5 Reasons I’m Attending an Online Writer’s Conference

Guess who has two sore thumbs from drafting and is attending a writer’s conference?

 

Writer’s Clearinghouse is having their conference completely online. And oh man, I am here for it. Here are my top five reasons why:

#1 It’s a good ice breaker since I’ve never been to a conference before

If you are an itty bitty baby writer like me, everything seems very prestigious and scary. I don’t know why I haven’t tried to attend a conference yet. Maybe it’s the imposter syndrome or the crippling insecurity… (yeah, probably that).

Or going outside in general, honestly. I didn’t even know that was a thing that other writers did. What is a sun? You mean there’s a whole world on the other side of my laptop screen?

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#2 I can attend in my own comfy house

The idea of attending a Q&A with agents and editors while wearing secret pajama bottoms under a desk is exhilarating at best. Not to mention, being a mother of small children makes leaving my house MISSION FREAKING IMPOSSIBLE.

Recently, we moved the baby into his own room and had to get creative with our office space…

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Yes. That is actually a closet. I will be attending a writing conference in the comfort of my own closet.

#3 The networking is more personable

The faculty to attendee ratio is 6:1.

Granted, at a larger conference, you would have MORE industry professionals in attendance. But having a lot of time for personal feedback is pretty dang desirable. And you really get to know the faculty you’re working with.

Authors so often feel intimidated by literary agents that they forget that they’re “shopping” too. You want someone who is going to be the best fit for your book as well as your work style. For example, I’m interested in partnering with more of an editorial agent. That makes these workshops invaluable for me because I can get more of an idea of what and WHO I’m looking for.

And if you want to talk tactical efforts, I don’t think it would hurt to leave a lasting impression on only one agent. The publishing world is so tight-knit that it would only help you to be memorable. (Favorably, of course.)

#4 A free partial evaluation from Writer’s Clearinghouse is included

WCH

Yo. Not a sponsor. But I just really dig on this company, y’all. I’ve been in and out of the query trenches for a year now. AND THEM SLUSH PILE BLUES ARE NO JOKE. I’ve seen quite a few automated rejections in my day.

Writer’s Clearinghouse is an evaluation service done by former editors and agents. It’s designed to let you know how ‘publishable’ your book is. They score your manuscript in twenty different categories picking out your strengths and things that could be improved. (I’m both annoyingly pragmatic and an art educator, so the sight of a rubrics system fills me with such a giddy glee. TAKE THAT SUBJECTIVITY!)

The most delectable part of Writer’s Clearinghouse is that if your manuscript scores high, they will notify compatible agents about it. UM YES PLEASE!

If you are interested in that sort of thing, click HERE for more information.

And finally,

#5 I’m trying to make real, tangible investments into a dream

I have a hard time spending money on myself, so it took a while for me to bring myself to register. I mean, really. How dare I spend this much selfish money on myself, when I could have used it to buy 30 kids meals for my toddler? (…I only understand currency if I convert it into chicken nuggets.)

It was my husband who finally said, “We’re spending this money and we’re investing in YOU.”  And that sure is a true thing. My dream is worth it. It’s not stupid, it’s not irresponsible and it’s not impossible either. Especially if you take actual real steps toward it, instead of just saying you’re going to do it someday.

So, go and do the thing.

… And if the thing for you is this online conference, mention me. Maybe we’ll be in the same critique group together and you can cringe over my first ten pages. It will be so fun!

I Randomly Generated an Emotional Short Story using only Shrek References

shrek

Swamp Feelings

A Short Story
by Val Manwill

Shrek had always loved the stinky swamp with its bad, bitter boulders. It was a place where he felt lonely.

He was a green, scary, muskrat stew drinker with green skin and large hands. His friends saw him as an old-fashioned, obnoxious ogre. Once, he had even revived a dying, legless gingerbread man. That’s the sort of man he was.

Shrek walked over to the window and reflected on his muddy surroundings. Duloc teased in the distance like fighting dragons.

Then he saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was the figure of Donkay. Donkay was a big donkey with a hideous tail and powerful fur.

Shrek gulped. He was not prepared for Donkay.

As Shrek stepped outside and Donkay came closer, he could see the important glint in his eye.

Donkay gazed with the affection of 3765 ugly fine fairy tale creatures. He said, in hushed tones, “I love you and I want friendship.”

Shrek looked back, even more gassy and still fingering the Shrekish goblet. “Donkay, ogres are like onions,” he replied.

They looked at each other with angry feelings, like two breakable, burnt blind mice saving at a very ogre quest, which had Smashmouth music playing in the background and two shreky uncles swamping to the beat.

Shrek studied Donkay’s hideous tail and powerful skin. Eventually, he took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” began Shrek in apologetic tones, “but I don’t feel the same way, and I never will. I just don’t love you Donkay.”

Donkay looked god-like, his emotions raw like a prickly, pretty pitchfork.

Shrek could actually hear Donkay’s emotions shatter into 7420 pieces. Then the big donkey hurried away into the distance.

Not even a drink of muskrat stew would calm Shrek’s nerves tonight.

THE END
Many thanks to the plot generator for this piece of important literature:

My Incurable Beatlemania

So, I have a problem. The first step is admitting, right?

 

PART ONE: CATCHING BEATLEMANIA

 

Honestly, the early sixties hysteria of The Beatles is alive and well… in my freaking soul.

Beatlemania1

For more than a decade I have dealt with random bouts of Beatlemania. Like I’ll have this week-long urge to listen to their albums, watch documentaries, “A Hard Days Night” or even “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” if I’m really feeling it. Just this little burst of Oh yeah! I forgot that I really love them! And then after hours and hours of their music, the excitement dies down and I can go about my life again.

But something happened at the beginning of this year. I got a baaaaddd case of Beatlemania and it NEVER WENT AWAY. It’s been months. I don’t even get what is happening to me.

I can tell you that the timeframe is a DIRECT correlation with the difficulties that Daniel and I have been facing the past several months. It was just this one day, that I hadn’t really seen my husband in a while because of his horrendous work schedule and things were feeling grim. I was buckling Jack into his car seat and … there it was. A CD of A Hard Day’s Night in a box on the floor. So, I took it and listened to it. And I was absolutely and incurably infected.

I don’t really think that anyone knows how bad it really was, especially in those first few months. I mean, actual tears every day listening to their music. Watching the same interviews and documentaries over and over again. Beatles music from the time that Dan left to the time he got home (which was a looooong stretch).

Beatlemania2

Now, lemme just stop right here, because it’s about this point where somebody feels like they need to tell me they don’t like The Beatles. And all I gotta say to that is **IT’S OKAY. YOU ARE FINE.** You do not need to like The Beatles just because a lot of people do. Art is completely subjective. You do not have to be insecure about having a different taste from me.

SEE HERE:

https://www.gettyimages.ae/detail/video/john-lennon-interviewed-he-says-people-are-entitled-not-news-footage/100961692?adppopup=true

… Like, I don’t know. I don’t really care that they’re popular or not. I just like them. Their music and the them that make up the group. I’m just into it. I’m into the hysteria and the influence and the history. And dang, the songs honestly just fuel my freaking heart.

 

PART TWO: LENNON THE MYSTERY MUSE

coollennon

Then the Beatlemania grew into something else completely bizarre. A hurricane flood of creative juices that I could not even handle.

There was this influx of story ideas that all came from a weird fixation on a young John Lennon. Which, honestly is totally surprising. Truth. Because if I personally were to travel back in time and hang out with all of them, I can confidently tell you that I would get along with Paul the best. Paul and I have more common interests, I think. Stuff like, literature and theater, dogs and kids, generally being polite to people that don’t deserve it. That kind of thing. So I do not know where John came from. But he is the most aggressive muse I have ever had in my life.

disapproving lennon

I finally started a novel to appease this like, compulsive need. But, Lennon would not stop haunting me every day. Sitting in the effing corner like “When are you finishing the bloomin book?”

“IDK when are you getting off my BUTT! You Liverpool WEIRDO. This doesn’t even make sense to write this. This has no benefit to my branding or career or anything.”

“I don’t care about that, love. I’m tellin’ you. I’m your muse. And I’m not going away until you finish the book.”

“I don’t want to write a book about you. You’re weird.”

“Well that’s a pisser innit? Coz you’re going write it.”

“No. You’re not even fun to be obsessed with. I’ve seen like 15 documentaries about you in the past eight weeks and you know what they all say? They say, ‘Oh, Lennon… really interesting guy’. YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS JOHN? IT MEANS THAT YOU WERE FREAKING WEIRD WHEN THEY MET YOU.”

“Alright, listen… can you finish the book by April?”

“Excuse me?”

“I wrote books quicker than that you know.”

“Yeah, but you are… I… John, now be reasonable here.”

“Write the book or keep waking up with Paperback Writer stuck in your head every morning. Your choice.”

“John, please. Think of my children, okay? Think of my husband stuck at work, I’m basically a widow! I have to run an entire house by myself.”

John puts his feet up on the table and pushes my laptop over to me with his Beetle-boot. “Right. Better hurry and finish it then.”

 

… FOUR MONTHS LATER AFTER RE-WRITING IDENTITY CRISIS AND THINGS HAVE CALMED DOWN…

 

“Hi!”

*startles and screams at John’s manifestation on my couch, spilling a bowl of popcorn all over the floor like a campy comedy*

“Right. So, listen. That book you started a few months ago…”

*eyes my hallucination suspiciously* “The one that I’m 40 thousand words into? What about it?”

“I just don’t feel like there is enough of me in it.”

“… I told you I don’t want to write a book about you. And I’m not going to. Go away.”

“So right then, here’s a really fantastic idea… completely new book. But this time. Actually all about me. Joost lichrally a bewk about me this time.”

*throws my ink quill to the ground and flips writing desk over*
Honestly, not sure what I’m going to do. I’m still trying to ignore him. But it is reeeally difficult…

dontlisten

PART THREE: SEEING PAUL MCCARTNEY AND REALIZING A DANG OL’ DREAM

 

A couple of weeks ago, it happened. I saw an actual Beatle, in real life. Like we were in the same room. Singing the same songs. Sharing the same moment.

 

I don’t want to be dramatic but… (see above).

That concert (to me) was comparable to when I witnessed a solar eclipse. It was something that I had always wanted to do, but never thought that I would get a chance to.  Like that guy is pushing eighty. There was not a lot of time for me to snag this bucket list check mark. And then I did, dude.

When he came out and picked up his steely base in his left hand. That iconic chord of A Hard Day’s Night rang out. I SCREAMED. Okay. And I’m not talking about a little “Woo Hoo! Yeah!” I mean it was like an actual uncontrollable piercing screech that rang out through the stadium.

Screamlemania2

And if you are thinking that I flew into hysterics and bawled for three hours like a teenager from 1964… uh, you’d be right, bro. A PACK AND A HALF OF TISSUES LATER. No, but I’m being completely serious. I actually sobbed almost the entire time. The guy on the other side of me actually nudged his date and gestured to me like ‘What year is this??’ The only difference between me and the OG fans is that they’re all like, “PAULIE! WAA! MARRY ME!” And I’m like, “PAULIE! WAA! I’M A PART OF HISTORY RIGHT NOW!”

I can’t help it that I’m a huge nerd. But, hey look. I get obsessed over stuff. I just do. Titanic, Cleopatra, Abraham Lincoln, Pompeii. But this time. This time. I could actually see in person this historical figure that I had come to know so well.

 

Paul: Alright, I’m gonna play a song now…

Literally everyone: YAY! WOOO! YEAH!

Paul: Alright, I’m gonna tell you a story now…

Just me: YAY! WOOO! YEAH! Talk about George Martin!

 

We had a seat right in front of the piano… He came around to play it. Stopped right in front of my section. Pointed up to my ROW. Waved… And made little binoculars over his eyes to show he was looking right in my exact direction.

I LEPT FROM MY CHAIR AND SCREAMED AND RATTLED BOTH OF MY ARMS AND MADE SUCH A DARN SPECTACLE THAT THERE WAS NO CHANCE HE DIDN’T AT LEAST SEE MY MOVEMENT SO THERE I MADE EYE CONTACT WITH A BEATLE AND I WILL FOREVER HOLD THAT IN MY HEART UNTIL THE DAY I DIE.

screamlemania

 

It’s just fun. It’s fun to be in love with a thing. And it’s fun to be so passionately moved in a creative way. I’m sure the Beatlemania will fade away eventually, but I’ll always love them for saving me from just a really crappy year.

Wow. An Apology Plus Book Update

Okay. Dang. Things have been rough.

 

But I am getting back on track now. No more month-long absences. For reals this time.

Remember when I had this clean set schedule at the beginning of the year? Um. Forget about that. Throw that out the window. It’s dead. Unbuckle that dream and step into this dumpy carnival ride of broken hopes

I don’t know where the heck to start anew, so I’m just going to talk about writing first because that’s my baby. . . well, other than my actual literal babies…

So almost every day I get asked if my book is published yet. FOR THE RECORD, I have now created an entire page solely dedicated to my published works. Books that you can buy and read TODAY. But, as far as this one novel. Man. It’s been a hard three years.

headache

 

Um, writing a book is no joke. It’s definitely a long term relationship with your story. The other day, I went back and counted how many actual times I have written this novel and I basically cried into an open carton of ice cream for the next few hours.

 

“Identity Crisis Season One through Six.docx”

“The Other Five Percent First Draft.docx”

“The Other Five Percent Second Draft.docx”

“The Other Five Percent – Third Draft.docx”

“The Other Five Percent Merged Draft.docx”

“Identity Crisis MS Full.docx”

“Identity Crisis New Draft One.docx”

“Identity Crisis Second Draft.docx”

 

Yup. This is the eighth time I’ve re-written this story. The EIGHTH time.

But it’s not just drafts. It’s a lot of other stuff too. My writing folder looks pretty ridiculous.

just ridicky

It’s so much work. And like, do I want to make a whole blog post complaining about it? Not really. But I’m just so anxious to move forward with other ideas. I’ve been working here and there on other books and then coming back, so I have all of these other projects that are just taunting me from the sidelines.

Here. I made a helpful graphic, so you could see how much I actually have done… but not done.

helpful graphic

Also dozens of short stories and poems that haven’t been picked up or developed yet. It’s a lot. A. LOT. So much that I just feel frustrated creatively. But I’m just so freaking tenacious like I NEED to finish this book and have it be a product that I’m okay with. Even if no one sees it and it was all just for me.

Basically, what I’m saying is, at this point unless an industry professional tells me to re-write… this is the last draft. If it doesn’t cultivate any interest this time around, I’m actually fine with that. I have learned so much writing this book, and I feel that I’ve really developed my craft in a way that would have been impossible without it.

I am only a couple of months away from finishing the editing (probably). Then I’ll go back to querying because I solidly promised that I would do that for myself. And yeah, it would be super easy to publish on Amazon or something, but ultimately getting a literary agent is a goal/hope of mine. And I don’t want an agent just for a gatekeeper like I want someone who can help me sort through the sea of ideas I’m drowning in (see above) … (sea above MUAWAHAHBLABLA).

Eh. Anyway. I’ll let you know.

But look. I updated my book’s artwork since apparently, that’s a thing I do now. And re-wrote my ‘blurb’ since this is basically THE EIGHTH COMPLETELY NEW VERSION OF THIS THING.

IDENTITY

What happens when the principal won’t let you quit your school’s honor club? How about teaming up with the school drug dealer to spread the rumor that you’re a hopeless troubled burnout…

Ever since she caught the Student Mentor’s President cheating on her at Homecoming, Elle McKernan is looking for any excuse to get out of her commitments as secretary. When the principal adamantly refuses to let her off the team, she turns to local school psycho Ronnie Gonzales to ruin her reputation and get her kicked off for good! Collaborating with a troublemaker, however, proves to be impossible without making any actual trouble. And to further complicate matters, she finds herself rebounding for Ronnie instead. Will she be able to abandon her mild-mannered ways and step into the new persona she invented? Or will she stay true to herself at the risk of losing the only friend she has left?

I Wrote 10,000 Words in a Single Day

Hey, so here’s an accomplishment. I took the “10 K in One Day” writing challenge, drafting ten thousand words of my novel in a single day. It was (rightfully) more difficult than I thought it was going to be. BUT I DID IT! I can’t run a marathon, but I CAN DO THIS THO!

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If you’re not a writing nerd, here are some general word counts for reference:
The average paragraph is 200 words
The average American term paper is 2,000 words
“The Great Gatsby” is a little less than 50,000 words.

Here’s a vlog of it, if you like those kinds of things or would rather hear my gross rambly voice. (Apologies beforehand: the sound is all over the place, I do not know how to work my new editing software.)

 

Celebrating a Friend’s Book Launch: Cleo Under the Surface

Hey guys! I wanted to draw your attention to a great new YA sci-fi set to release tomorrow. The book is available exclusively on Amazon and if you preorder today, it’s only 99 cents!

CT Barnes is a personal friend of mine, she’s been working hard on this project for a while now, so go on over and show her some support!

 

Cleo: Under the Surface

“Cleopatra Travers can’t remember what happens when she’s sleepwalking. Her parents know. They witnessed something they aren’t telling Cleo-and now whatever she did has carved a canyon of space between her entire family. Cleo’s parents are afraid of her, which makes Cleo terrified and unsure of herself.

Not receiving the love and acceptance she longs for at home, Cleo tries to fill the void at school. Now, as her junior year ends, she is finally becoming popular. But her plans become disrupted by the resurfacing of a forgotten crush and new discoveries about her sleepwalking that risk the exposure of her long-kept secret.”

 

 

If you’re an author and have a book coming out or recently published*, I would love to support you by featuring your work on my blog! Contact me  if you are interested. Obligatory free of course, I’m just trying to connect and support the writer community!

*Erotica would probably not be a good fit for my small audience. Thanks.

MINUS ONE: A Skit by Val Manwill

I obviously love stage mishaps so much, I mean, I’ve dedicated the whole last two months on it. But you know what’s even better than stage mishaps? A stage play ABOUT mishaps! Noises Off anyone??

Well anyway, a handful of years ago, I tried to write my own play within a play. And this is what I ended up with. It’s called Minus One. It’s quite an amateur piece of playwrighting, so that’s fine, just look past that. It was intended to be performed by 9th – 11th graders, if that gives you some kind of an idea. But I thought that it would be fun to share! So HERE YOU ARE:

 

 

 

 

MINUS ONE

By Val Manwill

 

 

 

 

 

ACT ONE

 

“Hamlet” rehearsal. SERVANT 4 enters, sets a sword and goblet on a table, then leaves. CLAUDIUS & LAERTES enter.

 

CLAUDIUS:          Here, young Laertes. A sword unbated.

LAERTES:              Heh, heh, heh. I’ll anoint my sword with an unction so mortal that there is none that can save the thing from death that is but scratched withal.

CLAUDIUS:          Let’s further think of this, if this should fail—

 

Enter HAMLET

 

HAMLET:              Dearest Laertes! Give me your pardon, sir.

DIRECTOR:          (interrupting from the audience) Stop! Stop!

 

The actors groan.

 

DIRECTOR:          Hamlet. You were early. Again. I don’t know how you manage to be a perfect seven seconds early – every. Single. Time.

HAMLET:              I am sorry, but it’s incredibly hard to hear from the wings. I think it’s that air vent.

HORATIO:            (pokes his head from the curtains) It’s true. You really can’t hear a thing back here.

DIRECTOR:          Do you understand what’s going on in this scene?

HAMLET:              I, uh—

DIRECTOR:          They’re plotting your murder.

HAMLET:              Yeah…

DIRECTOR:          Isn’t that kind of hard to plot your murder if YOU’RE STANDING RIGHT THERE!?

HAMLET:              … Oh.

DIRECTOR:          I’m done with excuses. If you can’t hear the lines then count to 30 in your head and come out on stage. Take it again.

 

THE ACTORS reset and begin again.

 

CLAUDIUS:          Here, young Laertes. A sword unbated

LAERTES:              Heh, heh, heh. I’ll anoint my sword with an unction so mortal that there is none that can save the thing from death that is but scratched withal.

CLAUDIUS:          Let’s further think of this, if this should fail, I’ll have prepared him a chalice.

 

CLAUDIUS takes the poison from LAERTES and pours it into the cup. LAERTES dips his sword into the poison cup. There is an awkward pause and then enter HAMLET.

 

HAMLET:              Dearest Laertes! Give me your pardon, sir. I’ve done you wrong.

LAERTES:              I am satisfied in nature.

DIRECTOR:          Okay. Better!

 

Enter HORATIO, GERTRUDE, and SERVANT 4 who is carrying Hamlet’s sword. SERVANT 4 hands Hamlet the sword. LAERTES does a super goofy fencing maneuver but has one hand holding up his pants.

 

DIRECTOR:          Stop. Laertes why are you only using one hand?

LAERTES:              My fencing pants are too big. I’m trying to hold onto them.

DIRECTOR:          Safety pin it.

LAERTES:              I can’t reach back there.

DIRECTOR:          Where’s Angie? (Calls) Angie!

HORATIO:            She’s helping the army of Fortenbras change in the green room.

DIRECTOR:          Then grab one of the servants running around back there to help you. We are grown adults, people! This shouldn’t be that hard! Continue please.

 

HAMLET and LAERTES fence.

 

DIRECTOR:          Servant 4 move to the back please. Further please. Thank you.

GERTRUDE:         The queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.

 

GERTRUDE picks up the cup

 

CLAUDIUS:          Gertrude, do not drink.

GERTRUDE:         I will, my lord. I pray you, pardon me. (drinks)

LAERTES:              (aside to CLAUDIUS) My lord, I’ll hit him now.

 

LAERTES stabs HAMLET. They fight, HAMLET stabs LAERTES with the poisoned sword.

 

CLAUDIUS:          Part them! They are incensed!

HORATIO:            They bleed on both sides!

GERTRUDE:         (overdramatic) The drink! I am poisoned.

 

GERTRUDE dies in the most over the top way possible. THE OTHER ACTORS roll their eyes. THE DIRECTOR stands and applauds.

 

DIRECTOR:          My dear! Brilliant as always. That was fabulous! You were flawless.

GERTRUDE:         Well, of course it was. Would you expect anything else?

DIRECTOR:          Absolutely not. Please go on.

HORATIO:            (continuing) Treachery! Seek it out.

LAERTES:              It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain. No medicine in the world can do thee good. The king, the king’s to blame.

HAMLET:              Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damnèd Dane, Drink off this potion. Follow my mother.

 

HAMLET forces CLAUDIUS to drink the poison. CLAUDIUS dies.

 

LAERTES:              He is justly served. Forgive me, noble Hamlet. (dies)

HAMLET:              Horatio, I am dead. Thou livest. If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart—

 

Suddenly, HAMLET makes the most obvious and ridiculous ‘blank face’ as he forgets his line.

 

DIRECTOR:          Stop! (To himself) So close. We were SO close!

HAMLET:              I forgot what comes next.

DIRECTOR:          How do you NOT have your lines memorized 2 hours before we OPEN THIS SHOW!

HAMLET:              I’m sorry. I just kind of freeze up you know?

DIRECTOR:          Trust me, I know. Everyone in the audience knows! It’s that stupid face that you make.

CLAUDIUS:          I can’t work like this.

HAMLET:              I’m sorry, really. I just don’t know how to improvise Shakespeare.

DIRECTOR:          I feel so unappreciated right now. I have given you the most coveted role in all of the last 500 years of theatre. I made you. When I met you, you were in a public library reciting The Night Before Christmas.

HAMLET:              That’s not fair. . . everyone loved my rendition of The Night Before Christmas.

DIRECTOR:          Just do this show – THE RIGHT WAY! Please! Surprise me for once. Continue.

HAMLET:              Draw thy breath in pain To tell my story. dies

HORATIO:            Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

DIRECTOR:          Aaaaaand curtain! Good. Well, almost good. I feel like – things are too cluttered in this ending. Uh Servant 4?

SERVANT 4:         Yes?

DIRECTOR:          I don’t think we’ll be needing you for this ending scene. It doesn’t work with you there. You’re blocking most of the action.

GERTRUDE:         I think this scene should be for leads only.

DIRECTOR:          That’s just what I was thinking. Servant 4, thank you, but you’re cut. Everyone else, let’s set for this show.

 

Everyone leaves the stage except for SERVANT 4 who is almost in tears.

 

SERVANT 4:         “Cut”? Fine. I’m going home!

 

SERVANT 4 runs off the stage

 

 

ACT TWO

 

THE DIRECTOR stands on stage this time acknowledging the audience.

 

DIRECTOR:          Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all so much for coming to our version of the beloved play Hamlet. I wanted to give a quick message regarding the final scene- Act 5 scene 2. This scene is a very, very serious part of the play and we would appreciate it if all cell phones were turned off and uh, no talking please. Without further ado – The finale of Hamlet.

 

THE DIRECTOR sits down, and CLAUDIUS & LAERTES enter.

 

CLAUDIUS:         Here, young Laertes. A sword unbated—

 

CLAUDIUS & LAERTES look down at the table realizing the key props are missing.

 

CLAUDIUS:          Here is not a sword unbated.

LAERTES:              (scoots closer to the curtain and speaks loudly) Uhhh- Perhaps Lord Hamlet could bring me my sword.

CLAUDIUS:          Hamlet is going to bring YOU a POISIONED SWORD?

LAERTES:              Or perhaps I’ll fetch the sword myself! (Runs off stage)

CLAUDIUS:          (calls after LAERTES) Hey a chalice too. A chalice! (Follows LAERTES off stage)

 

Enter Hamlet

 

HAMLET:              Dearest Laertes! Give me your pardon, sir… I have … done you wrong?

 

HAMLET looks around confused at finding himself alone on stage.

 

LAERTES:              I have the sword!

 

 HAMLET ducks down behind a chair as LAERTES enters with a sword from stage right and CLAUDIUS with a bottle of water from stage left.

 

LAERTES:              I’ll anoint it with an unction so mortal that there is none that can save the thing from death that is but scratched withal.

CLAUDIUS:           I’ll have prepared him a chalice.

LAERTES:              A bottle?

CLAUDIUS:          A CHALICE!

 

CLAUDIUS takes the poison and puts it into the bottle. LAERTES tries to get his sword in the bottle but the opening is too small.

 

LAERTES:              (whispering)  It won’t go!

 

From behind the couch, HAMLET silently counts to 30 on his fingers..

 

HAMLET:              Dearest Laertes!

 

HAMLET pops up from behind the chair startling CLAUDIUS and LAERTES who violently spills the water in the bottle.

 

HAMLET:              Give me your pardon, sir. I’ve done you wrong.

LAERTES:              (sarcastically) I am satisfied in nature.

 

Enter HORATIO and GERTRUDE

 

CLAUDIUS:          (to HORATIO) Give him his foil.

HORATIO:            What, Me?

CLAUDIUS:          (through his teeth) Just get it.

 

Exit HORATIO. LAERTES begins his elaborate and goofy fencing move.

 

LAERTES:              Come, my lord.

HAMLET:              I – I can’t fight you without a sword.

 

LAERTES’ pants drop to his ankles.

 

LAERTES:              Very well. I shall fight you… when you have… a sword. If you’ll excuse me just a moment.

 

With his pants still around his ankles he waddles off stage. HAMLET sits in the chair, waiting.

 

GERTRUDE:         (slightly panicked) Uhh the queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.

 

GERTRUDE picks up the water bottle.

 

CLAUDIUS:          Gertrude, seriously. Do not drink.

GERTRUDE:         I will, my lord. I pray you, pardon me. (drinks)

 

THE DIRECTOR crawls “inconspicuously” on the stage and places a new cup on the table. GERTRUDE begins her dramatic over the top death scene.

 

GERTRUDE:         The drink! I am poisoned. (dies)

CLAUDIUS:          Um, actually dear. (Pointing to the new cup) I believe this is the poisoned one.

GERTRUDE:         Oh.

 

Gertrude gets up, walks over to the new cup and takes a sip.

 

GERTUDE:           Oh NO! The drink! I am poisoned. (Re-dies)

 

THE DIRECTOR drags Claudius offstage by his robe.

 

CLAUDIUS:          I will return. Delay the sword fight. Tarry!

 

CLAUDIUS and THE DIRECTOR exit stage left as HORATIO runs in stage right.

 

HORATIO:            I’ve got the sword. I’ve got it!

 

HORATIO trips on the water spill and is knocked unconscious. HAMLET turns around and breaks the fourth wall, making the same ridiculously blank face as earlier. He stands up.

 

HAMLET:              (attempting to improvise)  Tis . . . tis . . . twas . . . the night before Christmas and all through the house. Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care-

 

Suddenly LAERTES rushes in with the original goblet and splashes HAMLET in the face.

 

LAERTES:              Aha! It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain. No medicine in the world can do thee good.

 

Re-enter CLAUDIUS with another sword.

 

CLAUDIUS:          Part them! They are incensed.

 

THE DIRECTOR enters stage right and picks up HORATIO’s limp body. He moves him around like a puppet.

 

DIRECTOR:          (as Horatio) They bleed on both sides!

GERTRUDE:         (from the ground) The cup! I am poisoned!

DIRECTOR:          (as Horatio) Now cracks a noble heart.—Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing me to my rest! CURTAIN! CURTAIN!

 

THE ACTORS freeze and SERVANT 4 enters, addressing the audience.

 

SERVANT 4:         The moral of our little play is that no one person is bigger than another. No matter how small of a part you think you do, you can make a GIANT difference!

 

fin

 

Writing Update and News!

Hey, I’ve been sitting on this news for a while now… but I am officially a professionally published author! Yay! One of my short stories, The Prisoner, has been picked up by an anthology called Bubble Off Plum (more on that later). I actually found out about it, the day I gave birth to Casey. I was laying on my bed, trying to tell if my contractions were real or false, when I opened the email. I get a lot of emails from editors and agents that are the usual thank you but… THIS ONE WASN’T. It started off with “Congratulations!” I was like, YEAH woohoo… this is a really weird day. haha

The Prisoner (1)

THE PRISONER: Flynn plans to escape his new prison cell despite his bunk mate’s efforts to stop him.

It got picked up by the first and only place I submitted it to! And ah, I was so glad too. I love this story. Like, I love all my stories because they’re my brainchildren, but this one is top notch. ANYWAYS, I don’t want to give away too much about it, because I want you to read it!
I am SUPER stoked for this anthology too. It’s full of weird twisted little stories and should be an excellent read. Almost a thousand people submitted stories and they ended up picking 27 for the final compilation. I tell you that to convince you of the quality of the anthology… also I’m bragging. The ebook is already purchasable at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. On Friday, paperback versions will be available. More details can be found here. But it should be a pretty good one!

Other than that, I’ve been working on other stuff. I have five or six other stories out on submission right now and ACTUALLY I began writing another novel. I got to the halfway mark, 25k words, the night before I had Casey. So finishing it has been a much slower process. It’s a lil’ YA romantic comedy about a socially awkward boy who is courted by a confident outgoing girl. Like a reverse of the guy-in-pursuit trope. Anyways, it’s been really fun to write, but I’m kind of in an odd place right now with novels. I took a minute to write down all the ideas I had for books (a LOT) and I organized them into genres. What I discovered was that I either write light and funny YA rom coms OR creepy big twist thrillers… and nothing in the middle. I’m either one or the other.

I felt that this was a bit complicated because… how do you brand yourself for both of those audiences? Ultimately, I felt that probably my thrillers were the stronger, more marketable ideas and more conducive to an actual writing career. But now I am pretty torn because I have two YA contemporaries that I don’t know what to do with (Okay, one and half a draft.) I could pursue self-publishing with one genre and traditional with the other. Or maybe go whole-hog, this-is-me-as-an-author and try to brand for both. Who knows. There are SO many nuts and bolts to figure out when it comes to selling fiction and all I want in the world is to have an agent or a publisher or someone to just tell me what the eff to do with all these ideas I have!

For now, I guess I’ll just keep writing.

How Unrealistic is this Romance-Genre Male Character? A Fun Rubric!

It’s no secret that women are often not written very realistically. And it’s easy to tell when the girl main character was created as nothing more than a fantasy trophy.

BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? Women characters are not exclusive to this. More prevalent and obvious, YES. But exclusive, no. Haven’t you ever noticed how every dude in a romance story has AN OUTRAGEOUS combination of “desirable” traits? It’s like the same formula over and over again.

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“Hey. I’m Liam. Captain of the football team. Want to hang out on my family’s yacht?”

Don’t believe me? Watch yourself a romance or pick up a sappy book and use this rubric as you go. Each trait earns ten points, the more points you get the more ridiculously written that character is.

 

+10 He is good looking. Obviously, this is a good place to start. Granted there is going to be some kind of attraction between characters when there’s a romance. But I’m specifically talking about a character who would be considered classically and universally good looking. Great hair. Nice smile. Chiseled chin. Tall. Modelesque rippling abs and pectorals. I mean, if the body type is even being mentioned, he might as well have “heaving bosoms”.

+10 He is smart. This character always offers witty dialogue and banter. He’s funny. He does well in school or inexplicably gets accepted to ivy league colleges. Maybe this character has a job that would need to require some serious intelligence. When he talks to the love interest he probably “surprises her” by mentioning authors/books that he likes or other smart and high cultured things.

+10 He is rich OR is in a high position of power somehow. Okay, this character either has a lot of money himself or comes from a rich family. This character could also be a boss or some kind of leader. Royalty is always popular for some reason.

+10 He is charming. This character is well liked. Popular. Has a lot of friends. Or fans. Usually, there are multiple girl characters who are obsessed with him. He is most likely confident in himself. Anyone who happens to not like him is probably jealous of him.    

+10 He is athletic. Lol. For some reason mentioning the muscles isn’t enough. This character shows ‘em off somehow. His adventuring and swordplay are effortless. He plays on the school sports team. He is probably mentioned to be “the best” at some type of physical skill.

+10 He is musically or artistically talented somehow. This is a character that sits down and plays the guitar or sings for the leading lady. Maybe he draws or paints her a picture. Maybe he immaculately decorates this outdoor area for her without any help. He might have a career as an artist or maybe his incredible talent is mentioned in passing and then never contributes anything else to the plot.

+10 He is passionate. This is an easy ten points. This is a character who is borderline berserk-o bats he is so in love. This character easily professes his love. He’s more than a little stalkerish, he follows her around everywhere even if she says no. His moods are all over the freaking place. He is sometimes yelling and punching antagonists. He oozes with jealousy, over-protection, kissing her roughly, having like zero control over his feelings. This character is SO unbridled that if she weren’t into him, she would take out a restraining order pretty quick.

+10 He is self-sacrificing. Similar to the passion trait but definitely deserves ten points on its own. This is a character who is willing to throw away anything and everything in his life for the love interest. He might give up his job, his family, his opportunities, his dreams. Maybe he gives up who he is- like he’s dangerous in some way, but gives it up for her. Sometimes he just straight up dies for her. The sacrificing thing is one huge wet dream for a woman.

+10 He’s a hero. I don’t care what context it is. If this guy rescues her from getting physically hurt in any way, shape or form. That is an automatic ten points for me.

+10 Despite having all of these characteristics he goes for an awkward underdog MC for no real reason. Yes, I’m a cynic. But COME ON. Real talk here. Why is this have-it-all-dude going to go for this rinky-dink no-one-has-ever-wanted-me-like-this chick? Right off the bat, he is in deep with her, but we never really get why. I guess because she’s attractive or something? You tell me.

 

And yes, before you call me out, I tried this rubric out with the romantic interest in my own novel and YES, I am in no way clean of this either. He scored fifty points… which is more than murkily cliché but still better than Noah from The Kissing Booth who scores an eye-rolling NINETY POINTS.

So what is the takeaway? The take away is this: As a writer, don’t be afraid to make your main characters less than perfect. We will still like them. IN FACT, we will like them MORE if we relate to their weaknesses. Is it sexy to envision a man sprawled across a worn couch, binging Netflix with Dorito dust all over his shirt? Not really. Do I want him to find love? HECK YES SO MUCH SO INVESTED. But why though? BECAUSE THAT’S MEEEEEEE! We’re the sticky gross humans looking for happiness in all the wrong places! YOUR AUDIENCE. Reach out! Connect! Don’t just give us one real person to cheer on. Give us two! Make me believe that both of them are better off together, not that one person is already swimming in the sweet life and his/her life can’t be upgraded by anyone.

Just an opinion of a half-cynic. Wink wink.

How I Motivate Myself

After the announcement of all my doings and goings on in the writing world, I’ve been hearing a lot of the same thing: I would love to do something like that, if I had that kind of motivation.

Motivation is an interesting thing. I think first and foremost the best motivation for something is having a sincere love for that thing. What is important to you? How do you prioritize your time?  I write because I feel absolutely uncontrollably COMPELLED to do it. If I don’t write for a long period of time, I get really irritable. No joke. It’s a part of me that I fully embraced a couple of years ago and haven’t been able to let go.

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But I will let you in on another secret motivational tool that I use… like a practical non-metaphoric one. It’s what got me to write a novel in twenty days. It’s the reason I’m producing short stories almost daily. In fact, it’s what is motivating me to write this blog post right now. Do you want to know what it is?

Brownies.

I buy a package of really good-looking brownies from my local grocery store. I set in on the counter where I have to see it all the time. And then I DO NOT LET MYSELF have one until I have written 1,000 words.

kroger-brownies
These little suckers

I’ll put Jack down for a nap and be COMPLETELY EXHAUSTED… and yet, I cannot stop thinking about those freaking brownies. So I very quickly write a whole bunch of words until I’ve hit the goal. And then I can finally have one.

And then you know what happens? After I eat one… I want a FREAKING ‘NOTHER ONE.

So I end up writing another thousand words, because my pregnancy cravings are too strong for me to even handle.

And that’s how I do it. And that’s why I’m even writing this post right now. I write like a steam engine trying to get a DeLorean back to 1985… and then later I go back and edit that mess… for which I reward myself more chocolate.

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It’s worked SOOOO well that I’ve actually started doing housework for small bottles of Coke. You should SEE my house right now.

Utilize your vices. Make your weaknesses work for you. Are you a fatty like me? Dude. Set goals for baked goods and you’ll be SHOCKED at the results.

In reality, dreams are really hard work. Even your passion can flicker out every once in while and that’s okay. Dangle a carrot in front of your face and KEEP AT IT!

 

ALSO PS. If you didn’t catch last week’s blog post. I have a short story being published in an anthology that comes out next month. I made some promotional artwork for it because it was really late at night and apparently I hate sleeping.

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It’s a YA story about a girl who visits her all-time crush at work after he tells her that “HE NEEDS TO TALK TO HER”DUN DUN DUN! Ooh, gurrrl. You know she had a panic-induced cringe after getting that message on her phone. Anyways, the book is available for pre-order. You can check it out here:  https://www.zpublishinghouse.com/products/utahs-emerging-writers-an-anthology?variant=14625753694323