Saturday, January 20, 2018

Another Enchanted Bookshop video

Texas's Fort Worth Academy has just posted a video from their recent production of The Enchanted Bookshop. It's only one scene, but it's one of my favorites--the scene where we first meet the bumbling smugglers Eddie and Fingers as well as the eternally tongue-twisted Officer Ketchum.

And this production includes one other twist. Margie, the lonely book lover who owns the shop, has been turned into a guy.

I think it works well--and shows just how flexible this play can be. Many of the famous book characters can be played by either gender--Robin Hood, for one, or the devious Fagin. Not to mention non-famous characters like the smugglers.

Some schools have even gone so far as to add other book characters to the cast.

If it works, I say go for it. But if you're a drama teacher and you want to make the most of what this play has to offer, don't stop there. Can you team up with other teachers at your school to promote the joy of reading?

Maybe the English teachers can have students read from some of the books mentioned in the play. Maybe the school librarian could launch a reading contest with prizes to be awarded at the intermission of your performance. Maybe the art teacher could have students design their own book covers--whether for real-live books or for books that only exist in their imaginations. Maybe the entire school could have a costume day, when students are encouraged to dress up as their favorite book characters.

When it comes to sharing a love of reading, the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Purrfect Crime is now available

One thing about getting published. It never gets old.

My twelfth play, The Purrfect Crime, was released by Pioneer Drama Service today and I'm just excited about it as if it were my first play.

There's the first look at the artwork (love the cat, guys!). The updating of this website. The scripts. The T-shirt. And of course, the long, nerve-wracking wait to see how popular the play is.

But this one means even more to me than most because it was the last play I developed in Colorado Springs before moving to Phoenix last February.

I lived in Colorado Springs for 23 years. I started a children's theatre company there. Launched my writing career there. Wrote 3 novels, dozens of theater reviews and 22 plays, 7 of which received their first staged reading or world premiere there.

Most importantly, I made a lot of great friends there.

I love Phoenix. I love the palm trees. I love the hiking. I love the funky little restaurants that can be found in every strip mall (and there are a LOT of strip malls). And yes, I love the climate (even in summer!). This is where I plan to live the rest of my life.

But a little piece of my me will always remain in that lovely little city at the foot of Pikes Peak.

Since The Purrfect Crime was one of those plays that premiered in Colorado Springs, I've already written at length about its development. If you're interested in reading those posts, click here for the complete thread. If you're thinking about producing the play and would like to read an excerpt or review the ordering information, click here.

In the meantime, let me leave you with the play's blurb:
Here's a pun-filled tale of feline fortune that all ages will love! Poor "Big Bob" Little. When this cantankerous old rancher dies. nobody mourrns -- not his eldest child, Cecilia, a hard-driving, money-hungry businesswoman; not middle child, Annie, a holistic, dizzy lass hoping to turn the ranch into a bovine meditation retreat; and not even youngest child, Little Bob, a lovable loser obsessed with the percussive arts. That's why it's no surprise when Bob leaves his entire $36 million fortune to his cat, Wiggles. Just what is a kitty to do with that much money? Enter a pair of purr-suasive cons who claim to be the world's foremost pet psychics. Not to let the cat out of the bag, but it's really an elaborate ruse to steal the kitty's diamond-studded toys. But when the corrked cat burglars learn that Wiggles needs a will of her own, they hatch a plan of have it all -- The Purrfect Crime! Can the family work together to stop a cat-astrophe? Or will they just end up fighting like cats and dogs? The Purrfect Crime is a claw-some blend of hiss-terical humor and cat-scratching action. Let the fur fly!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Writing twaddle

Happy New Year! Have you made any resolutions this year, maybe one to finally write that long-simmering stage play or novel? Well, you might find some inspiration in this article from the UK newspaper The Guardian.

In it, Travis Elborough and Helen Gordon share some of the hundreds of writing quotes they've collected in their 2017 book Being a Writer.

My favorite? This little gem from Katherine Mansfield: "Looking back I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better far write twaddle or anything, anything, than nothing at all."

This reminds me of the advice my high school writing teacher Ms. Aanrud always told us: Write something. You can always edit it later. But you can't edit nothing.

I've lived by these words ever since. Even when I can't think of anything to write, I'll scribble the worst dreck I can come up with just to get the juices flowing again.

It works. Sometimes it can take an hour or more of painful, pointless scribbling, but it works.

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever gotten?

Monday, January 1, 2018

A look ahead to 2018

I love New Year's Day. The year is so fresh, so new, so full of hope. Everything seems possible. All that's needed to make it possible is some sensible goalmaking and a lot of hard work.

The hard work is yet to come. But here are my goals for this year, whether sensible or not.

1) Get some traction on my Enchanted Bookshop screenplay

I'd always promised myself that if one of my plays became a hit, I would try to develop it into a film. Well, that finally happened last year. The Enchanted Bookshop burst out of the gate as soon it was released in August and it's been going gangbusters ever since.

It currently has 79 productions either already performed or scheduled, and if these numbers continue, it'll become one of the most produced plays in the country.

I wrote a handful of screenplays around a decade ago, but I never did anything with them. Oh, I paid for professional feedback, but that feedback was never positive enough to give me confidence that they could get produced. So the screenplays just sat on my hard drive--unsubmitted, unread, unproduced.

Well, not any more. This play has already proven itself on the stage and I feel it could be just as successful on the big screen (or more likely, the small screen). All I need to do is finish it, which should take another couple of weeks, and then I'll start submitting it like crazy.

I know it's still a million to one shot, but at this point I'll take anything to show I'm on the right track. A contest win, a request to read the script from a real-live producer. It's all good.

2) Complete two plays

This shouldn't be too hard, but it does require focus. It takes me about six months of writing 1.5 hours per day to finish a full-length play. So if I concentrate solely on writing new plays and don't get sidetracked by other projects (screenplays, revisions of older plays, changing plays midstream, etc.), I should be able to achieve this goal.

3) Publish three new plays

I'm already a third of the way toward this goal. My play The Purrfect Crime will be released by Pioneer Drama Service any day now.

That means I only have to get two more plays accepted for publication. I currently have one play in review at Pioneer, three plays at other publishers and the two new ones I hope to write. So as long as my hit rate stays above 33%, I should be able to reach this goal too.

4) Lead a workshop at the Arizona Thespian Conference

When I was still living in Colorado, I led workshops four years in a row at the very large and very successful Colorado Thespian Conference (including a hugely popular one on the Hero's Journey in Star Wars).

I was hoping to teach a similar class in my new home, but so far I haven't gotten any response from the organizers. In the new year, I'll redouble my efforts to put my name into consideration.

5) Develop one new play with a school or theatre group

Most of my plays are unproduced before they get published. But every year or so, I like to work with a school to develop and premiere one of my scripts. The director and students bring fresh ideas to the material, and the audience response gives me important feedback.

I have already been throwing around ideas with a local middle school that produced one of my plays in 2016. If we can agree on a premise and a date, it should be a go.

But I'm always open to working with other groups. If you're involved with a Phoenix-area school or theatre company and would like to participate in such a project, please email me by clicking here.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A look back at 2017

Well, here we are at the end of another year.

2017 was a crazy year for me--a year of challenges, a year of changes. But through it all, I kept plugging away at my writing. My goal of becoming a full-time writer is closer than ever, but I'm not quite there yet.

Since it's New Year's Eve, I'd like to do what I do every year at this time and review the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year.

How did I do? Well, as it turns out, I missed a lot more than usual, but that's not a huge surprise--or even a disappointment.

That's because last New Year's Day, I was unemployed--and had been for 9 months. I was waiting to hear back on a job I had interviewed for, but I didn't want to jinx things. So I set my writing goals sky-high, assuming that I wouldn't get the job and would have 24 hours a day in which to write.

Things didn't turn out that way. I got the job (yay!), and besides spending a lot of time and energy learning my way around that, I also had to sell my home in Colorado Springs, pack up all my stuff and schlep it all down to my new home in Gilbert, AZ.

My writing time dropped significantly, from 4.5 to 1.5 hours a day, but I'm not missing many day. And, of course, I can pay the bills now, which makes for a much more sustainable lifestyle (it's hard to concentrate on writing when your stomach's empty and the bank's about to foreclose on your house).

Without further ado then, here are my goals for 2017 and how close I came to reaching them:

1) Complete eight new plays

Not even close. I only completed three new plays, but that's not entirely due to the unavoidable drop in my writing time.

I spent all of March and April making revisions that my publisher requested on two previously accepted plays. The revisions were time-consuming, but I have to admit, they made the plays a whole lot better.

And from October to December, I took a break from my playwriting to work on something a little bit different: a screenplay.

So I only had seven months to work on new plays. Taking that into consideration, having completed three plays isn't so bad.

2) Publish six new plays

I fell short here too, with only three new plays being released during the year. Since I didn't finish as many plays as last year, I wasn't able to make as many submissions.

But my hit rate on the ones I did complete was much better this year than last. In 2017, Pioneer accepted three of my submissions and rejected one. In 2016, they accepted two and rejected three.

I still haven't gotten any of my rejected plays picked up by other publishers, but I'm still waiting to hear from a few so I hope that'll change soon.

3) Have a successful premiere of The Purrfect Crime

Bingo. As previously reported on this blog, Palmer Ridge High School of Monument, Colorado performed the play in March of this year and it was a big success all around. Audiences loved it, and I got the feedback I needed to punch up the script before I submitted it to my publisher (they accepted it in October).

4) Get another production of Kill the Critic!

Not even close. The script was rejected by two more publishers and the LA theatre that had given it a professional reading in February 2016 didn't pick it up for a production.

It's still being considered by one publisher, but at this point, I'm focusing on my other plays. This one is just too risque fpr the schools and community theaters that form the bulk of my market.

5) Get another production of The Last Radio Show

Success. The play was performed in April by Johnston Heights Church in British Columbia, the only performance group that has done three of my plays (have I mentioned how much I love Canada?). My contact there told me that people came up after the show saying they had stomachaches from laughing so hard.

Unfortunately, publishers aren't seeing it that way. This script was also rejected by two publishers, but I'm still holding out hope as it's squeaky clean and is relatively inexpensive (if not exactly easy) to produce.

So there you have it. Two successes out of five. Not the best, but considering where I was a year ago, I'll take it.

I hope 2017 was a great year for you too.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Trouble in Buffalo Grove

I just came across this video from Aptakisic Junior High School in Buffalo Grove, IL (isn't that a great name for a town?). In it, Sara Meyer, co-director of the school's drama club, talks about their upcoming production of Trouble in Paradise Junction. She also discusses the vital role drama plays in the lives of her students.

"I think it's really important for kids to have a different outlet, to express themselves, to be creative and enjoy exploring different parts of a character... It makes kids more thoughtful about why they do things and it's a fun way for them to kind of explore new parts of themselves and to discover that they have talents that they didn't know that they had."

I agree completely. There's no better way to learn empathy than to step out of yourself and into the wants and needs, the background and personality of another person. And that's what drama is all about.

Break legs, guys. I hope your show is a huge success!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Enchanted Bookshop video is now online

I've received several requests for videos of The Enchanted Bookshop, my full-length fantasy comedy that just came out in August. So far I've had to hold off the requests with a polite, "Just wait." Although the play has booked a ton of productions (78 to date!), I've only seen a few photos online and no videos.

Until now, that is. The Small Parts Players of Virginia, MN just posted a video of their recent production on YouTube (to view it, click on the video above or go to my Videos page). It includes the entire play, and although the colors are sometimes muted because of the lighting, the sound is excellent.

The young actors are very talented, and I love seeing the enthusiasm and flair they brought to each of their roles.