Friday, December 31, 2021

A look back at 2021


Well, it was another crazy year. And not just because of COVID, although that didn't help.

Fortunately, my family managed to stay healthy. We got our shots and our boosters as soon as we could. I was also able to work from home for my day job all year, allowing me to spend what would have been my commute time for more productive projects--namely, working out and learning Italian. And that time working out (I use a elliptical) allowed me to see LOTS of movies and TV shows. Like many people, I fell in love with The Crown, The Queen's Gambit and Derry Girls.

But I fell short in one big area. My playwriting.

Literary dreams

This was the first year since I was first published in 2011 that I didn't have a new play released. And that's because for the first half of the year, I was focused on launching my (still non-existent) literary career.

As I've mentioned before, I managed to snag my first literary agent in March 2020, and for 15 months after that, I focused on writing novels.

My thought process was this. Sure, my plays were making money. But I'm a long ways from being able to support myself solely through playwriting--especially with the pandemic crippling public performances for a second year. If I wanted to become a full-time writer, I would have to find success in another field. And the most likely field, it seemed to me, was writing children's novels.

Most of my plays are written for young people to perform. And several of them lent themselves to being adapted to novels. So I found a literary agent with several big books under his belt and cranked out three novels (well, more like two and a half) in a little over a year.

The first novel was an adaptation of my play The Enchanted Bookshop. The second was an adaptation of my play Wicked Is As Wicked Does. And that half of one was an update to a middle-grade novel I'd first written over 20 years ago and which had won me a local writing award: Edison Young and the Ravenous Robosaur.

But a funny thing happened on the way to my literary success. It didn't happen. Not because my agent wasn't any good. He worked hard peddling my manuscripts to all the major publishers. It's just that none of them were interested in it.

Then an even funnier thing happened. I learned I hate writing novels. To be honest, they're a lot of work. They require a lot more words. And I get bored out of my skull writing descriptions. Give me dialogue (and a few choice stage directions) and day.

So I was torn. Do I pursue something that I love that may never support me? Or do I stick with something I don't love but has a greater chance of making me money?

It was about this time that I got word that my long-simmering play The Last Radio Show (first performed in 2016) got accepted for publication. And then Belmont Day School in Belmont, MA commissioned me to write a play.

The universe was sending me a sign.

So I decided to devote myself to playwriting. And I decided that, even if I would never get rich from it, if I can crank out a fair number of plays over the next few years, I might be able to make it full-time.

Well, guess what? Writing is actually fun again. And after just six months, I've already got a nice pipeline going. The Last Radio Show is in editing at Heuer Publishing and should come out in early 2022. My commissioned play--It's a Madhouse!--is in rehearsal. I just submitted my bext play--a large-cast comedy about dinosaurs--to Pioneer. And I'm well on my way on my next play.

So I no more novel writing goals for me next year. I'm going to focus on playwriting, with a goal of completing--and publishing--three.

Last year's goals

1) Sell a middle-grade novel series

None of the three series my agent pitched got sold. Call this one a big fat Fail.

2) Write the first book in a third middle-grade novel series

Success. This was my adaptation of Wicked Is As Wicked Does. This got the most positive feedback of any of my submission (one publisher called it "a really finny, irreverent story"). But sadly, no one bit.

3) Write another school play

Another success. I wrote not one but two: It's a Madhouse! and The Real Reason Dinosaurs Went Extinct.

4) Buy all my books from independent bookstores

With regards to this goal, I was a very good boy, buying all of my new books from my local indie bookshop, Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, or my favorite online bookseller, Alibris, which is essentially a conglomeration of hundreds of independent brick-and-mortar booksellers.

That is, until Christmas rolled around, and I needed a book--fast!--as a stocking stuffer for my wife. That's when I caved on my principles and coughed up $11.44 to purchase Mindy Kaling's Why Not Me? from Mr. Bezos. Maybe it'll help pay for a screw on his next space rocket.

Summing up

So my success rate was pretty good, almost 75% if you give me partial credit on that last goal. But I didn't achieve my main goal, which was to sell a book series.

At this point, I don't think that'll ever happen. And I'm okay with that.

After all, I've got a new play to finish.

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