This week I failed.

Fail to Win

This week I failed.

On Monday, I found out that a feature-length script I wrote didn’t advance to the semifinals of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition.

When I saw I didn’t advance, I expected a sting in the place I squirrel away my sense of self worth, but it didn’t come. The next day, I expected to wake up feeling defeated, but I woke up feeling amped. None of it made sense.

I walked out to get some grocery store sushi and contemplate this lack of negative emptiness. An embarrassingly awesome pop song rolled onto my playlist and I found myself literally dancing in the street like I just won the standing long jump at my 9th grade track meet. It still made no sense.

I dug down. I riffled around in my emotions like they were inside the goddamned Tickle Trunk. I found the answer: Failure isn’t bad.

This failure, in fact, was actually disguised as a small success. It meant that, although I didn’t advance to the semifinals, I made it to the quarterfinals. Out of 3272 scripts, mine was one of 272 selected. Pretty rad, amirite? Before they announced the semifinalists, I went back and reread the feedback that was included as part of the entry fee. It was positive and validating, in spite of the fact that I didn’t advance.

In my rooting around, I also realized that failure is just one step on the long road to success. No one has ever succeeded without failing first. It takes a million gillion hours of working your ass off to make it to the point at which you can even begin failing. And if you manage to have the stick-to-it-iveness to continue failing, the succeeding is already queued up.

I guess most importantly, I realized that failing means trying. If you’re failing, you’re in play. You’re creating. You’re pushing. You’re hustling. You’re improving your craft. You’re becoming a master. I decided I’m going to heartily embrace failure, cause it means I’m on my way.

The Poppy



A grandfather, CLAUDE, putters about the garden, weeding and carefully tending to his flowers.

Behind him, his granddaughter, HENRIETTE, 10, dressed in bright 1970s garb, plays with a wooden airplane, dive-bombing the various plants that come into her toy’s flight path.

Claude smiles at her as she plays.

Be careful not to trample the flowers, Henriette.

Grandpa, I know.

When did you get so cheeky, huh?

She giggles and twirls around, swooping her plane with increased intensity.

As she spins around, her foot catches on a clump of dirt and she topples into the
closest flower bed.

Claude rushes over to help her up.

What did I say about being careful,
sweetheart? Did you hurt yourself?

As he dusts her off, he sees a lone poppy lays crushed into the damp earth where she fell.

In horror, Henriette looks between the flower and Claude.

I’m sorry, Grandpa.

Claude doesn’t seem to hear her as he stares into the crumpled redness of the petals.



Two soldiers, dressed in First World War French military uniforms, speed in an open jeep towards a farmhouse in the distance.

Come on, hurry.

Cover your face.


Claude and Pascal jump out of the vehicle and rush toward the house, sleeves over their mouths and noses.

They mount the porch and Pascal bangs loudly on the door. A woman’s screams can be heard coming from inside.

Open up, it’s the French army!

The door opens a crack, exposing the eye of a OLDER WOMAN, 60, who x-rays the two with her gaze.

Ma’am, we must evacuate you.
A poison gas bomb has been released
less than a kilometer from here.

Get your things. You must leave now.

We can’t leave.

More screams.

What is going on in here?

Claude pushes the door open, revealing a YOUNG WOMAN laying on a couch in full labor.

She screams again as a contraction takes over her body.

At the very least, get in the basement
and cover your faces with damp cloths.
Come on, Claude, we have to continue
the evacuation.

We can’t just leave them like this!

We don’t have a choice, man, come on!

Pascal turns to exit, but Claude is frozen to the floor. The young woman stares at him in blood-soaked terror.

I’m staying here. They need help.

How can you possibly help them?
The cloud is coming. There is no
stopping it, no matter how many
soldiers are standing in the way!

You go on ahead. I’ll
meet you at the base tomorrow.

Don’t do this! You need to get out of here.

I will be fine. Go!

Pascal claps Claude on the shoulder before running out the door.

We need to get you both
into the basement.

This way.

The older woman and Claude carry the young woman toward the basement door.


The older woman crouches in front of the young woman as she pushes and screams. Claude holds the young woman’s hand.

Push, Celeste. Push!

You’re going to be OK. You’re both
going to be OK. It’s all going to be OK.

Claude looks up to a tiny window at the top of the basement wall. Darkness has fallen.


Celeste caresses her sleeping newborn baby, exhausted and sweaty. She looks up to smile at Claude, who smiles back. The older woman has fallen asleep in a chair in the corner.

I’m going to go check the air.

Claude places a damp cloth over his face, opens the basement door cautiously and heads upstairs.


Claude exits the front door with the cloth over his face.

It’s a glorious morning, the sun is shining brightly and the air is completely clear.
Slowly, Claude lowers the cloth from his face to take a quick sniff of the air. He takes a deep breath, detecting no gas, and exhales as if the air has breathed new life into him.

Looking down, Claude sees a single poppy growing next to where he stands. He bends down, plucks it and heads back into the house.


Claude returns. The older woman stirs and wakes as he enters. Celeste coos to her new child.

Excuse me, ladies, but I have to be going.

They both look up at him with gratitude on their faces.

Thank you for your help.

I didn’t do anything. You’re
the ones who did all the hard work.

The young woman giggles and the old woman beams at him.

I should be the one to thank you.
You reminded me that beauty exists
in these ugly times. This is all I have
to repay you.

Claude hands Celeste the poppy. She takes it from him and smiles. She brushes the soft petals against her baby’s cheek.

What is your name?


Then I will name her Claudette.

Claude smiles and exits the basement.




Claude looks up from the flower into the puzzled face of his granddaughter.

Are you OK, Grandpa?

Yes, darling. I’m fine.

Claude grabs his granddaughter, pulling her in for a hug.

I’m sorry I ruined your flower, Grandpa.

It’s OK, honey. Why don’t
we plant some more together?

Henriette squeezes him back as he gives her a kiss on the top of the head and they stroll off together toward the house.


183. Black Friday

After a man who is nearly trampled to death by a stampede of consumers on Black Friday awakes in the hospital, his ward mate—an elderly Sioux man—tells him of the real origins of Thanksgiving, causing him to dream that he is a Sioux youth enslaved by early Americans who must fight for survival in a changing world.

182. Taking Thanks

In 1637, when Pequot sachem Sassacus returns to his village to discover that the English settlers have massacred almost all of his people, he sets out to destroy the evil invaders not only for revenge but also in an attempt to save his culture and people from being completely snuffed out by this foreign threat.

177. Up the Wazoo

When an alcoholic proctologist is suspended for telling a class of high school students to put tampons soaked in vodka up their butts, he begins a new “hangover prevention” business out of the back of his station wagon by hooking up drunken party-goers to a drip of saline and vitamins, only to discover that the FDA is on to him and he must straighten out if he ever intends to get his old life back.

176. Girls Weekend

When two girlfriends meet at their favourite resort for a ‘girls only’ weekend, what neither of them realizes is that the real reason they both love that hotel so much is not for the amenities but rather the Latino pool boy and must both struggle to hide their relationships with Raoul from each other before Girls Weekend is completely ruined.

175. Slow Motion

When a young, high-flying corporate lawyer who has always been the life of the party discovers coincidentally that he has an undiagnosed brain tumor he must learn, with the help of his former high school sweetheart, to slow down and enjoy the life he previously wasted in boardrooms and nightclubs.

171. Bitter Sweet

When his most crotchety best friend passes away and suddenly everyone is speaking well of the dead man, an even grouchier old man vows to use the last of his life to make sure no one forgets how grumpy he was when he was alive, only to discover that his mission of spreading surliness will be almost impossible when he is forced to take care of his adorable, sweet-tempered granddaughter for the entire summer.

170. Dog Gone

When Rex the dog learns that he is allergic to humans, he sadly sets out into the wildness to live with a group of feral dogs, only to discover that there is a pack of wolves tormenting the dogs, forcing Rex to use the special talents he learned from his humans to fight this brutal enemy.

165. Johnny Asshole

In a distant future in which people are assigned surnames at the age of 23 based on their personalities, a surly 22-year-old Naming Department employee learns that he is destined to become “Johnny Asshole” and must struggle to change his ways for the better before his whole life is tainted by this derogatory handle.