Do What Your Mother Tells You

My mother died six years ago. But I still talk to her – usually in that thin space between consciousness and sleep. Last week I had something troubling me and I knew it would almost certainly keep me awake. Or if I woke up in the middle of the night, I’d start obsessing which, as you know, doesn’t help solve anything.

So I asked my mother what I should do. And the answer came loud and clear.

Bake pies!

What the hell did that mean? But I did go to sleep. When I woke in the middle of the night she was still telling me to bake pies. In the morning I asked my psychologist husband what he thought it meant. A wise man, he said he thought my mother was telling me to stop worrying (easier said than done) and do something that gave me joy.

My mother was an Iowa farm girl and from her I learned to cook, bake and preserve food. We weren’t a mother and daughter who shared confidences. I didn’t consider her my best friend, but she was always there when I needed her. And she taught me confidence and how to do things. She told me I could do or be anything I wanted. At age eight, when I told her I wanted to be a brain surgeon and a ballerina, she didn’t crack a smile.

When I asked for advice, she gave it, but didn’t interfere if I didn’t follow her suggestions. This time I thought I should listen.

peach pie crust

So I baked pies the next day. I haven’t baked a peach pie in a very long time, even though they were my favorite kind when I was a kid. I even made the crust from scratch.

peach pies

When they came out of the oven, I took one to Laura’s office and she and her accountant, Betty Ann, and I took a pie break. Baking pies and sharing them with friends gave me joy.

Sometimes you just need to do what your mother tells you.

Believe in Lightning!

It’s New Year’s Eve and time to look ahead. If you’re a writer you’ve heard the expression, “You’re more likely to be hit by lightening than to sell a movie script.” But we keep believing. 2015 might just be the year.

For Christmas Laura gave me a wine sippy cup. A truly thoughtful gift. I think it was in anticipation of celebrating all things writing.

wine sippy cup

It sparked memories of the book signing where I knocked over my drink and almost ruined a pile of her books. The waitress brought me a sippy cup. Read more

This sippy glass is much more elegant. And plastic to boot. I’ll use it to ring in the New Year, although we never seem to make it to midnight. My husband and I are joining Laura and her husband for an early New Years dinner and then we’ll watch Sharknado New York. Hopefully it will be right up there with Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Watching Sharknado has been on the “to do” list for months and we just never got around to it.

This has been a great writing year for Laura and me. We had our play, The Santa Diaries, produced again. This time in Minnesota and we were there to see three performances. We’ve completed several scripts and one of them is actually being “considered” by a production group, but we’ve been asked not to talk about it yet. Who knows, 2015 might be the year.

Happy New Year to everyone with wishes for health and happiness and joy. And to all the writers out there, don’t give up on your dreams. Keep believing in lightning.

We Talk to a Brown Bag

Last week Laura and I gave a talk at a brown bag lunch at the St. Michaels, Maryland library, a branch of the Talbot County library. We had been asked several months before to speak about how our book, The Santa Diaries: Memories of a Small-town Christmas, had been turned into a play and then a screenplay. Usually these talks seem like a good idea at the time we’re asked, but the week before we always wonder if we were nuts to agree. This talk, however, was different.

Santa Diaries Cover JPEG

Preparing our notes helped us remember the writing path we’ve been on for the last couple of years. All things Christmas. And we loved sharing the story of this writing journey which has been full of creativity, occasional angst, and a lot of joy.

We put together photos and slides of the journey and Shauna Beulah, the librarian, managed the computer for us, making sure the right ones got on the screen at the right time. We even were able to play The Santa Diaries trailer that Laura made on Animoto. It always makes me tear up.

The brown bags are held once a month and usually feature a local topic. It might be local history, an environmental issue, blue crab recipes, and the occasional author. This is Laura, me, and Shauna.

Laura, Mal, Shauna

The library takes good care of the people who show up. I didn’t see anybody with a brown bag lunch, but there was coffee, tea and somebody had baked goodies. The St. Michaels branch of the Talbot County Library system is my local library. They take good care of us.

refreshments

There were thirty copies left of The Santa Diaries book that we did for Christmas in St. Michaels. Once they are gone, there will be no more. I sold 13 of those 30 copies at this talk. All the monies go to the charities supported by Christmas in St. Michaels. Now I am shamelessly carrying the last few with me everywhere I go.

We had a great time remembering the writing work we’ve done the last few years and sharing the journey. No angst. Just joy!

 

 

 

Sometimes Life Wins

I know you are supposed to write everyday, but life gets in the way and sometimes life wins.

My garden was on a St. Michaels Woman’s Club garden tour on Friday and I was spending a lot of time weeding, edging, mulching – generally being more obsessive than usual. The day before the tour we had torrential rains which beat up a lot of flowers. But Friday was gorgeous and people loved my garden. This spring gardening has sometimes trumped writing.

backyard garden tour day

Laura runs a business (East Coast Flight Services) and she’s been busy with DOD contracts. A friend of hers has a very ill husband and Laura has been spending time at the hospital in Baltimore. Sometimes friendship should trump writing. It also trumped Laura’s fear of driving over the Bay Bridge.

bay bridge

So Laura and I have been writing in bits and snatches. An hour here and there. Despite everything we are 75 pages into the new Christmas TV movie script. That’s in the last three weeks. This one seems to be writing itself. We’ll write until the end and then go back and fix what needs fixing.

Santa Diaries’ Playbook

We thought you might be interested in seeing what a revision page of the movie script we’re working on looks like. Maybe it somehow made its way into the Denver Bronco’s playbook and resulted in their spectacular defeat.

script notations

Figuring out how to make your work better is the hard part of writing…and football.

Writing and Knitting

These are the twelve children’s sweaters I knit last year. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get them boxed up and sent off to World Vision’s Knit for Kids program. Last year people knitted and crocheted 53,728 sweaters, hats and blankets which were given to children living in poverty. These will go in the 2014 count.

IMG_2234

When Laura and I are working on a script, she is the one who is typing it into her computer. Several years ago I decided I could knit while we were working.

These sweaters are very simple and require no counting of rows or stitches.  Essentially just a back and a front that have to be sewn together. My problem is that I don’t like the sewing together part so I tend to put the pieces aside and go on to the next sweater. Eventually I had such a pile I had to force myself to stop knitting and start sewing. Then the sweaters lived in my office for months until I finally packed them up a few days after Christmas and trekked to the post office. Only then did I allow myself to cast on a new sweater.

sweater new

Last week we started rewriting The Santa Diaries script. The original script had a male as the primary character because that’s the way the play was written. Not one of those Christmas movies we watched over the holidays had a male as the lead. A couple had a male and a female as dual main characters. If none of the movies that are being sold and made have a male lead, do we really want to try to change that format? So our rewrite started at the very beginning with new scenes and a couple of new characters. And I started knitting again. I predict that there will be several sweaters to be sewn together before we finish this script rewrite.

The Santa Diaries Lives On

Dancing Santa

Last year at this time Laura and I were attending every rehearsal of our play, The Santa Diaries, scheduled for seven performances right before Christmas 2012. Our anxiety was out of control. I had resorted to outdated Zoloft found behind some anti-wrinkle cream I ordered late one night on HSN. Laura was adopting cats. The play was a shambles. Some people were still on book.There had never been a complete run through.

We took a vow, “We will never do this again!” At the very last dress rehearsal Laura couldn’t stand it and left. I stayed on because I wanted to see them get through to the end. But they didn’t. Our play would open the next day and it wasn’t ready.

But somehow in the next 24 hours it was. The show opened. There were a few hiccups with the lighting, some missed cues, but nothing the audience would really notice. How did that happen? The play was magic. People laughed and cried and our 84 year old Santa did not really fall off the 20 foot ladder he was on during the opening scene.

Recently I read Alan Jay Lerner’s book, On The Street Where I Live, in which he recounts getting My Fair Lady to its out of town opening. Apparently our reality with The Santa Diaries was normal. Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Would we have written a play if we’d known? And would we ever want to go through this again?

Apparently, yes. The Liberty Showcase Theatre is producing it’s version of The Santa Diaries this December. Performances dates are as follows: Friday, December 6th and 13th at 8PM; Saturday, December 7th at 2PM and 8PM; Saturday, December 14th at 8PM and Sunday, December 15th at 2PM. The venue is Glyndon United Methodist Church, 4713 Butler Road, Glyndon, MD 21071. For tickets visit the Liberty Showcase Theatre website at http://www.libertyshowcasetheatre.org/.

Laura and I will attend a rehearsal next Saturday and it will be two weeks before the show opens. This time we are ready for the chaos and the anxiety. No drugs and no cats this year; we are seasoned playwrights and thrilled that The Santa Diaries lives on.