5 movies that changed my life

In his book, Movies Change Lives, author Tony Kashani shares how cinema can serve as a bridge between people and the answer to universal issues that include social economics, racism, morality, and so on. (My colleague Dan Taylor wrote an incredible article on Kashani, and included the 7 movies Kashani believes will change the lives of viewers. You can read about it here.)

I got to thinking about which movies I’ve seen that have resonated with me both in how well the story was told, and the impact it had on me even after I’d left the theater. Here are 5 movies I’ve seen that have changed my life (or even just entertained it).

  1. made-in-heavenMade in Heaven. This movie is right up there with all the other cheesy movies made in the ‘80s. And yet, I absolutely love it. The story is about this guy (Timothy Hutton) in the ‘60s who leaves for California after being rejected by the girl he loves, only to die before he gets there. Once in Heaven, he ends up meeting and falling in love with a girl (Kelly McGillis) who’s never been born. When she falls to earth, he decides to follow her. His mission is to find her and fall in love with her again, or they’ll never find each other. The only problem is, once he’s been born, his mission is forgotten.
    There are several things I love about this movie. First, a bunch of well-known people make guest appearances in the film. Tom Petty shows up as a guy in a bar. Neil Young is a truck driver. Ric Ocasek (of The Cars) is a mechanic. And a chain-smoking angel named “Emmett,” who is basically God’s right hand man, is played by a surprise actor—Debra Winger, who was married to Timothy Hutton at the time. To keep the surprise, her name was never included in the rolling credits. Instead, it said “Emmett as himself.” Next, a bunch of things that were on earth showed up in Heaven, and vice versa. I loved seeing how Heaven and earth were connected, and seeing glimpses of things in both places. Third, I loved the underlying message of how everything happens for a reason. Tragedy made way for miracles. A chance meeting with a particular couple leads to a dream realized down the road. There were tons of these tiny nuggets throughout the film.
  2. gladiator_ver1Gladiator. I will never be able to watch this movie without crying. Russell Crowe stars as Maximus, a Roman general who is chosen by the dying emperor to be his heir, only to then be betrayed by the emperor’s son (Joaquin Phoenix) who murders Maximus’ family and claims the throne. Maximus is enslaved as a gladiator, and revenge becomes his main motivation.
    This movie is not my typical choice, mostly because the violence in it is so graphic. And yet, I wouldn’t change any of it. The cinematography was stunning. The soundtrack was moving. The characters were believable. And the storyline shared the incredible resilience of one human being who was placed in the worst of circumstances.
  3. cast_away_film_posterCast Away. In the beginning of the film, Tom Hanks stars as a man who is married to his job, which appears to be holding back his relationship with the woman he loves. Then the plan he’s on crashes, and he’s the only survivor. The majority of the film takes place on a deserted island where Hanks doesn’t even talk for a full 20 minutes, and when he does, it’s to a volleyball he’s named Wilson. When he finally escapes the island, it seems the world has completely changed. But really, the change was in him.
    Why did this movie change my life? First off, what other film could have me crying real tears over a VOLLEYBALL? Next, Hanks is one of the best actors in the business. Finally, it really speaks to where most of us are—placing too much focus on things that don’t deserve that much attention, and missing out on the things that really matter. Overall, this movie took one really terrible event, and made it the best thing that could have ever happened to the main character.
  4. peterpanPeter Pan (2003). I am a sucker for any Peter Pan story, as you all know from my latest book, Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan. This has pretty much been from the beginning. But the Peter Pan retelling that has always tugged at my heartstrings was the one created in 2003. My favorite scene was when Peter took Wendy to see the fairies in their tree, and they watched as the fairies danced. Then Peter and Wendy began to dance. But as Wendy saw this as a moment of love, Peter saw it as a giant game of pretend. It was the moment when Wendy realized she was meant to grow up, and she could never force the likes of Peter to follow suit. And isn’t that a lot like real life relationships, the ones where we realize it’s time to stop playing, and find someone who loves us the same as we love them?
  5. fried-green-tomatoes-movieFried Green Tomatoes. I think I’ve watched this movie a dozen times. This is two stories in one: the story of Evelyn, an Alabama housewife, who befriends Ninny, an elderly woman in a nursing home, and the story of Idgie and Ruth, two women who lived in the 1920s and form an unlikely friendship. Both stories seem to mirror each other in the themes of trust, deep friendship, and overcoming fear in favor of fully living life. As each story unfolds, you can see the growth in each character—Idgie who softens around the edges, Ruth who learns how to loosen up, and Evelyn who slowly grows a backbone. The only character that remains a constant is Ninny, who seems to hold all the secrets to a handful of lives. This movie was life changing. And I think I need to watch it again!

Which movies have changed your life? Let me know in the comments!


The introverted author and reading on stage

open-micThis past Saturday, I was one of the featured readers at the Redwood Writers Open Mic event at Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa. What’s cool about being the featured reader at this event is I get to read from my novel for 20 full minutes. What’s terrifying is I get to read from my novel for 20 full minutes.

20 minutes is a really, really long time to be on stage.

I’m no longer new to reading my books in front of a crowd. My first time reading was 3 years ago. I was reading from my very first published novel, A Symphony of Cicadas. And I was TERRIFIED. In fact, I downed a half bottle of wine before I began reading just to give me the courage to step up on that stage. It worked, somewhat. I got up there. And I read. And I hardly remember a thing about it because it went by so fast (and I was a little buzzed). One minute I opened my book to start reading. The next, I reached the very last page and people were clapping. The one thing I do remember is that they laughed at the appropriate times, and got quiet at the more serious moments. It was a relief to see that people were actually following along!

Each time I read in front of people gets a bit easier. I’ve never died from reading in public. I’ve never forgotten the words (they’re written right in front of me!). I’ve never fainted or thrown up. People have never booed me off stage. The worst that’s happened is that people are talking while I’m reading. When that happens, I’ve learned to just tune them out and keep going so that the people who are listening aren’t distracted.

When I read on Saturday, the butterflies managed to keep away. In fact, I was so excited to read from Loving the Wind, that I volunteered to go first – something I never do! But I wanted to be able to read right away, and then enjoy the other people’s readings without mulling over my own. So I barrelled forward, taking that first time slot, and stepping on to the stage to kick off the event. My nerves remained intact, and I smiled at the modest crowd of 13 listeners. And then I began to share my story.

openmic2That was the moment that my tongue decided I hadn’t had enough to drink. It dried out completely, replacing itself with a wad of cotton. I had brought a drink on stage with me, but it was just out of reach. So I powered through, licking my lips every now and then to try and turn my cotton tongue back to normal. I was aware of every word that came out of my mouth, sure that people could hear the garbled texture of my words as they spilled out over my cotton tongue.

Eventually, my normal tongue found itself. I began enjoying the words I was reading, feeding off the way the room had silenced as people listened to my words. No one was talking, which is a great sign. It means they were paying attention. A few quick glances out into the audience, and I could see it was true. It was good to be first. It meant the crowd was fresh and ready for a story.

Fifteen minutes in, and I was reaching the most dramatic point of the scene. And that’s when I felt the tickle in my throat. There was no pushing it aside. I had to pause.

“Bravo!” the MC clapped as I stopped reading and reached for my drink. She thought I was done.

“Oh, there’s more,” I promised. For a brief moment, I second guessed myself. Was the audience done listening? Were they ready for me to be done so that the next reader could come up? I banned these thoughts from my head, took a swig of my drink, then stepped back up to the microphone.

“…here’s the secret about pixie dust…” I continued, feeling all eyes light up as I went on with Tiger Lily’s story of Neverland.

The reading ended, and the crowd clapped. And the show went on.

I will probably never get over being nervous before readings. I no longer need liquid courage to get up on stage, but the butterflies or cotton tongue will likely accompany me in the spotlight. But that’s okay. It’s only because it means so much to me to stare out at a crowd of people and share stories with them that I wrote from the heart.

Cotton tongue and butterflies can’t stop me from doing it again, and again.

Loving the Wind: Peter Pan and the blatant racism of 1911

disney-peter-panThanks to Disney, most people are familiar with the story of Peter Pan. The universal story is that Peter Pan is a flying boy who lives with his fairy, Tinker Bell, in Neverland, an island that exists second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning. When he loses his shadow in the nursery of the Darling home, he meets Wendy, and then her brothers, John, and Michael. He brings them to Neverland where they meet the Lost Boys, pirates and mermaids. They save Tiger Lily from the pirates, party with the Indians, and battle Captain Hook. Then, with a sprinkle of fairy dust, Peter flies the pirate ship back to London and returns Wendy, John, and Michael back to their room.

375px-peterandwendyThe Disney movie, and many other adaptations, were based on J.M. Barrie’s book, Peter and Wendy, which was published in 1911 (following the original play that debuted in 1904). But like many originals, Barrie’s book has so much more to it. There were stories about the Never bird, the regal descriptions of Captain Hook, the real story about how Peter came to Neverland…and the blatant racism that existed in 1911. (Of course, Disney did play up the racism in its own way. Just watch the music sequence of “What Makes a Red Man Red.)

Now, Peter and Wendy is not the only book that shows its age with sign-of-the-times racism. There’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Oompa Loompas were black pygmies that came from “the very deepest and darkest part of the African jungle where no white man had been before.”). There’s The Story of Black Sambo (Sambo was a racist expression back in the day and the book’s illustrations resembled demeaning images black people were trying to distance themselves from, and I’m also pretty sure that my grandmother read me this story once). And The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn uses the “N” word more than 200 times.

Peter and Wendy is just one of many books that holds true to the racist times in which it was written. This is particularly in regards to how Barrie addresses Native Americans in his book. They are called redskins, and they belong to the Piccaninny Tribe. Piccaninny is an offensive word that generally means “small black children.”

The most that is spoken about the Indians is when Peter rescues Tiger Lily from the pirates.

Quoted from Chapter 10:

They called Peter the Great White Father, prostrating themselves before him; and he liked this tremendously, so that it was not really good for him.

“The great white father,” he would say to them in a very lordly manner, as they grovelled at his feet, “is glad to see the Piccaninny warriors protecting his wigwam from the pirates.”

“Me Tiger Lily,” that lovely creature would reply. “Peter Pan save me, me his velly nice friend. Me no let pirates hurt him.”

She was far too pretty to cringe in this way, but Peter thought it his due, and he would answer condescendingly, “It is good. Peter Pan has spoken.”

TigerLily tease2

When writing Loving the Wind, my focus was to give Tiger Lily a voice, and to also shine a light on what life was like in her tribe. Where Tiger Lily only had one speaking part in all of Barrie’s book, I gave her a whole novel of her thoughts, her feelings, her values, where she came from, and so on.

I also aimed to strip the story of racism. Instead of the Piccaninnies, Tiger Lily’s tribe was the Miakoda Tribe. Miakoda means “power of the moon,” and is of Native American origin. Because the moons (yes, there are more than one) play a central part of Loving the Wind, it was only fitting that Neverland’s tribe would be named after them. I also never describe the tribe as Native American or Indian at all, letting that be up to the reader. Sure, there are similar themes to Native American culture. But I wanted to separate these people from the tribes of America. After all, they live in Neverland, not America. Even the names of their homes have changed—instead of wigwams, the tribe lives in “yinshaws.”

I also explain the whereabouts of Tiger Lily’s mother. Neither the book nor the Disney movie addresses where her mother is. Loving the Wind shares how Tiger Lily’s mother actually died a few years back, just when Tiger Lily was nearing the age of young womanhood. This, obviously, would affect a young girl who was constantly at the center of attention because of who her father was.

One of the things that I kept the same as the book, that the Disney movie stripped out, was the story of the Never birds. These birds play a central part in the very beginning of the book. Here’s an excerpt:

From where I sat, the top of the forest spread out all around me, blanketing this part of the island in a sea of green. I could see birds fluttering in and out of trees, playing hide and seek as if all life were a game. I whistled to them, practicing a birdcall I had once heard Lean Wolf use. The birds paused, then scattered with the wind. Frustrated, I tried it again. Then I listened. Silence. And then, faintly, I heard one solitary bird mimic the tune I just whistled. I tried it again, and was met with a few more songs from the birds. The third time, the birds burst from the trees, singing the song repeatedly, incorporating it in their play. I grinned, but then caught my breath when a brilliant Never bird, the size of three large horses, erupted from the tree in an explosion of color. It soared overhead, calling out the song I had sung, searching the canopy for the song’s source.

Look for a few more Never bird appearances as you read the story.

One character that I mentioned above, Lean Wolf, was also mentioned in Barrie’s book—but just briefly. I won’t completely give it away, but let’s just say it didn’t end well.

In Loving the Wind, Lean Wolf is the strongest, bravest warrior of the tribe. He also has a thing for Tiger Lily. Unfortunately for him, the feelings aren’t mutual. The thing is, he’s a bit sexist and chauvinistic—a result of growing up in a chauvinistic culture. Tiger Lily’s tribe lives by strict gender roles—the men go hunt and provide; the women stay home, tending camp and watching over the children. Lean Wolf has a good heart, but these are the only roles he knows how to live by.

And, these are the very roles that Tiger Lily is trying to escape.

And that is just a smidge of what you can expect from Loving the Wind.

If you’re curious about the original story of Peter Pan, I highly recommend reading Peter and Wendy. If you can look past the racism of the times, the story is full of adventure and imagery, and the theme of never wanting to grow up is one that almost everyone can relate to. And, of course, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of my book, Loving the Wind, and find out more about Tiger Lily’s story.


open-mic-september-flyer-gaiaI’ll be reading from Loving the Wind this Saturday at Gaia’s Garden in Santa Rosa from 2-4 p.m. If you’re in the Sonoma County area, please stop by and take a listen. See upcoming events for more information.

The book that almost never was

TigerLily tease2

I’m about to tell you about the book that almost never was. Every year I write a book for National Novel Writing Month in November. This last year, however, I was stumped. I had just written Reclaim Your Creative Soul, and that book took a lot of energy out of me. I figured I would just skip it this year. But at the eleventh hour before the eleventh month, an idea came to me—why not just have fun with it this year? I know, a novel idea for a novel.

And so, I did. Having always been a fan of Peter Pan and Neverland, I began exploring the idea of writing about a character that only got a bit role in the original story: Tiger Lily. I began to develop who she was, where she came from, the values of her people, and her likes and dislikes. Just like Peter Pan is a coming of age story, Tiger Lily’s story was much the same. She became a princess held captive by rules she didn’t appreciate, and with hopes and desires that didn’t fit the mold of her people.

Throw in some pirates, a few Never beasts, the Lost Boys, and Peter Pan, and I suddenly had a story.

To up the ante, I not only wrote the story, I LIVE wrote it. Many of you followed along as I posted each chapter to Wattpad, allowing you to see the inside process of what it’s like for a novel to be written beginning to ending. While it was just a rough draft, I was pleased with how things worked out as I wrote. Many of you expressed interest as well, anxiously waiting for me to post the next chapter.

The story was never supposed to be published. It was just something to amuse myself and a few fans, and nothing more. However, the more I wrote, the more I realized that the story was taking on a life of its own. It was more than just an amusing tale, it was a story that needed to be told.

This story became Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan, and it just published this morning!

For the next few days, I am keeping the Kindle version of this book at 99 cents so that there are no barriers for you to buy this book. This is my gift to you for sticking alongside me, cheering me on, and anticipating this very moment. Please don’t delay in buying this book now, as the price goes back up after the weekend.

Furthermore, I have a few contests on my Facebook page if you’d like a chance to win the print version of this book. Just look up #LTWgiveaways and you’ll find a bunch of contests that are going until Sunday.

Thank you for all your support, and happy reading!


Pre-order “Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan”

ltw-FRONT-cover-finalIf you’re a Kindle reader, Loving the Wind is now available for pre-orders! Even better, it’s temporarily discounted to 99 cents! Read the untold story of Tiger Lily and how she met Peter Pan in this fun prequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter & Wendy.


Here’s what one reviewer said:

Crissi’s latest book, “Loving the Wind” is a fun new dimension to the Peter Pan stories we know and love. She captured the voices of the characters so well, I felt like I was a pixie on the wall watching the whole time.
It takes us to Neverland through the eyes of Tiger Lily, a young native girl who is mentioned in the original stories, but not much is known about her.
Tiger Lily’s story as told by Crissi is deep and rich. We get to experience her adventures from just before she meets Peter in the belly of a pirate ship to the end of the book (but not the story, hopefully!!) as a wise young woman in her tribe. She takes us with her as she learns what it is to love her people as a leader.
Tiger Lily is the girl I want to be when I grow up. Brave in spite of her fear, bold in standing up for those who had no voice, humble in her accomplishments, and open to the lessons in hardships she experienced. She’s wise and graceful in the end, when she’s finally accepted the path that is before her, unexpected as it is.

So, the question is, should you read this book? If you appreciate a new angle on the characters we’ve met before, absolutely. This is a fun, easy to read story. It flows along nicely- not too fast or slow. Plenty of action, some really great lessons, and friendly enough for families. This is a coming-of-age storybook I’ll encourage my own daughter to read when she’s old enough to appreciate it. Thank you Crissi for the amazing gift of this story!

P.S. Would you like a chance to win a print copy of this book for free? Follow me on Facebook and take part in my 6 Days of Giveaways.

Days of Giveaways for “Loving the Wind”

Loving the Wind publishes this Thursday, Aug 18! What better way to celebrate than with some free gifts? 🙂

image1Starting today, I’m counting down to the release of Loving the Wind on my Facebook and Instagram pages with chances to win a signed copy of the book. Want to be a part of the excitement? Be sure to follow me!

Today’s giveaway is over at Goodreads. Go to bit.ly/GRgiveawayLTW and enter for a chance to win one of three signed copies of Loving the Wind.

HINT: Tomorrow’s giveaway is explained in Facebook video, and part of it requires that you join my newsletter. (If you join now, you’ll get a free gift!)

So, head on over to my Facebook page. You may even want to turn on notifications so you don’t miss a post. And then enter for a chance to win!

Good luck!

Loving the Wind LIVE on Wattpad, and other book news

Dear Friends,

FINAL pirate ship cover test3On Nov. 1, I embarked on a new NaNoWriMo journey with Princess Tiger Lily of the Miakoda tribe, Captain Hook, Peter Pan, and the Lost Boys and all the pixies of Neverland. I began with a story I knew I could have fun with, and I wasn’t even worried about whether it would be published or not. In fact, I thought it would be a miracle if I even finished the month with 50,000 words, as November was a really busy month for me outside of writing. Not only did I make my goal, but I came up with a story I am more than proud of – one that still lives on inside of me, even after I finished writing the whole thing weeks ago.

One of the things that made this book so much fun was my choice to share the story as I wrote it. I decided to post each chapter on Wattpad so that anyone who was curious about my writing process or interested in the story could read as I wrote. This choice proved to be difficult at times, and I admit I almost threw in the towel on sharing it in several instances when writing felt difficult. But in the end, I’m glad I kept up with it.

Today, I posted Chapter 20, the final chapter to this Peter Pan and Tiger Lily fan fiction. With Chapter 20, I included the prelim version of the cover I plan to use with this book. It’s the same cover you see above. This cover isn’t finalized, however, and I welcome all feedback (good or bad!) before I set this in stone.

If you’ve been waiting for every chapter to be posted on Wattpad before reading, now is your chance to read along. You can do this by clicking here.

So, what’s next? Well, I still need to go through this story and clean it up before sending it off to the editor. But before I do that, I have a different book I’m wrapping up and will be publishing in early 2016. The working title is Reclaiming Your Creative Soul: The secrets to ordering your full-time life to make room for your craft. I’ve had so many people ask me about how I make time for writing when I have a full-time job, volunteer, and raise a family, that I decided to write a book on how I’ve organized my life in such a way that I can devote so much time to writing and still manage everything else. In the book, I offer tips on finances and budgeting, meal preparation, home organization, quiet time and more -including tips on making creativity easier to come by. This book is a love letter to anyone who has ever wanted to accomplish big things, but isn’t sure how to make room for those things in an already busy life.

At that, I want to thank each and every one of you for your support over the years. Thank you for sticking by me, and for reading my books. There’s so much more to come in 2016, and I’m so excited that you get to share it with me!

Crissi Langwell

P.S. Come Here, Cupcake is now available in the Amazon Prime Lending Library! If you have Amazon Prime, you can borrow this book and read it for free (The Road to Hope is also available in the Lending Library).

To see all my books and where you can find a copy, visit crissilangwell.com/books.

NaNoWriMo LIVE: What it’s like to write the story

My favorite part of being an author is when I am actually creating the story, immersed in a whole different world than the one I am living in. As I’m writing, my characters are all around me. The scene takes over the room. Their emotions become my emotions, and their drama becomes my drama.

When I’m not writing, I am thinking about my characters and their stories. They become like real people to me, almost like they are friends. I can be at my day job, going out for the evening, making dinner, or walking the dog, and the story I’m writing is right there with me. If you’re around me during the days I am writing a novel, just know that I am more than likely thinking about the novel. That’s just the nature of the beast.

Thing is, while I’m writing the novel, this is when I am the most amped up about the story. It’s when those little moments of magic happen, when certain situations present themselves, or surprises pop up that I wasn’t even expecting. Problem is, I have no one to share these moments with. And sometimes, I miss that. I’ll be writing along, and all of a sudden, a moment arises that just falls onto the page, and I want to turn to everyone around me and say, “Did you see what just happened???”

But I can’t, because the rough draft of a story is a very private moment between a novel and its author. So I just keep writing, anxious for the day when I can finally reveal the finished story to the public.

Not this time, however. Live posting my NaNoWriMo novel has been both freaky and exciting. I am revealing all of my grammatical errors, story holes, bad ideas, and moments of poor writing. But I am also revealing the magic of the story as it unfolds, offering it up chapter by chapter, and sharing the excitement of the story as it is written.

As of right now, I have finished writing the setup chapters of the story, and I’m heading into the midsection, when so many different things can happen. While the story is mapped out in its entirety, I’m still coming across plenty of unplanned moments that could potentially steer the story in a new direction, or shape the path that it’s already on. This is when the story writing process is at its most precarious. In past years, I’ve been known to write these midsection chapters only to toss them for different versions. By live posting, I am revealing chapters that may or may not make the final cut.

This is totally what it feels like to walk around in my underwear.

Nevertheless, it’s been incredibly motivating to share the story with readers as I write. Each time I share a new chapter, I receive texts from family and messages from fans to hurry up with the next chapter. It’s almost like I’m writing my first book all over again. This experience has made novel writing brand new, and I can’t wait to add to the story each day!

I’ve created a page for this story here on my blog, which I will update regularly as I add chapters. You can access that at crissilangwell.com/tigerlily.

You can also go direction to Wattpad at w.tt/1Ql8r3N.

Here is what has been posted so far:

Chapter 4 will be published sometime this weekend.

And, of course, if you want to be notified every time I post a new chapter, you can join my mailing list by clicking here. You get a free book from me when you do. 🙂

If you’re reading along, let me know what you think! I thrive from your feedback!

NaNoWriMo 2015: Chapter 1 is live! 

I have finished the Prologue and Chapter 1 of my NaNoWriMo novel, and they are now live at Wattpad! For those of you who love Peter Pan fan fiction and would like to follow along, go to http://w.tt/1KVHVXD.

Click on Table of Contents, and start with the Prologue. When you’re done, continue reading Chapter 1.

I look forward to hearing what you think!