Failing

The day I graduated from High School was the happiest day of my life, because though I was a nerd, I was a nerd of words.

I know what you’re thinking, and no, that’s not toast I’m surrounded by, it’s poorly drawn books.  The color’s in squiggles because it’s the past.

ANYway, it was the happiest day because though I was a wordnerd, I was not a test nerd and though I could write a killer essay, I sucked at taking tests.  Especially in math.  Or science.  Or SATs.  Or multiple fill in the blank choices.  And when I graduated High School I realized

I WOULD NEVER HAVE TO TAKE A TEST AGAIN!

But um, wait, AG, what about college?! I can hear you say.  Didn’t you have a post where you claim to have an MFA in Theater?

I do have an MFA.  And I did go to college.

PLAYWRITING COLLEGE!

Where sciences were a joke and math was exempt.  Sure, we had tests, but our tests looked like this:

Actual test.

What about the GREs, I can hear you ask as you all contemplate a career in theater, Didn’t you have to take those life sucking exams of torture to get into your fancy MFA program?

No.  I didn’t.  See above test.

What did I do at MFA school?  The following:

Actual schedule.

So you can imagine that in the time that passed, my test taking brain, which was already mush, had slowly disintegrated into soup.  But what had I to worry about?  Life is filled with philosophical tests, tests or moral character and feats of strength, not actual sit down at a table with a number two pencil and fill in a bubble with the choice closest to the correct answer tests.

Right?

So I mentioned on the twitter the other day that I was having a reading of another play of mine.  I rented the theater out way back in January, where I went and tearfully handed over a check for too much dollars, signed a few X’s and crossed a few I’s, found out I had to pay for audience insurance which also made me cry a little, and was told by the nice Theater Matron,

A fire what? I exclaimed, wiping away my tears with a soggy contract,

A fire guard, so in case the theater gets set on fire we have someone to blame I MEAN help usher people outside and call the fire department and all.

I shook my head and gnashed my teeth and sighed, How much is it going to cost me?

WELL, you can either use one of ours for THISMANYDOLLARS

No, please No

OR you can go get certified yourself.  All you’ll have to do is pass a simple 25 question multiple choice TEST

She made it sound so easy.

And so did all my friends.  In the weeks leading up to the test, I heard:

Oh yeah, don’t worry about it, I passed it in like .35 seconds

 Who isn’t a fireguard knowhati’msayin’?!

Is it easy?  Are cheeseburgers AWESOME?!

So I entered the exam room, having not really studied, believing that I would be out in .35 seconds, eating cheeseburgers with all the other fireguards of the City.

WRONG I WAS WRONG

It was 25 questions of me going ?!?! for each.  The same test taking issues I had back in the day came rushing back to me.  I get so nervous when I sit down to take a test that I don’t really read the question (because my eyes are covered in sweat) and I wind up stabbing answers at random.

Is it my own fault for assuming it would be so easy and for my common sense to take hold and my old test taking issues to disappear? Yes. Yes it is.

Did I fail?  I needed a 70% to pass.

64%

Shame welled up inside of me like a rotten balloon.  I was suddenly transported way back to tenth grade chemistry, where I had gotten a zero on a test.  I hadn’t failed anything in years YEARS, and this number was mocking me from the computer screen,

64% had bad manners.

Anyway, I walked out of there feeling like a failure.  And I realized something.

Feeling like a failure SUCKS. And is completely unnecessary.  There’s no reason to feel like a failure, even when things suck.  The only time you actually fail is when you stop trying.

SO I TOOK THE TEST AGAIN!  And I got an

So I am now a full-fledged fire guard which means I theoretically know how to use a fire extinguisher and pull a fire alarm!

My point is, never stop trying. Never give up.  Because when you finally pass, all that failure really means nothing.  Enjoy the road, as bumpy as it might be, because you can get a good story out of it – and some fun stick figures.

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When at First you Don’t Succeed…

Write, Write Again!

No. It’s not a mirage.

I’m BACK!

I know. I KNOW.

I’ve seen the signs that my mom has been posting around the interwebs:

It’s embarrassing, really.  My nose looks NOTHING like that.

Oh, and I’ve completely seemingly abandoned my blog and all the awesome, supportive bloggers I think are great.

And for that I say, I’m sorry.

I could regale you with a tale about how pirates took me hostage and I spent the last three months stuck in a cave, piecing together a raft from the driftwood and seaweed that washed up on high tide,

or how a rowdy gang of cowboys from the 1950s forced me to be one of them until I managed a miraculous escape involving a bottle of whiskey and a stubborn donkey named Rollo,

but I can’t because neither of those things are true.  Not even aliens were involved.

I’m not a world philosopher (yet), but it seems to me we all (aka humankind aka writers) come upon periods of our lives that are dampened by an internal darkness.

Basically what happened is that I went from this:

to this

Turns out it’s hard to be funny all the time.

But I’m not about to give up.  I DO remember what a joke is!  And I have a sack full of regections the size of my head to share with the world!

So I’m back, if you’ll have me back.  I hope youse do.

Regect Your Darlings

When you’re a writer, there are many quotes and phrases that people will fling at you like they’re a really witty metaphor going out of style.  Some of my favorites are:

When at first you don’t succeed, write write again!” – people who think they’re being helpful but are really just being irritating

Anything Stephen King says!” – because he has a million of them (just like his novels HEYOOO)

The first draft’s always shi REALLY NOT GOOD” – paraphrased from the original, more vulgar saying by Ernest Hemingway because my mom reads this blog (hi mom!)

But there’s one phrase that’s always bugged me, and that is “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings“.  This is, of course, referring to the point in the editing process in which you discover that you have to cut a scene or paragraph or chapter you absolutely LOVE for the betterment of all mankind your piece of writing.

But the phrase killing your darlings always made me think of this:

And this:

BUT, you do sometimes have to get rid of the first words you’ve written or your favorite piece of writing for the sake of the whole.  BUT that doesn’t mean that they’ll be gone forever and always- not at all.  SO instead of a phrase implying bloody word murder, I think I’ll say “Sometimes you have to regect your darlings“.

In order to prep for my workshop/reading TOMORROW (I’m not nervous or lying AT ALL), I had to do a lot of prep work on the script.  And I had to get rid of a monologue that started it out.  The first words I ever penned in this play’s creation had to be ZIP ZAP ZOPPED out (any theatre people get that reference?)

If only there was a place this monologue could still be seen…where it could be read by people I respect and care about…a public forum like a newspaper or…or like a blog…

OH LIKE THIS ONE!

Raise your hand if you saw that coming!  I realized that I’ve never actually shared any of my actual writing on this blog yet, so I figured I’d put my regected darling on here for all to read.  So you can know I can actually write.  Like real stuff.  Like for realz.

So, without further ado, I would like to present the monologue :

WHAT, no, take off the top hat and bowtie, Mister Monologue, you’re just being ridiculous now.

Here it is:

THE CHOIR MASTER

Have you ever heard the sound the sun makes as it leaks through the stained glass windows?  Seen the breathing of silence?  Have you ever tasted eternity?

I have.

[He stands up and snaps his fingers- lights flood the loft.  We may or may not notice that he has two extra sets of hands and an extra finger on each]

THE CHOIR MASTER

I am the Choir Master of this Church and I control everything you see, hear and taste when you walk into this place, into this Holy place of worship.  The choir is the heart that beats the Love of Christ out into your souls.  They raise the hearts of the weary and heal the hearts of the guilty.

And I control it all.

I smoke my cigarette with one hand and play my organ with the rest and conduct the Angel’s voices with my bald head. I don’t sing, but I can taste the music, wrapped around the ashes of my cigarette.

The angels in the choir loft prefer the scent of cigarette to incense.  They say it helps them sing, helps the music leap from their tongues and saturate the air with their songs.  It lands on the tongue of the congregation and they swallow it, roll it down their back of their throats and it melts faster and more truly than the body of Christ, slips down sweeter than His blood.

If only they knew who sang it, though.  Then perhaps those words wouldn’t taste so sweet. Then, perhaps, will their footprints leave the Church, too, like the little angel with the broken halo and crooked wings.

That little angel, singing in the choir loft with the broken halo and crooked wings.  Her voice has dried up on her tongue, left it dusty and raspy, so that it’s like she’s swallowing sawdust, so that it’s like she’s rubbing her tongue along the edges of the dried out pit of an Apricot.  Or at least, she believes it to be so.

She carries her sins in and she carries them out because she won’t forgive herself.

And so with this weight chained to the Littlest Angel’s heart so that she tastes metal in her mouth, she carries around what makes her wings crooked and all that energy puts too much pressure on her halo and it breaks.  And her tears only collect and dry in the corners of her eyes so that her tongue can’t be watered by the tears, so that she can’t taste the salt that will heal the cracks of her mouth, so that she will taste sand no more.

But what can I do?  I’m only the Choir Master.

—–

So next time you realize you have to get rid of that stroke of brilliance, know you’re not killing them – you’re just putting them somewhere else for a little while.

Regecting Rejections: The Do It Yourself Story

If you’ve been following me on the twitter (@RegectedRiter, all!), you may have noticed that I sound like this:

 

That’s because I have a Workshop/Reading this weekend of a play that I’ve written.

WOOOOOOOOOO!

Who’s producing it, I hear you ask! Is it the same production team that produced that smash Broadway Hit SPIDERMAN?!

Even better!  It’s ME!

I am so competent.

What does a producer DO exactly?  We book the spaces, negotiate some deals, sign the checks and wave our money bye bye

*Please Note* This only applies to those producers who Regect Rejection – in the real world, producers don’t put their own money into things, they raise it.

So AG, I hear you ask again, Who’s directing this theatrical event of the moment?  Is it MARTIN SCORSESE?!

Nah, I like to give up and coming directors a chance to direct.

But none of them wanted to, so I actually chose ME!

Yes, I am directing my own work, which I’ve actually never done before.  I have directed a lot and often, but never my own babies!!!! my work.

All right, AG, I can hear you say as you shake your heads, Give it to me straight. Do you at least have the cast of the latest Muppet Movie for your actors?

No, they were too busy with personal appearances and interviews to participate and I was also told to stop calling their hotel rooms because it was bordering on stalking.

But I bribed some friends with coffee, donuts and pizza and they agreed to be my actors!

What, we don’t have a picture?  Because I’m too lazy to draw a picture of five brilliant, talented actors?  Sounds about right.

So, why would I spend amounts of money, time and energy into producing a one day workshop/reading that ten people, including my parents, are going to attend?

Simple answer: Because I want to

Slightly More Complex answer: Because getting a regection letter in the e-mail doesn’t mean I can’t work on my plays and make me a better playwright, yo!  I can still get a group of people together to read and play with my writing to a small audience that will offer helpful feedback so I could continue writing and growing as a playwright!

That’s why I say

I REGECT YOU, REJECTION! I take that J and turn it into A G!

And that’s what all youse should do, too.

Tell me, what projects (or progects) do you have on your agenda?  I wantstaknow!

 

Interview with a Dead Playwright: Samuel Beckett

That’s right, another segment of Interviews with a Dead Playwright because the live ones can file restraining orders !  I know what you’re thinking: “He’s finally snapped” “His first interview was with the Bard himself, William Shakespeare (CLICK HERE TO READ) how can he possibly top that?”

Well, that’s a lot of pressure, I can’t, that’s not fair, there are a TON of brilliant dead playwrights out there who I can hallucinate talking to !

So today I sat down with one of the broodiest men who have ever taken to the bottle pen, Mister Samuel Beckett!

AG: Hi Sam

Sam: Don’t call me Sam

AG: Why, because it rhymes with ham?

AG: If you looked like that, this interview would be OVER.  Because I’d eat you.

Ham: All right I’m going

AG: No, no, come back! We have a picture of you, too.

AG: Seriously?

Sam: I would love that picture of me, if I believed in love at all.  A wise man named Me once said “Do we mean love, when we say love?”

 

AG: …you’re a really happy guy

 

Beckmeister: Nothing is funnier than unhappiness

 

AG: You are just quoting yourself, aren’t you

 

Beck: Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness.

 

AG: Well with an attitude like that, this interview is going to be madd difficult annoying short
Samby: If we prick them, do they not bleed?
AG: That wasn’t you, don’t even front like that, Samuel Beckett!
Samuel:  All right, that wasn’t me.
AG: Now, Sam
Sam: ::grumblegrumble::
AG: -Uel, you’ve encountered your fair amount of regection in your life, haven’t you?
SamB: I suffered for my art
AG: Yeah, can you elaborate for all those readers who weren’t forced against their will to take theatre history and read Waiting for Godot 20 times?
sAm: Shouldn’t that sentence be a strike through?
AG: Nah.
saM: I wrote most of my plays in France during WWII, in which I pissed everybody off by talking against the Germans.  I was in hiding, in exile, I was persecuted-
AG: Were you waiting for Godot?
SamuelMcCrankyPants: I WAS IN EXILE!
AG: So basically, you’ve had your fair share of rejection
Sam: Yes
AG: So do you have any words of advice for writers who have been regected?
Sam: Yes. Life sucks, buy a helmet
AG: Anything not as…I don’t know…Bumper Sticker-y?
SAm: FINE.  Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

AG: Mhmm.  Great.  You’re hilarious
The Most Depressing Man Ever:  Thanks
AG: LIGHTNING ROUND! What’s your favorite color?
Sam: Black
AG: PREDICTABLE! Do people call you Becks? You know, after the beer?
Becks: No
AG: Are you sure?
AG: Were you named after Samuel Adams or Sam the Eagel?
Sam the Adams Eagle: What?
AG: Yeah, that’s pretty obvious
Sam: I would be offended if I weren’t a figment of your imagination
AG: You know what, Samuel Beckett, I can put on a black turtleneck and brood, too!
AG: Sam, thanks so much for being such a good sport. BTW your plays are full of humor. Sometimes.  People usually don’t get the joke
Sam: Don’t be absurd
AG: HA good one!  Anyway, thanks for spending some hours with me.  This has been the opposite of informative.

Tribute

Elisabeth Hirsch is a once in a lifetime person.

She’s one of the funniest writers I have known, and her blog has given me light on many a gloomy day.

But what makes Elisa so absolutely amazing is the light that she shares in through her utter honesty of her life.  She has suffered greatly, but has found hope in her life and is brave enough to share her journey with us.

Tomorrow, her memoir “The Golden Sky” is being released and I am HONORED to be a part of her blogfest.

Let me tell you, I’ve been looking forward to the release of this memoir ever since I heard about it, back in August.  I have been waiting semi-patiently and will be snatching up my own copy as soon as I can.  And I think you should, too.

So as a part of the Blogfest, Elisa has asked us to write a tribute to someone we have lost.

This is a Eulogy I wrote for my grandmother when she passed away but was too chicken to share with anybody.

Well, here it is.  I know my grandma is watching me, always smiling.  She’s my guardian angel.  So, grandma, this one’s for you.

————–

I walk into the house and my nose is immediately filled with the scent of grandma and I want to walk back out.

Nothing and everything has changed in the museum of my childhood. There’s less furniture and more dust and my memory fills in the blanks with the phantoms of what used to be, of what is no longer there
(sitting over there in my Easter clothes, fed up with dull and useless conversation, flinging my body across the shoddy couch they always talked about replacing with a new one and never did because it’s sitting there right now, shoddier but without my little body wrinkling itself in its Sunday best)
.

There’s a wall of mirrors and I can see the ghost of myself in them if I look too long, so I don’t. I don’t want to see the smiley seven year old, the twitchy fourteen year old, the twirling five year old oblivious to all that, the ten year old trying not to cry after grandma got gum out of my hair with peanut butter (finally peanut butter after mayonnaise and ice didn’t work, but lord help us I didn’t have to shave my head).

They’re all there, but I don’t want to see them.

The area under the stairs is dusty and empty. It used to be filled with plants, potted plants, green plants that didn’t make me sneeze with pollen, that used to make the room seem brighter. There is only one left, wrinkled and leaning to the side, crippled with age and trying to stay alive.

I hadn’t realized….

My mother has already barreled her way in to the back room, where my grandfather is sitting on the couch staring at the TV, but I linger in her footsteps because I’m not my mother. I have about one minute and thirteen seconds before they’ll miss my presence and call my name (but I don’t want to hear my name today) and my mother will talk about the preparations in the same strong way she talks about everything (Do you need eggs, we can go get eggs) like a shopping list that can be erased and re-written.

She’s braver than me.

So I smile [and for once it doesn’t fill my eyes] and walk back.

(Why would anyone smile at a time like this?)

My grandfather is sitting on the couch and he’s the same but different, his stained shirt open and his hair uncombed, his chiseled face soft and bewildered. I give him a hug and we both try not to cry and don’t state the obvious, but the electricity of not crying passes through us and shocks the part of the heart that pumps out tears

(I didn’t realize at the time that I would be this sad but I am this sad and now people are admitting that I’ll be this sad forever [which is a longass time if you think about it] so I’ll have to find a way to live with the sadness [even though we shouldn’t be sad, we should be happy she’s in Heaven{then why am I so sad?}])

and they glisten in our eyeballs and coat our throat with mucus, but the hellos still come out and the tears retreat for a moment, until the next moment which could be at any time.

My mother bustles around, getting this, looking for that, and I am terrified of being left alone with my grandfather because I don’t know what to say (I WISH MY SISTER WERE HERE), but my mother is trying to find a photo album and goes upstairs to look for it while I sit at the edge of the corner of the couch, looking at my grandfather who looks at the television.

This room is even worse.

(I bet she was really happy the day I was born.)
[I wish I could have been there]

“I miss her,” his hand on the couch, palm down on the couch and he says “I miss her”. I wish he hadn’t and am excited that he did, but I have nothing to say that won’t make me burst into tears, so I just nod that I’m listening but don’t think he knows I’m there because he’s still watching the TV.

And his hand is on the couch and he says “I miss her” in a way that sounds like my grandfather but isn’t my grandfather and of all the words in all the worlds, I cannot think of a single one to fill this moment.
So I put my hand on his
He looks at me
Like he’s seen a
Ghost
And says “She would do that every night.”

What?

“Every night she would put her hand on mine and we would sit side by side, with her head on my shoulder and her hand on mine, we would watch TV until we fell asleep. Every night, she would put her hand on mine and we weren’t alone.
Who’s going to hold my hand now?”

And he’s just written the poem I couldn’t.

#14 – Broken Toe regrets…

Dear AG,
Thank you for your submission to the 2011-2012 Broken Toe You Were Never Gonna Get It Commission. Our selection committee has been diligently drinking and completed the review process, and unfortunately, though unsurprisingly as per our cute subject title, your submission was not picked this year.

This was certainly not an easy decision, except for the fact it was. We received over 200 MILLION submissions this time around which really shouldn’t be a surprise since we are famous and people have had our deadline marked on their calendar for a full year.

Our process made the selection completely blind especially because we read all the submissions in dark cellars by candlelight OH WAIT, that’s not what we mean, we mean that no member of the selection committee could see any identifying information which must really make you feel better

You see AG, it’s not about who you know, it’s about throwing darts at the submissions and picking randomly from there.

It was not really a joy for us to receive submissions of such minor quality and promise, and we politely, albeit insincerely, thank you for your work.

Sincerely,

Broken Toe
That’s right, the entire company, no one person made this easy decision!

3 Days Later….

In my E-mail box…..

 

Broken Toe Congratulates!

(AG’s thoughts: WHAT OMG THEY MUST HAVE MADE A MISTAKE BY SENDING ME THAT REGECTION E-MAIL OMG I AM SO HONORED

hahaha)

Congratulations!

Broken Toe received over 200 bajillion applications from all over the freakin’ universe for our 4th Semi-Bi-Triannual You Were Never Gonna Get It Commission Commission. This year’s award will be shared by two writers:

Fan C. Name for her project This Title is in Spanish and Joe Square for his project This Title is Also in Spanish.

Oh, I’m sorry, did you think you were gonna get it? Gotcha! Oh we like a good joke. No, no, this is just an e-mail RIDDLED with information you don’t want to know about!

Well, here goes!

This Title is in Spanish is the story of an old lady who runs away from a nursing home, meets a young’n and has adventures.  And also it takes place in Spain during a revolution in the future with aliens.
In This Title is Also in Spanish, something vaguely similar happens, but this time it’s about life and what it means to live. And also War. And also political mumbojumbo.  And also LOOK A BIRD.
This year’s finalists included: Not You, Him, Her, Her Again, Not You, I Think I Went to School With Him, annnnd Yup, Definitely Not You.
Catch ya later, gator!
Broken Toe: We Like to Bend Theatre Until it Snaps in Half!