Monday, February 22, 2010

Writing Yourself Sane: Some Tips

Here's a useful link from Donna Dilley that tells us how to "write yourself sane" among other things.

It's a wide-ranging "how to ..." site with a number of tips for writers. Hope you get the information that puts you over the top on your next project.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Some Rules for Writing Fiction

Our good buddy Sharon Rappaport, whose husband John Anderson has a hot book these days ("Stand By Her"), send along some rules for writing fiction and they range from very interesting to good to funny to something you'll use next time you sit to write.

They're here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Another Roanoke Morning in the Snow

Downtown Roanoke in the snow (double click on it for a large view).^

Trees on Mill Mountain.^

Greenway seating along Riverland Road.^

The old American Viscose plant from the Greenway in Southeast Roanoke.^

Greenway runner in the snow.^

Young couple enjoying Valentine's Day.^

Why anyone would ride a bike in the snow is beyond me. Mom's entreaty not to eat yellow snow (below) is not a mystery.^

A walk along the greenway in South and Southeast Roanoke this morning was a visual feast, so I continued the adventure by driving to the top of Mill Mountain for a snow photograph of Roanoke. Mighty pretty up there. Here's some of what I saw.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Learning how to write well: First, read

Cara Modisett, the editor of Blue Ridge Country magazine and a teacher at our recent writers conference has just posted a link to some pretty valuable writing tips. If you're interested in pursuing it, you can link here. It's pretty good guidance.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Movie script contest has $3,000 prize and exposure for your play

Sara Elizabeth Timmins, who spoke at the recent Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, sends word of the 24th WriteMovies International Writing Contest. It is a contest for movie scripts and the deadline for entry is Jan. 29. Entry fee is $29 and contest judges would like a final draft of your screenplay to be sent via the Internet.

First prize is $3,000 and winners receive in-depth analysis of their scripts, which will be sent directly to WriteMovies' experienced board of Hollywood producers and will enjoy industry exposure through our WriteMovies' network. There are other prizes, like the latest package of Final Draft software.

More about the contest here and you can enter here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Writer in town for opening of 'Ashville'

Studio Roanoke will premier "Ashville" next week and writer Lucy Thurber will be in from NYCity to see how it goes. Lucy is a young writer with seven plays to her credit.

The play runs Feb. 9-14 at Studio One (8 p.m. each night, 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday) on Campbell Ave. in Roanoke. Tickets are $15 general admission and $12 for students and old guys like me. You can find out more here or by calling 540-343-3054. Remember that this theater only has about 40 seats, so get your tickets.

It is a "dark, sat little comedy about a blue collar, small town America, mothers, daughters, drug dealers and love. The kind of Valentine's Day card you'd expect from Studio Roanoke." That's what the promotional copy says.

Lucy has a long resume, mostly secondary stuff you've not heard of yet, and she has taught at Columbia University (graduate playwriting) and Sarah Lawrence College and she runs an after school theater project for teenagers in NYC.

A pause to consider tweeting

By Dan Smith

The New Yorker's George Packer, who writes with marvelous authority, wit and in this case, sense of loss, takes on response to his recent Twitter criticism here (and the original, even more revealing post here). It is a thoughtful piece by a writer and journalist with considerable insight who sees change that is not always good in the way we consume news ("read," as he so quaintly calls it).

Here's a key passage that will make those of us who tweet idly in grunts and belches, distorting real communication with pieces of our attention, pause for a moment. Then return to the screen.

"Just about everyone I know complains about the same thing when they’re being honest—including, maybe especially, people whose business is reading and writing. They mourn the loss of books and the loss of time for books. It’s no less true of me, which is why I’m trying to place a few limits on the flood of information that I allow into my head.

"The other day I had to re-shelve two dozen books that my son had wantonly pulled down, most of them volumes from college days. I thumbed idly through a few urgently underlined pages of Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript, a book that electrified me during my junior year, and began to experience something like the sensation middle-aged men have at the start of softball season, when they try sprinting to first base after a winter off. What a ridiculous effort it took!

"There’s no way for readers to be online, surfing, e-mailing, posting, tweeting, reading tweets, and soon enough doing the thing that will come after Twitter, without paying a high price in available time, attention span, reading comprehension, and experience of the immediately surrounding world. The Internet and the devices it’s spawned are systematically changing our intellectual activities with breathtaking speed, and more profoundly than over the past seven centuries combined. It shouldn’t be an act of heresy to ask about the trade-offs that come with this revolution. In fact, I’d think asking such questions would be an important part of the job of a media critic, or a lead Bits blogger."

Sadly, George's side of this argument, stated eloquently, is being drowned by the clicking of the keyboard as tweeters try to figure one more way to condense sentences into all but unintelligible blips of data.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Writers writing, musicans playing and a vampire vamping

UPDATE: This performance has been moved to the Dumas Center, 108 First St. NW in Roanoke. This is across the street from the Culinary Institute and near the Higher Education Center.

By Dan Smith

Simon Nolen (right), a teacher at Community High School in Roanoke and a film and media arts graduate of Temple University, has put together a ... uh ... something. I’m not quite sure what to call it, but it sounds literate, engaging, entertaining and, well, unusual. In a nutshell, it looks like this: local bands, a famous writer, a vampire--presented in a church.

It’s called "Jack Pendarvis & Nosferatu, Scored by Rootstone and Magic Twig’ and it sounds local, international, fascinating and certainly creative, which is the entire point of the Marginal Arts Festival, of which it is a part.

It is scheduled Friday, Feb. 12, 7:30-11:30 p.m. at the old church building on the corner of Church and 5th St, across from the Kirk Family YMCA. (An aside here: This is the church where a judge once sentenced me to attend AA or go to jail after being busted for drunk driving. I picked AA.) Here’s what Simon says (heh, heh) about his production:

“All right here is the deal: Marginal Arts Festival is all about mixed media, and man do I have a doozie. Imagine if you had access to a really gifted author, Jack Pendarvis.

"Now consider German Expressionism, in the form of Murnau's classic silent film ‘Nosferatu.’ Also imagine if you could expose an audience to the inner-workings of the concept of score.

"This is what I have planned, featuring the best group of musicians in Roanoke, The Magic Twig Community along with The Rootstone guys. I think this along with the venue will offer our city a chance to view literature, film, and music in a social atmosphere.

"I am expecting quite an event. One of the things that I am fascinated by at the moment, is how venue influences cinema. I enjoy new locations and different set ups. Where people sit and where they stand can change their perception of the work. I also enjoy exposing the inter-workings of film.

"That is why I like the notion of viewing musicians, scoring a piece, as we view the piece. I chose ‘Nosferatu,’ because I find it highly accessible compared to other German Expressionism. Murnau has a way that is elegant and familiar. I think this is a great way to introduce an audience to what the German Expressionists gave to cinema.

"Tagged to this event I also have novelist and Oxford American columnist Jack Pendarvis. It is difficult to get people to come out for a reading, so why not mix mediums? Exposing people to new forms and artists is what the Marginal Arts Festival is for.”

Simon went all the way through this narrative without saying that “Nosferatu” will scare the stuffing out of you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Thawing in the Grandin situation?

It appears some progress is being made in the Grandin Theatre disagreement that has resulted in some harsh feelings, threats of a boycott, at least one demonstration (with pickets) and a lot of ill will.

Today, Tony Stavola, who had been on the Grandin Theatre Foundation board for years, left and has returned, sent this note to me (Tony's a physician and not a writer, so I've cleaned it up a bit):

"The executive committee [of the Grandin Theatre], at the suggestion of some of us, is going to discuss having a forum of some type with some of those who have been supporters but also expressed concern--such as yourself. More on that to come soon, I hope. The idea would be to have the chance to have a discussion focusing on what the future should be for us. This community only loses if we do not strive to make sure the Grandin continues to be sucessful now and in the future."

It was the second positive step of the day: the first being that fired former General Manager Jason Garrett went to the theater and picked up his belongings. There had been some question about whether he would be allowed to do that.

There has been considerable intensive discussion going on--apparently on both sides of the issue, and I know that some are looking into alternatives to the Grandin and others are strongly supporting some kind of boycott. Among the sticking points for those with a bone to pick with the Grandin has been a lack of dialogue with the board as a whole and the failure to recognize that this group even exists. The perceived withholding of Jason Garnett's personal gear (virtually all of it loaned to the Grandin to help make it better in one way or another) has been a special sore spot for many, as well.

More to come, I'm sure.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Arts Council grants available for writers

The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge’s Grants for Artists Program (GAP) has been strictly for visual artists in the past, but that is no longer the case. Writers are now eligible for grants that usually range to about $1,000 and can be used for a variety of needs like conferences and workshops, travel and marketing.

GAP is designed to support activities for artists and writers to create, refine, perform or exhibit their work, while furthering their careers. Grant applicants must have attained a certain level of proficiency as represented in the quality of work samples submitted with the application.

Artistic disciplines include dance, folk arts, literature, media arts, multidiscipline, music, theatre and visual arts. The Arts Council’s Web site has answers to many questions (here). The primary focus in the literary arts is the creation, presentation and distribution of original materials that are literary in nature. Publications, readings and compilations of original poetry, fiction, non-fiction and play scripts are typical of the works represented in this category (for screenplay development, see Media Arts.)

The artistic focus of media arts is the creation of electronic, technologically-based work suited to mass media communication and presentation, which is utilized within an artistic medium. Any genre in film, video, audio, or computer-based art production and/or distribution is included in this category.

These funds can be used for furthering the writer’s career, but can’t be used for debt reduction, construction, equipment purchase, parties or receptions, fines, student scholarships and several other areas.

Rhonda Hale at the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge can answer your questions at 540-224-1205.