Youssef Alaoui-Fdili: Poet, Musician, Filmmaker

“….Then where the pace of hilltop crags/ stands exposed and thirsting /in need of water clefts/ you must speed on my love….” recites Youssef, in his Critics of Mystery Marvel  film, based on a collection of poetry of the same name. “…Past despair in human tones/  then catch her vain boastings/ in dawn blaze the sun/ sword laden storm…”

alaoui coney island siren

Youssef Alaoui-Fdili ‘s sword laden storm comes in the form of  mystical and surreal writings. This poet and filmmaker is a man of contradictions.  Both irreverent and spiritual, he might go from reading  Tarot at the dawn to the Koran at midday, yet uses both as he communes with ideas that explore the human condition.  Grounded in the quiet of home while seeking a Don Quixote journey of penned knighthood, he exposes his readers to the mythos of the wayfarer.  Yet his steed is is no worn out work horse. Youssef’s Rocinante carries us to places dark, surreal, and at times carnal.

alaoui in paris, au chat noir

Youssef is an Arab-Latino, born in California to immigrants from diverse homelands: a Moroccan father and a Columbian mother.  As the Alaoui-Fdilis are originally from the historical city of Fez, Youssef was given a unique perspective on the Arab world, finding his family and heritage an endless source of inspiration for his varied, dark, and spiritual writings. This later lead him to study classical Arabic poetry, Spanish Baroque poetry, and contemporary Moroccan verses during his MFA stint at the New College of
California.

He has several published books. THE BLUE DEMON: A novella in the tradition of classic horror in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. The crew of a Spanish merchant ship discovers they have a stranger among them: a Moor with an odd nickname and worse yet, debilitating agoraphobia. The ship is thrown far off course by a cyclone and stranded in a giant kelp field. Added to their misfortune, an invisible visitor snacks on the crew at night, using their half-rotted heads like puppets, beckoning to them from the water. The crew must make an effort to understand their odd  mate before they can vanquish their assailant together.

alaoui blue demon

CRITICS OF MYSTERY MARVEL: Youssef Alaoui’s debut full length poetry collection, which explores human relationships between individuals, cultures, races, and genders. alaoui critics of mystery marvelAlaoui deftly utilizes archaic tones to formulate an artistic approach to metaphor in verse creating images that appear wholly in the mind and not on the page. This volume consists of ten sections that blend surrealism, magical realism, and language alchemy as he explores the human mythos of love, gender, poverty, politics, racism, and war.

FIERCER MONSTERS: Youssef Alaoui’s short-story collection, is concerned with the
symbology of letters and the word as invocation, contrasted with the futility of language. In these stories, Alaoui presents a Neanderthal oracle, a little girl in Venezuela in the 1950s, a 19th-century hallucinating sailor, and a WWI soldier. The voices are sometimes salty, always salient.Each voice ultimately laments the fall of the tower of Babel and the resulting confusion.

alaoui fiercer monsters

When asked about his process, Youssef says, “Writing is a reaction to my ongoing process of self-discovery. My story is different, but similar to many mixed-blood firstborn people in the USA. Our story is the process of confusion primarily, then one of assimilation or rebellion from the illusion that white Christian life is “normal” and anything outside that is “unusual.”

Youssef also has several thought-provoking films available at vimeo.com/aldeboros

CONEY ISLAND SIREN: Like a siren, the spirit of a broken hearted daughter calls out to the spirit of her father at sea, hoping that this time he’ll remember what’s most important.

alaoui coney island siren 2

SACRED AND PROFANE/ FACELESS JACKS: An experimental, anti-narrative, cinematic tone poem for those of us lost, unsure and comfortable living within that dialectic.

BARON SATURDAY OF CONEY ISLAND: Baron Samedi must lead the character “Coney Island” to his death so that the new iteration of Coney Island may be born, but not before recalling the pangs of love and sadness that dotted his life. Marred by bleak visions, this movie is narrated sweetly by Youssef Alaoui who offers a cosmic perspective on life, death, and the changing of the times. baron of coney

The following is a recent interview with this satirical wordsmith.

Could you tell our readers a little bit about your writing journey? – I began writing when I was 16. My grandfather had given me a typewriter. I didn’t use it regularly until I fell in love for the first time. We would sit in my room writing poems to one another on it.

Where are you from? – I am from “here” and yet not. I was born in San Luis Obispo, and yet, I only lived there until I was three years old. I am from Los Angeles, Davis, Albuquerque, Tempe, Lille,Paris, Seattle, Oakland, Rabat, Casablanca.

What has been your favorite book/poem/screenplay to write so far?– An unpublished poem about Marrakech called “The Baths of Azahara.” I am quite proud of it.

Why?– Because it sort of rose up out of a dream and also is a pastiche of my recent experiences in the fabled city.

Are you currently working on a book/short story/project?– I am.

Will this be your next release?– Indeed I hope so

What do you enjoy most about writing?– Getting the RIGHT words out. No filler words.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it? – Yes, I think that’s what it’s called. Basically I find myself “quitting” writing and I take up music again or I dive deep into event creation and promotion. Or I travel. I had a dream recently. Someone was selling me a device to keep the corner of one’s palm ink- free when writing extensively with a fountain pen. The writer rests their palm on this small square of wood so their hand doesn’t track ink all over the page. What was it called? A writer’s block! I don’t think I’m the first one who has thought of this, but how crazy is that for this object to appear to me in a dream? Every writer needs a writer’s block.

Have you ever had one of your characters take a twist you weren’t expecting and surprise you? – Once one of my characters did that. I took them aside and disciplined them thoroughly by dragging them through a number of complex poems, then I dropped them back into the story. They never stepped out of line again.

Which of your characters is your personal favorite?– I love a character who has not yet had the grace to be published. I’m hoping they will see the light of readers’ eyes before too long. They are an alien species in a science fiction novella I wrote.

Least favorite?– Once I wrote a little oration spoken by Idi Amine. But he is asking for forgiveness and instruction from the ghost of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. So, is there redemption for such a sadistic and cruel dictator? I generally like one aspect or another of each of my characters.

So far, what has been your favorite scene to write?– There is a scene that happens deep in space, on a rocky moon, deep beneath its surface, in a cubical cell, between an alien and a human, where they discuss the nature of light, the cosmos, the self, and infinity. Mindblowing.

What lessons have you learned since becoming a writer?– Patience & tolerance of the self & others. Acceptance. Maybe I learned that over nineteen years of yoga practice. Maybe I learned that over 35 years of writing and not writing. Maybe I learned that over 20 years playing music in bands. Maybe I learned that in a puppet show I walked past on the Amalfi coast four years ago. Maybe you wrote that into a cocktail napkin and handed it to me. Maybe the leaves assembled themselves into an Andy Goldsworthy installation and expressed this to me. Maybe I heard it in the drum beats of a Black Sabbath album. Maybe the cat staring at me from the fence is a psychic oracle.

Do you have any tips for new writers?– Let go. Let go of your ego. Let go of your mental ladder rungs of success/ progress/hierarchy/ power lechery. Let go of your preconceived notions of being a writer or what writers “do,” where they go, who they talk to, who they can or cannot talk to. Embrace. Embrace all ideas. Embrace the void. Embrace the blues. Embrace not writing. Embrace your peers. Embrace your elders. Embrace your juniors. Don’t try to be anything. Write the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t write the first thing that comes to mind. Keep a notebook. Use it. Do not use it.

If you were to recommend your books to a stranger, which book would you advise them to start with?– I would advise someone to begin with Blue Demon because it has all the elements in it that make up all my writing, but it is meant for a wider audience. Young and old readers both will like this story. It is a salty tale of the high seas. A merchant ship gets stuck in a kelp forest and something in the water plucks sailors on night watch off the deck with no warning, unseen, never to be seen again… No one can figure out what’s going on until they finally listen to a stowaway, an Arabic man who has agoraphobia and must work in the darkness of the galley. No one believes him until they absolutely must believe him, and their lives are on the line.

Do you have any extras you’d like to share, like a teaser about an upcoming new release, a summary of a deleted scene, or a teaser about a surprising plot twist or character?– As I said above, I have written an upmarket science fiction novella. This is a remarkable event because Arab American writers very rarely write science fiction. I wanted to see if I could do it, and I have. I am very excited about this book. 

Now it’s time to get to know you! What are some of your favorite books to read?– Right now I’m reading The Phoenix by Manly Palmer Hall. The Tarot is a book. Yes, I look at it as if it is a picture book with 78 pages and innumerable plot twists and character variations. No one knows how this book will end. I try to read it every day. I also read from the Koran most days.

What about television shows?– Right now I’m watching the original Star Trek, watching the set get shinier, with more active displays, wondering how they know what each of those jolly rancher buttons mean, because they click them all the time, y’know? Five times and then they get sophisticated results… From that one single green jolly rancher button? What is Spock looking at in his little viewmaster? Sulu has one too. “Sensors indicate an armada of Spanish Galleons firing their cannons, closing fast!” Turn your head and Chekov is gone. Turn your head again and now he’s back with a new mop wig.

Movies?– Tarkovsky. Kurosawa. Wenders. Miyazaki.

Is there a book that you have read that you feel has made a big impact on your life?Don Quixote, the Norton edition. This novel has all the power of any novel that followed it. It is the first and the foremost novel. There might be others, earlier novels, certainly epic tales and poems, but this one captured my heart, and the hearts of millions over 500 years. It is an indelible monument to novel writing, novelists, protagonists, antagonists, knight errantry, traditions, delusion, companionship, love, tears, death, and imitation.

Can readers/viewers find you at any live events, such as book signings or conventions?– I am going to be at the Write of Way Book Festival in Santa Clara, on the University of Santa Clara campus, on April 18, 2020. Please come visit. I will have books with me.

If you had to sum up your life as a writer in ten words, what would you say?– To sum it up: the waiting is the hardest part.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?– Yoga, music, my life by the sea.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share with readers?– Live, love, give, forgive.

you illust

Youssef can be found at http://www.youssefalaoui.info

Readers can follow him on:

facebook.com/iuoala

youssefalaoui.tumblr.com

IG @iuoala777

twitter.com/iuoala

vimeo.com/aldeboros

transfigureight.bandcamp.com

 

 

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Children Honoring Dr. King

This Martin Luther King Day I am thinking back to making an anti-bullying video last year. When I first heard about the contest, I thought it’d be a great way to teach my kids about how to deal with bullying. So I wrote a script, had some auditions, and started filming the munchkins in imaginary bullying situations. I was lucky to have such good actors this year who were open to retakes, but still it was pretty tough to try and fit filming into our already busy schedule. Most of it occurred during recesses.

And the due date was fast approaching.

One of the greatest challenges was finding a quiet place at school to film the scenes.  We don’t have any special equipment like muff-covered microphones or special lights. Just an IPad. We’d be in the middle of one with the kids rocking their acting and the bell would ring or a ball would roll our way with a second-grader right behind.

So with a groan I’d delete that take and try again.

On the last day before all entries were due, I tried taking the kids to behind the school, thinking that would be quiet and protected from the blustery winds of Santa Maria. And it worked, sort-of. But then there was another announcement while filming.

With recess over, what choice did I have? We were out of time so I had to use the scene.

And was surprised as heck with how good the video came out.

But would we win?

Weeks passed. No news. The kids kept asking me if I’d heard anything and I had to shake my head no. Then one morning there was an email in my inbox.

“Dear Laurie,

We are delighted to inform you that you are a Winner in the Take A Stand Against Bullying Video Contest sponsored by Oxy Skin Care. The Scholastic and Oxy teams were so impressed with the caliber of work; your students should be very proud!” I read the other morning as my fifth-grade students were getting out their homework.

“Yahoo! We won! We won!” I crowed jumping up and down in front of my astonished class.

“What, Ms. Woodward?”

“The video we made won the national contest!”

There was silence for a moment then a roar of cheers, applause and desk pounding so deafening  I was sure the principal would come in any second and tell us to quiet down. Kids leapt into the air, high-fiving each-other while I did a victory Salsa dance across the room.

I love being a teacher.

 

IMG_2123

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Here Comes the Judge!

I am thrilled to announce that I’ve been selected to be a judge in the New Voice Short Film Festival! And I’m the only woman chosen as a judge. What an honor!

This film festival is designed to showcase the work specifically for non-professional, non-union related filmmakers. If you are a filmmaker, writer, director, and/or producer at least 18 years of age and living in the Southern California area, you are welcome to submit your film project here:

Submission Information

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Burst: A Photo Collage

 

 

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Kidnapped Smile: A Book Trailer

Do you ever find yourself stuck in your novel? Wondering where the heck to go next? I sure do. So, why not try taking a break from crafting your novels to create a book trailer? It is a total blast to mix different images with summarizing phrases until you get just the right sequence to tell your story.

What I do is build it little by little. I add a few scenes, before viewing the beginning of the video to get the gist of it. If the mood is right I add more. Then I repeat this process, again and again until I’m satisfied.

Here’s one about the Kidnapped Smile I had fun with over the weekend.  Enjoy!

Laurie Woodward is the author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. She co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

We Won the National Video Contest!

“Dear Laurie,

We are delighted to inform you that you are a Winner in the Take A Stand Against Bullying Video Contest sponsored by Oxy Skin Care. The Scholastic and Oxy teams were so impressed with the caliber of work; your students should be very proud!” I read the other morning as my fifth-grade students were getting out their homework.

“Yahoo! We won! We won!” I crowed jumping up and down in front of my astonished class.

“What, Ms. Woodward?”

“The video we made won the national contest!”

There was silence for a moment then a roar of cheers, applause and desk pounding so deafening  I was sure the principal would come in any second and tell us to quiet down. Kids leapt into the air, high-fiving each-other while I did a victory Salsa dance across the room.

When I first heard about the contest, I thought it’d be a great way to teach my kids about how to deal with bullying. So I wrote a script, had some auditions, and started filming the munchkins in imaginary bullying situations. I was lucky to have such good actors this year who were open to retakes, but still it was pretty tough to try and fit filming into our already busy schedule. Most of it occurred during recesses.

And the due date was fast approaching.

One of the greatest challenges was finding a quiet place at school to film the scenes.  We don’t have any special equipment like muff-covered microphones or special lights. Just an IPad. We’d be in the middle of one with the kids rocking their acting and the bell would ring or a ball would roll our way with a second-grader right behind.

So with a groan I’d delete that take and try again.

On the last day before all entries were due, I tried taking the kids to behind the school, thinking that would be quiet and protected from the blustery winds of Santa Maria. And it worked, sort-of. But then there was another announcement while filming.

With recess over, what choice did I have? We were out of time so I had to use the scene.

And was surprised as heck with how good the video came out.

 

Artania Writing Trek: Phase II

As the miles ticked off, the heaviness of life’s stresses grew lighter. The further I drove the lighter I felt. Soon I was helium balloon  floating down Highway 166. Passing ranches and tiny towns, blips on the map I heard poetry in their names, Cuyama and New Cuyama. I stopped in at the Buckhorn Restaurant for some old time cowboy hospitality. The inside was like stepping onto a western movie  set. I could have been taping an episode of Westworld, minus the androids of course.img_0246buckhorn

A full belly later I was cruising closer to my destination: Carrizo Plain. I turned onto Soda Lake Road and immediately felt a different energy. The energy from the quiet of being alone.

And the inspiration began.

Creation Dreams: A Video

Artania: A fantasy series that inspires the artist within. At the same time it teaches kids about the major periods in art history with lands representing each. From the Renaissance Nation to the Land of Antiquities to the Impressionist Republic children will meet famous artists and watch their masterpiece creations have adventures. Mona Lisa comforts while The David hurls stones at monsters. Egyptian hieroglyphs battle to keep this world safe as tapestry-inspired dragons take to the skies.

Learn About Film Scoring from Composer Mike Hall

Imagine a movie with no music. No eerie piano and toning gong. No suspenseful drum kits and horns. No echoing synthesizer making you look over your shoulder for an approaching alien. It wouldn’t be the same, would it?

“Alien Craft” Sound Track by Mike Hall

Composer Mike Hall is very much aware of the the mood music can create. He has made it his life’s work to design, produce, engineer, and master the parts of films that you and I take for granted. Growing up in the small town of Tipton, Iowa and later moving to LeClaire,  home of the History Channel’s show American Picker, his earliest influences came from the rock records his parents would play. Even though this was Buffalo Bill Cody’s  birthplace, his parents didn’t stick to listening to Bluegrass and Country.  Instead, his house on twenty acres was filled with the eclectic sounds of Buddy Holly,  Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles.

Music filled his mind  as he explored the towering bluffs, raced along the Mississippi River walks, and climbed ever higher in the deciduous forests. From his perch high in the silver maple or cottonwood tree he often watched deer graze, raccoons and squirrels scurry in and out of gooseberry and wild grape bushes, or wild turkeys peck for grubs on the leaf-carpeted forest floor.

Sometimes, he’d be lucky enough to catch a bald eagle flying overhead. While the beating of its wings echoed rhythms in his ears, he would tap on his faded jeans and dream of song.

As he grew, music became ever-more important as he trekked to the local record store searching for albums and tapes that might inspire. That’s when he began to notice film scores and listen with a more discerning ear. Then in high school he joined his first rock band with some friends. He may have known, “just enough to get by,” but his lack of of experience didn’t stop Mike.

Self-taught, he continued  practicing,  honing his craft until he was thrilled to begin performing as a guitar player and singer in the old school death metal band, rock band Angelkill. For the next few years Mike toured and played in a variety of bands of the same genre such as Mortuary Oat and Helmsplitter, which the Spirit of Rock Ezine called “..extreme metal that takes you on a roller coaster..” Spirit of Metal Article

During this time Mike was contacted by a German filmmaker who asked to use one of his songs in the end credits of his film. As he sat watching a film with his music playing, it  got him to thinking; What inspires me the most?  He considered this for a while, but the answer soon became clear. Composing. Creating musical scores for film.

For example: “Post Apocolyptic” by Mike Hall

Now Mike can often be found in his home studio working the keys and dials as he composes. While he  has done several jobs for hire, Mike says, “The work that has the most meaning and thrill for me is the music I do that has no project tied to it…there are no pressures…no expectations…just me and the the music.”

Eventually most of these compositions find their way to a record, video game, or film but even if they don’t, it’s fine with Mike. He loves that time of no pressure. That moment he is creating for the sheer joy of making music.

That passion and joy have paid off as Hall’s movie credit’s continue to grow.When the Night Comes, Pretty Little Things, and Evil Deeds, Full Circle are just a handful of the films he has scored to date.

Today Mike is sharing his passion with young musicians around the country mentoring and guiding them as they set out on their own musical journeys. He says, “I was  I was really kind of isolated growing up with no one encouraging me to do music. That’s why I think it’s so important to be a mentor to others and offer encouragement when and where ever you can. It can make a difference.”

Yes you can, and do Mike.

Listen to “Invincible,” and feel the power.

More about Mike Hall can be found on YouTubeSound Cloud, and Stage 32.

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.