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In Memoriam: Douglass Parker

One year ago today, Dr Douglass S. Parker passed away. Today I lay my personal headstone.

“Doc Parker,” as we called him, was a simply amazing individual. I was an undergraduate student of his at the University of Texas, and he was what every [American] kid pictures when thinking of a Classicist: the jackets, the ties, the cane, the pipe, the white hair and beard. He had two separate offices, one at the Harry Ransom Center and one in Waggener, and both were so full one could never wedge themselves inside. I myself never made it past the door; Doc Parker would instead say to me, “Amanda, wear your suit tomorrow, and I’ll sneak you into the faculty lounge for lunch.” So that’s what we would do, eat lunch and then stroll across the campus, me feeling so very important in my suit and such esteemed company.

During those lunches and walks, Doc Parker would tell me about playing jazz in Memphis, his service during the war . . . All manners of wonderfully interesting stories. He once paid me the great compliment of lamenting that I had not learned Greek and so could not help him with his translations . . . He also said, oddly enough (and so something I’ll always remember), that I reminded him of his ex-daughter-in-law. Evidently they’d been close, and he was sorry to have lost her in what I assumed was a divorce.

It was Doc Parker’s letter of recommendation that won my way into Emerson College. I never got to read it, but I know he said good things about me. Better than I deserved.

He would e-mail periodically to see how my writing was coming along. He had a few examples of it in his personal library, and now and then he’d say, “I came across this, thought of you . . .”

And I still have all the teaching materials from his courses. In fact, I appropriated some of them when I taught parageography (a phrase coined by Parker) at a summer camp. But I could never hope to do as well as Doc in guiding students through the labyrinth of world building. I was a pale imitation.

But I digress . . .

Doc Parker was one of my chief encouragers when it came to writing, and I might have given up if not for him. For whatever reason, he saw a spark in me, something I can only hope to live up to. I’ll never have his experience, or even a fraction of his wit, but I’m lucky—as all his students were and have been—he was willing to share those things with me. We lost something rare when we lost him.

Writing Opportunity: Call for 10-Minute Plays (or excerpts)

Call for scripts / Galwad am sgriptiau
We are accepting ten minutes plays or excerpts for Script Slam on May 31st 2012.
Five plays will be chosen, developed and performed script-in-hand by professional actors. After each play is performed a panel of industry experts—writers, actors and directors—will be on hand to offer their advice. The audience will then get to vote for their favourite. The winning writer will then have the opportunity to work with Sherman Cymru’s Literary Team to develop their playwrighting skills.

Rydym yn derbyn dramau neu ddarn o ddrama deg munud o hyd i SgriptSlam ar Mai 31ain 2012.
Fe fydd pump drama yn cael eu dewis, datblygu a’u perfformio sgript-mewn-llaw gan griw o actorion proffesiynnol. Wedi i bob drama gael ei pherfformio bydd panel o arbenigwyr o faes y theatr – awduron, actorion a chyfarwyddwyr – yn cynnig eu barn a’u sylwadau. Yna bydd y gynulleidfa yn pleidleisio dros eu hoff ddrama. Fydd yr enillydd wedyn yn cael cyfle i weithio gyda Thîm Llenyddol Sherman Cymru er mwyn datblygu ei sgiliau ysgrifennu ar gyfer y llwyfan.

Deadline / Dyddiad cau: Monday April 9th / Dydd Llun Ebrill 9fed
If you would like to take part please send your work to / Os hoffech chi gymryd rhan plis gyrrwch eich gwaith i:
sarah.bickerton@shermancymru.co.uk or/neu
Sarah Bickerton
Cynorthwyydd Llenyddol / Literary Assistant
Sherman Cymru
Theatr y Sherman / Sherman Theatre
Ffordd Senghennydd / Senghennydd Road
Caerdydd / Cardiff
CF24 4YE

For more information please contact / Am fwy o wybodaeth plis cysylltwch a: sarah.bickerton@shermancymru.co.uk 02920 646 983

Writing Opportunity: Poetry Competition

Poetry Competition on Climate Change
for adults and children
Closing date: 31st March 2012
Judges: Carol Ann Duffy (English entries) & Elin ap Hywel (Welsh entries)

Prizes :
Adults: 1st £500; 2nd £100; 3rd £50
Children: 1st £50; 2nd £30; 3rd £20

Entry fee:
Adults: £3 per poem or 4 for £10
Children: £1 per poem or 4 for £3

Contact:
email: ehinshelwood@awelamantawe.co.uk
website: www.awelamantawe.co.uk

Entry details:
All poems submitted must be original work of the entrant. They cannot be returned so please don’t send your only copy. Each poem should be no more than 40 lines on any aspect of the theme of Climate Change. It must be typewritten. Please don’t put your name or address on the poems. Instead, you should put your name, contact details and titles of all poems submitted on an accompanying piece of paper.

The closing date is 31st March 2012. Prize winners will be notified by May 2012.
A prize-giving evening will take place on June 8th 2012 at Pontardawe Arts Centre.
Copyright of each poem remains with the author, but Awel Aman Tawe has the unrestricted right to publish the winning poems.

You may submit as many poems as you like as long as your entry is accompanied by the correct fee. Cheques payable to Awel Aman Tawe.

Please send your poems, accompanying details and payment to:
Awel Aman Tawe Poetry Competition
76-78 Heol Gwilym, Cwmllynfell, Swansea, SA9 2GN

You can also enter online and pay via paypal: www.awelamantawe.co.uk

Awel Aman Tawe is a community energy charity (charity no: 1114492) committed to tackling climate change. This poetry project is part of its Arts and Climate Change programme currently being funded by Countryside Council for Wales and Environment Wales.

Teaser Tuesday: The Fates Will Find Their Way

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Should Be Reading. The idea is to pick up your current read, go to a page at random, and post two teaser sentences. I’m not reading much these days because I’ve been so focused on writing, but I do have this library book here: The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard. Haven’t started reading it yet, but the story is about a 16-year-old girl named Nora who goes missing and the effect her disappearance has on the people left behind.

From page 43:

“Can I borrow your fangs?”
“Top drawer to the right,” Nora said.

Strange Gravity

There is a strange gravity between bodies.

It is the force that causes two people standing near one another to sway towards and lean in.

It is the force that causes two people facing one another to embrace or kiss.

And like all heavenly bodies, some have more pull than others.

Some spin faster.

Some shine more brightly.

And some collapse inward, pulling everything around them down and into the darkness, the black hole.

There is a strange gravity between bodies. It is the force that causes them to collide, and to sometimes consume one another.

My first job was as a library page for the public library in our town. It was within walking distance of my school, so after classes I would walk over for work. Sometimes, if I wasn’t scheduled to start right away, I would go to the fast food place across the street for something to eat. A lot of kids went there after school, and one day a table of boys behind me thought it’d be funny to smash ketchup packets, the result being that the back of my shirt ended up covered in ketchup. The boys just laughed.

It was lucky, I suppose, that the shirt was a chambray/denim affair I was wearing over a white tank top. I was able to take it off and go over to work, then rinse the shirt in the break room sink.

At that time, we had a man named Mike working at the library with us; it was part of his community service for some misdemeanor, the facts of which I never learned. I’ve never known a man named Mike who wasn’t simply a huge fellow (not at all true of people I know who go by “Michael,” by the way), and Mike stood well over six feet. It would have taken at least another half of me to be as wide as his chest and shoulders, and it was all muscle; Mike was a black belt and religious about his fitness. And I was the only person he could be bothered to talk to, ostensibly because the two dried-up hags who ran the library were unpleasant to him (as they were to me and everyone who worked under them), and the other page—a girl named Vicky who wore black bras under yellow sweaters—was actually too forward for his tastes. Vicky was a gossip to boot, and she was constantly coming up with stories about what Mike had supposedly done to get community service, none of which were likely to be true. I mean, I don’t think you get community service for having killed someone, even involuntarily.

The day I came in with my soiled shirt, Mike was in the break room. He immediately wanted to know what had happened, and I told him, and he got up and left. Not to go into the library, but out the door that led to the parking (that was the door employees were told to use, like servants, always the back entrance). I thought his shift must be over, and the fact Mike never said anything to me didn’t surprise me at all because he was strange that way. But later I found out he’d gone over to the restaurant and, though no one bothered to give me the details (not even Vicky, who herself quit the job soon after), did something to the boys who’d ruined my clothes. He’d done this, even knowing it would compound the trouble he was in, and even though he had less than a month left on his community service.

It occurs to me, looking back at a lifetime of similar incidents, that despite my independent streak I seem to inspire protectiveness in others. I’ve come to the conclusion this is because I’m intelligent in a way that causes me to spend a lot of time in my own head, and so in turn I have proven somewhat incapable of taking care of myself.

When I lived alone, I had friends who visited regularly to make sure I’d remembered to buy food. (I often hadn’t.) A particularly kind couple from my workplace would take me home with them once or twice a week to feed me. A big Italian guy once fought off some insistent sailors for me in a bar in Florence. A kind man in the British Museum walked me not only to the exit but back to my hotel when I got lost on my first trip to London. The same happened when I got lost in Paris during a rainstorm.

I don’t mean to be helpless. And I’m very good at taking care of other people. I just can’t seem to do for myself.

I do wonder what happened to Mike. He never came back to the library. I don’t know if he received additional probation or jail time or what. But I do know the boys at my school never bothered me after that. So thank you, Mike, for making my life a little easier at the expense of making yours more difficult.

25 Things . . .

  1. I talk in my sleep, sometimes in French.
  2. My bedroom and/or office windows have to face west so I can watch the sun set.
  3. I pick up accents and languages really quickly. Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m mimicking another person’s accent; it’s a really embarrassing habit!
  4. I lose my voice at least once a year, sometimes more.
  5. I’m addicted to awards shows red carpet coverage. I love to see what people are wearing.
  6. I won’t eat meat off a bone.
  7. I’m allergic to raw tomatoes and red berries.
  8. My eyes were blue until I was in ninth grade, then changed to the blue-green-gold they are now.
  9. I don’t like the taste of poultry. I can’t eat it unless it’s slathered in some kind of sauce that covers the flavor.
  10. My go-to karaoke song is “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer.
  11. I love to travel but hate to fly. It makes me anxious.
  12. My least favorite parts of my body are my hands. I wish I had longer fingers.
  13. I get ridiculously happy about receiving mail.
  14. I can’t stand to leave the house if I don’t feel like I look good (not even to get the mail).
  15. I love to wear chunky, oversized sweaters.
  16. To unwind I drive around by myself and listen to music.
  17. I like beaches but can’t stay very long because I get bored really quickly. I’m just not a lounger.
  18. I keep a griffin on my desk. His name is Harvey and he holds my computer cords for me.
  19. I collect scented candles.
  20. BUT . . . I can’t stand the ones that smell like cookies or vanilla or any kind of food. I think it’s unfair for things to make me want to eat them if I can’t.
  21. I get periodic bouts of vertigo, particularly on slow-moving boats.
  22. I am definitely not a morning person.
  23. I can’t write unless I’m the only person in the house.
  24. I have a crush on Benedict Carlton Cumberbatch.
  25. When I was growing up, Miss Piggy was one of my role models. It IS possible to be sexy, feminine, and tough. And it’s no sin to know what you want and go after it.

Bonus: I never listen to DVD commentaries because I feel a work should speak for itself.

Progress Report

Yesterday I got a lot of work done on the spec script I’m writing, and I’m hoping to get lots more done today and over the weekend.

I also have four plays out at 15 different places for consideration. And then, of course, the one being produced in three weeks. And again in late spring/early summer.

And St. Peter in Chains has been submitted to four different publishers. I’ll begin turning it into either a stage play or screenplay soon.

Meanwhile, today Neptune moves into its home sign of Pisces. This only happens about every 160 years, so it’s no small thing. Neptune will stay in its sign for about 13 or so years. And do you know, my horoscope said that under this influence I should consider living near water? Well, guess what?

I’m moving to California.

The Bay Area to be exact. So . . . Water? Check. Better weather? Check. Bigger theatre and entertainment industry scene? Check.

Life is about to get a whole lot more interesting.

Dueling Sherlocks

I was asked the other night, in light of fans of BBC One’s Sherlock frothing at the mouth over CBS’ Elementary, why there isn’t room for more than one [in this case modern] reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes. That is to say: the question was why fans of one couldn’t be fans of the other as well.

Potential infringement issues aside (Sherlock Holmes is a public domain character and this subject is touchy), I have to say, although there isn’t any reason a person couldn’t like both programs, it seems unlikely. In my response I reminded the person that “fan” is short for “fanatic” and then likened the whole issue to churches. People join a church. They really like it there, try to persuade others to visit in the hopes those people will join too. And if another group comes along and builds a new church just up the street, the adherents to the first church are generally not very welcoming. In fact, they’re angry at the encroachment. Their church is the best. There is no need for another.

And people don’t typically join more than one church. A few might, but those people are rare and are generally looking for something else entirely. For example, they are the people who find God in numerous places and are willing to worship Him wherever and whenever. In this instance, they are the core fans of Sherlock Holmes as a character, not just fans of a particular take. (Yes, I did just, in fact, make Sherlock Holmes analogous to God; he’d be pleased.) Even still, these people are likely to prefer one house of worship over another, though they’ll make the rounds regularly to get their fill.

Meanwhile, purists will already have taken issue with modernizing Holmes. Further removing him from London to New York may rankle even more. Who can tell?

To summarize: there is room for more churches, provided one has the cash to purchase the real estate and the resources to build. But attendance is not guaranteed, not for any show. As for me, I’ll see who and what gets delivered before passing judgment.