What Were We Thinking Turned into So Glad We Did

Last Friday Laura and I flew to Los Angeles. Four months ago we had signed up for a two day Dramatist Guild workshop held in Culver City. On Thursday it was one of those “this seemed like a good idea at the time” commitments. Laura had been out of town and flew back on Thursday morning. She had the day to sort things out at her office. I was busy moving sprinklers around my garden every thirty minutes trying to save parched plants. It’s been really hot and dry the last couple of weeks on the Eastern Shore.

Laura had arranged for a driver to take us to the airport on Friday morning. Getting dropped off at the Southwest gates saved a bunch of time and parking hassle. A smooth flight to Los Angeles and we Ubered to Culver City where we had a reservation at the Culver Hotel.

The six story hotel was built in 1924 and considered a sky scraper at the time. The Wizard of Oz was filmed nearby and locals know the Culver Hotel as the Munchkin Hotel as many in the Oz cast stayed there. The hotel was essentially abandoned by the 1980’s and slated for demolition. But by the 1990’s it had been partially restored and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The renaissance was completed when the hotel was bought and fully restored in 2007.

Today it’s a charming hotel where historical touches remain.

Culver City used to be a down and out area, but has been revitalized. The center of town is full of shops and restaurants. The entertainment company, Sony Pictures, is nearby and fueled the renewal.

The first night we were at the hotel we dined on the outdoor terrace. The weather was gorgeous. We’d left east coast temps and humidity behind.

We had a wonderful breakfast every morning. Tiny croissants, little ramikens of butter  (with a sprig of dill on top) and raspberry jam, fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and granola. And of course, lots of coffee for Laura and a selection of teas for me. That’s my breakfast below. Laura is not a breakfast eater. She had half a bagel with cream cheese. Typically her breakfast is a diet coke at McDonalds that she takes to the office.

We could walk to the Kirk Douglas Theater where the conference was being held. Just 50 participants. We were the only people from the east coast. Most Dramatist Guild workshops are held in NYC but the DG is trying to extend learning and networking opportunities to its west coast members. If you are a member, check out their online classes.

Right away I met Bradetta. See my previous blog. I still can’t fathom the odds of that happening. Add to that the fact that I am a true introvert, so the fact that I actually struck up a conversation is remarkable.


The first day of the conference was terrific. Lots of information, good handouts and engaging instructors. The morning session was The Artist as CEO – Marketing & Social Media. The instructor was Zack Turner. I was thrilled to learn that the only social media he uses is Twitter. I, like lots of other writers, get overwhelmed with social media.

After a boxed lunch, the afternoon session was a panel called Playwrights in the Writers Room. They were all much younger than I, but it was particularly interesting to hear the experiences of the two women panelists in a man’s world. I guess some progress is being made.

That evening we walked to dinner where we met my daughter who lives in the area. What fun to see Kira and connect in person. She had asked a friend, who knew Culver City, for a restaurant recommendation and made reservations for our group at Akasha. We ordered a variety of delicious small plates. (I always forget to take food photos until we’ve made a dent in the items. There were way more shrimp to start.)

Sunday morning’s conference session was a continuation of The Artist as CEO – this time focused on the Business of Writing for the Stage. The instructor was Ralph Sevush. He’s an attorney with years of helping playwrights and was an engaging and knowledgeable speaker.

The afternoon was a Masterclass on Structure, taught by Gary Garrison. What a fabulous teacher! So much of the material also applied to writing fiction. We felt like we were double dipping.

That evening we had dinner with our friend, Shar McBee, who used to live in our area of the Eastern Shore. After years of speaking about nonprofit leadership (because of her book “To Lead is to Serve”) Shar just launched a new project “Leadership & Yoga.”  She is starting with workshops and train the trainer events.  Maybe it’s because she’s in California where there is a yoga studio on every corner, but Shar says she’s stunned at how people are responding to her new material.  It has opened up a whole new path of activity.  The week we were there, Shar had five speaking engagements about “Leadership & Yoga.”  www.JoyofLeadership.com

If you live on the Eastern Shore, you may remember that Shar organized the Leadership for Women Conferences that benefitted Chesapeake College.  Even then, she was including yoga sessions led by Freya Farley.

After breakfast  on Monday, we Ubered to the airport, boarded our flight and got home a little after eight on Monday night. A driver picked us up and took us across the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. It was a whirlwind trip, but surprisingly relaxing, fun, full of connections, and crammed with learning.

It turned out to be an “I’m so glad we did this” trip.


In What Universe Does Skin Care Have Anything to Do with Writing?

I’m one of those women who should never sit on tall stools at cosmetic counters. I try to walk past without making eye contact, but that tactic failed me a couple of weeks ago. I was with three women friends on our yearly lark to New York City. Laura wasn’t invited. She’s too young.

Golden Girls in NYC 2014

We were in Saks and just trying to get from one side of the store to the other. We made it past an ordinary scarf with a $1200 price tag. That was Warning #1. We should have run right then, but the closest way to the exit was through the fragrant counters of youth. Why not? We could make it. I think this is similar to an alcoholic saying one taste isn’t going to matter.

A very nice young lady stopped us. Before we knew it she was patting our faces with an exclusive skin care line – available only at Saks. Words like exclusive…Warning  #2. Red lights should begin blinking, sirens blaring.

Now that I think of it, there are never any nice old ladies at those counters, ladies whose faces reveal their lives…character permanently etched on foreheads and around mouths.  My friends and I all agreed our skin looked better, felt soft and dewy.

But not one of my friends sat on a stool. There were plenty available. It wasn’t like I had taken the only one. I was doomed and I knew it.When we walked away I had a small bag with new skin care products and I already felt guilty. I had exchanged flagstone for my new garden path by chasing the fountain of youth.

Vindication occurred the following Saturday at the monthly Eastern Shore Writers Association meeting. I stood to share that Laura and I had four theaters nibbling at our toes about producing The Santa Diaries. That we are thrilled is an understatement!

I also said that I had visited the Broadway offices of The Dramatist Guild and made the receptionist (possibly twelve years old) take a picture of me by the door. I still can’t quite believe that Laura and I are members.

Dramatist Guild office

This morning my friend Anny Williams, who had been at the Saturday meeting, called and told me I had looked radiant! Yes, Ponce de Leon, there is a fountain of youth and it’s at Saks. Those tiny vials are working their magic. And I hadn’t even used the wrinkle filler that I got because I bought two products instead of one. (I’ve got to stay off those stools. People like me should me required to wear ankle bands that beep when we get too close.)

But here’s the rest of the story…in the end, it’s really about the Academy Awards. Seriously! I‘ve got the taller part covered, but I have to look thinner and younger when Laura and I walk up those steps to get our Oscars for the best screenplay. On that night I will absolutely make sure I use the wrinkle filler.