I’m not a playwright.
I finished writing a play this week. A play? Yeah, I know. I’m not a playwright, or didn’t used to be.
I’m not sure if completing a draft of a play makes me a playwright or not. Of course, it took me years to accept that I was a real author, too. It’s that old insecurity complex that plagues authors, young and old, experienced and inexperienced alike.
I took a playwriting/screenwriting course last spring. On my first day, I told the group:
Writing fiction terrifies me.
I’ve always loved reading it, admiring it, and promoting it, but do I view myself as a fiction writer? No. But in this hands-on workshop we had to write a play. Well, at least the beginnings of a play. After meeting once a week, for six weeks, we either read a portion of our play aloud or, better, had friends come and act out a ten-minute segment. I opted for the latter. I invited some actor friends and their son to come and act out a couple scenes. The play I was working on was suitable for families. It featured three siblings, a mother, a father, and an uncle. It was amazing to see the story come to life on stage. I know that sounds clichéed, but it really was a worthwhile part of the process. It helped me see and hear which parts worked and which parts didn’t. After I knew which lines to rewrite, shorten, or expand upon. It made me think more about the logistics. Does it makes sense to have a set change after just one scene? Which props will have to be mimed? The stones. And which ones can be real? The doll.
Then, a year later, I had some time. I opened up the file and read it over. I looked at my notes, scribbled down some more and did some more research. Then, I pushed myself to devise a plot — something very new to me. The hardest part — which I see more clearly now — was getting started and making a commitment to focus on it and try to finish it. Once I’d done that, however, the process wasn’t as terribly scary as I thought it would be. It was a challenge to work out the plot, but I decided I should get more lines down on paper, and see where that took the story. And so, I wrote another page or so. Then I looked at what I’d written and asked, “Now how can I get from A to B?” It was never obvious. Sometimes I took a break and mulled over the conundrum while doing other things. Then, I wrote some more. I knew it still wasn’t quite right; I had more loose ends to tie up. I continued writing and thinking, and writing some more. In the end, I finished it. Setting a personal goal and exercising determination helped me create characters, build a setting, and unravel the plot. Much of the process was a lot of fun. I felt productive while writing and pleased with the way it was developing. I proved to myself that I could do it. And I discovered that I enjoy writing dialogue; I like making up scenes.
It was fun.
This week is Canadian Children’s Book Week. Last year, during this special week, I had a lot going on in the community. You can read about it in a previous blog posting here. It’s lovely to have a week that honours the wonderful home-grown talent we have. I hope you’ll read some wonderful Canadian children’s books, stop by your library and see the book displays. Check out the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s website: here.
Writing is hard. Writing a book, poem, graphic novel, or play, which is accepted, published, reviewed, shared, and read, is deeply rewarding. I think what this quiet, writing-focused week has shown me as a children’s author is that it is important to continue to challenge oneself artistically in order to develop as a writer. Who knows where this path will lead?
The notion of continually challenging oneself reminds me of The Little Engine That Could: “I think I can, I think I can. I think I can.”
If you are passionate about being a writer and are willing to work hard, you can succeed.
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I know I should have blogged this last week, but better late than never, right?
In celebration of Canadian Children’s Book Week, Young Kingston authors are creating a bit of a buzz in the downtown. Kingstonians walking down Princess Street can admire the window display at Novel Idea, Kingston’s independent bookstore.
The window features books by several members of Young Kingston, including Y.S. Lee, Ann-Maureen Owens, Mary Alice Downie, Peggy Collins, Leanne Lieberman, Sarah Ti-Mei Tsiang, and me.
Ehem, Ann-Maureen and I can now add “window dresser” to our resumes! It was an interesting challenge figuring out how to best display the wide array of children’s books represented by our group. With stuffed animal characters from one of Peggy’s beautifully illustrated picture books (Tallula’s Atishoo!), a model of a canoe and Martello tower accompanying The Kids Book of Canadian Exploration and Forts of Canada by Ann-Maureen Owens, Victorian maps of London to showcase Y.S. Lee’s Agency series, and hand-crafted megaphone, spinning plate, juggling balls to feature my Backyard Circus book, the overall effect is upbeat, energetic, and fun.
It is such an honour to see my books in the store window. I am forever grateful to the store owner, Oscar, for giving us this opportunity to celebrate local children’s and young adult books. I’m sure all YK members echo this sentiment. I’d also like to extend thanks to the helpful staff at Novel Idea: Cynthia and Natasha.
I gave a ten-minute talk to pre-schoolers at the Isabel Turner branch of the Kingston Frontenac Public Library on Saturday, May 5. With mismatched socks, polka dot bow tie, and oversized plaid jacket, I read and performed from Backyard Circus. I also read three poems including two new ones that I wrote just for the occasion: “The Kids’ Table ABC and “Night Fears.” Simultaneously, Peggy Collins read at the Central library in Kingston.
On Sunday, May 6 from 1:00 to 5:00 members of Young Kingston chatted with the public, with each other, and were on hand to sign books to patrons. I dressed up Backyard Circus style — why not? — and the afternoon was a lot of fun.
There are still plenty of signed books in the store, so please pop in this week to pick up some very meaningful and beautiful birthday gifts for children and youths. The selection is truly impressive.
This Saturday, May 12 at 10:30 a.m. I’ll be giving another ten-minute talk at the Central branch of the KFPL. Since this is the branch my family frequents, it will be extra special having the opportunity to speak there. Thank you to librarians Sarah Balint and Sarah Macdonald for their efforts in organizing these readings.
One more item to note: the Central branch has created a book display and bulletin board featuring Young Kingston writers’ books, biographies, original artwork by Peggy Collins, newsclippings, and book covers. Another display area includes other picture books by Canadian authors and illustrators. Again, thanks to Sarah and Brenda for creating the displays. What a wonderful way to show off the works of talented Canadians. It’s going to be such a fun week!
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