Category Archives: musings

The Backup Singer

I’ve always kind of wanted to be a backup singer. I like to sing, and I’m not terrible at it, but there’s something in me that prefers a supporting role. Like in school, when I chose to help choreograph the dance team rather than perform. (Though I have truly enjoyed the times I’ve been on stage in theatre productions.)

I took a test once that labeled my strengths as both “service” and “leadership.” At the time I thought those results were at odds with one another, but I know better now. A good leader is a support structure. It’s both demanding and tiring as a role, being a pillar for others to lean against. But rewarding, if you can take the pressure.

Premiere: “Warm Bodies”

So, finger bandaged (and yes, it IS difficult to type), I went down to Connecticut to see the premiere of “Warm Bodies.” It went well, and I received many complements on the play. It advanced to the finals, and so was performed a second time the next night—alas, it didn’t win, but I’m glad to know many people enjoyed it.

It is a bit strange to hear people saying the words you’ve written because they don’t always say them with the same inflection as you heard in your head when writing them. And yet, theatre being a living medium, the words and works are meant to be fluid and open to interpretation. I figure “Warm Bodies” could be performed by several different theatre companies (and it is slated for just that in coming months), and it might never seem like quite the same play. Very different, then, from writing for film/telly, where the words and actions will be rendered static once they are finished.

Of course you can film a stage play, too, but it will always be a film of one performance, not necessarily a definitive showing.

At any rate, I am glad to have been able to attend the premiere. Met a lot of fun and interesting people and am encouraged in my work.

The Romantic (or, The Secret Lives of Writers)

I’m a romantic at the core, although a lot of people find that difficult to believe. That’s because outwardly I tend to be honest, practical, logical, and efficient, even to the point of being brusque or blunt. I always realize later that I should temper my blades, but it almost never occurs to me in the moment. I’m still learning on that score.

But writers—and I don’t mean to speak for all of them, but I think many would agree—have vivid internal lives that are often very different from their outward personalities. I hesitate to say one is “truer” than the other; all are parts of a whole, though that whole is weirdly segregated in its being.

It’s tough to catch me in a romantic moment because I have a “shields up” way of dealing with people and situations that make it tricky to get at my core (if you’ll forgive the geeky Star Trek lingo). It can be done, but only through the most deft sleight of hand.

I put a lot of my romanticism in my writing. That’s my outlet, really. That’s how most writers work, I think. It’s almost like slowly bleeding to death, though. Something is going out, but if nothing goes in . . . I need a transfusion.

Those Godless British Heathens

Just had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: Oh, I’m going to be in England for Easter.
Scott: Do they care?
Me: That I’m going to be there?
Scott: About Easter.
Me: No, of course not. They are godless heathens who know nothing of magical rabbits bearing chocolate.

The truth is, I have no idea what they do for Easter over there, since I’ve never been during that time of year. I do hope there are flowers, though. If not bunnies and chocolates.

Blogfest: Origins (or Why and How I Became a Writer)

Look, I’d been writing a long time before biting the bullet and calling myself a writer. When I was young, I used to make books and stories and newspapers for the neighborhood kids. But I wanted to be a film director. And in high school I edited both the yearbook and the school paper. Then went to university with the idea I was going to become a journalist. But ended up with a screenwriting degree instead (along with some film set experience).

So that’s when I started calling myself a writer, right? Nope. I went to grad school and got a Masters in Writing, Literature and Publishing. And did I start calling myself a writer then? Uh-uh. Although I continued to write in my spare time, I worked in publishing for a decade, first in book production, then as an editor.

For years and years, I said that I “liked to write.” And at some point I even began saying I “wanted to be a writer.” But I never actually called myself one, despite the fact that I did, in fact, write.

In my mind, you see, a real writer was already successful, able to make a living at his or her work. That wasn’t me. It still isn’t me, by that definition. But here’s what happened:

I quit publishing to stay home with my children. And I was going crazy. But then I went back to writing, and it saved me, saved my sanity. I’m much more likable when I’m writing, because I’m happier when I’m writing, and easier to live with.

You see, I am a writer.

It’s in me, always has been. For a long time it only oozed out in small amounts. But then, when I found myself at home with young children and no outlet . . . My contents were under pressure, and when I’m bottled up and unable to write, I explode.

So a couple years ago, when I started really devoting myself to my work, even before I’d met with any success (and now, I’m pleased to note, I have had some moderate amounts), when people would ask me what I did for a living, I began answering, “I’m a writer.”

And I stand by that.

My 80s Crush

I should start by saying that in 1980 I was four years old and a little young for crushes. I really don’t remember much of the 80s as a whole, aside from a vague notion of Ronald Reagan as president (and that Genesis video with the puppets), and a fear of Russians, except that in my mind all Russians looked something like Gene Hackman, and so really I had a fear of, well, Gene Hackman.

I’ve had people make suggestions: Richard Dean Anderson (aka MacGyver). Yes, but I didn’t actually get into that show until the early 90s. And while I admired MacGyver, I didn’t have any romantic feelings for him or anything. Robert Downey Jr. I do like him—now. But in the 80s I didn’t know who he was because I was too young to see the kinds of movies he was in. Jonathan Frakes (aka Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation). I was a ST:TNG fan, true, but again, no especial romantic attachment to the characters or actors.

So after some thought and once I sifted down I discovered there are, perhaps, two potential candidates for this blogfest. The first would be Harrison Ford. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the first movie I can remember seeing in a cinema. (My parents swear my first movie was Bambi, but I don’t remember that at all.) I was under this strange impression that the main character’s name was Petey and was, because of his hat, some kind of cowboy, but these misunderstandings aside, the film made a terrific impression on me. I went over to my best friend’s house and forced her to play endless games of Indiana Jones (once I’d been corrected on the name). I was also aware that Indy was the same person as Han Solo from Star Wars, and since Star Wars was my best friend’s favorite movie, it was easy to marry the two into one game by making Han and Indy cousins.

Still, wanting to be someone is decidedly different than wanting to be with them. I was too young to want to be with anyone romantically; I only wanted to have adventures.

Candidate #2 came a few years later, when I was on the cusp of understanding “attraction.” It’s a movie I mention often enough here: Young Sherlock Holmes, starring Nicholas Rowe. That movie came out when I was nine, and while a part of me wanted to be Holmes—the clever one, the hero—a bigger part of me wanted to be Elizabeth. She was pretty, and moderately smart, and very pert, and most importantly: Holmes loved her. In my mind, nothing could be more perfect.

I think the influence of that movie, and of Rowe in the lead role, bred my predilection for tall, thin men with accents and messy hair who are somewhat more interesting looking than classically handsome. (Though growing up in a house filled with Sherlock Holmes in varying incarnations may also have had something to do with all that.) I was still too young to want anything more than, say, hand holding or, at a stretch, maybe a kiss (though the very idea embarrassed me without me understanding exactly why), or really just to be saved by the hero for once instead of being the hero myself. But I look at it this way: though I didn’t have fan posters in my room until I was much older, if there had been one in my room at age nine, it would have been of Young Sherlock Holmes and/or Nicholas Rowe. So using that as a rule of thumb, he comes out on top when attempting to gauge my budding interest in the opposite sex circa the 1980s.


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.

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.

Q & A Journal

I have this 5-year journal in which I answer a question each day. Today’s question is: What is your resolution for tomorrow? This seems like an odd question to ask on 1 February. And why “tomorrow”? And why use the word “resolution” as opposed to, say, asking what I hope to accomplish? It’s just odd.

I replied that my resolution is “not to get caught in a dimensional loop that forces me to relive the day repeatedly.” I resolve not to allow that to happen. As an aside, I also resolve to get more work on this script done, but the dimensional loop is the main thing.

Redeeming Irene

I previously wrote a little bit about Sherlock‘s take on Irene Adler. It has occurred to me, though, that she might yet be redeemed.

It could, after all, be a long con.

Say, for argument’s sake, that Moriarty isn’t the tip top of the iceberg. When you consider that Irene’s phone call stopped him at the swimming pool, and that she was the one to call Moriarty and suggest it was “time” to implement their plan . . . These things suggest she’s at least at his level if not above. Moriarty could just as easily be her pawn as she be his. And we do only ever hear her side of the story when it comes to her dealings with Dear Jim.

It would be nice for Irene, Moriarty, whatever syndicate at large is at work, to have Sherlock on call in a way. If that were the goal, Irene has ensured at least some cooperation on Sherlock’s part by worming her way into his life, even if only as someone who intrigues him—and someone he’s willing to go to great lengths to rescue from terrorists. (She did mention she “should have him on a leash.” And that maybe she would. And so maybe she does.)

Irene as ruthless would be much preferable to Irene as sentimental, needy and lovestruck.

Just a thought.

(And then again, if the Mycroft theory were correct, Irene is simply following orders anyway, and it is Mycroft who wants Sherlock on a leash. Hrm.)