The Kitchen Sink Post

(The weather has drifted down into the cooler temperatures, slowing everything down a little bit more each day — including this this blog post, which I’ve rewritten and added to three or four six times to reflect the changing reality over the past couple of weeks month. And so, I’m hurrying to post it before anything else happens again to force another rewrite.)

Sharing your work with people online produces a variety of outcomes. One of my favorites is waking up to fan mail from someone on the other side of the world. One of my least favorites is waking up to rejection notices, like I did a few mornings ago.

In related news, my “Chimera” project is on the market for anyone looking for a good science-fiction/action series. Otherwise, it’s going back in the file cabinet and will likely serve as raw material for the novel I’ll write after I finish the one I’m going to write after I finish the one I’m writing now.

Go ahead and try diagramming that last sentence, kids. But don’t blame me if your head explodes.

Speaking of recursive oddities: The advertising agency I work for specializes in differentiation — that is, helping our clients identify and promote the things that make them stand out in the marketplace. Our corporate tagline is “Exactly Like Nobody Else” and the company bought all of us very nice Land’s End shirts with the logo and tagline embroidered on them. The irony of everyone here having the same shirt reading “Exactly Like Nobody Else” wasn’t immediately apparent, but it’s now impossible to ignore — particularly on days like today, when seven out of the ten employees all wore our shirts. The atomic weight of such recursive irony could collapse around us and form a black hole. Of shirts.

In my last post, I mentioned I was finishing up a new play called “Drawing Away”. Well, it’s all done and you can find out more about it (and download a copy) on the Works page. If you do give it a look, let me know what you think.

The poster for the original production, designer unknown.With that out of the way, the next revision on my list was some long-overdue refinements to my adaptation of “The Odyssey”. A week or so back, someone who worked on the original production at Northwestern College contacted me to see if the script was available for production at a theatre in Illinois . . . which put just the right amount of heat under my efforts to get things cleaned up. I got everything done just in time to send it off to their selection committee last week and I’ve also put up a copy here for everyone else. As always, let me know what you think.

It was interesting, coming back to those scripts after such a long time. As I said in my post last week, “Drawing Away” is a reboot of the first play I ever wrote — taking the basic premise and reworking it around a slightly different plot and cast of characters. I ended up using much more of the original dialogue than I’d planned; through no grand planning on my part, it just seemed to fit better into the plot than I expected. All in all, I like this version better. But check back in another twenty years.

Tightening up “The Odyssey” presented a different set of challenges. By the time it got to the rehearsal process, I’d done nearly fifteen drafts on the script. The original text, of course, is a massive and wandering story — and I spent most of my time trying to figure out how to do it justice without getting lost forever among the twist and turns. Coming back to it now, I was pleasantly surprised at how well I’d managed on the whole thing. Here’s hoping the selection committee agrees.

(The production at Northwestern was a lot of fun. The music in particular has stayed with me. The composer did an excellent job with the score and I’ve always regretted losing touch with him before I could get a copy of it for myself. Reading back through the script again, I could still hear the haunting voices singing . . . fortunately, I have a DVD of a brush-up rehearsal and was able to pull the scene out and share it here. These, of course, are the sirens…)

…deur’ ag’ iôn, poluain’ Oduseu,
mega kudos Achaiônn, nêa katastêson,
hina nôiterên op akousêis.
ou gar pô tis têide parêlase nêi melainêi,
prin g’ hêmeôn meligêrun
apo stomatôn op’ akousai,
all’ ho ge terpsamenos
neitai kai pleiona eidôs…

The next major revision will probably be an adaptation I did of Calderon’s “Life is a Dream” from a few years back. Once I catch my breath, I mean.

It seems strange to think of it now, but there was a time when I was convinced that I was only a playwright. With the exception of the occasional poem or short story, everything I wrote was meant to be performed by live human beings in front of live human beings. This wasn’t by design or even preference, however. Everything that took shape in my head naturally seemed to gravitate towards the stage. There were a couple of odd things here and there — good ideas I still haven’t figured out how to write in any form — but it was overwhelmingly obvious that I was a playwright, first and foremost. For whatever reason that was where my creative energy naturally flowed (some people have offered their theories about this but I won’t get into those here).

Somewhere along the way and 30+ plays later, the tide has shifted . . . well, broadened might be a better way to describe it. There are a lot of different tributaries branching off of that flow now. If anything, it’s the theatre branch that’s the weakest these days (the same theories mentioned above provide a compelling reason for this as well).

I’m not complaining. But it does leave me with a lot of work that’s never seen the light of day . . . yet.

Recently I went through my files and cleaned everything up, reorganizing forty years of detritus as best I could. There were lots of fun discoveries — plays and stories and poems I’d forgotten about, most of which were forgotten for a good reason. And there were plenty of little scraps from past lives that left me cringing — but like the bad writing, it’s all just prelude to where I am now. And here is good.

But there was some good stuff, too. As well as a surprising number of things that I just flat out don’t remember writing at all.

Which has left me wondering what to do with it all. Apparently I’m not the only one. My colleague Tony Delgrosso recently posted he was gathering up all his oddments at The Half Empty Moleskine and it’s pieces like this one that make me glad he is.

The Gospel of ThomasThe regular (and patient) readers of this blog know I’ve been making noises for a while about a new podcast. The good news (pun intended) is that it’s out there and now you can hear some of those literary orphans that have been hiding in the back of the file cabinet.

There are a few episodes already, ready for download. If you want the fancy .M4V iTunes version, click here to subscribe. If you’re more interested in the RSS feed, you can get that here. If you want to get your grubby little mitts on the individual files or an MP3 version, they’re right here waiting for you. And if you want me to come to your house each week and perform it live in front of your closest friends and/or housepets, then make me an offer. No freaks.

Just for fun, each show comes with a free PDF download of the readings from that week — just in case you’d prefer not to have to listen to me all the damn time.

And if that weren’t enough…

A few days back I was sorting through a number of things and realized that I’d never been “between projects” during National Novel Writing Month before. Usually when NaNoWriMo rolls around, I’m balls elbows deep in something and can’t stop what I’m doing to participate. And although I’m currently hard at work on my next novel entitled “Pantheon” (at least, that’s what my bio says), the truth of the matter is that I’ve allowed myself to get distracted by too many side projects over the past few months and “Pantheon” hasn’t really gotten the attention it deserves.

Which leaves me at a crossroads. Do I keep “Pantheon” on the back burner and fire up NaNoWriMo? Or do I use November to work on the thing that I was already planning on doing, which was going to leave “Pantheon” out anyways?

Very difficult decision. I’ve got a couple of good concepts that could fit nicely into NaNoWritMo. But then there’s the matter of the other November project I’d been planning.

Who know . . . maybe I’ll do both. It’s certainly possible but, either way, it seems that poor little “Pantheon” might just be getting short shrift once again. At least until November has come and gone.

As I said above, winter is here. We haven’t seen snow yet, but I’m told by Girija that in Hindu culture you sacrifice two goats and leave their heads at the gates of the temple, making a stew to serve to the first two strangers who happen through the gate.

As much of a fan as I am of snow, it seems rather hard luck for the goats.

And besides, the snow will be here soon enough.


boy-in-playground-0709-lgWhen I’m this busy, the first thing that invariably gets cut down is sleep. Next is reading. I can do without the first one but not the second.

I don’t get a lot of magazines (apart from the comics, of course) but a few years back I discovered Esquire at my older brother’s house and have been hooked ever since. Usually I spend thirty minutes or so with each issue some afternoon and then set it aside. But lately I haven’t had time enough for that. I finally caught up to the June issue and this photo accompanying the Stephen King story ‘Morality‘ took me aback.

I sat there staring at the page for a few minutes with an odd feeling at the back of my head, like someone’d snuck in during the night and burgled a few things and I’d just noticed.

I showed the photo to my wife and asked her what came to mind. She got it on the first try. It was like someone had taken a snapshot of the opening of my play ‘The Red Boy’ and I thought for a moment that my citizenship in Alan Moore’s IdeaSpace had been revoked.

However, once I got up the guts to read King’s story I was relieved. Not a bad story, overall. But from a completely different territory than ‘The Red Boy’ fortunately for my sanity.

But, boy oh boy, take a look at this picture and then go read the first few pages of this play. You’ll see what I mean.

zeroFreeHaving a long daily commute has made it easier to listen to books, fortunately. I just finished listening to Scott Anderson’s “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” and, I have to say, I found it to be a fascinating (and inspiring) study. Highly recommended.

On the strength of a footnote in Anderson’s book, I picked up a copy of Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, and am enjoying it a great deal as well.

And, here and there, I’m reading another book by my wife’s grandfather — the inestimable Ken Jones, that original Mad Men character I’ve mentioned here before. Like the last one of his I read, this one involves the Advertising business. Only this time around, it’s set in Singapore and somebody’s been murdered.

Ken just turned 90 this past weekend. Still writing every day, too.

I should be so lucky.

5 thoughts on “The Kitchen Sink Post

  1. Thanks for the lead into Tony Delgrosso’s site. Also for the new podcast!

    Now, I read “The Red Boy” last year or the year before at some point after listening to A&D and Matters and looking for some more material of yours. When I opened up this post to read I quickly scanned the page and saw the photo, thinking it was a photo of yours for Red Boy and wondering if it was being produced somewhere. Anyway, color me creeped out. I am going to have to read King’s story now.

    Lots to read and listen to. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Jocelyn. Hope you enjoy the new atuff and keep spreading the word…

    I’ll be interested to hear what you think of the King story. I had mixed feelings about it. But I was glad it didn’t overlap with “The Red Boy” as much as the photo suggested.

  3. Finally read “Morality”. I’m so glad it didn’t overlap with Red Boy. It would be kind of funny to link the two, having the Red Boy from your play be the kid she picks in King’s story. Maybe not terribly funny ha ha, but “fun” funny in my head for just a moment.

    That being said, I’m not sure how I feel about King’s story. I really love some of King’s writing. He has written some of my favorite stories. I can’t help but feel this one was a little slap dash. I do think there are some very interesting ideas brought up in the story. I think maybe the ending could have been expressed with a bit more length. Or maybe that really wasn’t the point. I really like where it started. One thing I am personally tired of is women being the weak link and breaking down in some way after a crime is committed. I found the female’s arc a bit cliche. But it still raised some interesting questions in my mind. I’m on the fence.

  4. I was a bit ambivalent about King’s story as well. I’m a moderate fan — a few of his books and short stories are on my Top Favorites list, but much of it leaves me “meh”.

    I was intrigued by the themes of the story but the premise and outcome felt a bit cliche to me as well. I’ve never thought about the woman-as-weak-link theme before but you make a good point. And the character’s slip into “self” punishment felt contrived to me.

    (Uh . . . should I have said spoilers somewhere along the way in that?)

    One of the things I liked most about it was seeing King in Esquire. It seems like over the past few years he’s gained some acceptance in places like The New Yorker and Esquire . . . which makes me happy. Too often a genre writer is easily dismissed by academic/literary/highbrow mainstream.

  5. Agreed. I recently read a review of King’s new book that came out recently in which the reviewer stated something along the lines that King is perhaps one of the most underrated authors of modern fiction. And whatever one’s viewpoint of King is, I think this is very true. Because of that “genre writer” issue. It’s cool to see his stuff moving out into the world, hopefully paving more roads for other writers.

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