Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Pen Full of Possibilities

You should always talk to someone smarter than yourself for a clearer vision of what’s possible. Upon returning to Minnesota, I found there weren’t many opportunities to produce another play and I didn’t feel like writing another novel. So what to do?

That’s when I decided to meet with my ‘Jane of all Trades.’ Vida is, at once, my editor, graphic designer, computer guru and friend. She had the clear thinking and vision to help me ponder my next course of action. Besides, there was already much too much on my vernacular plate to boldly stumble forth without a solid idea of where I was going or what I was doing to advance my writing career.

The first item on my writing agenda was to complete a solid first draft of my latest play entitled ‘Frenchy’s Eats.  This began as a complicated experiment whose goal was to explore fatherhood; my fathers and my own, father-son relationships, and the Pandora’s Box of my mother’s up-bringing, marriage, divorce and child-rearing. It is part auto-biographical, part fiction and part historical.  I hope it is representative of other complicated relationships from that ‘greatest generation’ (Tom Brokhaw’s words, not mine).

While I still believe one of my plays ‘PTV’ is a good candidate for the Minnesota History Theater, Vida found a critical flaw in my present script. After discussing the Minnesota stations role in local history, Vida felt my approach was off-track. She thought the internal conflict within the station (as written) was misguided and wouldn’t appeal to the Program Selection Committee at the History Theater.

We agreed on a new approach which I believe will ring more realistic from an historical perspective and solidify my argument that ‘PTV’ is reflective of a piece of Minnesota history that fits the mission of the Minnesota History Theater. Now I just have to rewrite it to fit that new approach.

Continuing dialogue with Vida convinced me that more changes were needed in other scripts. When it comes to sex, the internet, dating apps, out of the mainstream relationships and new approaches to ‘each other,’ my editor is where I turn for information, direction, advice and confidence. Polly and I needed someone like Vida to help guide us both in this new world of ‘What?; they do that now?’

Having an editor who is a member of Mensa, well versed in the complexities of relationships and willing to share deep insight into complicated social and sexual meanderings, Vida has proved, time and again, to be invaluable in helping me better understand the world outside of my own. ‘Polly’s Amorous Adventures’ is a good example of this.

When first produced in December of 2018 in California, the play was a tremendous success. Sharon, as with my other three plays, managed to fill the house for each performance. The audience’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive, even though or perhaps because it was per-formed at a Unitarian Church. I’d love to replicate that experience in the Twin Cities. But first I need to revisit and improve upon the script. Again, that was where Vida was able to step into the picture and bring up subject content I only touched upon initially.

It turns out that Vida has acquaintances who are in polyamorous relationships or single women not afraid to explore their own sexual freedom. Our discussion and my note-taking were both eye-opening and informative. It gave me a whole new angle with which to approach Polly’s dilemma which initially just included jealousy, a confused mother, advice from a computer and the faint inklings of ‘feelings’ for the handyman new on the scene.

This new approach will include Polly owning her own sexuality, women’s sexual freedom and so forth.

One of the major hurtles I envisioned in casting my dramatic musical, music-making play was the need to find older actors who might portray my main characters. Vida’s simple answer was ‘theatrical aging’ or using make-up to age my actors. That one simple (really simple) answer solved my major mental-roadblock. We even explored several YouTube videos for examples. I became sold on the idea and approach.

Completed this spring, my latest novel ‘Playground for the Devil’ is just beginning the arduous journey of making the rounds at writing contests, libraries and book stores to approach, on-line sales and book clubs.

And as challenging as finding markets for ‘Playground’ might be, a reimagining of the Debris trilogy will be even more of a mountain to climb. Sharon was the first to suggest that the Palm Springs market is ripe for my storyline but perhaps not over three books. I had reluctantly come

to the same conclusion after talking to several gift shop and book store owners. No one wanted to stock three books when one might do.

If I decide to go that route, then the condensation and rewriting of the Debris trilogy is going to be challenging. I will have to eliminate some characters, edit down some of the sub-plots, rearrange the storyline, and condense the action so that the story moves along briskly and maintains my reader’s interest.

Then on top of churning these writing waters this summer, we’ve had to adjust to the absence of a few old routines that have gone by the wayside. Old routines no longer hold the appeal they once did. I’m not sure it’s because I feel we’ve moved on or others have. In either case, changes are in the air.

We’ve got our 50th anniversary to celebrate with family up north at a resort, several trips to Colorado to see our grandchildren (finally) in person again, and enjoying the restfulness of a Minnesota summer.

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