Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Human Girl and Script Frenzy

There's been a play, 'Human Girl', that I've been trying to work on for years. I just looked at my file for this play on my external hard drive, and the only files are from 2005. Ten years. And this play keeps coming back and coming back. There's got to be a reason for it.

I've been watching Battlestar Galactica, and I was hoping that in some way, it wouldn't help me with this play. Just like I hoped that District 9 wouldn't make me feel like I shouldn't write this play. Neither of these things happened, luckily.

I discovered a Yahoo! slideshow of urban decay the other day. Urban decay fascinates me--it's so beautiful. The above image is one of the inspirational images I found while searching for urban decay online--unfortunately I didn't save the info for where it came from, but I will NOT claim this image as my work--it's only for inspiration. And I love the fact that there's all this chaos, things falling apart and then there's this couch thing facing an open sky. Gorgeous.

Then I had a thought about 'Human Girl' and something fell together--again. I think, again, maybe it's time to work on this play. But there's a problem--

Script Frenzy isn't until April, and I'm trying to save it until then.

I decided to do Script Frenzy for a couple reasons this year--finally digging on a draft of 'Human Girl' and to see what they do that we could use to differentiate us from them as national playwriting month. Apparently there's a lot of overlap. I don't know because I haven't done it, so I am going to do it this year.

I am quite hopeful for 'Human Girl'--actually getting a draft out will be such an accomplishment. It would mean a lot to me to get it out--'Human Girl' stems from a time in my life that has passed and that is a big theme in this play, so it will be nice to visit a time in my life that has passed while getting a play that's been in my brain for 5 years. Not as long as 'King of Children' but you know. Ideas are ready when they are ready.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I was invited to an event on facebook today that has me deeply bothered. It's actually, I guess, in the end, NOT that big of a deal, and I have other things to worry about like planning my wedding and National PlayREWRITING Month and such, but, this has stuck with me all day, and it's actually been something that has bothered me for a while, so I guess I will just get it off my chest.

What do you do when you are dealing with a theatre reviewer who doesn't seem to just NOT get it, but is actually a terrible writer and should be canned by the paper she works for? Furthermore, what do you do when your theatre friends openly make fun of her on the internets and then invite you to a holiday party specifically to make MORE fun of the reviewer?

I won't mention names, but some of you may know who I am talking about. She writes these reviews that basically read like 3rd grade book reports. I am not being mean--it's the truth of the matter. And as long as I was involved in theatre and local writing in my hometown, she was there. And she has gotten worse over the years and now it's just laughable how terrible her writing is, but because she's been with the local writing scene for SO LONG, no one is going to can her. Honestly, if I could post a sample here, you would understand. But really, suffice to say, 3rd grade book report might actually be a generous description.

Now, I will openly admit to rolling my eyes when I read one of her reviews and I get a good giggle out of them, and I sometimes will find myself enraged because when I was still around, I couldn't get the local writing community to EVER let me write a theatre review, even though I know what I'm talking about and would write one that people wouldn't snicker at at least. So I have definitely participated in the being annoyed at this particular writer thing, but what I was invited to today kind of took it to a whole new level.

Actually, there's been a steady increase to this whole new level. As my friends would post reviews of the shows they were involved with, and inevitably this woman's writing would come into play, more and more of my friends would become more and more loose about what they would say about her openly on the internet. Some of it has been downright embarrassingly mean.

But creating a holiday party dedicated SOLELY to making fun of this writer, and actually digging up her works to have read at the party (and this goes into her own theatre writing too not just her journalistic endeavors), with the sole purpose of making fun of her, well, I am a bit nauseated by the whole thing.

Part of me is like, I don't want to burn bridges. Whether or not I like someone in the business, and whether or not I think that person is talented or full of crap, I don't think that sort of thing really needs to be on the internet. It's like with naked pictures--they will be there forever. SOMEONE will be able to find them. And I kind of feel like it's infantile and petty to advertise it. I mean, I know theatre, in general, is a gossipy bunch; they like to say mean things and back stab. I've been there, hell, I'll admit to doing it myself. We are all only human. But I guess what I'm saying is, for God's sake, keep it in the Green Room and off the internet, where it could come back to haunt you one of these days.

When I was at Iowa, my first contacts with theatre and writing for the stage was through No Shame Theatre. I loved it. I was obsessed with it. I knew the politics of this particular group and how to stay in the 'in' group at the time. I was still young and just starting out, and it's hard to not get sucked into a peer pressure situation.

There was a guy who would do pieces there sometimes. I won't mention his name, but he had a name that was a famous person's name--and really, he wasn't as cool as his name would indicate. He was young and troubled--he once told one of the members of the No Shame board after asking this person to read one of his scripts to not say anything bad about it, or he would hold it inside for three days and explode.

This, to me, did not denote stability.

But some of the people I was involved in No Shame with would encourage him to be there and write, and perform, not because they were being encouraging and inclusive, but because they wanted to have a good laugh on the part of this troubled young man. I would have no part of it, mostly because I kept envisioning what would happen when he realized that everyone there was just making fun of him all along, and it had to do with him showing up with a gun and killing us all.

I feel like it's a very similar situation, and I refuse to participate. Funny part? Yeah, I'm posting this on the internet. I don't know why I wanted to post it here, but it feels good to get it out of my system.

I think the part that bothers me the most is that no one is keeping this on the downlow. To me, it seems like if you are going to make fun of someone who can review your shows, regardless of how badly they are reviewed, you shouldn't burn that bridge. Because if I were an editor of a paper or involved with putting together shows or something, I might think twice if I saw something like this. Maybe it doesn't matter as much when you're in a small town and everyone knows everyone, but I feel like your rep in theatre will follow you everywhere.

Am I wrong? Maybe I should just go back to wedding planning.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Almost to the end of NaPlWriMo 2010

This has been my third year as a participant of naplwrimo and my second as forums moderator. It's been a strange year. Not bad, of course, because any month where you give yourself a chance to write a whole play is great. This year was just a lot different from the last two.

First, the play I am writing. I didn't really know until a couple weeks before exactly what I was going to work on. I changed my mind about four times before I finally settled on Mine. I was completely enthralled by the Chilean miner story that happened a month ago or so, and one particular story I read about the families and people living in Camp Hope really made me start thinking. And the story just sort of fell together. I was resisting the urge to work again with something Latin or Ancient Greek as far as the structure and such went, since Highway to Hades was so hard on me the first year I did NaPlWriMo, but the more I worked on the play, the more obvious it became that this is where the play wanted to go. I am now on page 71, and I am four days and four pages from the end of the month. I am trying to figure out how to get to the 75th page without padding the play. Doing some research this morning may have really helped, so we will see what happens.

And moderating this year has been very different. The creator of NaPlWriMo, Dorothy, had to step back this year because of graduate school, and a lovely lady named Elizabeth has taken over her role. There were a few things that we weren't up to speed on, but that's okay. There's bound to be a few bumps in a changeover of power, so to say. The thing that has been bothering me a bit this year is how frakking quiet the boards have been this year. During the countdown to November last year, I got a TON of responses, but this year, it was like pulling teeth. And we did pick up with a lot of conversation at the beginning of the month, but things have gotten super quiet and it's kind of hard to deal with in a way. It's more fun when there's a lot of people involved and conversational. I just have to know that every year is not going to be the same, even when a lot of the same people are involved. Life does happen. It's just hard when you feel like you're talking to yourself and when you feel that maybe you said something wrong and everyone hates you. The fiance told me that he feels like this sometimes when he is online teaching and has to do forum responses and hardly anyone talks--it's just part of the game, nothing you did, nothing you can do, you know?

As far the future of NaPlWriMo, I am very excited for a few things that we have thought of. Next year I would like to do more virtual write-ins. We did one this year, and even though there weren't a lot of people, it was fun. Maybe weekly virtual write-ins and then mini ones during the last week. We will see.

In 2011, I believe we are going to do a National Play REWRITING Month, hopefully to get the writers to come back to their work in a couple months to revisit the work and try to shape it up. I like this idea but I have NO IDEA how to make it work. I know my own rewriting process, but I don't have a clue about how to lead a rewriting group. I guess in the end it's not that much different from leading a playwriting group, but still. It's just new so I'm a little like, uh, what am I doing and why do I feel qualified?

I decided I am going to do Script Frenzy in April in order to try and figure out how to make us different from them, which is something Elizabeth had mentioned before. It will be a good challenge for me, but it's mostly for research. It would figure if I finally wrote the play I had always wanted to write through Script Frenzy. :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

National Playwriting Month 2010

This is the second day of my 26 day countdown to National Playwriting Month 2010. I am moderating again this year, and I thought I was going to work on two different plays, and now I have settled, for the moment, on a play entitled 'Mine'. I will write more about it when I sit down tomorrow and really hammer the details out and sketch an outline for the characters. I am really excited about this year, and please, if you know someone who you think might be interested in joining us this year, forward this to them. Link to my page and This project is very near and dear to my heart. I started it the first year I moved here, and it's really helped sustain me here as far as writing goes. It would mean a lot to me if the word got spread.

National Playwriting Month isn't just about writing a play in 30 days. The real deeper meaning is underneath it. It's about giving yourself a gift to be a writer. In a world where we get pulled away from writing and are distracted by other responsibilities, those of us who are and claim to be writers can find ourselves NOT being true to our nature. And the gift of driving yourself insane writing a play in 30 days is the best gift you can give yourself as a writer.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Full Moon

I've been feeling all bleh and blocky with my writing, and then I realized it was the autumn equinox.

A lot of people find the full moon to be the time of intense creativity, but for me, it signals a huge upheaval. Stuff just don't want to stick. I keep tossing the spaghetti of my thoughts to the wall and it doesn't stick.

I can't even do figure of speech right.

But then I came along this on my twitter feed, from my newly subscribed to twitter page, advice to writers:

Sometimes writer's block means you haven't yet figured out what to say, not a problem with how to say it. (via @susanorlean)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Time Changes

I am working on getting a lot of submissions out for the rest of the year due to starting up strong next month for me. It's funny to think a month long project starts the month before, but hey, that's how it works. I have lost count of how many packages I have put together at this point, but I think I got about 7 going out tomorrow, thanks to the fiance going to the post office. It's telling when the postal workers are starting to get to know me by first name.

One of the plays I am submitting now is called 'Time Changes'. I don't think I've talked much about this play on here. It's been in a 'finished' state for a while now, since before I started the blog. But I've been thinking about this play a lot recently because I am submitting it, and I'm realizing it's a problem play. The synopsis is as follows:

There is no 'Peace in the Valley' for DEBBIE WALKER, the organist and music director for New Faith Church. Her family is growing apart as her husband, HOLLIS, becomes more and more obsessed with saving his father’s--and now his--church, and as her 16 year old daughter, ELLIOT becomes more sullen, angry and rebellious as Hollis forbids her from seeing her boyfriend, TRAVIS, and his ‘devil’s music and ways’.

A difficult and painful choice from her past comes back to haunt her as she discovers she and HOLLIS have one week to turn things around for the church before it might be closed down.

When an opportunity to save New Faith rises out of the crisis of her secrets being revealed, DEBBIE must decide what to do. She thought that time would bury the past, but she's come to realize that time changes everything--hearts, memories and lives.

Funny enough, this play started out inspired by '1985' by A Simple Plan. Then my experiences growing up in a Fundamentalist Christian household where my love for hair metal was discouraged in varied and sundry ways by my mother as 'devil music' wrapped up in it, and then I had this play.

I think this play is going to have a hard time finding a world premiere because it's too religious possibly for mainstream theatres, but it contains too much swearing and bad stuff for churches. It straddled this line that I think is going to be a hard one for theatres and churches to deal with. Frankly, I don't think I wrote a 'Christian' play. I just wrote the play I was given. It has Christian themes to it, but I don't think it's mutually exclusive.

Someone remind me of this when I keep getting rejections.

The possibility of the 'it's too Christian/it's too secular' argument is one that has been bothering me for a while. It hasn't come up directly yet, and maybe I'm borrowing trouble and the reason the play hasn't been produced yet is because it actually sucks, but it's something to be thought of. I just continue to think about it, and wonder if this is really something I should be concerned with.

Any other playwrights out there have similar issues? Chris Leyva, I'm looking at you!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


After August, two things happen for me.

1. Things get a little stagnant. No reason why exactly, but everything seems to stall out. It's like summer is hanging on and then it's September and it should start getting cooler, because HELLO, the leaves are starting to fall in the backyard, but it's still almost 100 degrees. Southern weather is weird. And then I start getting a longing for wearing sweaters and skirts with tights and hot chocolate, but the weather isn't cooperating with my cravings, so I just have to wait. And waiting is hard.

2. Things start steamrolling toward the end of the year. The last four months of the year always take me by surprise with everything I have to do. This is true for most people but foremost in my mind are two things that usually are, submissions and National Playwriting Month, but this year, I have an additionally poorly scheduled trip home.

I am trying to get my submissions done for the rest of the year if I can. I have a lot of snail mail packages but some of them are email packages and I am going to try and get all of them taken care of in the next month. There will be more submissions, but after work, my Excel class, planning for NaPlWriMo and having a home life somewhat, all submissions for me sort of stop from the middle of October to the end of November.

I will be forums moderator for NaPlWriMo again this year and I am very excited about it and my own project for it. I haven't gotten with Elizabeth, the new person running NaPlWriMo, about what to do with the site yet, so I haven't posted my information about my project, but I can here, so here it is.

"30 Days of Wright"--in the spirit of Suzan-Lori Parks 365 Days/365 Plays, I am going to write a new scene or short play everything day for the 30 days of November. This is going to be an extra challenge considering that I will be on vacation for ten days of the month, but i am going to do what I can with it. I am going to do at least the page minimum for the month and everything will be brand new. I'm a Rebel Rhino, yeah, but I am hoping that this will work out to give me some new beginnings for myself to use in the future. I started a similar project a couple years ago, and it definitely gave me a lot of work with and think about.

So if I'm quiet the rest of the year, you now know why.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Things have been slow going as far as my writing goes. I have a couple things I'm working on because I need to do some submission work with them, but for the most part, I'm doing the busy work of making packages, writing letters, wrangling synopses, etc.

We decided to get rid of cable about two weeks ago and rely on Netflix and the internets for television. Honestly, it's like cable never even left--we still watch the same stuff--The Simpsons, Law and Order--but the main difference has been that we are able to get whole seasons of shows and really plow through them.

Which leads me to Breaking Bad. We've watched all the Breaking Bad we can until season 3 comes out on DVD, which is God knows when. I try not to talk about television on here--I don't know why--they are scripts, they are sometimes well written, sometimes not, but for some reason, I always feel like television is somehow beneath acknowledgment--you know, the boob tube, brain drainer, etc. But I have seen some pretty amazing television in the last six months or so, with some pretty amazing character development, incredible writing, tight construction and some of the best acting I've ever seen.

Breaking Bad is not a show for everyone. It's gritty and it depicts serious drug abuse, violence and death. One thing I love about it is that it's real. Walter White is an every day dude--a high school chemistry teacher, about to turn 50, managed to have a baby on the way with his wife, Skylar, has a son with Cerebral Palsy already who is a student at the high school he works at, and he's pretty straight laced--and then--BOOM--inoperable lung cancer, which will cost lots of money to treat. The next thing you know, he's making and dealing meth to secure his family's financial future. And the next thing you know, all sorts of insanity is going on and they are going places in this show that just make you scream and kind of freak out and it's super intense. And then there's Bryan Cranston--seriously the best actor. I watched him on Malcolm in the Middle and he was pretty amazing on there, but there was something about him that just said that there was more depth to him as an actor than he was given on that show. And he gets it in Walter White. I fall a little more in love with him as an actor every time I see him on the show.

But what I really want to talk about is the character development and writing and plotting. The characters have been extremely well thought out--everyone has his or her own way of speaking, a point of view and secrets. And the secrets are fun and surprising, and real. Love it. The writing is tight--great lines, real real real scenarios, amazing. And the plotting is tight. SUPER TIGHT. I am not certain I have ever seen anything so tightly and beautifully plotted that wasn't a movie. And the way it's filmed is gorgeous. New Mexico is a gorgeous state and they exploit that at every turn.

Breaking Bad has given me a lot to think about as a writer. There's these wonderful ten minute or so extras on the DVD called 'Inside Breaking Bad', which give an perspective of the episode that is pretty great. I would give a lot of things to just be a fly on the wall in the writer's room during a season--I feel like I could learn so much.

The cliff hanger of the second season is hardcore--they did an amazing job of showing tidbits from the last episode of the season throughout the second season. Lots of red herrings but in the end, it all snuck up and made sense.

That is what I want to do with my writing--complete characters, great dialogue and tight plotting. I have a long way to go, but I think I at least have an idea of what to aspire for.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Garage Sale

We're having a garage sale this weekend to get rid of some unwanted items. Our apartment has been a complete disaster due to getting ready for this thing. There's Heroclix all over the living room, boxes of random clothes in the garage, and tons of boxes with loads of priced crap just ready and waiting to go clutter someone else's house.

And the major thing I am getting rid of is my computer from college.

It's a Dell and it was probably the bottom of the line when I got it, but it was the best I could afford at the time. And since I didn't game or anything, it didn't have to be the best thing ever. About a year ago, the internet card pooped the bed, and I inherited Bill's old laptop--my first ever. Yesterday and today I was spending time going through the computer to get rid of stuff on it--outdated programs, any personal information, my docs, and my writing.

Most of the stuff I had moved to my external portable harddrive when Ollie first decided it didn't like the internets anymore. But there were these discs I had to go through.

This computer has a floppy disc drive--not the ginormous ones, but the little hard discs that were just starting to go out of vogue when I was still at Iowa. I thought that maybe I would toss in the ones I clean off as a total package kind of thing for the computer--along with the awesome printer/scanner/copier that I can't use anymore either because it doesn't have drivers for the current version of Windows I am running.

Going through those discs was like looking at a photo album--but instead of pictures (well, there were some) it was mostly short stories and a lot of No Shame pieces that never made it to the stage, as well as all my exercises for Playwriting 1 and 2. I was VERY excited to get all these things onto Lorby, my portable harddrive. Now I could upload the very first No Shame piece I wrote way back in my first year at Iowa. It was presumed lost to the annuls of time, and it was probably better that way, but I will upload it anyway. I found several other plays and bits and pieces of things and I was struck by one thing.

This is a girl who is rough, but she's got a heart and a pen, and that, in the end, is what matters. I grouse about money for graduate school and about being impatient about my writing, but when I look back at the sheer volume of stuff I was writing at the time, it's mind-boggling. Not all of it was good--a lot of it was quite bad. But I am glad I got to see it. A lot of it has been deleted now--especially the stuff that I wrote for my fiction classes, but it was wonderful to see myself in a portrait of writerly progression. I can look back and see where I came from and realize I have come a long long way in a short amount of time. This is still something to be proud of, and build on.

Ollie is pretty much ready to go I think. Honestly, I won't miss the clunky heavy monitor and the tower, I do much prefer the laptop, Bad Horse, I am writing this on. But it was a wonderful, precious thing to see where my roots came from--and continue to grow.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

....tries again...

I am still in that weird Sisyphean place with my writing, where I am making progress, but every time I get to the top, well, you know what happens.

I am so impatient. I want to get somewhere else with my writing and I don't know how to get there. I have a reading I am working on for myself at the library in a month, and I haven't quite gotten that bad boy together. But other than that, I have nothing else going on, except writing, and more writing, and trying to get someplace to take one of my plays.

I feel stupid sometimes for complaining about this--of all the silly things to complain about--not getting over that hump. I just want to go there, you know? Ugh, pity party of 1!

I like the LOLcat I put on this point--LOLcats are funny, first of all, and I like that the kitteh is trying again. And that's what I will do, I will just try again. And I will be so happy the day I get that rock over the top of the hill.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

'Sand and Water' back on the back burner

There's still a LOT left to do with 'Sand and Water' but I think I need to pop it back on the stove and let it simmer a bit. I am so not wanting to do this--I can see where I want the play to be and where I think the play wants to go, but there's a big chasm between what it is now and where I see it going. And this is going to require a lot of character work that just needs to simmer. I am impatient about being impatient.

But that's okay, because now I am going to work on the first of my Jonathan Coulton inspired works, 'Blue Sunny Day'.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Laurel Snyder: Be a Critic of Critics

I don't often do this, and maybe I should do this more, but today I was looking at the amazing poet/children's writer/awesome mom, Laurel Snyder's, blog, and this is what I found:

She's says pretty much everything I've ever thought about trusting one's self and voice and listening to critics. This was a BIG issue when I was in college. When I was in the Undergrad Fiction Workshop, I was not very popular with my fellow workshoppers because I was fairly brutal when it came to my criticism of their work. I came from the position of, well, we were all chosen to be here, so why not tear some stories up and help each other make them better? It wasn't personal--but it became personal with some of the other people in the workshop, so I was basically told to back off. That made me a bit more of an egg-shell-stepper when it came to the Undergrad Playwright's Workshop.

Now, out in the real world, I would pretty much give ANYTHING to have any kind of criticism--at least it would mean that someone is reading my work. But I continue to plug on, and when I edit, I try to give it an outsider's eye as much as possible. Being both attached and detached from the work is pretty hard, but somehow I am making it work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sand and Water, Draft 2, 'finished'

'Finished'. It's never finished.

But I have gone through each of the 7 scenes I currently have for 'Sand and Water' and made some excellent changes and cuts and have a LOT of work to do coming up. I have one particularly difficult scene that I am NOT sure how I am going to write. But I have a good feeling about this play--it's different from anything I've written, and I sincerely hope I get it running along good soon so I can actually submit it next year. 'Sand and Water' 2011!

I am simply amazed at how well this new editing process has worked. What a wonderful new thing to stick in my tool belt. I am humbled at how quickly things have tumbled out since I made my confession of what was wrong. Funny enough, while I wish I had done it sooner, it wouldn't have worked sooner than it did. There's always regrets, because we all are only human, but I feel like the universe has granted me the grace to be accepting of that truth.

In the end though, the regrets are still there, I just have to let it dissolve like solid stone in the song that has given this play it's name--'Sand and Water' by Beth Nielsen Chapman.

I first heard this song on the episode of 'E.R.' of the same name. It was the second episode of the seventh season. I believe it must have been when I was living with Casey, Michael and Jason in college. TNT would should two episodes of 'E.R.' every weekday in the morning and I would be able to watch them before going to my first class three days a week. It's a beautiful song, and it stuck with me all this time. I tried to use it as inspiration before, but it just wouldn't work. Not until this play.

this is a youtube video featuring Beth Nielsen Chapman performing live with different water footage as the video. The quality is kind of eh but at least it's not a 'Charmed' montage.

All alone I didn't like the feeling
All alone I sat and cried
All alone I had to find some meaning
In the center of the pain I felt inside

All alone I came into this world
All alone I will someday die
Solid stone is just sand and water, baby
Sand and water, and a million years gone by

I will see you in the light of a thousand suns
I will hear you in the sound of the waves
I will know you when I come, as we all will come
Through the doors beyond the grave

All alone I heal this heart of sorrow
All alone I raise this child
Flesh and bone, he's just
Bursting towards tomorrow
And his laughter fills my world and wears your smile

I will see you in the light of a thousand suns
I will hear you in the sound of the waves
I will know you when I come, as we all will come
Through the doors beyond the grave

All alone I came into this world
All alone I will someday die
Solid stone is just sand and water, baby
Sand and water and a million years gone by

lyrics by Beth Nielsen Chapman "Sand and Water"

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The First Step to Recovery

Apparently admitting the problem with my writing a few days ago has had success so far. I've managed to edit 12 and a half pages of the 24 pages I have so far--half way there!

It's a funny thing about half way there--there's a lot that isn't in this play yet that needs to be. I have italicized notes all over the current draft about bits and pieces that need to be put into the play and a giant one is coming. I don't know how much it will add to the play right now, or even if I will finish it right now, but things are definitely coming together better.

I combined a shorter scene with a longer scene in such a way that it flows together better. I am much happier with the edits so far with this play than i have been in a long time. Pretty soon I get to write about the seductive beauty of implosion--I'm really looking forward to that.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In Progress

I am beginning to think a bit differently about the editing process.

I used to just think that the editing process was exactly the same for every play I've ever edited. Sometimes I would have to bust out some extra tools--particularly The Dramatic Writer's Companion by Will Dunne This book is quickly becoming a staple I take with me when I edit, along with several pens of different colors, highlighters, sticky notes, a couple notebooks and the draft I am working on.

I already realize that the writing process is not a guarantee. Just because I wrote a play before doesn't mean I will be able to do it. It's starting over every time. You just need to trust the characters and yourself to take you where you need to go. And now I'm starting to realize that the editing process may be just as unique.

Using a beat-by-beat technique for each scene and then promptly entering the edits is very important to the process of writing 'Sand and Water'. There's a lot of ground to cover in this play--there's research on Frank Lloyd Wright, his last design that was never built, at least until this play existed where it's built in the stage world, aplastic anemia, confidence tricks, and building implosion--not to mention the personal stories of each of the four characters. There's a lot that still needs to be crammed into the play, but in such a way that it doesn't hinder the story. There's a lot of editing that still needs to happen. I am assuming that there will be at least three more drafts of this play before it's ready to be sent out. This draft will be significant though. There will probably be one more draft that really works with the structure of the play and then I will work on tightening things.

Of course, now that I committed this to writing that will soon be published on the Internets, I am sure something will happen to ruin it, but I'm not backing down.

It's been three long months of nothing. It's time for some time of something.

Monday, July 12, 2010

winning the war

Yesterday I actually edited an entire scene from 'Sand and Water'--this after pretty much false starts and farting around for three months. I don't know if it means that the lull is over or not, but I am going to keep running with it--you never know when it's going to just up and dry up.

And it was hard. HARD. I sat at Panera, laptop open in case I needed to look stuff up during the course of my work, with the notebook and a hard draft in front of me, and several pens in different colors and I did something I hadn't done since I took Directing I in college--I broke a scene down into beats. I identified what each character wanted and if I had trouble deciphering it, or if everything that was written could be subtext, I corrected it. And I think it made a huge difference. And I put the edits in right after I was done with the scene, rather than waiting until I got done with all the scenes. And that is my least favorite part of editing, so I'm glad I did it that way. I don't think this is going to get any easier for this play--'Sand and Water' is a heavy, dense sucker--but I think it's going to help. And it gives me something to add to my editing toolbelt.

I know this entry makes it sound like I don't like editing, but I have come to grow rather fond of it. It's great fun to lop off parts of the play that just aren't working and making it better, stronger. That's not sarcasm--I truly enjoy it. I don't like having to cut characters or lines, especially if they were well put together--sometimes I save them in a file for other things in case something comes up in a future play and it needs just that certain something. But otherwise, I like editing. The streamlining--it's very enjoyable. And it allows me to get in better touch with how I'm writing this play, because, as we all know, writing one play doesn't mean you will know how to write another--but it's helpful to have ideas of how to approach it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Enjoy the Silence

It's been almost three months since I last posted.

I've been blocked, mostly by my own doing, for the last three months. I've had bursts of writing here and there, bubbles of editing, some new ideas, a bit of scribbling, but for the most part I've been not writing.

I'm trying to think of this as a good thing.

My friend, Sarah, had this to say on the topic in gchat the other day:

I'm really glad I could help
my friend taught me something really valuable a couple years ago...he says he doesn't think of notwriting periods as blocks, but as gestations
that something is forming
5:05 PM and I think things generally come like that, in cycles. if you're not writing you're reading, you're watching things, you're conversing with people, and your subconscious is soaking it all in

And I think she's right, and thereby, her friend is right.

Ordinarily, I usually get WAY down on myself for not writing. I make myself crazy, beating myself up for not writing, but in reality, I probably need a break. I am feeling burnt out when it comes to writing.

I am, however, going to take a good few hours today (later, after I go back to bed and get back up) to write at Panera. For some reason, Panera is usually good to me as a writer. Let's hope that remains true!

Part of the block is this whole getting into Hollins thing, then not being able to afford it, and then trying to figure out, with all the OTHER personal life crap going on, how I will afford it next year, and the odds are looking not in my favor.

Part of me almost wishes I hadn't let myself so easily get talked into applying, that way I wouldn't have gotten in and wouldn't have to deal with the fact that I am good enough to get in, but can't afford it. Hollins is not a cheap school. Todd Ristau, the director of the program, pulled a lot of strings to get me in, and get me a scholarship, but as a wife-to-be, I now have a family to think of, even if it's only a family of three cats and a fiance. The point is, real life has gotten in the way, and as much as I try to keep real life off this thing, keep it positive and uplifting, I can't in this case.

Hence the silence.

So I am going to try and enjoy the silence. It's hard for me, but I have crocheting to keep me creative while things are working in my brain. Everything will come out in due time, and I feel like there's something HUGE in there just trying to get out, that I've reached a plateau of some kind and I can see where I want to go from there, but I just can't figure out how to get there.

So I will write when it's time to do so. I will keep with the false starts and the winding hallways that lead nowhere, or at least seem to lead nowhere right now. I will find the way to the next level, it's just going to be frustrating until then.

Monday, May 17, 2010

English is so Imprecise

I never thought I would write this about chocolate (because if you know me, I'm a Chocoholic of the First Order), but I feel indifferent, no, disinterested, no, false, no...see, English is so imprecise. There's got to be a word for what I feel in some other language, like schadenfreude in German. Maybe I need to make one up.

At any rate, 'Chocolate Cake' has evoked feelings in me that I've experienced about my work before, but the stronger versions of these feelings usually make me put the play down for a month or so and come back when I've had the space and time to work on others things, and let that one simmer on the back burner.

But this play--it feels like I'm going through the motions, sort of. Like there's no real emotion in it. Like I don't care, but do. Like maybe if I keep working on it, I will break through to it. So that's what I'm doing--keeping up on it until I know for a fact it's time to give it a break. I'll know when it is, and it's not now. Maybe when I complete all the scenes.

The characters are evolving fine, the plot is falling into place, with the exception of a few things here and there.

Actually, I'm not sure the problem is even the play itself--I think it's something else entirely. It stems from getting into graduate school and then not being able to come up with the money to pay for it--and student loans are out of the question. So you know, there's that. I feel like my work needs another step up at this point--like I'm writing in a vacuum. I know there's a cure for it. I need to just present my own work, and I am working on that. The only way my work is going to improve is to see it up on its feet, and if I can't find a theatre who will help me out, I just need to do the work myself. And I have no one to blame but myself for not getting this going sooner. There's no time like the present.

So I think my feelings of strange indifference for this play isn't about the play in general, but about my career as a playwright, which feels stalled out right now. I am doing the right things--I join the right organizations, I send my work out, I get my work rejected, I write, I write, I write--but it's been five years since I left UIowa, and I guess I expected that since I was going at such a high rate of speed as far as writing and getting published and all that that I would be much further than I am right now.

So, obviously I just need to get off my duff and do what I need to do. It's that simple.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


There must be something strange in the stars the last few days for me and technology and the current play I am working on entitled 'Chocolate Cake'.

I managed to lose edits I had already put in and then had Final Draft freak out when I tried to over-write the file of the current edit with a new edit. To be safe, I went ahead and saved it to two different drives and then emailed a copy to myself.

Short answer: technology hates me.

It's a bummer, because this play is sort of coming together too. Losing those edits was an annoying thing that happens, but I fixed it and now I can move beyond it.

I have another play that I am working on, called 'Blue Sunny Day'. This, along with the project I am going to work on at some point this summer with my fiance, Bill, is the first of my unofficial Jonathan Coulton project.

I am also writing a column for about fan fiction. I have an extensive history with fan fiction, and while I am slightly embarrassed by some of what I used to write, it really sculpted me as the writer I am today. There's nothing wrong with cutting your writing teeth so to speak on writing stories about My Little Ponies and rock bands you loved and 'The X Files' (which, really, is the only real fan fiction I ever wrote, although I have a killer idea for a sequel to 'Dr. Horrible's Sing a Long Blog', which will remain in the back of my mind until I am able to find someone to help me write songs). The point is, we all start somewhere, and some of us have fan fiction skeletons in our respective closets.

Anyway, this is the closest I get to fan fiction these days, writing plays based on songs. It's actually something I've done for quite a while. 'Sexy Messiah' is based on a Stuart Davis song, about the next coming of Christ as a teenage girl; 'Man out of Time' was based loosely on the Elvis Costello song of the same name, 'Human Girl' will, someday, be written and is based on another Stuart Davis song. Stuart has been a big influence on me as a writer, but Jonathan Coulton is coming in a close second.

Stuart and Jonathan have a lot in common--brilliant song writing, amazing presentation of stories. Love them both.

My musing is this: how much of a work I write based on or influenced by say something by Stuart Davis or Jonathan Coulton is mine and one of theirs? What are the legal ramifications?

Also, how did I get from 'Chocolate Cake' to a discussion of the legality of my writing about a song someone else wrote?

Bill was right, I am good at holding about 50 conversations in my brain at once.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

something's always wrong

The title is true, but isn't true. I am writing. It has been tough, but I am sticking it out. And things are coming through. There's the moments of tingly excitement that come with a breakthrough and a piece falls into place, but somehow, it rings false.

And then I start to wonder things like...
Who has the wrong name?
Who isn't supposed to be in this play?
Should this character NOT be a gay man of the cloth?
Should this character have mother and God issues that are unresolved?
And what's the deal with atheism? Like, I don't have a problem with it, but how can I make this play less of an issue play and more of an actual play? I don't want it to be coming down on the side of atheism is bad or believing in God is bad, because that is not an opinion I need to concern myself with in this play. Or is it?

This is the kind of neurotic behavior and thought pattern I get into with plays. I get energy from a controversial subject, with setting the characters loose with their own issues going up against each others' wants, needs and desires, and then when they run off in contrary to me directions, I kind of freak.

Somehow, I can't seem to keep in mind that I am NOT really in control of the people of my play. They come to me, in whatever shape they are in, if they are drawn off of someone I know, a character trait, an idea, a comment I overheard someone make in the cafeteria, or something said directly to me in a small cubicle in the Scientology building on Hollywood Boulevard about how my father would have been alive still if he had had Scientology, somehow, something creates the character. And then as that character develops, they become like teenagers and go off in their own directions and become writers, drug addicts, alcoholics, doctors, lawyers, mothers, teachers, as well as any other number of things their parents did or didn't want them to become. At any rate, they become their own people. And losing this control is terrifying, because I don't know where the play is going to end up after that.

And that's okay. I've been writing and dealing with character issues like this since I was at least 12 years old. It's been over two decades' one would think I would stop having 'The Fear'. It doesn't ever go away.

And the Scientology story is best saved for another time. But it happened between my junior and senior year of high school, and it just NOW figured out a way into my play.

Everything and everyone is in danger of being in a play. You have been forewarned.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Writing Life

I got word tonight that the first column I wrote for The Writing Life will be posted tomorrow. Please check out the site!

Monday, April 5, 2010


I was asked in I think November to write a column for In another life, I was a journalist. I have a AA in journalism, and I was really into it for a long time. The reasons I am not a journalist anymore are best saved for another post, but suffice to say, fiction writing was calling me much louder than journalism. And then playwriting called me much louder than fiction.

But this is not about that, this is about a column I am working on.

I don't know what it's going to be called. This has been bothering me. I am one of those writers who have a hard time moving forward without a character with the correct name or a play with the right name. These things might change, but I've had characters who would literally not say or do anything until I called them by their correct name.

I was thinking 'Drunk on Writing' from a Ray Bradbury quote. It just didn't sit perfectly, so I just left it that until today. Yesterday, at work, I had my notebook for the site on the desk at work, and my co-supervisor, Dennis, asked me what that was about. And I told him I was going to do a column about writing. He said, 'you're writing about writing?'. And then it hit me, 'meta-writing'! LOVE IT.

I realized that 'meta' is from Greek, so I looked up what 'writing' is in Greek: Grafi. Meta-Grafi.

I realize it might not be the title, but I like the idea that I am writing about writing and exposing the underpinnings. Or under-pennings. That might work too. We will see. In the end, it will probably be up to my editor.

Speaking of whom, when I was still a journalist, he was my editor. Sean Leary was the entertainment editor of The Rock Island Argus/Daily Dispatch, and I wrote for him for years. I started in high school writing album reviews and when Sean came on board, I started writing full length stories about music and such. Eventually I wrote a column about local music called 'Q.C. Underground' and then I was an intern for the summer before my last year at Black Hawk College in 1999. Sean and I always had a really good working relationship, and after he left The Argus, he started and he asked me to write a column. So here I am.

I finished my first draft this morning and I am going to edit it down about 400 words (I always wrote VERY long) and send it off to Sean. I have about 25 ideas written down in a list in my notebook. I am very excited about this new venture. It will be good to get back to writing regularly with a deadline (even though I blew the first one by MONTHS--sorry about that if you're reading this, Sean!), which is what I miss the most about journalism. Deadlines usually keep me on track really well, so that will be good.

And writing about writing more than just on here will be great. I will post my columns as they go up on the site.

For now, if you would, visit and give Sean some love. My stuff will be up there very soon.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

wrestling with that angel, subtext

Yep, it's an ongoing problem. At the risk of repeating myself, I looked back at other entries I have written about subtext, and everything I was going to say has already been covered.

Except this one.

In 'Sand and Water' a pattern emerged that has emerged before in my work, and rather than think it's a bad pattern, something occurred to me.

In the first drafts (maybe up to 12--I've gone there before), I can write whatever I want. Very few people see it, if any. Mostly they are for my eyes only, and a select few I can trust to give me a good opinion. And good opinion doesn't mean saying 'I liked it'. The few I have read my early draft work give me good constructive points on things--and they usually echo what I think myself.

In these early drafts, I noticed the subtext bobbing right to the top, and the characters say it right out loud. Before a few moments ago, I would get annoyed with myself and think, why, why, WHY can't I just bury that crap? I think maybe I need to realize I have to know myself for sure what the subtext is, and then I can bury it. So after my first first first draft, I spend my time grabbing the subtext and figuring out how to bury it. And this comes from knowing my characters well. And mostly I've used The Dramatic Writer's Companion by Will Dunne to accomplish my knowledge of my characters. I used it for the first time a few months ago, and it was super helpful. Some of the stuff I never read again after I wrote it down, but it was fine that way. I had written it out and gotten a better handle on my characters.

So yeah, I still wrestle with subtext. It's generally a pain in the ass, but it's one of those pains in the ass that are good and help you shape your work. So I'll continue to work on burying this subtext and continue to work. Something good is coming out of it--even if it's slowly.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sand and Water

Oh, thank God that exam is over. I am back on the horse, baby!

I'm working on 'Some Gave All' also, but 'Sand and Water' is demanding my attention as well. I have spent a long time gathering information: about the Donahue Triptych, an unbuilt house by Frank Lloyd Wright, building ships in a bottle, aplastic anemia and Frank Lloyd Wright's life.

The painting above, I found during my research. Artist Angela Dufresne painted this. And I just love it. the original building was to be in a desert in Arizona or New Mexico, on top of a plowed down set of three mountains (if I recall correctly, Wright said that he was going to put the tops back on the mountain with the house).

What I love about Dufresne's painting is that it relocates the house to the seaside, which works well for this play. Two of the characters, a husband named Andrew and a wife named Julia, came from the ocean and the desert respectively, so it was a great find.

So I'm working on characters and adding in new dialogue and am working on getting the outline of the play together, the subtext and all that good crap for the play. I love working with a play with only four characters. It's an interesting group of people. It's pretty crazy.

But after getting the certified dietary management stuff taken care of, it's great to be back writing after a month long hiatus.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Too Busy to Come Up With an Insightful Title

So yeah. that picture over there--that's pretty much how things have been going for me in the last couple months. I don't often bring personal things happening into my life onto my play writing blog, but sometimes it has to happen or it will go MONTHS before I update.

My fiance, Bill, is doing a job search and we've thought we knew where we were going at least once, but we are still looking. I don't even want to say on here what is going on, but I will post once we have a better idea of where we are going. Suffice to say, the options over the last few months have looked like that picture. I shouldn't complain--it's been interesting but stressful. Things are good though.

I haven't had much of a chance to get writing done since a couple things have happened.

1. I got accepted to Hollins' playwriting MFA program. I am very excited for this. I have known all along I wanted to go to graduate school, and this program is a great choice for me. Iowa Alum, the summer onlys and location are wonderful. So wish me broken legs and stuff on that.

2. I have an exam I am taking for my other life's job. I am a certified dietary manager (pending certification). This means I have been certified to take the test and after that, providing I pass, I will be a certified dietary manager. This is good because it opens my options for jobs and money up better than anything I've done for my other life so far. I take the exam this coming Saturday so after that we are back on the wagon, friends!

I have been working on several plays, and most of them are in the research stage at the moment: 'Some Gave All', 'Better', and 'Blue Sunny Day'. I am going to pull out 'Sand and Water' and 'Grace Kelly' at some point soon, but I really want to work on 'Some Gave All'. That's the one that's really calling to me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

well, it was bound to happen

I don't think I've talked much about feeling stuck on here. I've tried to keep this blog upbeat and positive, but sometimes it's unavoidable to deal with the opposites.

You must know that I do not love and that I love you,
because everything alive has its two sides;
word is one wing of the silence,
fire has its cold half

Pablo Neruda
100 Hundred Love Sonnets

So yeah. I've been sending out packages left and right and I've gotten about seven rejection letters this week alone. Several of them have been extremely personal--stressing that it wasn't the play, it just didn't fit with them, and that I should submit again. Those are nice. Heck, any kind of response I get back is nice, but those are the ones that keep me going.

So when you're wondering if you got into graduate school (that was the big secret project--Hollins this coming summer), and you're getting reject letters left and right and you're struggling with several plays, one of which has you researching dead and missing soldiers, you start to question your purpose in life.

But, even thought I am feeling down about writing in general at the moment, I knew I will make it through. I have a thousand times before, and I will this time. I'll just get back to writing and plow through and I will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Even when I think things are the worst, I still wouldn't give this up for anyone or anything (although there was times in my past where I tried to). It's sustained me and kept me going. All I need to do is give my writing the same consideration.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Year, New Look, New Play, Same Issues

I know it's nearly the end of February, but I wanted to start fresh now.

I think I've written about this play on here before, but I've started doing more research on 'Some Gave All'.

Before I get into that, I have to say--I don't understand how the plays I end up writing come to me. I was watching 'The Sixth Sense' the other day when I was cleaning up the apartment and I realized a parallel between Cole and me. Cole doesn't understand why the dead people are coming to him, and, with Malcolm's help, he finds out that they need his help. Similarly, I don't understand why the plays come to me and I don't have a Malcolm to let me know. Funny enough, there are 'dead' people who appear to me in a way--'Some Gave All' and 'Squall Lines' both have dead people in them who come back to life in some way. Part of me thinks that maybe these people have something they need to say, but then I remember that they are not real--they are characters--but what if they aren't? Yeah, these are things I think about when trying to figure out why I get the ideas I get. I try to just roll with them most of the time, but sometimes, something will come up and make me start wondering.

Anyway, back to 'Some Gave All'. I can't remember how this play came together exactly--which is strange because usually I can remember exactly how it all came together. I recall being at work and talking to Sheree about how I wanted to write a play about the current conflict in Iraq and how I wanted it to be anti-war. And then this play fell out and I have no idea how it links back to that original idea--of course, I haven't finished the play yet--I have a scant few scenes I have written as part of my personal '365 plays' project and that's it.

But now I'm learning more about POWs in the first Gulf War conflict and about Desert Storm and Desert Shield and about Iraqi and Middle Eastern fairy tales and Biblical Stories (Old Testament--like Abraham and Isaac--and about the current conflicts, and family and love and marriage, and a dead Iraqi girl who is a guide for a son looking for his father--and it's nuts. And sad. And beautiful. And I can't wait to see what falls out of it. I'm just going to let the idea guide me and I'll figure it out from there.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I know, I know

It's been almost a month and I haven't made a single post. There's a reason for that, but I can't publicly say it at the moment. I can say that I had a final in a class I was taking and I'm helping a couple friends with recommendation letters, but I am writing and working on the top secret project. As soon as I can post about it, I will.

I hope 2010 is treating you all well. It's certainly been an interesting ride so far.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

time flew

The rest of 2009 and the first two weeks of 2010 have gotten away from me, as usual. I also have some things I can't post about here yet, but there's some exciting stuff happening for me this year. Posting will definitely occur when I can do it.

But for now, for a fellowship I am applying to, I have to write a statement of purpose--with no other guidelines.

This is not easy. I never had to write an essay to get into college or anything, so this is all new to me. I know how to be verbose--if you know me in person, you know that I can talk A LOT. And don't get me started on things I love--you and I could be here all day.

But a statement of purpose for my playwriting? Suddenly, I'm frozen up. I've spent two weeks writing things down in a notebook, trying to get a feel for what I should write. And all of it is ringing wrong. I'm afraid it's going to be too long, but I can always cut stuff. I am going to be using some things I have written in here, so I need to go through my archives. And I already realize I need to blog more...

But I am working on some things though. I got a couple new projects coming down the pike and I am currently editing 'Suburbia', which apparently I haven't picked up in two years...but it's fine. It's time now to edit it.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful new year!