Thursday, January 30, 2020

Life After Iron Pen, part 2

When presented with a blank slate, a gender-neutral script of dialog and a few stage directions, then primed to use their imaginations to create their characters, this first cast of Augie college students came up with impressive results.

Leader: An eccentric retired English professor who felt very qualified to lead

Newbie: Peter Peterson II. Age 22-23. Just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing/English. Dress: Normal. Personality: “Pretty boring.”

#1 Writer: Caroline Carson. Age 27. Considers herself a “modern” writer with many books available online. “None of them are selling well. Do look for my books on Amazon.”

#2 Writer: Kyle Gilligan. Age 33. Former English major. Dropped out. Still living in parent’s basement. “My parents signed me up for this writer’s group to get me out of the house.”

#3 Writer: [Cindy performed #3 and #8]

#4 Writer: Carmen Darling.  Age not given. She has traveled all over the world doing infomercials about her travels. “It’s a good life. I’m only here to help these other unfortunate people. Yeah, thank you.”

#5 Writer: Bethany Long. “Call me Beth.” Age 45. She writes fantasy romance novels. “Even after two divorces, love still drives my writing.”

#6 Writer: Maryanne McGee. Age 65. Housewife with no children. “I spend my days reading murder mystery novels and started writing my own novels five years ago. It’s something to do. Keeps me busy.”

#7 Writer: Louis/Lewis. Age 26. “I’m told I’m a little dark minded. But who isn’t?”

#8 Writer: Lucy McGillicuddy. Age 70. [Retired.] She’s been writing the same novel since she was 17. Has 1,000 pages and wants to add some monsters to it. The printer ran out of paper, so she’ll bring it to the group later. Her passion is directing community theatre.

My resurrection and transformation of a past Iron Pen entry into a play turned into a successful experience for me and the cast. It became an interesting exercise in character development that would be different with each group that performs it.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Life After Iron Pen

I won a first place, and a nice medal, for my non-fiction Iron Pen entry in 2010. It was a nice little tale about winter walking in Bishop Hill. That got me hooked and I’ve returned to Iron Pen’s twenty-four hours of creative challenge almost every year since then. My first place for fiction came in 2012 with a story about a writer’s critique group going seriously off the rails. It was fun to personify that year’s prompt in the chaotic chorus of writers offering advice for a newbie. I threw in everything I’d learned about the craft of writing up to that point. I’d also been influenced by Genesius Guild productions and some one act plays I’d recently seen. According to the judge’s comments I had heavy competition and got the first, and the nifty medal, because I had written about “writing.”

Fast forward to January of this year. I was attending a meeting of Second Avenue Players, a senior acting group that meets at CASI, discussing how to interact with a bunch of Augie students. Plays were needed to show them how our group works. Larry D’Autremont, our resident playwright, was reminiscing about his time with Genesius Guild. Something about that conversation stuck with me. It took some time, how long I will not say, but I was finally reminded of that Iron Pen piece from long ago. How it too was inspired by Genesis performers and how I might turn my short story into the real thing, a fully functioning play, because the need was immediate. Twenty to thirty college students would be on hand in a week’s time and they needed to participate. There’s nothing like a crisis to spur one into action.

My memory was not accurate enough to make my recovery search too easy, but I found my 2012 entry, all 860 words of it. From there I had an enjoyable evening expanding six POVs, points of view, into ten speaking parts. Formatting was not done exactly to industry standards, but I was in a hurry. I needed easy and simple. The next morning, I came back to make things as gender neutral as I could for the actors. Adding flexibility to ease and simplicity seemed like the best way to go. There would be scant time to rehearse. Less time to stage. But in the end, I would have my first play performed by real people. It made for an exciting week waiting to see who would show up. A bonus came my way when a novel idea on how to use this bit of old Iron Pen history in another situation came to me. How practical it would be had to wait until I saw the end results of the first adventure in beginning playacting by amateurs.





Thursday, January 2, 2020

With Sympathy

This verse comes from one of my all-time favorite sympathy cards:

All things in your own time.”
[by an anonymous writer for Hallmark Cards, Inc.]

Another favorite of mine is this one:

“Things I don’t know …
Why bad things happen to good people.
All you’re feeling right now.
Exactly the right words to say.

Things I do know …
You’re cared about more than you realize.
You will get through this.
I’m here for you … no matter what.”
[By another Hallmark, Inc. writer.]

I bought these cards because they meant so much to me when I was dealing with the death of my mother, nine years ago. They touched me so deeply because I believe they embodied the lessons I learned from the grief recovery group I joined soon after my mother’s death. I set them aside to come back to every now and then.

This time when I came across them, I decided to part with the one that might help out a neighbor with the passing of her husband. I will rely on these words to offer comfort and the knowledge that things will improve with time. Or at least change toward a new reality. It’s a journey we all take in our own way.

For Donald Lee Learn.