Monday, January 6, 2020

PDX Playwrights News 1/6/2020

Kick off the new year with the reading of saucy new comedy!
 
JANUARY 7, 2020
KINK - by Matt Garland
 
In this musical, a group of techies are assembled for a project. After work, they get acquainted at a club. When the dancers at the club pull them into drunken improv, connections are made and kinks explored. But can everyone’s kinks be aligned? And can the project withstand the turbulence?
This session is scheduled at the conference room of Portland Center Stage at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave.
 
UPCOMING EVENTS
 
NOTE: After the initial meeting January 7, no Third Tuesday meeting is scheduled in January, as PDX Playwrights will be preparing for, participating in, and celebrating at the Fertile Ground Festival of New Works. Our next regular session is slated for Tuesday, February 4, once the festival is underway. Meanwhile, we welcome comments from PDXP participants and festival attendees about the festival, directed to info@pdxplaywrights.org.
 
JANUARY 30 – FEBRUARY 9, 2019
 
PDX Playwrights in the Fertile Ground Festival of New Works
The plethora of PDXPlaywrights offerings in the Fertile Ground Festival of New Works may be seen on our website at pdxplaywrights.org and as part of festival listings. Please join us, support your fellow theater-makers, and find inspiration in these acts of creation!
 
FEBRUARY 4, 2020
MOSCOW/MOCKBA - by Emma Rye and Olivia MacFadden-Elliott
 
An updated draft of the play presented by PDX Playwrights in the 2019 Fertile Ground Festival: Three Russian expats are grieving the passing of their father, and making the most of their circumstances in Northern Idaho. Olga, the oldest, is micro-managing the affairs of her younger sisters, desperate to have a moment to herself. A stranger from their Russian past appears on the scene to distract Marina from her doof of a husband. Inessa is finally living with her "best friend" Nataly, but it's not all roses and sunshine.  Inspired by Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters as a modern take on a parlor classic.

MORE ABOUT US
 
PDX Playwrights is a group for playwrights who want to meet, hear their scripts read aloud, and share feedback.
 
Typically we have more than 15 people at each meeting: playwrights, actors, and friends. Plays are read aloud by whomever is at the table that night, or sometimes by actors selected in advance. We encourage you to attend our regular meetings even if you aren't bringing a play. New readers are welcome, but please do let us know with an email RSVP to info@pdxplaywrights.org if you are planning to attend, as space is limited.
 
Regular meetings
First and Third Tuesdays (and Fifth Tuesdays, if applicable)
7 to 9 p.m.
 
The location for the January 7 meeting is in Portland Center Stage at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave.
 
An RSVP to info@pdxplaywrights.org is appreciated. Please arrive by 7 p.m. Check our site (pdxplaywrights.org) for updated information.
 
Free - a hat is passed for optional donations to cover expenses.
 
Thank you. We look forward to seeing you.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Rene Denfeld Speaks to Willamette Writers PDX Chapter January 7th

Writing from Real Life: Everyone Has a Story

Join us for our first Portland Chapter meeting of the new year on January 7, 2020 with New York Times Bestselling novelist, Rene Denfeld. With years of hard work and sacrifice, Denfeld went from unknown writer to award-winning, bestselling novelist. Join us as she explores how to tell your own story, with tons of practical publishing and writing advice.


About Rene Denfeld

Rene Denfeld is the bestselling author of The Butterfly Girl, The Child Finder and The Enchanted. Her novels have won numerous honors, including a prestigious French Prix, an ALA Medal for Excellence in Fiction, a Carnegie listing, an IMPAC listing, Oregonian best book of the year and more. A longtime death row investigator, Rene has won awards for her justice work, including a Break the Silence award in Washington, DC and being named Hero of the Year by the New York Times. Rene grew up in Portland, where she overcame severe poverty, abuse and homelessness. She lives in Portland with her children, all adopted from foster care.

Meeting Schedule:

Doors open at 6:30PM. 6:30-7:00 p.m., Meeting Setup, Fellowship and Refreshments 7:00-8:15 p.m., News and Announcements followed by the Program 8:15-8:30 p.m., Book signings etc

Meeting Details

Monthly meetings at all the chapters are free for members of Willamette Writers. Fee for nonmembers to attend meetings at the Portland chapter meetings is $5 (suggested donation). For information about Willamette Writers chapters in Vancouver, Salem, Corvallis, Eugene, Newport, and Medford, visit http://willamettewriters.org/events/category/monthly-meetings/list/

About the Meetings

The Portland Chapter holds monthly meetings for writers in the Portland metropolitan area. Members from other chapters are always welcome as are writers new to Willamette Writers.
Unless otherwise stated...

Meeting Time

The Portland Chapter meets on the first Tuesday of each month except for August when we head to the Willamette Writers Conference.

Meeting Location

Meetings are held at the First Congregational Church at 1126 SW Park Ave, Portland, OR 97205.

Meeting Format

  • 6:30-7:00 p.m., Meeting Setup, Signup, Fellowship and Refreshments
  • 7:00-8:15 p.m., News and Announcements followed by the Program
  • 8:15-8:30 p.m., Book signings, silent auctions, or other events in the back room
  •  

Meeting Cost

Monthly meetings at all the chapters are free for members of Willamette Writers. Fee for nonmembers to attend meetings at the Portland chapter meetings is $5 (suggested donation).

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Soapstone Literary Announcements

The Milwaukie Poetry Series Thirteenth Season!
A reading by Judith Montgomery

6:30 PM, Wednesday, December 11, 2019

St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church
2036 SE Jefferson St., Milwaukie, OR  97222             
          
Judith Montgomery lives in Oregon City. Her poems appear in The Bellingham Review,  Prairie Schooner, and Tahoma Literary Review, among other journals, as well as in a number of anthologies. She’s been awarded fellowships in poetry from Literary Arts and the Oregon Arts Commission; residencies from Playa, Hypatia-in-the-Woods, and Caldera; and prizes from the Bellingham ReviewPersimmon Tree, and elsewhere.  Her first collection,Passion, received the 2000 Oregon Book Award for poetry.  Her second collection, Red Jess, appeared in 2006 from Cherry Grove Collections; her second chapbook, Pulse & Constellation, was a finalist for the Finishing Line Press Competition and appeared in 2007 from the Press. Her second full-length book, Litany for Wound and Bloom, appeared from Uttered Chaos Press in August 2018, and her prize-winning narrative medicine chapbook, Mercy, appeared innMarch 2019 from Wolf Ridge Press.  She holds a doctorate in American Literature fromnSyracuse University, and teaches poetry workshops throughout Oregon.

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Publication Fair
Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, 12-7 p.m.
At: The Cleaners at the Ace Hotel
403 SW 10th Ave, Portland, Oregon 97205

Free & open to the public.

Reprobate/GobQ Books invites one and all to the 2019 edition of Portland’s own Publication Fair, featuring art and books from local small presses and artists. Among many others, this year's list of exhibitors includes:

Ampersand Gallery & Fine Books
Anthology Bookseller
Atelier 26
Container Corps
Couch Press Publishers
Deep Over Stock
Floating World Comics
Fonograf Editions
Gobshite Quarterly/GobQ Books
IPRC
Monograph Bookworks
Octopus Books
Passages Bookshop
Perfect Day Publishing
PNCA
PSU Art & Social Practice
Sidebrow Books
Sunday Painter Press, and
Two Plum Press

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 The Ashland Branch Library will be hosting a local author fair on Sunday, December 8, 2019. Come and support and celebrate our local literary culture by interacting with over 60 successful local authors and publishers who will also be giving short readings and talks throughout the afternoon. While there you can purchase signed books as unique gifts for the holidays, and free prize drawings every half hour lets you win books donated by participating authors.

https://jcls.org/programs/laf

Guanajuato Room
12:10–12:25   
Molly Tinsley of Fuze Publishing speaks on “Creating a Narrative Voice.”
12:30–12:45    
Ann Southcombe, author of Tales from Gorilla Girl, shares advice on writing a memoir.
12:50–1:05   
Midge Raymond of Ashland Creek Press discusses “You Are Here: Writing about Place.”
1:10 –1:25  
Maureen Battistella of SOU explores her writing and collecting of stories in “A Sense of This Place: The Stories of Southern Oregon,” and other published work.
1:30–1:45  
Peggy Rubin, founding director of the Center for Sacred Theatre, discusses “Life is a Sacred Place.”
1:50–2:05
Amy Miller, award-winning poet, shares "Writing Poetry Sequences to Bust Writer's Block and Spark New Ideas."
2:10–2:25    
Brandt Legg, USA Today Best-Selling author presents “Seven Keys to Selling Lots of Books.”
2:30–2:45  
Jennifer Margulis presents “The 5 Secrets of the Most Successful Authors: A New York Times Published Award-Winning Writer Reveals All.”
2:50–3:05   
Michael Niemann, award-winning thriller author of international espionage shares “Aristotle’s two tips for better crime fiction.” 
Children’s Department 
Authors Valerie Coulman (12:30 p.m.), Judy Cox (1:30 p.m.), and Kim Griswell (2:30 p.m.) will discuss writing and publishing children’s books and working with an illustrator. Related activities for children will take place throughout the afternoon.
Teen Department 
Authors Sarah D. Silver (12:15 p.m.), Jenny Englund (1:15 p.m.), and Cherie Coon (2:15 p.m.) will give short talks on writing for teens, including writing from experience and creating the villain.     

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Mental Illness as a Literary Device, Notes on Allen Eskens' The Life We Bury

                                                 
                                               Mental Illness as a Literary Device

                                         Notes on Allen Eskens' The Life We Bury


by Bill Johnson

The use of mental illness in Allen Esken's The Life We Bury demonstrates it as a powerful technique to create drama.

Joe, the novel's main character, has left a chaotic home to attend college. He works odd jobs as a bouncer to pay his tuition. His mother is untreated bi-polar and she self-medicates with alcohol. Joe also has a young, autistic brother that he has left behind to go to college. Except when his mother is arrested and he must either return home or take his brother to stay in his cramped college town apartment. When his mother is arrested, Joe simply tells his brother his mother is attending a meeting. Some of the meetings last for days, which the brother mostly accepts.

And soon, the mother will put at risk Joe attending college, which Joe considers his best shot at creating a new, better life for himself

Eskens starts the novel with this sentence...

'I remember being pestered by a sense of dread as I walked to my car that day, pressed down by a wave of foreboding that swirled around my head and broke against the evening in small ripples.'

This naturally creates drama around the question, what is the cause of this dread? The prime directive of a first sentence is to give the reader a reason to read a next sentence. Esken has accomplished that.

The first paragraph ends with...

'Or would I still travel the path that led me to Carl Iverson?'

The outcome of this premonition is named, Carl Iverson, while raising a new question, who is Carl?

The novel continues with this note about Joe's mother and her effect on his life...

'Or-and this is where I'd place my bet-maybe she {a high school counselor who doesn't think Joe is college material} knew who my mother was and figured no one can change the sound of an echo.'

This is a cryptic way of saying that being raised by his mother will affect Joe's choices in life, not in a good way.

In this opening chapter, Joe has traveled to Hillside Manor, a retirement home and a place...

'...with its gray walls streaked green with moss, its raggedy shrubs run amok, and its mold, the color of oxidized copper, encasing the soft wood of every window sash.'

Even the details of the environment convey illness.

Joe is at the manor because he needs to interview an elderly person for a class project that he is late to start (increasing the tension). Because so many of the inhabitants are senile, Joe needs permission to interview a prisoner who has been sent to the manner to die of cancer. Carl was sent to prison for life for raping and murdering a young girl.

In the manor, Joe has a memory of his grandfather that foreshadows learning why Joe blames himself for his grandfather's death.

'There were weeks, however, when the sound of rain splashing against a windowpane would seep into my subconscious and he would visit me in my dreams-dreams that would end with me sitting bolt upright in my bed, my body covered in a cold sweat, and my hands trembling from the memory of watching him die.'

The details of how the grandfather died and why it had such a major impact on Joe's mental landscape is revealed deep in the novel. Here the question is framed for readers to expect an answer.

Joe decides he will interview Carl, the convicted, dying murderer, but he then gets a hysterical call from his mother. In between screaming at her arresting officer, Joe learns she was arrested for a DUI and will be detox and jail for several days.

Joe must now make decisions about how to take care of his brother and continue in school. The first chapter ends with...

'A block away from Hillview, I pulled into a parking lot, gripped the steering wheel with all my strength, and shook it violently. "God dammit!" I yelled. "Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! Why can't you just leave me alone." My knuckles turned white, and I trembled as the wave of anger passed through me. I took a deep breath and waited for the throbbing in my throat to subside.'

In spite of his rage, Joe must now return home to take care of his brother and later deal with his mother and her latest boyfriend when she is released from jail.

In the next chapter, the town where Joe grew up and his mother lives is detailed. Note the structure. First we are drawn in to Joe's life and drama, then we get more details about his environment. Struggling writers often start with the details of environment.

Because his mother lives hours from the college, Joe must make a decision about how to care for his autistic brother who can't be left alone.

Returning home, Joe has a memory of an accident that hurt his brother. After the accident, he has to visit local bars to find his mother and bring her home. When she sees Joe's brother bleeding from the head, she explodes...

"You had to use my good towel," she yelled. "You couldn't just grab a rag. Look at this blood in the carpet. We could lose our damage deposit. Did you ever stop to think about that? No. You never think. You just make the goddamn mess and I have to clean it up."

This scene conveys the emotional minefield Joe must navigate each time he needs to deal with his mother.

Joe also has to be artful to convey a new living situation to his autistic brother.

'It was easy to lie to Jeremy, his trusting temperament being incapable of understanding deceit. I didn't lie to him to be mean. It was just my way of explaining things to him without the complexity of nuance that came with the truth.'

Eskens does an excellent job of setting out the dramatic situations Joe must deal with to try and gain a better life by going to college.

The second chapter ends with...

'As I pulled out of the driveway, I contemplated my work and class schedules, trying to find gaps that would allow me to keep an eye on Jeremy. On top of that, distracting questions ripped through my brain. How would Jeremy get along in the unfamiliar world of my apartment? Where would I find the time or money to bail my mother out of jail? And how the hell did I become the parent in this wreck of a family?'

Excellent questions that increase Joe's inner tension and that pull readers forward to turn the page and begin chapter three.

Chapter Three begins...

'On the drive back to the Twin Cities, I watched the anxiety pace back and forth behind my brother's eyes, his brow and forehead as he processed what was happening.'

Bringing his brother to his college town apartment has an unintended but welcome introduction and connection to the girl next door, Lila, who volunteers to help with Jeremy.

It only comes out much later how damaged Lisa is.

Returning to Joe's mother...

'Add to that cauldron {untreated bi-polar} an ever increasing measure of cheap vodka-a form of cheap medication that quelled the inner scream but amplified the crazy-and you get a picture of the life I left behind.'

And the life that won't stay behind.

At the end of chapter three, Joe considers...

'When I finally fell asleep that night, I did so wrapped comfortably in the belief that my meeting with Carl Iverson would have no down side, that our encounter would somehow make my life-easier. In hindsight, I was at best naive.'

Joe ultimately discovers that Carl was suicidal while serving in Vietnam over his inability to save a young girl from rape. Which is how, in part, Joe comes to believe that Carl was not guilty of raping and killing a young girl who lived next door to his house.

Carl is yet another character with a deep mental wound.

The Life We Bury does a great job of using mental illness to greatly complicate and add drama to Joe's life. The drama is organic to the story. It creates a situation where there's no easy path forward for Joe, the hallmark of creating narrative tension in a novel.

This is a novel with excellent story dynamics.


Copyright 2018 Bill Johnson 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Notes on Joker


This film is brilliantly acted by Joaquin Phoenix. The movie sets out the descent into utter madness of a barely working clown when his meds are stopped because of budget cuts. The film offers a gritty portrait of his life and delusions. But the ending of the film strains for a big moment that doesn't register.

In Fellini's 8 1/2, the director Quito is creatively stuck while trying to find an ending for his latest film. He sets out on a path of 'retiring' the memories and moments of his life that have defined him and his creative spirit. At the climax of the film, he realizes he can integrate all those memories to support his creative self and this is acted out by a celebratory ending that includes a marching band. This scene has been recreated in other movies, including Big Fish and Shortbus.
           
The moment of celebration in Joker is set off by Author Fleck killing a talk show host on live TV setting off a riot for which he is a symbol. But the intense focus on Arthur's life never quite explains why he has become that symbol and, if he is that symbol, why anyone would  care about Arthur Fleck.
           
Somehow the moment is meant to convey that Arthur is fully integrating with his persona the Joker. I was left wondering if it was just another delusion.

Monday, September 2, 2019

What IS Plot? An Online Workshop Offered by Pennwriters

What IS Plot?

Pennwriters Online Class:
October 3-31, 2019
Class Title: What IS Plot?
$49.00
with PayPal

Register online at  https://pennwriters.org/what-is-plot/

Or send a check to Treasurer, Pennwriters, Inc. PO Box 685 Dalton, PA 18414

Many writers are consumed with the idea of creating the effect of what a plot does without first understanding what a plot is. What a plot does is raise dramatic questions a reader or viewer will follow to get answers. What a plot is is the process of generating questions around the outcome of a story’s promise that gives a story a dramatic shape and outcome fulfilling to an audience. This workshop is designed to guide writers to an understanding of what creates a dramatic plot, and to offer practical advice on how they can create dramatically satisfying plots for their stories.
Writers in this workshop will be guided to understand a simple plot outline for some popular stories with simple plot mechanics. This outline will convey a fundamental truth of storytelling, how the elements of a story transports its audience.

Writers will then be asked to use that knowledge to outline the plot of a popular story they enjoy.
Finally, writers will be guided to apply this understanding of plot mechanics on a project they are working on. This could be outlining a story they have only begun to create an understanding of the underlying mechanics of that story, to creating a plot outline that guides a revision of a complete manuscript.

The completed outline will include creating plot questions for each step of the novel.
The goal of the workshop is for students to be able to create a detailed plot outline for a novel or script and to understand the mechanics of how other popular stories are constructed.

Instructor Bio:

Bill Johnson is a produced playwright, optioned screenwriter, and has read manuscript submissions for a literary agent. He is the author of A Story is a Promise and The Spirit of Storytelling, a workbook that explores how to create dramatic, engaging stories; and web master of Essays on the Craft of Dramatic Writing, a site that explores principles of storytelling through reviews of popular movies, books and plays (www.storyispromise.com); Bill has lead workshops on writing around the United States, including the Southern California Writing Conference, Write on the Sound Conference, and the Expo Screenwriting Conference in Los Angeles.