Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dialogue with Creative Work

I have a day job, but I don't necessarily want to dialogue with it. I may argue with it a good portion of the eight hours I punch in, but I have other avocations that make more appealing partners. One is musical theater writing. I've worked on a children's musical and besides dialoging with my actual composer/collaborator, which is the most satisfying, my journal serves as an ideal stage to work out the answers to what drives the piece in the first place.

Some of the questions I pose consist of "What does the main character want?" and "What is the musical about?" When I ask what it's about, I don't mean the plot. The plot is what happens, scene by scene. Instead, I mean what deeper meaning is the piece trying to bring out? If it's about belonging, does the character discover that he or she can belong or that it may be impossible to really belong. If it's about connection, what might a character do to continually reinforce disconnection before finding a path to connecting with other people.

If working on a play or musical, you might have a journaled dialogue with your character asking directly what he or she wants, believes, avoids or regrets. You may not only find out your answer, but also find ways to smooth any bumpy parts of the script your characters trip on or redirect their steps when they wander away from where they and your piece are ultimately headed.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Best times to visit Michigan U-pick farms

During a recent visit to Michigan, which is known for its fruit orchards, I came across a short list of dates when various fruits are ripe for the picking. I have fond memories of picking blueberries with my son and husband at a U-pick blueberry grove near the Michigan sand dunes on a July weekend. One particular Michigan grove cited specific dates that mark the height of each fruit in that area.
Cherries -- July 4
Peaches - August 15
Pears - August 22
Plums - September 7
Apples - October 1


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Writers Colony Recommendation!

I just heard that a writers' colony I've written about previously on this blog, The Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, has several available weeks open for writers in the summer and fall of 2009.

Poets, fiction and nonfiction writers, food writers, I urge you to apply! The Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow, a writer's paradise, is one of my favorite places on earth. I was in residence for two-week stints in 2006 and 2008.

The colony itself is located in a wooded area of town close to a natural spring, but still close to civilization. Everything is within walking distance. The town of Eureka Springs, set in the Ozarks, is a friendly haven of curvy, charming byways lined with architecture circa 1880s. The per diem at the colony, if you are accepted, is as low as $45 a day, which includes your own studio with bath and all meals. Dinners are homecooked for you five nights a week. The whole staff is great.

The photos are from the colony's Culinary Suite, which includes a fully stocked kitchen. It is truly the most stunning of the studios, and you are lucky indeed if you can land here during your residency. Many cookbook authors and food writers have stayed here.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Saugatuck Michigan End of May

Visited somewhere this weekend I've never been before -- Saugatuck, Michigan. Joined friends Maura and Jim, and husband Carlos, to what we thought would be a summer-soaked climate by now. However, I found myself wearing the jeans and two long-sleeved shirts I brought along in the brisk air, leaving shorts and tank tops in the suitcase. But it worked out fine.

The weekend ended up a serendipitous split between new spiritual experiences and experiences of the fermented kind. On Saturday, we did the usual Butler Street promenade and tasted a few wines at the Fenn Valley Shop in town. Let's just say the the Pinot Noir looked a tad clear and the hue of a rose', with a back flavor of some sort of hard liquor. To put it in a mild fashion, Michigan wines are not my favorite.

On the other hand, the beers we sampled at the Saugatuck Brewing Company microbrewery in Douglas, Michigan, were a delightful surprise, particularly the Main Street Wheat, 5.5% alcohol content. Carlos preferred the Ramblin Amber, 4.7% alcohol content. Diehard beer lovers can actually brew their own 11-gallon batch of beer at the brewery, which takes a period of two weeks. Learned an interesting factoid from the bartender: Guiness Stout has fewer calories than Bud Light.

On Sunday, we visited a Seventh-Day Adventist enclave in Pullman, Michigan, which includes some communal housing, a church, a natural foods warehouse and retail store called Country Life Natural Foods. The helpful, knowlegeable, warm ladies who greeted us made it even more of a pleasure.
Afterward, we headed west to Ganges, Michigan, to take part in an interfaith community service at Mother's Trust. Strangely, I had had a dream about this church a few months ago, not knowing where it was located. As soon as I saw it, I recognized it, and when one of Jim's friends out-of-the-blue encouraged us to go and actually took us there, I suppose my dream came to fruition. A former nun gave an enlightening talk on St. John of the Cross, and another parishioner held a 40-minute service on how eight different religions view the concept of mysticism, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Native religions, in addition to Christianity, which included a reading of a poem by St. Teresa of Avila.

Before heading back to Chicago, we took a long walk with three dogs (see Carlos and Speedy) through the Fenn Valley Winery vineyards, close to where we were staying in Fennville. Glad to note that the numerous sun-filled rows of vines were at the same stage of development as the three little ones I'm trying to nurture in my backyard. Happy for the confirmation, since I hoped I was doing something right.