Saturday, February 28, 2009

Go See Paranormal (if you're in Boston)

Seriously, go see Carl Danielson's play, Paranormal. Why? Not just because Carl is my friend, fellow Rhombus member, and a very talented writer. But because it's fun. I don't know that it will change your life, but it'll make you laugh. And not many plays feature a character who is as much of a hoot as K'THarr the Warrior Bunny (played by Neal Leaheey). Though this is a low-budget production, Carl and his sound and light designers pull off some really great tricks that add to the whole magic of the piece (which is important when making a play about paranormal stuff).

It's cheap, too. $15. And did I mention that it's fun? (And I did not even come close to falling asleep, which is high praise.)

Paranormal runs this week and next at the Factory Theatre in the South End.

Here's a description:
"I am K'Tharr, a Grulark Warrior-Bunny from the planet Trepmal-thok, and I would give my life to defend you!"

With those words from a six-foot tall bunny-shaped alien, Krista
Maclay, burgeoning psychic, is thrown on a journey beyond the normal
human world in which she meets Elvis-impersonating aliens, invisible
annoying bodyswappers, a moody yet endearing psychic boy, and a
long-dead former best friend who forces her into an epic psychic
battle for free will. "Paranormal" is a sci-fi comic fantasy
juggernaut for everyone who doesn't see why someone couldn't be a
zombie, a pirate, and a telepath at the same time.

Friday, February 27, 2009

What I'm reading: The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue and tips for writers

I'm reading as much and as fast as I can these days, refilling the reservoir and doing research for agent queries. I just finished a great book by Ronlyn Domingue, The Mercy of Thin Air: A Novel. The story and the writing are incredibly sensual (great use of the sense of smell), and the POV, from a ghost, is pretty unusual and interesting (I know there are a couple of others out there--The Lovely Bones and A Certain Slant of Light). She does a pretty masterful job of weaving together the past and present and the stories of two couples who are more related to each other than they think, in many ways.

While we're on the topic of Ms. Domingue, if you're a writer you might find her web site helpful. She's got a whole section of her site for writers that talks about the business side of writing, that covers getting an agent and book publicity and more. Very extensive and informative.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Baltimore was a blast

The trip to Baltimore for the reading at Centerstage was over in a flash. My flight left Logan Airport at 6:30 a.m., which meant leaving the house at 5 a.m. I was in Baltimore by 9. After that I managed to cram a lot into one day. I found some local places to eat (great fried haddock at Milton's Grill) and stopped in at The Walter's Art Museum. The Museum was an unexpected treat--it's free (oh do I wish the MFA was free) and had an exhibit on the St. John's Bible, a modern illuminated bible, along with lots of other illuminated historical texts (it's pretty cool if you're into that stuff).

The folks at the theatre showed us great hospitality, and I got to hang out with Lee Blessing, Kia Corthron, and Caridad Svich (talk about a lot of theatrical experience and talent in one room). The UMBC students were energetic and inquisitive and thoughtful, in a way that only undergraduates can be. Young actresses Ellen Fine and Abigail Unger did a fine job reading my play, Confirmed Sighting, for an audience of about 100. All four plays fulfilled the In10 Festival's goal of creating new and exciting roles for women in very different ways. (If you're near Baltimore, definitely try to see the production at UMBC, March 4-8.) To have Blessing, Svich, and Corthron commissioned to write parts for you must feel pretty cool.

The afternoon and evening was full of more talk about theatre and everything else, plus pizza and Afghan food, and more theatre (we saw Lynn Nottage's Fabulation at Centerstage).

Not bad for a 24-hour trip.

Friday, February 20, 2009

reading of Confirmed Sighting in Baltimore on Saturday

I'll be in Baltimore tomorrow (Saturday) for a reading of Confirmed Sighting at Centerstage (700 N. Calvert Street) at 2pm. Plays by Caridad Svich, Lee Blessing, and Kia Corthron will also be read. And all the writers will be there. I'm excited to meet the other writers and have been reading various plays by them this week (just finished Corthron's Breath, Boom. Tough stuff. Wow. I'd be very interested to see it staged.). I'm hoping to glean whatever I can from them about theatre and the playwriting life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Michael Lewis rocks

Even though I mostly write novels and plays, I have to confess that most of my favorite contemporary writers are non-fiction writers. People like Jon Krakauer, Michael Pollan, and Michael Lewis, among others. Michael Lewis has an article in this past Sunday's NYTimes Sunday magazine, Money (Basket) Ball!, which is a perfect example of what I like about Lewis and his writing. Instead of merely doing a personal profile about an unsung hero on the basketball court, instead Lewis looks at what it is about this particular player (Shane Battier) that makes him unusually effective, and how some very smart people are starting to figure that out. At the same time, he does end up probing inside what makes Battier tick, and makes you maybe get a little eager for the book that might spring up around this (though maybe it won't, since Lewis has already done Moneyball around baseball). Lewis is able to write a sports article that's about more than sports, without needing it to be a sentimental piece of schmaltz either. (I loved his book, The Blind Side, which is about a lot more than football and left guards.)

It's the kind of article that makes me think, man, I wish I could write like that.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Current Book Pile

I've been on a reading tear lately, for a bunch of reasons.
  • I finished my novel, so I have a little more time.
  • I finished my novel, so I need some time to recharge. Reading helps.
  • I finished a draft of my full-length play (for now), so my second big project is done.
  • I'm looking for an agent, so I'm reading books represented by people who might be good agents for me, or I look up agents, and then see a book that sounds good, so I request it from the library. Or I go to the bookstore, to see what's out there, and see stuff that looks good, so I bring it home.
Here is a picture of my current nightstand pile. A little scary (it's actually living mostly on my desk at the moment). Usually, I'm lucky if I can read 24 books in a year, but I've already read 9 so far this year.

In my pile, I have:
  • House & Home by Kathleen McCleary (strong similarities to my new one, but different enough that I'm not depressed)
  • Busted Flush by Brad Smith (this is cheating, I actually just finished it last night. Very fun book.)
  • A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb (sounds like Kira will like this one, too)
  • Mina by Jonatha Ceely (written by a friend who lives here in Brookline)
  • How to Live Well Without Owning a Car by Chris Balish (I've read it before, but I wanted to doublecheck)
  • Banishing Verona by Margot Livesey
  • No one belongs here more than you, stories by Miranda July (I liked her movie, and she has a really cool web site to promote the book).
  • Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby (Nick Hornby is my very favorite writer, but I'm forcing myself not to read this right away, which is proving hard.)
  • The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue (I saw her web site and it looked cool)
  • Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan (he's a friend of a friend and an Amazing writer.)
  • A Walk in the Woods by Lee Blessing (Blessing, Corthron, and Svich are going to be at a staged reading in Baltimore next weekend--all four of us are having short plays read--so I thought I'd try to read some of their work first. Not to be a big suck up, but so we can have a conversation. Maybe to be a little bit of a suck up.)
  • Breath, Boom by Kia Corthron
  • Any Place But Here by Caridad Svich
  • Lee Blessing, Four Plays
  • The Winning Streak by Lee Blessing
  • All Hat by Brad Smith
That's it. Could keep me busy for a while.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

getting serious and fun in Rolling Stone

In the library yesterday, I happened to pick up the January 22 issue of Rolling Stone which had two great (and very different) articles.

First, Paul Krugman wrote a well-thought out he is a Nobel prize winner, after all) open letter to President Obama. Interesting stuff in there about the current economic crisis. I found it very helpful. I just hope that Obama does the right thing.

The second is not for those few of you who love and admire George Bush. But for the rest of us, Matt Taibbi has a scathing satirical "exit interview" with the former president. I laughed pretty hard.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Signs of the Times--another book store closes

I just read that Pages for All Ages in Savoy, Illinois, has closed. They were an independent bookstore that started out in Champaign, IL, and we used to go there back in the 90s when we lived in Champaign. They really ran a vibrant store, with lots of readings and community activities. They will definitely be missed. I'd always hoped to do a reading there for one of my books. Bummer.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Public Libraries

There are about 16,000 public libraries in the U.S. (that's counting branches; there are about 9,000 administrative library entities).

I was curious about that because the fear seems to be that with current media and economic trends, book sales will fall, while public library usage is up. I use the library constantly and we probably have 4-10 books out at any given time. I'd thought to myself, "Oh, hey, my book doesn't have to be a huge bestseller through stores and Amazon, if it just gets bought by enough public libraries." But alas, even if every library bought a copy of my novel, it still wouldn't earn me enough to pay for, oh, let's say a whole year of my daughter's college tuition. Though it would still be a very good amount of sales for any literary novel, don't get me wrong and I'd be plenty grateful. (And for those libraries who don't already own a copy of Tornado Siren... no time like the present.)


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

great agent article in Poets & Writers

I just read this terrific article/interview in Poets & Writers (Jan/Feb 09) with five hot young literary agents. Now that I'm submitting my new novel, I'm on the lookout for all kinds of info about agents. These guys had me laughing out loud and just amazed by their energy and knowledge. Check it out.

Monday, February 2, 2009

tweet tweet (I'm on twitter)

Part of me is pretty sure that if I actually get hooked into following more than a handful of twitter feeds, this could end up being a pretty huge time suck. But I'm very curious to see what the fuss is all about. So far, I'm following all of about 3 people, and it doesn't take any time time, and has actually been interesting.

I'd originally thought that the 140 character limit on tweets might feel a little short, but to be honest, it's been plenty. Economy is a good lesson for writers, anyway.

So, if you want to follow my twitter feed, I'm @patrickgabridge. Let me know.

(I'm sure people have already explored this, but this does seem like a medium for an interesting monologue series.)