Sunday, May 31, 2015

Day #146: West Side Success

Cheri and Patti Finley enjoyed well-deserved accolades as the audience members fell in love with the world of West Side Story. It was a great opening night. It always helps when you offer free wine.

But even without alcohol, people are going to love this production. We've got a tight-knit cast and some wonderful voices.

Speaking of the theater, I have volunteered to serve on the board of the Canyon Theatre Guild. I had planned to return to this service -- but I was hoping I'd be a millionaire, and that whenever a problem arose instead of debating what to do, I'd just write a big fat check and toss it onto the boardroom table.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Day #145: I'm Getting Serious About Drawing

I've got this story I want to tell... and it needs to be a comic book... or a graphic novel, or something of that nature.

So, I've been drawing up a storm the last few days, and it feels really good. I've never been a professional caliber artist... I don't know that I'd even consider myself a talented amateur. However, I have been doodling all of my life. I've gone through phases, starting in elementary school, in which I would constantly draw. It started with an obsession with the Peanuts comics. It was reignited in my teens with Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes.

In junior high, I spent a whole school year drawing a comic book called "Ninja Man." And when I worked at the Grand Cinemas, I spent most of my box office time drawing "Space Bounty Hunters." Those creative, just-for-fun projects didn't shape me into the next Jack Kirby. But as I've returned yet again to the drawing board, I'm realizing that many of those cartooning instincts are still in tact.

I don't know if anyone will like this new story. And I don't know if I'll ever be able to draw well enough to be the one to tell it... But I'm gonna do my best.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Day #144: How Do You Pronounce... ???

Today, I used all of my (so-called) free time scanning through my notes, making sure that "Around the World in a Bathtub" is as accurate as possible. I've also been trying to finish writing the glossary, and the most daunting part of that process is creating the pronunciation tips in the parenthesis.

It's fun but very challenging research. This is the first time in my life that I've ever wished that I majored in linguistics.

But that feeling passed very quickly.

"Around the World in a Bathtub" will be in bookstores next year, all thanks to my editor Alyssa and the good folks at Charlesbridge Publishing.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Day #143: A Bad Blogger Habit

I have picked up a bad blogger habit. It's called procrastination. Instead of writing one blog per day, I've allowed the days to stack up, and then after a week passes I frantically try to make up for it by writing seven blogs at once.

I've been doing this for about a month now. Hopefully my awareness will make this bad habit go away.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Day #142: Awesome "Vicky" Monologue

Vicky is a character from a short play of mine called, Cinema Limbo, which takes place in the world of "Enjoy Your Show," a novel about the "Royal Cinemas."

As I've stated before, a lot of Youtube monologues involve people sitting in front of their computer doing a cold reading of a script. So, I really admire it when there's a professional and cinematic quality to these monologues.

Belinda Vargas has definitely created my favorite version of Vicky so far.

Day #141: Around the World in a Bathtub (Revisions)

I've been enjoying the revision process for my latest picture book. My editor at Charlesbridge is very insightful (and friendly).

I'm currently fine-tuning some of the back matter and the glossary portions of the book. I can't wait to find out who the illustrator will be!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day #140: Drawing Ducks

Onto my next bright idea... I'm drawing ducks today. Lot's of ducks. I'm not particularly good at drawing ducks... yet. But I'm hoping to get better because there's a story/comic I'm hoping to draw this summer. More details coming soon...

I might even post some pictures.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day #139: Letting the Bad Ideas Come and Go

I'm on a quest to generate more children's books... and that means coming up with new ideas. Not all of my ideas are going to be winners, and that's okay. Sometimes I need to let myself come up with garbage p- just to get it out of my system. And, on rare occasions, I find gems in the junk.

Today's trash is a picture book idea about a dad who cannot find the family car, and so they wander lost in the parking lot. I wrote the beginning and the end... and I outlined the middle (very briefly). I worked on it enough to know that it's not the right project for me to spend a lot of time and energy on... but it was still productive in the sense that I figured out a suitable ending (one of my many challenges as a writer).

Now it's time to search for the next idea!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Day #138: Mad Max!!!

Last night I watched Mad Max: Fury Road. LOVED IT! It's my favorite movie so far this year.

As I said in a recent Facebook Post:

Awesomeness = Watching Mad Max race across the desert.
Disappointment = Driving away from the movie theater in a minivan.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Day #137: Set Build for "West Side Story"

Cheri is the co-director for the Canyon Theatre Guild's upcoming production of West Side Story.

So, we've been working as a family to help bring 1950s New York to life. Mack is doing the lighting design (with the help of John Morris). Emily has been helping us paint and build -- and she'll be running the spotlight. I'll be working back stage, and today I helped move stuff back and forth from the Annex.

In other news, I've been reformatting Camp Omigosh. I guess I've been doing the tab indentation wrong all these years. Skyrocket Press wants it to be .3 and I've been indenting the paragraphs at .5. Silly me.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Day #136: CSI: Wonderland - Live On Stage!

I had a fun and fulfilling evening of theater. I watched the drama students of JFK High School (in Granada Hills) bring my play to life. This was the first time I have ever seen CSI: Wonderland -- and I was very pleased with the production. The tech team worked very hard, they built these eally cool glow-in-the-dark mushrooms, and the costumes were just what you would hope for. Best of all, the actors were very funny and energetic. Lots of laughs from the audience -- which is always an ego boost as I sit in the darkened auditorium. The director/teacher did a marvelous job, working with a lot of young people who are completely new to the Theatre.

Day #135: Visiting LACMA

I forgot to mention our big outing from yesterday. Mackenzie and I visited LACMA. I had never been, but she's a seasoned museum patron, and she had a good time showing me around.

They had a bunch of Picasso's work! They also had a few pieces I can't help giggling at... Anytime there's a canvas that's simply been painted black -- giggles ensue.

In other news, I finished and revised a draft of my new goat picture book. I sent it off to Abi, but I know she's preparing for a trip to NYC, and she's got a lot of other stuff on her plate, so it might be a while before she responds.

I'm also not sure how great this new book is.... it's light and fluffy and (hopefully) funny... But I'm not sure if it has that WOW factor that so many editors are seeking.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Day #134: Time Unfortunately Flies When You Are Having Fun

I just sat down to catch up on my posts, and I suddenly realized that it's been seven days since I've blogged!

I'm only a week into my summer break, but I already feel like time is going way too fast! Slow down, summer!

To be as productive as possible, I've put a calendar on my door that lists all of my free days until fall semester. Each day that goes by, I plan to accomplish at least one step in the creative projects I'm working on.

Today's project: I developed an idea for a new picture book. (It's actually my third picture book this week, but the other ones were lousy. This one is about two goats that attend a fancy party.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Day #133: Playscripts and Pioneer Drama Service

I've often blogged about my playwriting experiences with Eldridge and Heuer Plays. Both of them are wonderful companies, and they've supported my playwriting career since the early 2000s. But i do have a few other plays published with other companies... in particular, I've got my one-act comedy "How to Kiss a Girl" at Playscripts and "Stagecraft" and "Downton Zombie" at Pioneer.

I should really write more one-acts for these guys, because these shows have been taking off! The cool thing about Playscripts is that they send writers a royalty check every couple months, so you don't have to wait a whole year to see how your play is doing financially.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Day #132: The Last Day of Spring Semester

I gave my students their final exam today... Now summer break officially begins.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Day #131: And the Money Keeps Trickling In!

My self-published plays earned another small royalty check: $32.60.

That brings my challenge total up to $716.30. I'm slowing inching my way to the thousand dollar mark!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Day #130: Cleaning My Office

Most writers tend to procrastinate, and I tend to procrastinate more than most writers.

One of the things we do before writing is look around our environment and decide we cannot do anything creative until we clean this place up.

So, today, I am going to clean and straighten my office.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Day #129: Wade's Workshop at Showdown Con

For the first time ever, I'll be presenting a workshop for a writer's conference! It's the first annual Showdown Writer's Conference, and it's in Santa Clarita on October 24th.

Here's the workshop in a nutshell:

"Thinking Like A Playwright"
Instructor: Flip Kobler

Whether you’re a novelist, poet, or author, thinking like a playwright can expand and enhance your current project. This hands-on workshop will teach you how to get lean & mean on character, write kickin' dialog and create a page-turning plot. In addition, you’ll get some serious pros on the benefits of writing a play, plus get plenty of nuts & bolts info on getting published, getting produced and getting some doubloons in your pocket.

"Play Writing 101: Diving Into the Magical World of Stage Plays"
Instructor: Wade Bradford

Wade Bradford has been writing plays for fun and profit since 1999. In this workshop, he will teach you about scene work, character development, plot, stage directions, as well as the publishing world of plays for children, teens, and community theater. Come prepared with an idea to begin your play-writing project.

After those two sessions, Flip will teach another class -- this one will focus on Screenplay writing. 

This is only one of several tracks. They've also got a great fiction program. If you live in the area and want to find out more about entering the writing business, check out the Showdown Conference Website.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Day #128: CSI: Wonderland in Forks, Washington

The drama students of Forks High School are putting on a production of my play, CSI: Wonderland. Based on this photo, it looks like it's going to be a whole lotta fun!

Here's an excerpt from an article from the Peninsula Daily:

"Whether you're into “Alice in Wonderland,” “Peter Pan” or television's “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” there's something here for you. 

So promises Lauren Decker, aka Agent Tink in Forks High School's spring show opening tonight and running through Sunday. 

“CSI: Wonderland” brings a 16-member cast — replete with the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit — to the Forks High School Commons stage, 261 Spartan Ave. 

Curtain times are 7 p.m. today and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with all seats at $5.

The “Alice in Wonderland” cadre has a crime to solve: Someone has beheaded the King of Hearts, and it's up to the Mad Hatter and Alice to find the truth and clear Alice's name before the Queen of Hearts gets to her."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Day #127: Cankersores


I've got two cankersore  -- one underneath my tongue, one on the side of my tongue. Both are incredibly painful. Not emergency room painful -- but painful enough so that I don't want to do anything creative. I just want to go to sleep until my body heals my mouth.

In other news, today was the penultimate final. One more day of school (this Tuesday) and then I'll have gobs of free time. And hopefully a pain-free tongue!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Day #126: Wrangling Rejection

I was tempted to title this article "Dealing with Rejection," but what does that verb "deal" even mean? To me, it has the connotation of card games. It makes me think of Hearts -- when you're dealt that deadly Queen of Spades and you have to decide if you want to keep it or pass it along to another sucker at the table.

"Dealing" also makes me think of "wheeling and dealing," as if I am working at a used car lot, and I'm trying to convince a customer to but a Ford Pinto that has been "well-loved" by its previous owner. That kind of "dealing" seems like a form of self-deception. Or it could be deflection -- you're passing this lemon onto somebody or something else. The same way we'd like to pass the blame onto someone else when we get a rejection from an agent or a publishing house. "They just don't know how brilliant I am! It's their loss!"

I used to "deal" with rejection letters by ignoring them. It was easy when I was young. Most of my rejections were soulless form letters, and since the editors/agents put little effort into giving me feedback, I put very little effort into feeling rejected.

But that changed when my writing improved and people began to send me "thoughtful" rejection letters. That's when you get some encouragement, some positive criticism, but it ultimately ends in a "no thank you." Those ones were painful. Sure, I was happy to receive the praise... but it was frustrating to get so close to publication, only to ultimately get handed a big fat NO.

When my first play was finally published (this was back in 1999) I had been a sniveling author for about 13 years of my life. (I say "sniveling" instead of "struggling" because my best friend and wife Cheri made my life the opposite of a struggle -- but I sure did whine a lot during those early writing years.) After that first small but meaningful success, it was easier to absorb the sting of rejections.

Today, I still snivel. But I sell a lot more plays, and I've got a few books sold as well. I don't whine nearly as much. Rejection still hurts. It still annoys me. It's still frustrating. But I don't try to "deal" with those feelings, that is to say I don't try to deflect them or argue against them. I don't curse the publishing industry whilst shaking my fist at the sky.

I listen. And I learn. And I allow myself to feel however the rejection makes me feel. I don't wallow in misery, but I don't automatically try to turn that frown upside down. Two days ago, I received some very insightful notes from an editor and, you can guess where this is going, she ultimately decided to pass on the project. I wasn't terribly surprised, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. So I let myself feel disappointment, going over the comments as many times as I like. I've been wrangling this rejection for the past 48 hours, and now I've got a ton of creative energy, and a better understanding of what that particular editor is looking for, as well as ideas on how to continue to improve my writing. Oh, and along the way my frown has turned upside down, all by itself.

Rejection used to hit me like a stampede. It would trample my ego for weeks on end. There's no way to "wheel and deal" a herd of cattle when it charges in your direction. But there is a way to wrangle those beasts and make them work for you!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Day #125: Challenge Total Update - Middle of May Edition

Good news regarding my quest to generate more income in 2015. (In case you are new to the blog, one of my New Year's Resolutions is to earn an extra $20,000 of income.)

I got a royalty check from one of my play publishing companies. It turns out that "Stagecraft: the Video Game" is doing quite well. Also, "Downton Zombie" has been received a few productions at various schools. The check was over $700, which was a pleasant surprise. $200 of that will be going towards my challenge amount (the rest is part of our family's general fund for bills and such.)

That means the current challenge total has gone from $483.70 to $683.70.  We'll get there yet!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Day #124: Amazing Monologues -- Performed by Melissa Freson

I am endlessly flattered by the young performers that have chosen my monologues. I admit, I am rather narcissistic because every couple months or so I search on Youtube to see what's new. Oftentimes, the drama student hasn't memorized the piece. He/she simply reads lines from the computer screen, usually in their bedroom, and the result is an awkward cold reading that counts as good practice, but not necessarily something you want to put "out there."

Then, on rare occasions, someone comes along with great acting chops, good stage/camera presence, and a flair for direction. This month, that someone is Melissa Freson. She knocks each of my monologues out of the park. I especially love her take on Beatrix from "Promedy."

Excellent work, Melissa!

Beatrix from "Promedy"

The Operator from "CSI: Neverland"

Veronica from "Curse of the Pharaoh's Kiss"

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Day #123: May 14th -- Upcoming Shmooze in Santa Clarita (An SCBWI Event)

In previous blog posts I've already mentioned my love for this organization, but I'll repeat myself: SCBWI is awesome.

It's the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and it's thanks to this international group that I have been able to meet inspiring people, fellow aspiring authors, and incredibly kind professionals that have helped me enter the world of children's books.

One of those amazing people is Laurisa White Reyes who took it upon herself to organize a chapter in our local Santa Clarita area. We meet once a month at our local Barnes and Noble. (I believe it's every second Thursday.)

This week (May 14th) I will be part of a panel of authors that discusses the pros and cons of self-publishing. I don't have nearly as much experience as others in this particular department -- but I do feel my self-published play Tomorrow's Wish is a nice little tale of success.

If you are interested in writing or illustrating children's books, I strongly advise that you explore this organization:

And if you live in Santa Clarita, come visit us this Thursday!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Day #122: I Love the Canyon Theater Guild

Today was a bittersweet evening of music, comedy, and lots of hugs. The Canyon Theatre Guild hosted their first cabaret fundraising event since 2009. It was in honor of Greg and Patti Finley; they are one of the dominant creative forces at our local playhouse. Together, they have directed and acted in countless productions. It's thanks to Patti that I got my foot in the door at the CTG. When I first met her, I had just published my fourth play, and I was hoping they would consider one of my shows. Patti graciously accepted a few sample scripts and then decided to mount one of my favorites: A Midsummer Night's Dream: The Musical.

Greg cast me in my first-ever CTG production: It's a Wonderful Life. It was a bit part, Sam Wainwright (Hee-Haw!!) but it was a lot of fun, and it helped me connect with a lot of friends (many of whom would co-star with me in Cowboys and Idiots).

Greg and Patti will be moving to Idaho this summer. I'm not sure how the theater will survive let alone thrive without them. But because we love them, we'll do our best to carry the torch.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Day #121: Working with Pat Mannion

I've known Pat for about five years now... but I must not know him that well, because he never fails to surprise me. This guy is a true Renaissance man. He knows about engineering, aerospace, graphic design, improvisation, theater set design, construction, so much stuff! (In fact, I believe he took all the photos that I just posted on my blog.)

I was so fortunate to have his expertise throughout the run of "The Three Musketeers." He served as my assistant director -- which meant that the rehearsal ran like that cliche about the well oiled machine. And, he did more than assist... he gave insight and advice and ideas. He's going to be a great director.

He's also a producer, a CTG board member, and he designed and built all of the shows set pieces. But no matter how hugely influential he has been for the Musketeers, I'll always remember him as the slimy fish-eating Gollum from The Hobbit.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Day #120: My Favorite Scene Stealers

There were so many chances for my Three Musketeers Actors to steal scenes. They all made the most of their stage time, even if it was simply Daniel Durbin bowing before the queen, or Thomas and Kathryn reenacting the ice-bucket challenge scene from Titanic.

Here are a few snapshots of the ensemble players who stole the show, night after night...

Sean Goodman as the classic villain, 
complete with a maniacal laugh. 

Jane Arnet's role Quasi Mona was created 
after she auditioned for the play. 
I wanted to make sure I made the most of Jane's talent.

Samantha Bailey really, really wanted to be in our show. She didn't care that there were no parts for 13 year old girls. And so she became our Orphan Boy (who moon lights as a conductor.)
You can also see other scene stealers, including Robert, Daniel, and Thom (our swordfight captain)

Samantha and Keir (Athos) had a great connection. Here's one of my favorite moments. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Day #119: Working with Mike Davies

I love working with people who love to work on creative projects. You can't do a good show without them.

Everyone in the cast and crew of Three Musketeers fell into this category. I got very, very lucky.

For example, this guy:

Mike Davies. The first time I worked with him he was directing Romeo and Juliet. He cast me as Mercutio, and I've loved working with him, either as an actor or a director, ever since. In Musketeers, even though he's British, he's the only one with a French accent. And man, does he rock the French accent! This is the scene which made Cheri and I laugh out loud every performance:

He gives Sierra this comical look of extreme suspicion, you can't help but bust up! Michael Davies has one of the best work ethics. If you want to learn how to love theater, look at this guy. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Day #118: Collaborating with Marcus and Michael

I recall a drama class in which the instructor suggested that playwrights should not direct their own work. They are too in love with their own words; therefore, they won't be able to be as innovative and creative as a traditional director can be.

There might be a lot of truth to that, and I know there are thousands of directors better than me that could do a much better job of bringing my play (or any play) to life.

Still, I like directing my own plays. And it's not because I love my own words. Turns out, I often hate my words, and I cut a whole bunch out and change it. In a sense, directing a play is creating a second draft of the script, maybe even a third or a fourth.

During "The Three Musketeers," two of my friends and very funny actors (Marcus Langston and Michael Keane) came up with additional material and one liners. Some of their jokes made it into the play, and I think I'd like to add some of them if the script gets published.

Should I ask permission? Or just tie them up until they are willing to sign a waiver?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Day #117: Closing Performance of "The Three Musketeers"

The final show was a good one. Not our best -- but very good. Things went a little off the rails during our final scene. A sword rolled off the stage, a few actors got the giggles on separate occasions, and one of the musketeers snapped his broom-sword in half. But all in all, it was a strong farewell performance. (The penultimate show was definitely our best, though.)

I am going to miss this cast and crew!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Day #116: 90 Days Off Work!!!

Coming soon: SUMMER VACATION!!!

When I decided to become an English teacher, I chose that profession because I love talking about writing essays and literature analysis.

It's been a great career. Sure, I get bummed out when I a grading a big stack of papers, but working with students is fun and fulfilling work. I really do wake up and think to myself, "What am I going to talk about today? Oh good, we're discussing (insert literary concept)."

So, yeah, I'm lucky because I love my job. But despite my fondness for my career, I love my free time even more. And free time is just around the corner. Finals week is almost here, and I'm about to have ninety days off. I won't be teaching summer classes, which means I won't be back to work until August 14th.

So, the big question is... what am I going to do with my spare time?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Day #115: Little Paper Boats

One of my favorite children's book series has long been Curious George (some say he is my doppleganger). And among the many adventures he had undertaken (being captured by that evil yellow hatted man, huffing ether fumes, harassing firemen) my favorite moment is when George goes on a paper route and decides to make paper boats.

The world of publishing reminds me of Curious George and his paper boats. You take some words on a page, you try to make them float, and you send them off on a journey -- and you hope that someone loves that little paper boat the same way you do. (And you hope that some jerk doesn't start chucking rocks at something you created.)

Right now, I have two paper boats (picture books) floating out in the world. One if being polished up with pictures on the side, getting ready to voyage to New York City. Another one is currently in an exclusive harbor, somewhere near Boston. Will they sink, or will they sail?

I have no idea. But it's fun to watch from the shore.

Good luck, little boats!