Monday, March 21, 2011

The More Things Change . . .

Life is full of surprises.  Unfortunately, the reason they're surprises is because all the rest of the time, we get what we expect.  Take spring, for example:

Is this a surprise, or is it expected?  It's certainly surprising to that !^&#%ing groundhog.  But if you live in New England, this (above) is more expected than this (below):

Yochi is not a New England thing.

Why am I posting these absurd pictures in my well-respected blog?  Ah, the rub.

1) I took that picture of the snow-covered flowers and facebook wouldn't accept it, and I want to post it somewhere.  

2) I've been changing my query letter around a bit.  It's gone from polite to less polite to call-to-arms.  The results, though, have been more-or-less predictable.  The more things change . . .

Here is said query letter.  Does it make you want to read my book?  Why or why not?  Compare and contrast. 

If you happen to be reading this blog and give me actual feedback on these issues, I will give you at least $25 when my book gets published, depending on whether my advance is five or six figures.  How's that for a deal? 

Don't think I'm serious?  Careful.  I may surprise you.  

The letter:

"Respected agent called by name:

For decades, an abundance of political rhetoric has centered on inequality in the United States:  financial, educational, and otherwise.  Both the sincerity and effectiveness of this rhetoric have often been called into question.  To this end, I've created Andrew Foster, the blunt, sometimes caustic narrator of CAMBRIDGE STREET.  His story serves as both a much-needed voice for urban youth and a literary rebuke of the gaps continuing to haunt U.S. cities.

CAMBRIDGE STREET (~66,500 words) is the story of poverty worsened by its proximity to privilege.  It is told with absolute honesty from the viewpoint of someone intimately familiar with the former.  Each day, Andrew Foster walks down Cambridge Street with "the big college dorm buildings from MIT and Harvard and all those big shot schools" rising behind him.  He has big plans--to win the love of his beautiful, Harvard-educated student teacher, Eleanor; to teach his mentally-disabled brother to defend himself; ultimately, to live life as a famous writer--but "here" keeps getting in the way.  Finally, he manages his way into Harvard--but not under the circumstances he had imagined. 

CAMBRIDGE STREET would sell alongside the popular young adult novels of Rita Williams-Garcia or Paul Griffin.  Like the work of these authors, the novel centers on the issues of urban youth.  However, CAMBRIDGE STREET also shares common ground with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (or, even further back, The Catcher in the Rye); that is, its unique narrative voice and subject matter have the potential to appeal to a wide adult audience as well. 

I am an experienced playwright, residing in the Boston area for the past nine years, where I have worked extensively with inner-city youth.  Several monologues from my plays have been published by Smith and Kraus Publishers, as have two scenes I wrote for teenage actors.  My work has also been accepted into numerous short play festivals around the country, and I co-founded the lauded comedy show, MOSAIC, which was recently listed first in The Boston Globe's article, "Five Productions That Make a Strong Argument for Why Smaller is Better." 

I'm confident that I've crafted a well-edited manuscript with something important to say, narrated by a character with a unique voice.  I hope very much that you might allow me the opportunity to submit CAMBRIDGE STREET for your full review.  In the meantime, be well, good luck, and thank you . . ."

. . . and thank you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

They Say I'm Mad

Remember when I first got distracted by a toe?  Yeah, that was a long time ago. 

Remember when I said I would update about said toe (and my reaction to it) in 5-7 days?  Yeah, I didn't.  (I'm sure you've all been holding your breath.)

You know why?  In the words of a wise professor I had back in the Your-dreams-will-come-true-if-you-only-really-believe Land (aka college), "Everything takes longer than it does."  And it has.

Okay, to simplify:  The toe story is still around.  Why?  Because college basketball season, you may have noticed, is still around.  Actually, it's ending (or, for 90% of the population, beginning).  But it's taking its time about it. 

And it's killing me. 

Every artist has his vice.  Tennessee Williams' was drugs.  Janis Joplin's was drugs.  John Bonham's was drugs.  Okay, so it's pretty much always drugs. 

Except for in my case.  In my case, it's round and brown and it bounces back up to your shoulder if properly inflated.  And it shouldn't be made of rubber.  Come on, people.  Rubber?  That's kickball.

Speaking of distraction . . .

So, all over the country, the laws against gambling have been temporarily suspended.  People are  throwing money at pool managers and hoping that their "bracket" (a term suddenly used outside of hardware stores and garages) will win them prestige, honor, and cash. 

Not me.  I know my bracket will win me prestige, honor and cash.  I'm so certain of it, in fact, that I'm spending an unfortunate number of hours each day researching.*  It will pay off.

Okay, judge me if you must.  But know this:  I can quit researching any time I want to.  And in the meantime, the research is good for me.  Don't believe me?  Here are the top ten reasons why, despite how it may seem, the practice of watching college basketball benefits my artistry:

10. It keeps me in touch with my native southern culture, which is important for any artist.

9. It provides me (and millions of others) with 18-22 year old avatars through whom I can live out my fantasies of drama and heroism.  And fantasizing is basically being creative.

8. The squeaking of shoes is very similar to the rhythm of good dramatic dialogue.

7. CBS Sports offers $10,000 for a perfect bracket.  What artist couldn't use $10,000?

6. Player names make great character names in movie scripts.  The hero of my screenplay is now named "Jimmer Walker."  (Look it up.) 

5. The resultant motion-sickness is like an LSD trip, and we've already established that great artists do drugs.

4. He shoots, he scores!

3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . . Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

I'm sorry.  I lost my train of thought. 

(For the record, reason #10 has a 44% chance of upsetting reason #7.  Bet on it.) 

* some people call it "watching college basketball" 


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beaten to Fame By an Unlikely Opponent

I've wondered what it must feel like to be a star parent, like Britney Spears' mom or Justin Bieber's dad.  You're a regular person (for now) with your own aspirations (to be famous soon, the only worthy pursuit), trucking right along on your path to something better when suddenly your own kin--someone for whom you've provided for decades and who, frankly, slowed you down in the process--races past you and winds up in the pictures.  And you just become so-and-so's dad. 

*Flush*   That's your career. 

I know what it feels like, because it's just happened to me. Except, I don't have a kid.  I have a car. 

Out of the spotlight, I affectionately refer to my car as "The Time Machine."  It's a 1984 Volkswagen Jetta that is equipped to run on WVO (look it up), and that is a great help to me.  The car gets me places in a theoretically-carbon-neutral way and I, in turn, change its oil.  We have always had a mutually beneficial relationship.

I mean, sure . . .

. . . when people would introduce me, they would add right away, "Ask him about his car." 

. . . and when people would see me and my car on the street, they'd stare at my car, but not me.

. . . and as the years have passed, my mechanic has hassled me about inspecting my car more than my doctor has hassled me about inspecting me . . .

But all of that was fine . . . really . . . we both got our time in the spotlight . . . until Hollywood came to town. 

See that?  That's a check from Los Angeles.  BECAUSE MY CAR IS GOING TO BE IN A MOVIE. 

And it didn't have to learn any sides, or do a screen test, or anything.  It just had to be itself. 

I guess it really is a time machine, because it's gotten itself to the future ahead of me.

Fine.  I hope while it's there, it doesn't forget who took care of it through its early years.  I hope it remembers who drove its career through miles 192,451 to 220,815.  I hope it starts a blog so it can remember being regular. 

Then, I hope it breaks down during an important interview and ends up in rehab.  Because I won't be there.

By the way, when my car's check arrived, it was sandwiched between two Netflixi (the plural of Netflix). 

The message?  My car gets to be in movies.  I just get to watch them.

You know what I say to that?

. . .

"Please take me with you."

Friday, March 4, 2011

An Evil Among Us: Part One

Have you discovered any skills you don't even know you have?  That's a trick question, and I'll come back to it.

At the end of June, "T: An MBTA Musical" will go up at ImprovBoston.  I'm writing the show with my musical-writing partner Melissa Carubia (Perhaps you've heard of our first work, So Many Stories.  No?  Well, ask your kids.) 

If you've also never heard of "T," then you have probably never been to this blog before.  Welcome!  Start from the beginning.*  It's been quite a non-journey. 

If you have heard of "T," then allow me to invite you to buckle your seatbelt . . . er, that is, grab a strap and hold on.**  The ride has begun.

YOU:  What do you mean?  You finished the script?  You had your first rehearsal?  Excited minds want to know!

ME:  No, (insert your name here).  I designed a logo!

Now, who knows if this is the logo we're going to use.  But since you, my readers, have a backstage pass to the creative process, you get to see it either way.  Ready?  Here it is.

See what I mean about skills I don't know I have?  I'm a photoshop genius!  By that, I mean that I am a photoshop moron.  Er, that is, I don't even own photoshop.  I used a free program called gimp which, incidentally, is probably just as good and hundreds of dollars free-er. 

And to be truthful, I couldn't really get gimp right, either, and then I clicked on an option labeled "harsh light."  Suddenly, an ordinary texted-over T token turned into this hellish symbol.  And it fits. 

So a toast to the first part of the "T: An MBTA Musical" production process.  A second drink for serendipity.  And a third drink for me so I can pass out after spending four straight hours in front of my computer. 

And a fourth drink for Joe the Barber, who will be directing this fictional version of "T." 

On a related note, does this mean that if you shone "harsh" light on an everyday T token, would it look like this? 

It would?


*If you've also never been to the internet before, that's called a "link."  You click on it with your pointy-thing and it shows you a different page.  Neat, right?

**Actually, given the state of the T, you're probably better off with the seatbelt.