Category Archives: playwriting

I really wanted to write, but…

Photo by Kevin Susanto on Unsplash

My nearly-three-year-old got sick.  He yacked all over the place, and then I felt like I was going to yack all over the place, and he definitely yacked all over my husband, and I definitely almost yacked back, so that took several days to recover from.

We’ve been traveling.  My husband presented at a conference.  The tot finally got better, then we got on a plane, and then we got to spend a day at the beach.  Who wants to hunker down with their laptop when the San Diego beach is in your face?

I have grades to enter.  Students to email.  Lesson plans to make.  It’s Thanksgiving break, and I’m thankful for the time it gives me to get caught up.

My toddler is screaming.  He has a poopy diaper, but he likes it that way (apparently) because he is screaming at anyone who approaches to try and change it. Speaking of poopy diapers…

Donald Trump is president.

I wake up everyday with trepidation… What will happen today? Whose shoe will be the next to drop?  How am I supposed to write when there is all this news to obsess over?

I’m pregnant.  My back hurts.  I’m tired.  I’m making another human, even as I panic about the world going to absolute shit, and I wonder how irresponsible it is to be creating life in the face of so much global disaster.  It’s exhausting.

The cats are meowing.  They want some of my cinnamon roll… well, they want the butter I slathered on top of it.  They’re adorable.  I definitely need to spend the next thirty minutes trying to convince them to sit in my lap and snuggle.

My imagination is tired from imagining how many ways the apocalypse might come, what shape it might take, and what we’ll do when it gets here.

I wanted to write this week.

I was going to write this week…

New on the LAFPI Podcast: “What She Said” – Alyson Mead with Suzanne Bradbeer

Suzanne Bradbeer

November, 2018

Alyson Mead speaks with Suzanne Bradbeer about politics, ambition and her new play Confederates, one of two Hart New Play Initiative winners now playing at the Grove Theater Center in Burbank.

Listen In!

What conversations do you want to have? Send your suggestions for compelling female playwrights or theater artists working on LA stages to Alyson Mead at lafpi.podcast@gmail.com, then listen to “What She Said.”

Click Here for More LAFPI Podcasts

The night before the 2018 mid-term election…

by Cynthia Wands

The night before the mid-term election, and my cat, Ted, is sensing some troubling words..

 

Yes. No. These are decisions I get to make tomorrow. I get to vote.

I’m particularly anxious about this election, (as many of us are), but I think Ted is picking up on a sense of helplessness, and pent up rage. And apparently he doesn’t like to hear me read the ballot out loud. I call this his “Fur Emotion Sponge” posture.

When I’m writing, and he’s sitting next to me, he likes me to play new age soundtracks so he can listen to the sound of rain, and frogs, and maybe some thunder. If it isn’t too ominous.

So, I’ll write more later. Right now, I have some cat paws I have to gently reposition on my political agenda. And I’ll get to vote tomorrow.

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Finding writer’s block

I think it has finally happened. I think I have writer’s block.

Deep breath and keep writing!

When I started writing, I was taking classes to learn how to write, the different genres and structures.  I was also reading books and articles about writing and from the beginning I read how there was no such thing as writer’s block. I always thought about writer’s block in terms of not being able to continue to write.  You know, you’re half way through your story and you don’t know what happens next.

But since I finished my last play, I have written bits and pieces of ideas and thoughts, but I never thought of what I was going to write next.  It usually just came to me and I sat down and wrote about it.  I would write and re-write the same thing, different ways, working the story out.  But right now, I’m at a loss.  I finished the story, had my characters yell and scream the things people don’t dare to say out loud.  I had found the perfect setting for this to happen and made the cast small enough to include all the backstory I had dreamt up.  And now.  Nothing.  I can’t even see the next thing.  Instead of writing a play, I sit trying to finish a collection of essays about the same subject, and am rehashing the same stories in different settings, trying to get a different audience to understand.

Right now I can’t imagine another play, another story I want to write.  When I was writing, I was reading different blogs and books about the subject.  Different viewpoints, trying to understand the story from all sides. Listening to podcasts and interviews, talking ad-nauseum with friends about their thoughts on the subject.  But nothing.  I can’t imagine that I am done with the subject. It still keeps me up at night, or wakes me early in the morning, usually at 3 am.  But why can’t I write anything more about it? Why can’t I see it anymore and better yet, is this writer’s block?

In the articles I had read about, they said there was no such thing. It’s a figment of your imagination, you’re just not working hard enough.   Even trying to write this on this blog this week has been a pain staking task.  Racking my brain.  What do I say? How do I say it? Who will read it? Does it matter?

But wait. A glimmer of hope.  I started this post on Monday. It’s now Sunday night, my last day to post and there is a story brewing.  While getting lost in distraction and procrastination this week, I found a new book to read and a different angle on my story. Actually a whole new play.  Now starts the ruminating.

I would love to hear your thoughts on writer’s block, because I’m sure it is not done with me.

Happy writing!  Jennifer

 

Part 4: Surrender

It came to be that what was necessary was for her to jump blindly into an idea so that the words could manifest off the page, be absorbed into the body.

For she  insisted on seeking a higher understanding of what it meant to live – to exist.

Yet what came with that was hauling the weight of the memories, the moments that so delicately dissipate before our eyes.

Slowly she began to let go of control. She gave the work away. She did not let outside voices nor noise keep her work, her goals, from coming into fruition.

She shall. She will. She is.

Constance Strickland

Part 3: Doing the Work

When she finally rose from the ground, her body lifted, she stood tall –

She found herself walking, laughing in a room filled with friends. Some new, then there were those who had always been.

She found a way to live without the fear and suffocation of failure.

She now allowed herself to enter that space of calm. Gave permission for her ideas to simmer, executed them with time.

She’s come to understand what it means to live by ritual.

She knows how much she can bear.

Constance Strickland

Part 2: Finding Your Tribe

As the sun shined through the kitchen window she could see her reflection flickering against the wall.

The light now a bit closer to reach… to touch.

Pieces of broken glass stuck to her hair. Dried blood stained her fingers.

Night had become day.

After hours had gone by she lifted her head –

she could now breathe.

Her hands raw –

she crawled down the stairs,

she crawled across the rough carpet,

she crawled outside onto the cold cement –


 

 

 

 

 

 

She crawled not knowing where she was going.

She crawled until she was able to carry her own weight.

She crawled until she realized she was not alone.

 

 

 

 

Constance Strickland

Part 1: Asking for Help

Bent over, on her knees, her hands tightly clasped, her body shaking,

head bowed she gasps for air – trying to breathe, yet unable to speak.

She begins to wrestle herself –

Her body contorts into unknown shapes, her voice is unfamiliar to her…

breathe, she tells her ragged soul until she can no longer move.

Battling in silence –

The house remembers her voice can crescendo into an unrecognizable monstrous pitch. Pacing the bare space she’s a wild animal spitting empty phrases into harsh air.

Her face morphs….weathered, wrinkled, worn.

Staring into broken glass she no longer sees the contour lines that once revealed pieces of her history.

She’s an undefined line, curving, not always connecting to solid surfaces as she goes off on tangents as her thoughts explode into tiny pieces of unseen particle.

Constance Strickland

 

 

New on the LAFPI Podcast: “What She Said” – Alyson Mead with Maureen Huskey

Maureen Huskey

October, 2018

Alyson Mead speaks with Maureen Huskey about finding your voice, identity and her play The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man, opening October 27th @ Son of Semele.

Listen In!

 

What conversations do you want to have? Send your suggestions for compelling female playwrights or theater artists working on LA stages to Alyson Mead at lafpi.podcast@gmail.com, then listen to “What She Said.”

Click Here for More LAFPI Podcasts

I Don’t Know How to Write (Prose) or Grammar Hell

by Kitty Felde

When it comes to playwriting, I’m pretty confident. I’m pretty good at character and dialogue, though my plotting could use a lot of work. And I know the basics about how to format a draft that is acceptable for submission.

But I’ve learned a hard lesson of late: I don’t remember a thing from 5th grade grammar class.

Apparently it didn’t matter in my career as playwright and radio journalist. Nobody really cares where you put your commas. There are no quotation marks. You never have to worry about tense in radio reporting: live spots are always in present tense; radio features are told in past tense. Plays on the other hand always take place in the “now” – even when we’re having onstage flashbacks to past events.

Why this trip down grammatical worry lane? I have my first “prose” book coming out in late February and correcting the galleys has made me realize that as a writer, I really don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

The book is a middle grade novel, “Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza.” It’s the tale of the ten year old daughter of a congressman who solves the mystery of the Demon Cat of Capitol Hill to save her family from “cat”astrophe.

The publisher, Black Rose Writing, is a small indie house out of Texas that pretty much requires you to be your own editor. That means it’s my job to identify all the grammar mistakes. And there are many.

I never realized what a messy writer I am – throwing dashes and commas into the same sentences and (what do you call these things that I usually use as smiley faces in texts?) I had to look up whether to capitalize the first word in a quote and whether the period goes before or after the quotation mark. I’m pretty good with apostrophes, but what about phrases like “kids book?”

I slip back and forth through tenses without considering the poor reader. Even re-reading this blog post is sending shudders through my heart.
I have half a dozen writing manuals on my desk. And I use a “bible” – a text by a writer that I admire. I flip through the pages to see how she solved a particular grammar issue.

I’m lucky to be married to a guy who has even more writing books on his shelves than I have on mine. (I was going to write “than I do” but was unsure of the grammatical correctness…) I can walk down the hall to query him about various rules. But even he was stumped from time to time.

It’s enough to make you want to give up writing.

On the other hand, how many times are we given the opportunity to learn something new? Something hard. Something useful.

I like the idea of switching back and forth between writing for the stage and writing books for kids. I want to feel as confident about the latter as I do (sometimes) about the former. I want to be a writer!

But I am still looking for the perfect grammatical writing book. Any suggestions?