Different Arts, Different Behaviors

As a writer, I fly solo. That’s kinda the name of the game. The decisions made are mine and mine alone. It’s me and the keyboard, my imagination, and whatever command of language I happen to have at the time. If I want to adjust point of view, setting, character, or anything else, I can do it and not have to answer to anyone. 

There are times as a writer where I take in other people’s opinions. The most obvious example is my writers group. I submit pieces and they make notes and hand them back. In return, I do the same for them. And it’s rather satisfying to suggest to other people what they need to do to correct their story. (They should always, always listen to me.)
However, what they do with what I say is entirely up to them. After all, it’s their name on the title page. My name may or may not show up in the acknowledgements page. (Thanks, Fleur!) 
And I can take or leave their suggestions without a committee or an audience. I nod, say thanks, and move on. Every adjustment I make is my own and I’m the only one who has to answer for it. 
Theatre works a little differently. Theatre is collaborative. There is more than one voice going on at any given time: playwright, director, actor, etc. Collaboration has inherent constraints that aren’t present when you’re your own boss.
For example, tonight at rehearsal for Marat/Sade, I was reminded of just how different writing (solo) and acting (collaborating) are. There was a section where blocking was giving some difficulty in which Sade, who is the center man (after all, the play is his big Fuck You to the Man), was getting upstaged by some delightfully raucous musicians. This was understandably annoying to Sade, whose speech is kind of important to the point of the whole play. 
Being in the ensemble, I’m basically opposite the audience and saw that a small adjustment in blocking would keep Sade center man, instead of being brushed to the corner. I made the suggestion to the director — during the break — and he gave me a hug, said thank you, and then passed the suggestion on to Sade. 
Unfortunately, the set being the chaotic place it is, there was really no way to take the time to communicate the change in the time allotted. So there was a stumbling moment while director and actor went back and forth in front of everyone. No one got loud, but you could tell that maybe the better time to discuss this would be later. Which is basically what it boiled down to. 
Throughout the whole exchange, I cannot tell you how hard it was to stay quiet. I can see how it will work and if I had two seconds I could get the picture across. But, in the end, I’m the chorus girl. I’m not the director, or Sade, and their responsibilities aren’t mine. I’m there to fill one slot of the story. I’m not in charge of the whole story. 
And, while other writers can keep or dismiss my suggestions at their leisure (to their peril), theatre means you take the director’s note and adjust accordingly — because someone has to be in charge of this chaos. His tools are actors and sets and scripts. All of those things have opinions of their own. By jumping in further and insisting on my change (which may or may not work, after all) I would just be adding to the chaos. So, with great restraint, I kept my mouth shut. They’ll sort it out. 

Terry Pratchett and A Good Reason to Go To Conferences

Welcome to April and our new mentor:

Terry Pratchett!!!!

Now, I don’t know where you guys are in the world, but I live in Colorado Springs and the last weekend of April is always the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Unfortunately, I’m not attending this year (I have no money, though they do offer scholarships if you’re interested!).

I know a lot of people go to conferences because there’s generally the incredible opportunity to meet agents and editors – and writers are always interested in what they can do to further their careers.

But there are other reasons to go to a conference, and Terry Pratchett reminded me of that reason. I came across an interview he did with the BBC. Pratchett was talking about attending science fiction conventions – similar enough to conferences in my opinion.

The reason?


I know agents and editors are cool people. I had the great pleasure to hear Dan Lazar of Writer’s House and Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary give workshops on querying and pitching and all that good stuff. They were professional, had awesome advice, and generally seemed like a couple folks I wouldn’t mind having a beer with.

That being said…I was also surrounded by writers and their stories. I listened in on critique sessions. I attended a writing exercise workshop led by my buddy Bret. I heard Jim Butcher and Robert Crais talk. A conference is like a weekend-long mentorship. There’re so many people to meet, so many things to do, and – most important – so many things to learn.

In the interview (you can watch it below, it’s only a couple minutes) Pratchett talks about meeting Arthur C. Clarke and Moorcock. He says that these guys seemed like ‘normal guys’ and he was a ‘normal guy’ so…maybe he could do this for real too. When I attended the conference I thought something very similar: these bestselling authors are approachable, fun, and smart. They work hard. But they’re regular Joes. My actual thought was something like: “I’m on the playing field!” (Sure, I’m on the bench at the moment, learning from the experts…but I’m not in the stands! I’m a player!)

And just to prove my point that ‘normal people’ can do this: I attended that conference with my friend Fleur. She was also going around, listening to the same talks, going to the same workshops. She’s fun, approachable, smart, and she works hard. And guess what? Her book is coming out in October.

(Shameless plug – and there will be more – if you have a child in elementary school, or if you are a librarian for an elementary/middle school you should know that her book is Double Vision by F.T. Bradley and it’s awesome. More info forthcoming.)

Has anyone had a similar experience at a conference? Have you ever just gotten that energetic boost from being around other talented people?

Random Post of Awesomeness: Braggin on a Buddy!

AWESOME News Everyone!

My good buddy Fleur Bradley has just gotten word of her acceptance at HarperCollins!

Check it out here!

Great big hugs to Fleur. I personally know she’s worked her tail off for years and has earned every accolade that’s possible. Hard work and perseverance pays off people! Get to work! Though it helps to be talented and beautiful like Fleur too…;)

P.S. Fleur, I’m officially shouting out!

Comments from the Peanut Gallery

Friday night, after closing on Thursday evening and then opening on Friday morning, I attended the Fourth Annual American Icon. Didn’t participate in this one–unless you count whooping and hollering for my buds participation.

And let me tell you: Deb, Fleur, and John kicked all kinds of butt.

Deb conquered her fear and stood in front of all those people and read like a pro. It was amazing. She claims her hands were shaking like crazy when she was done, but I didn’t notice. I thought she did awesome. Plus she (along with only our table–the cool kids’ table) won one of the door prizes.

Fleur, on top of the door prize she won (see? told you we were the cool kids–or at least really lucky) took “Best Tension” this year. That was the prize I won last year, so I’m glad the torch passed on to a worthy successor. See how I take all kinds of credit? Anyway, she earned it. She did an awesome job–especially after seeing her so nervous at practice. Practice makes perfect! and she was.

John in a suit jacket. Nuff said. He whooped up on all the action/adventure people. He came across professional and his presentation was spot-on. I’m pretty sure if just one guy had been on the panel of judges he’d’ve swept up.

It was great. For those of you plugging away all alone in a home office or on your lunch break, I highly recommend befriending your local writers. Not networking. Making friends. The most irritating part of the evening was the schmoozing. I had fun not because I was there to promote my book, but because I was supporting my friends in their endeavors. They shouldn’t be surprised to see me there: I’m invested in them and what they do. Their successes are mine too. I want them to do well. I’m pretty sure that’s why Shane and Ali and Nicole and John (different John…) showed up as well. Networking is getting your name out. Who cares?

You want people to care about what you do and why you do it. So, even though I didn’t read, I think I got three special prizes from my friends–their stories.