Imagine What’s Ahead for You. It Might Be Beyond Belief.

I’m listening to the audio book “A Personal Odyssey” about the life of economist Thomas Sowell. It’s fabulous, by the way, and I highly recommend it. (On Amazon)

I’ve long been an admirer of Mr. Sowell, and it is absolutely fascinating to hear his story of growing up in the south, moving to New York, struggling with issues of family, schooling, societal racism and the constant struggles of a teenager and young black man trying to make a living by juggling various stints of employment trying to make ends meet. It’s a gripping and vivid story already, and I’ve only made it up to 1952 when he was a photographer in the Marine corps.

What struck me this morning, as I was listening during my walk, is the young marine, in his early twenties, has no idea whom he will one day become – one of the most respected researchers, writers, and economists in American history. All of the accolades that he has achieved in his breath-taking career were not even remotely on the radar in the young life of Thomas Sowell.

By 1952, he had not even finished high school. How would he have ever guessed the academic career which was to come?  graduate of Harvard,  Doctorate at the University of Chicago, professor at Cornell and many other institutions, a Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford, syndicated columnist and author, etc…

How could have a high school dropout ever had hoped as much? It’s remarkable, really, and the truth that comes out it is this: We cannot, ever, foresee the future. This fact is both a great encouragement, but it is also a warning.

This is encouragement for those stuck in the life they don’t want to be in. You never know what’s right around the bend. You never know what how much that extra little effort will pay off. Grit may have its reward far beyond what you could have imagined.

On the flip side, this is also a warning shot for those who are riding high in life: don’t take the good times for granted. Enjoy them for what they are. And be thankful. You never know when the good times will end.

(Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Sowell. Now back to listening. I can’t wait to find out how you repudiated your communist leanings.)

 

 

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Review of “The African Connection”

Lars from Brandywinebooks posted a review of book 2 of THE FORGOTTEN CHILD TRILOGY: The African Connection.

He starts with this line: “Mark Sasse’s bizarre “Forgotten Child” series continues with The African Connection. An unconventional fantasy in an unconventional trilogy.”

Intrigued?

Head on over to Brandywine Books to read the entire review.

Plus, watch out for news of book 3 – the final chapter – coming soon!

Review of THE AFRICAN CONNECTION

 

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Writing Collaborations: What’s the Goal?

This weekend, I’ve been collaborating on a short play writing project with one of my students. We have a finished draft on a fun and meaningful script which I plan on using in my new show coming up in April.

It’s been a while since I’ve collaborated with students on a creative writing piece. I used to do it all the time. In fact, these type of collaborations are what kick-started my writing career. I have many students to thank, because they helped me to just write and put my work out there.

This weekend, I’m writing with a student who has never written a play before. She came up with the idea for the play and I helped to formulate it into scenes. We each took different scenes to write and then there’s the process of combining them together, editing, adding new ideas, and the general non-stop revisions which are needed. I’m excited to see the final product of this script.

This endeavor got me thinking: what’s the goal of this type of writing collaboration? A new writer with an experienced writer.

Here’s how I approach it. I, first, want the idea to originate with the new writer. I wanted her to have ownership in the process because I know how I can be: I get an idea and I can’t stop until it’s done. This allows a new writer to catch-up to my overbearingness, so to speak.

The new writers are typically reluctant to edit my work. That’s understandable, but I want to make it clear that there is no hierarchy in this collaboration. There’s only one goal: write a quality piece. That’s it.

That means that I will edit the new writer’s scenes thoroughly. I’ll make additions. Suggestions. Give feedback. Get feedback. And, invariably, the new writer comes back with “yes, yes, yes, that’s so much better. yes.” I’m not a better writer than they are. I just have more experience. I’ve also produced 25 shows. I know visually how the dialogue will look on-stage.  I know what will work, what will sound authentic, and what won’t.

My goal is for the new writer to see my entire process and, hopefully, learn from it. Then they get their name as a co-writer in the playbill which is always fun. And, if they act, which they almost always do, I let them star in their own play if they so choose.

What’s important in the process, at least for me, is not to settle for less quality because a writer is new. I will push them, I will encourage them, I will ruthlessly edit their stuff in order to make the piece better. An okay piece will not be acceptable to me if it can be a great piece, because I’m putting my name on it as well.

I guess what I’m saying is: don’t dumb it down. Keep the standard high.

I had a past school principal who said that the lost practice of kids and parents eating supper together every night has hurt the kids’ development. They need to hear adult conversations. They need to be able to ask questions. Wonder what that word means. It’s one of the ways they grow and learn.

This is exactly how I view writing collaborations with students. I hope my intent is reached with this one.

This is going to be a good play. It’s entitled: “Why Leaves Change Color.”

My Hobby – Cooking (Today’s recipe: chicken broccoli stir fry)

When I’m not writing or doing drama-related stuff, I cook. Here’s one I did yesterday.: chicken broccoli stir fry. Super easy. Super delicious and very nutritious! Skip the Chinese take-out and try this. It doesn’t take long to prepare. Here are the ingredients:p_20190104_163940

Listed from left to right: green onions, chopped garlic (4 cloves), chopped ginger (1 inch), 1 medium chopped onion, 1 chopped chili pepper, 1 med head broccoli. In the bottles: sesame oil, oyster sauce, chili sauce, and go ahead and add some soy sauce.

You’ll also need a pound of thinly sliced chicken breast.

Cooking:

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Large wok: add sesame oil and all chopped vegetables. Let stir-fry on high heat for a minute or so. Add broccoli. It will start to steam and turn dark green.

Once mainly cooked, push to side, add more oil to empty side of pan and add half chicken. Stir fry to mainly cooked, push to side with vegetables and cook other half of chicken.  (That’s what is happening in the photo above.)

Now for the sauces: splash in some soy sauce, a couple table spoons of chili sauce (I use an Indonesian variety, but something like Siracha would work as well) and about 1/4 cup of oyster sauce. (if you want to thin out sauce, add a little chicken broth)

Stir fry on high heat until well mixed. Remove from heat. Add green onions and lightly stir. Serve over white rice. (I like Thai rice, personally.)

Enjoy! It’s super delicious and very easy. Here’s my meal from yesterday.

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All right, now back to book editing.

 

If It’s Good Enough for Mr. Livgren, then …

I’ve admired Kerry Livgren for a long time.

Yes, you know him. The composer, guitarist, lyricist of Kansas.

Yes – “Carry on Wayward Son” – “Dust in the Wind”

Okay, now you’re with me.

Livgren didn’t just disappear after the glory years of Kansas in the late seventies and early eighties. Far from it. He released many solo albums, founded the band A.D., got back together with his old mates from the pre-Kansas days and released three terrific albums under the name Proto Kaw.

The guy is brilliant. Yet, the thing that has stood out the most for me about his musical procedures is that he is never satisfied. He said in an interview once that if he has the opportunity to make a previously released song better, he wouldn’t hesitate to do that. And he has.

He has remastered albums. He has kept the vocals of songs and completed rerecorded the instruments to make an even better product.

His dedication to his craft is relentless, and it has inspired me (as a writer) to be like Kerry!

When I think back seven years ago when I was writing my first novel, I didn’t know what I was doing. Seven years later, I’m still learning – lots.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the old stories. A lot, actually. I’m proud of my first novel BEAUTY RISING, but can it be better? Yes. Can I apply things I know now and didn’t know then to make it better? Yes. Will I do it? I will try. (There is a thing called time, you know.)

So I am hoping to do something like Kerry does. I’m not going to change the stories. The heart of the story will remain, but I might rework the language. I make color passages in a more interesting way. I may delete adverbs which I seemed to like so well back then. I’m looking forward to doing a new re-edit on some of my old stories to help freshen them up with my new rounds of knowledge about writing.

If it’s good enough for Kerry, it’s good enough for me. What about you?

A Year of Writing in Review

What writer doesn’t look back at the end of a year and to give oneself a writing grade?

Well, actually, I don’t hold a lot of stock in goals hit or missed because time lines are flexible and life happens. But it’s still fun to take stock in what transpired in the year of writing. Here are some of my highlights.

Play writing:

Watched my play “The Birth of Technicolor” in Brooklyn! It was awesome.

My play “The Last Bastion” won me the 2018 Greywood Arts Writing Residency in Ireland and I spent a blissful week in a charming old English house finishing off two full-length plays and other miscellaneous writings.

Short plays – I hit my stride again in short play writing, finishing off a complete new show entitled “Crazy Love” in the spring and then in the fall I cranked out four new additional short plays which will be part of a show of mine called “Stories, Vol. 1.”

On top of this, I produced three shows – “For All Generations” in Jan 2018, the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in April 2018 and the experimental piece “How to Build a Dictator” in December 2018.

Novel writing:

Summer saw the release of book 2 of the Forgotten Child Trilogy called “The African Connection.”

Summer also saw me writing frantically to finish book 3 – which I did – entitled “A Parting in the Sky.”  This explosive piece will end the trilogy and will be released within the first few months of 2019. Very excited about it!

Planning stages and early writing for my mysterious novel #9. I will say it is an alternate history related to the 1960s. It’s going to get wild!

Short Story:

I published a new Christmas story “Jolly Old St. Hick.”

I’m also formulating my book on baseball. I promised myself I would. It may be a collection of short stories or a more unified piece. More to come.

Yes, it’s been a busy and fruitful year. Here’s hoping more productivity in 2019! I’ll give you my writing prognosis for the year soon!

I appreciate your support.

Happy New Year!

 

 

A Vigil for a Starry Night

Merry Christmas, everyone.

A VIGIL FOR A STARRY NIGHT

On a night when the clouds cover the stars like an impenetrable mountain cliff, I wait for a sign. A small tinge up my spine. A desperate plea for the ancient ways to speak once again. I wait for the light, hoping it will come, hoping it will be enough. .

The stars, spread brightly out like colored snowflakes flickering across the onyx sky, reflect a distant constellation, and begin to re-enter the atmosphere, piercing through the fractured clouds, giving faint and distant light to the voidless black, the empty sea, the sandless desert, the vacant abyss that is deep within me. The light, hushed and dimmed by a millennium of travel, is all I have. Is all I ever had.

I wait for the reflection to reach me, hoping one refracted beam from a star long ago still exists, the same ancient light that awakened the shepherd’s eyes one cool and lonely night. Can the light that ushered in a new millennium, awaken a new epoch within me. If so, it might be enough for my heart to go on.

In the midst of tears, in the solitude of our inner being, we yearn to be on that impoverished hill, to understand the magnitude of that sight, a heavenly light illuminating a darkened heart, a heavenly chorus rising to a crescendo of glory.

Will I choose to believe its truth, not blindly though because I know what the light can do for one’s soul.  And though the unbearable pain releases not its grip, I have a question to answer. Does the light still exist for me?

Does the same sky, which God ripped open that night with his right hand, planting angelic heralds of peace on the clouds to rustle awake the shepherds, still exist for me? Can he reach into my clouded heart and announce the truth like a heavenly chorus? If it is so, all suffering and cause of angst still present throughout the world will be no match for the blessed announcement: “A Child is born.”

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