First Draft

I’m writing a new play.

(Okay, I think that statement is in a state of constantly being true: if I’m not actually writing at this moment I’m certainly thinking about it, or revising something I’ve written, or worrying about the fact that I’m not writing. This is how I spend my days.)

But this particular new play is on my mind at the moment, of course, and I’ll be writing a bit more about it in the weeks to come as well. It’s still very much in its earliest draft – I’m not even sure it’s a first draft. More like a zero-th draft, if you will.

When I was in Ireland last month I had the chance to spend an afternoon with my old writing group at the Derry Playhouse, which is where a good bit of the writing and re-writing of Lavender Railroad took place. It was fun, of course, to see old friends and to make the acquaintance of new writers as well. Someone asked me what I was working on these days, and so I took the bait and explained that I had a new play in its earliest stages.

Without telling anyone present anything more, I proceeded to read the first couple of scenes of the play. This is by nature a terrifying thing to do: it’s the first time anyone outside of my head gets to hear the words. Will it make sense to anyone? Will it amuse? Entertain? Provoke?

To my relief (and delight), the people around the table liked what they heard – and very much “got” what I was trying to do with the piece. And they wanted to know what happened next in the story! This was incredibly reassuring; they were very much a proxy for an audience that will likewise not know what to expect and will likewise (I hope) want to know what happens next.

Of course, I still have a tremendous amount of work to do in making sure that the entire work is reasonably coherent in telling its story, but at least I have some reason to be confident that I’m on the right track. More on this project anon…

Looking for a playwright

My friends at Jer’s Vision, who have been staging readings of my play Ex Cathedra for high school students, are looking for a playwright to work on an upcoming project. They’re hosting a four day forum, “Dare to Stand Out,” for youth aged 14-17 in December 2012 covering topics such as hepatitis C, sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, and how discrimination can lead to the transmission of these conditions.

They’d like to include some dramatic readings as part of their programming – and in particular want pieces that can be read by the youth who are participating in the forum. So they’re looking for a playwright who would like to help. If you’re interested, send a proposal (no more than one page) describing your experience and your interest in the project to [email protected] by July 15, 2012. If you have any questions, please contact Loresa at the email listed above or at 613-400-1875.

An honorarium will be provided.

Writer’s Block

I can’t quantify it, but I know that a tremendous amount of the “writing” that I do isn’t while sitting at a desk; it’s while walking.

On the weekend I was taking a walk with a friend from out of town and thought he might like to see the falls where the Rideau River runs into the Ottawa River. When they’re frozen in winter I find it utterly irresistible to look at them…

Rideau Falls in Winter

Before ...

As it happens, we discovered city crews at work blasting the ice on the Rideau, which they do to prevent ice jams as the river thaws and to alleviate potential flooding in the area. It’s quite dramatic to watch, the broken up chunks of ice are swept quickly over the falls into the larger river below, and the water flows. And flows.

Rideau Falls after the ice is blasted

... and After

What does all this have to do with writing?

Well, a favorite route is to walk along the Rideau, especially if I’m stuck on some bit of writing – a scene that’s not working, a reason for a character to act in a certain way. In other words, the story is as jammed in my head as the ice is on the river. Somehow – the process remains a mystery to me – these walks often clear my head sufficiently to solve whatever the problem is.

And like the falls after the ice blasts, the writing begins to flow once again.

 

My kind of keyboard!

I am old enough to remember using typewriters, including the old IBM golfballs and a Brother model that let you switch some of the characters on a couple of keys (great for when you absolutely, positively have to insert the odd α or ß. And I still have a working Continental from the 1920’s. So when I saw this…