The Writing Life: reflections by a working writer. The Writing Life

Reflections of a working writer, a university screenwriting professor, and the editor of Oregon Literary Review.

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Extraordinary free info useful to writers when marketing.

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A guide to publishers and publishing services for serious writers, including info on scam agents.

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Charles Deemer

Oregon Literary Review

MFA, Playwriting, University of Oregon

Writing faculty, Portland State University (part-time)

Retired playwright and screenwriter.
Active novelist, librettist and teacher.

Email: cdeemer(at)yahoo(dot)com

The eagle flies!


Literary archive

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Electronic screenwriting tutorial



Finalist, Oregon Book Award

Practical Screenwriting

Love At Ground Zero


More books.

Blogs by (mostly) creative writers:

"Can We Talk About Me For A Change?"
Playwright Debra Neff Nathans

Debbie Ridpath Ohi, a weblog for writers (resources)

Silliman's Blog
Ron Silliman, contemporary poetry and poetics

Maud Newton
literary links, amusements, politics, rants

Darren Barefoot
Technical and creative writing, theatre, Dublin

Rob's Writing Pains
Journey of a struggling writer.

Mad, Mad World
Cara Swann, fiction writer, journalist, "reflections on humanity, random news & my life."

Random musings on a writer's life and times.

Barbara Flaska's compilation of the best online articles about music and culture.

Write Of Way
Samantha Blackmon's written musings on writing (composition and rhetoric).

Alexander b. Craghead: blog
Writing, photography, and watercolors.

Rodney's Painted Pen
Rodney Bohen's daily commentary "on the wondrous two legged beast we fondly refer to as mankind." His pen runneth over.

Frustrated Writer
This one named Nicole.

scribble, scribble, scribble
Journalist Dale Keiger teaches nonfiction scribbling to undergraduate and graduate students at Johns Hopkins University.

The Unofficial Dave Barry Blog
The very one.

The Hive
The official blog of science fiction / horror author Terence West.

William Gibson Blog
Famed author of Neuromancer and Johnny Mnemonic: The Screenplay.

The Word Foundry
Joe Clifford Faust's "blog of a working writer: tracking writing projects, musings on the creative process, occasional side trips into music, media, politics, religion, etc."

A Writer's Diary
By Cynthia Harrison, who has the good sense to quote Virginia Woolf: "The truth is that writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial."

Bow. James Bow.
The journal of James Bow and his writing.

Michael Montoure's weblog about writing, primarily horror and speculative fiction.

By David Henry, "a poet's weblog from Aberdeen, Scotland."

Modem Noise
By Adrian Bedford, a "fledgling Pro SF Writer, living in Perth, Australia."

"A wry writerly blog named in honour of a minor character in a minor Shirley Temple film."

Real Writers Bounce
Holly Lisle's blog, "a novelist's roadmap through the art and ordeal of finding the damned words."

2020 Hindsight
By Susan.

downWrite creative
Phil Houtz's notes on the writing life.

Vivid: pieces from a writer's notebook
Blog of Canadian poet Erin Noteboom.

The Literary Saloon
The literary weblog at the complete review.

Rabbit Blog
The rabbit writes on popular culture.

This Girl's Calendar
Momoka writes short stories.

Twists & Turns
Musings by writer Michael Gates.

Plays and Musicals -- A Writer's Introspective
A blog by John D. Nugent - Composer, Playwright, and Artistic Director of the Johnson City Independent Theatre Company

The American Sentimentalist
"Never has any people endured its own tragedy with so little sense of the tragic." Essays by Mark W. Anderson.

Screenwriting By Blog
David C. Daniel writes a screenplay online. "I've decided to publish the process as a way to push myself through it. From concept to completion, it'll be here."
Official site of occult fiction author Sean-Alonzo, exploring symbolism, alternative history, philosophy, secret societies and other areas of the esoteric tradition.

Crafty Screenwriting
Maunderings of Alex Epstein, tv scribe, about life, politics, and the tv show I'm co-creating.

Letters From The Home Front
The life of a writer, 21, home schooled, rural living.

Venal Scene
The blog of bite-sized plays inspired by the news (by Dan Trujillo).

'Plaint of the Playwright
Rob Matsushita, a playwright from Wisconsin, "whines a lot."

I Pity Da Fool!
Glenn's adventures in screenwriting.

Time In Tel-Aviv
Hebrew modern literature at its best, by Corinna Hasofferett.

Big Window
Robin Reagler's poetry blog.

John Baker's Blog
Author of the Sam Turner and Stone Lewis novels.

The Writing Life With Dorothy Thompson
What goes on during a writer's busy day?

The Rebel Housewife
Not just a housewife!

Barry's Personal Blog
A running commentary on writing and the writing life.

Bonnie Blog
Maintained by Bonnie Burton of

Writer's Blog.
By easywriter. "From the walls of caves to cyberspace."

Flogging the Quill
Pursuing the art and craft of compelling storytelling, by an editor, Ray Rhamey.

Man Bytes Hollywood
Sharing tools, strategies and resources for the screenwriter's journey.

Mad for the smell of paper
A writing journal.

The Writing Life
A blog by Katey Schultz.

It Beats Working 9-5
A screenwriting blog by a young Canadian screenwriter.

Stealing Heaven From The Lips Of God
Writer & Artist, Dee Rimbaud reflects upon politics, religion, art, poetry, the meaning of life, the nature of God and why toast always lands butter side down on carpets.

Robert Peake
Heart and Mind, Fully Engage ... a poet's website.

Sidestepping Real
By Ren Powell, poet, children’s writer, essayist and editor.

Suggest a writer's blog

plagiarism blog

The Writing Life...
"An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's."
J.D. Salinger

"All my best friends are writers and are dead."
A friend over beer, Berkeley, winter, 1959

"And it came to pass that all the stars in the firmament had ceased to shine. But how was anyone to know?"
The Half-Life Conspiracy

After October 31, 2006,
new posts are published at

The Writing Life II

(Posts archived here are from 01/10/03 - 10/31/06)

Sunday, October 29, 2006  
Check out the new home for this blog
I've started posting at the new home for this blog, which I'm calling The Writing Life II. All posts go there starting November 1. These last few days, I'll be posting at both locations. The new interface is more user-friendly and presumably will be more stable as well. I believe all the Blogger stuff goes to the new interface eventually, so I might as well begin now. Onward.

10/29/2006 08:35:00 PM | 3 comments

The New Interface
I've been playing with the new publishing interface in beta development since Google purchased Blogger. I like it. I think I'm switching to it soon.

10/29/2006 06:34:00 PM | 3 comments

Growing pains
Since Google purchased Blogger, changes have been introduced and my current problem publishing may be a consequence of this. A new "beta" blog format is in the works, and I might have to switch to it. Because I added some "plus" features, this isn't automatically done -- seems like we're penalized for using the top elements of the old format! At any rate, the present situation is driving me nuts. This morning it's been taking me dozens of tries to publish.

10/29/2006 01:22:00 PM | 2 comments

Is it fixed?
I ask the question with trepidation ... somehow, on about the 40th try, I was able to publish. A hassle if I have to do this each time.

10/29/2006 12:18:00 PM | 2 comments

What a mess
Suddenly my posts at Blogger won't publish ... get them saved but not published to be seen. Not sure what to do and support is slow. Ah, me.

10/29/2006 11:49:00 AM | 1 comments

It's mind-boggling to me that a teenager could have written the poem below. My brother, Bill Deemer, also was something of a poet-prodigy. He was a teenager when he published in the prestigious Poetry Magazine. He was a teenager when Andrew Hoyem published his first book at San Francisco's (then) Auerhahn Press. One of the poems in this first collection also blew me away. Beginning (not sure of line breaks), "secretes the edge by which is known the insides insides insides exterior and line of flesh between them both," the poem goes on to conclude about an act of sexual intercourse, "the edge is solid solid solid neuter material." Well, I surely wasn't having such insights when I was a teenager ha ha! My teenage passion was mathematics, especially number theory, and I did publish in a math journal as a teenager. Definitely not as sexy as being a poet.

10/29/2006 10:01:00 AM | 1 comments


Published today in 1933 (Dylan Thomas was 19)
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How my clay is made the hangman's lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

--Dylan Thomas (age 19 when this was published)

Story at Today In Literature.

10/29/2006 08:49:00 AM | 0 comments

New cycle
Turning back the clock, as we did last night, always suggests the beginning of winter to me, even though we're not there yet. When I come out of class, it's very dark. A new cycle begins.

10/29/2006 06:34:00 AM | 0 comments

New libretto
Dug out my notes on a new libretto last night and went over them. This will be a challenging project, to say the least, given the sprawling magnitude of the source material. This was adapted to "a dramatic review" in the 1950s but only last night have I been able to locate a copy, this is a London bookstore. I ordered it, might suggest a story strategy I've missed. I have my own take on the material, of course. The first decision, a process started last night, is which of the dozen or so major characters to use. I want to cut the number by half at least. Other important aspects of the source material I have no idea how to put on stage but I assume I'll figure it out -- or maybe adapt a technique from the stage review if they solved a problem that stumps me. The first issue for me is casting, to make this as easy to produce as possible. My strength, first, will be to construct the story and then writing the libretto itself. But there were experimental literary elements in the source that I definitely want to duplicate on stage somehow. I'm glad to be excited about this project again. It's going to take some time to do, and time isn't exactly a given with me, so it's definitely time to start this in earnest.


10/29/2006 06:24:00 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, October 28, 2006  
60s-70s music
No doubt I've already mentioned this but if you have occasion to listen to music when you're at the computer, check out Music of the Vietnam Era, long playlists of just about everything you can think of. Not sure if it's legal but there it is. Highly used by yours truly.

10/28/2006 10:01:00 PM | 2 comments

120 days until...

10/28/2006 06:34:00 PM | 0 comments


Beavers & nutria, or why Corvallis is having a party tonight
Walking the dog late this afternoon in one of the area's many sprawling parks, we encountered a nutria along the lake. Not that we knew what it was -- but a knowledgeable local informed us. To us it looked like a cross between a beaver and a possum.

Which seemed appropriate because I'd just watched the Beavers refuse to play possum against the USC Trojans, hanging on to win 33-31 in a huge upset (after giving up a 33-10 lead with a tad over a quarter to go). A major college football upset! In fact, the last time Oregon State defeated USC I was a graduate student in nearby Eugene. In 1967, in the infamous Mud Bowl, O.J. Simpson's Trojans lost 3-0. Dee "the Great Pumpkin" Andros was the Beaver coach. A grand victory that even rival Ducks could celebrate. As well as the victory today.

It would be fun to be in Corvallis tonight. It's a great small college town, much more so than Eugene is after all its recent growth. Corvallis today has the feel that Eugene had in the sixties. I never knew squat about Corvallis until a few years ago when their community theater did a play of mine, and I spent some time there. I'd go to Corvallis any time. I love the town.

10/28/2006 06:05:00 PM | 0 comments

Shuffling the deck
Doing a little mental housekeeping, I realize I have over-extended myself, which is a bad habit of mine. Too many projects going on at once and in the wrong priority. Now that Sally is back in gear, it is front burner but right behind it I'm now leapfrogging the new libretto. This one will be a ton of work, and I'm not close to being ready to write since there's so much research still to do. I best get started on it if I expect to do this, and I'm thinking of it as a major work -- if I can actually pull it off. So much to figure out yet. But it's not going to figure itself out so I have to jump right in and start the dirty work.

Two impossible upsets I'd love to see in college football today: Navy over Notre Dame and Portland State over Oregon. Boy was the world series boring and a comedy of errors.

10/28/2006 06:42:00 AM | 0 comments

Friday, October 27, 2006  
Chasing the writer's tail
Seems like I spent the entire afternoon on various writerly chores, errands and grunt work. Trips to the supply store, the post office. Stuffing envelopes, licking stamps. Keeping the books for tax purposes later. Glad the weekend is ahead and expecting to get some writing done.

10/27/2006 08:24:00 PM | 1 comments


Many birthdays ago
Of all affection known to man or beast;
of all the ways we relate each to each,
to talk, embrace and cry, and try to teach
the other who we are: the very feast
of love, without which at the very least
would life be insecure and at such risk
that death might well win out; the soft kiss
of love the mother gives her child, her breast
the suckled nourishment of all s/he knows -
this is love that cannot be more pure.
Male lovers in their quest of love bestow
romance as often illness as its cure.
Love is not the sting of Cupid's darts;
Love is the most womanly of arts.

10/27/2006 05:28:00 PM | 0 comments


Letter from the Portland Opera:


In 'production' language, last night was" Faust's" 'run-through'. It's a
pivotal event in a production's journey from concept to stage. The
moment, after weeks and weeks of rehearsals, rehearsals in the morning,
rehearsals in the afternoon, and rehearsals in the evening, after all
those weeks, the moment to run it completely through without a stop. It's
the first real look at what we've got. And, if last night's run-through
was any indication, we've got something very special for you with this

There's a powerful raw quality about a run-through. A rehearsal hall is
not a particularly spectacular place, at least compared to an actual
performance. There's no special lighting. No full costumes. No
orchestra. No sets. Instead, a mighty pianist, a few props, set pieces
that fit in the room, a shawl to hint at the costumes. The director and
production team sit at a table, taking notes. People cluster around the
door. A few others are seated in the corner. The General Director has
squeezed in behind the production table. Perched high above it all, the

And the cast.

When Maureen O'Flynn mounted the platform in the final scene-as Marguerite
she's bereft, broken, and about to be hung-and joined Bulent Bezduz
(Faust) and Mark Doss (Mephistopheles) in one of the most powerful trios
in all of opera, the rehearsal world stopped. Pens at the production
table froze. No one moved. People outside in the hall gathered at the
door to listen. And when the 50-strong chorus builds, their voices
gathering steadily into the most majestic of all choruses, Marguerite (and
each of every one of us) was transported instantly to heaven.

When the invisible curtain dropped, in that moment in which you'd expect
an explosion of applause, there was instead awestruck silence. And, if
you looked closely around the room, a tear or two as well. And only then,
seemingly minutes later, riotous applause for the cast and chorus from a
very special audience-their colleagues.

Slowly, the "real" world returned. Notebooks, laptops, coffee cups all
gathered up and people dispersed into the night.

We move now into the Keller Auditorium, where we'll put the remaining
pieces together, the final polish. The sets, costumes, props. Tech the
lighting. And have everything ready for you when we open the season on
November 4. But you'll have to bring the hankies.

10/27/2006 02:40:00 AM | 0 comments

After the dance
What a delightful birthday yesterday! Better than I recall in years. I usually have pretty low-key birthdays -- and this one was as well, no big party or anything, but I had an unusual number of surprises.

The day ended with a good scene workshop in class. We workshopped about six or seven scenes, and the writers and students learned much. They could see and hear the improvements after we took out the chain saw and made the scenes more efficient and dramatic.

Then to dinner. I was able to enjoy myself without overdoing it, so I didn't feel bloated afterwards. Oysters on the half shell, baked mussels, seafood salad, spicy octopus, bbq chicken, all variety of sushi, a fantastic caesar salad, all variety of small desserts including pecan pie and green tea soft ice cream ... a birthday feast. And I learned I don't have to wait for birthdays for a free meal at Todai! They now offer free lunches to seniors every Wednesday if accompanied by a paying customer. I wonder how many seniors stand outside and try to hitchhike in with someone? Or say, I'll give you five bucks if I can be your lunch guest?

I crashed early, which is what has me up early. I'll grab a couple more zzz's, of course, before the day begins in earnest. I often sleep in two three- or four-hour shifts.

I'm very excited about writing on Sally yesterday. I think I'll start the next chapter, perhaps even finish it (they are all short), before my piano lessons today. I also have some marketing chores I want to do this afternoon. No class work to bring home with me, so my weekend is free for my own stuff.

It was great hearing Lynne sing happy birthday to me. She jazzed it up. If I were her manager, which I'm not, I'd have her sing more simply and not show off her voice so much. She belongs to the histrionics school of jazz while I belong to the simplicity school. Just like my tastes in writing -- I usually abhor overwriting (there are important exceptions for bona fide stylists, like James Agee and Faulkner). I seem to like my art stark and essential for the most part. But it's the thought that counts, and I loved hearing from her. She's coming to Mahagonny with us. (It's a good wife who lets you bring an ex-girlfriend along ha ha.)

Time for a tad of grunt work, then back to bed.

10/27/2006 02:04:00 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, October 26, 2006  
More Weill/Brecht video
Compliments of the nurse.

10/26/2006 04:09:00 PM | 0 comments


Birthday dinner
Our birthday dinner tradition is to go to Todai, a Japanese buffet that offers a freebie on your birthday. It's a huge place with huge selections, and it's hard not to pig out. Fortunately we never go there except on one of our birthdays (our regular buffet pigout place is Chinese at about 1/3 the cost).

So, a couple hours of workshopping scenes in class and I'll be ready to pig out.

10/26/2006 03:54:00 PM | 0 comments

Office hours celebration
I wrote a new chapter on Sally in my office today! It's been a while. Maybe I can get back on track now. I know what's coming in the next chapter. One foot after the other and all that. This middle section may be the trickiest because it all takes place at a small college on Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1968 when the marriage falls apart. Pacing this right is critical. Well, I've taken the first step at last. Onward. (A new chapter is my birthday present to myself.)

10/26/2006 03:45:00 PM | 0 comments


About dying
I believe in quality of life over quantity of life. In practical terms, if I get the big C or some other disease, I may not do treatment if I think the cure is worse than the disease, which is exactly what it was in every single case I've seen a dear friend suffer through. Moreover, I think I've lived long enough and considerably longer than I expected to or anyone would have predicted during my wild youth. I've been living what Raymond Carver called "gravy" for some time now.

I'm not suicidal but I also rather embrace the saying (from Bob Dylan?), "Life's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there." I think the world has gotten worse, not better, in my lifetime, and I have no particular desire to see things get worse still. So when it's time, it's time, and I feel no urgency in trying to squeeze in an extra year or two. I do have a number of projects I want to finish. I want to die with my boots on.

Now whatever happens is luck of the draw, and what frightens me most is that I've been having a string of good luck regarding health, which I hope doesn't foreshadow bad luck to come (in this zero-sum universe of ours). I'm not against taking matters into my own hands, so to speak, if context demands it. Naturally I hope it doesn't come to this.

My wife thinks all this is morbid pessimism. I don't. I regard it as existential optimism. Existential optimism, the belief that I control my own destiny as long as I'm alert to my own deterioration when it happens. I'd like to outlive my dad, who made it to 74 (the oldest in our clan). (When my mom was my age, she'd been dead for five years.)

I'm a content fellow. I love my routine, my days, my situation. I love my age. I miss a lot but I have a lot left.

I see certain literary advantages to dying, not enough to hasten the prospect but enough to think it's not totally a bad thing. Directors love dead playwrights. They get to mess with the work any way they want.

One thing though: I wish I'd find out the truth about Roswell before I go ...

10/26/2006 10:47:00 AM | 0 comments

About aging
A key to graceful aging, I think, is being lucky with regard to health. The worst thing that's happened to my body lately is my bridge falling out, which was no biggie. Sure, I have aches and pains but they're no biggie either. Knock on my wooden head.

Another is to be happy with your generation, happy with when you were born, and I am totally ecstatic with mine! How could I not be? I was not raised on television! I was an early teenager during the birth of rock and roll! I did my military service between two wars! I can remember when "literary novel" was not a pejorative term!

In other words, I am happy being 67 and don't need to be younger. I only feel old occasionally in context. For example, Dick's #2 son called me yesterday to wish me happy birthday (he can remember because our birthdays are close ha ha). He's been struggling with booze all his life but is three months sober. I think of him as still going on 19. He is 46! When you regard "a kid" and he's 46, well, that makes you feel old.

As I was writing this, my dear friend Lynne (the singer songwriter) in L.A. called to sing me Happy Birthday. 2nd of the morning, my wife being the first. Also surprise electronic birthday cards and messages awaiting me from several people. We're off to a good start!

I was going to treat myself to a birthday breakfast but remembered our birthday dinner, so I'd better eat lightly until then ha ha.

Sketch hasn't given me his birthday licking yet. Time to take care of that.

10/26/2006 08:43:00 AM | 0 comments


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19* 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28* 29* 30* 31* 32 33 34 35 36 37 38* 39 40 41 42 43 44* 45* 46* 47 48* 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58* 59 60 61 62 63* 64 65* 66 ...


    Key "firsts" (by age) in writing career:
  • 19, first publication, Mathematics Magazine (a number theory problem)
  • 28, first writing award, Haycox Short Story Prize
  • 29, first story published, "The Scrapbook" in Northwest Review
  • 30, first play produced, "Above the Fire," award-winner, University of Missouri
  • 31, MFA, Playwriting, University of Oregon, Shubert Playwriting Fellow
  • 38, first performance of "Ramblin': the songs and stories of Woody Guthrie"
  • 44, first theatre residency, Playwright-in-residence, New Rose Theatre
  • 45, first book published, Christmas at the Juniper Tavern
  • 45, first TV production, Christmas at the Juniper Tavern, ACE award
  • 46, first screenplay optioned, "Ruby's Tune" (based on my play "Waitresses")
  • 48, first school residency, Distinguished-Writer-in-Residence, The Catlin Gabel School
  • 58, begin teaching screenwriting at Portland State University
  • 63, first opera libretto, "Dark Mission" (for John Nugent)
  • 65, begin Oregon Literary Review

10/26/2006 05:17:00 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, October 25, 2006  
Weill/Brecht Music Video
Check it out at Nurse Fusion.

10/25/2006 09:38:00 PM | 0 comments

Sketch's friend getting anxious for the party

10/25/2006 04:25:00 PM | 0 comments


Tortured artists
The list is long. One of them is Richard Brautigan, the subject of Today In Literature. On this day in 1984 his body was found, a suicide. I remember learning this in a bar and toasting him. Not ten years later a doctor would corner me and ask how much I wanted to live. A lot, it turns out. I cleaned up my act -- or at least the most bodily destructive part of it. I don't toast suicidal writers in bars any more. I do it in coffee shops.

10/25/2006 10:15:00 AM | 0 comments

Birthday countdown...

10/25/2006 09:47:00 AM | 0 comments


Unexpected stroke
No sooner do I mention them, then I get one. A professor at the Univ. of Mary Washington in Virginia is using my play Sad Laughter (or online here) in her course "Cold Case: Mystery and History in the Theatre". Well, it surely is a mystery whether or not Moliere married his own daughter! How nice she selected my play as one of her texts. It's also a favorite of mine, which doubles the stroke. This makes my day and will make reading midterms much less of a chore since I'll be grinning.

Thursday will be fun in class: workshopping scenes. I cast them, we give staged readings, then we constructively tear them apart and put them back together. High participation.

Good news on two consecutive days. What is the world coming to?

10/25/2006 09:03:00 AM | 0 comments

Calling the wrong friend
On the wire:

Oregon woman given DUI while picking up friend arrested for same

The Associated Press

LINCOLN CITY, Ore. - When Amy Parks was arrested for drunken driving on Friday night, she called a friend to come pick her up at the Lincoln City Police Department.

But the friend, Louanna Foster, didn't make it there as planned.

Instead of showing up in her Ford Taurus, Foster, 43, arrived in police custody after being arrested for drunken driving about two miles from the location where Parks, 48, was arrested.

After both Lincoln City women submitted breath tests, they were released to a sober driver, police said.

10/25/2006 03:46:00 AM | 1 comments

Tuesday, October 24, 2006  
It's always an adventure at the Barbur Transit Center where I catch a bus to the university. I seem to get the last parking space! Maybe once a term I won't find the last parking space but usually I do. Makes the afternoon interesting.

10/24/2006 02:37:00 PM | 0 comments

A morning surprise
A few weeks ago I rec'd an email from a high school girl, a senior. For a senior requirement, she needed a mentor in a chosen profession, and she'd chosen playwriting. I volunteered to give her feedback on her senior project.

This morning I rec'd a one-act play from her. I was blown away. Although wrongly formatted and filled with other technical errors, this girl has a real gift for writing for the stage. Fully realized characters, great dialogue, lots of contrasts and conflict in a family story ... it was better than much of the university writing I see. What a delightful surprise.

10/24/2006 12:22:00 PM | 0 comments


The Love of Long Ago
After we finished our first opera together, Dark Mission, John Nugent and I decided to do a chamber opera, which would be easier to produce. I selected a short story by Guy de Maupassant and wrote the libretto The Love of Long Ago. This was quite a while ago.

Imagine my surprise then to read John's blog this morning and learn that the chamber opera is alive! He has been musically stuck and now is un-stuck. He has a very interesting discussion of the breakthrough.

This inspires me to return to a new libretto, another adaptation, which I've barely begun. He still has Varmints to finish, too. Maybe I'll have something for him by the time he's done.

I really enjoy working with John. I love his music. However, it's frustrating that he has to work for a living instead of composing for a living because it makes progress slow on our projects. As I have said so many times, work is the curse of the artistic class.

Teaching day. A few papers to read this morning but I should have time to do a few other things before class. Want to get back to Sally.

Great news, John, if you're reading this! Look forward to hearing it.

10/24/2006 07:33:00 AM | 1 comments

Monday, October 23, 2006  
Birthday, Xmas, etc.
I let my wife off the hook. She doesn't have to give me a birthday present this week, nor a Christmas present for that matter. Our trip to LA for the opera is so spendy, we can call it all of these things. Who needs presents when you get to see Mahagonny?

But we are doing our traditional birthday dinner after my class Thursday. We usually do this twice a year, on each of our birthdays, but H's last was her 70th so we did something bigger. At any rate, a wonderful Japanese buffet downtown offers 2-fers if one party has a birthday. I look forward to it!

One of those days when I piddle away time. I seem to be doing a lot of that lately. Am I still a writer ha ha? Well, an editor anyway, I did do some grunt editing work this morning. And I practiced the piano. Jingle Bells! Imagine playing this at my age! Our first song with two hands so it isn't all that easy. Been practicing some left hand boogie woogie riffs, too, which isn't part of the class ha ha.

10/23/2006 02:20:00 PM | 0 comments

The Almanac Singers

We all need strokes and probably most of us don't get as many as we need. There are two kinds of strokes: the expected and the surprise. When we do a good job and know it, we expect a certain amount of positive commentary. Sometimes, of course, we get the opposite, as in a bad theater review. We expect strokes from friends and family who support us.

But the best strokes, I think, come unexpectedly. I don't get fan mail often but when I do, I love it. Somebody reads something that really moves him and lets me know.

A while back I was at a gathering at Mt. Hood Community College and ran into one of the members of General Strike, a folk group that does union songs. I'd engaged them to perform with me a Labor Day tribute to the Wobblies at the Unitarian Church a few years back. During our conversation, I mentioned how much I liked working with them on that gig -- and she surprised me by saying that the highlight of the performance for her was my rendition of The Miner's Lifeguard. What a nice unexpected stroke!

This happens to be my favorite union song, which I learned on the classic album of union songs by The Almanac Singers. I suppose I'll remember the lyrics till the day I die. Five years ago, in LA for a friend's 70th birthday party, we picked up guitars at night and played together as we used to in the 60s. One of his showcase songs was the hymn from which the tune to the union song was taken, so after he did his lyrics, I began the union lyrics. It was a great moment, all of us singing together like in the old days. Through the 60s we got together most weekends for singing potlucks and partying.

Another stroke moment I'll never forget happened at blackout of my early play Country Northwestern. "This play has balls!" somebody spontaneously shouted. How can you not love a compliment like that?

I get fewer strokes than I used to but I don't think I need them as much. Not that they aren't nice when I get them. But my writing is really in the margins compared to where it used to be. I appreciate any kind word that drifts my way.

I also like to return the favor. I'm big on letting young talented writers know how talented they are: Julie Mae Madsen and Dan Trujillo most recently. Writers need to know folks care about what they are doing. This is what is wrong with "development" in Hollywood and in theater now: the vision of the artist plays second fiddle to other demands. I was so damn fortunate in the 1980s to be playwright-in-residence at two different companies that let me do whatever the hell I wanted to do -- and then produced it. That's what it should be about. You don't see that open-ended support of artists as much as you used to. Part of the emergence of Homo Consumerus dancing to the Corporate Music. I'm glad I'm an old fart and not a young artist starting out. I used to think the Internet would level the playing field but I see the corporations are taking it over. Homo Consumerus marches on.

Give an artist a stroke today. S/he will appreciate it.

10/23/2006 10:57:00 AM | 0 comments

Old publishers never die
JB, publisher of the Oregon Fever anthology I edited, wants to meet about "a new project." He has a very hard sell. The former was a project close to my heart, which is the only reason I did it. Certainly not for the little money I've made from it. So I doubt if he has a project of interest to me but I'm willing to visit and listen to what he has to say.

10/23/2006 08:08:00 AM | 1 comments


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