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Millay Residency Photo Journal

January 16, 2022

Darlene and I are currently at our annual January writing retreat, after a one-year coronavirus induced hiatus. I decided to use this opportunity to do a final post on the Millay Arts residency we recently completed between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Both of us took photos of the house in which we stayed and worked, and the grounds. A snowstorm simply enhanced that natural beauty that enveloped us. Several of the photos are shared below.

The view from Darlene’s writing studio.
We would stretch our legs once a day and take enjoy beauty here in the foothills of the Berkshires.
Darlene spotted this hole in the ice, caused by water dripping from the tree. You can see the tree reflected in the water. Beautiful!
This was the view outside my studio.
This was taken on one of our daily walks.
This was the wing where our bedroom and bathroom. It’s also the studio I ended up working in.
There is a tradition to write or etch your name and year into the doorway to document your residency. Here is mine!

So there is our residency in photographs. I hope it give you a sense of what a magical week it was! I would return without hesitation.

How to Finish the Year

December 31, 2021

This past summer, Darlene and I applied for the Wintertide Residency at Millay Arts in Austerlitz, New York (near the Massachusetts line, just on the edge of the Berkshires). Millay Arts is located at Steepletop, the home of Pulitzer prize wining poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. The residency would be for the week between Christmas and New Years’ Eve, and we would each have our own studio in which to work. Happily, both of our applications were accepted, so we checked in here on Monday.

Darlene came with the intent to use her time to complete an extensive revision on her novel; I arrived to do research on the television series, as well as work on many of my own projects. Darlene set up in the writing studio, while I chose an artists’ studio. I have never written in an artists’ studio, but there was space and several tables upon which to spread out, and the floor was covered with the paint splotches. I relished being in a room that an aura of so much creativity. I did rewrites on two of my features, one on a television pilot, and another on a stage play. I did some work developing the story for a new feature–and got an idea for yet another, for which I free wrote an outline. And, of course, daily blog posts!

The main building at Millay Arts, the location of our rooms and studios.

It turned out to be a superb residency for us both–we made significant progress on our work, enjoyed a daily walk to get out of our chairs, and as you can see the setting was beautiful. We also had the good fortune to share the space with Maine visual artist Jennifer Schmitt. Jennifer turned out to be both disgustingly talented and a lovely person.

Darlene took this beautiful photo.

As I write this, it is about ten in the morning on New Year’s Eve. We have to be out of here in about two hours, and while we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here, we are sad to see it end. Neither Darlene nor I are interested in leaving–we want to stay and write for as long as we can. Reality, however, has an annoying habit of beckoning. A beckon that cannot always be resisted.

2021 was challenging in so many ways. This was the perfect way to end it. Here’s hoping for a better 2022.

Critical Race Theory: Not Actually A Thing, Reprise

December 31, 2021

It was just five months ago I first wrote about this controversy. I am not fond of returning to topics in which I have made my views abundantly clear, but if these last few months have shown us anything it’s that this is not an issue that is disappearing anytime soon. It is futile to simply point out that Christopher Rufo and his cronies at the Manhattan Institute don’t know what Critical Race Theory actually is. As Rufo makes clear, he doesn’t care what it means. He just want to ensure that any culture war item he and other conservatives object to finds itself attached to it. In other words, his objection isn’t intellectual or even moral–it’s strategic.

Certainly, public education as a battlefield for the culture war is not exactly a new concept–we are fast approaching the 100 year anniversary of the Scopes Trial. The rise of the Moral Majority in the 1980s with the likes of William Bennett and Edwin Meese and their dire prognostications of A Nation at Risk almost pass for quaint four decades on.

So this isn’t new. But why is it happening now?

There are few possible explanations for this. The mainstreaming of Black Lives Matter has no doubt frightened some who were quite happy to dismiss the organization as a violent, fringe group. It is much harder to dismiss them as such when the name of their movement appears on your Amazon.com log in page. Those that are quite content never having to confront the challenges of racism often don’t take kindly to an insistent voice that reminds them of their moral obligation to do otherwise. Railing against Critical Race Theory and the teaching of antiracism and cultural diversity is a way back home–if we get those things (whether real or imagined) out of the school, we can go back to not thinking about it.

This may account for some of the backlash. But I don’t think that’s all or even most of it. To really get at the heart of what’s happening, we need to travel back to pre-COVID America, which was really just two years ago.

In pre-COVID America, there was a group of people called education reformers, who were desperately trying to dismantle the public school system. They wanted to replace it with vouchers, or private schools, or for profit charter schools. To do so, they had to emphasize the need for high stakes testing ( to manufacture the data of failure), demonize teachers unions as organizations that protected the jobs of child molesters, insist that enthusiastic young college graduates with no job protections were ideal teachers, and even better: you could be protected from the potential sex offender teaching your kid algebra by a face on a computer screen. This was all for the endgame of turning education into a profitable venture for investors.

Moreover, this approach was working, so much so that mainstream Democrats like Rahm Emmanuel, Cory Booker and…Barack Obama became enthusiastic supporters of the reformers’ agenda long before Betsy DeVos became Secretary of Education. It was looking good for the reformers.

Then the pandemic hit, and suddenly no one could go to their local school. And something remarkable happened–parents suddenly realized how difficult a job it was to be a school teacher, and perhaps teachers were not overpaid, lazy leeches on the taxpayer. Many teachers worked hard to engaged their students in distance learning, showed up at students’ homes with a Chromebook and donated food, organized end-of-year car parades, and dropped off personal, individually printed graduation signs to seniors stuck at home. In short, teachers started to become popular, and taxpayers started to think of their schools as the community centers they were always intended to be.

And everyone realized that distance learning should not be the future of education because it sucks.

So what were the reformers to do? Their entire agenda had been debunked by a coronavirus. They had a choice–admit they got it wrong and support local schools, or reframe their objections in a way that would galvanize a different kind of outrage. Spoiler alert–they picked the latter.

So the problem with schools now is that they are indoctrinating students with anti-racism (why teaching only a Eurocentric version of history does not count as indoctrination is never explained), forcing students to surrender their constitutional freedoms to mask mandates (which are usually put in place by state governors, but it’s much easier to harass school boards because they tend to lack armed bodyguards), and offering recognition of transgender students (which overall bothers parents way more than students). In other words, a channel for outrage and apprehension at a moment when large swaths of our population are overwhelmed with anxiety and feel an alarming lack of control.

You have to hand it to the reformers. They do know how to read the room. If only they would put their energy into actual problems with public education (poor funding, lack of qualified administrators, too much high stakes testing) they might become part of the solution, instead of generating most of the problems.

But that approach won’t make any profits for investors.

…And Then This Happened

December 29, 2021

I had thought that the performance of one of my plays by the US Army in Germany would likely be the most exciting thing that would happen to me as a writer this year (even considering the two Zoom readings of another play.) It turned out to not even be the most exciting thing to happen in the month of September.

Over the summer, I watched a free webinar from Ela Thier, who aside from having an impressive career as a filmmaker (sixteen IMDb credits as a writer, director, producer, actor and editor) also runs an online film school. I am always looking for individuals who can help me get my scripts over any humps they may face and into the hands of producers. I thought Ela would be someone worth listening to–online classes and webinars are a dime a dozen, but only a few are taught by individuals with success in the industry. After viewing the webinar, I signed up for her pitching and screenwriting classes, and enjoyed her approach to teaching and crafting scripts.

In September, she announced that she would begin a new venture through the film school–a mentorship program. Although I was slightly intimidated by the price, I thought perhaps this, more than online classes, might be what I really need to take the next step in my career. I sent Ela my writing sample and scheduled a Zoom meet. If nothing else, it was certainly worth exploring.

The Zoom meet was not quite what I expected. Ela told me that she was very impressed with my writing sample, and asked me questions that I assumed were solely to ascertain my writing practice: “Can you work quickly?” “Are you good at research?” “How do you do collaborating with others?” It wasn’t until later I realized what was really happening: this was a job interview.

Ela let me know that while she would love to have me in the mentorship program, she has something else in mind: she wants to develop one of her features (Tomorrow Ever After) into a television series. It would be a science fiction dramedy on the climate emergency. She thought I might be the person to help her create and write the series.

Um…what…?

As caught off guard as I was, it didn’t stop me from realizing what a remarkable opportunity this was. I agreed to audition through some writing assignments, and also to take some time and see if this was a collaboration with which we were each comfortable. Since then, we have exchanged scenes and ideas, while I have shared the notes from extensive research on time travel and the climate emergency. One recent weekend, we worked together on Zoom to revise the series’ pitch deck and bible. I think it is safe to say it is working.

I was telling my close friend and filmmaker Brant Smith how odd this is that I am working on a sci-fi series, since none of my screenplays and stage plays have anything to do with this genre. Brant reminded me that I have been a sci-fi fan since I was a kid; I wrote and submitted a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode when I was in college; and I have taught the paradoxes of time travel in my philosophy class for the last two decades. He summed it up:

“You have been preparing for this job your whole life!”

Greetings from the US Army

December 28, 2021

Don’t worry, I haven’t enlisted. The title is the opening sentence of an email I received in August from someone named Amy Kosby, who has the rather lengthy title of Program Analyst, G9, Copyrights and Royalties, Leisure Travel, Arts and Crafts, Installation Management Command. In short, it’s her job to locate and obtain entertainment for active U.S. Army members.

The rest of her message continued:  “I am the Music/Theatre program manager for the U.S. Army and I have a theater in Kaiserslautern Germany that is interested in performing ARCHETYPES IN REHAB.” Archetypes in Rehab was performed at the 2017 Play in a Day Festival at the Playhouse on Park Theatre in West Hartford, Connecticut. It was a play I had written overnight sitting in theatre in which it would be performed the very next night. Four years later (almost to the day), I was receiving a request to have the play performed again. By the United States Army. For troops stationed in Germany. And I would be paid royalties.

I have had some surreal things happen to me, but this one was hard to beat. I immediately began to suspect that it was some sort of scam…but to what end? They were not asking for my social security number, or any other sensitive information. It was also very elaborate–if it was a scam, someone decided to make up Amy Kosby, a story about staging my play in Germany, and each communication written with the various bureaucratic flourishes of unclassified military communication. It was a long way for a scammer to go for not much payoff.

Actress Sarah Kozlowski, performing Archetypes in Rehab at the Playhouse on Park Theatre, August 2017

It also appeared that my play was discovered on the New Play Exchange, which exists as a place for producers to locate plays for possible production. In other words, Ms. Kosby found Archetypes in Rehab in a place that was designed specifically for that purpose. With suspicions largely corralled by my sense of reason, I gave permission for the performance. Ms. Kosby then requested an invoice for royalties, and she would be certain to send a check when the performance was completed.

I immediately contacted members of my playwright network, unsure of what a playwright with few credits in front of a nonpaying military audience should charge for royalties. With their advice on board, I submitted an invoice to the United States Army. There were, indeed, a lot firsts for me in this transaction.

Ms. Kosby thanked me for the invoice, and let me know that the four performances would be September 17-18 and 24-25. I would have loved to have hopped on a plane to Germany to see the performance–I imagine it wouldn’t have been too difficult to arrange a pass, and it was hardly likely the play would be performed in the most secure wings of the base. However, it just wasn’t practical or financially viable. So I was left to hope for the best.

I still have no idea how the performances went, or how the audience reacted. I do know that my very first royalty check as a playwright arrived in the mail around the first of October.

Plenty of Distance, Not Much Learning

July 23, 2021

Those of us who are professional educators probably want to shoot the next administrator who starts a conversation and/or email that begins with the phrase “In these unprecedented times…” Not only is it an unnecessary modifier (does it actually deepen our understanding of what follows?), it is intolerably cliché. It reminds me of a line from the television show Doc Martin:

“If it goes without saying, why are you saying it?”

Of course, what ostensibly makes these times “unprecedented” is the global Coronavirus pandemic. Historians, however, might take exception to that statement. There have been many pandemics in history (Live Science lists the twenty worst here) so it seems facile to describe this pandemic, as awful as it is, as unprecedented. However, one thing that is unequivocally without precedent is the affect that COVID-19 has had upon educational instructions. When the Spanish Flu (which originated in Kansas) hit a century ago, approximately 60% of children attended schools. Today, that percentage is approximately 96. So the Kansas Spanish Flu affected schools had to figure out how to continue to educate a significantly smaller percentage of the population than today. Of course, their response was just to keep kids in school, as many of the urban schools at the time offered better hygiene than could be found in tenements and crowded neighborhoods. Today, the decision was made to keep students at home and continue to educate them remotely via their internet connection.

Even though it’s been seventeen months since the pandemic shut down schools last spring, I have not chimed in about the phenomenon of distance/remote learning. The reason is I wanted to spend some time experiencing the different forms, study the research and put careful thought into deciding how I felt about it. My knee-jerk reaction is that it was going to be terrible, but I felt teachers had an obligation to make it work as well as we possibly could. So, I chose to keep an open mind and see if reality and research affirmed or refuted my initial reaction. And after a year and a half of experience, discussions with colleagues and students, and a dive into the research, what is my conclusion?

It is terrible.

First of all, there are a variety of distance learning models that school districts have imposed: one is full distance learning, where every student is at home and the teacher instructs via computer. There is hybrid, wherein half the class is at home and the other half in school for part of the week, then switch places for the rest of the week. Then there is the live stream model wherein some students are in school every day of the week, and others are home every day. Since last March, I have taught using all of these models. While the live stream model is far and away the best approach, it is by no means an ideal way to teach.

Do not get me wrong: I am aware there are students who do well with this model, because they are independent and self motivated. They, however, also do well when they attend in person class, so it’s hard to make the case that remote learning is somehow preferable for those students. I also had three students do well enough to pass my class last year once they were at home, as they were no longer distracted by their social groups and no longer incentivized to blow off their work because it was “cool” to fail classes. I firmly believe that these students would not have passed my class had they continued their in person learning.

Having said that, the number of students who did not succeed dwarfed the number that did. It’s not difficult to see why. For many young people, the ability to focus on academics is challenging enough in an school environment that is conducive to academic focus. Take that away, and then leave students in a place where they are surrounded by all of the things that compete even more heavily for their attention. You don’t need to be on staff at Columbia Teachers College to ascertain what is going to happen next (or what is not going to happen).

That doesn’t take into consideration the students with learning disabilities and/or are neurologically atypical. Many need the structure and the tactile instruction essential for them to learn. Many cannot learn at home without parental support, and if parents are working, there is none to be had. Many students also don’t’ possess a device or quality Wi-Fi in their homes, which makes it very difficult to attend class regularly. Over the next several years, you can expect a significant number of civil rights lawsuits for students with disabilities who did not succeed distance learning.

There is also the social aspect. Whilst anyone who teaches is aware the texted that students engage in what appears to be largely unnecessary drama, and are not always kind to each other, most of them need the social interaction that school provides. As you have no doubt experienced yourself, spending a day at a computer screen interacting with others is paradoxically isolating. Our brains really require the physical presence of others to feel any meaningful connection. For young people who are still developing emotional intelligence (and still lack fully formed frontal lobes), the dearth of social interaction could end up having the most acute long term affects on the students.

There’s also the physical aspect. It is simply not healthy to sit and stare at a computer screen for hours upon end. Aside from the somatic stress on your body from sitting, absorbing the persistent screen radiation is draining for both students and teachers. Yes, we sit a lot at school and use our computers, but there are other types of classes (art, music, physical education) that can offer relief from sitting and staring at a screen. Even walking the hallway or the stairs to the next class is good for you. All of those benefits vanish during distance learning.

As my friend and colleague Nick Ferroni points out, teaching is a vocation built upon relationships. We succeed largely based upon how well we can nurture those relationships. It encourages students to trust us, to cooperate and put in their best efforts, and allows us to immediately intervene when students are not putting in their best efforts or are struggling emotionally. It is very difficult–if not impossible–to form those types of relationships with someone on a computer screen. As Nick puts it, remote learning takes away the best tool we have to be effective.

The research is bearing all of this out. Students are not as successful, they don’t enjoy distance learning, and they are finding that it is adding unnecessary stress to their lives at a time when life is stressful enough, thanks very much. Of course , the problem is scalable: while it is preferable to have some or even most students in the classroom, the percentage that are struggling with distance learning remains static. Of course, while many school districts have said they will return to full time in class learning this fall, we know what could all change depending on vaccination rates and the vigor of the Delta Variant.

Thus, distance learning isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that it is an effective model. While it may be necessary to once again resort to it. it will at best be a necessary evil.

Critical Race Theory: Not Actually a Thing

July 13, 2021

Just to be clear, I don’t mean to suggest that Critical Race Theory doesn’t exist. It clearly does, mostly as an elective in law schools. My title instead refers to the paranoid accusations voiced by mostly conservative politicians claiming that Critical Race Theory is a common topic taught in public elementary, middle and high schools throughout the country. These accusations have prompted angry denunciations, the establishment of “patriotic” commissions, and laws outlawing the practice.

Here’s the problem: no public primary or secondary school teaches Critical Race Theory in any history or social studies class. Not one.

This phenomenon is vaguely reminiscent of the laws passed a few years ago ensuring that “Sharia Law” is banned in various states, counties and municipalities (presumably unaware that something called “the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States” already outlaws that). It would be easy to dismiss it all as political posturing. The easiest political thing to do is ban something that doesn’t exist. In a few years, when everyone finally realizes it doesn’t exist, you can take political credit for getting rid of it.

It goes much deeper than that, however. There is clearly something at play here that is far more insidious. Most politicians who are opposed to Critical Race Theory couldn’t tell you what it actually is, but their actions are telling us what they really want: ban teaching about racism.

I, for one, have taught about racism for years. It is very difficult to teach history and avoid it (although your average high school textbook does an impressive job). It is hard to teach about the establishment of European colonies or Westward Expansion without teaching about racism. One cannot truly learn about the American Revolution outside of the context of racism–look at the final complaint against King George from the Declaration of Independence. There’s a reason historian Gary Nash called the Revolution “The largest slave uprising in American history.” Moreover, it is difficult to teach about the great economic expansion of the United States without teaching about racism. And it is close to impossible to teach the Civil War without teaching about racism.

I will also confess to teaching about racism in an unbalanced way: I teach that racism is bad, and I don’t feel compelled to teach the other side of that argument. Certain controversies in history lend themselves well to differences of opinion–the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, for instance. Other topics do not need to be treated in such a way. When I teach the Holocaust, I don’t balance my teaching with the views of Holocaust deniers. Similarly, I feel no need to balance my teaching that racism is bad with the perspective that racism is good.

So why is there so much hostility to teaching about racism? We hear a great deal of spurious arguments, none of which are particularly convincing. Teaching about racism divides us (no, that’s actual racism). Teaching about racism is racist because it claims all white people are racist (no one is teaching all white people are racist–we don’t get our curriculum from Lewis Farrakhan) . Learning about racism leads young people to hate their country (I presume they mean to question authority. This of course has nothing to do with teaching racism. This is called “being a teenager.”) Learning about racism is history is “lying.” No, teaching that racism wasn’t a factor in history, the Civil War was about states’ rights, and erecting “patriotic” statues to honor people who started a war to maintain white supremacy is lying about history.

Since none of these arguments are in any way coherent, it raises the question about what is really happening here. If there is one thing the last twelve or so months have forced us to confront is something that should have become obvious thirty years ago when we first learned the name Rodney King: there is something called institutional racism, and it’s a problem. It’s the reason black people are significantly more likely to be killed by police officers than whites. It’s the reason that black people are significantly less likely than whites to have their medical complaints taken seriously. It’s the reason black families are charged more for life, health, and home insurance than whites. If you live in an urban area with a mostly black neighborhood, you may have noticed it’s separated from the rest of the city by a multilane interstate. That’s not an accident.

Of course, confronting this injustice in our society would require us to carefully examine, analyze, and dialogue about the extent that racism is built into our societal institutions, facing the history of how it became baked in to those institutions, developing an understanding of how these same institutions have reinforced white privilege, and using this discussion to develop strategies for reform. This is really hard, but fortunately, there is a notion that can help us approach such an endeavor: it’s called Critical Race Theory.

It is a tremendous irony that actual Critical Race Theory is a tool we could use to confront systemic racism, but many in our society would much prefer to create a Dwayne Johnson-sized Straw Man and attack that instead. It makes it easy to avoid the hard work needed to address racism in this country. People (and let’s face it–mostly white people) can go on pretending that Martin Luther King ended racism, and now there’s Barack and Oprah, so we’re good! Of course, one of the problems with this historical narrative is that it is largely inaccurate. You know what would solve that?

The actual teaching of history.

Zooming “Invincible Summer”

July 5, 2021

Let’s face it: Zoom is not the ideal way to experience theatre. It is arguably not the ideal way to experience any form of communication, but this is now the world in which we live. Thus, it was not without some level of trepidation that I approached my first virtual play reading.

Don’t get me wrong: I was honored and excited to receive a call from theatre director/producer Dana Sachs. Dana said he had read my play, really liked it, and wanted to stage a reading using the actors from the Caravan Theatre Company of Cheshire, Connecticut to stage a reading on Zoom. He said he already had the actors in mind for the cast, and just needed my go ahead. The play had not been read by actors for nearly five years, and this was the first time there had been any activity about the play since my agent passed away last year from Covid-19. I enthusiastically said yes.

This was a far different experience than the last time a reading was staged for “Invincible Summer.” Previously I worked closely with the producer, was involved in the selection of the director and actors, and reserving the theater space. I also paid for the reading. Once Dana had my go ahead, he handled the casting, the technological arrangements, and the publicity. It was odd not to be involved, but also liberating to trust a professional to handle all of the details.

My trust was well-founded. Dana assembled an excellent cast: Mark Gilchrist, Christie Maturo, Olena Hodges, Allan Church, Frank Dicaro, Vickie Blake, Jack B. Levine, and Elizabeth Harnett. I was anxious about how actors would interact in such a format, not being in the same room, and never appearing on screen together. I needn’t have worried–the cast and director worked hard to ensure the play flowed and moved as seamlessly as possible. I was also impressed with how hard the cast worked on the details: getting into costume, collecting props, selecting backdrops from their screens that were germane to the setting and the characters. Each cast member dug deep to find the emotional core of each character, and revealed nuances I didn’t realize they had. It also revealed to me some areas of improvement that I needed to address in the play. In short, it was exactly what I had hoped for.

The invite with cast list to the play reading

After the reading, Dana received an email from a friend of his who watched the reading. She had this to say:

“I cannot remember if I told you, but [my husband] died in September 2020 after a rapidly and eventually very debilitating case of Parkinson’s. So the show had special meaning for me. I felt compassionately seen and deeply understood by the author. I think that [my husband] would have felt the same, had he been alive to see it. The show had me in tears, in a good way. It was a relief I certainly didn’t expect, but which I greatly appreciated.All my best wishes to the author. If this show is any evidence, he is a very impressive, deeply compassionate, and insightful person. And I thought the performances were just magnificent. They rang so true and honest. Of course, I know they had a wise, highly competent, and very intelligent director. You did a great job!This play and this production are a gift to all, but especially to those of who have either been directly affected by this terrible disease, or watched someone close go through it. Again, I cannot thank you and everyone else enough for all your efforts, and for sharing such a deeply moving work of art.”

As a writer, I don’t believe I have ever received a higher compliment.

There is more ahead for “Invincible Summer,” including another reading in August, and hopefully its stage debut in Brooklyn this fall.

In the meantime, if you’d like to watch a recording of the Zoom reading, it is attached below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DFEURBqbdoIKUJjmJ87DaSTGW7cBHgui/view?usp=sharing

The Haircut that Changed My Life

April 21, 2021

No, this is not the title of my first YA novel (although, not bad, I daresay.) This is literally the story of how I moved from a 500 square foot apartment to a two story, two bedroom house in less than a month. And it did all start with a haircut.

Dorrie has been cutting my hair for 21 years. When I started going to her, she was in her early twenties, not too many years removed from cosmetology school. Now, in addition to being a veteran hair stylist, she also runs her own business, holds a real estate license, and is a landlord. About fifteen years ago, she purchased a seen-better-days house in Old Saybrook, one of the more scenic coastal towns in Connecticut (and the former home of one Katherine Hepburn).

Dorrie put a lot of time, energy and money into the property and has been renting it out ever since. Given that I was now in a place in my life I was interested and ready to move into a house, I decided that at my next haircut I would inquire about the property. Even though it would be a change from the quiet, rural lifestyle I had enjoyed for the last twenty odd years, it was two blocks away from the water, and a fifteen minute walk to a town center packed with cafes, a bookstore, restaurants, and even a Ben & Jerrys. Being near the sea and having a sidewalk life is something I have missed since my college days in Santa Cruz. How fortuitous it would be if Dorrie’s rental would be available this summer–the ideal time for teacher’s to relocate.

I never even got a chance to ask. When we were exchanging the usual pleasantries (“How was your weekend?” ) she mentioned that she spent the entire weekend cleaning the house, because her tenants had just moved out. I asked if she had yet found a new tenant, and she had not. I told her I was very interested and would love to see the place. She agreed to show it me the following weekend.

Three and a half weeks after the haircut, I was moving in.

Packing and organizing a move that quickly in the winter while I am working every day was stressful, yet somehow I managed to get it done. The hardest part was asking my good friends and landlords Jason and Amy if they would be willing to let me out of my lease early. I am very fond of them both (and their entire family), and when I moved into the apartment above their garage five years ago it was exactly what I needed. I was recently divorced, financially beleaguered, and the apartment (and their company) in a beautiful country setting was comforting and healing. But it was now time to move on. Happily, they understood, and we quickly came to an amenable financial arrangement.

So here I am in my lovely new home, in a beautiful, charming seaside town. Given it is my spring break, I decided to take a couple of days to take my own writing retreat (since the one I usually attend in January was preempted by COVID). As I write this, I can smell the sea on the breeze coming in through the window. Two blocks away, at the South Cove, two osprey are protecting their eggs in a nest, where there are egrets, swans and cormorants (and even deer) hunting and resting in the nearby salt marshes.

And on Easter, Darlene’s son and grandkids were here, and we all comfortably fit. There are few things in my life that would prompt me feel more grateful,

All of this makes me wonder: what life altering event will follow my next haircut?

So Not Tired of Winning

December 29, 2020

I know I haven’t posted in a while. Teaching, as you can imagine, has become an energy-sucking challenge, forcing some projects to the back burner. Sadly, this blog found itself stuck behind the saute pan and the teapot. Today I intend to move it the front.

I do have much to say about the current state of teaching. I have been so immersed in it over the last four months that I felt I needed some time to process and develop any real perspective. I think I am just about prepared to begin commenting on it–but not this time. Instead, I want to offer something of an overview of my year in writing.

Of course, this year was ghastly in so many ways. Aside from the Covid-19 pandemic, I lost my mother this year. I also lost my agent and his husband to the coronavirus, and Darlene’s mother also passed away. It has been a frustrating, exhausting, heartbreaking year.

And it’s an awful cliche, the worse kind perhaps, to say that life still goes on. And of course, it does. In spite of everything that went wrong this year, there were some things that went right. I’d like to share those with you, if you can pardon the self indulgence.

February

I am interviewed by the Wordpeace blog.

April

I learn that I have been named a writer-in-residence at Trail Wood, the historical home of naturalist Edwin Way Teale.

May

Darlene and I take a storytelling class together. We enter our very first story slam–and I win (scroll down to the audio files to hear my story).

June

My screenplay “Ashes” reaches the finals in the StoryPros Screenplay Contest. I submit a revised copy to the contest again and reach the finals a second time in December.

July

My play “Invincible Summer” reaches the semifinal round of the American Association of Community Theater’s annual new play festival

August

“Ashes” finishes fourth in the annual Writer’s Digest Competition. Another screenplay I entered in the contest, “Ravine,” receives an Honorable Mention.

A poem entitled “Relics” is accepted for publication in the Schuylkill Valley Journal.

September

A poem entitled “The King is Dead” is accepted for publication for the Wising Up Anthology called “Goodness.”

“Invincible Summer” reaches the quarterfinals of the Screencraft Stage Play Contest.

November

A screenplay entitled “Season of Mists” reaches the quarterfinal round in the Emerging Screenwriters competition.

“Invincible Summer” is accepted into the Jocunda Music, Film and Theatre Festival.

December

“Season of Mists” is a winner in the Madras Independent Film Festival.

“Ashes” reaches the finals for the Visionfest Screenwriting Competition.

“Season of Mists” is selected for the Kalakari Film Festival.

Being a typical insecure writer, it is easy for me to focus on the festivals and contests I didn’t win–especially ones I have placed in before. But that is a rabbit hole no one wishes to fall down. I am doing my best to focus on the positive, and as you can see, there is reason to do so.

In one of the few times I will ever paraphrase the President, I have not gotten tired of winning. We’ll see if I start to get tired in 2021…

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