I Was Awarded a Writing Residency – in IRELAND!

I’m very excited to share with you this great news: Greywood Arts, in Killeagh, Ireland, awarded me with its Winter Writing Residency for play-writing.  Only one winner was chosen in each category – short stories, poems, plays – and I was selected based on the play I submitted – “The Last Bastion.”

On their blog, they write:

“It was a tremendously difficult decision to select only one work from each category – short stories, poems, and plays. It was truly a pleasure to read work by a diverse and talented pool of writers. We look forward to making the writing competition a regular opportunity to win a week-long residency.

We offer a hearty congratulations and warm welcome to:

Gráinne Daly for her poems To Lady and to Tramp, Tomb Raiders, & Slievemore Cemetary

Orla McAlinden for her short story A Sliver of the Moon

Mark W. Sasse for his play The Last Bastion

Can you tell I’m super excited? I’ll be heading to southwest Ireland on March 30 and will be working on three play-writing projects until April 7.

I want to thank Greywood Arts for this fantastic opportunity.  Please head on over to their blog and read about the good work they are doing. You can also read about the three winners, including myself.

Read their blog post HERE!

 

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Open Submission … (if, if, if …)

I’m currently looking to expand the reach of some of my plays which I admittedly have done very little with over the past couple of years. Researching on-line, I’ve come across some wonderful theatres and festivals who encourage new voices of the stage to submit their work. I’ve very encouraged by all of this.

At the same time, I can’t help but chuckle when I come across some supposed open submissions which have a series of asterisks after it more prominently displayed than Barry Bonds home run totals.

Here are few. Paraphrased.

  • Open Submission! We would love to see your work except we don’t want it to end in death. We have enough death in the world and want to have some feel-good stories.
  • Open Submission! But you must have a permanent residence in northeast Ohio.
  • Open Submission! If you have a literary agent.
  • Open Submission! If you live in New Jersey, Delaware, or Rhode Island.
  • Open Submission! We will not accept scripts which have guns as props.

Maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t it be better to call it limited submissions?

It just seems strange that the artistic community wants to shape the outcome of an artist’s endeavor – change the ending so the protagonist doesn’t die so I can send a script there – re-write a gun out of a scene so I can send a script there – move to Akron so I can send a a script there.

I just like to write. I let the stories dictate their endings. I let the characters dictate the props. I don’t let location dictate anything.

And I’m okay with that even if some people aren’t.

 

See a Play: Write a Play

On September 24, I saw a terrific rendition of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” at the local performing arts center.

Earlier that week, I was starting to formulate a concept for a full-length play. I don’t write too many of them. In 2014 I wrote “The Secrets of the Magic Pool,” and in 2011 I wrote “Romans on the Couch.” I’ve collaborated on other full-length musicals and plays with students, plus I write dozens of short 10-minute plays for a variety of uses. I was starting to latch onto an idea, but remained unsure if it would come to fruition.

Well, Sept 24 arrived. I was riveted to the dialogue and the “zoom-in” focus he provided by intensely going after only four characters. The setting was simple, but the issues of life, dreams, hopes, and family lingered large. As I left the play that night, I decided I would follow Williams and make my new play only about four characters. One setting. One weekend. And I would push and develop the characters with purposeful intent to drive home the overarching themes of the play.

Yesterday, October 9th, I finished my play. (First complete draft, that is.) I became so consumed with the characters and plot that I grabbed every bit of time I could over 14 days to finish this full-length, 17000 word, one-hour and forty-five minute play. Over the weekend, I took Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, and finally, Sunday afternoon to finish it. It’s called “The Last Bastion.”

I’m really pleased with it so far.

I don’t want to share any specifics about it yet, but I’ll be pushing it forward over the next few months. I need to do a lot of editing and re-writes, correct character issues, and work on word usage, so that will take some time. Once I’m happy with the overall script, I intend to do some workshop readings of it, hopefully with some professional actor friends, to get feedback for revisions. I want to send it to theatres in 2017 in hopes someone would be interested in debuting it. It’s an adult piece, blending politics, love, religion, culture, and family.

I love productive writing sessions, and they typically come through strong inspiration and solid source material. Thanks T. Williams for the former.

Writing: If your brain keeps stewing, you probably aren’t finished.

As a rule, I typically do this: if my brain keeps stewing about a work you completed, it’s not complete and you need to revisit it.

I’m not talking about the revision process when a writer is still in the mode of improving a work. I’m talking about after the writer thinks the work is finished. If it keeps bothering you, if something isn’t sitting right, you need to take a second look.

This is an excellent reason to allow a finished work to sit untouched for a while before the writer publishes it or does anything else to it. Time allows the ideas to settle, and time will eventually tell you are not finished.

I came across this issue this past week. I wrote a piece (with a student of mine) this summer, a short play which will be part of my show in December. I thought it was finished, and we’ve actually started rehearsals with the piece. But this week, for whatever reason, I started thinking more about the structure and characters and the more I thought, the more I realized I wasn’t satisfied.

I didn’t really have time for another re-write, but I know me. Once I feel unsettled about a work, there’s no stopping me until I’m satisfied. It’s an annoying trait, but I think it’s a good one.

And so over the last couple of days, I went through two more re-writes, I cut out about 20% of the story, dropped one character completely, reedited many lines and ended up changing the title three more times. I actually sent the new updated script to my actors with one title, but I just changed it again about ten minutes ago.

Writing perfection doesn’t exist. A work is never completely done, it’s typically just abandoned by the writer. But sometimes, a finished work can haunt you until you give in and do the necessary work to improve it. Because that’s what is ultimately important. The process. The small increments of improvement played out over a long period of time.

Don’t settle. Listen to the unsettling voices inside. It will make the work better, and it will make you a better writer.

A Writer’s Problem? Diverted attention

Here’s the problem: I have so many writing interests that I jump around to all kinds of writing projects at the same time.

I should be working on my novel right now. I’m almost done with the first draft, but here’s where my rabbit-hold-kind-of-brain has been at this week. Two days ago, I got an idea for some song lyrics that I wrote. It was completely random, but I guess it’s good to rhyme every once in a while. I had fun writing them and I put them on this blog two days ago. Right about that same time, I had the genesis of a new play, just a title and a very rough scenario which might work. After that had been marinating in my brain for a day or two, I went to see a production of The Glass Menagerie last night. It was a great show, so as I was thinking through Williams’ writing and what it means to me, I got re-inspired to start that play. I decided to zoom in, and like Tennessee Williams, have a static set with only four characters. I’ve written elaborate plays before with many characters, those are especially good for high school productions, I’m attracted to the idea of a character-driven play where I can really focus and develop on just a handful of characters. So this afternoon, I’ve been writing it, my new play, forsaking my novel once again.

I also have another play I’m writing with some students. We  have a mid-October deadline. Plenty of time to procrastinate.

I also re-wrote one of the short plays I’m producing for December.

So, yeah, I’m all over the place. But I think that’s the way I work best. Let the cross-genres and overlapping ideas help each other. I’ll eventually get everything done.

The creative writing process is such a fascinating phenomenon. One word or phrase can turn my head and get my undivided attention. I never know what’s coming next. And that’s actually kind of fun.

Thoughts on Opening Night

The jitters motor the action. The laughter loosens the mouth. The applause raises the chin. Opening night is always special. The theatre arts would be one of life’s more ridiculous endeavors if there never was an opening night. For months these make-believe characters have been jabbing at each other week after week, having the same arguments, slapping each other after the same old insult, and having the same conflict resolution after the same old plot climax. But suddenly, it all makes sense. The lines bring enjoyment. The dances bring amazement. The story draws in the eyes, and the heartstrings are tugged at just the right moment. The kids finally get the reward for their hard work. All of that happened Tuesday night as we re-staged our original musical from 2009. The crowd of 163 filled up the hall nicely and I once again marveled at how the kids had grown over the last few months. It was without a doubt our best performance. The energy of the audience always does that. It brings out the best. And though it was not without flaws, it flowed beautifully and I couldn’t have been prouder. We have some truly talented actors in our mix, some who will be leaving us this year. I shall savor every minute. Two more performances this Saturday will end our tiny little run. From the mind to the written page to the stage. There’s nothing like it. a tad of trouble flyer 2a