…makes me happy!

1) I had a wonderful experience participating in the Uxbridge 25-Hour Masterpiece Gala! Thanks to Rita Jackson and Nancy Melcher, and the rest of the organizers, for allowing me to participate. We had 25 hours to write, rehearse and perform a play. I was blessed to work with an incredible director and 4 amazing actors. The show was a success! Thank you to Jessica Outram, not only for being a wonderful director but also for including me in the post-writing experience. You did an amazing job! And thanks to the actors; Chris Cornish, Jacqui Morrison, Heather Warkentin and Krista LeFort-Craig. Such a wonderful 25 hours! …makes me happy!

2) I just got back from Huntsville, Ontario, where I discovered I won the Best Young Adult Novel Award for the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon. My novel, HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN, will be heading to a publisher for consideration…after the final readers give feedback to help me get it submission ready. This is my 3rd win…I also won the Best Adult Novel Award in 2007 and 2008. I am shocked that it was chosen for the award. The Muskoka Novel Marathon is such an amazing event. To sit for 72 hours and write an entire novel—surrounded by a tremendously supportive group of writers—is such a fantastic experience in itself. But we also get to raise funds for the Muskoka Literacy Council—get to fight illiteracy—while we’re at it! It’s such a wonderful event for such a great cause. …makes me happy!

Why I’m Freaking Out About Upcoming Play, But in a Good Way…

There’s a reason I’m a little bit of a wreck this week. I always freak out for about a week prior to these play festivals that I get myself into! Always! It’s a healthy freak-out, though. I don’t think it would be healthy to go into these things calmly and cocky. It’s a serious thing to write, rehearse and produce a play in a day. The audience must be entertained, right. You can’t go into these things thinking, “Whatever. It’ll be great.” You have to be panicking…you have to be at the point where paper bags are needed. Hyperventilating, in this case, is a healthy reaction.

So why am I even MORE freaked-out this time?

Here’s the difference.

I wrote plays for the last two Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festivals. The 10 writers get locked into Trafalgar Castle, in Whitby, Ontario, and we each have 8 hours to write our plays. 10 playwrights in 8 hours = 10 plays. We are each given the ‘words’ or ‘prompts’ we must use in our play, along with headshots of our actors…and then we are sent into the rooms in which our plays must take place. We actually sit in/on our stages while writing.

Trafalgar Castle – Whitby, Ontario – Piano Room
The Piano Room – Where I wrote my last Trafalgar24 Play.
The Entrance to the Piano Room

I was amazed by how alive I felt being able to sit within the stage while writing. The play wrote itself. I just stared around at the room imaging the play coming to life. As freaked out as I was when I drove to the castle, it all fell away the minute I walked into that piano room and knew I had 8 hours to luxuriate within its walls while I did the thing I loved to do more than anything else.  I sat back and let the play write itself.

When we walk away in the early morning hours, the actors and directors storm the castle. They rehearse for the next 8 hours…and then, the festival. The doors are opened to a barrage of eager theatre goers.

This coming Friday, I will be writing a play for the 25-Hour Masterpiece Festival in Uxbridge, Ontario. They are celebrating 25 years of their extremely vibrant Arts involvement. On Friday, I won’t be going into a castle. I won’t be sitting in my stage to write my play. The play won’t even be performed the next day inside an amazing room, inside an amazing castle. It will be performed on stage at the Uxbridge Music Hall…a regular (but I must add BEAUTIFUL) stage.

My stages have always been castle rooms. This is my first THEATRE STAGE play. This is ONE of the reasons I’m freaking out. The other reason. As I began to say, but got sidetracked in the saying, I will be getting a phone call at 6pm Friday night. I will be sitting at home. I will get my prompt over the phone. And then I will write my play AT HOME. I will not be on the stage looking out and imagining the audience. I won’t be walking around a deserted castle room acting out the play and feeling just a little bit crazy for doing so. I will be sitting at home, writing. Man…that’s going to be weird.

I’m going to LOVE this experience. I’m going to love it like crazy…because I’ll be doing something I love almost more than I love breathing. I am so blessed to be given these writing opportunities. I don’t know how I possibly deserve them…they just keep HAPPENING to me. Yes…I am so blessed! I love what I do!

I’m freaked out, though. I’m facing this new experience and I’m ready to run headfirst into it…but it’s going to be weird writing this play at home. Part of the adventure in writing the Trafalgar24 plays is in being there, locked into that castle in the middle of the night!

But I’ll make do. I’ll just pretend I’m sitting cross-legged in the middle of that vast Uxbridge Music Hall stage while I’m writing. And. I. Will. Write. My. Play!

6pm this coming Friday, I get my prompt and begin writing. 11pm this coming Friday, I send a finished play to the cast and director. 7:30pm this coming Saturday, the play is performed at the Uxbridge Music Hall in front of a full house.

I love this ride, man! This thing called writing!

(Uxbridge Celebration of the Arts 25-Hour Masterpiece Festival – click on 25 Hour Masterpiece in the left-hand menu.)

Forty Books I Would Rather Not Live Without.

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger
  3. Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
  4. The Feast of All Saints by Anne Rice
  5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  8. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  9. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  11. Clock Without Hands by Carson McCullers
  12. Old School by Tobias Wolff
  13. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  14. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  15. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  16. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
  17. Too Loud a Solitude by Bohumil Hrabal
  18. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino
  19. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  20. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  21. Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters by J.D. Salinger
  22. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
  23. Ash Wednesday by Ethan Hawke
  24. The Funnies by J. Robert Lennon
  25. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
  26. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  27. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  28. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  29. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  30. The Beginning and the End by Naguib Mahfouz
  31. The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy
  32. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler
  33. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
  34. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  35. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  36. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  37. The Favourite Game by Leonard Cohen
  38. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  39. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
  40. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

September – ALWAYS a busy month! (Updates)

I don’t remember a September that wasn’t action-packed. Historically, it just seems like one of those months where everything happens at once. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! This September is no exception. Things started to roll today, and it’s looking like yet another exciting September for me.

September 1st – My poem WHEN VENUS TAKES A RIDE was posted on the website of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate. It was chosen as the Poem of the Month by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate, Pierre DesRuisseaux. It will be featured for the month of September, and archived on the site for two years. I wrote this poem after my first day on the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya. I went there this past December with the Summer Literary Seminars, as part of their Kenya writing program. We took a plane to Manda Island from Nairobi and then hopped a dhow over to the island of Lamu. Once there, the group was given a walking tour of Lamu Town. During this tour, one of the poets in the group, Venus Thrash, was given a ride on a donkey (there are no cars on Lamu, but there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of donkeys). The poem is about that experience.

September 11 – Just like the second Saturday of every month (except for August), the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) hosts it’s monthly Breakfast Meeting. If you’re a writer in OR NEAR the Durham Region, these are NOT to be missed. The September Breakfast Meeting speaker is Neil Crone. Personally, I think he’s one of the funniest people in Canada. It’s a DON’T-MISS month! Neil will be talking about writing humour.

September 24-25Uxbridge Celebration of the Arts. It’s a 25-year anniversary celebration of the vibrant artistic community of Uxbridge, Ontario. And when I say vibrant, I mean electrifying. I’m constantly amazed by the artistic community in this small town just west of Port Perry, Ontario. I’ve been drawn there on several occasions for BIG TIME artistic endeavors. This time, I’m partaking in the fun. I’ve been chosen to be the playwright for the 25-year anniversary celebration. On the 24th of September I will be given a prompt and I will have 25 hours not only to write a one-act play, but to send it off to my director, Jessica Outram, have her run through rehearsals with the actors AND have it performed live on stage at the Uxbridge Music Hall at the 25th hour. So I’m giving myself about 5-6 of those 25 hours to actually pen the script…as I think they’ll need the bulk of the hours to rehearse. This is the kind of thing I absolutely love! I was fortunate enough to do this type of playwriting on two other occasions, for Driftwood Theatre, as one of the playwrights for their 2009 and 2010 Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival. I can’t wait to find out what I will be writing about! AND…the best part…watching it come to life just a few hours after it’s written. I am constantly amazed by the talent of the directors and actors that I am fortunate enough to work with!

September 26th– I will be MUSKOKA BOUND! It’s the wrap party for the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon. This event, held every July, has quickly become one of my favourite writing related activities! You sit in a building with approximately 30 other writers and you write a novel—in either 48 or 72 hours. How amazing is that! It was a great group this year (as it is every year). We had a lot of fun, and it’s hard to believe at the end of the weekend that there was actually time to put together a manuscript between the fun. I wrote a Young Adult novel this year – HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN. I’ve been editing it since July. The wrap party is on the 26th…all the writers regroup and award trophies for various different things–BIC AWARD for Bum in Chair, Most Prolific Writer, Spirit Award, Rookie of the Year Award and the Remy Award for most money raised. Most money raised, you ask? The marathon is a double-edged sword. It is a huge benefit to those writers brave enough to participate, but it’s also a marathon of hope. Each writer raises funs for the Muskoka Literacy Council…it’s writers helping readers. The marathon raises funds and awareness for the council—it helps them to spread the joy of literacy. Another prize awarded at the wrap party is the BEST NOVEL AWARD—awarded, actually, in different categories—Best Adult Novel, Best Young Adult Novel and Best Children’s Novel. The manuscripts are sent to 6 industry judges immediately following the marathon…and they read and judge them over the summer. The winning novels get sent to participating publishers for consideration. The benefits of this event are just neverending! I have my eye on the hands on favourite for Best YA this year—I’m not going to name names (she will not be mentioned here!), but I had the opportunity to read one of the manuscripts and I found it STELLAR. We will see what the Wrap Party brings us. I consider this wrap party the official end of summer, even though Huntsville is already quite in bloom with turned foilage by the time it rolls around.

Month EndMuseitup Publishing is preparing to launch! My Young Adult novel SUMMER ON FIRE will be published by Muse in July, 2011…but the publisher is launching in October. We’ve been talking excitedly about this launch behind the scenes. September is bound to thrive with chatter between publisher and cover artists and editors and writers. It’s a great family to be a part of! I’m really excited about the launch…and can feel the tsunami of its approach! September is THE month to be a Museitup member!

Not to mention! September is another month of busy planning for the 2011 ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE. This is an ongoing labour of love that factors into every month on the calendar. We want to organize the best conference every year. To do this, we must be dedicated to putting in a lot of volunteer hours. It’s worth it, though…so rewarding to see the happy faces of writers on the day of the conference!

And I’m certain there will be more excitement along the way. Like maybe a reading from author friend Karen Cole  somewhere in Uxbridge, maybe! Or maybe some poetry read by friend Barbara Hunt!  (-;