Sunday, July 21, 2013


Today is NOT a good writing day, at least for A DEATH IN THE FAMILY. I feel like I've been working on this play for a month and I already cut about 60% of what I added in because I decided it was stupid. So that's great. Good news--I cut the page count back. The rest is all bad news.

I hate hate hate hate the feeling that I am making an even bigger mess of a play that fell is a giant mess to begin with. In the end, I am sure it's actually okay, but the mystery might actually be an even BIGGER mess than it was before. I don't know what to do.

So I will work on the Top Secret Project. I have some books on the Top Secret Project, and I will work on researching that while Bill and Steven are playing games. I have to do some writing that might actually be productive today.

Honestly, I don't mean for it to sound like I'm getting down on myself for having a bad writing day. They happen, I really am trying to be zen about it. It's just hard because I really want to have the draft ready for when I get the call.

I used to not want to write about this sort of thing--the bad writing days, the mental illness, but I realized something. They are who I am--the good and the bad. So I have to take it all. Why not be honest about it?

Sunday, July 14, 2013


I am just trying to go with the flow on this play. I really am, and it's actually going all right. Yeah, I know, I'm surprised myself. I just printed out the most recent draft, and I came up with 16 4X6 legal pad pages of notes. Whatever had been bothering me, anything I was questioning, I wrote down.

Funny enough, some of the things I wrote down were things I had been working on for a very long time. Some of them are things I have been concerned about since the play started.

So now I am working on a new draft and I'm feeling both positive and worried. I don't know if any of these things will actually come to anything at all.

It's funny, because maybe now is when I am realizing that just because I wrote something before doesn't mean I will ever be able to write anything else again. Not that I'm not writing, but you know...

So I have a few things to work through--let's see how it goes this week. Onward and upward.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


I've been having some lovely writing days in the last couple weeks. I have discovered that maybe writing every day is not the thing to do. I need to be gentle with myself and not beat myself up when I can't seem to focus enough to write. Right now, I just need to write when I feel like I can. Luckily, that's been a lot lately.

I am about to print out the newest draft of A DEATH IN THE FAMILY to continue work on it. I have added a new character, who is still growing on me, and I need to work on getting her into other scenes and actually doing things.

I am having a bit of progress on the mystery of the play, so we will see how that falls out.

And I have a new special Top Secret Project I am working on with a friend of mine. It's going to be a while before I can actually talk in detail about it, but I think that if it works well, we might have a thing that will be a thing. Vague enough? I just wanted to mention it because I am excited to get to work on this project. I feel like it has some really great potential. It's outside theatre, but still theatrical, so I will be able to use my skills I have honed as a playwright in a different field. So. Excited.

So I am tentatively hopeful. That's all I can ask for right now.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A DEATH IN THE FAMILY: Keeping on, Keeping on

I am still plugging away. I had done some research and really dug into writing a mystery and the psychology behind people who are spies and go undercover, and I think I know exactly what needs to happen with the mystery in the play. Now I just need to see how it's supposed to unfold.

I added a character that I had been thinking about adding for a long time--she's very dumb, and has a tendency to say really inappropriate dumb things, and she takes things very literally, but she's so sweet, you can't get mad at her. She's like a puppy doing puppy things.

I am hesitate about added a character this late in the game--I am afraid she is going to come off looking like PLOT DEVICE. I haven't had a lot of time to develop her well, although I know her basic motives and what she wants, so that's half the battle, right?

I wish I could convince myself this is a good move. I just know it might not be. Who knows? I feel so tentative about everything with this play, I just don't know where to go next. So, despite my misgivings, I am heading into it and we will see how it falls out.

I do need to get back to working on the holocaust play if I am ever going to have it ready in time for submitting it to New Frontier.

And I have a huge list of other things to work on, but you know, my brain freaks out so it's hard to focus sometimes. I do try hard though, and I will continue to try.

I can't wait until the someday that my brain is normal again, because there never was a normal for my brain. There was only the more balanced out brain I had with Effexor. I just have to keep going.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Plans Fall Apart

I am trying SO HARD to be zen about this, but it's hard.

I really have tried hard to keep my personal life and my writing life separate, but clearly, at least for now, that is going to have to change. It is no secret I have depression and anxiety, mostly of the social anxiety variety. I've had it my whole life. About eight years ago, I hit bottom and I ended up going on meds--Effexor to be exact. The freedom I felt on Effexor was amazing. My brain felt balanced, I could write, and I felt less depressed and anxious. The drugs and talk therapy did wonders for me. Recently I changed meds, and zoloft, unfortunately, only covers half of what Effexor does for me, so I am extra spacey these days and more easily distracted--kind of like I was before I started Effexor in the first place.

I could switch back, but honestly, the switching to zoloft was so terrible because Effexor has the WORST withdrawal side effects, that if I switch back, I want it to be for good. So here I am, still on the zoloft and still easily distracted.

Yesterday and today was supposed to be for only working on A DEATH IN THE FAMILY. I had written up my notes, read my articles, did my research and it was time to actually dig in and write.

Then, about a MILLION different thoughts were crowded into my brain. This is why it's hard to work on my writing. I can't seem to focus on just one thing, and I get overwhelmed.

I believe this is because of the zoloft--I have no doubt about it. When I was on Effexor, I didn't have this problem, but now...

So I will try and muddle through--I did do some writing yesterday and tweaked a few things. I guess I just need to try and go with the flow and just work on it as much as I can.

Clearly, until my meds change, this is how it will be. I can be miserable because my brain isn't functioning the way it was before and not write and long for the good old days when I could write, write, write, or I can just go with how my brain is working right now, and write, and at least be writing.

I think that is more important now.

A DEATH IN THE FAMILY will be finished by not in a weekend. I will just keep plugging away at it.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Suspense--Terrible and Perfect

Part of working on a new draft of A DEATH IN THE FAMILY has been reworking a mystery involved in the play. I am NOT a mystery writer, but I need to figure out how to make it work better dramatically. So I've been doing a lot of research on mystery writing, and I am researching suspense right now. I came upon this very long but extremely helpful article: Ian Irvine on Suspense

The article prints out at 9 pages, but it's really helped me dig into the play and I've come up with a lot of things to work on this weekend with it. This is a good thing indeed.

Funny enough, I know this won't last--my depression is too unpredictable at this point to count on being able to write hot every day. Heck, it's less depression and more the nature of the beast of creating, but the depression just isn't helpful. But the last few days I have been plowing carefully through this article, and I think it's helping a lot.

Sure, like I mentioned in my last entry, there's a lot of stuff coming up about basically changing the ENTIRE play. But before, I was beating myself up over it. Now I am just writing it down as something that might be plausible to think about for the play.

Strange how that works.

And hopefully I can kick the mystery up a notch and really have the suspense be terrible. Terrible and perfect.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Brick Walls

I now remember why I was having such a hard time with A DEATH IN THE FAMILY. The part that I have been having a hard time with the mystery involved in the play.

Confession time: I do not know a thing about mysteries. I don't read them, I don't watch them generally, so I am venturing into all new territory.

Here is another problem I am running into--the temptation to change EVERYTHING. I know that sometimes that things will happen with writing and you end up basically starting all over again. I just don't know how much of it is just doubts based on some of the feedback I have gotten or if it's something the play really needs.

So I'm focusing on the mystery involved and will try and improve on that. And I have a curtain call I want to throw in, DRAGNET style.

I still feel good about the play--it's just always scary to go into new territory.

Monday, May 27, 2013

You're Gonna Be Fine

I think I am back in the saddle again.

I recently put out a call to my friends on facebook to read the most recent draft of A DEATH IN THE FAMILY, and a bunch of people stepped up (thank you, you know who you are!). I thought I should actually go back through and read the play again and find the spots where I think things need to be changed that I want to ask the readers specifically about.

Ever since my reading last year and then my rejection from Last Frontier, I just haven't been able to work on it. It's no one's fault--I don't blame anyone. I think I was just coming to a stand still anyway, as far as my writing went. I was feeling burnt out and there were a lot of crazy life things happening (some of which I am still waiting to have happen). I needed a break. It was time. I was still trying to find some breathing room after coming back from Arkansas.

Now I have a new day job, which is wonderful and I am so glad I went after it as hard as I did. I really enjoy it, and my co-workers are fun, and I really enjoy the challenge. I've never had a job like it, and now that I have an office job, i can't imagine doing anything else. So this is good.

So back to A DEATH IN THE FAMILY--I am going to be rewriting a substantial amount of the play, possibly before i even get feedback back. I am going to save a separate draft of it, in case it turns out to be a bad idea. But I don't think it will.

For the first time, I see where all the changes need to happen to make the play stronger. And I want it to be stronger, because I really really love this play and I want everyone else to love it too.

I wrote 6 pages of the holocaust play. It had the most amazing strange energy to it. I don't know if what I wrote is actually going to be in the play, but I do know this: this is the furthest I've gotten on this play since I was introduced to Janusz Korczak in spring of 2005 in my History of the Holocaust class I was taking at Black Hawk College. And that's a big deal.

The fact that I am writing this at all, and actually feel positive about it is kind of miraculous on its own.

Right now I am really getting into FRINGE and this image means a lot to me right now:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Through the Darkness of The Human Heart. a Light, a Light

I am picking up my Holocaust Plays again to work on. Doing research about the Goebbels children makes me sick to my stomach. This is truly one of the darkest periods in humanity--and it's hard not to be affected by it. I don't want to see the day I am not affected by it. It's hard to not get sucked in and get depressed about it all.

But these plays--they must see the light of day. One part of it has stuck with me since Spring 2001 and the other, since 2008. I have only recently figured out how things are supposed to work together, and this is good.

And scary.

This week marks the last week of THE ARTIST'S WAY for me. I finished my notes on it yesterday and just have four days left of my writing to do.

It's strange, I really didn't think it was going to work for me. I thought it would be a little too mystical and foo-foo for me (yes, even for me!), but I stuck through it, even when I didn't want to, and I have come out on the other side of the 12 weeks stronger creatively. I am not writing as often as I was prior to my creative collapse last fall, but I'm coming around. And the ideas are coming like crazy!

And THE ARTIST'S WAY gave me a good push in a different direction for my whole life. I am starting a new day job next week, and I wouldn't have had the courage to even think about seriously getting another job, let alone actually rock the interview like I did. I am very excited about this opportunity, and I am looking forward to working there.

So yeah, I am definitely grateful that I bought a copy of THE ARTIST'S WAY in a second hand store ages and ages ago. Clearly I was meant to have it come back into my life at the right time.

So what does this have to do with my Holocaust Plays (jeez, I need to think of a better title)? My research into the Holocaust has shown me the darkest of the human heart, but also a light through it. The main characters in both plays are these lights through the whole thing. And it reminds me of my journey through my depression to where I am today. Without THE ARTIST'S WAY, I wouldn't have had the courage to try and get these plays to see the light of day. Without THE ARTIST'S WAY, I wouldn't have been prepared to face this work--it is hard work.

I am so looking forward to seeing what comes of these plays and what comes when I share THE ARTIST'S WAY with one of my friends I feel needs it.

Things are not perfect in my writing world, but it's definitely where it should be. And it's getting better all the time.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

French Fries for Jesus: Tectonic Theatre Project

Last week, we ended our work with Tectonic Theatre Project on their work SQUARE PEGS, ROUND HOLES, a work about autism. This whole school year we were studying autism, watching movies and videos, asking hard questions and creating moments, with a presentation at the end of each work period for the semester. There is no way this post is going to do justice to the process and how it changed me, but here goes.

This is going down as one of the pieces of art that has altered me as a person and a writer (ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Attwood is one of the others). Reading about autism, watching movies like LOVING LAMPPOSTS, making moments--all of this has changed my life.

And working with Andy Paris and Anushka Paris Carter, as well as various other Tectonic Theatre people was an absolute delight and dream come true. I didn't think an opportunity like this would come by but maybe once or twice in a lifetime, so I knew I needed to take the opportunity when I could. And it turned out more than I could imagined. The Tectonic Theatre people are some of the most creative, deep, caring, committed, fun, intelligent people I have had the honor of working with. This work changed me--I am more tolerant when it comes to people whose behavior isn't NT--because you don't know what is going on with those people. I have gained a better understanding of myself in terms of possibly being on the spectrum and I have learned a lot from those on the spectrum I have met and becoming friends with (as well as some parents of those on the spectrum).

I also learned that there's a lot of things that need to change in this world as far as those who are differently abled. We all talk a good game about being inclusive, and there are lots of businesses, etc., that are inclusive. But it's made me pay more attention to things. Like, there's a school in Waterloo that is going to be closing at the end of the school year, and it's a school for kids with disabilities. There's a battle about whether kids with disabilities should be integrated or educated separately--the only stand I will make on it is that it should be decided based on what each child needs--not as a blanket decision--but upon hearing this, I wondered about the kids, the parents, the teachers, and what would happen to them next year.

I digress. This was the best thing I could have done for myself as an artist and a person. My world has expanded--thank you, Tectonic Theatre Project! Hope to see you back in Cedar Falls, Iowa, soon and then we can all have some French Fries for Jesus.

Please check out their site--you won't regret it.