Tues. Jan. 17, 2017: Reading, Figuring, Negotiation

Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Waning Moon
Cloudy and cold

Hop on over to A Biblio Paradise and take a look at “The Joy of Re-Reading.” Maybe it will inspire you to re-read some of your favorites.

Well, the weekend wasn’t as relaxing or productive as I hoped.

There was news happening, such as Swamp Thing Elect’s attack on John Lewis — right before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Typical of a self-centered Swamp Thing to attack someone vital to this country’s civil rights.

Not to mention that Biloxi, MS is now calling it “Great Americans Day”. That is not the name of the holiday, and you don’t get to change its name just because you’re a racist representing other racists.

Ringling Brothers’ Circus is closing after 146 years. Feld blames animal rights activists, and I call bullslhit on that. There are circuses without animal acts (such as Big Apple) who are doing fine without them. As someone who pitched to them several years ago to be part of their marketing department, I had a plan that would have brought them into the 21st Century while still paying tribute to their history and the history of “circus.” (Regular readers know I have several circus-themed projects in development — I have a good handle on the history). They weren’t interested. To their credit, they also didn’t start hiring third-rate reality celebutards to get them more attention. Am I saying that if they’d hired me they’d still be viable? No, because I’m sure other people pitched even better plans. But they weren’t willing to take big enough risks.

Sent off some material to a theatre that seems interested in working with me. We’ll see.

Did some more research for a pitch to a different theatre. I’d like to do the particular project I’ve been researching, so I sent off the pitch. Fingers crossed. It would mean six months of immersion in a period of time I’m interested in, but don’t know much about except peripherally. It would mean six months of immersion in beauty (as well as drama), which I could use right now.

I also re-thought another long-term project, which means one of my deadlines that was at the end of this month is now at the beginning of March, and then the next at the beginning of June, and so forth, every 12 weeks for the next two years, instead of every 6 weeks for a year. That will allow each of those pieces to be more in depth and more polished.

Because the point of honing one’s craft is that every piece one writes is better than the earlier ones.

Read Gail Godwin’s PUBLISHING: A MEMOIR, and recommended it to a friend who’s been going through a rough time. I didn’t realize how many publishers and editors she had — although she found the right agent early on and they stuck by each other. The right agent is so important. And difficult to find.

I used to read a lot of Godwin’s work, and really liked it. Until the religion overshadowed things like plot, character, and story, and then she lost me. I haven’t read the last few books, but I think I will try them. I also want to find the early ones, the ones I liked so much, that are packed away somewhere downstairs, and re-read them.

I don’t trust people who say they never re-read. A good book gives you fresh gifts every time you enter it. The “don’t have time” argument is just another bullshit excuse. There’s no such thing as “having” time for anything. You make the time for things that matter, and you ignore the rest.

Playing with a few things writing-wise, but it wasn’t anywhere near the productive writing weekend I needed it to be. I’m way, way behind where I need to be and frustrated.

I managed to write 14 pages on a piece on Saturday, but it wasn’t one of the pieces I should be working on. However, it was important in its own way, and I learned from it.

Read Miles Morland’s MILES AWAY: A WALK ACROSS FRANCE, which was fun.

There was an absolutely amazing event on Sunday at the New York Public Library, hosted by PEN America. It was the Louder Together Event, for writers to express the importance of protecting and fighting for free speech. There were people I knew there; people I didn’t know before but admired; new-to-me people who I now know. Writers of all kinds: novelists, poets, short story writers, essayists, translators, journalists (I’m talking REAL journalists who work stories, not news readers), and, most importantly to me, perhaps: playwrights. Because live theatre is a huge arena of change, because it is experiential rather than theoretical. Heroines of mine such as Anna Devere Smith and Eve Ensler spoke. I have always felt a great honor and a great responsibility as a member of PEN — it was strengthened on Sunday.

I was disappointed not to see any familiar faces from where I now live — Cape Cod. I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and think they went to the sister rally held in Boston. However, I seriously doubt it. May I be proven wrong!

Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr., day, and a holiday. I took it as such. A contract offer came through — why it was sent to me instead of to my agent puzzles me. Negotiations will start this week, and it will be settled one way or the other.

I have a lot of lost ground to make up on both NOT BY THE BOOK and SONGBOUND SISTERS, although I’m feeling more confident in SONGBOUND SISTERS. Its natural rhythm is a bit slower than I’m used to; since it is yet to be contracted, I have the luxury of working with the book’s natural rhythm.

I started reading ITALIAN WAYS: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo by Tim Parks. He says something that resonates even more strongly in 2017 than in 2013, when the book was written: “In America the lack of investment in train travel speaks eloquently of a country always ready to appear righteous but pathologically averse to surrendering car and plane for a more eco-friendly, community-conscious form of mobility.” (p. viii, Preface).

Today, in addition to catching up on writing, I have a Very Long List of administrative tasks. Gotta keep up with them or they become overwhelming.

If the contract negotiations end positively later this week or early next week, there will be press releases to get out. Ditto if the play set in the Renaissance I pitched is commissioned. So, I have to be ready to jump on either of those instantly, should they come to pass.

I’m also working on a new marketing plan for the Topic Workbooks.

It’s always feast or famine; if even a handful of the opportunism work out, I’m entering a feast cycle, which will be good. I’ll need to step up to the plate and deliver. And adjust the uncontracted work so it still moves forward (because today’s uncontracted work is tomorrow’s contracted work) without sabotaging the contracted work.

It’s all about protecting the work while keeping one’s commitments, and knowing how to shift. And being able to work on more than one thing. Very few writers have the luxury any more, of being able to work on one project at a time. They should honor their agents and editors when they do.

Have a great week!

Monday, January 17, 2011


View over Plymouth Harbor

Monday, January 17, 2011
Waxing Moon
Martin Luther King Day

This is scheduled to post, because I had to get my butt out of bed and get on the road far too early in order to get the car to Plymouth for its spa day. Hopefully it means that, by the time most of you read this, I’ll be back. My car gets a spa day and I get to freeze my ass off in Plymouth before any of the stores open. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Plymouth, but here’s hoping I find a nice, warm coffee joint and can do some writing!

I have a dilemma with the Samantha LIght piece. I originally wanted it to be speculative fiction in either a created world or a parallel world. But I keep making familiar references. I don’t know if that means I should set it in a somewhat futuristic NY/Scotland/Paris or just use those references in the first draft, and then change them substantially into a created/imagined version of similar cities in revisions. Stopping to world build right now will make me lose the dynamic between the characters. But, in the ultimate piece, the setting will be very, very important.

Regarding my protag, Samantha, I’m not having trouble with her. I thought it would be a challenge, because, on the surface, she seems like the kind of woman I can’t stand, and yet, she’s very much her own person without being the sort of cliche we see of this type of woman on tv, in the tabloids, or in fiction. So, I’m having fun with her.

Costume Imp moves today, leaving Queens to go up to Washington Heights. New situation, new roommates, the whole thing. He brought his delightful beasts up on Friday night — yowling all the way. They can give Iris a run for the money when it comes to feline opera performances.

I certainly learned how far some students will go to bend the rules in class. In the historical/western assignment, we had more than one person have a character “tell a story” about an historical time to another character. I had to let it go since I hadn’t expressly forbidden it, but now I know, and I’ve tweaked the exercise for future classes. When I say “set your characters in an historical or western piece”, having them tell each other a story about someone else doesn’t cut it. Even when it’s cleverly done and good as a piece in its own right. But again, I guess I have to expressly forbid just about any place they have wiggle room.


Can you find the hawk hidden in the tree?

The raptor release at Long Pasture Sanctuary was magnificent. First of all, the place is gorgeous, and I can’t wait to spend more time walking around there when the weather is a little warmer. I learned a bit about identifying hawks — I’ll have to practice a lot more before I can actually do it. Two hawks were released — both females. The first one, who recovered from a broken wing, was still a little overweight. She flew to a nearby tree and stayed. Hey, I don’t blame her — she was used to room service! Two other hawks circled near by, wanting to know what was going on. The second hawk, also a female, nearly tore the carrier apart. When the door opened, she backed to the rear, took a few steps, and soared out. She paused on top of a nearby tree to get her bearings, and then she was outta there! Absolutely gorgeous.

Again, the kids who attended the event were bright, engaged, enthusiastic, asked some of the best questions and made some of the best comments. No crying or whining.

I like how the parents here actually engage in conversation with their kids when they’re off doing something, whether it’s at an event or going to the grocery store. They talk to them like actual human beings, unlike in the suburbs of NY, where parents are on the cell phone all the time talking about stupid gossip and just pause long enough to yell at the kid. Here, when parents take their kids grocery shopping, one kid has the list, and another kid scouts the aisle, and they learn how to tell if a piece of fruit or a vegetable is a good choice, etc., etc. Just a much healthier dynamic, and you can see the difference in the kids. They’re not as brittle and wounded and desperate for attention and filled with the sense of entitlement they see from their parents as suburban NY children.

The director took us on a short walk on the sanctuary — he showed us how to recognize rabbit tracks and otter tracks and we saw the pond where the otters like to come and fish. The otters were to smart enough not to let us see them, but it was fun to see where they played and slid.

It was just a great couple of hours, even though I’d lost all feeling in my toes before the end of it! I need to start dressing for these things like I did on the days I spent outside on location for television shows. And, Diane, I couldn’t find my silk thermals. I was not happy. I also need to find my fleece-lined jeans for the next event, and slip some toe warmers into my boots and hand warmers into my gloves. I will also pre-heat by drinking ginger tea before I go (learned from the Great Cape Herbs seminar last week).

I drank quite a bit of ginger tea when I got home, and that helped a lot.

‘Cause there’s no reason to attend these events if I don’t apply what I learn, right? 😉

The mail brought a box of books containing the second volume of Gail Godwin’s journal and Antonia Frasier’s memoir of her life with Harold Pinter, so I was a happy camper. Wrapped myself in a blanket, put on some jazz, and started the Godwin memoir.

I read a lot of her books in the late 80’s, early -mid 90’s and really enjoyed her writing. I haven’t read her lately, and I’m interested, once I unpack them, to re-read some of the books I read and see if my perceptions have changed. The writing on the page remains the same, it is fixed once it’s published, but do I respond to it differently?

I remembered getting impatient with the first volume of journals, but couldn’t remember why. I’m not very far into this volume of journals, and I get impatient again. Yes, it was the early 1960’s, and women had a different frame of reference. But if she spent even an eighth of the energy she wastes on pursuing toxic relationships with men on her writing, she would have gotten a whole lot further a whole lot faster.

The diary can help you see patterns and break them. I look at my diaries from my twenties and self-indulgent thirties and cringe. But writing it all down and looking back also helped me break negative patterns and realize how I was getting in my own way, both personally and professionally. That person helped form who I am now, but I wish she’d gotten her act together earlier. Maybe that’s why I get impatient with Godwin’s journals — I see too much similarity. The qualities I didn’t like in myself at that age, I see in those journals.

When she details observations on the world around her, and how her writing process evolves, it’s very interesting.

Also got a lovely CD mixed by a good friend that is a joy to play. I was just casting around for some new music, and it appeared in the post! Thanks, Colin!

Went to bed pretty early. Got up on Sunday pretty early, having dreamed I was working on location in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and I was as tired as if I’d actually spent the night doing just that. These “busy dreams” take it out of me! 😉

Morning routine, out to get the papers, read the papers. The papers here are better written, have fewer typos, and are more balanced that most other papers I’ve read across the country. They poke at multiple sides of an issue, so you get a broad spectrum of both information and opinion — each of which is clearly defined, so that biased opinion isn’t presented as journalism. It makes it easier to get a more complete picture of an issue to figure out one’s own stand on it. I read more than one paper, and each paper contains multiple points of view on different issues, so one really gets a good cross-section of information.

Decided that Sunday was going to be my day off from writing this week. I kind of feel that all of my life since I’ve moved is a bit of refilling the creative well, which I desperately need. I’m trying a lot of new things and trying to open myself up to a lot of new experiences I didn’t/couldn’t in NY, and seeing what I learn.

Read a lot. Caught up on some emails. Caught up on filing and receipts. Played with the cats.

Got frustrated with the workshop because so many people seem to think that the date an assignment due is a suggestion. Far too many of them post their assignment days late, the day before or the day the next assignment is due. Some people are skipping exercises, which they were told UP FRONT they can’t do. I had to resort to keeping a tracking sheet so I can track, as I jump back and forth between the assignments, who’s keeping up and who isn’t. It’s just so disrespectful. We all have life stuff. If you expect to have a career in anything, you learn how to deal with life and your career. You can’t wait until you’re earning a paycheck to behave that way or you’ll never earn a paycheck.

Enough. I had to get up at five frigging a.m. in the freezing cold to get in the yoga, meditation, and my first 1K of the day before I left for the garage. So I don’t want to hear about anyone’s conflicts when they have a half a week to get a 1300 word assignment done. In four days, I have to do AT LEAST 4000 words. Usually a heck of a lot more. AND run my life.

Devon