Thursday, May 21, 2009

Boston Theatre Marathon Roundup

I had a great time at the Boston Theatre Marathon on Sunday at the Calderwood Pavilion Theatre in Boston's South End. I think I set my own record for number of plays watched--48 out of 50 ten-minute plays.

My play, Recognition, went very well. I had two young actresses, Ashley Gramolini and Sarah Barton, who have a lot of talent and worked hard, as well as terrific director in Nora Hussey. I was a little worried about having a serious drama follow Rick Park's super funny Please Report Any Suspicious Activity, but the audience seemed to handle the transition well, and they paid rapt attention during our piece.

Overall, the day felt comfortable. Not many pieces that I detested, and a lot of plays that I liked. When you watch so many, they do tend to blend together after a while. (Dave Schrag put together a list of common topics on his blog.)

I did have a few favorites for the day:
  • Safely Assumed by Andrea Fleck Clardy was both serious and clever in its look at racial assumptions. I look forward to seeing more plays by her.
  • Ken Urban's White People came off especially well, I thought, with two strangers connecting on the subways.
  • Bill Donnelly's Sugar Glider still had me thinking and talking about it on Tuesday night. Kevin LaVelle, whomI've worked with a lot, was the perfect match for the script.
  • I'm always happy to see Rough & Tumble, and their When No One Comes Calling brought a bit of color to a stage that can feel a little drab over the course of the day (more about that in another blog entry soon).
  • Gary Garrison's play The Sweep covered a lot of ground, but seemed to pull it off (and got two strong performances from Rick Park and Michael Steven Costello).
  • Laying the Smack Down in Cambridge by Jonathan Busch was probably my favorite of the evening combining a bad poet, bad poetry, and professional wrestling.
I was struck again by the fact that Boston has an unusual wealth of strong actresses in the age 35-55 range. Maureen Keiller, Lisa Tucker, Debra Wise, Sarah Newhouse, and others. I swear I could write plays just for them, and audiences would thank me for it, night after night.

As always, I'm grateful to Kate Snodgrass and all the folks at Boston Playwrights Theatre and at the BCA, and all the volunteers, for putting on a great event. Can't wait until next year.

Getting Started: a new novel

I finally started writing my new novel today, which will be a middle-grade (MG) novel, for ages 10-12, but one that I hope will also have appeal for parents and families in general. It's a story that I've been carrying in my head for quite a few years--I wrote up a long outline back in 2004 that I'll use to guide me through.

I've spent the last few weeks reading quite a bit of MG fiction, a lot of which is great. I think Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite writers now (Because of Winn-Dixie, Despereax, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane).

Starting a new project is always a bit tricky, as I have to figure out what sort of working rhythm is right for this book. It's important to accept that the opening pages are likely to be complete crap and just go ahead and write them and get it over with. Some people go back and rewrite constantly, but I'm the opposite. I like to keep moving forward every day and will go back and fix it all later. For me, it's just important to get the story down on paper, without judgment. I'll reread what I wrote the day before, but I will try not to make many revisions to it.

With this project, my goal is to put in at least 2 hours a day, five days a week, for as long as I can. The kids are only in school for about four more weeks. Summer vacation complicates things, but in the summer, I'll try to write from 5am-7am, so I can put in the time and keep making progress. I try to write first thing in the morning, to minimize distractions. No e-mail, internet, or to-do lists until I'm done writing for the day.

Today I was able to jump right in, and actually worked for three hours and wrote about 2,300 words. I've got some forward momentum now.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Boston Theatre Marathon today

The Boston Theatre Marathon runs all day today from Noon to 10 p.m. at the Calderwood Pavilion Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts. For one ticket, you can see 50 different plays by 50 different New England writers, produced by 50 different companies (and the whole thing benefits charity). A test of your endurance, but incredibly fun. My show, Recognition, will be on stage at 2 p.m. (and follows a very, very, very funny play by Rick Park). I've got a terrific cast from the Wellesley Summer Theatre, directed by Nora Hussey. Should be a very good show. Can't wait.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Postal Rates go up on May 11

Somehow this snuck up on me, but it's critical info for all writers. Postal rates go up as of May 11.

The price for a first class letter goes from $0.42 to $0.44 (but you were using "Forever Stamps" so all those SASEs will still come back, right?). Post cards go from $0.27 up to $0.28. For large envelopes, the first ounce is $0.88 (up from $0.83) with additional ounces staying at $0.17.

I wish they'd just boost everything to denominations of 5, but no more often than every five years, so I didn't constantly have to buy new odd sorts of stamps. I'm still finishing off 26 cent post card stamps.

For writers, this ends up being a huge hassle, because it means that SASEs and post cards we sent out are unlikely to come back (if they had regular stamps, not "forever stamps), because theatres and agents aren't likely to go out and buy rolls of 1 cent stamps.

Luckily, most people who respond positively will respond by e-mail or phone, so really the return mail is mostly just for rejections. But I send out scores of submissions every year, and a rejection gives me valuable information about response time, what people are looking for, and more.