Tues. May 26, 2020: Die For Your Employer Day 8

Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Foggy and humid

I feel much better after taking some time off. Not that I was sitting around doing nothing. It was a busy few days. But it was a good few days, with fewer external pressures than internal ones, and it helped me get clarity on a few issues I needed in order to move forward.

I have new covers for all six Topic Workbooks. New editions are coming out over the next few months. I’m in the process of updating the information. Instead of uniform covers, each now has a unique cover with a Topic Workbook logo. I am going to take the old workbooks off Smashwords as the new ones are revised, and put the new ones up through a different distributor.

I’m working on the update for the Submission Systems workbook. With the way publishing has changed over the past few years, it needs updating, especially when it comes to things like online portfolios.

I’m hoping I can start rolling them out by the end of June or beginning of July. That will depend on how fast I can update them, because they need two full weeks pulled from distribution before I can release them via the new distributor.

The 99 cent sale is still on for PLAYING THE ANGLES, SAVASANA AT SEA, and TRACKING MEDUSA. That will be on until May 31, and I have promotions up via Tweetdeck every day.

Worked on some fiction writing, but didn’t push. Have to start pushing again this week, because there are deadlines, expectations, necessities. I have to keep the long-term balls up in the air while also pushing harder for short-term, immediate income balls. So it means longer hours and cutting more frustrations out of my life, unless they pay a lot in the immediate short term.

Got out a few LOIs, in spite of being, technically, on break.

It was pretty out on Friday, so I got some flower planting done. Cleaned out some boxes in the basement, got some files organized, tossed a lot of stuff I no longer need or can use. Sat on the deck for a bit.

One neighbor, who’s been sick with the virus, had a party on Friday night. He’s still sick, lost half his body weight, but he had people over, no masks, no social distancing. The wind carried over the part of the conversation about “catching it from those Chinese people” he works with. I’m disappointed in the ignorance.

The neighbors on the other side had company in and out all weekend, too. For some reason, they seem to think if they sit outside in the driveway, they won’t get sick. So they set their cars up like a barrier to the street, and put plastic tables and chairs out in the driveway, in front of the garage, and have people over. Now, they have a large yard and a deck. So I have no idea what the reasoning is. But hey, if it works for them, great.

Saturday, I lost count of the loads of laundry I did – mattress pads, blankets, winter stuff along with the usual sheets, towels, and clothes. Laundry all damn day. It was cold and rainy. I also baked tollhouse cookies. Cleaned out some more boxes. Progress is slow on purging the basement. There’s an overwhelming amount to do, and there’s also the psychological aspects of letting go of parts of my past that have often defined me.

But it’s time I redefined myself.

Kripalu is closed to visitors for the rest of the year, which had to be a difficult decision for them, but the right one. The Edinburgh Festival and Fringe is also cancelled in August. Again, a tough decision, but the right one in the long run.

Did some of my Susanna Centlivre reading, so I can start forming the play in my head before I try to write it down. I have some characters and scenes percolating, but I’m still trying to find a catalyst and a plot.

Read Deanna Chase’s WITCHING FOR GRACE, which was fun. Read two other mysteries, by different authors, which I found sort of “meh.”

Tessa, Charlotte, and Willa all spent some time in the same room without grumbling at each other, which was excellent progress. Tessa and Willa can manage quite well, and Willa and Charlotte are fine, but Tessa and Charlotte still have issues most of the time. But we’re working on it.

There’s so much talk about opening businesses “safely” but it’s just not happening. People are travelling in just for the day or the weekend. They’re not quarantining. They’re not wearing masks. There are no immediate consequences against them for being irresponsible, and it puts the rest of us at risk. It’s infuriating.

So I’m just plugging along, doing the best I can to keep my family safe.

I have a confession to make: I haven’t ordered on Amazon thus far, except eBooks to support fellow authors. But I broke down this weekend and ordered bamboo sheets. We need some new sheets, and I wanted to try the bamboo ones. I also ordered a “playpen” so I can take Willa and Tessa out on the deck (though not at the same time). But the latter was from Chewy, not Amazon.

Scored two absolutely adorable, padded ice cream parlor chairs on Craigslist from a place in Cotuit on Sunday morning. It was a no-contact pick-up. I was geared up and sanitized when I put them in the car, then disinfected them and myself when I got home. They are adorable and a perfect addition to our enchanted deck garden.

Yesterday, got some writing done in the morning. Did admin work, and prepped some paperwork that has to go off today.

Working on a big website project, and also working to update/cleanup/bring in new content on all my other websites. AND do new editions of the Topic Workbooks. AND work on the old Llewellyn material. AND get back on track with the books.

A lot to juggle.

Trying to figure out how to up the stakes on the book I’m working on (the untitled one, in longhand, that’s my first writing session of the day). I’m in the second third of it, and need to raise the stakes and make it more active. I’m trying to keep this book fairly lean. I keep reminding myself I don’t need to put everything in this book. Keep it simple. Deal with the main plot and a couple of subplots that are setting up longer arcs. Originally, I was going to have the plot thread through a long-term piece in which the protagonist was involved. Now, I want to compress the coming action in to the next few days. I think that will help pace.

I have a telemedicine conference with my doctor this morning, and then I have to go onsite for a client. Supposedly, I will be alone in the office today. Let’s hope it’s true. I have a mask, etc. anyway, just in case. Although this client does the whole passive aggressive mask thing “I can’t understand you when you wear a mask.” Well, then, let’s go back to fully remote. There is NO reason I need to be in the office more than an hour a week to download photographs that I then use in the materials. EVERYTHING else I do can be done remotely. If you’re going to force me into the office, then you can damn well wear the mask and not bitch about it.

This week is going to be challenging, on multiple levels. I’m trying to keep my cool, without letting myself be a doormat.

I am so sick of assholes.

 

Mon. June 18, 2018: Follow Your Dreams — A Personal Story #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, June 18, 2018
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde

I’ve lived my life by that motto.

I knew I wanted to be a writer by the time I was six years old. I published in school magazines and newspapers. As a teen, I wrote plays, and I did press releases and other articles for local and regional newspapers about the high school music groups with which I was associated.

In college, I got away from the writing (although I wrote plenty of awful poetry) when I committed to theatre. I graduated high school early, tested my way out of freshman year, and entered Florida State University in Tallahassee mid-year. I took a stage lighting class. I was supposed to put in 20 hours of lab work in the theatre during the semester. I put 20 hours in my first week and never left the building until I transferred to NYU’s film and television program a year later. I got terrific experience at FSU, and even picked up a few side rock and roll gigs.

I transferred to NYU and got into the film department. My first day in film school, I met the guy who still, all these decades later, is one of my closest friends. But, because I was practical and a problem-solver, I wound up more on the production management level than the writing level. I had two brilliant professors, who encouraged me, and with whom I’m still in contact. One was my screenwriting professor, and I wish I’d studied more with him. I still use what I learned from him, in screenwriting, playwrighting, radio writing, and novels.

I picked up theatre jobs here and there. In other words, I started earning my living in the arts when I was 18. Any non-arts job I ever had was only temporary, and in between shows, for the cash. I knew I wasn’t suited to an office job or anything the fearful call “a real job.” Honey — working in the arts is about giving EVERYTHING and leaving it out there. It’s far more real than ANY office job. So shut the eff up.

When I graduated from NYU, I moved to the west coast for three years to work in regional theatre. I knew I needed experiences outside of New York. I loved it, but I also knew that if I was going to realize my dream of working on Broadway, I had to be in New York. While I was west, I spent some time in LA and knew it wasn’t for me.

I came back east, initially to help with a family issue, for two months. I immediately landed a stage management job and worked my way up in the off-off-off-off Broadway community. (I had worked as a stage manager and production manager in San Francisco, and as a props person in Seattle). I switched to wardrobe (as a stage manager in small SF companies, I’d often both stage managed and handled quick changes). I worked my way from off-off-off Broadway to off-off Broadway and then to off-Broadway. I did some work in New York as a stage manager and an associate production manager, for the Pearl Theatre and for Manhattan Class Company. I did wardrobe for the Vineyard, and then spent several seasons at Manhattan Theatre Club, which led to open-ended runs rather than repertory.

While I was still working off-off Broadway, I spent three years working during the day for an art book publisher. I learned an enormous amount that has served my writing career well, working both sides of the table. I worked in the development offices of the Neuberger Museum and the Guggenheim Museum. At the latter, I spent my lunch hour walking the museum, immersing myself in the art. I worked part-time for five years for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation, when it was so small the staff consisted of the Executive Director and me, putting on seminars and support groups and roundtables and award shows. I learned so much.

It was at Manhattan Theatre Club where I had the honor of working with Arthur Miller and Athol Fugard within the same six months. I’d started writing again. Even though I was the wardrobe girl, Athol respected that I wrote, that I was starting to define myself as a writer. He invited me to sit in on rehearsals any time I wanted, to ask any questions I wanted. I did, and I learned an amazing amount from him. He directed what he wrote, but he kept his writing self and his directing self separate.

On the first day of rehearsal, in his opening remarks, he said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the writer is dead in this process. There will be no revisions during rehearsal. The bad news is that I promised him you chaps would speak every line exactly as written.”

I loved it. He demanded respect for the words. No paraphrasing (which American actors tend to do more than any other actors, claiming to be “in the moment” when, in reality, most of them simply haven’t bothered to take the time to memorize).

I worked with Arthur Miller within the same six months (their plays were produced one after the other in the season). I adored him. He was one of the most vibrant, vital, intelligent people I ever met. He used to hang out in the wardrobe room during the show sometimes.

At the time, I was getting back into writing. Monologues for actresses with whom I worked, who couldn’t find good monologues for auditions. Who landed the job every time they used something I wrote for them. I was also working on a short story, for a themed competition.

I wrote the first draft on butcher paper in between cues in the wardrobe room. I typed it up and worked on revisions between cues (there were long periods where I didn’t have any quick changes with my actors). I hid the pages in the room, but Arthur found them one evening when I was on the deck doing quick changes.

I was mortified when I returned to the room and found him reading the pages. He was Arthur Miller! I was, well, me.

He looked up and said, “This is good. What are you doing working backstage?”

“I like it. Plus, you know, I like to do things like eat. I have to pay the rent.”

“You need to write full time. You’ll never be the writer you can be, find your full potential, until you rely on it to pay the bills.”

David Mamet told me something very similar when we worked together.

Arthur gave me some suggestions on the text. He never treated me like “less than” because he was Arthur Miller and I was a wardrobe girl scribbling in a corner. He always treated me like a colleague. We kept in touch until his death, and he always pushed me to do better, be more — and only write.

It was quite a few years before I had the courage to only write — and it was AFTER I’d accomplished my dream of working on Broadway.

The monologues I wrote expanded to plays, the plays that would take me to fringe festivals in both Edinburgh and Australia. I found my work got a much stronger reception in Europe than in the US. It wasn’t angsty enough for the American audiences at the time; there was too much sharp humor.

I landed at the Public Theatre and worked with one of my idols, Hal Prince. Another person at the top of his craft who liked and respected everyone with whom he worked. The assistant designers at the Public were working on Broadway and took me with them when the show at the Public closed.

I found myself learning how to be a swing dresser on Broadway, on the production of MISS SAIGON, and in the union. Each series of cues a dresser performs during the course of the show is called a “track.” If you read my novel PLAYING THE ANGLES, set backstage on a Broadway show, my protagonist Morag is a Broadway dresser.

MISS SAIGON had 13 tracks. I learned them in 26 performances. You follow the dresser once to learn it; the dresser follows you as you do it. Within three months, after swinging every track on the show multiple times, the lead actresses who played Kim requested me when their regular dresser took another job. I stayed with the show for five years, until it closed.

It was an amazing, creative group. We wrote plays, songs, other performances, and all went to each others’ shows. Which took place at midnight, in various venues around the city. We put on our own shows, and hung out with the cast & crew of other shows like SNL at KGB. We did The Easter Bonnet Competition and Gypsy of the Year and Broadway Bares to raise money for AIDs and breast cancer. I worked the Tony Awards once and attended it twice over my years on Broadway.

I think I had four shows I wrote produced during that time, in small venues. Dozens of monologues and short pieces. A few short stories published. MISS SAIGON closed and I worked on other shows at other theatres: RENT, GYPSY (the Bernadette Peters version), FOLLIES, 42ND ST, SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS (with Mark Hamill, who became one of my favorite people ever), URINETOWN, and then as a swing on the first 3 1/2 years of WICKED.

I loved it, but I knew I was aging out. Physically, it was getting tougher and tougher. Mentally, I was struggling to get the writing done and work full time on Broadway. They’re not kidding when they say, “The theatre is a jealous mistress.”

By this point, I was also day-playing on television shows shooting in New York. For the money. I could earn in one day on set when I earned in a week on Broadway. I liked it. I learned so, so much. But I didn’t love it the way I loved Broadway. I’m better suited to theatre production than television production. Which is a shame, from a financial standpoint.

I was also writing about sports for various publications. I covered horse racing and ice hockey. Thirteen years’ worth of Triple Crown races; traveled with a minor league hockey team for eight months as background for a book. Covered America’s Cup races and learned about sailing, although I can’t even swim.

By this point, the first Jain Lazarus Adventures were out, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, DIXIE DUST RUMORS, and a bunch of short stories and anthologies. I was writing for calendars and almanacs. I was doing marketing writing for companies. I was writing and teaching and working on novels and trying to build a writing career as the publishing world changed. I hit a point where I had to make a decision. I had to decide if I would stop writing or if I would give up Broadway.

I knew I couldn’t continue physically on Broadway much longer — heavy costumes, raked stages, blowing out my knees running up and down concrete steps carrying stacks of clothes.

I chose writing.

SPRING AWAKENING was my last show as a swing on Broadway. The last event I worked was a staged reading of ALL ABOUT EVE, which had a plethora of people I loved working with involved, AND I got to bow out by working with Jennifer Tilly, Keri Russell, Peter Gallagher, Annette Bening, Angela Lansbury, Zoe Caldwell, and more. It was a great way to leave the business. I’d heard so many stories about how wonderful Peter Gallagher is, and thought, “No one can be that great” — he IS that great, and even better. I’ve never laughed as much with anyone as I did with Jennifer Tilly, and I loved working with Keri Russell (we had five quick changes in a staged reading, which means walking around holding scripts).

I moved away from New York to write. There are challenges. I live in a place that is a prime example of how trickle-down economy does not work. I live in place that, if you’re a working artist who visits, they fall all over you, but if you chose to LIVE here, you’re considered a failure and should get a “real” job. Honey, this is a real job. Granted, most of the clients who pay me well are remote, but I’m working a real job. I’m writing material that helps businesses grow and spread their message. I’m writing books that I love. I’m writing plays and radio plays that invigorate people.

I have always made the choices to do what I love. To fight for what I want, to refuse to compromise and be forced into work I hate. I have made plenty of personal compromises along the way.

Every single one of them has been worth it.

Just because I love what I do does not mean I don’t deserve to be paid for it. Loving my work does not mean I don’t deserve to earn a living at it. I do. And nothing less is acceptable.

Those who don’t have the courage to follow their dreams often try to punish those of us who do.

They are not worth our time or our energy.

Do what you love. Follow your dreams. Make them your reality.