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Waiting Can Be a Blessing

Have you ever been bumped off your flight and had to wait for hours to catch another one, missing all your connecting flights in the meantime? This happened to me just last Friday – and it turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise.

I am on a little speaking tour, stopping at three different ‘WorDshops‘ (mini-conferences for writers sponsored by Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship) in three different provinces over the next two weeks. My first stop was in Steinbach, Manitoba, where I was scheduled to be the keynote presenter on March 18. My flight from Grande Prairie, Alberta to Edmonton was delayed because of fog and when the replacement flight arrived two hours later, there was a long line up to get on that plane.

Low and behold, when it was my turn at the gate, the plane was already full! I was the last in line and there was simply ‘no more room at the inn’. I’d heard the flight attendant speaking to one of the others, saying that this might be a possibility. He even made an announcement asking if there was anyone willing to stay behind voluntarily and take a later flight.

I was told to go back through security and rebook my tickets. I had been praying for God’s protection and will, so I was quite calm about the whole thing. I’d heard of people being delayed and then the plane going down (not that I’d wish that on all those others passengers!) but I knew that I just had to leave it in God’s hands to get me to Steinbach on time.

As it turned out, missing that flight meant missing my connections in Edmonton and Calgary. (Which may have happened anyway because of the delay.) The organizer of the WorDshop was meeting me at the Winnipeg airport at 6pm, but now she and her husband would have to wait until 11:30pm – not fun since they live about an hour out of the city. However, there wasn’t much I could do about it. God had a plan. As long as I got to Steinbach by 8am, I figured it was a win!

And then… the airline attendant informed me that for my trouble and inconvenience, the airline would be sending me a cheque for $800. My eyes got wide, I’m sure! That more than compensated me for my travel costs.

You see, as Inscribe’s current VP, it was my responsibility to help organize the six WorDshops going on around Western Canada. While keynotes and presenters are paid, there is no money in the budget to cover travel costs. These events are typically small in size, and must be run on a cost recovery basis. To keep registration fees down, it means finding local presenters or asking those coming any distance to cover their own fare.

I believe in the importance of these events, and wanted to be supportive, so I was footing my own travel bill from BC to Manitoba, and back through Saskatchewan and Alberta on my way home. God has blessed me with a good job so I don’t mind ‘giving back’ where I can.

Steinbach WorDshop. Made it!

And then sometimes He surprises me with a blessing that I didn’t even see coming! The inconvenience was minimal compared to the reward. Oh… and I’d like to thank Air Canada for helping to sponsor this year’s WorDshops… 🙂 

At the Steinbach WorDshop

Art to Take Your Breath Away

Have you ever had your breath literally taken away by something beautiful or profound?
I have had that experience. The first time this actually happened to me. I had begun my University training in Fine Art, and although I had a love for Art and artists, being from a small town I had never really been to a gallery of substance before. I was in the middle of an Art History class and went for a visit to the Mendel Art Gallery. I remember walking up to an Arthur Lismer painting and gasping. There is was – the actual painting I had just been reading about in my Art History text.
Probably the most profound experience I ever had was many years later when I visited the National Gallery in Ottawa. I had been exposed to a fair bit of Art by that time, but for whatever reason, during my first visit there I turned . . . and then I saw IT from across the room. ‘It’ was a cubist painting by Braque and it literally took my breath away. My heart started to race and I felt flushed; my chest constricted like I might not be able to suck in the next breath. I walked trance like to the painting and just stood there.
I’m sure that many of you find this extremely ‘nerdy’. I know, I think so myself, but I can’t help it! These are not isolated instances. either. Shall I tell you about the time I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York? It was ‘The Bathers’ by Georges Seurat that did it to me that time.  Or what about going to an art gallery in San Diego? Here is a direct quote from my journal:
“I am struck by the almost uncontainable thrill I feel when visiting such a place. Stomach butterflies; warmth and tightness in the chest; forcing myself to breathe in shallow gusts; a feeling like I want to burst into tears. This is a silent exuberance; an oxymoron of emotion brought on by passion. Unlike the excitement of a football game or the joy at seeing a loved one after a long separation, this is different. This is AWE.”
I’ve often said that I am passionate about the creative process in general. I derive a huge amount of satisfaction from all my creative endeavours, especially my writing. But my love for Art is still a place of near reverence. It is the thing that I love simply because I love it. I do not need to strive, or change, or work harder. I simply come and allow myself to be inspired. Next to my relationship with God, and my love for my family, my love for Art is probably the deepest love of all.
 *I found this in the archives of my old blog “Expression Express” (which is sadly, no more…) Even though I am primarily a writer, my love for the visual arts came first, which is why I probably find such pleasure in viewing art of all types. 

WorDshops Coming to a city near you

Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship* has an exciting line up of ‘WorDshops’ coming your way this spring. What is a WorDshop? Think of it as a ‘mini-conference’ – a day of speakers and workshops geared to encouraging and assisting both new and seasoned writers in their craft and calling. It’s a wonderful way to connect with other writers in your area, and you’re sure to come away inspired and equipped.

This year there are several WorDshops planned across western Canada, including events in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. (Go to the Inscribe website for specific locations and dates.) The overall theme for 2017 is ‘Write Words’, but each event has its own flair and features seasoned and award winning Canadian Christian writers as keynote presenters. As well, each WorDshop includes a variety of break out workshops.

I will be attending four of the six events this year. In fact, I’ll be doing a little ‘tour’ of western Canada during my spring break from school starting with the Steinbach, MB WorDshop where I will be the keynote speaker. Then it’s on to Regina, SK the next weekend where I will be on a panel of authors taking about time management. Finally, I’ll be heading to Blackfalds, AB where I will do a workshop on blogging. It will be a busy two weeks ‘off’ from work, but I am definitely looking forward to it. Along the way I will have the opportunity to visit family and friends, so that’s makes it a bonus!

For more information, visit the Inscribe website. Registration is online and is a two-step process. First, fill out the application form. Then, go to the online store and pay for your session. You can also register at the door, although there is a discount for registering online. Local authors that attend have the opportunity to sell their books, and there are door prizes and other incentives, too.

If you’re looking for a way to connect with other authors of faith, or if you need some inspiration, why not come to the WorDshop nearest you?

*Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship exists to stimulate, encourage and support Christians who write, to advance effective Christian writing, and to promote the influence of all Christians who write. We are a Canada wide organization with members who write in a variety of genres and range from professional writers to those just starting out.

Plays the Ultimate in Recycling

Plays rely on recycling all the time. Parodies and adaptations of classic works, fairy tales, and even the Bible are a common way for playwrights to break onto the stage.

Most of my published plays are stage adaptations of familiar stories – fairy tales and other classics that have stood the test of time. I’m okay with being less than original when it comes to writing plays. There are so many fantastic stories out there that are begging to be rewritten for a live audience. I figure if Shakespeare can do it, so can I. For example, his play The Two Noble Kinsmen is a remake of Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale. (If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to read them side-by-side.)

If you are new to writing plays, adapting a familiar story is a great way to get your feet wet. Of course, it is crucial that before you do anything, you check to make sure there are no copyright restrictions. In essence, anything published before 1923 is considered public domain. That’s why fairy tales, Shakespeare, Dickens, and even Bible stories are fair game. Many works are public domain even beyond 1923 due to various copyright registration rules.  You will want to do your research if in any doubt.

I find adapting classic stories for the stage very rewarding, even if the basic idea is not originally mine. Using the given framework of plot and characters still allows for a lot of creativity. It is up to me to make the story come to life – literally. In the previous issue of Fellowscript, I emphasized that a play is not the same as a movie. This is important to keep in mind, even when writing adaptations. The playwright must decide how the story will be staged without the use of complicated sets and scene changes, and how the motivation of each character will come across in their dialogue and actions without sounding contrived. It’s always fun to add some unexpected twists, as well. In my stage version of the Peter Pan classic called Hook’sNemesis, Captain Hook is a neurotic female who has her psychologist as well as her mother on board the pirate ship. My premise started with the thought, “What if Hook had Mommy issues?” and it went from there.  (Her mother always wanted a boy…)

Many Christian playwrights choose to adapt Bible stories for the stage, which is another way to hone your skills as a playwright. Another thing I mentioned in last issue’s column was the fact that plays are meant to be produced. Why not offer to write your church’s next pageant? Easter and Christmas are the two most popular, but there are hundreds of other dramatic stories that are easily adaptable to the stage. (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat comes to mind.) However, understanding the basics of dialogue, stage movement, and other theatrical dynamics can be FS spring issuethe difference between a ‘nice’ Easter pageant and a truly moving experience.

Writing plays is a skill set that takes some practice. Scripts also tend to require a fair bit of revision once they are test driven with real actors on a stage. That’s why recycling play ideas from other works is such a great way to start. There is enough to think about in terms of dialogue, action, scene changes, and just the sheer logistics of making it work without having to wonder if the plot has merit. As a bonus, audiences love watching their favourite stories come to life. It’s a win-win!

*Much of this article was originally printed in the May 2016 issue of Fellowscript Magazine.

Even Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks

Who knew after seventeen years as a Drama teacher I could still feel stage fright? (Not from being on stage, as I will explain…) In that time I’ve directed and produced somewhere around thirty shows, but my experience in drama goes beyond that to involvement in church productions, practice teaching, and my role as a playwright. Yet it never ceases to amaze me that I still learn new things with each production.

Recently my extra-curricular group, the ‘KodiActs’, performed one of my published plays called ‘Ali and the Magic Lamp’. It’s a twisted parody of the classic tale where Ali is a skateboarding teenager and Genie has attitude to spare. The troupe performed four shows over a two day period and by all accounts it was a smashing success. The audience had no idea the anxiety that took place before the show or the somewhat scary turn of events backstage during the last performance.
Crisis number one: My school does not have a stage so every show we have to rent one and construct everything from the ground up, including a complicated truss system for hanging the lights and every
thing else that goes with it. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to direct and produce a show. Inevitably, despite set backs and various crisis situations, everything seems to come together. However, I have no illusions about my abilities when it comes to construction. I’ve always relied on people who are more mechanically inclined (most notably my husband) to help me with these aspects. This year, however, my husband was away working and I had to rely on my own abilities to get the job done. I had a few sleepless nights just thinking about the logistics of ladders, and power tools…

Of course, I’ve seen it done dozens of times, but this time I was actually the foreman, showing students how to bolt together a thirty-two foot truss and then raise and mount it above the stage. I had to demonstrate how and where to screw all the stage flats together to make the backdrop, making sure the twelve foot centre archway didn’t come crashing down in the process. I had to help string electrical cable and hang heavy (and expensive!) stage lights, although I did find a brave volunteer to climb the ladder who was also stronger than I,  to make sure they were clamped in place and wouldn’t come loose during the show.

In all, it was a fantastic learning experience for me. it showed me that I could do this part of the job. I’d often wondered how I would manage without my right hand man there to help me, and now I know I can do it. It gave me a new sense of accomplishment.

But that’s not the whole story…  Enter ‘Crisis number two’: During our final performance, one of the actors had a seizure on stage. (She is being tested for epilepsy and had a similar incident last year backstage. But this time it happened on stage during a scene!)

I was so proud of how my other young actors handled things. They’ve been trained by the old motto, “The show must go on,” so her scene partner ad-libbed his way through the initial awkwardness and I immediately called for lights and music. When I got backstage, she was out cold. With the help of another teacher and a couple of other actors we managed to get her off the stage and out into the foyer. Her parents were called immediately, (we have a contingency plan in place since the incident last year) and the rest of the play went forward with her understudy completing the play.

Although there was a longer than normal scene break at one point, some of the audience didn’t even know what happened. I mentioned it at the end of the show and the student in question got a nice round of applause. Meanwhile, she had been ‘out’ for almost five minutes in total. Her parents took her to emergency and she was disoriented when she came to, but she was otherwise alright.

This was another first for me. I’ve had actors sick and throwing up backstage; panic attacks, last minute substitutions, and as I said, one similar incident with a seizure (but at least it was off stage!) It just goes to show that even when you think you’ve seen it all, something new is bound to happen. Like I said, even this old dog can learn a few new tricks.

 

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