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Dormancy and the Big Wake-Up…

“I’ll try.” from the last chapter in Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

by Robin Byrd

For years, I have been carrying around a story not knowing how it should meet the page but knowing that it had to get there somehow.  A few months ago, I decided it would be in poetry – carried the pages around with me trying to shake the order and the theme out.  No luck.

Then… a play I needed to submit somewhere refused to speak to me and I thought what if I take these notes and make it into a play.  Decided on the characters and began to write for three days till “The End”, proofed it, let a few close friends read it and sent it off.

The end result was as intense as the writing of it.  It struck me as odd that this story lay dormant for so years then exploded on the page like it did.  Out of order on my list of things to write and not in the genre I picked.  Dormant for 32 years then the alarm goes off waking me up from the exhausted sleep deprived state working too many hours on my day job has caused.  It spilled out in 3 days like nothing I have ever written before.  But then that’s the thing about writing each piece should be better than the last.  Funny to have a story shut down on you because another one wants the roadway.  I almost missed the signal but when I told friends I was not going to be able to finish the play I was working on but had this idea that I might be able to pull off in time, they each said, “go for it, what do you have to lose.”

I said, “I’ll try…”

I guess all you can ever do when you hit a wall is to try something else.  Timing is everything.  Who knew story notes had alarm systems attached?


Interview with Playwright Robin Byrd

Robin Byrd weighs in:

LA FPI Blog Editor Robin Byrd
LAFPI Blogger Robin Byrd has been blogging since day one. Hers is an authentic voice determined to be heard.

1. How did you become a playwright? What brought you to theater?

I guess I sort of evolved into one.  I started telling stories at three and a three year old usually acts out a story so it’s theatrical by nature of the storyteller.  I had regular story time for my two younger sisters up until I was eight.  Even then I was acting out the story using spectacle and character development.  Decades later, I joined a very large church and in the orientation, someone said that a way not to get swallowed up is to join one of the groups so I went to a theater group meeting. This theater group would meet every month to discuss what the annual production would be.  Nothing seemed to pass the preconceived “Bishop Test”- based on biblical principles and something he – Bishop Blake – would approve of for his congregation.  This discussion went on for months.  Out of frustration, I suggested we write our own play. I wrote a synopsis which I didn’t know was a synopsis at the time; everyone in the group liked it and the president of the group, the late Stuart Brown, told me to write it.  I would bring in pages to the meetings and we would read them and then Stuart would go back to that darn synopsis and say but I don’t see this part and I’d have to keep writing till everything in that synopsis was in the play.  Everyone in the group was very helpful with pushing me to write and giving feedback.  After the play was completed, we did a workshop production of it.  I met Charlayne Woodard, theatre artist extraordinaire and she greeted me like I was a playwright and that is when I knew I was on this theater artist journey. (Funny the things you remember.) Thus, with “In Times Like These (Is He the One?)”, I started writing plays; by the time I wrote the book for the musical “For This Reason (A Love Story), I knew I was a playwright and I could see my voice as a writer introducing itself to me.

2. What is your favorite play of yours? Why?

My favorite play is always the one that I learn something more about craft or my voice as a playwright.

3. What is your favorite production of one of your plays? Why?

“The Day of Small Things” would be it because my family flew out to Los Angeles to see it.  My father was too ill to come but he was so proud of me.  There was one scene where something went wrong with the lighting queues so the actors had to improvise and walk onto the stage while the lights were up.  The scene was right after a funeral.  The actors walked slowly onto the stage as if in shock of the events, they had to play their “just before moment” on stage; they walked in a synchronized movement as if to an inaudible dirge.  It was magical, performance art at its best, had we been able to run the play longer, I would have asked them to do it again. (Actors – got to love good ones who can commit to their character and are able to react in character without losing a beat.)  Moments like these are what make Theater so alive.

4. What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?

There are a few plays for different reasons: “The Zoo Story” by Edward Albee made me take craft really serious; “Body Indian” by Hanay Geiogamah made me contemplate sound as a character; “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry made me look at family dynamics; “A Star Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hole In Heaven” by Judi Ann Mason made me look at family secrets; and “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams, taught me to embrace other dimensional storytelling; it’s a memory play and my whole life I’ve dealt with memory in some form.  As a child the beginning of most of my sentences was “’Member when…” so when I got to high school and “The Glass Menagerie” was on the reading list, it not only reminded me of the late night PBS filmed plays I loved to watch.  It felt strangely familiar.  “The Glass Menagerie” bears witness to writing remembered things; it is a testament to what can be done in a play, that boundaries should be lifted like a fourth wall, if it will help to tell the story.

In my work, I deal a lot with memory, flashbacks, visions, and dreams.  Writers are normally told to stay away from flashbacks, write what you know, write what you want to know, keep the story forward moving.  What I know is flashbacks and pushing forward beyond them so it is inevitable that flashbacks would show up in my work.  Perhaps, because I already had a good knack for remembering things, this made me susceptible to flashbacks.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that as a survivor of rapes (plural intentional), flashbacks ruled my life from the time I was 18 years/7 months/28 days old well into my twenties.  Writing is therapy; sometimes you have to make your own closure.  My way of dealing with the negative events in my life has been to channel it into my creative work.  I like being able to take down the fourth wall – as it were – of the past as it intersects the present, that’s the moment of change for me, a moment of lingering inner impact where new futures can be forged in the flames. It’s like dreaming and opening a door you just walked through only to find it leads somewhere else but doing it on purpose, like throwing jacks several times to get a better layout which will give a better end result.

Tom Wingfield, “The Glass Menagerie” (at least it is my interpretation) hits this intersecting of past and present on more than one occasion; he discusses his wanderings and how un-expectantly he could see his sister beside him in memory and how he tries his best to get away from those recurring moments:

“…Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!  I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger – anything that can blow your candles out!”

In his memory she blows them out.  But he doesn’t change anything.  He doesn’t go back; doesn’t start again. He just stays in his hell.  I found that to be so sad.  He never found a way out of the perpetual maze.  He didn’t know how to dream another dream.  I never want to be found not able to dream again…

5. Who is your favorite playwright? Why?

I am not sure I have a favorite.  I do go on binges, devouring everything I can by playwrights that catch my eye.

6. How has your writing changed over the years?

I have become more confident in my gift.  I know my sound and I try to be as fearless in my plays as I am in my poetry.

7. What type of plays do you write? (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …) What draws you to it?

I mostly write dramas but I also tend to have music in my plays, it just happens and I tend to write my own music.  I have always loved musicals but have only written one to date with music, in addition to the composer’s music. I wrote a 10-minute comedy on purpose once just to see if I could do it.  I tend to have laughter in my plays naturally but I do want to write a full-length gut buster one day. I don’t write experimental or avant-garde plays, that’s not to say I might not try at some point.  I don’t care much for the abstract in art, poetry or plays.  If I can’t tell what it means, I tend to move on to something else.  I do write a lot about the revealing of secrets and the journey from bondage (emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical) to freedom.  I think what draws me to the subject matter is the fact that I am a survivor and I want to leave bread crumbs albeit in the form of stories for others to find.  I believe my plays take me to the door in the dream over and over again and each time I change the outcome on the other side as long as I can believe what I see in my mind’s eye can come to past.

8. Do you write any other literary forms? How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?

I write poetry.  I got the nicest rejection letter once saying how my work was so lyrical which I think is due to my poetry background.  I started out wanting to write fiction, one of my monodramas “Me, My Fiddle an’ Momma” started out as a short story.  My professor at Indiana University said it was so full of dialogue it felt like a play.  Some years later, I took an acting class with Ben Harney (Tony Award winner for the original Dream Girls) and he encouraged me to tweak it so I could perform it.  I did.  I found out more about writing drama by taking his acting class than I had in any book I read about drama.  I’ve studied screenwriting at the American Film Institute in their certificate program and plan to write more screenplays.

9. Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?

Jennie Webb, one of the co-founders of the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative walked up to me at the second meeting for LA FPI and asked, “How is your life going right now?”  Fine, I answered (not if you count everything that was going WRONG but I was in denial so technically, I was fine.)  She smiled.  “You want to be the blog editor?” Blink.  Nod. “Be the blog editor.  Yeah?  Yeah.”  Then she walked away to “herd” someone else to do something else.  And I, never having written a blog article in my life, wondered loudly in my head, “What the hell, did I just commit to?”  I sent copies of my first article to playwright friends on opposite sides of the continent – one in Sacramento, the other in Brooklyn – to get their opinions, because I was completely unsure of myself.  I barely knew what a blog was, let along write one.  But it has been the best experience and blogging helps tremendously with writing the essays sometimes asked for in submission packets.

10. What is your favorite blog posting?

I love all the different voices of the ladies who blog; they cover such timely subjects.  I am not sure if I have a favorite of my own but I do feel that “Write it Scared” was very instrumental in me putting together a manuscript of poems that dealt with some scary dark places. And, just looking at my level of “going there” enabled me to become more free.  In “She, Who Was Called Barren,” I wanted to experiment with creating an event depicting what it is like to survive trauma and how it can be a roller coaster of dark and light moments and what that feels like.

11. Who do you consider an influence where your writing is concerned? And, why?

I have a few influences but I would say Ezekiel, the prophet, mostly.  God was always telling him to go do something theatrical to “show” the Israelites what was coming in their future.  And, his language is so poetical.  He used a lot of symbolism; I like to use symbolism as well and have received many a “rejection” letter commenting on how lyrical my writing is.

12. When did you find your voice as a writer? Are you still searching for it?

I found my voice a long time ago; it was recognizing that I knew my sound that came after I began calling myself a playwright.  Because I started telling stories at 3 years old and oral storytelling requires one to have a way of telling, I think that helped me a lot in developing my voice.  I like finding new nuances of my voice, that’s exciting to me.

13. Do you have a writing regiment? Can you discuss your process?

“Always be writing…” that is my mantra.  I do a lot of internal work first so I turn over stories and moments in my spirit before any one story makes it to the page.  I have to live it in some way before it will release authentically even if it’s a snippet of someone else’s story.

14. How do you decide what to write?

It is usually something that I can’t shake.

15. How important is craft to you?

Craft is very important to me.  At one point, I had thought that playwriting was not for me because I was not sure how to do it on a level where I could be respectful of the craft it takes to earn the “wright” in playwright.

16. What other areas of theater do you participant in?

I studied acting and have performed one of my pieces as well as my poetry.  I also have co-directed one of my plays and made costumes.  The reason I came to Los Angeles in the first play was to study fashion design at Otis/Parsons (now Otis College of Design) – to specialize in costume and men’s wear – that didn’t work out so I had to do a paradigm shift which lead me to writing plays.

17. How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles?

As an audience member, there is something for everyone.  As a playwright, I feel left out.  The worst part is when I have submitted something to a theater/company and go to see new work that has elements of what I submitted in someone else’s piece.  I would like to think that it’s a coincidence but when people can’t look you in the eye, you know they ciphered from your well.  It makes one a little skittish, although, I must say that this has happened to me outside of Los Angeles too; I try to take it as a compliment – a rude one – but one nonetheless.

18. How do you battle the negative voice? (insecurity, second guessing)

A lot of prayer and rehearsing of positive results – a place that I go to remind myself that my gift will make room for me and bring me before great men.  I have to know who I am and what my gift is and why it is.  There is always a little “buyer’s remorse” but it passes; it usually only turns up in the submission process.

19. Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?

Family secrets, ghosts and surviving trauma.

20. What are you working on now?

Being more fearless – a play about Race and a book of poetry on loss.

For more articles by Robin Byrd go to https://lafpi.com/author/ladybyrd/.  Robin’s first blog post is titled “Being a Playwright…being female…” dated April 19, 2010

Robin’s Bio

Robin Byrd is an Indiana born playwright and poet residing in Los Angeles. Growing up in Indianapolis (sometimes referred to as the northernmost southern city), attributes to the playwright’s affinity toward southern themes and language in some of her pieces.

Her plays which include The Grass Widow’s Son, Tennessee Songbird (the place where the river bends), The Book of Years, Dream Catcher, The Day of Small Things, For This Reason, In Times Like These (Is He the One?), and, Me, My Fiddle, An’ Momma have been read and produced in Los Angeles as well as read in Nebraska, Maine, North Carolina, and recently in Washington, D.C. Robin has performed Me, My Fiddle, An’ Momma in Los Angeles; the piece was also read at the 1st Annual SWAN Day event in Portland, Maine in March of 2008. Her plays Tennessee Songbird and Dream Catcher have won “Best Concurrent Play Lab Script at the 2008 Great Plains Theatre Conference” and been selected as a semi-finalist for the 2008 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, respectively. Her poetry has been read in venues in Los Angeles and Indiana and has been published in two International Library of Poetry books.

The playwright is a member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Inc., the Theatre Communications Group, the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights, Native Women Writers (at the Autry),  and the American Film Institute from which she holds a certificate in screenwriting. For more information on Robin please visit her website at www.ladybyrdcreations.com.

Robin acts as LAFPI Blog Editor.

The Art of War or the War of Art…

by Robin Byrd


I love to read The Art of War by Sun Tzu – it keeps me on my toes and it translates to every area of my life especially the writing life I am trying to have.

Recently, I ran across a writing book titled The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell.   I am having a lot of fun going through it even though it is basically for novel writers but writing is writing.  It deals with reconnaissance, tactics, and strategy and it’s a very interesting read.

Reconnaissance – covers the mental game of writing,

“1.  The writer who observes the battlefield before entering the fray will be better equipped to plan strategy and tactics.”

Tactics- covers craft,

“35.  The use of a voice journal will keep characters from becoming little versions of the writer.”

and Strategy – covers publishing.

“71.  Always be ready to talk to someone in the elevator.”

There are nice quotes, observations, a few exercises and other tidbits. 77 points in all interspersed with quotes from Sun Tzu.  And, it’s easily modified to fit a playwright’s world of “stuff.”

It takes a lot to stay the course after rejection; it’s an ongoing battle to stay focused.  I like this book because it’s small and easy to pick a random point and get a lot out of it.  It costs about $15.00 US and is worth the money.

Cemented in Riverbed…

by Robin Byrd

I live by the Los Angeles River.  Until recently, I thought it was a drainage ditch (the sign was missing).  It has been cemented in and down the center of the cement slabs runs a stream of water – the river.  It bothers me every time I cross the bridge that is built over it. Why?  Because sometimes I drive several miles just to see the ocean or a lake because bodies of water have a calming effect and help me when I am writing.  With the exception of the drainage ditch otherwise known as the Los Angeles River, I usually come away from the ocean, river, lake, or even fountain refreshed.  To think that I am two blocks away from a river that doesn’t look, smell, or flow like a river.

There is a certain expectancy where rivers are concerned – greenery/the presence of nature for one.  New life…  I have read that this river suffers pollution from agricultural and urban runoff.  I have also read that there is talk of removing the concrete to allow the restoration of natural vegetation and wildlife.  It’s out of place this river in the city; it’s not allowed to be its natural self.

I feel like that river sometimes – stuck beneath preconceived notions of story and the telling of such – ever fighting runoffs.  I am tired of hearing that there are no stories for female actors, no good female writers or no female directors specifically regarding persons of color.

We’re here just under some damn cement; if you look closely you’ll see we’re chipping away at it from the underside…

Focus and Windowpanes…

In art, there is a technique called “Windowpane-ing” used to help the artist focus on the details of his/her painting.  The artist creates a windowpane – an actual square or rectangular cutout.  This windowpane is placed on the canvas and only the part seen inside the pane is worked on to bring out the color, shadows, light, accents, etc. of the picture.  Working within the pane intensifies the focus of the artist.  As the pane is moved across the canvas, it is overlapped to create uniformity in the changes made until the entire canvas is completed.  Finally, the last portion of the canvas is done resulting in a finished picture that is well balanced and well expressed.

I use this technique as I write not only for the sake of what is on the page but because there have been several times when the world around me – the one I live in – is in a whirlwind.  In that sense, I use this technique to help me tune out the extras.  I don’t get writer’s block but I do have to work on focus in the middle of tornados.  Being from the Midwest, tornados hit pretty often during my childhood.  We spent many days and nights in the basement waiting out the storms.  I remember the sirens would go off letting us know to get to safety.  Because we had to stay away from windows during the storms, we didn’t move much – there was a lot of sitting still.  While the storm was raging, my mother and father would have us do other things like read books, tell stories, or sing songs to get our minds off the weather. 

Writing through a storm requires one to sit down and to focus.  So, for me, as long as I can calm myself enough to sit down (at the computer or a tablet) and not move, I can get something in written form.  And, since physically writing also calms me; it is to my benefit to focus and get at it.  Writing is an excellent way to express what one is feeling and getting it out is good for the soul.  A nurse I know once told me that what she tells her patients regarding gas is that “it’s better out than in.”  There’s not much difference between gas and stress; they’re both upsetting to the stomach.  Thus, stress-related trauma/drama is to gas as burping is to writing “the end.”  Better to get that story out than to suppress it.  There is always going to be a reason to not write but a little focus and some work on the windows can fix that…

The Winepress (stretching)…

I don’t know about you but with me, every time I hit another level/dimension in my writing, I feel like I’ve been put through a winepress then stretched out like taffy and thrown back into my mold.  It’s as if all the pieces and parts of me get re-blended back into themselves in different proportions.  I am momentarily left somewhat disoriented and completely vulnerable to self-doubt.  Then, the last of me gets pressed through and suddenly the execution of a story that seemed to be a fleeting vapor in my mind materializes and I am able to embrace the change in myself.

Recently, I have been on a mission to stretch – to consciously grow in my craft – to be more uncompromising when I write.  I can’t think commercial; I have to think timely.  I have to continue to write to my rhythm and submit from what I have rather than write to submit.  Although, it is very good exercise to push oneself to write a play specifically for a certain conference or contest; it can get in the way when one needs to revisit a story but writers learn by writing so the time is never wasted.  When stretching, I like to read/see other playwrights’ plays which help me dissect my own work (written, in progress, even in the idea stage).  I have been telling myself to stretch for about seven months now…  I wasn’t quite sure how to do it so I figured that if I spoke it to myself long enough, it would materialize somehow.  By speaking it, I would be able to reach from where I was to where I wanted to go.  Seven months ago, I thought it was possible.  Today, I know it is possible because I am seeing a change in myself and my writing.  I know now that I am ready to revisit pieces from my back burner and work through them.  I’m not the same person I was when I put the pieces on the back burner; I’m more open to bending form to tell the story.  I’m more confident that I can create something new out of vapors –  the same way I become new each time I go through the winepress…

Write It Scared…

I’m pretty fearless when writing but there are still instances when I am not (two to be exact).  I was writing a one woman show for a friend some years ago.  It started pretty crazy with the voices coming out of my mouth while I was driving – always as I neared or left the Post Office.  This happened for a few days before I realized the voices were characters in a play and not me losing my mind out loud.  There is a poem in that first scene called “Before the Red”; I felt and still feel that the piece should have explored that specific subject matter but I ended it when the voices quieted enough for me to go on to write the other monologues in the piece – maybe because I was tired of those strange characters blurting things out of my mouth – maybe because deep down I knew I was not ready to go THERE…  Individually, the monologues work but the collective piece is not a conclusion to the matter.  And, though I did not censor myself in writing the monologues, for whatever reason, I did fail to push into that first world I found – the THERE space…  I know the exact point I decided not to write the whole ugly truth…when those darn girls stopped blurting out sentences.  It’s at that point where I decided to write a variation of that truth – a modified portion of it which merely scraped the surface – the almost whole story.  The meat of it was left in the quarantined sector in my story bank – in the scary dark – THERE…  Though I am not easily jarred, with this piece, I was scared.  Scared that to really tell it, I would have to go deep enough to hit oil.  Would I be able to survive the gushing out of it?  I was scared to find out and I was scared that if I could survive the gushing part, I would put it out there before its time…  I am a firm believer that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…Ecclesiastes 3”  Baring “uglies” for no purpose other than to bare them is not part of my makeup as a writer.  Perhaps it’s all those Aesop’s Fable cartoons I watched as a kid or the Twilight Zone episodes…  I sort of let myself down by writing an alternate piece and it’s stuck in my head (annoying me with thoughts of – “You know you still have to tell that story ‘cause you didn’t really go THERE… and you know you didn’t.  When are you going to write that story?  Soon, I say, right after the submission period is over and I have more time.”). 

I had been able to push the first instance to the back of my subconscious for a few years until I met playwright Will Eno who wrote “Thom Pain: based on nothing”.   I met him at a conference and he knew at once when I read the girls’ scene that I had failed to let that play go where no play (of mine) had gone before…all the way to the scary dark THERE…  The conversation went a little like this (because this is how I remember it):

Me:  “I think I failed.  I think I edited myself in some way.  I think the play wanted to say something else.”

Will Eno:  “You’re right.  You failed.  You have to throw it out and start over.”

Me:  “But, what I ended up with – the monologues are good.  I can’t throw them out.”

Will Eno:  “Then keep them but you still have to start over.  Trust that the thing that originally motivated you will motivate you again.”

He’s right.  I started over.  Since I never actually kill my darlings, I have them on standby to recycle/rework into other pieces.  When I sit quietly enough, the girls start to chatter again, taking me back to those moments when the sparks of their voices made me shake…

More recently, the second instance came about when I decided that I did not want to write a piece too close to the occurrence of the current event that inspired it.  My preference…  Again, I was scared that the timing was not quite right to go THERE … so I wrote something else.  A good piece but not the project I should have tackled.  Then I went to see “Stoop Stories” by Dael Orlandersmith.  After the talk back, I mentioned to her how her play “Yellowman” affected me.  Profoundly.  It made me shake…made me remember the girls who have been stepping aside for all the other plays I’ve written (funny both plays involve just girls/women).  Dael’s work makes me think about those two pieces on my back burners; it makes me want to revisit them nowit makes me want to tackle the scary dark…just get right in there and look around.  I asked her how she was able to keep from editing herself.  I asked if she cared about what people may think or how they would respond when she’s writing.  I asked her if it scared her to be so open and honest.  She said – (and this is what struck me the most and this is how I remember it) – she said, “I care but I can’t do that to myself.  Do you understand?  I just can’t do that to myself.  Of course I’m scared; it scares me but I have to do it.” 

She’s right.  I just have to resolve it in myself that I will always write everything as open and honest as I can.  Otherwise, and I’ve learned this over time, I won’t give myself a pass because I can’t do that to myself either… 

As a writer one owes it to oneself to go to the THERE space… to the scary dark place and write it…just write it scared…

Second Guessing…

There are times when well after the lid on the mail box has closed and I have driven away from the Post Office that I have a moment of second guessing.  Sometimes, it doesn’t hit me for a few days but it always hits me.  Did I pick the right play to send?  Is it as good a play as I think it is?  So annoying — like having buyer’s remorse.  Took me a while to figure out that that was what I was feeling.  Knowing doesn’t stop my “buyer’s remorse” moment but it does make me chuckle a little.  To offset this, I decided to add a column to my submission log titled “Why did I choose this play to send?”  This will help me five months down the road to remember that each play is chosen for more than just being a match for the theater or contest.  I am planting a forest.  In my quest to get my work out there (into the world), I want it to also cultivate the trees in my forest — trees that are steadily growing even when it seems that no one is watching but me.  I do not want to spend time second guessing my choices; I want to stay focused on my long term plans as a playwright and I want to always be writing…  I have less of a problem with second guessing during the actual writing process once I get started and choose the character names.  Even when the names change/evolve because of the story, second guessing is never an issue.  I am learning to work on those moments of doubt after the play has been completed and shipped off for contact with the outside world.  I am learning to enjoy that part of being a playwright as much as I enjoy writing the play in the first place…

Being a Playwright…being female…

Welcome to the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative (LAFPI) Blog! My name is Robin Byrd and I am a playwright. I went to the first meeting of the LAFPI because I was curious to see just about how many female playwrights there are living in Los Angeles. I was curious to see the ones I didn’t know – turned out to be everyone in the room. I took the trip up Topanga despite the vague directions to “drive toward the ocean” – very scary to a person who gets lost when tired and after working all week at my day job, I was tired. But I took the chance because I wanted to know, if I followed that winding road up the mountain, would I find a group of women focused on making a difference. I did. Could this be the beginning of change? It is. I am happy to be a part of the movement.

Being a playwright, one tends to spend a lot of time alone — writing. Being female doesn’t change that; the craft is the same. The drive to create is an artist thing – no gender attached. An artist’s perspective is formed by the sum of pieces and parts that make up the artist. The perspective is unique; the created art is universal. I never introduce myself as a female playwright nor have I ever seen or heard a male playwright introduce himself as a male playwright. It should be about the work and the work should speak for itself. I cover women’s issues, men’s issues, human issues – whatever comes up while I’m writing.  I took an all male piece of mine, The Book of Years, to a conference once.  The general consensus of the male audience was surprise at how I got the characters to be so true-to-life.  I listen.  I start with the voices I hear in my head when I write. “First Words”, I call it. No matter how much research or what I write down as a draft synopsis, the first words begin the play and tell me whose play it is even if I started out thinking it belonged to someone else. First words tell me who the character is. If I follow the words I hear diligently, the characters will write themselves – as true or as false as they want to be. Yes, sometimes the characters lie but if I don’t overwrite them, I usually find out why they lied somewhere down the line. Listening is an asset for a writer – not just listening to the world around us as we transpose and re-create/create worlds but also listening to our inner selves as we push against the stones. We must believe in ourselves and continue to write the stories that need to be written no matter how many rejection letters come in the mail. I have a thing I do when I get my ‘R’ letters. I read between the lines. A “No” with a “please keep us in mind” means “keep writing and circle back”. Just getting a rejection letter means the organization cared enough to reply; I will take a rejection letter over no response any day. I have my share of no responses noted in my submission log; on the positive side, a no response could be due to understaffing so there may still be hope that they will get around to reading my submission. What a happy surprise that will be! If the organization just doesn’t respond and I still want to submit, I make a note “tends not to respond” and that keeps me from being irritated. If and when they do respond, it should be good news. Why do I choose to be as positive as I can about rejection? It takes too much energy that I can use for writing not to be positive about it. Don’t get me wrong, there is the occasional wallop that knocks the wind out of me but that’s when I reach out to one of my writer friends and they always help me get back on track. Sometimes, the best remedy is to start a new play…being a playwright…that’s what I do – I write…