Tag Archives: writing

Writers at Play 3rd Annual(ish) Reading Series

My writing group’s third public reading series is tomorrow night!

WAP 2018

Writers at Play

2018 Showcase of New Work

Michael Towers: On Marriage: A Modern Absurdism
Colleen M. Hughes: Súgán
Deirdre Girard: Resettlement
Peter M. Floyd: Infestation

You’re invited to a sneak preview of four brand-new plays by none other than my writing group, Writers at Play. We’re excited to share this journey of new work created by alumni of Boston University’s graduate program in playwriting.

FREE

Tuesday, May 22nd at 7:30 pm
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
949 Comm. Ave.

Reception to follow!

Cast: Lewis D. Wheeler, Amanda Collins, Christine Power, and Ciera-Sadé Wade

Learn more about we the playwrights, our distinct voices, and the other projects we have on the horizon. Sample a few scenes from each new play, read by the professional actors who support Writers at Play throughout the early development process.

 

Also be sure to check out the work of John Zakrosky, Jr., the fifth member of our group, who was unable to make Tuesday’s reading but who has been hard at work with us all season.

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Where Are They Now?

My plays, I mean. I’m infamous for getting a play about 80% there and then not being able to make the final push to getting it into a producible shape. It’s why I can get myself readings but never anything beyond that. It’s also likely why I tend to get myself discouraged and tell myself I’m just not cut out for this because I lack both the talent and the drive. One thing I excel at though is beating up on myself, and I need to not do that. I can definitely get plays into producible shape. I went through an MFA program and I held my own with classmates who are amazing writers. I may have gone into the program not really knowing how to write a play and know zero people in the local theatre scene, but it’s been six or seven years and I have a good network of people and I’m at least at the level of “oh, I think I’ve heard your name around…???” when people meet me. So, yes, I can do this.

But the plays need to get their collective asses in gear. They’re all in various states of disarray. But I’m working on them, and here now is my commitment to them. I need to do that thing you shouldn’t do on a public-facing site and express nerves about my work, because I’m me and my site is going to reflect that so deal with it. (Confidence?) So here’s where the full-lengths stand as I gear up for this year’s Writers at Play season.

The Prayer Bargain

My first “real” play. My first-ever play was my undergrad thesis fairytale written-in-verse nightmare, but this play was my MFA thesis and could actually go somewhere beyond O’Kane 481 at Holy Cross (I love 481 though, nothing against it). I wrote the first draft of this in 2009-2010, and I keep coming back to it, determined to get it right. I got some really great feedback on it this summer that I am currently trying to incorporate. What I’m struggling with is that something really has to CHANGE (it’s a fucking play, that’s kind of the point), but it’s a family play, and in my experience, family doesn’t change. Problems exist in an evolving but recurring spiral. I’m struggling with getting my characters to effect change because I don’t know how to do so in my own family, so I have no “write what you know” experience to draw from. But I’m working on something happening. When I finish this draft I really want to get another reading up. I’m not giving up on this play. It’s the only one my dad ever got to see any sort of live performance of, so it’s special.

Directive 47

I cannot get this play to sound like me. Normally, I can at the very least do dialogue. Plot I am kind of all over the place with, but dialogue I can handle. This play has always sounded like people orating at each other. And I can’t stand it. I did a reading at Erbaluce last January where it really stuck out. I just wanted to keep drinking wine but I couldn’t get up to refill my glass. The feedback from that reading was invaluable, but I need to have the mental energy for a deep-dive back into this one that I don’t know if I have at the moment. So it’s sort of in a back-of-my-mind letting-the-feedback-stir phase. This play goes through lots of that.

What frustrates me so much is that this play has gotten the most attention of anything I’ve written—I get accepted into more programs when it’s my writing sample, it’s gotten more readings and gotten further in competitions, etc.—but I KNOW that Prayer Bargain is much further developed and that the actual dialogue writing is so much better. That throws me into all sorts of self-doubt. Are people just responding to the topical issues in Directive 47? Or could it be a really good play if I just fucking sat down and fixed all its problems? On the other hand, Prayer Bargain is sooo close to done…does that mean it’s just Not Good and it’s never going to go anywhere even when it’s as good as it can possibly be?

The Travellers

This one is at a completed-second-draft stage. i.e. it is still a mess. I have a section of it going up on Boston Podcast Players in a few months.

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Photo by Boston Podcast Players.

This is my awesome cast recording the play in August with me appearing via Skype (I was in New Jersey). I’m excited for people to actually get to hear the reading because it will have been several months by then. This play is a bit of a conundrum. It’s whimsical and fun, and it could ALMOST work as a young audiences play…except that most of the main roles are for adults. I sort of envisioned it as an all-ages play…one that middle and high school kids would like and could totally perform but one that could also be done by a regular theatre and adults would enjoy it. Like Doctor Who. Who (pun intended) I’m clearly inspired by here. If I went full out and made it a young audiences play, does that make it “less” of a play in any sense? I say no. I love writing for kids. But it also closes it off to so many opportunities and gets it kind of limited. There’s also the Traveller’s identity which is kind of one of those not-so-secret secrets. I need to work it so that the reveal moment doesn’t feel like a Big Reveal (at least to the audience) because it’s like “yeah, obviously.” I don’t want people to think I’m stupid. He looked at me like I was stupid, I’m not stupid. yes.

Time Steps

Poor sad Time Steps is stalled out around page 25. The beginning keeps getting rewritten.  This is my play about tap dance and memories and life and death and friendship, and I want it to be imbued with rhythm and movement and FEEL like tap but right now it feels like girls being catty to each other, and then I get discouraged and I want to throw things. First drafts are fun. I want to keep pushing ahead with this one though. It’s one that will be more fun to work on once it’s written and I can actually play with the dance.

Untitled Sound-Movement-Poetic-Something

This only exists as a line (half a line, maybe) on a page right now. I started it during one of the above-mentioned times that Time Steps was making me want to throw things and 2017 was making me question my existence. I don’t know if anything will ever come of it. It has no concept other than “I miss being able to move and I want to write something more lyrical.” Oddly enough back in my undergrad Creative Writing program where I focused on poetry, I thought I was terrible with having any sort of lyric quality to my writing. I also was at the most miserable, lonely point in my life and all my poetry was looking back on a childhood and a home I could never have, so maybe my writing has improved now that I’m mentally better. I’d like to do something with this. Without it seeming melodramatic and stupid. I’m not sure if I know how. I wish I had a dance studio in my room so I could just move around and play with ideas.

This post was completely self-serving. I don’t mind if you didn’t read it. It was more of a collecting my thoughts on my writing and looking ahead as writing group time starts up than about trying to be clever. Plays, people! I sometimes write them.

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The Free(lance) Folk

There are so many articles out there about how to make the move from full-time work to freelance, and practically all of them advise having a 6-12 month “safety net” in place before doing so. There’s even a good handful of articles about how to jump into freelancing *without* the safety net…but even in all those articles the writer seems to find a way to get their freelance income to basically equal their full-time income before they make the leap. What I don’t see out there is advice for what to do if freelancing is thrust upon you due to job loss, you have zero safety net, you still haven’t made close to your old salary after a year, and lately you haven’t even been able to set money aside for taxes because your monthly bills are eating most of your income. Yeah. There’s no advice for that.

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I love freelancing. I love setting my own schedule and being on my own. I love working from home, or from wherever I want. I love not having ridiculous corporate evaluations. I no longer need to feel like my skills aren’t valued because I’m not an extrovert who prances about making small-talk. I even would enjoy being responsible for the money…if there were enough of it there.

The problem is that I just DO NOT know how to piece together anywhere near what I was making before. Right now I’m not even making close to what I made fresh out of college when I was 22. In publishing. In 2004. My student loans have gone down since then, and my car is paid off, but I have credit card debt from vacations I took when I had a real job and thought I’d be able to pay them down, and the student loans aren’t going anywhere. I can’t save. I’m way behind in the money I need to be setting aside for taxes, and I have anxiety attacks about it at 4:30 in the morning because, you know, that’s the perfect time to be thinking about money.

So how do you do it? How do these people who freelance edit/write survive? Are they all married to rich people? If not, where are they finding the high-paying gigs and/or the time to squish enough work into the week that they make enough? I can’t even afford to live anywhere but my grandmother’s attic. And how do you do it when no one really believes that you can and doesn’t think it’s worth trying?

I just recently picked up another editing client. It’s been helping fill in the gaps around getting papers from my main client. I have one writing gig that brings in a bit of extra cash. Then I random get little temporary marketing writing gigs that I sort of just stumble into through connections that also bring in a bit of extra cash. But I never have enough. I have budgets. I know how much I need to be making. I just haven’t been able to do it. I wanted to be able to write a “How to Freelance When You’ve Been Thrown Into It” article, but it’s more like I need someone to write one for ME.

For now I’m going to keep going. I’m going to get a loan for whatever I can’t pay in taxes and use any extra to put towards my credit cards. Then I’ll have just one payment to handle (or at least one less payment). I’ll really focus on my editing and churn out a paper a day every day I have one available. There will be more days where that’s possible now that I have two clients. I’ve only just started getting paychecks from the second client, so maybe it will start to improve a little. And if someone wants to write that advice column for what to do when you have no safety net and didn’t waltz right into a high salary, I’d love to read it.

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Beverly Cleary Forever

One of my favorite authors turned 100 today. The amazing Ms. Beverly Cleary, author of the first chapter book I ever read (Ramona Quimby, Age 8, when I was, fittingly, 8 years old), has been telling stories to kids for generations, since she published her first book in 1950. (Who else learned what bluing was because of her?) I grew up with her characters regardless of what decade they lived in. I freaked out with Ramona when her dad lost his job because my dad had just lost his. I maybe even stole some of her cigarette-hiding ideas to get my dad to quit (it didn’t work). I commiserated with Ellen Tebbits about changing in front of people when I was a dancer (luckily woolen underwear was not a thing by my day–also who wears underwear with dance tights, Ellen?). And I learned more about writing and character development than I ever realized at the time. Thanks, Beverly Cleary.

With that, in honor of her birthday, here are four of her books you have to read right now. Even if you don’t have kids to read them with. Just read them.

1. Ramona the Pest

ramona

Ramona starts kindergarten. She discovers things like Susan’s boingy curls that she just has to pull and the joy of brand-new boots. This remains one of my favorite books of all time.
Highlights: So many! Ramona being told to “sit here for the present” and thinking that she’ll get an actual present, and then she’s afraid to go outside for recess because she might not get her present anymore if she gets up.
Ramona telling Beezus to turn on the “dawnzer” when it’s too dark in the room (“it gives a lee light”).
Ramona’s mom telling her to leave for school at “quarter-past,” and a quarter is worth twenty-five cents, so she therefore leaves at twenty-five past. And everything looks different because it’s later than usual, and also she’s five years old and walking to school alone–wow 1950s, you don’t play around.

2. Fifteen

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Jane Purdy is fifteen and starts dating her first boyfriend, Stan Crandall, who is just dreamy, with his green eyes and perfect tan. Why would he ever like a girl like Jane, when there are girls like Marcy Stokes around, the “cashmere-sweater types” who make Jane feel mousy and unimportant. This cover may look like 1987 threw up all over it, but the book was written in 1956. Parts of it are delightfully dated (dogs eat fresh horsemeat that gets delivered in a truck, like the milkman but, you know, horsemeat), and there are parts that make you think “how casually racist of you, Buzz Bratton, no wonder you’re not as popular as Stan,” but overall this story of first love is timeless.
Highlights: Sir Puss, the Purdy family cat, deciding to plant himself down in the middle of the living room and lick his butt while Stan is meeting the parents.
Jane’s bff Julie’s description of Stan’s date to the dance: “Everybody calls her Bitsy, because she is such a little bitsy thing….You know the type. She has to wear real high heels, because she is so little. The type that makes the other girls feel big and awkward. Especially me. She made me feel all wool and a yard wide as if I should be running around with a hockey stick instead of dancing.”

3. The Luckiest Girl

luckiest-girl

This was published only two years after Fifteen, but it always felt less dated to me for some reason. In my head it’s a 60s book even though it’s from 1958. Sixteen-year-old Shelley gets to leave rainy Oregon and travel to California for the semester, where there are orange and olive trees, and no one has ever heard of Munchkins–excuse me, doughnut holes–and star basketball player Philip Blanton likes her. But she’s young and dumb and takes almost the entire book to figure out that the real boy of her dreams was right there the whole time, sitting behind her in homeroom.
Highlights: Shelley’s pink raincoat with a black velveteen collar and matching hat with a velveteen button on top, which is completely hideous back home in Oregon but super-adorable in California. I have wanted this raincoat to be mine to this day.
“‘Mother, they’ve crowned me Queen of the May,’ exclamation point,” which shy, awkward Luke had to read in front of his class.
Shelley starting to realize that maybe Philip isn’t all that great after all…when he tells her he doesn’t want to go to college and would rather just work on trees. (“Nobody was a poor woodcutter in this day and age.”)

4. Beezus and Ramona

beezus and ramona

I was going to limit myself to just one Ramona book, but this book is for Beezus, the plain-Jane older sister whose shining moment in life came the day when Selena Gomez was cast as her in a movie. Basically Ramona spends one chapter after another ruining Beezus’ life in various ways, culminating with baking her doll into Beezus’ birthday cake. Beezus learns that sometimes it’s OK to not love your little sister when she’s being a pain in the ass. It’s kind of a shocking and also relieving message to hear when you’re a kid.
Highlights: Beezus thinking she has no imagination but managing to paint a kick-ass candy dragon in art class.
Ramona not wanting to return her steam-shovel book to the library, so she writers her “name” (aka i’s and t’s, her favorite letters) on every page.
Ramona riding her trike around the house all morning singing “I’m going to have a par-ty!” and then the family being shocked when kids start to arrive and she actually does throw herself a party. You think they’d have learned by now.

 

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Dear Spambot Commenters,

Hello, spambot commenters! Thank you for stumbling across my blog. And for leaving me comments. It makes me feel like my opinions bring up many interesting points that are really spot-on. Especially when you tell me that you “like all the points I made about this subject” and that I was “spot-on with this writeup.”

However, I really don’t need your advice on how to make my website better by getting more Google hits. I do not need to visit your spamlink for alleged SEO software that can create unique Google-friendly content in a couple of seconds.

You see, when I’m not writing, I’m editing. I do a lot of editing for SEO. A lot. In fact, I should be doing that right now. I have basically been editing nonstop today for over 12 hours, until I received a comment on my website about my interesting content that was exceptionally well written but could be even more successful.

So, next time you want to auto-spam my page, please just stick to the usual pEn!s enLarGements and young 18 y.o. Russian ladies.

Thanks.

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D-D-D-Do You Have It?

I recently applied for the Nickelodeon Writers Fellowship, along with likely thousands of others who probably already have tv credits to their name. It was my first foray into the world of writing spec scripts, and I wrote an episode of Community. So now, NBC, you are not allowed to cancel this show at the end of the season so that I can maximize this spec’s shelf life (#sixseasonsandamovie).

Of course, since I submitted the application on February 28, I have been thinking about all of the things I must have answered horribly wrong on the short answer responses. They only give you 50 words to answer why you want the fellowship, and I didn’t go funny on my bio, and maybe I should have, though I was afraid of seeming naive and unprofessional. So there’s no way I said everything I wanted to say. I’ve been needing to get my real answer out of my system for weeks. So, I now present…

“What I Wanted to Say” (In Well Over 50 Words)
I am the biggest Classic Nickelodeon nerd. I used to have a blog recapping episodes of classic shows, Television Without Pity-style. (It is still apparently the top result when you google the immortal Busdriver Stu Benedict’s quote “Passengers will refrain from KILLING MY SOUL!!!” from Pete and Pete. Which I’m sure people google all the time.)

I grew up with Nickelodeon from the days of Pinwheel and You Can’t Do That On Television through their early 90s Golden Age. I remember Special Delivery and Marc Summers’ Halloween special. I had the Finders Keepers board game that my mom insisted on returning to the store after she realized you had to hide the game tokens by throwing your own crap from around the house into a cardboard box.

The Finders Keepers boardgame, in all its 80s glory.

In all its 80s glory.

I entered Slime Time for a good four years straight and was never called. I would seriously sit there willing my phone to ring and have it be the Slime Time people on the other end. I entered the Super Toy Run that the boys always seemed to win. I didn’t enter Nick-or-Treat because I was too embarrassed to answer the phone saying “Nick-or-Treat!” only to have it be my aunt.

The station ID bumpers and other Nick commercials are forever lodged in my brain. I could recite about ten of them right now. I remember Picture Pages, and Bananaman, and DangerMouse. And I’m probably one of the only people in the country who worries about what will happen to the Nick Time Capsule now that Nickelodeon Studios is long gone.

I tried to write an episode of Rugrats once. I think it started out as an episode of Rugrats and then morphed into my own original story. It involved ordering a birthday cake. I also was always making up pretend adventures where my brothers and I were the characters from the various Nicktoons. The first three Nicktoons premiered on August 11, 1991 (and I knew that without having to google the date), and that summer we spent a week or two up at my uncle’s lake house in New Hampshire. Nickelodeon promoted the hell out of the upcoming cartoons, so in the weeks before they actually aired, I’d make up my own stories about them based on the bit of info from the teaser ads. I was not happy when I’d been playing Angelica for weeks only to watch the show and discover that she was a heinous little bitch.

I also watch shows that I am far too old for and should be embarrassed to admit to liking. Drake and Josh could be fun, and I was convinced that Zoey 101 was a great show if you removed Zoey from it (nothing against Jamie Lynn Spears… the character was just way too perfect at absolutely everything and had zero faults). And I loved iCarly. Loved it. I was out of college when it premiered, but I didn’t care. One time, when I was still working at my scientific research publishing company, I was out sick and, of course, watching after-school iCarly (did they still call it Nick in the Afternoon by that point?). To my complete surprise, I saw an issue of my journal in one of the kids’ lockers. My scientific research journal that no one younger than college-age bio majors would ever read. I immediately had to download the episode so I could pause it and confirm. And then I sent a screenshot into my company’s newsletter with the lame excuse that I had been flipping channels and “just happened” to see it. I am probably the only person, except maybe scientists who watch tv with their kids, who cared that an issue of Cell was in iCarly.

I’ve known for a very long time that my dream job would be writing for children. Whenever I think of my favorite books, movies, or tv shows, a wide majority of them are written for kids. I want to give future kids the same memories that I had with Doug, Clarissa, and Pete and Pete. I want future 23-year-olds to shamelessly watch kids shows I wrote because they’re just that fun and awesome. I wish I could convey all of this in 50 words or less, but I can’t. They’ll just have to interview me I guess.

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Back in action

Wow, it’s been a long time. So long that it looks like WordPress has updated their New Post window. This is just a quick pre-work update on all of the things that have been inhibiting me from updating (i.e., an excuse blog! I’m great at those).

Speaking of pre-work, I have a new job now! Am I writerly enough to call it a “day job”? I don’t want to sound obnoxious. Anyway. I’ve been here two and a half months. I’m not working from home anymore, and I’m up and at work before I used to have to even be awake. It’s been an adjustment. I hate mornings.

I also moved! I am back in the hometown of Somerville. I moved about a month ago, but I’m still unpacking and getting things settled. It’s one of those moves where the unpacking feels overwhelming and I just don’t want to do it. I probably should force myself to work on it tonight a little.

The hardest update, which is probably why unpacking has been so overwhelming, is that Allan (the boyfriend) moved back to Arkansas and we’re currently doing the long-distance thing. Long-distance is extra-hard when his internet is limited to a certain amount of data because cable and DSL aren’t available in his area, so skyping has to be limited. It’s been hard, but we’re making it work one day at a time.

So all of this has left me completely out of it writing-wise. I’ve worked on a few things lately though, so I’m starting to get back into it, hooray! The other day I was working on seeing what my fairytale play Mirror, Mirror would be like adapted into sort of an early-reader chapterbook. I haven’t decided if it will work yet. I was adding a frame story to it which I like, but I’m not sure if the material I have would be too long for a book in that age group.

In any case, I also want to adapt that play into a play for young audiences. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. What’s held me back is that I think the verse element needs to go. And that kills me. This play was my undergrad thesis, my very first little proto-play, and the verse was SO. HARD. to write. But I need to think of it in terms of theatricality now, not just academics. And I need to think about what will play better on the stage, especially for kids. And if there’s not a good, necessary for the story reason for it to be in verse, I should cut it. I can keep the lyricism and rhythm of the language without being so limited by the form. But like I said, it kills me.

I’ve also been a children’s lit kick lately, and I want to try my hand at writing a book for kids. The play adaptation is serving as a sort of “practice session” for that to play with the form and get more of a handle on it. It’s weird when you’ve been writing drama for so long that you suddenly sit down to fiction and it feels foreign. It’s like, “you mean I just can’t write ‘setting: the bedroom of two young girls’ and have a set designer make it all pretty for me? I have to actually use words to describe it???”

My latest project has been a much-needed revise on The Prayer Bargain. I had one of those flashes of insight while taking a shower the other night, and I think I’ve figured out Molly’s journey and what she wants. Being back in Somerville means I’m on this play’s stomping grounds, so I’m getting more excited to finally tinker with the problems this play’s been having.

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