The emotional roller coaster of writing

13051780_1249792608383865_1080295417738133882_nCAC Poster 1

 

So it’s been quite a two-week period. Carol and I left two weeks ago tomorrow for the filming of Chasing AllieCat the movie in Columbia, MO. It was surreal to see the kids–the characters and the scenes I had created come to life before the camera.

Here’s 3 bikesAllie and Sadie and Joe as they appear in the movie.

 

 

 

Here’s the camera crew in the woods, preparing for the scene where Sadie, Joe, and Allie find Father Malcolm. ALL the students working on crews were amazing. I loved hanging out with the entire group of Stephens Film Institute women!

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This is  the set-up before Father Malcolm is planted in the woods. steph&Becky bikes shop

 

 

 

 

 

Steph and I confer, trying to figure out a scene in the bike shop.

 

 

So all of this was a whirlwind, but delightful and exciting and exhilirating!

Then I got home with enough time to do laundry and repack and head north to St. Joseph, MN for the YAYA (Young Authors/Young Artists) Conference at the College of Saint Benedict.

I’m the keynote speaker for all three days of the conference (different group of kids each day). Each day, the auditorium is filled with 500-some kids! I have to keep them paying attention!

I do my schpiel about 5 rules for writers

1. Read

2. Live

3. Pay attention

4. Apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair

5. Write!

And I talk about animal metaphors for writing to completion (all of this can be applied to doing art, too). I use how I came up with the story  Chasing AllieCat by “prairie-dogging” it together–using random unrelated weird things I’d noticed in life and tying them together as if digging a prairie dog town to connect them underneath–to make them all fit together into a story.

The copies of Chasing AllieCat sold out the first day. Luckily, I had ordered a box of 60 books before the movie shoot. I had 50 left, which the bookstore took on–and they sold all but the 15 they reserved for tomorrow’s crowd!

So…all of this should make me VERY happy. This is what writing success is, right? It’s the kind of thing you dream of when you want to write and when you spend long hours alone in front of the computer in the basement. I was flying high.

THEN the bookstore called FLUX–Chasing AllieCat’s publisher–to ask if they could get another 50 books in a hurry. Second choice: to buy the 50 books to replace mine rather than trying to pay me for them. Today FLUX answered that they only have 2 copies in stock, and  they aren’t sure they are going to print any more!!!! So finally all this good stuff happens, and the book that made it happen is going out of PRINT!???? That’s a writer’s nightmare. There’s still hope, but slim.

From the highest high to the most depressed low. Such is the emotional life of a writer! (My mother would have said, “Pride cometh before fall.”)

Good thing we write because we love stories. If we wrote for some modicum of “Success,” It would be the most depressing career in the world!

 

The Cast of the movie Chasing AllieCat

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http://chasingac2016.wix.com/chasingalliecat#!cast/ozesk

Playing Allie:

Emily Sukolics is a recent graduate from Stephens College. She earned her BFA in Theatre with an emphasis in acting. Along with acting, she sings, has worked backstage at multiple theatres in Kansas City, and is pursuing a career in film and stage work. During her time at Stephens she was in many stage productions including Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird and, most recently,  Cassandra in Vanya, and Sonya, and, Masha, and Spike. She is very excited to be playing the part of Allie in Chasing Alliecat.

 

Playing Sadie:

Ana Michaela Chan was born on June 10th, 1997 in suburban town Davis, California to David Chan and Renee Alarcon-Chan. She is the youngest sister of a total of seven siblings, with her brother, William, ranking youngest of the pack. Ana’s involvement with theatre started at a supremely young age of 3 years old, where she would attend theatre auditions with her dad—the Davis Musical Theatre Company’s hired pianist. After years of observing the performers, Ana was finally cast at age 6 in her first theatre production, the musical The Music Man. Throughout all of her schooling, Ana was constantly involved in this theatre company’s productions, auditioning for as many shows her parents would allow, including Seussical, Les Misérables, South Pacific, and Peter Pan. Ana attended Rivercity High School, where she took part in various school activities, including a state-competing debate team (Mock Trial). Because of her family’s musical background, Ana was also the drummer/vocalist of the jazz band Syncopating Sea Monkeys. Ana is currently attending Stephens College, in Columbia, MO.

 

Playing Joe:

Zack Huels

 

Playing Cecil Baker:

Robert Doyen, Professor of Theatre

Rob Doyen is a resident actor/teacher at Stephens, where he teaches Acting, Directing and Musical Theatre. He also teaches in the Stephens Summer Theatre Institute (STI) and has spent the last 37 summers at Okoboji Summer Theatre. This past summer, he appeared in Blithe Spirit, The Foreigner and Little Shop of Horrors. Last year at Stephens, he was featured in A Catered Affair, Inspecting Carol, Uncle Vanya and A Shayna Maidel. He earned an M.A. from Illinois State University and a B.F.A. from Stephens College.

Father Malcolm: To Be Announced

Playing Race Volunteer:

Itohan Amayo is a sophomore student at the University of Missouri majoring in Communication with a minor in Theatre Performance.  Itohan LOVES acting and performing. Although she is going to school for communication, she continuously is striving to accomplish a career in performance. Itohan has been performing for 5 years now, and most of her performances have been in musicals, she is slowly creeping into a world of strictly acting, and she is loving the challenge.  Itohan is inspired by many people in her life like her family and friends, but her other inspirations are Oprah, and Todrick Hall, for obvious reasons. Itohan is excited to work with the cast and crew of Chasing AllieCat and hopes that this experience will create more experiences that will expand her talents and create new, awesome memories!

Playing the Nurse:

Danielle Doyen is excited to be a part of this SFI project. Danielle is back in Columbia after spending a decade in Los Angeles and New Orleans…it’s nice to be home. Selected Los Angeles and Regional Theater credits include: Natalie in AFTERMATH with Annie Potts, Constanze in AMADEUS, Vita in ANGELS FALL, Maria in TWELFTH NIGHT, Margaret in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Woman in THE 39 STEPS, and she appeared in MACBETH, THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL and AS YOU LIKE IT. She co-stared in the indie film UNMANNED, which garnered many festival nominations and awards.

Check out the crew, and see more details HERE.

A very long blog about Aging and about Happiness

A very long blog about aging. And life. And happiness.My age is no secret. It’s public knowledge on Facebook that I turned 59 last week. People ask me how old I am (seems that it’s not impolite to ask on one’s birthday), and at first, I can’t remember! I suppose it’s possible that I am experiencing early-onset dementia. I don’t want to believe that, and I don’t really think so, but I do forget stuff…Well, that aside, what I mean is that I can’t remember how old I am because I can’t flippin’ believe that I’m almost 60. WTF? How did this happen? 59 years old? What?zeroWhen I turned fifty, I started the tradition of riding my bike the number of miles of my years on my birthday. I needed to do something that felt good about being in charge of my life, my birthday. I didn’t want to wait for other people to make a big deal out of my birthday. I wanted to celebrate my own life in my own way, ‘cause after all, I’m the one living it. Turning 50 mattered more to me than to anybody else, right? I liked getting 50 miles in, just for myself. On my 50th birthday, I rode the whole way all by myself. It was good. So I kept it up, every year.Riding 50-something miles isn’t really a huge deal for me if I’m riding a lot during the year. A couple times, my birthday ride on June 22 has been the second longest ride of the year, but not usually. This year, my birthday dawned—or rather grew lighter in the darkness—there was no “dawn”—in a crackling, pounding thunderstorm. When the rain went away, the day continued howlingly windy, but not too tough to complete 59 miles.

Rachael and me

I met my writing and riding buddy Rachael Hanel in Madison Lake, and she joined me for the middle 32 miles, including a delightful lunch at Jocko’s in Cleveland. We also saved this turtle from the middle of the road.

 

turtle

In the last ten miles of the 59, I ran into Mike (aka Michaelmas) Busch who was getting a few extra miles on his way home from work—twice. I had to double back on my route to complete 59 and saw him for the second time. Best part of this: Mike gave me the delightful birthday present of the news that he’ll be joining the SCC faculty in the Mechatronics program! I almost jumped off my bike in delight when he told me.

59

After the 59, I took a little break and fed Freya, and rode back to town to join the Nicollet Bike Shop women’s ice cream ride organized by my buddy Emily Flynn, so I ended up with 92 miles for the day.

Almost (but not quite, as Mark Skarpohl was quick to point out) 159 kilometers. I could have ridden a few more and clocked 159K, but opted to stop in time to go out for birthday dinner. Food—and a margarita—won.

Maybe next year. Maybe I’ll have to ride 160 K instead of only 60 miles—just to keep the maestro of mileage Mark Skarpohli happy. And let it be known that Skarpohli always rides 100+ his birthday years in miles on his birthday. This July, he’ll be riding 157, I believe.

IMG_3272 Birthday flowers. 🙂

I do think that this much biking is one reason I don’t feel 59—and consequently forget how old I am. But I know I’m not alone in my disbelief. Saturday night, I joined five friends from Ballard High School for dinner in Ames, Iowa. We were all from the class of ’74 or ’73, and none of us can figure out how the heck we got to be this old. For crying out loud, I remember my Aunt Ruby going to her 30th class reunion, and thinking she was so old, and that I’d never be that old. Now I’m past my 40th Reunion year. What?

The reality of aging is a strange twist of logic in the minds of the young. Old people have a fictional past where they were once children in an age so long ago that it’s like a fairy tale. Old people are innately always old; they were never children, never young and beautiful, sexy and vibrant; thrumming with the expectancies of life. Old people are and always were, simply old. Now, it seems, I am entering that group of folks.

Even, as youngsters, if we understand the concept that old folks were once young, and we will, inevitably do one of the other: we will either die young, or we will age—ageing still doesn’t seem like reality for us. I won’t get old. I am me in this reality today, and I’m in this young body, and I won’t really, not really get old. Somehow, I am exempt because here I am. Now. Today. Look at me. Alive.

It’s very much like the student who does her research project on the dangers of tanning, but continues to cultivate a rich dark tan ‘cause cancer can’t really happen to me. Same thing, isn’t it?

Well, let me tell you, all you teens, twenty-somethings, and thirty-somethings, and even forty-somethings (!). It ain’t so, and it happens to the best of us. Weirdly, I’m happier—or definitely as happy at age 59 as ever. I have always loved my life, except for a few years in there when guilt and remorse clouded my entire perception, and I really needed to get a divorce and quit being a pastor’s wife—long story, which I can tell you sometime if you ask—and better yet, I’ll write it—which I’ve actually done—but I emerged from all that guilt and sadness happier than ever. I love my life. I truly love my life.

I have spectacular kids and grandkids. Yup, that’s bragging. I earned it, and they deserve it. Their spectacularness is, of course, a huge factor in my life, yes, but being happy isn’t dependent on anyone else, not even my own kids. Being happy is a decision inside of each of our own situations, and that is a freeing realization. All I can control is me. I make me happy. Or not. Or I do.

I have to say that a huge part of this freedom came from not depending on GOD to make me happy, which, for the first many years of my life, I thought I had to do. I was trying hard, and I mean really trying hard to trust God for my happiness. It just didn’t quite work—all part of that story I can tell you if you ask—and when I realized it was up to me, well, that’s when I started getting happier and happier. And yeah, I have some crappy downtimes, and yeah, I’ve been depressed, and yeah, publishers reject me, and I fall flat on my face, and I crash on my bike, and I break bones in bike crashes, and I got hit by a car, and I screw things up irreparably sometimes, and life sucks, but generally, generally, give me a bike so I can go meditate in motion, and I can reach my happy place.

I remember going for a run on Christmas Day afternoon, back in my glorious running days, when my knees were still in mint condition. A girlfriend pulled up beside me, opened her window in the frigid Christmas air and said, “Becky, you must really like yourself.” That set me in a whirl. What? Was I being selfish to go running on Christmas? I had to think long and hard about her question before I settled on an answer. Raised as a die-hard Christian, “liking myself” wasn’t a good thing. We were bludgeoned with the idea that we must love Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last—the only recipe for JOY. So to be confronted on Jesus’ “birthday” of all days, with “Really lik[ing]” myself was a jolt.

But I guess I do. I do like myself. I like this life I’ve built, and worked so hard to build. And I don’t want to depend on other people to be good to me. I need to do that myself.

I tell my composition students that nobody hands them the life they want on a silver platter. Even if they win the lottery, they’re still living their life, just with more money. Nobody gives you the life you want—not Prince Charming, not the perfect boss—nobody.

And I feel good about being an example to my students about building the life you want to live.

So back to aging. It sucks to get old and to lose perfect control of perfect knees and lose the ability to run. It sucks to forget names of people or things, but it also brings a peace. A recognition that yeah, I’ve actually done some really cool stuff in my life. And my kids know how to love and how to give and how to care about people and society and making the world a better place. If I can give that to the world? I’m happy as shit, and I’m happy to say that to anybody.

Yesterday, Freya and I spent the day with my dear friends Roger and Gwen Hart and their Newfy Buster Brown. We took the goofy Newfies to Petco Pet Store and swimming, and we talked and talked and talked—about life, what we’re doing, what we’re writing, and just what we’re doing in life. It solidified all I think about this: about how a happy life is what we make it, how we live every hour.

Not everybody wants to bike or own a 158-pound dog like I do. Not everyone can. Not everyone runs or bikes. But we each get to determine what makes us happy, and we are the only ones with the power to pursue that. And hopefully, the things that make us happy also make us healthy.

I have some more thoughts about this regarding crap life hands us like cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and other terminal illnesses…but I don’t have room to talk about all of it here, and nope, those are NOT happy-makers. But no matter what we get dealt, we’re still in charge of what we do with it. We’re in charge of every day of our own lives.

It’s up to each and every one of us to make our own lives the place where we want to live. THAT is what happiness is all about. That’s what real joy is.

Amen.

Deep Valley Book Festival

Deep Valley Book Festival–Betsy-Tacy Society Calendar of Events.

The Deep Valley Homecoming is coming up at the end of June. Author Melissa Wiley (whom I met at ALA in San Diego a couple years ago) will be a featured speaker. This will be fun. Check the above calendar. Book Festival/Book Fair is Sunday at Sibley Park. I’ll be selling Chasing AllieCat, Beauty Missing, Hair Hissing: Medusa Tells All, and Girl Meets Boy Because There are Two Sides to Every Story.

BTS_DeepValleyBookFestivalPRESS

 

KIPP: Gaston College Prep visit


Monday night, a much-loved and much-respected student from KIPP Pride High in Gaston, NC (Where Josh–um, I mean Mr. DoBell teaches) dropped dead during a pick-up game of basketball. The student body at KIPP has had its share of tragedy and sadness, believe me.

Tuesday, I was scheduled to visit KIPP: Gaston College Prep to talk with Ms Russell’s students who had just read Chasing AllieCat. The visit went on as planned, though all of the senior high kids were too busy with more important emotions and helping each other through the grief to want to attend and talk about a book. UNDERSTANDABLE.
I watched these teachers and kids, from the standpoint of a visitor on the fringe, and observed them act in a way that rings true for their motto, “We are a team and a family.”
It was an amazing day.
But the visit I had with the GCP girls and underclassmen was no less amazing. Everybody had stellar questions, and our time flew by. They asked me questions about the characters, and it reminded me why as writers, we MUST know our characters like icebergs: We know the WHOLE people in our stories, even if readers just see the top 10% (floating above water) that makes it into the story. We know the whole submerged 90% as well.
Here are some photos from that wonderful visit. Thanks, KIPP and GCP!