Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New short story!

What's this? A second post in less than six months? That is just crazy.

Recently I was asked to write a short story for young adults to be published on Rainbow Rumpus, a webzine for kids with LGBT parents. It's a really intriguing concept: fiction (and some nonfiction) for kids and teens that depict households with parents who are not straight or what we have always considered "traditional." The parents' sexuality and relationships are mentioned in an almost offhand way, casually, and are not used as the basis for the conflict. In this way, the LGBT parents are normalized.

For instance, in my story, "Benny and the Jetes," the narrator is Benny, a high school junior caught between wanting to play basketball and wanting to dance ballet with a beautiful girl he likes. His parents just happen to be two men. Now, the conflict for Benny with his parents is not about them being gay. The conflict is like all kids and their parents: they want what he doesn't and he wants their approval.

The temptation for writers of stories with gay parents or anything beyond the "norm" of a straight household is to make the conflict and focus on the sexuality, whether it's bullying of the kid or resentment on the part of the child or some other divisiveness that needs to be addressed and ultimately resolved. But then the kids who have parents like that think, "Oh my situation is not normal and will always be looked at as weird."

Rainbow Rumpus serves the goal of taking away the stereotypical "gay-themed" "issue-oriented" story and focuses on the stories themselves, and really, it's the kids in the stories that other kids want to read about and identify with.

I hope you'll take a look at "Benny and the Jetes," and share it with your favorite teens and tweens.

Happy reading~

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Get your priorities straight, woman!

Ah, a twice-yearly blog. Perfect for the digital age. The last post I wrote here was about the end of the year musings, the looking-forward-to-2015 optimism. A take-stock of what's happened and get-excited about what's to come.

And, 6 months later, here we are. Much of my life for the last half-year has revolved around my zombie ballet, Sweet Sorrow. At the end of January, Nancy Evans Dance Theatre performed 2 short pieces from it and then at the end of May, they did the entire first act. I was thrilled! A ballet based on a novel that I wrote!  It was really exciting to see characters I'd written come alive (so to speak) on stage. The costumes and sets and music were amazing and the dancers were outstanding. They and Nancy were committed and intelligent collaborators on this project. The next step for it is a full-length ballet - 2 acts! Wow.

Now I just have to write it.

Lately it seems like I have the "now I just have to write it" blues. Currently I'm debating about 2 writing projects: rewriting one that is very messy and starting a brand new one that could be very awesome. (Aren't all unwritten projects potentially very awesome?)  Many writers I know would work on both. After all, rewriting and new writing are completely different activities in the brain.

But, you know, time. I just don't have time to write them both. And then there's the zombie ballet - while not technically a writing project, dance does need to be written, particularly dance theater which is story-based. NEDT is counting on me to develop the second act so we can collaborate on it.

I think prioritizing is hard, unless you're being paid to write. I dropped everything when I signed a contract to write a book last year; I dropped everything when I was asked to write a short story for a webzine. Paying gigs have priority. But what about the unpaid ones, the ones you write because you have to? The ones you hope you might get paid for? How do you choose?

Someone wrote an article recently about famous writers who had books that would never see the light of day (we all do, even those of us who are not that successful; they are called "trunk" books). In many cases, the writers put these troublesome stories aside and ended up writing the books that would make them famous. In hindsight, those were the perfect choices. But in the moment, how can you know? It's not as if the idea that will be "the one" has a big sign on it that tells you, "Write me!"

You have to go with your gut. You have to do an honest assessment of what is driving you, what will make you want to tackle the blank page day after day until it's done. It can't be a tiny spark; it must be a raging fire within you. Hopefully the ideas you are choosing among are very different. In my case, they are: one is a very dark and somewhat bleak story that requires some rewriting to make it a little more hopeful while the new idea is still thematically intense but with some more quirkiness and lightheartedness - and romance, which frankly, I do really enjoy writing for teens.

The questions I'm asking myself are:

What is my mental state now? Can I handle bleak?
What sort of research am I willing to do? Will I feel confident in making things up as I go?
Whose voice do I hear in my head: a girl or a boy? An addict or a slacker?
Do I truly know what the rewrite looks like? Or can I bang out a first draft of a quirky love story?

My gut is telling me one thing while my head is telling me another. Logic says do the rewrite but fire-in-the-belly says go with the new book. Hmmm...