It’s NOT about a Poet – It’s NOT about Poetry

WOW! It’s the 1-year anniversary of the release of my second novel, SEBASTIAN’S POET! I can’t believe it. Where did the time go!?

happy_birthday_cake_with_candles-1680x1050

It seems quite a few potential readers of Sebastian’s Poet are a bit worried the novella might be about a poet…or poetry. NOT THE CASE. (-: Turns out it may be a scary title for some. I can assure you, though, that no poets were killed (or harmed in any way…or uplifted in any way, for that matter) in the making of Sebastian’s Poet. The ‘Poet’ in Sebastian’s Poet is actually a 1970s folk singer. Teal Landen is his name and he is completely fictional. But I did ‘borrow’ him from reality.

Growing up, I had an ‘uncle’ who often spent the night on our couch. In fact there is one scene in Sebastian’s Poet that is directly autobiographical. This ‘uncle’ of mine was (is) a HUGE Toronto Maple Leafs fan. In the 70s, they weren’t quite as hot as that decade’s formidable Montreal Canadiens. There is a scene in the novella where Teal Landen talks hockey with the narrator, Sebastian Nelson (Nelson is a town in New Brunswick, Canada, where a lot of my relatives live. You will also find Nelson in my first novel, Summer on Fire. Nelson is the town that book takes place in). Teal would often bet with Sebastian on hockey games–Teal would take Toronto and Sebastian would take Montreal. Every morning, there would be a pile of change on the coffee table–Sebastian’s take from the bet. Because in those days Montreal always won. That scene was right out of my life growing up with an ‘uncle’ Gerald. I can’t tell you how many times his bets ended with him emptying his pockets of change. When they didn’t, my brother and I would still get a cash grab…there was always change inside the couch after Uncle Gerald stayed over.

In that way that writers have of making characters out of composites of many, I formed Teal not only as a tribute to my ‘uncle’ but also as a tribute to Leonard Cohen. Theft is SUCH a strong word. The character is neither Leonard nor Gerald…but there are glimpses of both in Teal. If you take recipe ingredients, smash them together in a mixing bowl–incorporate them into each other–you will have something new. Most often the new thing won’t resemble any of the ingredients. But the hint of those ingredients will be found in the resulting mixture. That’s Teal Landen. He’s part Gerald, part Leonard, part imagination.

I promise you…there is no poetry in this book. (-: It’s the story of a famous man crashing at this kid’s place…and of how involved he becomes with the kid and his family. And of how he changes the family as they change him. Teal just happens to be a Canadian icon. There’s even a scene where he does a duet with the real life Canadian icon, GORDON LIGHTFOOT.

Here’s the book trailer for SEBASTIAN’S POET:

If poetry scares you, give Sebastian’s Poet a try…it contains not a word of poetry. (-;

Click on the cover:

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  This novel was written during the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon – in a 48-hour period. It took home the BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD for that year. (-: I’m heading up to the marathon in another 3 weeks or so. I have no idea what will come out of that marathon…but if it’s 1/3 as fun a ride as Sebastian’s Poet was to write, I’ll be more than happy!

Find out what others are saying about this book at GOODREADS.

Harvesting the Writer Brain and Eavesdropping Your Way to Better Dialogue

As writers, we all have our own ways to capture those ideas that flit in and out of our brains a million times a day. Sometimes, the trick is to grab on to the right ones…and to let those less than stellar ones float back into the morass from which they came. The brain is like a TV screen on crack. We all know this. It’s often the loudest idea that gets the most attention, too (kind of like when you’re channel surfing and you run into Jersey Shore—you know it’s a brainless horrible creation that you should not even glimpse at. BUT it’s just SO loud and neon-glow like. Its sheer horribleness makes you stop surfing for a minute. Maybe even so you can just scream at your TV for having such a vile thing on it). The loudest idea is not always the good one. When you’re fighting for attention, though, you can really be convincing (cue a knock-down screaming brawl on Jersey Shore—don’t change that channel!).

The writer’s job is to listen…to try to catch a glimmer of each of the ideas as they float past. AND to know that the best idea could be under a quagmire of very bad ideas. To harvest the best ideas takes practice. How we practice is of no significance. That we practice is.

For me, I like to jot down ideas on little scraps of paper as they come to me. I remember to have a pen handy at all times. There was a time when I carried a little notebook, but I found that to be less effective than scribbling on scrap paper. A word of advice…if you prefer to carry around a notebook, make sure it is neither very pretty nor very cool. It’s pretty crappy when you have this perfectly good journal and you don’t want to mess it up with writing. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. I attempted the notebook again recently, when I found a very cool one. I carried it around for several days. The pen paused over its awesome pages many a time. But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t sully it with ink. How useless is that?!

My uber cool and drastically empty Andy Warhol Journal!
My uber cool and drastically empty Andy Warhol Journal!

So, I always have a pile of shopping receipts in my pockets and I scrawl little notes on them in the most interesting of ways. At times, the writing goes in a circular route around the outside of the receipt…so I can fit everything in that I want to write. It looks messy, it’s hard to keep track of…but no beautiful notebooks are dying at my hand. You never know when the ideas will hit. Even if all you have on you is your smart-phone, make sure you have a memo app that you can open quickly and add notes to on the fly. The brain thinks…that’s what it does. Listen to that thinking. The next Great Canadian (American) Novel might fly past you one day. You have to be ready to grab onto it and go for the ride.

My less than pretty highly functional shopping receipts. A great 'mason jar' in which to trap my ideas.
My less than pretty highly functional shopping receipts. A great ‘mason jar’ in which to trap my ideas.

I find the smart-phone memo app most helpful when I’m dialogue-surfing. What? That’s really a thing. It’s one of my most favourite games. When I’m out and about my day I seek out the quirky people. You just know the quirky ones are gonna throw out some bitchin’ dialogue. And if it’s out there, it’s up for grabs. Nobody suspects a thing—sort of—when you’re standing beside them thumping your smart-phone keys at the same rate that they’re talking. They’ll just think you’re texting a friend. Just don’t forget you’re not actually a stenographer…don’t ask them to repeat a line if you missed it. (-: So, yeah, shopping receipts for ideas from the brain-screen and smart-phone for dialogue-surfing. That pretty much sums up my needs as an idea harvester. It’s not how you trap the idea. It’s what you do with it once you have it. Remember that it doesn’t have to be pretty.

Whether you jot down your ideas and borrowed dialogue on toilet paper or on a beautiful leather-bound journal, think of them as fireflies in a mason jar. They’re awfully pretty. Make sure you follow the prettiest…not the loudest.

 

Past Generation’s On Writing – W. Somerset Maugham – The Summing Up

This is a perfect read for those who enjoy their information delivered to them through storytelling. Think of a past generation’s On Writing. Like Stephen King did in his opus on the craft of writing, W. Somerset Maugham takes the reader to wonderful places while sharing truths and insights into the life and work of the writer. Keep a pen handy; you will want to take copious notes and pin them above your workstation for inspiration.

Whether you’re a novelist or a playwright, you’ll be delighted by the backstage pass Maugham offers. His self-deprecating humour and honesty will resonate with your inner writer—how refreshing to learn such an acclaimed writer had the same insecurities as we ourselves experience as writers. His thorough description of theatre, playwriting and the relationships between writer, actors, director and audience are golden. Reading about his theatre experiences and play creation process will feel like a workshop experience.

The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham
The Summing Up by W. Somerset Maugham

 Throughout Maugham’s thought-provoking and educational narrative, there is much for writers to contemplate. On giving up on novel writing to focus on playwriting – ‘Thank God, I can look at a sunset now without having to think how to describe it.’ His best advice for playwrights – ‘I think the secret of playwriting can be given in two maxims: stick to the point and whenever you can, cut.’

Alas, as insightful and bang-on as most of his teachings on writing are in this extraordinary glimpse into a writer’s life, the last quarter of the book drags as he leaves writing behind and hits on the topic of philosophy. Nevertheless, The Summing Up will strike a chord with all writers. The price of admission for this amazing writerly wisdom? The rants of a man in search of his personal philosophy. His philosophy ramblings aside, though, I highly recommend this book.

My favourite quote from THE SUMMING UP:

“Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul.”

Tragically Hip Not Tragic. Gord Downie FTW

Saw The Hip in concert last night in Cobourg. Before the happy rant, how about the setlist?

  1. At Transformation
  2. Grace Too
  3. Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin’ Man
  4. Man Machine Poem
  5. Gift Shop
  6. Ahead By A Century
  7. Streets Ahead
  8. Flamenco
  9. Poets
  10. Daredevil
  11. We Want To Be It
  12. Fully Completely
  13. Wheat Kings
  14. New Orleans Is Sinking > Nautical Disaster > New Orleans Is Sinking
  15. Fire In The Hole
  16. Goodnight Attawapiskat
  17. Blow At High Dough

 

And the all-important encore:

  1. My Music At Work
  2. At The Hundredth Meridian
  3. Bobcaygeon
  4. Courage
  5. Little Bones

 

 

Gord Downie. How does one describe Gord Downie to anybody who has never attended a Hip concert? I’m not sure it can be done. I want to say he’s a cross between David Byrne of the Talking Heads and Jim Carey of the Jim Carey. But that doesn’t quite capture the uniqueness that is Gord Downie. He’s basically a cross between Gord Downie and Gord Downie.

Last night he was in full SOUTHERN GENTLEMAN PERSONA. His handkerchief was a fine prop. He used it both to wipe away his perspiration and to dust off any seat he chose to take about the stage. And he also used it for his feats of death-defying hanky magic as he fought with his mic stand. The man is a walking piece of performance art. He writes some of the best lyrics in modern music and he tells a story every time he sings a song. It’s no wonder his stage presence is so unutterably powerful.

Once, a long time ago in a world far far asunder, I was a poet. I had a poem about Gord Downie published. It went something like this:

An Open Letter of Adoration to Gordon Downie

 Did you ever see a hypothetical sky, Gordo?
The kind that strips the greys away,
swallows clouds and shivers stars to focus?
Did you ever rest supine, dockside
midnight hush,
or did you simply like the way
it fell from your iconic tongue,
beautiful, sublime and free,
filled with nostalgia and tears
of Bobcaygeon love?
Did you ever hypothetical, Gordo?
Twist your words to night
and black and white?
Or did you simply like the way
they fell, iconic from your tongue?
You fill your lungs with melancholy, Gordo,
and send it on its way,
bright the night with shivered sound,
delivering metaphorical, but one star at a time.

Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. Cobourg, Ontario. June 20/13
Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. Cobourg, Ontario. June 20/13

If you ever get the opportunity to take in The Hip, don’t turn it down. They are Canadiana at its best.

When You’re Sleepless, Madness…er…Magic Happens!

I know I’ve been talking a lot about the Muskoka Novel Marathon lately, but I can’t help it. It’s coming. Like a freight train that sneaks up on ya when you’re walkin’ the tracks and singing old Buddy Holly tunes. Or…yeah! Blancmange! “See the train go down the track”.

The atmosphere of the marathon is such a magical non-quantifiable thing. You cannot write about it and do it justice. You just can’t. You try to stay up all weekend, you write non-stop…but you also socialize non-stop. You eat non-stop. You listen to music non-stop. Skip the light fandangle, et cetera, et cetera. It’s a high like no other.

As if there isn’t enough going on to warp your mind, you step out of the building on the Saturday night and the streets are turned into a carnival of milk chocolately, caramel stickable gooeyness. Because…don’t close your eyes…you have walked into the strange and magical world of Nuit Blanche North. Art installations and crickety crawling stilt-walking juggling sensations. And what would a Nuit be without a fire-eater.

(Just a side note, I love that most of my words today are being underlined in red squiggly lines.)

When THIS is happening INSIDE at the Novel Marathon, you pray that you will find sanity OUTSIDE! (-:
When THIS is happening INSIDE at the Novel Marathon, you pray that you will find sanity OUTSIDE! (-:

I always think of that classic line from Bill & Ted when I’m at the marathon. “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K!” That pretty much sums up the marathon. Just when you think you have to get outside to embrace a reality that is NORMAL, you walk out into this:

487676_10150921990482021_1957472384_nAnd this:

524078_10150921986312021_597850662_nBut before you run off down the street like a madman, you take a hard look at your surroundings and you realize that things are just as they should be. Writing a novel in a weekend SHOULD be a magical experience. Your heart SHOULD stop every now and again. You need these moments of wonder peppered throughout the weekend. It’s another classic reason for me to haul out that overused saying of mine. “Don’t be afraid to eat the dishes!” You’re gonna have some hard times over a 72-hour writing period. You’ll get cranky. You’ll get tired. You’ll get bloated. You’ll get indigestion out the wazoo! You need to step out of the world and into a carnival.

I’m sure that’s why the city planners threw Nuit Blanche into our weekend. They knew that into every novel marathoner’s life, a little magic must fall.

306834_10150922247147021_383794412_nThe tree that you see above ^ is a tree completely wrapped and enshrouded in TIES. Yes, ties. I sat beside that tree for about half an hour before I saw it at last year’s marathon. At first, that scared me. But when I stopped to think about it, it was pretty par for the course. I was, after all, writing. We marathoners took turns writing in the street in downtown Huntsville. We were our own art installation…and we collected a nice sum of money for the cause (the literacy program of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka). If you see us out in the middle of the street this July, BRING MONEY!

487375_10150922244967021_222067843_nI guess the lesson there is DON’T EXPECT TO QUESTION THE EFFICACY OF A TIE TREE WHEN YOU’RE MARATHONING. Or something like that.

531760_10150921991952021_1573570157_nDid I say juggling fire-eaters and stilt walkers? I think I meant fire-juggling stilt-walkers.

309348_10150923397417021_1104448547_nYou’ve heard of the player piano, I’m sure. But did you know that Huntsville had a play-me piano. Right there in the street. Just waitin’ to be played. How frickin’ awesome-sauce is that! My only complaint? I DON’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY A PIANO! I wish I did. That corner of the downtown core would be hoppin’! This year, one of my goals is to get a fellow marathoner punchin’ those keys to an awesome sing-a-long song. Or something like that.

382421_10150922163617021_777831740_nWRITING! It really does happen at these things! I have 5 novels to prove it. This is a shot of my screen during Nuit Blanche. If you want to know the height of exhilaration and dare-devilness, just write a novel in the street while hundreds of people are walking by reading over your shoulder! YIKES. Okay…I know you’re probably thinking that jumping out of an airplane is a whole new plateau of exhilaration that is miles above writing in the street. So what. By it’s very nature, it would have to be at least a mile above a street. There’d be no exhilaration jumping out of an airplane that’s parked on the runway. For a writer, public writing under a microscope pretty much does it for adrenalin rush-hour kicks.

So, am I excited for this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon? Nah. Nothing good ever happens at these things. Just. BIC (bum-in-chair) writing. Nothing else. Move along. Nothing to see here (or do I mean see-hear-smell-touch-taste?)!

(And If) I’m Sinking – TSOTW Will Pick Me Up…

Ever feel like you just can’t do ANYTHING right? In every single nook and cranny of your life?

Whenever this happens to me—and it happens a lot—I try to step back. I mean, I’m already taking two steps forward and six steps back, right…might as well just take another step back to analyze the situation. Sometimes analyzing isn’t even what it needs. Sometimes you just need to drop the needle down onto the right record. One of my go-to “Save-me-from-my-fucking-fucked-up-life” songs is IF VENICE IS SINKING. This song picks me the fuck up…makes me whole again. There are a few songs out there that do the trick. I wonder if everybody has these songs on standby? Or if I’m just a freak? Don’t answer that question. I’d rather be blissfully unaware.

I’m going to plug my battery pack into The Spirit of the West today. So many lines in that song that just cut me to my soul. “…‘cause beauty’s religion and it christens me with wonder…” TSOTW looked into the pit of my brain and pulled that line up. One of the things that seriously gets me to move forward in life is beauty. The beauty inside. The beauty around. The beauty of words. The beauty of poison (80s reference snuck in for fun!). All of it! It really does christen me with wonder. SO when I need a reminder of this, I just put that song on…and I sail away.

“They come in bent-backed
Creeping ‘cross the floor all dressed in black
Candles, thick as pillars
You can buy one off the floor
And the ceiling’s painted gold
Mary’s hair is red
The old come here to kiss their dead” ~ The Spirit of the West – If Venice is Sinking

So let’s have it. What’s your life-raft song? When you’re down, what gets you up?

Joni Woodstock – Mitchell Misses the Boat but Captures a Generation in Song!

Every once in a blue moon I like to talk about music. As much as writing has a place in my life, so does music. I will admit here and now, however, that I do not have a single ounce of talent when it comes to music. The States and provinces that have not passed laws prohibiting me from singing are merely the ones that did not yet hear me singing. I took guitar lessons for several years, and quickly forgot everything I ever learned. I do attempt to write lyrics the odd time, but other than that I steer clear. I would trade most things, though, for the ability to sing. When I was a kid, my goal was to be the next Mick Jagger. The closest I ever got to my goal? In upper-grade school, I was called Mick. That was only because I had the fattest lips in the school, though. Kids attempting to be cruel sometimes unintentionally compliment. I did NOT mind being called Mick.

Now that I’ve gone completely away from what I was going to talk about, I’ll need to swing back and pick Joni up.

mitchell, joni

Joni Mitchell. I consider her a Canadian treasure. I heard a sliver of her interview on Q. Poor thing had to miss Woodstock because her agent at the time, David Geffen, thought she wouldn’t be able to fly into the farm and fly out in time to attend the sucky Dick Cavett show she was scheduled to guest on the next day. How mad would you be? I mean, seriously…how mad!? So Joni missed Woodstock. She saw it on TV.

Still, she wrote THE best song about the experience ever recorded…the definitive Woodstock generation song. AND…her version is sooooo much better than CSN&Y’s version. And yet, so many people accidentally give them credit for penning the song. It’s the song of a generation, and too many people don’t realize that Canada’s own Joni Mitchell wrote it.

I love all kinds of music. But something about Joni Mitchell speaks to me on a crazy deep level. When I was 6-8 years-old, I lived next door to a record store (Target Tape & Records). I worked there…but I was too young to be on record as an employee. So my brother and I got paid in records (they’re the black vinyl discs that are slowly coming back into style). I had several Joni Mitchell albums. I think Ladies of the Canyon is my favourite, but I would probably give a different answer on a different day. Hejira is also a hot album! (-:

Today, I wanted to share Woodstock with you…how it was intended. (-: CSN&Y do do a wonderful job…but it’s not Joni. I’ve actually seen CSN&Y do it live. I still have to catch Ms. Mitchell singing it. She has such a soulful and powerful voice. Enjoy!

Perfect Timing – A 10-Minute Play… (from InspiraTO Festival 2013)

This is the 2nd of my two InspiraTO Festival plays. This one was performed on the main stage of the Alumnae Theatre. (please contact me at kevintcraig @ hotmail dot com if you wish to use this play. Thank you)

TITLE: PERFECT TIMING

©Kevin Craig 2013

GENRE: DRAMEDY

ONE LINE SYNOPSIS: Melissa needs to cool off while Carl just wants love.

CHARACTER LIST:

MELISSA: 40-something. Wearing workout clothes, hair in a bun…looking a bit perspired.

CARL: 40-something. Wearing incongruous dress shoes. Lonely.

DESCRIPTION: Melissa, the new neighbour, comes over to borrow an egg-timer. With Carl, she may not get what she’s looking for…but maybe she didn’t know what she was looking for.

SETTING: CARL’s apartment.

[Carl has a noose in his hands and he’s looking between it and the ceiling.]

[from offstage, knock at the door]

CARL [starts. looks at the noose and then at the door.]: [to self] Shit. This better be good news. [tosses the noose behind the couch. beat] Coming.

MELISSA: Hi. Melissa. From next door. I just moved in. Can I come in?

CARL: Um. Sure… I guess. Carl. [they shake hands]  

MELISSA: [barges in. looks around] Hmmm…interesting décor.

CARL: What can I do for you?

 MELISSA: So, I was hoping I could borrow your—oh! Argh! Oh God. Not again.

CARL: I’m sorry, what? Not again, what?

MELISSA: Don’t listen to me when I’m talking to myself. That’s personal.

CARL: Don’t talk when I’m listening. I can’t exactly turn these off [gestures towards ears].

MELISSA: Sorry. It’s just so goddamned hot in here. I can’t take this heat another second.

CARL: It’s March. We’re in the middle of a cold snap and the heat’s not working properly. It’s so cold, the landlord’s probably in violation of the Human Rights Code.

MELISSA: Your point?

CARL: Never mind. Soooo, you workout?

MELISSA: What does that have to do with anything?

CARL: Sweatpants. Hair in a bun. I recognize the uniform.

MELISSA: Not even close. Kick-boxer. Give me a reason. [darts forward, causes CARL to flinch] Two for flinching.

CARL: Hey! Settle down. Just making conversation. I don’t have a beef with you…yet.

MELISSA: You want conversation? Ask me what I do for a living. Don’t point out my sweatpants.

CARL: Sorry. I’m a little rusty. Don’t usually talk to adults. I’m a high school English teacher. Or, at least I was. What do you do?

MELISSA: I’m also in-between careers right now. Left my husband. Trying to reinvent myself. Thought I would start over here. You know… near the bottom.

CARL: And here I was depressed about my lot in life. I thought this was the absolute bottom. But today… you give me hope.

MELISSA: I’m sure this is a nice place. Ack. It’s this damn heat…makes me crazy.

CARL: Right. Maybe you’re having hot flashes? You should see your doctor. You know. “Men-o-pause” [air quotes the word].

MELISSA: You’re about six words away from a kick in the face.

rDCm4vNnuMagtfb1h6DMRXW5wDghWdBnWT3pNTdaxlYJennifer Gillespie as Melissa

CARL: Feisty. I’d try a different pick-up line, though. That one’s not really doing it for me.

MELISSA [wipes brow]: Can we start over?

CARL: Sure.

MELISSA [makes a big show of taking a deep breath, pulls folded hand down in front of her face in a show of centering self]: My name’s Melissa. I’m a personal life coach. And I’m not the least bit hostile.

CARL: Life coach, eh?

MELISSA: Yeah. I thought I would get the kick-boxing down pat before I started working on the supportive personality. Once that’s done, I’ll be ready to coach the best of them.

CARL: Maybe I’ll be your first client. Since my life has recently taken a dive into the toilet. [beat] My name is Carl. How can I help you, Melissa?

MELISSA: I came to ask if I could borrow your egg-timer. [he looks at her, somewhat surprised and she reacts] Try not to look at my gross and sweaty self, though. I was just jumping rope.

CARL: So that’s what I was hearing. I thought somebody was getting killed over there.

MELISSA: Oops. Sorry ‘bout that. I was hot.

CARL: You were hot [thinking through it], so you decided to…

MELISSA: Jump rope, yes. It was either jump it or hang myself with it. I couldn’t decide.

CARL: [looks incredulously at her mention of hanging] Well, I guess you made the right choice. [looks toward the place where he hid the noose].

MELISSA: I thought so. A little less painful on the neck. Egg-timer?

CARL [hands unconsciously go to his throat]: Hmmm?

MELISSA: Look, if you could just grab it for me I would be forever grateful. I’ll return it when I’m finished. If we don’t all melt first. Any chance I accidentally stumbled into the fourth circle of hell? I am a strong woman.

CARL: O Canada and forty Mississippis. Although, Hail Marys may also work in place of the anthem? If you’re more religious than patriotic, that is.

MELISSA: I beg your pardon? Are you on crack?

CARL: It’s easy. It works every time. Family secret. And no, I’m not on crack.

MELISSA: What works every time?! What are you even talking about? I think we got off track somewhere. I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.

CARL: Sing O Canada and count out forty Mississippis.

MELISSA: You’ve totally lost me now. Believe me, you do NOT want to get between me and my morning eggs. Look, I know we just met, but I need you right now. An egg-timer could literally save my life. All my stuff is in boxes. I don’t own a watch and I’m going crazy without my cell phone, which I lost it in the move. I’m lucky I found a pot and my egg poacher… I need your timer.

CARL: To time eggs.

MELISSA: An egg-timer. Yes. That’s what I’m here for. Pretty sure we’ve established that.

CARL: You. Don’t. Need. One. If you were listening, you would know that by now.

MELISSA: Eggs cannot time themselves. Though if my heat is any indication, my eggs are doing a damn fine job at it.

CARL: Pay attention. This ‘heat’ [air-quotes the word] you speak of appears to be melting your brain cells.

MELISSA: Please. I’m at the end of my rope. I need—

CARL: The perfectly boiled egg comes out of the water after one sings O Canada once and counts out forty Mississippis. Works every time.

MELISSA: Well, I’m not really in the mood to trash your apartment in a hunt for your egg-timer. I may just have to try your whacked-out theory.

CARL: My work here is done.

MELISSA [looks skeptical]: Perhaps. I haven’t tried it yet, though, so don’t go getting all euphoric or anything. How does your family cook a roast? Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall?

CARL: Cute. Speaking of euphoria, how would you like to go across the street with me for a Starbucks? After your breakfast? We could talk…

MELISSA: I should have known you were a hipster. It was the shoes that threw me off the scent.

CARL: I’m not a hips—hey, what’s wrong with my shoes?

MELISSA: Far too 1940s tap for Starbucks. They’re not exactly hipster M.O.

CARL: So is this how you repay all your knights in shining armour? Insults to their sense of fashion? Maybe you should just give me back my egg-timing secret and be gone.

MELISSA: Sense of fashion? That’s what you call it? I thought you fell into the Goodwill bin and came out with those things accidentally on your feet.

CARL: Says the dripping she-man kick-boxer in sweats.

MELISSA: A she-man who could have you tasting floor in about five seconds flat.

CARL: Whoa. How did this go so quickly from me sharing an ancestral egg-timing secret to you wanting to deck me?

MELISSA: For starters, a man should never mention the M word to a lady. That’s your first fail right there.

CARL: Yeah, sorry about the hot flash comment. Probably went a little too far.

MELISSA: You think? Look. Thanks for the egg-timing advice. I think I’ll be going now. Hey, we’re neighbours. I might need to borrow an ancient family duct tape secret from you one day. No need to burn bridges.

CARL: Sure. Okay. [Looks dejected] Nice meeting you.

MELISSA: I’ll try to keep it down over there, okay. Can’t promise anything, though. What, with the dying of the light and all. [cradles her womb] I may just be in for more of those hot flashes you speak of. You know what that means.

CARL: No. What?

MELISSA: More rope jumping.

CARL: You may want to research the opposite of rope jumping, and try that out.

MELISSA: As long as it’s not [mimics hanging from a noose] you know. Thanks for the…help.

CARL : Hey, are you sure I can’t interest you in that latte? Maybe a biscotti? Anything? My treat.

MELISSA: Listen, you seem like a nice guy. I just don’t do Starbucks. Nothing personal. Really.

CARL: It’s just…I don’t get a lot of people knocking on my door around here. You know, what with it being the fourth circle of hell and all. 

MELISSA [Clues in to CARL’s advances]: Um. Oh. I’m not usually this crabby. Honest. Maybe I can I interest you in a plate of eggs?

CARL [lights up]: Sure. I can help you time them. You know, everyone sings at a different pace. It’s all about timing—

MELISSA: Let’s just take it one step at a time, shall we. I’ll go get things started. Could you maybe bring over a couple plates? I haven’t found the dishes yet.

CARL: Sure. See you over there.

MELISSA exits stage left. CARL goes off stage right, comes right back with two plates in his hand. Goes to noose, picks it up, shakes his head and throws the noose. Smiles. Goes to stage left. Before he exits, he pauses, looks down at his shoes. Slips out of them and goes barefoot. Exits stage left.

[a couple beats]

MELISSA/CARL [from offstage, in unison]: O Canada, our home and native land. True patriot love, in all our sons’ command [the singing fades out]

END PLAY

Walk-Ins Welcome – An InspiraTO Festival 10-Minute Play (From 2013)

Here’s one of my 2 InspiraTO Festival plays from their 2013 festival. As always, I welcome others to use my plays. All I ask is that you email me for permission, so that I know it is being produced. Thank you! (kevintcraig @ hotmail dot com)

TITLE: WALK-INS WELCOME

©Kevin Craig 2013

GENRE: COMEDY

ONE LINE SYNOPSIS: Cherie has an emergency hair crisis. Her name is not in the appointment book.

CHARACTER LIST:

CHERIE: Disheveled hair. Frantic.

WANDA: Has attitude. Questionable intelligence.

DESCRIPTION: Cherie comes to the salon for a much needed but unplanned hair setting. She has to get past the centaur at the gate before anything else can happen.

SETTING: CURL BAR BEAUTY SALON (This was a site-specific play in the festival. It took place at an actual hair salon, but could be easily adapted to stage)

CHERIE (bursts into salon in a panic, heads for the counter): Please. Help me. I’m having a terrible hair emergency. (She holds her hair awkwardly, as though it may fall from her head)

WANDA: Sure, sweetie. My name’s Wanda. Name?

CHERIE: Cherie. Cherie Reynolds.

WANDA (hopelessly scours appointment book): I. Um. Hmm? Is that with an S?

CHERIE: C. Cherie. Cherry, hold the second R and switch the Y to an IE. (pulls at her hair in frustration, attempting to save it)

WANDA: Oh. Yes. I like that. Still. I don’t see it in the book.

CHERIE: Sorry?

WANDA: I cannot. Find. Your. Name. In the appointment book. CH, S or otherwise. You sure you’re not Violet? Because Violet would be early, but I could probably fit her in.

CHERIE: I’m sorry, but do you recall what I said when I rushed in here?

WANDA: Something like, (raises her voice in faux-alarm and waves her hands in the air above her head) “Please! Please! Help! Help me, help me. Emergency hair thing!”

CHERIE: Not quite. But that’s the gist.

WANDA: So, your name is Violet?

CHERIE: No. I told you. (fusses non-stop with hair) Cherie Reynolds.

WANDA: Your name’s not in the book.

CHERIE: Is that not what emergency means?

WANDA: No. I’m pretty sure emergency means a serious, unexpected and possibly dangerous situation requiring immediate atten—

CHERIE: Bingo! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.

WANDA: Well, I said your name wasn’t in the book and you said that’s what an emerg—

CHERIE: Please. No. My name’s not in the book. You can look all you want.

WANDA: Well, why didn’t you say so?

CHERIE: I’m having a hair emergency. You can’t book an emergency. They just happen.

WANDA: I know that.

CHERIE: I’m in desperate need of an emergency appointment. I need a hair medic now, as you can see.

WANDA: (looks at CHERIE’s messy hair) Do you have an appointment?

CHERIE: I’ve lost you again, haven’t I?

WANDA (puts a hand to her chest): I’m right here in front of—

CHERIE: I was hoping I could get in without an appointment.

WANDA: I’m sorry, ma’am. We require an appointment to see—

CHERIE: Oh good lord.

WANDA: Wednesday afternoonish sound good? Wednesdays are ideal for emergency appointments.

CHERIE: I. Don’t. Want. An. Appointment. Put your book away before I—

WANDA: You’re confusing me now, Violet.

CHERIE: My name’s not Violet! It’s Cherie. If I said my name was Violet, would you help me out?

WANDA: No, ma’am. At this point, we both know you’d have to show me I.D. to pull that off. Cherie.

CHERIE: Now you know my name.

WANDA: Hold the second R. That’s right (narrows her eyes at CHERIE).

CHERIE: (stomps her feet) I. Need. My. Hair. Fixed! I have a big night ahead of me. Have you ever had an ex, Wanda?

WANDA: (sudden change in personality. piqued) Well…yes. But I don’t see what that’s got to do with—

CHERIE: I mean, like, a real ex? Not some jerk who took you to the movies once and spilled an extra-large Coke in your lap. I mean a man you lived with, made a life with? Maybe married. That kind of ex.

WANDA (looks sympathetic. comes around to Cherie’s side of the counter): Yes, honey. I believe I have. You’re talking about a Mr. Right kinda ex…but the kinda Mr. Right that got away and left you flat.

CHERIE: Exactly. The man you picked out curtains and sheets with. Paint colours. Him. Tall…dark. Never-gonna-give-him-up.

WANDA: (stares off into the middle distance, remembering, and stage whispers dreamily) Terrance. (puts a hand on CHERIE’s shoulder and squeezes sympathetically) I’m there. I gotcha.

CHERIE: Imagine you have to go to a dinner party and your ex is also going to be there. With his new and strikingly beautiful fiancé.

WANDA: (gasps loudly) No! (puts a hand to her mouth)

CHERIE: (yanks at hair) Yes.

WANDA: He’s gotta see what he’s missing! Regret leaving. Beg you to take him back. So you can tell him, ‘uh-uh…you had your chance, Mr. Man!’ You get yourself into that chair over there (points to one of the stations). We’ll fix this up nice.

CHERIE: (elated) What about the rules?

WANDA: Rules are for times of peace, Cherie. They go out the window in times of war.

CHERIE: And Violet?

WANDA: Don’t worry about her. (she goes and locks the door, puts up the ‘Closed’ sign) You have a man to devastate, missy.

CHERIE: You saved my day.

WANDA: (goes to work on CHERIE’s hair) Don’t worry about that. Tell me what happened. Wait. (passes CHERIE her implements) Hold these. I’ll need my hands on my hips for this. (puts her hands on her hips while CHERIE looks on, perplexed) What’d he do?! (takes back her implements and continues to fix CHERIE’s hair)

CHERIE: The girl from the corner store by our condo.

WANDA: No!

CHERIE: Yes. I thought I could count on Marlin. (WANDA stops fiddling and has a look of shock on her face) He seemed so perfect. I was ready to—

WANDA: They’re aren’t many Marlins in this city that I know of. Only ever came across one myself. 

CHERIE: No. Impossible. You know Marlin?

WANDA: There can’t be two of them, could there? I cut that man’s hair last Tuesday. Yes, and he was here with his sugar. Ooh. I would have slit his throat had I known. 

CHERIE: (shrinks into her chair a bit) Well, maybe it was a different Marlin.

WANDA: Big ears, mole under his bottom lip looks like a—

CHERIE: Half-moon.

WANDA: That man’s been coming in here must be ever since he hooked up with that willowy little girl he’s with. They always come together.

CHERIE: (Slinks further into her chair) This is doomed to fail.

WANDA: No, now. You sit up in that chair. We can do this. No man wants the bacon strip when he can have the pig.

CHERIE: What!

WANDA: No, no. That’s a compliment. Sit down. That girl’s skinnier than a credit card. He’ll have some fun with them bones, but they’re too sharp to keep a man like that happy. He’ll want those curves of yours in no time. Just remind him you’re still there.

CHERIE: (nods her head, as though she sort of understands. sits back down.) What happened to ‘you had your chance, Mr. Man’?

WANDA: You’ll want to land him completely before you drop him like a glass doohickey. You’ll hurt him more if the hook’s set.

CHERIE: You’re being so nice.

WANDA: Well, I like fixing hair. And I like fixing hair for a purpose even more. If I can fix you enough to break this man’s heart, my work here will be done.

          They both laugh.

CHERIE: I feel better already. Thanks.

WANDA: Hell with it. We have to look out for one another these days. You’re gonna step into that place tonight, and ole Marlin’s heart is gonna burst his chest. Mark my words.

CHERIE: I don’t think I could afford that kind of makeover. I just don’t want to look like a total wreck. Fix this mess and I’ll be forever in your debt.

WANDA: No. That’s not enough. We have to lay. Him. Flat.

CHERIE: (looking worried) No, no. Honestly, I just want to look like I’m keeping it together. Really…I’m fine.

WANDA: I should come. (starts to get a bit rough with CHERIE’s hair) I’ll put that man in his place. (reflexively takes some anger out on CHERIE’s hair) I’ll just keep scratching her name out of that book. She won’t get in like you did. I only break that rule for friends and no one messes with my friends.

CHERIE: Your what? Friend?

WANDA: He did not treat you right, sweetie. We can’t have that, now, can we? (looks unstable, ready to kill)

CHERIE: You know…if you could just quickly finish up here—

WANDA: (stops working on CHERIE’s hair) Oh my. I’m sorry. (looks into the mirror, so she can look CHERIE in the eye). I’m so sorry. (looks like she may burst into tears) I don’t know where I went there.

CHERIE: (relaxes noticeably) It’s okay. Clearly, you know what I’m going through. (smiles at WANDA’s reflection) You said something about Terrance earlier.

WANDA: Yes. We all have those men who break our hearts to cookie crumbs, don’t we? Terrance was mine. But I’m okay. Just lost my senses for a moment. (pauses and takes in CHERIE’s reflection) You’re looking better already. Why a little dweeb like that Marlin fellow would ever let you go, I do not know. Don’t try to understand men, sweetie. Soon as you do, they’ll change.

CHERIE: I didn’t mean to bring up—

WANDA: Old trash. That’s all you drug up. Old trash. No bother. Just do me a favour, once I’m done with you. You go to that dinner party head held high. You crush that man with your good looks. Make him realize his mistake. You’re a beautiful woman.

CHERIE: Thank you. (smiles) I’ll do my best.

WANDA: And then you’ll do better. (they share a laugh and WANDA continues to work at CHERIE’s hair.)

END PLAY

 

 

 

Book Trailer as Outline!

I found an easy and entertaining way to outline…for those of us who hate outlining. Now I use hate loosely here. Whether you’re an outliner or a pantser should ultimately depend on your project. I always felt this way. I don’t think one should come to a conclusion that they are one or the other. Always be open to new ways to draft your next novel.

Anyway, as I have frequently struggled with outlining, I needed to find a way to make it creative and fun. So, no charts for me. No diagrams, no lines from one scene to another, no boxed miasma of words planned out on chalkboards waiting to be distilled into novel form. My brain just doesn’t seem to want to work that way. I am content to have a large block of clay and just pound away slowly at it and wait for the story to reveal itself to me. It’s more exciting for me if I don’t know what will happen next until I make it happen.

But this one thing seems to be working for me. With Windows Movie Maker, it’s SO easy to throw together a quick book trailer. And this is my new outline. I make a book trailer for my vision of the finished novel, prior to writing the novel. Whether or not you use live action in a book trailer, I suppose is up to you. If you have friends who are competent enough actors for the job, it would be a great idea to film something. I prefer to mix stills, music and plot points in my trailers. And once I clip them all together in the easy to use Windows Movie Maker, I simply watch it a few times to let the ‘story’ soak in.

After that, I start the writing. I have no laboured chaotic mess of an outline to sort through. Just a quick 3 minute video that was fun to put together and hopefully fun to watch. I don’t have to stick rigidly to the video, but the process of making it solidifies the story I would like to tell. You should try it. It’s a lot of fun to search for just the right pictures and just the right words to accompany them. Sometimes, the music I choose even helps me to better envision the story I want to tell.

It’s creative. It’s fun and it really really helps. I’ve tried it. I will be making a book trailer this week for the novel I intend to write for this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon. I’m not sure yet what I want to write, but once something comes to me I’ll make the trailer and then watch it until the gaps are filled in with my imagination and the wants and will of the characters I create for the trailer.

I won’t post any book trailers I’ve created as outlines, as I don’t have permissions for the images I used…I don’t make them with the intent of showing them publicly. I do have the permissions needed for the book trailer for my latest novel, The Reasons. So, I’ll share it now as an example of what you could do as an outline: