Beyond, directed by Roberta Grossman. Just three years after the liberation of Nazi death camps, a group of Jewish American pilots secretly smuggled planes out of the U.S. They trained behind the Iron Curtain and flew for Israel in its War of Independence helping turn the tide of the war. This tells about their personal journeys of discovery and renewed Jewish pride.

All American High – Revisited, directed by Keva Rosenfeld. In 1984, a time of legwarmers, neon and Aqua Net, a young filmmaker sets out to document the life of a typical high school student. This honest and humorous look at 80’s teen life is told through the eyes of a visiting exchange student.

Angkor’s Children, directed by Lauren Shaw. Arising through poverty and genocide, three young Cambodian women are turning the 30 year ‘killing fields’ legacy of Cambodia on its head. Breaking from their traditional roles, a singer, a contortionist and a leader of a grassroots protest band, use their unique artistic abilities to help a fresh and exciting, albeit struggling, new culture to emerge from the ashes.

Back on Board, directed by Cheryl Furjanic is a candid glimpse into the life of four-time Olympic champion, Greg Louganis chronicling his rise from a difficult upbringing to his pioneering role as an openly gay athlete with HIV.

Burden of Peace, directed by Joey Boink follows Guatemala’s first female Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz as she battles the system, sacrificing everything to bring justice to those responsible for a devastating civil war in which nearly 200,000 Mayan Indians were systematically massacred.

The Circle (Der Kreis), directed by Stefan Haupt. The Circle was a gay publication published in Zurich in the 1940s and 50s. This docudrama tells the story of Ernst Ostertag and Robi Rapp, a schoolteacher and a drag entertainer who enter into a lifelong romantic relationship through their involvement in the group.

Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi, directed by Neal Broffman. This Mid Atlantic premiere film tells the story of how a desperate family’s search for their frail and depressed missing son explodes into a national nightmare when a single, misguided tweet in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing turns him into one of the prime bombing suspects.

Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi
Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi

In an Ideal World, directed by Noel Schwerin, follows a warden, a white separatist and a black gangbanger for seven years as they struggle to move beyond the stark reality of America’s locked down racial order.

In Country, directed by Mike Attie & Meghan O’Hara. In the Oregon woods a battle wages on as a “platoon” of hardcore Vietnam War re-enactors relive a war so many have tried to forget. A weave of verité footage, flashbacks and archival footage, the film blurs boundaries to shed light on America’s relationship with war and its veterans.

Meet The Patels, directed by Geeta Patel and Ravi Patel, is a laugh-out-loud real life romantic comedy about Ravi Patel, an almost-30-year-old Indian-American who enters a love triangle between the woman of his dreams … and his parents.

Mudbloods, directed by Farzad Sangari follows the resilient underdogs of the UCLA Quidditch team as they help transform Harry Potter’s fictional sport into a real-life phenomenon.

The Outrageous Sophie Tucker, directed by William Gazecki. The last of the Red Hot Mamas, she captivated audiences with her bold, bawdy style and influenced many top performers, notably Bette Midler.

Red Dot on the Ocean, directed by Amy Flannery. Annapolitan Matt Rutherford’s death-defying, never-done-before, 27,000 mile, non-stop polar circumnavigation of the Americas in a scrappy 27 foot sailboat.

Shored Up, directed by Ben Kalina.Our beaches and coastline are a national treasure and a shared resource…and now they are disappearing in front of us. This film takes us to the heart of the climate change controversy where politics, economics and science collide.

Song from the Forest, directed by Michael Obert. Louis Sarno heard a song on the radio 25 years ago and followed its melody into the Central African jungle where he became part of the community. When he brings his pygmy son back to America, he realizes the globalized world is threatening the songs of the jungle.

The Special Need, directed by Carlo Zoratti. Enea is 29, autistic, and living in Italy. His search for physical love is anything but easy. His journey with his two best friends, Carlo and Alex, to find a sexual partner quickly becomes the chance for the friends to explore their own ideas of love, friendship and freedom.

Two Raging Grannies, directed by Håvard Bustnes. Touching and thought-provoking, this challenges the idea that we must continue to shop, consume, amass, and keep the economy growing. Two funny and courageous seniors visit cities and towns across the US to question everyone from the homeless to Wall Street tycoons about the sustainability of continued economic growth.

Waiting for August, directed by Teodora Mihai. Fifteen year-old Georgiana is catapulted into the role of head of the family after her mother is forced to work abroad to get by.

Retrospective

The President’s Analyst, directed by Theodor J. Flicker. Psychiatrist Sidney Schaefer (James Coburn) is recruited to serve as the new analyst for the loneliest man alive, the President of the United States. The insanity of the new position (as well as his dangerous habit of talking in his sleep) provokes Schaefer to run for his life as powerful people try to get information out of him first. In 1968, this cult classic was declared by Roger Ebert to be “one of the funniest movies of the year.” There were rumors that J. Edgar Hoover forced the film from distribution because of its satirical portrayal of the CIA.