Friday, March 29, 2013

YAY! It's Good Friday!

I know.  Not quite the right sentiments.  It's kinda along the lines of the inward chuckle I do when the Southern Baptists say, "Oh, we don't celebrate Lent in our church."  (Uh, we don't either... ) But honestly, this has been a particularly lenty Lent, and I'm over it. Guess I'm a part of the crowd yelling "Crucify him!" and let's get to the good stuff.

I'm ready to roll away the stone and get on with life.  I'm ready to take something that looks dead, like a rock or an egg, and paint it up purdy or hatch from it.  Bring on the Easter.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Quotes to Haunt My Writing

Yesterday's poem made reference to the quotes/mottos I have put on the wall next to my writing desk this year.  You may recognize something you said, so feel free to claim it.  I also claim it as something that resonates with me, an idea I need to ponder as I create.
You can barely see the Tibetan prayer flags hanging from the shelf above.
I have become especially fond of doodling owls lately.
The yellow post-it says "Imply a question and they will read for the answer." 

 I also have my Aunt Rachel to thank for all the cool stamps.  When she retired from teaching elementary school she gave them to my kids and we spent an afternoon stamping things and having lots of fun!

What quotes do you keep at your writing desk?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

a poem for playwrights

This is for all the other playwrights out there going through the submission process.

Today I remembered the Pledge,
   dusted off and shined my writing desk,
   hung a new motto on the wall to haunt myself,
   and set about the business
   of offering myself
         a piece of my mind
         a quadrant of my pulsing heart
         a tendril of my spirit
   to the world:

With a final push today, I have completed my submission goal and am content now to wait.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Theatres Don't Say "YES" to a Play They Don't Know About

I decided a long time ago I'd just have to suck an MFA out of my own thumb.  But when I resolved in 2013 to become more connected in the theatre world via social media etc., I had no idea the path I was setting myself on.  What an education I have had in the last three months.

First, I've discovered playwrights, directors & dramaturgs who also blog.  They have become a valuable source of perspective and inspiration.  I would recommend the following:

  • Gwydion Suilebhan - @GwydionS - in particular, his "Advice to Young Playwrights" 
  • Melissa Hillman - @MelissaImpact - in particular, her "Why Your Play Was Rejected" 
  • Brian Doyle - @writeplay - he will submit a query or script 365 days for one year 
Melissa has challenged me to think about how I represent women in my plays-- to make women drive the action of the play by their choices, not simply react to the men in their lives.  She has also made me wonder about how to garner feedback from those Artistic Directors and Literary Managers who my read my plays but reject them (for whatever completely legitimate reason).  I'll be doing some research into Survey Monkey and potentially giving it a whirl and testing the waters.  (I'll let you know how that goes.)

Gwydion has reminded me that it's ok to come late to the playwrighting party.  Not only that, he has brought to the forefront an idea that has been there for some time:  I do have a Dangerous Idea.  Now, where did I put it?  Ha!  But it does make me think danger instead of safe or palatable or popular.  It reminds me that I can do a brilliant thing even out here in my Appalachian holler, far far away from the hub of anything.

Brian Doyle, as noted above, is submitting every day for a year.  It's a reminder every time I see his tweets pop up on my feed that theatres will not, can not, say YES to a play they don't know about.  I shouldn't say NO to myself by letting my plays languish on my hard drive.  If I want to see my work produced again, it is up to me to get it out there, as disheartening as it can be.

And it is disheartening.  Here is the crux of the submission turmoil:  to send something out, the playwright must believe in it, have hope that it will find a new home, while simultaneously steeling herself against what will 99.5% of the time be rejection (with no explanation)--so therefore, disown hope.  One should just submit and forget.  No blame.  It's just the way things are.  Learn to live with the tension.

I also stumbled upon (via a Twitter retweet) Patrick Gabridge's blog post about his 11 year-old Yahoo! Group of playwrights who "Binge" twice a year.  During a "Binge" they each set themselves a submission goal and seek to support each other in meeting their goals by posting opportunities playwrights might not know about otherwise.  It seemed too serendipitous to ignore that I learned of this group right at the end of February.  So, I joined in with the goal of submitting my plays to 31 different theatres/contests/opportunities.  (Or making queries about submitting.)

Thus far, I have made 27 inquiries or submissions in March.  More than I ever have in a single month before (even including poetry submissions).  I have also made a few new connections with other playwrights.  Also, I have put in a ridiculous number of hours researching theatres, reading through their particular requests (unpublished, unproduced or open to 2nd runs, cast size, missions, 10 page sample, full script, production hisotry etc.)  I've crossed out more as "not good fits" for my work than I've circled as potential matches.

Submission really does call to mind a humbling stance-- head bowed, eyes downcast, script offered up.  Yet, I have gained strength too, if I look closely enough.  I can feel proud of myself for meeting my submission goals, educating myself by reading and engaging in virtual discussion, and developing relationships with other playwrights.

Nonetheless, I will be glad when March is over and submitting isn't my priority anymore.  It is taking its toll.  But I'm putting my head down and leaning into the wind.  In April, I can get back to my first love: writing.  Spring is just around this snowy corner.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Strange Dreams (not so strange)

The other night I had a very vivid dream:

I was a new hire at a hash-slinging greasy spoon breakfast joint.  I reported for my first day already into the morning shift and was helping out with some other task (rolling silverware in napkins,  maybe?) when they suddenly got slammed and I was sent to a full table that had already been sitting for a while.

I dashed to the waitress station, checked that I had a pen in my apron, and fumbled through the box of half-used order pads to scribble customer's choices on.  The order pad I chose had an unusual message on the top: "a feminist works here" was emblazoned in redish pink across the top of every sheet.  That's fitting, I thought and headed over to the 10-top, complete with several kids.

The family I was waiting on was perfectly nice despite the fact that they'd been sitting there for a while and had kids... but I found myself floundering because I couldn't give recommendations or answer their questions adequately.  I need to be sure to take a menu home and study it tonight, I thought.  I wanted to be able to do my job well and felt frustrated I hadn't been better trained, and frustrated too, that my poor performance might reflect negatively on me (not my fault!) and the restaurant that hired me.  It was nobody's fault, really, but the situation was not one that lent itself to a satisfying experience for anyone.  I kept a smile on my face, and just adopted a "get-'er-done" kind of attitude.  Why am I working here? I asked myself.

When recalling the dream the next day, I had to wonder what it all meant, so did a little perusing of my favorite dream-sleuthing site.  And here's what it had to say:

Waiter To dream that you are a waiter or waitress indicates that you are too busy catering to the needs and demands of others, instead of your own. You feel that you are underappreciated as you wait on others hand and foot. You need to be more assertive and stand up for yourself. Consider the quality of service that you are giving for additional significance.

Oh, that made a lot of sense considering some of my current involvements (other than being a mom).  The "quality of service" part is what really struck me.  And it also made the choice of my order pad all the more metaphorically loaded.  I knew in the dream, like I know in my waking life, that I need to stand up for myself -- that's the essence of being a woman-feminist.  So why aren't I doing it?  Why do I persist in sublimating what I want?

I just couldn't get that order pad out of my head.  It's a powerful image for me anymore. But it doesn't exist anywhere -- so I had to do my best to recreate it.

Thanks to Brad Thomas, who let me use an image from his very cool steampunk etsy shop, I was able to at least recreate a digital version.

It haunts me just a little, the implicit irony.