Archive for March, 2014

Lori M. Myers’ “Mirror Mirror”

March 24, 2014

Lori M. Myers is a graduate of the Wilkes Creative Writing program and her play “Mirror Mirror” will be performed in Brooklyn, NY on playposterModern-DayMirrorMirror (2)March 28th and 29th.  In the following interview she shared some of her thoughts about the play and what it’s like to have a play produced. (The website for the theater company producing her play can be found by clicking on the poster to the right.)

HT: Your play “Mirror Mirror” is about to be performed in Brooklyn, NY on March 28th and 29th. Can you tell me what it’s about?

LM: It’s about the sometimes wonderful, sometimes complicated connection between mothers and daughters. “Mirror, Mirror” explores this relationship, but instead of the young daughter being the rebellious one, it is the mother dealing with issues of drug and alcohol abuse. As much as the daughter yearns to separate herself from the mother’s situation, she finds that she cannot.   

HT: Do you have any inspiration behind the writing-any particular reason you chose to write this piece?

LM: The phrase “I have my mother’s hands” is one that many women seem to acknowledge once they reach their 30’s, 40’s, and beyond. I’ve heard and read this a lot. Sometimes it’s said with pride, and other times with dread. That was the springboard for the play.

HT: How did this piece get picked up by a theater company? How did you go about that process?

LM:“Mirror, Mirror” is a short play  that was produced last June by Gaslight Theatre Company in Wilkes-Barre. After it completed its run there, I sent it out to a theater or two based on announcements appearing on websites and Facebook pages for theaters requesting plays. Honestly, sometimes it’s a crapshoot as to whether a play gets accepted or rejected because it may depend on a theater’s mission or theme. I was thrilled when I received word that “Mirror, Mirror” made the cut at Modern-Day Griot Theatre Company. I’m looking forward to seeing their interpretation.  

HT: What is it like seeing your piece performed by others? Do you feel pride, elation, etc.?

LM: I certainly feel pride that my words and story are on stage and elation that an audience is experiencing a piece I’ve written. I also write musicals for young audiences which are produced at a professional theater about an hour from me, and I’m always delighted by children’s reactions. But what I mostly feel is fear because I have absolutely no control over the final product. I’ve worked as a professional actor and director and in each of those areas there is some degree of control; as an actor you control how you are portraying a character and, as a director, you are controlling the look and feel of the production. A playwright hands over their pages and hopes for the best.  But that’s as it should be.

HT: Do you take any part in the process? Does anyone consult you on how the piece is performed?

LM: I truly believe that playwrights need to trust the director and actors; they want the best for your piece because they want to look good, too. When I write a play, I purposely don’t include a lot of action as I want the director to place his/her own stamp on the piece. The New York director from Modern-Day Griot Theatre wrote me and said that she and the actors were having fun exploring these characters. As a writer, THAT made me feel wonderful. 

HT: After the show, how quickly will you move on to another project? Do you take breaks between writing or wait for inspiration?

LM: I always have some sort of writing project going on as I am also a freelance writer who writes for magazines. Deadlines are amazing motivators! If I don’t have ideas on paper or on the computer screen then it’s swimming around in my head.  

HT: What advice do you have to give to other aspiring playwrights?

LM: I always give the same advice to all writers: persist. Don’t give up. Rejection is part of the process. Keep sending your work out, keep reading, and keep writing.

Loriheadshot2 (2)

Lori M. Myers is an award-winning writer and Pushcart Prize nominee of creative nonfiction, fiction, essays, and plays. Her work has been seen in more than 50 national and regional magazines, literary journals, and anthologies. Her plays have been produced on seven regional stages, two have been published, and one was a Broadway World Award nominee. Lori has a masters in creative writing from Wilkes University, is interviews editor for Hippocampus Magazine, and teaches writing at York College of Pennsylvania.

CONTACT:

Lori M. Myers, writer/author/playwright
3608 Green St.
Harrisburg, PA 17110
ph: 717-580-2152
email: lmyers316@comcast.net
web: http://www.lorimmyers.com

Advertisements

Figuring Out How To *Do* AWP

March 13, 2014

20140303_124956

VIDA put out its now-annual The Count a strategic two days before the start of AWP when a butt load of writers, and teachers, academics, students, editors, agents, publishers were in conference prep mode and travel toward Seattle, WA. The Count is a collection of data about the proportion of female writers represented in individual literary publications, reviews, etc. from the entire previous year. Find it here.

Clever timing, VIDA; I salute you as always.

The results are better this year than last year, but still inappropriately non-balanced, and this annual study is one of the artifacts that convinces me it’s worthwhile to be a feminist.

When I was a young warthog

I took the train to Baltimore for AWP in 2003 as a 22-year-old Undergraduate Literary Journal Editor. Like most 22-year-olds, I had no idea what the hell I was doing.

20140227_111335 - Copy

I was still saying dumb shit like, “I don’t call myself a feminist because… [fill in the blank with nonsense].” I had green hair.

I lost my cell phone, new to me, in the lobby of the conference hotel. The space was so big it felt like I was being actually swallowed by it and the swarm of writers and neurotics. I had a sense of nebulous non-selfness and of belonging at once.

The experience was insane and overwhelming. I read (an awful story full of heavy-handed symbolism, badly) at an open mic reading. I went to some panels full of writers I was reading at the time. I heard Darcy Steinke and Dave Davies speak.

I spent some time at the book fair, but it was with the no-future spirit of a person who can lose herself in a crowd, of a person who only knows one sure thing about herself: she is a writer. I ran around giving out copies of our journal, trading with other undergrad lit mags.

As a wise old grasshopper

For AWP 2013, I drove to Massachusetts, stayed with friends in Gloucester, and commuted to Boston. I volunteered at the Wilkes/Etruscan booth.

I was ready to be overwhelmed and worn out in the same way as I’d been ten years before, but it was different. Because there was only one train to Gloucester and it only ran till five, I only did AWP during the day. I went to a wonderful panel about what I was working on: nonfiction essay collections + how to order them. I herd Cheryl Strayed talk. I learned the word twee.

I bought a Rumpus mug that would remind me in the coming months to “write like a motherfucker.”20140227_112750

The difference between conference experiences was clear: I could go take it in without letting it take me over. I was older and better at life. I took myself and my work seriously (not to say that people with green hair don’t take themselves seriously, just that I didn’t: I still believed excellence was not my birthright; sensed I was only worth my ovaries).

The book fair was useful. I was neck deep in drafting at the time. I subscribed to Creative Nonfiction. I was thinking future, sort of. As well as I could. I knew more things about myself and the world: I knew I was a feminist and a writer. I knew I no longer needed green hair to be distinct. I knew that having girl parts didn’t disqualify me from entering and thriving in this world, even if it would be harder than if I had boy parts.

Third time’s the charm

In 2014, I got myself to Washington with laser focus and agenda. 1) have a fucking vacation  and 2) learn about presses and journals that might dig my work.

20140227_100444

I skipped Thursday and my partner and I did Seattle (space needle, museums, etc), I showed up early on Friday, picked up my registration materials, and slowly, deliberately visited every booth in half of the book fair. I discovered PM Press, Third Place Books, and talked with (and bought books from) their people.

I introduced myself to the representatives from Bitch Magazine, in case you don’t know, the subtitle is, “feminist response to pop culture.” I picked up their food issue and subscribed.

I talked to Foreword Reviews, about becoming a reviewer. I grabbed guidelines for The Review Review whose newsletter is INSANELY valuable.

I looked for books like my MS: books by women about woman stuff that may have a broader appeal. I talked to people. I seized every opportunity to write something on a post-it for a chance to win, for another chance that someone might recognize my name when it lands in their submission manager.

20140227_082302 - Copy

Saturday, I met Jennifer Basye Sander, a former Big Six/five editor, book writer and packager, and feminist who said, “Henry Miller’s a fucking misogynist.” She apologized, but I don’t. It’s true. I couldn’t read past one chapter of Tropic of Cancer or forgive his insane depictions of vaginae.

Jennifer throws writing retreats in Washington and Northern Cali just for women writers. I’m going to try to get to one.

Then we spent a couple more days doing Seattle, ate so much good food, walked dozens of miles uphill. It wasn’t part of my plan, but the cool-down days gave me time to process and plan for next year.

And that’s just the highlights. I spent less time and got more out of AWP 14 than ever before. Next year, I’m going to spend two days going to panels and readings and presentations, and one day strategically hitting the book fair (like with the map and a highlighter).

Thanks, Wilkes, for the opportunity to get there.

April Line

April Line

BIO: April Line is working toward her MFA at Wilkes University. Her work has appeared in Sou’Wester and in several north-central PA regional news and lifestyle publications. She blogs at www.AprilLineWriting.com, hasn’t read a book by a man in more than a year, and lives in Williamsport with her partner and daughter.

.

Robert May: Documentaries and Advice for Aspiring Artists

March 4, 2014

My previous blog entry discussed producer Robert May’s creative process and the mechanics of moving a fictional film through production. This week, I conclude the two-part series by discussing his process for documentary films and his advice for aspiring story-tellers and film-makers.

According to May, there are two prominent categories of documentary films: ones with an active story, and ones in which the story has already happened (inactive story).

While the story components of an inactive story are already present, there must be an especially compelling reason to revisit the events. Otherwise, retelling a pre-existing story may not be worth the investment. “There is more research required,” May explained, “because you may need to find a new angle.”

For either form of documentary, “seed money” is needed to begin a project. People need to be hired to gather the initial footage, and then if the project is worth moving forward, the rest of the money is raised. If the project is deemed unworthy of production, it is abandoned entirely.

An active story, however, is an entirely different type of project. It is already compelling by nature, since it’s still unfolding as it is being told which gives the story momentum, but May cautions that, “an active story can’t be too tragic; it has to have a dynamic for people to be interested in seeing it.”

kfc2

May used his most recent film, Kids for Cash, as an example of what he means by “dynamic.” He does not believe that any story should be presented from a single side, because much like the reality he is trying to capture, people on both sides of a story present sometimes opposing perspectives. He insists, much to my unbiased approval, that he would not have begun production on the film without having the former judges appear in it as well.

In order to gather footage from both angles and to have both “villain” and “victim” appear in the same film May makes it clear that the producer must maintain absolute secrecy until the film is finalized. Because obtaining an interview from a subject requires building a rapport and earning that person’s trust, the discovery of an interaction between the film-maker and the subject’s offender can cause emotional repercussions (I assume), or even negatively affect the promotion of a film.  Furthermore, if the subjects suspect that an undesirable contact is being interviewed, their responses will be less genuine and the project will lose its integrity.

A hazard of attempting to film active stories is that they can be extremely unpredictable because they develop as the project is being filmed. “You know it’s going to be a wild ride; you have no idea where the story is going. You just need to keep assessing and reassessing the footage,” May said.

As an example, during former Judge Ciavarella’s trial, an outraged mother burst onto the scene to confront Ciavarella on the courthouse steps. She began raging at him—who she blamed for the tragic suicide of her only child—and her raw, emotional outburst intrigued May greatly. He knew then, roughly two years into filming, that he had to include this woman in the movie.

 Because of the wide variety of people filmed, some characters must be cut entirely for the sake of time constraints. May filmed many people who were involved in the Kids for Cash scandal who did not make it past the editing room. His explanation was that, while initially the story may not be clear, once it begins developing and gaining prevalence, filmmakers must decide which “characters” contribute directly to the overall theme or point.

There is also a certain sensitivity involved regarding what the subjects choose to divulge. According to May, unlike reality shows, the subjects’ interviews cannot be altered to take statements out of context. It is a careful science conveying the subjects’ meaning precisely as intended.

After filming is complete, the editing process can take longer than a fictional narrative because of the “sheer mountain of material.” At one point he had three editors, five assistants, and an assistant editor working on the project at a single time.

Once the film has been released and is in its final stages, May initially feels “exhilaration,” but he quickly explained, “…if there’s a lot of money owed, I worry to death. ‘Can we pay people back?’ ‘What will people think [of the film]?’ ‘What will critics say?’” May spends the few months after a release fretting about the film’s success.

Another big source of anxiety for May is sharing the film with its subjects. “When you put the ‘villain’ and ‘victims’ in the same film, you have to be worried about the victim’s response. The product can take a very human toll, but hopefully the movie will advance the healing of the people involved.”

While May recognizes the necessity of promoting his movies, he does stress the importance of moving on to begin development of another project. He indicates that some of his colleagues have recommended taking a break between projects, but in an admirable admission of dedication to his art, May claims that, “You need to be doing it[film-making]…you need to keep moving forward.”

In regard to other potential projects, May clarified that Kids for Cash is his first directorial credit, a role in which he is beginning to gain confidence. He is now considering taking up the mantle of director again for future projects. Either way, May does not plan to linger long in the ether of “between projects.”

Finally, May provided some useful advice for aspiring writers, story-tellers, and prospective film-makers alike:

“A film is the most collaborative art form there is; you have to be a good collaborator.” All of the people involved in the production of the film are necessary to create a successful product. You have to be open to criticism, willing to work with others, and unafraid to change anything that isn’t being perceived the way you want it to.

With that in mind, he goes on to say, “Writers need to be very open to ‘trying to figure it out.’ When we give notes and people contend every note—Don’t! Try to figure out why people are saying what it is that they are saying. Embrace the collaborative process and embrace the notes that people are giving you. Decide whether you want them to feel that way, and if you don’t, figure out how to change it.”