Saturday, March 21, 2009

Filmmakers Shindig--meet and greets for Boston-area filmmakers

I just learned about what sounds like a fun social networking group for Boston-area filmmakers. The Filmmakers Shindig meets once very two months in bars in and around Boston. The next one is on March 28th in Quincy. It sounds like a great idea. (Has anyone out there been to one of these? Please comment and let me know.) Not sure I can get away that particular night, but if not this time, I think I'll try to make the next one.

ETA's annual play survey of high school performances

Every year, the Educational Theatre Association takes a look at which plays are playing on high school stages all across America.

For playwrights, it's an interesting list--it lets us see how much modern work is filtering its way down into the mainstream educational world. In terms of full-length plays, the answer is not much. I'm glad that they also offer a list of the top ten short plays performed by high schools (most are large-cast, half-hour comedies)--here you'll see work by various contemporary writers. Jonathan Rand's Hard Candy and Check, Please routinely occupy the top slots. Allison Williams' play Drop Dead, Juliet! is new to the list and shows that Lindsay Price's TheatreFolk publishing company is doing a good job marketing work by its playwrights. Notice that Playscripts publishes half of the plays on this top ten list.

I'll paste in the top ten short plays list here:

The top ten short plays
1. Check, Please, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
2. Hard Candy, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
3. (tie) The Actor’s Nightmare, by Christopher Durang (Dramatists Play Service)
3. (tie) 15 Reasons Not to Be in a Play, by Alan Haehnel (Playscripts, Inc.)
5. Check, Please: Take 2, by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts, Inc.)
6. This Is a Test, by Stephen Gregg (Dramatic Publishing)
7. Bang, Bang, You’re Dead, by William Mastrosimone (
8. The Seussification of Romeo and Juliet, by Peter Bloedel (Playscripts, Inc.)
9. (tie) Drop Dead, Juliet!, by Allison Williams (Theatrefolk)
9. (tie) Words, Words, Words, by David Ives (Dramatists Play Service)

I have quite a few scripts published for use by high school students, but most are short duets. None have cracked this list, but I wouldn't mind if it happened someday, that's for sure.

the tables they are turning: Larry Wilmore on the Daily Show

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
The New White Face of Crime
Daily Show Full EpisodesImportant Things w/ Demetri MartinPolitical Humor

As I know from my own work (esp. Pieces of Whitey) race in America always remains a tricky topic. I love the way Larry Wilmore hits it with this segment.

viral home-made Trader Joe's video (just because)

Several folks have written blogs about this and the effectiveness of it as a potential marketing tool, because of its feel of authenticity (the way it shows TJ's warts and all). I can see what they mean--for me the thing that works about it is that it's something made with obvious love/affection, in a way that feels organically true. I watch this little piece and I think, yeah, that's how it's like for me, too.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stop Rain in Boston, Friday March 20

This Friday, March 20, my play Stop, Rain will be part of Life Lines, a set of five short plays presented by the Actors Refuge Repertory Theatre. The show is at 7:30 p.m., at the First Church of Boston, 66 Marlborough Street. Tickets are $10 general admission, $8 for students/seniors.

The plays are by some very talented writers (including another Boston writer, Janet Kenney). Here's the summary of Stop Rain:

Birthmother Rain desperately wants to see the son she placed for adoption, but adoptive mom Marla feels she needs to protect her son from Rain's screw-ups and chaotic life. Can the two mothers learn to understand each other?
I last saw this show at the Boston Theatre Marathon, where Debra Wise and Eliza Fitcher of the Underground Railway Theatre did an amazing job with it. I'm excited to see the play again.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Confident or Delusional at Newbie blog

My friend Dan Milstein pointed out this post to me over at the Newbie's Guide to Publishing, about the difference between confident writers and delusional writers. It's a great post and the discussion that follows is worth reading, too.

I hope, of course, that I'm confident writer, not delusional. Though as Konrath points out, delusional writers will not know that they're delusional, so instead will consider themselves confident. So I guess I don't really know. I might be a little bit of both.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jon Stewart grills Jim Cramer

Wow. I've been a Daily Show/Jon Stewart fan for a long time, but he really laid into Jim Cramer from CNBC last night, in a way that needed to be done. I expected a slightly softer interview, but it was uncomfortable to watch (but in a good way) because Jon was so tough. To echo so many other bloggers, why is it that it takes a comedian to ask the hard questions of people in the financial business?

For me, the interview was yet another reminder (they're everywhere these days) to reconsider how much I've bought into this whole notion of our 401K acting as a pseudo bank account that will grow steadily until we retire and make life plush and easy. Putting money into the stock market is not actually saving money--it's investing. Over the past decade, many Americans have come to look at those two things as being the same (hence the Bush administration's push to haul Social Security into the stock market).

In order for me to continue being a writer, I've always known that we need to live within our means. Getting into debt in order to consume more stuff or take trips or buy a fancier car or house, explicitly meant that I would eventually end up quitting as a writer and have to go off to make money (unless I hit the lottery and sold something that made it big). Not everyone else has the choices so clearly laid out, but there are always trade offs to taking on debt and excessive consumption, even if they're hard to visualize. I'm glad to see Jon Stewart, at least a tiny bit, be tough of some of the forces that have been pushing so hard the notion of easy money.

the hard part--being still

I'm pretty good at being busy (though I may complain about it at the time). I'll be writing a book, coaching soccer, managing our garden, setting up a writing workshop, managing a couple other groups. For my writing, I might go back and forth between two or three different projects. Some of these projects (especially novels) require steady work over several years, day in and day out.

But sometimes, especially after the long projects are completed, I actually need to force myself to sit still and be quiet. I need to read big piles of novels and plays. I need to refill my creative buckets and actively try not to be so busy for a while. It's not that I don't like doing it--I definitely do--but I get antsy. I've worked hard to be disciplined about writing over the years, so I take my work days pretty seriously and try not to waste time (though blogs and emails don't help). For me, it's comforting to have a definite amount of output every day, pages or words written or revised. I feel like I'm proving to everyone (and myself) that I'm working hard and not a bum (even if I'm not making much money).

Right now though, part of my job for the next month or two is to read, think, pace, refill, and stop being so busy, and to give myself the space and permission to do so. Funny how the things that sound easy can be the hardest.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

good post about Racism in Publishing (and how you can help)

Editorial Ass has posted an interesting take about how race plays out in what books you see available on the bookstore and library shelves and offers a simple suggestion.

(Be sure to read the comments, too--it's generated a very interesting discussion.)

Tundra Games on KUSF tonight at 9:30pm (Pacific)

Shoestring Radio Theatre's production of my radio play, Tundra Games, will be on KUSF in San Francisco tonight at 9:30pm (Pacific time). You can listen online at Should be another fun (they broadcast my radio play Love & Lightning last week). Let me know if you listen.

Here's synopsis of the show (it runs about 27 minutes):

Hickey is a professional killer cooped up in the middle of an arctic blizzard with his next target, Simon. But the bullets are at home, and they're out of food. Hickey's partner, Rose, shows up just in time, with ammunition and provisions, but Hickey has lost his nerve. Rose takes Simon out to finish the job. She returns and explains that rather than shooting Simon, she pushed him off the back of her snowmobile and left him to freeze. There's just one problem-they have no proof to show their employers that they actually did the job. Rose thinks up a drastic solution, but it's gonna hurt.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

great blog post about book returns

I've been known to rail against the industry practice of allowing unsold books to be returned to publishers by book stores. But Wordhoarder has a much more detailed discussion, along with ideas for how changes might occur in this post (the comments are good, too).

Thursday, March 5, 2009

great Jon Stewart segment

Thomas Garvey over at The Hub Review posted this great segment about CNBC and the financial press from the Daily Show.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

my letter to Newsweek about Special Education

Newsweek's My Turn section this week had an article entitled, Autism and Education, in which the mother of a special needs child and "gifted" child, suggests that perhaps some funding from special education should be cut and repurposed for "gifted" programs.

Yikes. What an incredibly, incredibly, incredibly bad idea.

Here's the comment I sent to Newsweek:
Cutting Special Needs funding to increase "Gifted" programs is incredibly misguided, for several reasons. First, there is already plenty of opportunity out there for gifted individuals--various enrichment programs through universities, and after high school, top notch universities themselves. Our entire society has multiple openings for bright, intelligent, gifted individuals. The same cannot be said of children (and adults) with disabilities, while there are some programs for such kids, they are few and far between and poorly funded. (BTW, the budget amount mentioned in the article for No Child Left Behind is mostly used for regular education, not Special Education.)

When proposing such a change, it makes sense to look at the risks, benefits, and costs for both the child, family, and society. For the Gifted Child, additional funding may or may not make a difference, but what is the cost of a lack of programming? Some loss of potential? Perhaps. Perhaps the gifted child will be "doomed" to lead a slightly more ordinary life, but certainly one that is self-supporting and can still benefit society.

On the other hand, the cost of failing to provide adequate special education to children with special needs is high indeed. The goal of success is, as the author points out, sometimes just to be self-sufficient. Failure to help reach this "minimum" standard results in institutionalization, either in group homes, larger facilities, or prison. Just look at the percentage of our high school dropouts and prison population who have various developmental and learning disabilities. This is the result of underfunding special education--a drain on society, a long-term burden on families, and great loss of freedom and potential for the children not served. These costs are definite--not just potentialities (as opposed to the losses with not fully funding "gifted" education).

One of the great shames of America right now is actually the lack of Federal funding for Special Education. More and more of the burden of special education is being borne by states and local school districts. Increased reliance on local funding for special education results in growing inequality in student performance between rich suburban districts, with special needs children with milder needs, and poor urban districts, with large populations of children with severe needs.

Ms. Lindsley's daughter will be all right, whether she gets increased "gifted" program funding or not, but her son's future will be far less bright without early and proper special education support.

Love & Lightning on KUSF tonight at 9:30pm (Pacific)

Shoestring Radio Theatre's production of my radio play, Love & Lightning, will be on KUSF in San Francisco tonight at 9:30pm (Pacific time). You can listen online at Should be a fun show. Let me know if you listen.

Here's synopsis of the show (it runs about 27 minutes):
Stan and Teri are in the midst of a pleasant weekend bicycling across the prairie, when a storm suddenly appears and Stan is struck by lightning. He is left blind and paralyzed, with only Teri to help him. As she struggles to protect him from the storm, Teri discovers an engagement ring in Stan's backpack. This is the moment she's been waiting for! She's perfectly willing to marry Stan, despite his infirmities. But inside the ring box is a rejection note from Stan's girlfriend. How's he going to get out of this one?