Archive | June, 2014

My Writing Life: Procrastinate, Panic, Produce

24 Jun

My new internet writer friend Zsofi McMullin invited me to participate in a blog hop! I eagerly accepted! I love invitations! And then I realized I don’t really understand what it is? But it seems like it’s linked posts on the same topic, and nothing at all like a sock hop? Which is a shame on account of poodle skirts are really flattering on me. Interested and similarly mystified readers can find her blog hop post at her excellent blog Hunglish Girl. And then you can read my blog hop post, and be all like, hers was better. It’s fine.

1. What am I writing or working on? I should be working on an adaptation of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, due at the end of July, to be directed by me, opening November 21, 2014, at Four County Players. It will be my first time directing a full-length piece, and only the second full-length theatrical adaptation I’ve written. It all sounds a little daunting, doesn’t it? I should get right on that, don’t you think? I’m only hurting myself by putting it off, right?

I’m also contributing semi-regularly to the local alternative weekly, C-Ville Weekly, and its quarterly magazine, C-VILLE Kids. I have a couple more pieces due this summer, which is a super nice problem to have.

And I’ve been blogging for the Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers (CLAW), which has been a fantastic venue for my free-ranging id, both on and offline. The only thing more fun than writing about wrasslin’ is wrasslin’! If you’re from around these parts, be sure to catch our last match of 2014 on Saturday, August 23rd, at the Blue Moon Diner.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? To answer this question I’d need to actually pick a genre, I guess. I like theatery stuff, and I like writing stuff. Making plays interests me from top to tail. Storytelling, which I’ve done locally with Big Blue Door for the last couple of years, also lights me up. I’m interested in the intersection of writing and live performance. And I am a confessor. Sharing, (over-sharing, some might say), helps me work out my feelings about the things that happen to me, and lightens my psychic load. Parenting is something that’s been woah WAY happening to me for the last ten years, so I write and tell stories about that a lot. My work is very personal, so I guess that’s how it’s different from other people’s very personal work. I’m a special snowflake, you guys.

3. Why do I write what I do? Because I can’t help it. Writing is tough for me. Looking back, most of my feints at having a career, and I include having two children in that, were kind of just efforts to have an excuse not to write. But, surprise! The children compel me to write, because my life with them is so frustrating and funny and fascinating to me. And now I’m middle-aged, and it turns out that if I want good parts as an actress, (or to take the stage as a storyteller), I pretty much have to provide my own material. I hate to write, but I love to have written, and writing serves my ambitions now more than ever. So I keep practicing and hoping I’ll get better, and that it will get easier.

4. How does my writing process work? Oh, boy. Let’s just say I’m very responsive to deadline pressure. I spend a lot of time at my desk getting distracted by the internet and my household to do list, and finally I have so little time left to write whatever’s due that I am forced by my sheer animal terror to crank it out. It’s a great system. In college I used to give myself one hour per page to write a paper, plus an hour to spellcheck, print, and walk the paper in. Like, a ten page paper was started precisely eleven hours before the drop dead due date. So, I still pretty much do this. A positive change is that I am now more responsive to self-imposed deadlines–like, writing something on my blog or developing an essay or story within a certain time frame. That being said, I would like to have written this particular blog post two weeks ago. Perfectly imperfect in every way.


And now is the time on Shprockets vhen ve pass the baton! Two lovely lady writers of my acquaintance indicated that they would be willing to be hopped on.

The Coconut Girl is Whitney Morrill,  an architect, writer, and mother of two. Her writing has appeared in SlateInformThe Courier Journal, and Streetlight. She’s written and illustrated a fictional book about architecture, and she’s currently working on a novel entitled But if She Knew, She Forgot. An excerpt from the novel, “Teardrop Opening,” won a short fiction award from the Charlottesville Writing Center and was broadcast on WMRA, the regional affiliate of National Public Radio. was the Blog of the Week on WCAV-CBS 19, and was featured in C-ville Weekly. All this, and she’s a total badass ninja, for real. Thanks, Whitney!

Denise Stewart blogs at DeeDee’s Living Will, and she runs Wellness Charlottesville, coaching individuals and companies regarding using ritual and discipline to enhance creativity, productivity and self-care. She’s toured her one-woman show, Dirty Barbie and Other Girlhood Tales, in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Edinburgh, Scotland, and most recently in Asheville, NC and Barboursville, VA. She’s a lecturer at the University of Virginia. She has an MFA in playwriting from UVA and a BA in theatre from Catawba College. She is also hilarious and a total booster of other womens in the arts. Yay, Denise!

Playing hooky from writing again, some more, with my small coconspirators.

Playing hooky from writing again, some more, with my small coconspirators.

The Game of Life

9 Jun

Fourth grade came to a close for my eldest this past Friday, so please join her bemused parent in a retrospective of the playground games she invented this year with a group of five other girls in the 20 minute excuse for a recess they get only on non-rainy, above-freezing days. I think you’ll agree they used their limited time well. Or at least creatively. And sometimes very oddly, indeed.

The school year began with several weeks of “playing Harry Potter.” Many of the girls were finishing up the series then (and probably working out their trauma as they were all too young to be reading that business, but I lost that battle, oh well.) This was their first foray into group gaming in this particular configuration, and there were some dynamics to work out.

9yo: “We can’t get along while we’re playing Harry Potter. We fight every day.”
Me: “You fight? Why?”
9yo: “Because everyone wants to be Ginny.”
Me: “Not Hermione?”
9yo: “She’s second choice.”
Me: “Does anybody want to be Harry?”
9yo (thoughtfully): “No, not really.”

Truly, that game was a non-starter.

To ease the constant conflicts, they eventually morphed the game into Dementor Tag. This was a lot like Freeze Tag except that once you were frozen, your soul got sucked right out of your mouth. No word on whether there was soul-to-mouth contact, or for that matter, mouth-to-mouth, but surely someone would have called me.

There was a short-lived foray into playing co-ed kickball, but according to 9yo, “the boys take it too seriously and ruin everything, and it’s too sweaty.” Could be said of so many activities, really.

A little while after this, I found her rummaging through her collection of hair accoutrements, picking out all the headbands and trying them on while she made moony faces at herself in the mirror.

Me: “Headbands give me a headache, because they grip behind the ears and give me those dents. Do they bother you?”
9yo: “Kind of, but I need to wear one because of our new recess game.”
Me: “Why’s that?”
9yo: “Headbands protect you from mind control.”

Who knew.

The next I heard of recess, they were playing a “game” called Mental Hospital. Each girl had invented a mental illness to suffer from, all except the two playing doctor and nurse. 9yo’s illness involved disturbing flashbacks that “make me fall down and almost have a concussion! And then the nurse has to help me get back up.” From what I could gather, pretty much all of the invented syndromes caused the sufferer to fall down and need to be helped up. I have to confess I was pretty glad they weren’t more informed/imaginative than that.

And then there was Happy Family, where a tribe of parentless children wandered in the wilderness eking out survival.

9yo: “I’m a four year old who has a lot of tantrums, but is a good cook.”
Me: “Oh. Typecasting, then, huh?”
9yo: “Moo-ooom. Actually that game was super annoying because of all the tantrums. It kind of never went anywhere.”

Again, could be said of so many activities.

Somebody must have let their kid watch relaxing b.s. TV with them, because next the girls played Divorce Court. 9yo was the lawyer representing the Bad Mom, who was in court fighting The Father and his lawyer in front of The Judge for custody of the Sad Child Caught in the Middle. Apparently, television-worthy histrionics ensued. Both tantrums and falling down were definitely happening.

They finished up the year by embroidering and extending the stories from the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series. All the girls played goddesses or half-humans with complicated relationships and back stories.

9yo: “It’s REALLY fun. We even had someone… (Pauses. Cuts eye at me.) DIE.”
Me: “Wow. Did she get to come back to life?”
9yo: “Well, not as her old self. She’s still playing the game, but she had to make up someone new to be.”

Making up someone new to be. It’s what playground games are all about, right? Life, too—you have to be inventive and resourceful, and willing to start over from scratch. If these crazy creative fourth grade girls are any indication, the future of the world is in good hands.

Sometimes they even play on the playground in uniform!

Sometimes they even play on the playground in uniform!