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The Modesto Bee - A Wonderful Article by Lisa Millegan Renner

Here is Lisa Millegan Renner's wonderful article about me from the Arts pages of the Scene Section of The Modesto Bee, Friday, December 23rd, 2011:
Author and screenwriter brings his family and knowhow to Mother Lode
By Lisa Millegan Renner
The War Zone published screenplay.

In 1989, writer Alexander Stuart was in all the British media for first receiving and then losing the prestigious Whitbread Award for his controversial novel "The War Zone."

The book offended some people because of its unflinching look at incest between a father and his teenage daughter. The author says he was stripped of the prize when one of award judges — who hated the book — politicked behind the scenes. But "The War Zone" became Stuart's most successful work; it was published in eight languages and was turned into a film in 1999, directed by Tim Roth.

Photograph: Hudson Chow-Stuart.
"It was better than winning, in a way," recalled Stuart, who has gone by the last name Chow-Stuart since marrying Charong Chow. "I never got the money, but it was quite extraordinary."

Chow-Stuart, 56, and his family moved from Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles to Sonora in June and Stuart has begun teaching creative writing workshops in partnership with the Central Sierra Arts Council.

He has written eight books in all, including nonfiction and children's books, and wrote the screenplay for "The War Zone." He also has worked one-on-one writing for such stars as Angelina Jolie ("Bitten") and Jodie Foster ("Headshots").

"The War Zone" was one of the most difficult periods of his life because it coincided with the serious illness of his first son, Joe Buffalo, who later died of cancer at age 5.

He wrote it in short bursts in between staying with his son at the hospital. He would work on it only when his son was unconscious because he wanted to be by the boy's side whenever he was awake.

"It was strange, there was this whole enthusiasm about the book at same time I was losing my son, who I loved more than anything in the world," Chow-Stuart said.

The aftermath was a tumultuous time that led to his first marriage breaking up. But it also led to him finding solace in a new faith — Buddhism. His doctor at the time was a homeopath, acupuncturist and Buddhist and asked him if he wanted to learn to meditate. He said yes and has never stopped.

"I haven't been part of Buddhist groups, though I have visited temples," Chow-Stuart said. "I'm not really a joiner. For me, it's a private, personal thing. I meditate in the mornings. It's my way of starting the day."

Before his son died, he helped Chow-Stuart write two children's books, "Joe, Jo-Jo and the Monkey Masks" and "Henry and the Sea." Chow-Stuart and his first wife, Ann Totterdell, explored the painful subject of the boy's passing in their book, "Five And a Half Times Three."

Chow-Stuart's other works include the book about his experiences living in Miami, "Life on Mars," which later inspired a British television documentary. He taught screenwriting for a time at the University of Miami and has been a U.S. citizen since 2006.

Chow-Stuart said he and his family chose to move to Sonora to escape Hollywood and so their 7-year-old son, Hudson, could enroll in the private Sierra Waldorf School in nearby Jamestown (they also have a daughter, Paradise, who is almost 3).

Hudson attended Waldorf schools in Los Angeles and his parents wanted him to continue. Based on an education philosophy developed by Rudolf Steiner nearly 100 years ago, Waldorf schools tailor education to the physical and emotional developmental level of the student.

Chow-Stuart's writing workshops in Sonora have focused on character, plot and how to come up with a good narrative structure. He recently held a workshop on Pixar ("Toy Story," "WALL-E," "The Incredibles") and its commitment to storytelling. In January, he will hold a workshop on the noir genre, with a discussion of one of his favorite works, "The Postman Always Rings Twice." Details about the classes are posted on

His wife, Charong, has just published her debut novel, "Random," on Kindle. Released this week, the book was inspired by the drug-related death of a close friend from childhood who introduced Chow and Stuart.

The family is happy with its new life and enjoys getting to know the foothills. "We like the whole mix of the community and the area — Sonora, Jamestown, Columbia, Tuolumne," Chow-Stuart said. "It seems to be like stepping into communities as they used to be and should be — where people know each other, help each other, give things to each other and like each other."

Copyright 2011 The Modesto Bee.


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