Saturday, May 30, 2009


Two posts ago, I was thinking how good it is NOT to be attached to the computer and do outdoor work and house work. I've changed my mind. We had another Saturday free and I decided it was time to attack the blackberries again. It was hot outside. I used the electric hedge trimmer. I needed an army of goats. I managed to inflict minor damage to the blackberry bush and I burned the dried out stems. Which made the hot day hotter.

Then I headed indoors & made myself re-caulk the tub like I've been telling myself to do for ages. "It'll just be a quick clean up and a quick caulking--no big deal" I told myself. I lied. That took a few hours of scrubbing the tub and applying the caulk.

Basically, my arms were rattled by the hedge trimmer, my hands were clinched while raking the blackberry stems, my back was constantly bending and unbending as I picked up those stems and caulked the tub. All this, on top of a 3 mile hike yesterday.

I hurt. I want to go back to sitting in front of the computer most of the day.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Scare Yourself

***I once took a 2-week intensive course at the Goldston and Johnson School for Mimes in Ohio. Class time was 9 a.m. - 10 p.m. Everyday. Ouch.
***I remember the first time I volunteered to do street mime. I acted brave because I thought everyone else was brave but me.
***My first writer's conference was a three day retreat and I signed up for a critique and open mic. I was trembling.
***I volunteered to write a musical even though I didn't have musical training.
***I knocked out walls to create bookshelves. The first hole was the hardest to make.

I scare myself with what I think I can do. Both characters of Nemo and Marlin, from Finding Nemo, live in my brain. The Marlin side is always telling me, "you think you can do these things and you just can't." The Nemo side is always saying, "but I can do this." (Then there's the Dory part of my brain, but we won't go there.) BUT...

Sometimes you have to scare yourself to find out what you can really do.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Put Your Hands Down and Walk Away From the Computer

There is something wonderful about having a Saturday free and using it to cook, clean and weed. We made bread, baked chicken, lasagna, and apple pie-lets. We took out the garbage, ran the dishwasher three times, mowed the lawn, weeded around the herbs, mowed some of the field, torched the burn pile, mailed letters, got gas, and set up the card table in the field near the burn pile so we could play a game while we watched the embers die. We poured water on the ashes, took care of the dogs for the night, got cleaned up, ate lasagna, and watched a movie. We went to bed tired and sore...and very satisfied with our accomplishments.

It was a relief from write something, edit something, submit something; network, market and prep something for performances or teaching. Create a flier. Create dialogue. Memorize. Brainstorm for something to write.

I hope the brief break from the usual will help the creative juices to flow freely. I hope I sharpened the saw and filled the well. (Oh,dear. Those were cliches. The creative juices may not be flowing as freely as I thought. I'll just have to take another break tomorrow.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rejection Letter

I got another rejection letter for a story I submitted. I just might win my writer's group rejection letter contest this time around.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Being a Mime Wasn't On My To-Do List

I didn't learn mime until I was 15. I loved it. Actually practiced it at home. Even then it wasn't what I was planning as a career.

To sum up: When I was little, I wasn't thinking of being a writer, actor or mime. I wasn't planning on being a cop, firefighter, astronaut or secretary either. I wasn't even planning how many children I wanted. I played!...and did my chores and homework.

How on earth do little children plan their grown-up careers? Most seniors in high-school haven't a clue. All those actors and writers (and mimes?) who claim that they knew that's what they wanted to be when they were five--that's hard to believe. Well, I can imagine the actors saying that because they were probably already acting at that age (those pushy stage moms...joking). Perhaps I can even imagine the writers at five, setting their stuffed animals around their beds and reading them a freshly crayoned story. Good grief! I'm years behind all those driven 5-year-olds.

I do have to be grateful for living in a country that didn't decide for me, though. I love choices! And opportunities! And changing my mind!

And playing.

High School Roles (or, I Never Thought of Being an Actor, Either)

In high school, I was in three plays. I was Helen (chorus) in Bye-Bye, Birdie; I played the Mother in Mother of Jack the Ripper; I was wife of Creon (no lines) in Anouilh's Antigone. I think that was it. I got involved in theater towards the end of my junior year. I was busy taking classes that were "recommended for the college-bound student." When I hit my senior year, I didn't have any more "college-bound" requirements. That's when I took creative writing, choir and drama classes.

Just like with writing, I wasn't thinking of being an actress at age 9. I was busy playing. I did a
lot of make-believe games but that's not the same as wanting to be an actress. One recurring storyline for our make-believe was Charger the Bull. He was a pet of whatever-the-girl's-name was; they had adventures. Another recurring storyline was the boyfriend make-believe. I would try to claim Elvis Presley, Bobbie Sherman (Here Come the Brides), Little Joe (from Bonanza), or Manolito Montoya (The High Chaparral) before my cousins did. Does this date me or what?!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Where I Get My Inspiration

I only remember my dreams if I wake up right in the middle of one, which is the pits because I never get to see the end of my dreams. Once I woke up as I dreamed of a song. Unfortunately, my dream only provided me with the first three words and the beginning of a tune. I was left to complete it in my waking state. Not an easy thing to do since I'm neither a poet nor a musician. I had to plunk out the tune with one finger on the piano and try to get it written correctly on the staff. Then I took it to a friend to create the accompaniment.

I've had five dreams that were the beginnings of middle grade or young adult novels. I've had two dreams that were more for picture books--as short as picture books are, even the picture book dreams were too short to finish the story line. How I wish my dreams would complete the stories. Why should I have to do all the work?

I try to sketch a lot because I'm learning how to draw. I'm not very good at drawing real people or objects so I draw images I see in the clouds, in carpet or wall textures, or just a picture thought that flitters through my mind. Mostly, my sketches are silly things. Those silly sketches have inspired four ideas for picture book manuscripts. Like my dreams, the sketches don't write the words. I have to do that.

Well, sort of. Most of the plays I write are adapted from fairy tales, folk tales, fables and tall
tales. I enjoy doing that. There is one play that I want to adapt from an epic poem--the poem has such a great storyline. I actually managed to write Parables, a two-hour musical based on New Testament stories (again, what is a non-musician like me thinking! oh, but it felt good to finish it and see it performed). I was thinking about tall tales when I came up with a picture book idea. I don't think I could write a script from a novel; I love books and I would feel like I was ruining it if I left anything out. Kudos to those playwrights and screenwriters who do a good job.

Yes, truly & embarrassingly, I have created plays based on what accent I want to hear. I haven't come up with any stories because of accents...well, there is a group of stories I wrote that would have accents if they were read correctly but that's because of the setting.

Best inspiration of all.

I should hurry and get those stories written before a new dream, a funny sketch, a great fable or cool accent comes along to add to my writing list.

I Never Thought of Being a Writer

You know those author biographies at the end of books? Or perhaps you've seen or read an author interview? You know how they always say "I wanted to be a writer since I was little." and "I wrote my first novel when I was 10."?

True confession: It never occurred to me to be a writer when I was five...or 10. I was busy playing. I didn't write. Except now and then for a school assignment. I read a lot. Does that count?

I wrote my first play when I was 32. Well, I did start one in college for my play writing class. I tossed the script after I got a grade; it was stupid (the script, not the grade). I wrote plays because I could and it was cheaper than paying royalties. I didn't know I wanted to be a writer until several years later when I made myself attend a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference. I had to know if writing was for me. I signed up for everything--a critique, open mic, critique groups. Geez, I scared myself to death.

So now I know. I'm a writer.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Untitled Crowley Project"--I was a stand-in

I was a stand-in on Wednesday for a yet-to-be-titled movie
starring Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser, Keri Russell, some cute kids, etc., along with Jeanette McMahon (pronounced "mac'-muh-hon," not "mac-man'," she informed me, and I hope I got that right) for whom I was the stand-in. It was fun meeting her. A stand-in gets no film time. As a stand-in, I'm basically a prop that can move itself; I was to stand-in for Jeanette during camera and lights set-up. There was more standing around than standing in. But I loved it! Let me tell you about it:
*There are more crew members than cast members. I would guess that the crew outnumbered the actors about 10:1. But maybe it just seemed that way because they were moving everywhere.
*Crew members get to carry cool utility belts that are just like Mary Poppins's bottomless bag. Once the main little girl actress sneezed and needed a tissue. No less than three crew members started pulling out tissues from their utility belts. The crew member in front of me pulled out a can of Dust Off to clean the camera lens then it disappeared back into her utility belt. Someone called for scissors--they were coming out of all sorts of utility belts. The mechanism for the lift on the van dropped and busted open a bit. Two crew members had that back together with electricians tape. Tools, tape, tissues, scissors, lint brushes, and probably the kitchen sink were inside those belts. The radios they all carried were primarily clipped to the back pocket. It looks kewler that way.
*You can get a lot done as a stand-in. I was on set from 9:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. I stood-in about three times; watched a lot, and edited my children's script for CET ( using a clipboard. Not a brilliant idea. My arm, shoulder and neck were painful when I went to bed. Ouch.
*The call for lunch was about 4 p.m. I thought that was a pretty clever idea. Then you don't have to feed the actors (and props like me) dinner, too. And the truth of the matter is: you have to film while you have the weather to do so. The food was superb! I had a little of everything. The main dishes were herbed chicken breast, tri-tip steak and halibut. When I go watch the movie, I will applaud during the credits when the caterer's name rolls by!
*For the hours I spent there, the filming was all centered around the van. ALL of the filming was centered around the van in the driveway from at least 10-7:30 p.m. Each area was shot several times. There were shots happening at the rear of the van. The cameras were moved a bit and we have a few shots of the side of the van and the skateboarding child in the driveway. The right back doors were removed for inside of van shots. Those doors were replaced and the doors on the left were removed for more inside van shots. Cameras were moved and then we had takes looking straight into the front of the van. Then seats were removed in the back of the van (this is where I got to stand-in by sitting in the passenger front) and shots were taken looking outside the van. I had to step over cables, around tripods holding cameras, and squeeze between people to get to my place. I'm telling ya: crew work is intensive and seems more fascinating than the acting.
*The real Crowley family showed up, along with the nurse who's been with them for a LONG time, I understand. How neat is that! So when you watch the special features on the DVD, you'll see Tom Vaughn, the director, Keri Russell, the kids playing the Crowley kids, and others all standing around and talking and getting pictures taken. Cool! This wikipedia entry is about the family, kinda, more about dad; there's a book out, too:
The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million – And Bucked the Medical Establishment – In a Quest to Save His Children
*I got to chitchat with the Grandma of the boy who plays John, jr. After the shoot is over, they're touring Oregon. I told her some Oregon greats to go see. What fun.

I learned so much while watching everybody do their thing. It was fascinating (did I already say that?). Mainly I learned I prefer the stage!