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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Widdowson

Author Anthropology: Part 2

Updated: Mar 25

bookshelf with gilding and window

Welcome to “Part 2” of my “Author Anthropology”. Be sure and read my blog from last week if you want to know about my earlier life.

Part 1” ended with me living with my husband in Morgan Hill, California. I had quit my job with AT&T’s Teradata division after being with the company for twenty-one years. Tired of the corporate world, I was discovering being a salesperson was not always a fun job. I loved the people I worked with, but I found that my employer’s need to sell specific products did not always line up with what I thought my customers needed. More and more pressure was exerted on me to sell programs and services I had a hard time justifying. So when they announced an upcoming lay-off, instead of taking another job within the company, I took the offered severance package. I wanted to go back to my original career choice—music.

I left my job, went back to school, and got my Music Technology Associate’s degree. But a funny thing happened on my way to that degree. I took a class called Music Editing for Video and learned how to create sound effects (foley) and musical scores for movies. And I realized I loved it! And really, what was I going to do with a degree in music, anyway? I rarely played the oboe anymore, and I certainly didn't have the experience needed to direct an orchestra. I decided I was better off keeping music as a hobby. So, I threw in a few more courses and ended up with another associate degree—this time in Video Arts.

With my new goal in mind, I focused my efforts and spent the next two years completing a Master of Fine Arts in Digital Cinema degree at National University in Los Angeles. On my way through the courses, one requirement was to write a full-length screenplay. To accomplish that, I went back to the genre of science fiction, one of my first reading loves, and wrote a thriller called RJ436. The story is about a commander of a starship headed to a distant planet, the discovery she makes that might cause an end to the human race, and her struggles to change this potentially devastating trajectory.

While I was working on my degree, I got a job at Gavilan, a community college in Gilroy, a town known as ‘the garlic capitol of the world’ just south of Morgan Hill. To get to work, all I had to do was turn right out of our cul-de-sac, drive the straight ten-mile road down to Gilroy, and make a right-hand turn into the school parking lot. Other than the few years I worked from home, it was the best commute I ever had.

For my thesis, I had to write and film a short screenplay. I chose to write a family drama called The Eulogy about three sisters dealing with the death of their very flamboyant mother. It’s based on my mother, and I hope one day to turn into a book. If you decide to watch it, keep in mind that I made it almost fifteen years ago, and the technology was not what it is today. Almost all the crew were students of Gavilan. Not professionals, but they did their best. It was a great learning experience for them.

The next seven years or so, I taught classes in TV Production and created educational and other supporting videos for the school. In my spare time, I produced, wrote, directed and edited short films and worked as a writer, camera operator, director, and host for shows for two public television stations in the area—Morgan Hill Access Television (MHAT) and Community Media Access Partnership (CMAP) in Gilroy. Most of my work with CMAP was behind the scenes as a camera operator or director. Unfortunately, MHAT is no longer available.

Around this same time, I also discovered an event called The 48 Hour Film Project. This is a contest that still exists today, and challenges people crazy enough to enter, to write, film, edit and release a short film in only forty-eight hours! There are some specific guidelines that your film must adhere to: 1) The film can't be less than four minutes long and no longer than seven; 2) You are assigned a prop that must show up in the film somewhere; 3) You are given a line of dialogue that must be used verbatim somewhere in your script; and 4) You are given one required character name. Also, your team can not begin work on the film before the contest time starts and your finished film must be submitted before the end of the forty-eight hour time period. That means no pre-planning, writing, discussing, camera setup, etc. Absolutely nothing can be done ahead of time. It was a lot of fun, but, as you can imagine, it was exhausting!

The last year I was involved was 2011. Our film won awards for Best Film, Best Actress (Tasha Standridge) and Best Direction (me) in San Jose, CA. We were all shocked when we won the awards, but were proud of what we had accomplished. We also had a blast doing it! The film was about a woman’s attempt at romance that produces unexpected results.

Throughout my career with Texas Instruments and AT&T, I was so busy I didn’t have time to write. While I was working and trying to complete my degree, I was happy to have enough spare time to finish my homework. And after that, I was often on the job sixty hours a week. Traveling also took up a lot of my time as I moved across the country, first covering accounts in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, and then Oregon, Washington and California. But in my new career as a teacher and producer, plus my other filmmaking side ventures, I was writing all the time. And I remembered how much I enjoyed it!

In 2009, my husband retired, and we began the hunt for our forever home. When I was still working for AT&T, a few of my largest customers were Nike, Boeing, and Microsoft. Because of this, I traveled to Portland and Seattle often, and grew to love the area. The trees were tall and green, there were mountains, streams, and gray skies—it was gorgeous! My husband and I also went on several vacations to the Pacific Northwest, and we both always enjoyed it. And one thing we noticed when we traveled there, was that it rained! You know that saying, “It never rains in California”? It’s true! At least it was for the many years we lived in Morgan Hill.

In Texas, there were thunderstorms almost every spring. Sometimes it brought with it sleet as big as golf balls. I didn’t like that very much, nor the possibility of tornadoes. But I loved the smell of ozone in the air, watching and hearing rain coming down so hard and fast you could barely see through it, and seeing huge jagged rips of lightning striking through the air followed by bone-jarring rumbles of thunder. And in Orlando, it usually rained every afternoon in the summer—mini-tropical storms that cleared the oppressiveness of the hot, thick, humid air and were often followed by glorious rainbows. I really missed the rain.

So, we did a bit of house hunting and eventually decided to move from Morgan Hill, California to Redmond, Washington. That meant I had to leave my job. I loved it, but with my husband already retired, I decided it was time to join him. I gave my notice, and we packed up and headed north.

We’re almost there! Check back in a week to find out what happened next in my life and discover how my renewed joy of writing got me to closer to completing and self-publishing my first novel, The RH Factor.

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