Sunday, April 19, 2015

Philip Glass - Memoir + A Video

I am currently reading Philip Glass' memoir, "Words Without Music." If you know me or have followed my posts for a while, you probably know that I am a big fan or his work. I even made a trip to Berkeley a few years ago when his "Einstein on the Beach" was being performed, because that was the closest to home on the tour.

His memoir reads more like a biography in my opinion. But he does have some good stories to tell, he met and worked with some amazing people on his journey. I am enjoying learning more about his beginnings, his passions, his day jobs, and especially more about his music. How he approached his life's work, meanings, how he developed his style, his sounds.

So since his book is my primary read outside of the theatrical scripts I'm preparing to interpret, I've also been listening to his music.

I just wanted to share one piece of his music. He has many. This was just a random video of something I found online - String Quartet No. 3 "Mishma," VI.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

[video] Dorothy Allison : The Power of the Writer's Voice

Today I was able to listen to Dorothy Allison read an unpublished story and talk about writing and life and politics and community at Mt Hood Community College. I am still digesting what I heard, letting her story and her words and her wash through me.

I can't share video what I saw and heard today, but I can share this video from the Chicago Humanities Festival. The first video is an hour long; below that is a 6-minute excerpt from the discussion, "Advice for Emerging Writers."


Tuesday, April 7, 2015


This has been on my mind recently: questions about and satire of the Portland OR culture. Questions about "counterculture" as it is here, or if the "counterculture" doesn't really exist in Portland.

As I often do, I started with definitions and then see where things fit or don't; what paths or rabbit holes appear to give me a deeper look at the things I'm researching or writing about. The first thing that came up was from Oxford University Press, so that would seem to be a reputable resource to quote. And here it is:

  1. counterculture
    [ ˈkountərˌkəlCHər ] 
      a way of life and set of attitudes opposed to or at variance with the prevailing social norm:
      "the idealists of the 60s counterculture"
    Powered by OxfordDictionaries · © Oxford University Press

Oh, let me say right now that if you are hoping I will give you an answer, I won't. I don't know where the counterculture is in Portland OR or if it exists.

I was recently in an online humor writing intensive with Ariel Gore. I wasn't the only one who poked fun at Portland in the course. In the short one week writing experience there were several pieces about different aspects of Portland "weird." I have also been preparing to interpret "The People's Republic of Portland" at Portland Center Stage this week, which is about just this topic. I laugh at some of the jokes along with everyone else - the ones I know are probably coming in Lauren Weedman's show and the improv sections I've never heard before despite having seen the show several times. I nod in recognition of the characters she energetically shows the audience and laugh and the sometimes only mild exaggerations; the show is funny and she is great. And I think, yes, this is Portland and it's not all bad; but is it "counter"? (Side note: the show is worth seeing and it is running right now; if you want to see the interpreted performance it is this Thursday, April 9th, at 7:30 pm. Get your tickets soon as performances are selling out!)

When does "weird" become the norm? What does that look like? What does it take for the self-consciousness of appearing to be "counter-_______" (fill in the blank) to become the standard? Is it counterculture when there is a right and wrong, when there is pressure to conform, when the individual becomes the mass, and when the focus is inward toward individual or group? What is the counterculture countering? Or has it become so commonplace that there is nothing to counter? Has the Portland Weird Culture become so mainstream that we need a counterculture to the counterculture?

Or is the idea of A Counterculture outdated and we should just look at diversity, instead? What is the role of a counterculture? What has the role of the counterculture been historically and is that still true or still needed? If we don't really need a counterculture any longer, what has replaced it in terms of keeping us alert and alive as people? What keeps us from becoming a bland homogeneous unthinking mass which just plugs in to a pod and melds?

I'm not talking about the extremists. I'm not talking about the mentally unstable or sadistic or the outliers.

And here I start going down the rabbit hole of "what am I talking about?" What do I think is wrong? If I think something is wrong then what is missing or what would make it right?

What I do know is that it feels like "Portland Weird" has become just one more thing to conform to or to resist. One more thing to say "yay, I love it," or "boo, I'm better/worse than you." One more thing to make you feel better or worse about who you are.

Do we need a counterculture? Can or does counterculture exist? Or is this one more label to separate the "them" and the "us?"


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Story Structure Video

* Even though this video essay is about making a video essay and about making film, it is also about storytelling. It talks about structure and moving the story forward, which also applies to written storytelling.

I am a believer in cross-pollination in the arts: visual and writing, film and written story, music and anything. This short video can apply to many creative paths, even though the creator's focus is on film and video.

And if you need them, it does have CC.

You can read the article which goes with this video essay here: "The 3 words that are guaranteed to make your writing better"


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Flying Week

The week of the humor writing intensive has come and gone and what a week it was.

I learned that I am funny. At least on the page I can be funny. We practiced different approaches to writing humor and read famous writers' humor and read the writing of other writers in the intensive. We gave feedback. We tried to write and have it be funny; we tried to write without the mandate of humor by writing to a prompt and if it was funny, bonus!

The good thing about an online writing intensive in Ariel Gore's Literary Kitchen is that it is only a week. I can do anything for a week (pretty much), even if my schedule ended up not being as open and lazy as it was when I signed up for the class months ago. The bad thing about the intensives is that they are only a week.

It is true that time flies when you're having fun and the Humor Writing Intensive was no exception.

I did write every day. Even days when that meant posting my writing at 2 AM. And feedback at 2:30 AM. I did it. Every day,

Then, poof, it was over.

From that lovely week I have a few pieces to develop more. One premise I am letting another writer use for her own story (yes, she asked! very nice). And I have saved all of my writing and all of my feedback for future use.

I also signed up for an online poetry writing class through another source. It is one I wanted to do but avoided because the timing was terrible (it was supposed to start last week). Apparently there were technical issues so the start date was delayed to some unnamed time. Which is fine. Especially if it is later in April. So I signed up for that workshop/class and have a writing class to look forward to for after I get through the plays of April.

But back to the humor class. It was helpful, fun, informative, and I learned things. And I wrote. Ariel's workshops are always inspirational and she attracts supportive and talented writers. These are the things which keep my writing flowing and which keep me from going down the I'm-not-a-writer drain.

Thank you, Ariel, and all of the writers in the Humor Intensive!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Practicing Funny

This is the week of the humor writing class in Ariel Gore's Literary Kitchen.

It's kind of kicking my ass.

It's not that I didn't know that writing humor is hard; I already knew that. But trying to write to the prompts and make them funny is hard because some of the subject matter for applying humor is not naturally funny.

No, that's not explaining it well.

Okay. An example. On Tuesday we were to make two lists of things which we aren't supposed to write about or talk about for reasons which put them into those two lists. The things fell into the sacred-don't-touch column or the taboo-you're-going-to-hell column. Then we had to write.

It took me about forty-five minutes just to come up with five things in each column. And I wasn't even to the writing stage, yet.

I got there. I wrote. I wrote some funny stuff. And some not as funny stuff. It was a freewrite so it meandered a bit. Which was okay,too.

I am writing every day. And I am giving some feedback every day.

Sometimes I am surprised at what comes off my hands onto the page and it's not bad. Maybe I do still have a funny streak left. The next step will be figuring out how to integrate it into more of my writing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

How to be Funny. No, How to Write Funny.

This is not going to tell you the answer.

I don't know the answer of how to include more humor in my writing. I first typed, "in your writing," but I am talking about me.

Which is why I signed up for Ariel Gore's first ever humor writing workshop. Because I realized that I don't have a lot of humor in what I write. Not usually and not in the big pieces I have in progress (or in a stalled state).

Humor can move the story along. It lightens the heavier moments. It makes us feel good or breathe or think, I can read more even though the topic is a little too close to home or heavy or something.

One of the many things I admire about Ariel is her ability to mix in levity in serious subjects. Like her most recent book, "The End of Eve." It is not a humor book and it is not a humorous story. But there are moments which she weaves together as golden threads to keep the reader right there in the whole experience of the moments about which she has written.

These are the things missing in most of my stories. When I try to write humor I feel stilted or stupid and that the writing is too self-conscious or it outright sucks. Which may be a bit over the top but it is how it feels.

Humor in the face of big topics or big emotions. To bring a smile along with the tears.

This week before the week-long intensive we were instructed to find a piece of something we find funny. Then write about why it is funny. To us. To me. And I realize that I also don't read much humor. Or I haven't for a while. So my first challenge in the workshop is to find something that is funny. There have been moments in books, but only moments. I was reminded about Marc Acito's books, which I read several years ago. If I can't come up with something more current, I will go with one of those - find a passage I like and post it, with analysis of why I find it funny.

Humor. I'm not against it. But I realize it is an important missing ingredient in a lot of what I write. I don't aspire to be a comic, just to put more light and space in my stories.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Poetry on my Mind

It is that time of year, again : Poetry Out Loud. The regional competitions were held last weekend and each region is sending the top three participants to the state finals competition next week.

So I have a lot of poems on my mind.

I have no complaints about my very busy schedule, which is filled with poetry and theater on top of the other word work I do. It is work and it is creativity and language, all rolled up together.

True, not as much of my own original writing is happening at the moment, but that will change. I am still working more at the editing and revising level of my own writing. I also wrote some ideas and a basic outline - *gasp* - of an idea for a play.

Poetry is at the top of my list right now as I am working on translations of the poems.

So I decided to share a video of one of the poems I am working on. Not all of the poems are this reality based; some of the ones we are working on are much more abstract or "poetic" with many layers of meaning. "Very Large Moth" by Craig Arnold is pretty straightforward, and it still carries a message.

No, this guy is not competing in Poetry Out Loud. But this poem will make an appearance.