Saturday, April 24, 2004

SATURDAY, APRIL 24, 2003
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and warm



Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan.

Football may not be my sport, but Pat Tillman and his brother Kevin (who plays baseball) caught my attention when they walked away from their sports careers to join the military. It felt personal, although we’d never met. It felt like they were going over for me. They weren't just sitting around mourning 9/11. They took action.

So often, we become detached from war because we hear about “soldiers.” They’re people, and each and every one of them matters.

The Tillmans served in the same unit. Hopefully, Kevin is okay. There was a mention of several wounded in the firefight that killed Pat. I hope Kevin wasn’t one of them.

I have a candle burning for them.

Up and down writing week. I don’t know why I assumed that because I resumed my yoga practice, the writing would flow. It definitely keeps me more clear-headed, but, this week, also sore.

Got six episodes of the horror serial done, and two each of the mystery and western – I think I mentioned at least some of that in earlier posts. Polished three short stories and submitted them. Created a new pseudonym for one of them, because it is so far removed from anything else I’ve done. The protagonist is quite flawed and has a lot of room to grow, if her story flies.

Worked on my mailing list, got more copies of the newsletter out, bought supplies, scoured the job boards. I have an idea for a series of articles on the Triple Crown, but it may be too late, if the deadline is, like, Monday.

I worked on some more pieces for Wild Child. I’m going to do some more piece from Edge, and also take some scenes from Moon Tribe Tales (the ones that belong exclusively to my collaborator and I) and submit those, too – under both our names, of course.

I heard from a book packager who is interested in seeing samples of picture books. I spent a couple of days working on three new pieces from that, plus submitted Jill Moves and Elsa’s Sweater. The latter are appropriate for the younger end of their spectrum. I have a feeling that Mina’s Test may end up being a chapter book for 7-11 year olds, though.

I need my books from storage.

I’m savoring every moment of ice hockey, knowing that soon the season will be over, and who knows when we’ll have a new one? I hope the Players hold the line and don’t cave to owner pressure. Certain owners created the situation in the first place, acting as though they could buy the Stanley Cup. There’s so much more to it than money, which is why it remains “the most coveted trophy in sports” as one hears time and time again. The owners need to police themselves, not punish the players and call them “greedy.” All they have to do is not sign players to obscenely high contracts. The ones who don’t want to play for less than tens of millions of dollars will fall away, play somewhere else, or – hopefully – start their own teams -- and the ones who do, who are young and hungry, will go out there and give it everything they’ve got. There’s no need to put a salary cap in the contracts.

Okay, now, step away from the soapbox!

Last night, as I read a book I was sent for review, I was surprised, pleased, shocked and flattered to find one of my Llewellyn articles quoted in it! I can’t review the book now, of course – it would be a conflict of interest – but – wow! My work has made a positive impact – too funny!

And, I have to get on the stick with Periwinkle. That should write itself fairly quickly, and stretch me in a new direction as far as romantic comedy.

Visiting the beach several times this week, I became re-obsessed with a photograph in a small, local museum that caught my attention. It is of five women who worked in a local amusement park. I’m determined to track down their stories – both as an article, and as an inspiration for a novel. I’ve contacted the park, I have to go to the library, I searched the internet. I also went to the county archives – which was supposed to be open – and, after driving cross county, found a hand-lettered sign saying it was closed.

Can’t wait until both Mercury and Jupiter go direct. They’re tough!

Ironically, just hours before I learned about Pat Tillman’s death, I was playing with the idea of an epistolary novella set in the Vietnam era. Now, it seems even more important to get that done

Monday, April 19, 2004

Sunday, April 18, 2004
Dark of the Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Warm and sunny



Finally, a good writing day. I woke up eager to hit the desk.

Six episodes of the horror serial flowed easily. It felt absolutely right. I’m finally getting into the groove of the piece. There’s a lot of humour in it, too. It doesn’t fall into the traditional tenets of horror, but there’s some dark psychological and rather terrifying stuff happening. It just doesn’t happen relentlessly.

Hockey yesterday helped. I was sad to see Philadelphia eliminate New Jersey from the playoffs. But Robert Esche’s goaltending was outstanding. It’s always great to see a player hit his stride like that. He also seems to have a good head on his shoulders and not get caught up in the hype. Detroit eliminated Nashville. Except for Jordin Tootoo’s disappointment, I’m happy about that. Colorado eliminated Dallas. Because Colorado now has Kariya and Barnaby, and I like Aebischer, I’m happy for them. Vancouver and Calgary will go to game 7, as will Boston and Montreal. The Boston-Montreal series has been the most interesting and intense. They seem to be the two most evenly matched teams in the East.

I reread some old stories yesterday and have some new ideas for them. There are two, of which I’m particularly fond, that I will polish, put different pseudonyms on, and send out. Both are unusual and don’t really fit into any sort of category, so I need to find a more adventurous market for them. I also found fragments of two short stories that I really like and I want to finish.

I made a list of some ideas to play with and hope I can carve out the time to explore. I need to allow myself a period of time each day to “play” on a piece – not work on something that’s on deadline, but simply play with something to see where it leads. I don’t want ideas to get stale. I also don’t want to have a dozen unfinished projects sitting around, draining energy. There’s a constant scramble for balance.

I took another look at a short story which is having trouble finding a home. In writing group a few years back, I received the suggestion that it seemed like the beginning of something longer. So I wonder if perhaps I can open it out, to about 7000 words and submit it to a particular market which I want to crack.

If I really want to make money, I need to train myself to write romance. Romance that fits the market yet doesn’t annoy me with the clichés that the market seems to crave. I’m not sure I can walk that very fine filament of a line, but it would certainly boost my income and stretch my creative muscles.
And I want to do another rewrite of the first hockey book before I start the next round of submissions. I want to cut at least 100 pages. That will be a challenge. It keeps growing instead of diminishing. But if I cut the right stuff and leave in the right stuff, I’ll have an even stronger piece of work. Those books are my prizes, my babies, closest to my heart. They’re special books depicting a special passion and the amazing people involved with it. I need to do right by the sport.

Later:
Polished three short stories and submitted them. It felt good. I think – I hope – I’ve hit it right now.

Two episodes of Tapestry. I’m approaching a section in which I want to make some major changes from my original outline. That will be a challenge – it will ripple through the rest of the piece, but, in the long run, serve it well. What can I say? I’ve learned a lot, both in the life experience department and the craft department, since I originally worked on it.

More hockey: Ottawa won in the 2nd OT to force a game seven with Montreal. I love that the Maple Leafs have Leetch, Ron Francis, Tie Domi, and Gary Roberts now. That’s one heck of a team. And Belfour’s been amazing.

Sad news: Pat Burns has colon cancer. He’s one of my favorite coaches, and I wish him well. I wish there was something active that I could do to help him and his family.

Time to be a grown-up: I’m glad I didn’t get into a dispute with that e-writer who annoyed me yesterday. I received a very funny, good-humoured and well-meant post from the same person today. Sometimes, it pays to keep your damn mouth shut in the heat of the moment.

Saturday, April 17, 2004
Waning Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and warm


Some days, one is simply out of sorts. I’m not a very nice person today – oversensitive, irritable, tired, snappish. I can’t seem to get anything done. A flippant comment by someone who barely knows me and means even less raised my hackles. I want to strike back, but the reality is that it isn’t worth escalating the conflict. This is someone who likes to stir things up – why buy into it, especially as this person has no permanent position in my life?

I’d like to blame it on the Islanders’ elimination from the playoffs, but that would be both untrue and unfair. It’s true that Tampa eliminated them last night. It’s unfair to say that’s the cause of my malaise. I feel badly for the Islanders. I’d hoped they’d make it to the Final. But I’m also pleased that Martin St. Louis of Tampa was the one who scored the OT winning goal.

Stefan Rivard of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies is retiring at age 30, and they are retiring his number. He was so kind and helpful when I went down to talk to the team during my hockey research. He’s extremely smart and talented --- I hope the world of hockey hasn’t lost him. He’s still got a lot to contribute to the sport. I wish him well in whatever path he follows from now on.

Yesterday I struggled to work on the horror serial. I did some business work, answered questions for some editors, sent a revised copy to one of them. I saw a new piece up on another site – I’m pleased with it, and sent off the news to my mailing list. Someone played a joke on one of the writing boards, and I wasn’t in the mood for it, so I left for a bit. No reason to get mad at people having fun because I’m not in the mood for that kind of joke. Got off a packet of cards to the Women Writers of the Desert conference – they will be included in the goodie bags. Also donated a few things for them to give as prizes during the conferences – made up simple gift certificates and sent them off. I answered interview questions for a freelance writing forum. What I had to say about grants will read like sour grapes. Perhaps it is. I never promised to be a perfect human. I have my faults and emotional baggage as much as the rest of the world. It was a reasonably productive day.

And today I’m struggling. I spent too much time scouring the job boards. I re-read some short stories and like them. I’ll do some tweaking, but now I need to figure out where to submit them. They don’t fit into anyone else’s boxes. It’s good to be unique, but more difficult to find the right market. I wrote the first draft of two essays that need to go out by the end of the month. I need to do more work on the horror serial, and I’m avoiding it.

Pages of spewing won’t make me feel better. The Devils face elimination in the playoffs this afternoon, so maybe a hockey game will set me to rights. I should make a trip to Staples to get supplies and do my newsletter mailing. I should finish the library mailing. I have book reviews to write. I have more work to do on the websites. I have a batch of query letters waiting to go out.

And I don’t feel like doing any of it.

Maybe I should take today as my day off, but I didn’t write much in Maine, so I’m not really entitled to a day off. But roaming around and around in circles in my own head certainly isn’t solving anything. And the fact that there’s so much darned room to roam in there is cause for concern.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Thursday, April 15, 2004
Mercury Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Waning Moon
Clouds giving way to sun and mild weather


It’s been an interesting few days. I had to drive to Maine to help out with some family business. I had had an idea for an article I hoped would come to fruition on that trip, but, of course, it’s turned into quite something else. Still, it will be worth exploring the article to see where it will lead me.

Unfortunately, this piece will have to take a number behind all the other pieces who are clamoring for attention.

I did some Mercury retrograde shopping, but didn’t find everything I want. I don’t find shopping relaxing. I like to go in, get what I need and get out. The only real browsing I enjoy is in bookshops and junk shops. And my favorite secondhand bookshop, The Book Barn, in Wells, Maine, was closed when I passed. That was disappointing. I always find something unexpected and fascinating there. But it was Easter Monday, and I think that particular place is usually closed on Mondays anyway.

As I went about my duties, I listened. I listened to the cadence of the stories. I listened to the memories. I listened to what’s important to them, the odd Maine sense of humour, the little details that make up a day. I don’t know how or where I’ll use it, but use it I will.

The great thing about being a writer is that nothing is ever wasted. Every experience, every frustration, every joy, every breath is . . . material.

Along with caring for the relatives, running errands, and visiting, I managed to get quite a bit of reading done. Joan Druett’s She Captains has plenty of fascinating information. Some of it is relevant to my current work, and, of course, gives me leads towards further research. I admire people who can hire a research assistant. I need to do my own research because I never know what unusual tidbit of information will set off the bells in my head? Soul? I don’t want to sound too crazy here. Anyway, I often come across a piece of information which is a tangent. Yet, I can make a note of it and follow up on it later and it often leads me to something far more intriguing than my original mission. There’s no way I could communicate this properly to a research assistant.

I finished Carolyn Heilbrun’s The Last Gift of Time, which I’d picked up in a Sag Harbor bookstore the day I headed out to Deep Hollow Ranch. I adore Heilbrun’s work, both her fiction and non-fiction. I nearly met her once, at a conference in England. However, I was too shy. I was in the process of disengaging myself from a spectacularly unhealthy romance. I was ashamed for getting myself into it in the first place, and I felt that I couldn’t discuss anything with her, feminist as she is, because I felt like a hypocrite. It was completely illogical. I could have discussed plenty of other things and never even brought up the relationship. But I was so wounded and felt so worthless that I couldn’t even introduce myself to her. I’m still angry at myself for that entire period of my life. I don’t even want to write about it because that would be flattering the man with whom I was so ill-advisedly involved.

Anyway, I always felt Ms. Heilbrun to be, as she puts it so well in her book, one of my “un-met friends.” Her work has had enormous influence on me because she encourages me to look at things in a new way and to take my blinders off. I’d always despised the character of Gertrude in Hamlet until I read Heilbrun’s essay “Hamlet’s Mother.” She showed me a new way to look at the situation and now I can actually find compassion. I would love to see Gertrude portrayed on stage with the viewpoint of that essay. Maybe, in one of my fictional pieces someday, I can have the characters work on Hamlet and play with it. Yet another project to queue up.

I made quite a bit of progress with Milton Rugoff’s wonderful biographer of the Beechers. It’s a massive volume. I’m concerned because it gives some dates in conflict with the dates I looked up for Harriet’s sojourn in Cincinnati. If Rugoff is correct – and he probably is – I’ve gotten something muddled in The Widow’s Chamber by having Nora’s sister Catherine befriended by Harriet in 1852. Well, I’ll look into it farther – I’ll check with the Stowe Center in Hartford – and, if need be, I’ll fix it. Or at least admit the mistake on the website. I want to research farther Lyman Beecher’s time as a minister in East Hampton, and I’m also intrigued by his trial for heresy in Ohio.

One of my concerns in The Widow’s Chamber is that the women are too modern. However, reading the historical information of the time, the women of the 1850’s were quite progressive. There were plenty of forward thinkers. It seems to have dipped back after the Civil War until after the turn of the century, when suffragettes got back to work, but Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Seneca Falls convention took place in 1848. My ladies aren’t too far off the mark. They don’t fall into many clichés of the time – that’s incorrectly phrased. There are clichés that in modern times we associate with the 1850’s, and many of them are inaccurate. My entrepreneurial and resourceful women have true roots. For that, I am grateful. And, of course, I’m grateful to the Beecher women, to Louisa May Alcott, to Clara Barton, to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the thousands of forgotten women for always working for change, and for never being satisfied to do as they’re told!

I don’t understand boredom. It’s a concept that I simply can’t wrap my mind around. How can anybody ever be bored? The world is a fascinating place, and there’s never enough time to do all the intriguing things that present themselves. There’s so much to read, to learn, to experience. I get completely exasperated with people who complain of boredom. They are quickly ex-communicated from my universe. I have no time for them.

Once home, I toiled. Taxes were due today, and I was determined, not only to do them myself, but on time. Happily, I finished them before noon (I’d started them and had my rages and frustrations and my time of throwing things around the room days ago). But today I feel an absolute lack of creative impulse.

I wrote a few press releases that needed attention. Gotta keep the business side of things ticking. I dealt with a couple of editors who need me to take care of things. I’m playing phone tag with someone I to interview for an article. I put together a packet of informational cards to be distributed in the goodie bags at a writers’ conference in Arizona. I’m thrilled and delighted that I was invited to contribute something. I sent the cards for The Widow’s Chamber. And I worked on the website. I also dealt with some promo business for the blog.

Hockey bliss continues with the playoffs, although the Devils and the Islanders are making me nervous, three games down each. They can both be eliminated from the first round if they don’t win the next few games. Boston’s doing well over Montreal. Toronto and Ottawa are tied. Detroit and Nashville are still going at it – I’m impressed by Nashville’s grit. Colorado and Dallas are going at it. They played an excellent game last night. Of the three games between which I flipped, the Colorado-Dallas was the best. Watching New Jersey and the Islanders each lose 3-0 was simply painful.

Sudden realization: I haven’t missed the theatre at all.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Easter Sunday
Waning Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Rainy and cool



My day started with getting yesterday’s mail (which, by 6 PM yesterday had yet to arrive). The news disheartened me. I did not get a grant for which I applied last October.

The grant wasn’t for much money, but it would have taken some of the financial pressure off of me.

Letters like that always bring a mixture of feelings – disappointment mixed with anger and resentment. There’s that feeling of , “why doesn’t anyone whose work I actually know and respect ever get this grant?” Sad, but true, I have never seen a body of work come out of the grant. Yet, someone, somewhere is getting the money and truly needs it in order to fund even a few months of work without the bill collectors’ interruptions. I can’t begrudge any working artist from receiving aid. I simply don’t understand the criteria this particular organization uses – it seems to be that the person be as obscure as possible with no hope for a self-sustaining career. And yet, that could well be an unfair assessment. I’m hardly acquainted with every artist in the region. And the value of work is purely subjective, not objective.

Still, it makes it difficult to face the page this morning.

And face the page I must. I’ve had a rough few days. I haven’t accomplished everything I need to before leaving for Maine. I need to get several episodes of the horror serial out. And I need to do my taxes.

I truly struggled with the ranch feature. I knew what I wanted to evoke – the wonderful love of the land they have, and the wonderful job they do as caretakers. It’s a busy, happy, active place. And there’s a deep sense of history and commitment.

But the editor wanted quotes, snappy Q & A stuff, and it didn’t work at all for this piece. They’re doers, not talkers. It’s not about self-involvement. There are always animals that need to be fed, stalls that need mucking out, horses to train.

I put in a lot of history, and I think I may have gotten carried away on the Captain Kidd stuff. Finding out that Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a short story, published in 1870, about the search for Kidd’s treasure, and connecting her, via her father’s four years as a minister in East Hampton to the piece was important to me, but I don’t know if it’s something that needs to stay in the piece. The entire Captain Kidd section could be its own article.

I finally built each section separately, then worked on the transitions so that they could flow into each other. That required a good bit of cut-and-paste, rearranging paragraphs, and reworking sections because once they were rearranged, it didn’t make sense to keep them intact.

This is where working on a computer comes in handy. The cut-and-paste function saves an enormous amount of time.

And yet, when one has to retype an entire page due to a single mistake (or many mistakes or revisions or whatever), you keep inside the entire flow and it’s more of a piece than fractured bits fit together like Humpty-Dumpty.

I tried to articulate what I had problems with on a couple of writer boards. On one, primarily composed of fiction writers, they had no idea what I talked about. They were supportive of my frustration, but didn’t have the tools or the experience to give me suggestions. On the other, there were several people who had experience in journalism – they understood how and where I got stuck, and gave me some good tips for organizing information and writing my way out of the holes I so beautifully dug for myself.

Hopefully, the editor will be happy with both the Lighthouse piece and the Ranch piece.

It’s an interesting juxtaposition out there on the East End. The weekenders do nothing BUT talk, and the locals say very little – except when they’re in their own space, away from weekenders, such as in the diner I like to frequent. I like the locals. They’re what I call “real” people. I always dismissed the Hampton area because of all the weekenders – they’re not people I choose to hang out with here in NY, so why would I drive three hours to hang out with them – especially when the majority are even more drunk and obnoxious than in Manhattan – on the Island? But the year-rounders are an interesting bunch. The area has its own energy, very separate from the frantic energy of the visitors – and it’s a solid, earthy energy without being stolid.

Traveling in to NYC to pick up my check a few days ago enhanced the feeling of fracture in me. I resented the time spent on the train. I resented fighting my way through tourists to get to the theatre. I was happy to see everyone at the show, but couldn’t wait to grab my money and get out. I’m a part of the show, yet not. And that’s not due to anything anyone else does to me – it comes from within. My sense of displacement is entirely my internal struggle. Making sure I don’t spew it onto anyone else is important. No one should have to suffer because I’m having a dilemma. It’s one thing to be able to sit down and discuss with friends and colleagues what works and what doesn’t. It’s quite another to punish one’s co-workers because you have trapped yourself. I’m trying to make sure that my time in the theatre is not a trap, but a pleasure. And when I get frustrated – at this point, even when I enjoy my work, I’m frustrated whenever I walk through the door – I try not to punish anyone else for my decisions.

I need a slow transition process. Part of me wants to leap off the cliff in this instance, but that is the wrong choice. I have to take this slowly, plan each step, and execute it in a rational, adult manner. And I can’t let frustration sabotage that.

At least there’s hockey. The Stanley Cup playoffs have started, and as long as I can watch hockey, life is mostly good. The Islanders lost the first game to Tampa Bay, but won the second. Since some former Bridgeport Sound Tigers are Islanders, and I think the coach is brilliant, I’m rooting for the Islanders. However, one of my favorite players in the league is Tampa’s Martin St. Louis, and I’m also rooting for him. I just like watching a good game.

I want Toronto to do well because Brian Leetch is now with them – after 30+ years as a Rangers fan, the final nail in my fan coffin was the trade of Leetch out of NY. I could write an entire volume on my anger and frustration with the way the Rangers have been handled under this ownership. I like the Devils over Philadelphia, again, because Ray Giroux, one of my favorite players, is over there. I’d prefer Colorado over Dallas (because of Kariya, Barnaby and Aebischer). Don’t much care about the match up between St. Louis and San Jose. Prefer Detroit over Nashville – although Tootoo and Upshall of Nashville are among “my” players. I don’t even know if Upshall’s there for the playoffs, and it’s great for Nashville to finally get in, but give me Detroit any day of the week. I’m evenly rooting for Boston and Montreal – both Original Six teams, so whichever one advances, I’ll be happy.

Of course, if I end up moving to Massachusetts, I guess I’ll have more at stake with the Bruins!

When I’m settled in my house, I want to make sure I have hockey channels on my cable so that I can have as much hockey from everywhere as possible.

No such thing as too much hockey.

Later:

Four episodes of the horror serial written, rewritten, edited, rewritten again and sent off. I should do four more to get completely caught up, but I’m written out for today. The interesting thing about this serial is that it works better if I write it in chunks of at least four episodes (approximately 4000 words) at a time. It flows better. Tapestry can be written in short chunks – probably because I have a lot of material for it, and it’s more revision and opening the piece out while tightening the plot line. The Widow’s Chamber always feels better when I hit a groove, but even then, I can stop and start to an extent.
But the horror piece needs long stretches of uninterrupted work time to really enter the otherworldliness of it.

I searched for an “otherworldly” term to describe one of the characters. I thought Latin might work, but no luck. Tried Scots Gaelic, couldn’t get the shade of meaning. Finally, in a Manx dictionary, I combined two terms and got what I wanted. Don’t know if it’s completely correct, but I like the way it sounds, and that’s what I’m using. Call it “occupational fiction freedom.”

One fear I have with it is that there are large stretches between bouts of “horror.” And, since it’s a horror serial . . .however, I do build tension in each episode, and I’m tossing in some interesting herrings. I’m not sure if they’re red, silver or black at this point, but there’s some stinky fish in there to lead readers astray, yet circle them back and surprise them without making them feel cheated. I’m also using a lot of humour – not that I think terror is funny, but I think you can make a point about what doesn’t work in the world via humour, and much of the basis of the horror is rooted in the real world and then jumps off from there.

This piece is such an experiment, such a stretch for me. I’d say it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever written.

Yet I still think fiction is much easier than non-fiction.

Jumping back in immediately made me feel a lot better about the grant rejection. That refusal hit me a lot harder than it should have. Especially since yesterday I received word that several of my essays will appear in a Conari anthology next February, and the editor asked me for more.

The editor for “Tears & Coffee” in the upcoming issue of Rose and Thorn sent me her edits – only two lines. And she’s right – the minor change in those two lines smoothes out the rhythm of the piece. I like it, and I have to not only tell her, but thank her for the sensitive editing. I appreciate it when an editor can inspire me to look at one of my pieces from a different angle and get excited about it again.

I am a published author, a continually working writer. The decision of an anonymous grant committee should not make me doubt myself. Paying markets think I’m worthwhile. One of my writing board buddies compared getting a grant to winning the lottery, and she’s right. There’s luck, timing, and all sorts of personal factors involved.

My focus needs to be on professional submission. When I have time and see a grant that might be suitable, I can allot appropriate time and effort towards it, but I can’t let it take over my life and m work. I am a working writer. I’m building my foundation for my writing fortress, my writing castle, my writing abode, on both a physical and psychological level. The work and the jobs are what will build this home. Grants are wonderful, but I need to think of them as a joyous surprise rather than a necessity or a right. The necessity is to face the page every day and do the best work that I can. The necessity is to build the business savvy to get my work out there to the widest audience possible without falling into the Fame-and-Desire Trap. The necessity is to let the work drive me, and listen to my soul and my gut, who will lead me true.

Basically, it’s getting my butt into that chair every day and writing until I run out of words. Then honing them and finding the right match. I’m on my way, and I need to learn and enjoy from every step of it.






Wednesday, April 07, 2004

April 7, 2004
Waning Moon
Mercury Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde



Just call me Zombie Girl. I can’t even type straight. I can barely sit up. Everything aches.

But it’s a good thing. Really.

Today, I wrote, rewrote, edited, rewrote, edited again and sent off two episodes of the mystery serial and four episodes of the western. I still have to work on the horror – I’m behind a few episodes on that.

Especially with the western, I find as I get into the groove of it, I want to keep going. If I can clear some deadlines off my desk this weekend, I want to write a good chunk of it – maybe twenty or thirty pages. I’ve got some more business to take care of in the Nashville section, and then I want to get them on that packet boat and on the Mississippi River.

I’ve got to dig up my research on steamboats, and I hope to get some second hand books next week up in Maine.

I want to get the characters down to New Orleans and really get into the meat of the piece.

The Widow’s Chamber is a dream come true for me. I proved that I can write a western, and I love the serial format. I’m committed to all three serials up through next February. Then we’ll see where we are. If something is tired, we can end it and start something else.

Of course, with all this lighthouse/pirate research, I’m getting the itch to write a pirate serial. But I think three serials are enough. What I need to do is a lot more research and then formulate the idea. Or, instead of pirates, maybe something to do with whaling. Moby Dick is always thought of as the penultimate whaling piece, but there’s so much more to the industry than that. Provincetown, New Bedford, Sag Harbor, Portland – all those seagoing cities – there are many, many stories to be told about that place and time.

And so much of my research is in storage! It’s driving me nuts!

I can’t wait to buy my house so that I can create my library/office and have all my books handy. I’ve accumulated an eclectic and wonderful library through the years, and now I need to be able to use it.

Got a nice e-mail from my editor at Rose and Thorn about the summer piece. She’s going to send me some suggestions over the weekend. I think I will enjoy working with her. I think – hope – I’m pretty easy to edit. The only thing that’s not open to negotiation is the spelling of “theatre”. In my world, it must be spelled with the “re”. You can tell an amateur from a professional by the way the word is spelled. Professionals use “re” – in spite of so many regionals switching to “er” in order to soothe their funders. “RE” is correct, and “re” it will be for me.

Yesterday, I spent the entire day on the lighthouse article. I felt like I was building a house. I wrote through with as much info as I had, then stopped to check facts. I’d read through my information before I sat down to write, but I wanted to make sure I remembered correctly. I wanted accuracy. I elaborated where necessary. I cut and tweaked where necessary. Sometimes I eliminated where necessary. And then I moved onto the next section. I let it build itself, and then I rearranged parts of it for a better flow.

Chronological order didn’t seem to work with this piece, but certain information led naturally to other information, and I think I’ve hit something good with it. I like the rhythm. I will go over it again to tighten it, but I’m talking about the topics involved in the lighthouse that intrigue me.

I’m happy with it, whether or not that final person ever deigns to return my phone calls/faxes/e-mails. I know the quote from said person is important to my editor, and I want to please the editor, but I’ve written what I feel is a strong piece that can stand without that final bit of info. I will persist, and if I can get it in before deadline, I can tweak the very end of the piece to include it. Otherwise, the piece has some interesting and unusual information. It feels right, unlike the first go-round, where I was worried about giving the editor what I thought she wanted and sticking to the pre-ordained word count. Now that the word count was lifted and she encouraged me to go after the unusual, it’s a better piece. And I don’t mind if she has to cut it down to fit in with space and budget constraints. It finally feels good.

I’m tackling the ranch piece, but that’s still like putting together puzzle pieces. I’m not quite there yet. But it’s coming together. I want to communicate their commitment to the land and to the animals. It’s less about the words they say than the actions they take and they way they light up when they talk about the animals or when they’re physically interacting with them. If I can find the right way to communicate that passion and that dedication, I will have done my job properly.

The Captain Kidd book had some interesting and helpful tidbits – it deserves a good review, and I will give it to the book. And a book of women’s diaries I picked up on impulse in a second hand bookshop in Sag Harbor had a diary of a local resident that pertained to something in the lighthouse article. Love that synchronicity!

I removed myself from the negative writers’ board and stated my position much more gently than originally envisioned on the second board. Things continue to spiral on the first board in a vindictive and dangerous way towards several people on the second board. More people are coming to the conclusion that leaving is the only way to stop the abuse. Although, some of them, who are being attacked at home and at work, have to take more drastic steps. Hopefully, getting the authorities involved will resolve the problems. And quitting cold turkey is the best thing anyone can do. I’m holding to my position and no longer responding to posts about the first board, or even reading most of them. It’s an unhealthy situation and I won’t feed it.

I sent out a couple of queries. I have the opportunity to submit some plays, and I’m debating whether or not I should. I have my doubt as to the quality of the venues. Guess I should do the research, then go with my gut.

I also turned down theatre work in order to do the magazine work, and it was the right thing to do. It was difficult; it was scary – feeling I was letting people down, fear that I wouldn’t get called again for work. But if I don’t put the writing first, it will never be first. And I’m determined to make this leap. Fear or no fear, this is what I have to do.

Everything aches. Last week at the theatre took an enormous physical as well as mental toll, and six hours in the car on Monday didn’t help, either. Neither do all the hours at the computer. I’m not eighteen anymore, and I have to take good care of my body. Then my body can support my mind, instead of my mind having to overcome my body all the time. I’d rather they worked in tandem than in opposition.

What a great day on Monday, though! It was awesome in the traditional sense of the word – you stand on a bluff looking out over the choppy blue-green sea and feel a sense of awe and joy in being a part of this magnificent world. There is so MUCH for which to be grateful. We’ve been given custodianship of a magnificent planet – and nature will win out, being much stronger than even the most ego-driven technology. If the human race has to be extinguished in order for the planet to survive, I have no doubt that will happen.

I just hope it won’t happen in my lifetime, and hope I can make some small contribution in caring for the earth while I’m here. Regarding each small piece of recycling as a joyful bit of care taking, I hope, is part of that, rather than self-righteously saying, “Oh, I’m doing my part. I’m recycling.” I think we need to look at custodianship as an honor instead of as a chore or something forced upon us. I have to explore these ideas further – I’m not articulating the emotion well yet, and I need to back it up with facts and statistics.

To stand on Turtle Hill and look out over the water, imagining the lighthouse at Land’s End in Cornwall, is rather magnificent.

Sitting in the sun-dappled Montauk Library, hunting through the files of articles on the Lighthouse, the Ranch, Third House, Shipwrecks, etc., was an exercise in joy. A sentence that might be a throw-away in someone else’s article can lead me down an exciting line of inquiry.

Sometimes, I wish I’d studied archaeology!


Sunday, April 04, 2004

Sunday, April 4
First Day of the Full Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

I climbed into bed last night with my books and papers. Barry Clifford and Paul Perry’s book on Captain Kidd and their search for the Adventure Galley is excellent. Clifford started the Wydah Sea Lab and Learning Center in Provincetown, MA. I remember visiting the exhibit about the ship – he did a fantastic job with that, too. I look forward to reviewing the book.

It also makes me want to read more about Kidd – in fact, Kidd has inspired the idea for another article, a play, and two short stories. I’ll have to see what else I can find out tomorrow. And beyond.

I’d like to write pieces about Gardiner’s Island and the Cedar Point Lighthouse as well.

Reading Clifford’s book did more to make me feel better than aspirin or anything else!

I woke up today, feeling fine, but wishing I could spend the day writing and researching. But, I couldn’t. I read the papers – the Islanders got the 8th place berth in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and there was an excellent article in Newsday about their coach, Steve Stirling. He was so kind and helpful when I researched the hockey books, and I’m so thrilled for his success. He’s a brilliant coach – he can get things out of players they don’t even know they have in them. And he always lets them know where he stands. Truly, the best of the best. Hockey players, in general, tend to be some of the best human beings on the planet.

Funny Cide won at Aqueduct yesterday, which is another bit of good news. He’s quite a horse. Evening Attire, another long time favorite, came in second. And, frankly, I’ve been less than impressed with this year’s Derby prospects. They’re inconsistent and they lack stamina. I better pay attention in the next few weeks, though, because the Derby is coming up and I’m certainly going to bet on it!

I fought a lot of resistance getting to the show. The train was on time – that in itself nearly made me faint. My hip hurts – probably from the raked stage, and I’m achy. But I was determined to go in there with a positive attitude and do good work, in spite of the fact that my feet took longer and longer to take each step as I approached the theatre.

Once I’m there, I have a great time. I truly love being there. The show is wonderful, it’s a good group of people, and I enjoy the work.

But, deep in my heart, I know my life is taking a different path, and I’m constantly struggling to savour the moments I have left in the theatre. I certainly don’t want to take out my frustrations with my own conflicts out on anyone there. Especially since they’re all so lovely to me.

It’s an internal battle. I try to cover it without being a hypocrite. Doing good work is extremely important to me. I take pride in my work. I’m good at what I do. And today I felt like a wishbone being tugged between the Writing Muse and the Theatre Muse.

But I wasn’t dried out, so I didn’t break.

Managed to catch the 6:37 train back to the burbs – okay, so I ran. Read the Kidd book on the way back. A friend met me at the train station. We picked up take out from a local deli – huge pastrami sandwiches on rye with mayo, potato salad and beer – and had a home-based picnic. It was so delicious! Amazing how some simple food can be so satisfying and do so much to retain perspective. I was so much happier after eating such a simple meal than I was sitting on the train.

I am an army that moves on my stomach. If I eat a chocolate chip cookie, I AM a chocolate chip cookie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But sometimes it’s better to be steak tartare.

Home, caught up on some e-mail, prepared for the research in Montauk tomorrow, and wrote a query to a magazine. Will pack my bag for tomorrow, set out the clothes, and get to bed early. I have to get up at five in order to get out by six. I hope the weather’s not as bad as they predict. I want another beautiful day on Long Island.

So many ideas are swirling in my head for articles. But, until these are done, NO MORE. It’s simply more notes jotted down on pieces of paper piling up on my desk.

Plus, I’ve completely reconceived my column and I can’t wait to sit down and write it.

Yippee!

Saturday, April 03, 2004

More April 3
I’m home, and I feel like I’m coming down with a cold. Just what I need, with a show tomorrow and a research trip on Monday. At least I have the evening off, and I can take care of myself.

My good mood was somewhat punctured when I checked one of the writing boards I frequent. There was anger and discussion over another writing board many of us used to frequent about the nasty, vicious and often vindictive people there who seem to have taken over.

What I don’t understand is why these people still visit the board? Why walk into a room when you know someone is going to beat you in the head with a hammer? That’s perpetuating the abuse. And then to come crying back to the other board about how mean they are – hello, how often have you been advised not to go back? If someone threatens you, keep a log and take it to the proper authorities. Don’t go back for more. I know that some of the folks who dash back and forth between boards reporting the latest enjoy the Dramar. What a waste of time.

Can you imagine how much good work would be done if they’d pour the energy into their writing instead of into their bitching?

Just don’t go back.

I wrote a rebuke on the train stating my position of no longer discussing this other forum. It was diplomatic – unlike what I’ve written here – and to the point: if it makes you miserable, don’t do it. If you choose to do it, that’s your choice. I’m not buying into it anymore and will no longer participate in those discussions.

There are those who will argue that’s letting Them win. Win what? By engaging and enabling, they win by getting attention. It’s not working to ignore them, and the moderator can’t ban them as fast as they come back under a new name. So why bother? If you have the chance to remove yourself from an unhealthy situation, you should do so. If you continue to remain in it, it’s your problem, not mine. I’m taking the steps I need to protect myself and my work.

I want to remove my information from the first board, but can’t figure out how to do so. Perhaps I have to e-mail the moderator. If too much time and energy is spent on this second board discussing the first board, I’ll take a break from the second board, too. I haven’t posted my piece on the second forum because I can’t figure out how to delete myself from the first forum.

I really need to take a computer class.

My time any my energy need to go into my work. Look how much energy I’ve wasted on it even now. Take your own medicine, lady, and shut the heck up!

The matinee was fun, although I was out of rhythm, switching tracks. I kept wanting to do the same cues I did last night. But everything got done. Nobody went out there naked, and everyone was in the right clothes. “It’s all good,” as an actor I once worked with always said.

I’ll miss the companionship, but I won’t miss fighting my way through people stopping suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk for no reason. Or stepping through a doorway and stopping short. It’s a doorWAY and a sideWALK, not a sideSTAND. I’m glad people enjoy New York City, but have a little awareness that other people exist around you! I’m tired of feeling confined and like there’s no room. People take up too much space without any consideration for invading anyone else’s. And get off your cell phones already! Your life is not that interesting!

An avid eavesdropper in public places (I call it research for dialogue), I often think it’ll be fun to listen in on a conversation with strangers. I’m always disappointed and often appalled at how boring they are.

Thank goodness there’s fiction and drama to make conversation interesting. Conversation truly has become a Lost Art. That’s why, when you are able to have a true conversation with someone – not a rant or catching up on details – it’s like having a good meal. You’re feeding your soul. You’re nourishing your spirit.

I wonder if the majority of humanity is turning into mind-numbed idiots or if it seems worse around here because it’s a major city?

Most of the time I am fond of “humanity.” I’m even fonder of individuals. It’s people in general with whom I get impatient. The mass mind, moo-cow, sheep-herded mentality.

There’s a monologue in there somewhere. I think I might need to put together another evening of monologues. Women With an Edge stands the test of time – and I certainly have more to say.

Edge was great because it was a series of rants crafted into monologues that developed into an evening of theatre. Those who read it/experience it feel it hits close to the bone, close to home. It makes the personal universal and the universal personal, which is what it should do. There are plenty of topics with which to continue.

Edge was written in two days during a snowstorm. I think the new monologues will develop over a period of time. I have to go with the energy. Every project has a specific energy. When the project energy is nourished, it will flow. If you try to force it into something inorganic because you think that’s the way it “should” be or to make it more “marketable”, it won’t work. You might as well stomp the crocuses as they come out in spring.

Came home, had a nice dinner with a friend and a glass of wine. I’m feeling under the weather. I took care of some writing business – or perhaps it’s simply busy-ness. I’m going to attempt a bit of creative work, and then to bed early.

Daylight Savings Time starts tonight, so one hour less. Oh, well.

I need to search for the Captain Kidd book and work on some reviews. That I can do lying in bed.

I have a stack of scraps of paper with article ideas on them. I need to sort them out and figure what’s actually viable and what’s not. Right now, my focus needs to be on the three serials (more episodes due Tuesday) and on the two feature articles, which need to also be done by Tuesday.

I need to find the research notes about the first teapot that washed ashore from a shipwreck near Montauk, and no one knew what it was. That’s a funny tidbit, and I want to include it if it checks out. Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to stop by the library again and look at some Keepers’ Logs.

Time to shut off the computer and climb into bed. Echinacea, hot tea, and maybe some aspirin. A good night’s sleep, and I’ll be ready to rock and roll in the morning.

Dumb turn of phrase. Who rocks and rolls in the morning unless they’re still at it from the night before?

Saturday, April 3, 2004
Waxing Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde


The problem with having a good night at the theatre is that you think, how can I ever give this up? The camaraderie, the adrenalin rush once the overture starts, the challenge of making sure everything works every night -- or, if something doesn’t, to deal with it quickly and with enough resourcefulness so that the audience never knows.

Yes, there are tensions in every production. Even people who genuinely like each other and enjoy working together have days where the way another person breathes is annoying. Yet there is something about working on a show that is invigorating.

That’s one reason why I feel it’s time to go. Does that make sense? I want to leave while I still love it. I look around, and I see too many people who have gotten jaded and trapped. They make a decent living, but they don’t feel that passion when they walk through the door anymore. They’re good at their jobs. They might even have fun occasionally. But they’re no longer passionate.

I’m passionate as soon as the show goes up. I love running actual cues, making actual changes, doing good work with a group of lively and talented people. But there’s too much else surrounding a production that simply no longer fits in with my goals. I don’t want my entire focus and energy poured into someone else. I want to pour it into my own work.

I will miss seeing people I enjoy every day. I will miss the rush of doing a complicated track and doing it well. Working on a show keeps me in touch with people. As a writer, I can go for days with only the characters in my work as my company. It doesn’t bother me, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Going in to a show means I am forced to interact.

I do interact online in the various writers’ forums and other forums. I do interact when I go out to do research and interviews. I’m good at keeping in touch with people, and I’m good at staying in touch with friends and making plans. In fact, when I’m not in eight shows a week, I have more time to spend with the “civilians”, as I call them – non-theatre and non-writing people. I like having people from all walks of life around me. I don’t ever want to get trapped into thinking my way is the “only” way.

Yesterday, I was informed that they need to do some shuffling for today. Someone was already booked for both shows today to dress the lead; I’m going upstairs to dress other principals (the track I did last week), and that dresser is dressing one of the other leads while her dresser is out resting her foot. Tonight, the regular dresser with the rested foot comes back, the principal dresser moves back upstairs and I have the night off.

I did a little dance around the wardrobe room. Perhaps I was a bit too happy.

But this time off saves my ass. I’ll be home early enough to get some writing done. I may be too tired to get much done, but even SOMETHING is better than NOTHING.

I managed to put together on the computer an abundance affirmation for a friend who has birthday in a few days. I’ll give it to him today, while I think of it. Nothing wrong with an early birthday present, right?

I need to dig into the stack of books I still have to review. Fortunately, the stack is getting smaller. I think I’ve got a book in there about Captain Kidd, which would tie in with the Montauk articles on which I’m working.

Could I possibly be that lucky?

Today, I feel that’s a distinct possibility. After yesterday’s frustration, today I feel happy, lucky, and grateful to the universe!

Friday, April 02, 2004

Friday, April 2, 2004
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

I am a writer in transition. I’ve kept a journal since I was ten. I haven’t been ten for quite awhile. This journal is specific to my writer’s journey. How do events in my life and work fit together? How do they break apart? Is it possible to limit the self-indulgence in a journal? I hope that this journal will help me figure out the transition and make it a little less painful. And maybe it will help other writers or other people in transition.

Today was a day of screaming frustration. Not because of writer’s block – I’m far too busy for writer’s block, and, besides, I don’t believe in it.

I realized today that I am not going to have the smooth, gradual transition out of a two-career life (theatre and writing) into a single career life (writing).

I’ve begged for such a lovely, rational, smooth passage. And I’ve been refused.

It’s going to be painful, agonizing, jolting. It’s difficult enough trying to redefine myself out of something that I’ve been doing my entire adult working life. My identity has always been caught up in the theatre. Some people know me only as a writer. Some people know me as both. Few people at the Broadway show on which I currently swing know that I write at all.

(For those of you non-theatre folk, a “swing” is a substitute. I go in and learn what each individual dresser does – each person’s duties during a show are called a “track”, and then when someone is sick or on vacation, I pop in and am the custodian of the track).

And yet, I’ve written since I was six years old. I moved away from writing in my twenties for about ten years. I never stopped writing, but it was private writing, not public writing. But writing is breathing to me, and I refuse to let anyone cut off my oxygen supply.

I’ve carved a solid career for myself in the theatre. And yet, my life is moving in a different direction. It reminds me of Mary Catherine Bateson’s wonderful book, COMPOSING A LIFE. In it, she compares life to a symphony, with different movements that build on each other. The theatre movement is coming to a close for me.

I made a choice several months ago that I would not pursue full-time theatre work. My writing is well-received, with an expanding audience. The commitment on the serials forces me to write at least 6000 words per week, and, with the other projects I juggle, I’d say I write anywhere from 10,000 words a week and up.

This week is particularly tough. I’m in for all eight shows, with extended hours. I have two episodes each of three serials to write. And I’m rewriting two magazine articles. I’m waiting to hear back from interview sources. I’m on deadline, and I don’t want to pester them, but I need answers. I’m fact checking to make sure the historical details are accurate. I will probably have to do some more on-site research and interviewing next week. I have thank you notes to write to my sources.

I have book reviews to write. I need to work on the column. I have the first draft of a new play to get done by May 1.

I have two websites to get up, and I can’t get Yahoo Site Builder to do what I want. Nor do they reply to my questions.

I’ve given up trying to prepare something for the Marguerite di Angeli prize this year.

I have several longish stories to prepare, and article queries to write.

I did manage two episodes of the mystery, some research for the articles, and a press release. A decent day’s work, but not enough in my situation.

I don’t have time to be in eight shows a week, and I’ll have to be very careful about how much work I agree to take on, theatre-wise, in the next few months.

I feel like I’m standing with a foot strapped on two different cars. They’re racing down the highway at top speed, with me trying to keep my balance. And each car is about to turn off a different exit.

I have to make a decision.

In my heart and soul, I’ve made my decision.

That means a financial hit, when finances aren’t my strong suit anyway.

But if I make my decisions based out of fear, than I don’t deserve to succeed.

How badly do I want this?

Badly enough to vent my frustration by yelling, screaming, and throwing things. Now that I’ve released some of that stress, I can start to sit down and rationally set up a plan.

Rational.

Right.

“I’m having a nervous breakdown,” I told my friend P. on the phone.

A moment of silence. “Do you need me to drive you to a clinic or something?” He asked. He’s very solution-oriented.

“Not yet. But I’ll let you know.”

A short pause. “You haven’t watched enough hockey lately. That’ll make you feel better.”

“Yes. That must be it.”