Thursday, August 26, 2010

creatively writing someone else's story

I want to take a second and thank my new readers and followers and let you know that if you are reading and have a blog, to please comment with your url or send me a dm on Twitter and I'll add you to my blog roll, if I haven't yet added you. I may not always comment on other sites, but I do try to read up. And no, I'm not taking any quizzes.
This week, I started a big writing project with an old friend of mine. I'm interviewing her and will ultimately write a play about certain aspects of her life. While I cannot go into detail here, I want to talk about the process.
I'm not sure if I'm shy or introverted, and if I am, I tend to come off as being extroverted and not very shy at all and I'm guessing that's because I overcompensate, making me actually normal in that department. For this project, I'm actually interviewing her on some very personal subject matter, one which requires me to be not shy, not introverted and at times, not very subtle. These are things I'm good at in certain circumstances, but here, when I'm asking about things that most people would never disclose, I have to be subtle yet direct. I have to ask the right questions so that I can then form a play around her story. She's become the stem of a story that I'm hoping will blossom brightly around the stories she's sharing.
I've never worked like this before. Usually the idea is mine, the story is mine and I own my characters. Now, I'm working within a certain sphere of reality where I will have to employ a creative approach to the telling of a story that exists in reality. I have to figure out how to work the stage, how to organize the characters I'm using, and how to actively tell this story and achieve truthfulness and accuracy in the telling.
I had an idea as to how to begin, but as the interview process continues, I'm finding that my original ideas need to be scratched and I'm constantly starting again.
How do I handle this?
Right now, I'm focusing only on the interview process and I'm burying my head in the novel I've been working on. The way it usually works is that if I don't focus on my story, it will come to me. So then I have to wonder, if I don't focus on getting a job, will one fall into my lap?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

in which i take on the world

So I finished writing and editing and formatting Unorthodox! and sent it to my first theater and am hoping for good things, you know, like a reading. I have to query other places, and I've already queried a few, and then I'll get it out there as well. The other day I wrote a one-act called No Teacher Left Behind for consideration at a theater in Albany. My hope is that someone of some influence will see it and give me a teaching job, a writing job, a million dollars, a steady paycheck or any combination of any of those. I'm supposed to be working on my anthology submission (which is due on August 31 for consideration) but I can't get my head in the right place for the topic.
Of course, there are lots of topics that I can't seem to get myself to focus on, one of which is the 150,000 out of work teachers in the US. So the job hunt continues. I'm trying to market myself as an education consultant/staff developer. I also do theater, improv and writing workshops for kids and teens (and adults, if desired.) But, I digress. This teaching thing is a nightmare. Who knew I'd move back from living overseas into the financial hellhole that used to be the US? The only good thing that's come of this is my one-act play. Although, it's been my understanding that playwrights generally don't make too much money which makes me the perfect playwright!
I just don't understand how it is that there are no jobs for teachers anymore. I mean, I understand, but I just don't understand. And what will happen to America as all of the jobs dry up? Will we all live on the streets while our homes sit, empty? Will we, one of the most advanced countries in the world, have rampant poverty? Will my children, the children of parents holding advanced degrees, grow up underprivileged while more and more jobs get sent overseas and our government turns its back on its people like so many other countries?
 I wrote this play, No Teacher Left Behind. I believe it can go somewhere. I still believe that I can change the world. I believe that through my writing, through my teaching, that I can help change things and make the world a better place. I want to speak for those with no voice. I want to bring light to the things that people don't see or choose not to see. I want to make people see things differently.
I will not let this horrible job market and economy discourage me. I'm making my comeback right now. Look out world. I'm taking you by storm.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

with all that has happened this week, how can i not be exhausted?

So, I'm sitting here, once again getting that final draft of my play together. It's been renamed from Hi Hipscher! to Unorthodox! and I can't believe it took me months to come up with a title. But now that I'll be doing some theater workshops this fall, I'm sort of motivated to get my play up and out as soon as possible. Of course, that doesn't explain why I'm sitting here blogging at one in the morning instead of cutting,  pasting, playing with margins and whatever it is that I should be doing to further my goal, but whatever. Sometimes I need to break for some rooibos tea, dried cranberries and babbling.
Anyway, this has been an insane week. I had a wisdom tooth wrested from my jaw. I applied for some teaching jobs. Proposition 8 was struck down, allowing gay marriages in California. People are going nuts about the mosque/cultural center being built in lower Manhattan. (I take the liberal view on both of these issues: yes to gay marriage and yes to building the cultural center.) I've received two rejection letters: one personal and the other one a form letter. I've argued with people over religion, sexual orientation, Judaism, atheism, other -isms. I've started several short stories but haven't been able to get anything out on the theme that I need to work under. I didn't hit the gym as often as I should have. This week, New Jersey decided to close all of Camden's libraries, further closing off an impoverished area from access to education, technology and entertainment. When they claim that all Americans are equal, apparently they mean only if one is wealthy and white. I believe they call that "privileged." This week I learned that twenty million Americans are unemployed and that one in eight Americans is on food stamps. The middle class is shrinking. I am trying to get a teaching job and I am writing fiction about the very true issues of gender inequality and discrimination in orthodox judaism.
So it's been a crazy week. And that's before mentioning the four kids who need attention.
Some angsty graffiti was discovered in one of our closets, written by one of the (now grown) kids who used to live here before we moved in. I think it may serve as the basis of a story. And then I had this idea that perhaps I should start attending open houses with a camera, and then writing about the lives that I think were lived in those homes. Although, who knows? In a few months, I may just have to do that with my own home!
Sooooo, it's been a bit of a serious week for me over here in my writing world.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

in which i am rejected....

Before turning in last night, I posted on Facebook, checked my Twitter account, researched some new markets on Duotrope's, watched Deconstructing Harry (which I highly recommend, especially if you're a writer) and checked my email. In my inbox was a rejection letter from a publication that I submitted to on a fluke (as in whim, not as in fish) but it was the greatest, most incredibly amazing rejection letter a writer could ever expect to receive.
If you're not a writer, you're probably thinking something along the lines of "how can any rejection be a good rejection?" When I first started submitting work, I felt the same way. However, now, after much rejection experience, I can explain. The rejection letter I received was a personal rejection. The editor liked my story, liked the caliber of work, recognized the angst as being realistic, etc. The only problem? My story was not in line with this issue's theme. The editor went on to say that he looks forward to seeing more of my work. At this, my heart skipped a beat, like in high school when you find out that he really does like you!!!!! Okay, sorry for the girly example, but I think we can all appreciate that feeling. I was on the proverbial Cloud Nine (does anyone ever wonder about clouds 1-8????) and I am still happy. Of course, now the real work begins. I need to find one of my stories that fits the theme or write a new story. I've had to step away from writing for many hours and engage in other activities, all the while trying not to think about anything writing-related in order to focus (or not, the way I work) on channeling an idea. It's possible that I have the idea now, and all I have to do is write....
Now, here's some completely good news. I've been selected to give a theater/improv workshop for educators and child care providers this fall at major conference in the Hudson Valley. I am also working on another version of the workshop to be presented to teens at the library. I've been given a contact so I may be able to present at another conference and I'm working on selling this as a program to various community groups. Of course, it would be ideal if I get a teaching position, but this is wonderful as well and a whole lot of fun.
As for Deconstructing Harry, I mentioned before that it was great. I was trying to figure out why I could relate. Is it the angsty Jewish stuff? The writing stuff? Woody Allen? Is it because, like Woody Allen, I just don't believe in anything anymore? (Adam suggested this.) That brings up a whole other issue. But I'd like to point out, that once I cleared away all of the crap, I was able to write to an extent that I never before could. I was able to finally produce whole and meaningful pieces without caring what others would think. Writing well isn't about losing everything. It's about losing one's inhibitions and not feeling the need to answer to anyone.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

being a kid in a candy store is just like being a kid in a candy store....

I spent yesterday wandering around the little bit of Brooklyn that exists in my head. The Brooklyn from 1984, the Brooklyn from when I was a kid, from a time before first kisses, relationships, money, and worries squeezed themselves into my life. The Brooklyn that I wrote about consisted of Maxie's, the candy store that used to be on Brighton Beach Avenue and Ocean Parkway and the few blocks surrounding that most wonderful, candy-filled haven. Going to Maxie's was like being a kid in a candy store. Oh, wait. Yes. That's exactly what it was. It was being a kid in a candy store. This was one of the first places that I learned the value of money and how to budget the few coins I was given. I learned there how to get the most for my dollar, or my quarters, or whatever it was that I was spending. When I walked into Maxie's, I was an adult for a few minutes in my otherwise childish world.
The short story I'm currently working on begins on a child's journey to Hebrew school with a stop at the candy store beforehand. The importance of the candy store as the story unfolds doesn't become clear until the end, but if one were to think of how kids think, of those moments of childhood clarity when the whole world seems to stop for an instant, and in this case, how the very act of getting the candy can have a powerful impact on the plot, then it becomes evident why I spend a lot of time in the beginning describing it.

The other day I looked through my completed work. I realized that at this point, the "short story collection" I talk about writing is nearly written. I had no idea. So far I have eight  completed thematically-linked stories. I've sent some of them out to journals, but what I'd like to do is write a few more and organize them, get a good query letter out to agents and publishers and see what happens.

In other realms, I was selected to give a professional development workshop this fall. I'll be working with educators and childcare providers. I'll be doing theater games and improv and teaching them to utilize these techniques to foster creativity, interest, better communication and listening skills. I"m pretty excited but I really need a full-time teaching position....