Progress

Thanks to everyone who supported me by downloading my free e-books over the holiday weekend. I hope you’ll also consider leaving reviews on Amazon (particularly if you liked what you read)!

Last Wednesday night—or really, very early Thursday morning—I finished the first full draft of The K-Pro. It needs a lot of editing. But it’s nice to have one complete draft to work with. Meanwhile, I’m also still planning to finish that sequel to “St. Peter in Chains” too. And possibly (probably) write another Sherlock Holmes story, since those are what I get the most requests for.

And so here, as we near the final month of 2012, is where I stand with my goals:

  • Finish “St. Peter in Chains”
  • Finish The K-Pro
  • Finish the spec script
  • Get at least one more play accepted for production somewhere

I did finish (and publish) “St. Peter in Chains.” I have finished a draft of The K-Pro, which sort of counts as “finishing” it and sort of not. (Admittedly, though, when I made that goal I thought it would be a short story, not a novel.) I finished the spec script some time ago (for all the good it’s done me). And “Warm Bodies” got accepted to a second festival—and also for publication in an anthology—but I’ve had no new plays accepted anywhere, so again I only count that as a semi-realized goal.

What are there, five weeks left in the year? It’s been a pretty good one, but it could rocket to the top of all-time best years if I could just get some good news for Christmas or my birthday.

Playwriting Opportunity: Traverse Fifty (Scotland, Open to All)

As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations we are searching for the best voices from Scotland and beyond. We want to find 50 writers who embody the spirit of invention, adventure and risk taking that has come to define the Traverse over the last 50 years.

The Traverse Fifty is a year-long writer’s attachment to the Traverse Theatre. Throughout 2013, we will run a series of tailor-made events for the writers, including panel discussions, workshops and one-on-one dramaturgy with our artistic team. The programme will culminate in a New Writing Festival featuring the work of the Traverse Fifty. At the end of the process we will offer three seed commissions.

Who we want:
50 brilliant writers of any age, from anywhere. You must have had no more than two professional productions staged.

How to apply:
Submit a 500 word play for Edinburgh and a 250 word covering letter outlining why the attachment would be beneficial. To submit your script please go to www.traverse.submittable.com

For more info on the project please visit our Traverse Fifty page.

Deadline: 12pm, Friday 14 November 2012.

For more info email Catherine.Makin@traverse.co.uk

My New Play

I’m writing a new play. It’s about Eleanor and Henry II, but it’s NOT The Lion in Winter (since that one’s already been written, and produced, and filmed). I sort of have this Chris Pine type character in my mind when I’m writing Henry. Hmm.

It’s beautiful today, and I have the house to myself, so I’m sitting outside while I write and enjoying my hummingbirds. They are very happy because I have refilled their feeder. I think a few of them are getting fat off my indulgence!

Also, another of my coral and pink roses is getting ready to bloom.

Reminder: I’ll be doing a guest post on fellow author Christine Rains’ blog on Monday. Be sure to go check it out!

Judges, Gatekeepers & Independence

I entered one last screenwriting competition. I don’t even know why, what I hope to prove or accomplish. I just really feel like this script was a good one, and I can usually trust my instincts, but . . . Anyway, I e-mailed the competition to ask about the judges. The site says that key industry people (agents, producers) do the judging. But I’ve learned, after so many competitions, that this kind of statement can be misleading. So I asked whether the industry people read ALL the rounds or just pick the winners. And of course the answer is that the industry people only read the finalists. The competition’s “staff” does all the initial reading.

One has to wonder, then, who these staff members are and what qualifications they have. I don’t necessarily want to antagonize the competition’s organizers by e-mailing back and demanding to know. But to think whether I get my script in front of a major industry insider rests pretty much on whether one little underling likes what I wrote . . . But then again, it’s the same in any agency office: interns and assistants reading scripts and tossing aside the stuff they don’t like or don’t think (in what? their great experience and understanding of the market?) will sell. It’s all pretty stupid. And it’s one of the reasons a lot of bad movies, and a lot of the same kinds of movies, keep getting made.

I suppose gatekeeping is a problem in any creative industry where there is more material than money to publish or produce it all. Just as Hollywood producers and agencies haphazardly sort scripts, so do literary agents and publishers sort manuscripts. There’s this sort of arbitrariness to “worthy” versus “not worthy.” A crappy book by a bestselling author can get published, but a really great book by a no-name gets the boot. And so it goes.

I’m glad to have an outlet for my books. Indie publishing has certainly allowed me to find a kind of niche, an audience. If I had the money, I’d go make my little indie movie, too. But movies are still too expensive and labor intensive for me to do by myself. A writer can work alone, but a movie requires a crew. And even “cheap” ones cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce.

Still, it would be awesome to see my mental vision come to life. That’s why one writes plays and screenplays, after all. It’s like getting to play pretend with real people.

But I can’t say I hold out much hope for this competition. Given my past performance in such, the odds of finding a reader who likes and “gets” the stuff I write seems pretty small. And I could pay for “notes” but from whom? Some underling? It’s not worth the cost. I’m not above rewriting, learning, developing, but I’d like to know the teacher is someone who can honestly help me.

Meanwhile, I have two big projects facing me: a full-length play due at the beginning of October, plus I need to finish The K-Pro because I have a publisher waiting to read it. No promises in either case; I was “invited” to submit the play, but that doesn’t mean it will be selected for production, and just because someone wants to read my manuscript doesn’t mean they’ll want to publish it. I gotta stay realistic. But I also gotta keep moving.

2012 Thus Far

Thought it might be interesting to take a quick inventory of all that’s happened thus far this year. The good and the bad.
 

  • Scott interviewed for a new job (mid-January).
  • I made travel arrangements for my trip to London (mid-January).
  • I wrote and finished my novella “St. Peter in Chains” (January).
  • Scott was offered the job in San Francisco and accepted (early February).
  • My play “Warm Bodies” was produced and was a finalist at the Valley Repertory 3rd Annual Lab Works (late February).
  • Movers packed up our house, and after a couple nights at a hotel we flew to San Francisco and moved into temp housing (mid-March).
  • I flew to Boston for a night, then on to London for a 10-day stay, then back to Boston and home to San Fran (March-April).
  • While in London I: converted “St. Peter in Chains” into a short screenplay, saw two plays, and celebrated Easter alone.
  • I submitted the screenplay version of “St. Peter in Chains” to the Nicholl Fellowship (April).
  • An area agent and an agency in the UK asked to look at my Sherlock spec; the UK agency also asked to read “St. Peter in Chains” (April)
  • We sold our house in Massachusetts (April).
  • I found out three pieces of my flash fiction had been accepted to be published in a 2013 anthology (May).
  • The agent declined to represent me and the UK agency did not respond to my follow-up query (May).
  • Scott’s parents visited and Scott and I celebrated our 11th anniversary by staying at El Drisco, eating at a fancy restaurant, and seeing Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers play at the Red Devil Lounge. Scott also gave me a gorgeous ring (May).
  • We moved out of temp housing and into a new house in Livermore (May).
  • I flew to Washington D.C. to see “Warm Bodies” produced as part of the Source Festival, and also got a chance to meet and spend the day with one of Scott’s high school friends who until then I’d only known online (June).
  • Scripts sent to Script Pipeline and the Page Awards did not advance (June-July).
  • After repeated rejections, I self-published the novella version of “St. Peter in Chains” as an e-book; it’s had steadily increasing sales (late June).
  • Encouraged by the success of “St. Peter in Chains,” I also self-published “Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Last Line.” It has outpaced “St. Peter” by a large margin and has been especially popular in the UK (July).
  • I did not advance in the Nicholl Fellowship (early August).
  • I self-pubbed my Star Signs Operating Manual (August).
  • I found out my play “Warm Bodies” was to be published in an upcoming anthology of short plays (August).
  • I was invited to submit a full-length play to a competition that only accepts full-length plays via invitation (August).
  • I did not advance in the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition (August).

So . . . A mixed bag. I’ve left out the fact that a small army of query letters has gone without response. I’m chipping away, you see, but I wouldn’t mind a bit more success. The year is two-thirds over. Not sure what else I can hope to accomplish. I am working on another Sherlock Holmes story, and I am hoping to submit something to that playwriting competition. I’m also hoping some other plays I’ve submitted to various venues get selected for production. And more than anything I’d like these scripts I’ve written to get some notice. That, for me, would be the big win.

“Warm Bodies” to be Published

My short play “Warm Bodies” has been selected for inclusion in an upcoming anthology, an annual collection put out by Northwest Playwrights Alliance. The theme for the 2012 anthology is “A Better Life.” I’ll make an announcement and put it on the Shop page of the site when it becomes available.

I’m really very pleased that my first attempt at writing for the stage has been (for a beginner) pretty successful. “Warm Bodies” premiered at the 3rd Annual Lab Works put on by the Valley Repertory Company in Enfield, Connecticut. Then it was produced as part of Source Theatre Festival 2012 in Washington D.C. Maybe it’s beginner’s luck, but I’ll take what I can get.

I seem to be better at the short stuff than the long, perhaps because I do tend to be a somewhat economical writer. I once had a reader say to me in a letter that she liked how I could create such vivid imagery and feelings with so few words. She said it gave everything more impact. I like to think so. My goal is not to drag out and bore people. I hope I’m achieving that.

Playwriting Opportunity: Mentoring Project (Wales)

Ty Newydd National Writers Centre for Wales

Tutor: Kaite O’Reilly

Dec 7 – 9, 2012 and April 12 – 14, 2013 (2 weekends, with email contact between)

This unusual course offers aspiring writers for live performance the rare opportunity of developing a new short play with guidance, tuition and dramaturgical feedback over a 4 month period by award winning writer, Kaite O’Reilly. It is designed for those who are new to the medium but serious about their writing, who wish to develop their skills as a dramatist in a supportive but professional environment. The focus will be on process—storylining, creating characters, plot, and dramatic tension, and developing the dramaturgical skills required to structure, shape, revise and so complete a short script. Deadlines will be given for completing drafts, with full feedback and reports by Kaite, with advice and exercises on further strengthening the script.
Owing to the unique form of this course and the individual attention that will be given, there will only be 8 participants. If you wish to apply please send your booking form with a short writing history.
For information, fees, booking forms etc. contact Tŷ Newydd:
tynewydd@literaturewales.org
01766 522811
www.tynewydd.org

Kaite O’Reilly has won various awards for her work, including the Peggy Ramsay Award for YARD (Bush Theatre, London), finalist of the 2009 International Susan Smith Blackburn Award for The Almond and the Seahorse (Sherman Cymru) and 2010/11 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for her retelling of Aeschylus’s Persians (National Theatre Wales). In Water I’m Weightless, with National Theatre Wales, premiered at the Wales Millennium Centre in August 2012, before transferring to London’s Southbank Centre as part of the official Cultural Olympiad. An experienced tutor and mentor, Kaite has taught playwriting and dramaturgy at Universities and theatres across the UK (Exeter, Graeae Theatre, Soho Theatre, Birmingham Rep’, amongst others) as well as internationally (KNUA, Seoul; ITI, Singapore; Evora Festival, Portugal). Further information on Kaite can be found at www.kaiteoreilly.com

Books Status & Current Projects

Well, I’m pleased to be able to say that “Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Last Line” has been surprisingly popular, particularly in the UK, where it has been in the top 10 on Amazon for a couple weeks now. I’m actually quite flattered; I’ve had a number of e-mails asking for more Sherlock Holmes stories, so I have that on my [rather long] list of projects. “St. Peter,” too, has been steady, though its audience is much more narrow. And the Star Signs Operating Manual got quite the boost from its day of being a freebie, so that’s all good.

Meanwhile, I now have the following on my list (though they may or may not occur in this order):

  • Finish The K-Pro
  • Finish my zombie story (and possibly rewrite as a potential television pilot)
  • Outline/Write the pilot for my British estate story/series idea
  • Write my Henry II/Eleanor of Aquitaine project (still trying to decide on format; a play?)
  • Finish “Stir Constantly” (a play)
  • Finish “Can We Still Be Friends?” (a play)
  • Write another Sherlock Holmes story

Okay, so that’s a pretty full slate . . . Plus I have plays out at various venues. And I’ll be at the Austin Film Festival in October, too, so I’m not sure what I need to have ready for that . . . Shaping up to be a busy fall!

Writing Opportunity: AACT New Play Fest

Just a heads up since the actual call for scripts isn’t expected to come until the fall, but the American Association of Community Theatre is putting together a New Play Festival (AACTNewPlayFest) in which selected community theatres across the country will produce new works by unpublished playwrights. Details here; keep checking for updates.

Dramatists Guild Statement re “3C” by David Adjmi

We of the Dramatists Guild of America wholeheartedly support playwright David Adjmi who has been facing pressure to silence his play “3C”. His work is a darkly comic parody of the sitcom “Three’s Company”, intended to critique the show and the social mores underlying it. The copyright owners of that work have written a “cease and desist” letter, which would, in effect, require him to stick the play in a drawer forever. But works of parody are protected under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law, because such works serve as valuable social criticism. Corporate interests may prefer not to have their properties targeted for mockery, but artists have the right to do so, regardless of the best bullying tactics that corporate profits can buy. And more than having the right to do so, artists have an obligation to critique the vestments of our culture. So we stand with Mr. Adjmi, and are in discussions with him to see what assistance he might require. We hope others will show their support for David as well. Because, by so doing, we demonstrate that culture is too important to be controlled solely by the corporations that claim to own it.

Stephen Schwartz, President
Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.