Friday, December 21, 2012

Balancing Act

Balance.  That's the trick in any writer's life--how do I balance the need and urge to write and attempt to have some sort of career, with the rest of life?  Now that I've begun farming, that balancing act has gotten a little trickier.  In some ways, adding farming to my life makes sense precisely because it provides a counterpoint to hours spent at a desk staring at a computer screen, or in a dark theatre at rehearsal.  Most of my farming time is spent outside, engaged in physical labor, all while solving some very specific physical puzzles--how do I grow the most vegetables possible, in a specific plot of land, in the amount of time afforded by daylight and my energy and budget.  And even more important, it helps me more fully experience the world and meet new people (so I have more to write about).

But in adding this new avocation to my life, the question arose--would it crowd out writing and theatre?  In my ideal life, I would love to spend half of my year on farming and half of it writing.  Theoretically, farming has the potential to work this way, as long as I decide not to extend my growing season with greenhouses and other techniques.  I can get crops in the ground in April and stop farming in October, and spend the rest of the time on art.

This arrangement is not likely to pay a living wage.  Of course, neither writing plays or farming full time is likely to make that happen.  Theoretically splitting my time between writing and farming will slow my writing career.  I might write less and get less of my work published and produced.  That's a tradeoff I'd have to consciously choose, much as I knew that becoming a father would make me write less, but also lead to a more fulfilling life (I'm glad I made the choice I did).

I'm a numbers guy, as many of you know.  For a while, I've been trying to track the time I spend writing and marketing my work.  This year, I tracked my time even more closely than ever, trying to understand how this writing/farming split might work.  As the end of the year nears, here's how I've spent my time:

Writing (actual writing and research):  386 hours  (my goal was 400.  Just missed it!)

Rehearsals, Meetings & Productions of my work:  274 hours

Marketing (including submissions, networking, admin, blogging):  231 hours

For an entire writing career time of about 891 hours.

And for farming (including field work, planning, marketing, classes, etc.):  734 hours

Driving to our farm (which is about 45-60 minutes from home):  191 hours

For writing I did not track commuting time (but perhaps I should), but I went to about 100 meetings, mostly in town, and that would still add up to another 100 hours, by bike, T, and car.

So if I were to include commuting and travel time, I spent about 1,000 hours on my writing stuff, and about 925 on farming.  (All of these are under-reported a bit, especially marketing, e-mail, and web time.)

Oddly enough, last year, when I tracked actual writing time and rehearsal time together, I spent about 600 hours on both, and an additional 217 hours on marketing.   That means that this year, even though I added farming to the mix, I actually ended up writing a little bit more than I did before.  Which gets back to the old addage of, "if you want something done, ask a busy person."  Sometimes, if you want to do more, you just need to do more.  Obviously, there are a limited number of hours in the day, so I did cut things out, and I had a lot of help and forbearance from my family. 

The good news is that looking at these numbers makes me feel like I actually have a chance at finding this writing farm/balance that I'm searching for.  In 2013, I'll be farming twice as much land, but am hoping not to spend much more time doing it (I'm getting faster at doing stuff as I gain skills).

Do any of you track your writing time?  If so, how many hours to you spend actually writing?  Do you have time goals for the week, month, year?  I hope you'll comment and share.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Current Juggling Act

Pat juggling clubs
Juggling takes a lot of focus, whether it's clubs or writing projects.
Now that farming season has ended, my writing season has picked up full speed.  I've got a whole bunch of projects that I'm juggling at the moment, as well as upcoming productions.  Here is some of what I'm up to:
  • My latest novel, Moving (A Life in Boxes), will be coming out as an ebook in about two weeks.  I've got make sure people know about it and finish getting it proofread and formatted.
  • I'm about to do revisions on the book for a musical (a commissioned work) adaptation of Penny Noyce's novel, Lost In Lexicon.
  • I just finished a first draft of a new full-length play, Distant Neighbors, and am working on it in Rhombus and in the New Voices @ New Rep program.
  • We start rehearsals for Fire on Earth with Fresh Ink. on Monday, and I'll be making revisions fairly steadily until we open on February 1 at the Factory Theatre in Boston.
  • I have a couple short plays in the One-Minute Play Festival coming to Boston Playwrights Theatre. Rehearsals start soon, but revisions are quick on short plays.
  • I'm supposed to write a ten-minute play, set in a garden, for production this spring in London by a small company there.  (They performed Pumpkin Patch last year.)
  • If I can clear the decks a little, I'm ready to finish the next draft of an historical novel about Civil War hero Robert Smalls.
  • And I have two short plays in the upcoming New Works Festival at the Firehouse Center for the Arts in Newburyport (but shouldn't have to do rewrites on them).
It's a good thing I'm not farming over the winter.  It seems like a lot of balls to have in the air, but I actually find myself more productive when I'm juggling a lot of projects at once.  It forces me to stay disciplined.  And one thing I've learned over my years writing is that I never know which project might suddenly catch fire and find the right people at the right time and have a chance to leap forward to find a larger audience.  Maybe it'll be one of these.  Maybe it'll be the next one.  Or the one after that.

And sometimes I miss a ball and they all come crashing down for a while.  But like in juggling, it's just a matter of picking them back up and starting over.
Pat picking up fallen clubs
Yep, every juggler drops the balls sometimes. There's nothing to do but pick them up and start over.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Win a Free Copy of "Collected Obsessions"

I have a special fondness for people who go through life battling or embracing their obsessions.  (I might be one of them myself...)   Earlier this year, Heuer and Brooklyn published an anthology, Collected Obsessions, of eight of my short plays, each of which focus on lovable lunatics whose fixations include numbers, the rapture, a co-worker, lovers, spiders, silence, an extinct bird, and the act of writing.  Whether their paths end in laughter or tears, the characters in these plays pursue their desires with singular focus and intensity.

This is a particularly good collection for advanced high school and college groups--it has a flexible cast size (4-20), with a bunch of challenging, fun roles. 

I'd love to get more students to take a look at these plays, so I'm giving away copies of the script to the first and second students who leave comments on this post and who e-mail me their contact info.  Be sure to tell us the name of your school and drama group and the title of either a recent or upcoming production.

The titles of the plays are:  Insomnia, Crowded Heart, The Sky is Falling, Quiet, Den of Iniquity, The Invisible Husband, Confirmed Sighting, and Measuring Matthew.  All have been produced professionally in Boston and/or New York, and there's even been a film made of Measuring Matthew (currently making the festival rounds).  The scripts get used individually by hundreds of students every year in competition and performance, but now there's a chance for all of them to be on the stage together, at once.  And that would be really cool.  If you're at a school that's done a production of Collected Obsessions, I hope you'll contact me and let me know.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

first look at Moving (a life in boxes) cover

cover for Moving

My novel, Moving (A life in boxes), is set to come out as an ebook in about three weeks, but I've got the cover now.  I'm super excited about it--it's just what I had in mind.  Much thanks go out to Keary Taylor of for all her hard work and patience, and to Katie Walt for her photography.  One of the best things (and also most challenging) about self-publishing is that the cover is really up to me.  In this case, I had a very specific image in my head, and thanks to Keary and Katie, I was able to get it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Look What Came in the Mail

BTM 2011 anthology cover

Yes, the Boston Theater Marathon XIII anthology is finally out, publishing the 50 ten-minute plays that were part of the Marathon in 2011, including my play, Escape to Wonderland.  As pretty much the whole world knows by now, I love the Boston Theater Marathon--I love its energy and vibrancy, and how it lets me see a big swath of Boston theatre all in a single day.

Since I like it so much, Kate actually asked me to write the foreword for this printed edition.  Yep, take a look.
btm foreword page

I was honored to be asked (I've never written the foreword for a book before).  The anthology is published by Smith & Kraus, and you can buy a copy on Amazon, or order it from your local bookseller.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm a New Voices Fellow!

In some super good news, I recently found out that I've been selected to be a fellow in the New Voices @ New Rep program with the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, MA.  From now until June, the other fellows (Peter Floyd, Deirdre Girard, and Alexa Mavromatis) and I will meet with the staff of New Rep and various actors, directors, and designers as we work on new plays.  The program will culminate in public readings of four full-length plays by the fellows in May of 2013.

For me, this is a chance to get to know some writers who are new to me, as well as continue a long-time collaboration with fellow Rhombus playwright, Alexa Mavromatis.  And this is a huge opportunity to get to know the folks at New Rep.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Theatrical Thanksgiving

'Tis the season that leads to looking back at the year and expressing thanks.  I am always grateful to my family, especially my wife, Tracy, who continue to support me in my creative endeavors year after year.

My playwright and actor pals at Rhombus continue to ease my playwriting life forward, as we enter our 10th year working together in Boston.  Working with them is part of what makes playwriting fun and worthwhile.

On a broader scale, I want to say how grateful I am for the recent upwelling of support for new plays and new play development in the Boston area.  This year, I've personally benefited from the incredible generosity of the Huntington Theatre Company for the Summer Play Lab workshop of my play, Flight (with a big shout out to Lisa, Charles, and Bevin, who have been supporting my work for years), and from the reading, workshop and upcoming production of Fire on Earth from the young and energetic Fresh Ink Theatre, and most recently to New Rep for including me in their New Voices program to develop my play, Distant Neighbors.  And my thanks go to Kate Snodgrass and Boston Playwrights Theatre for continuing to produce the Boston Theatre Marathon (this was my ninth year in it).  And to Dominic D'Andrea for the One-Minute Play Festival which is coming back to Boston for its second year in January. 

There are reading and development programs popping up all over the place in Boston these days.  Boston playwrights can express their gratitude to Argos Production, Boston Actors Theater, CentaStage, Central Square Theater, Company One, Interim Writers, Mill 6 (I love the T plays!), Playwrights' Commons, Vagabond Theatre Group.  I'm missing some, I know (my apologies, in advance).  And now we've got the Center for the Theater Commons and HowlRound and David Dower and Polly Carl setting up shop in Boston.  And the constant presence of StageSource, helping pull the whole scene together.  And the Small Theatre Alliance of Boston linking together the fringe theatres.

We're living in the midst of an overflowing theatrical cornucopia here in Boston these days.  Thanks to everyone in our community who works so hard to make it happen.

One-Minute Play Festival Coming Back to Boston

The One-Minute Play Festival is returning to Boston for its second year.  From January 5-7, this festival, curated by Dominic D'Andrea, will present 70 one-minute plays by 35 Boston writers at the Boston Playwrights Theatre.  I will have two short plays on the bill this year, A Little Fresh Air and Harvesting Fall Tomatoes (contemplating the approaching death of my father).

I was part of this festival last year, too, and it was really a fun evening.  This collection of ultra-short plays provides a quick snapshot into the collective unconscious of a good chunk of Boston's very talented playwriting scene.  This year's playwrights include Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich, Elisabeth Burdick, Bill Doncaster, Stephen Faria, Peter Floyd, Patrick Gabridge (that's me), Deirdre Girard, Kirsten Greenidge, Israel Horovitz, Colleen Hughes, Dan Hunter, Emily Lazzaro, Christopher Lockheardt, Alexa Mavromatis, Walt McGough, James McLindon, Jack Neary, Rick Park, Rosanna Alfaro Yamagiwa, Ken Urban, Mwalim *7, Natalia Naman, Thom Dunn, Grant MacDermott, Elenor Burgess, David Valdes Greenwood, Liz Duffy Adams, Tyler Monroe, Nina Louise Morrison, Lindsay Soson, Noah Tobin, Jaclyn Villano, Lila Rose Kaplan, Ginger Lazarus, Joyce Van Dyke, Michael Bradford, Obehi Janice, Steven Bogart.

The plays are divided into seven "clumps," each directed by a different director.

I hope you'll come check it out.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Measuring Matthew in FilmShift Festival this weekend!

Measuring Matthew, a short film based on my play of the same name, will be in the FilmShift Film Festival this weekend in Somerville (I wrote the screenplay, too).  It will be screened as part of the Shifty Shorts program 1, at 4:30pm on Saturday, October 6th, at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square.  You can buy tickets here or else just get them at the door.  The film, directed by Gul Moonis, is a fun (and slightly dark) piece about a man with some serious obsessive tendencies and stars fantastic local actor Nael Nacer (whom you can also see on stage in Kite Runner at New Rep) and also two wonderful actresses, Renee Donlan and Audrey Claire Johnson.  The film has been selected for festivals in New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, and now this is our chance to see it in the Boston area.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

StageSource auction

You know how I said a few weeks ago that if I had a million dollars, I'd give it to StageSource.  Well, I still don't have that million bucks, but we are donating a box of produce from our Pen and Pepper Farm ($50 value) to their online auction.  Be sure to check it out.   The auction ends on Friday, so get your bid in before it's too late!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

If I Had a Million Dollars (part 1)

Did you ever play this game with your friends and family, on long car rides?  The old "if you had a million dollars, what would you do with it?"  I think it comes naturally to writers, as we fantasize about huge windfalls from our fabulous success.

I don't have a million dollars.  But if I did a spare million bucks (you know, after the house has been paid off, and we buy a farm, and a tractor, and all that), I'd want to give it to a bunch of folks and organizations whom I admire and respect.

One place I'd start is with StageSource, the Greater Boston Theatre Alliance.  They're an organization that supports theatres and theatre artists in a multitude of ways--through regional auditions, professional development, social gatherings, putting on the Boston Theatre Conference, having online profiles for all kinds of theatre artists (not just actors), putting together the Circle of Friends discount card, and a bunch of other programs.  Plus they have a library.  And a weekly newsletter.  And they foster, through their staff and board, a great intermingling of theatrical energy and knowledge across the theatrical community.  New Executive Director Julie Hennrikus is a visionary and wiz when it comes to social networking, always thinking of ways we can enlarge the conversation around theatre in our community.

I'm on the board, so I get to see first hand how well this organization works to promote and support theatrical artists and organizations. All on a very tight budget.

A million bucks would go a long way.  I'd vote for using it for a spiffy new office that has a cool space for classes, meetings, workshops, and other gatherings.  And to boost the level of tech that's available for programs and social media.  StageSource is kind of this invisible force that is constantly pushing the theatre community forward, and strengthening the bonds between our members.    Maybe sometimes it isn't as flashy as it should be, since they're in a support role.  Which is why that million bucks would come in real handy.

They're actually in the middle of a fundraising campaign right now, called Live from the Library, where they're trying to raise $15,000 towards improving StageSources access to technology and social media, to enhance a whole variety of discussions with, between, and to members. 

I gave 50 bucks today, because that's what I can spare right now.  But if I had the spare million, I'd give it to StageSource.  (If any of you have a spare million hanging around, hey, give it some thought.)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Next Up: Fresh Ink workshop of Fire on Earth

After a few weeks with mostly farming filling up my time, it's time to head back into the rehearsal room.  I actually spent quite a bit of time last week making revisions to my play, Fire on Earth, based on the Fresh Ink reading back in June.  Now I'll get a chance to hear them and to play with the actors on some of the more physical scenes in the play.

Fresh Ink will be workshop Fire on Earth starting Sunday night--we'll spend three evenings at Boston Playwrights Theatre, reading through the play and up on our feet, playing with piles of paper and stacks of books and Bibles.  This is a chance for us to experiment and have fun with shaping this play while there is still plenty of time for me to make changes.  We won't head into rehearsal until December (for the production in February).  New play development is a long-term commitment, and I'm grateful that Fresh Ink is giving new plays the time and space they need to really grow before they get to production (and that they're giving new plays actual productions, not just workshops and readings).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Huntington Workshop of Flight was a big success

The past two weeks really flew by as I workshopped my play, Flight, with the Huntington Theatre Company.  Talk about intense.  I was in rehearsal pretty much every other day from 10-6, and then on my off days, I was either writing or at the farm all day.  To find the time to make changes in the script, I'd typically get up at 5 a.m. and work until 9 (with a break for getting Noah ready for camp) and e-mail the pages to the producer and stage manager, so they could distribute them to the actors at 10.  I'd typically bring in 20-30 pages with changes every day of rehearsal (many changes were small).

Patrick Curran, Philana Mia, Cassie Back, David Anzuelo
Our cast of Patrick Curran, Philana Mia, Cassie Beck, and David Anzuelo, were immensely talented and hard working.  Led by director Jessica Bauman, we picked our way through the play, scene-by-scene, beat-by-beat.  I wanted them to ask me hard questions about their characters and they did, with the result being a constantly improving script.

Jessica Bauman, Rachel Carpman, Bethany Ford
I'm very grateful to my director, Jessica Bauman, for all her insights and guidance, and to dramaturg Rachel Carpman, for always being ready for a new question (often it was just: "does that make sense to you?"), and to stage manager Bethany Ford for keeping the whole process running smoothly.

We had a final public reading of the script on Saturday afternoon, for an audience of about 50 people.  (Kudos to them, by the way, for being so responsive and attentive.)  I felt like the reading really kicked ass.  The actors were sharp and the audience seemed to really follow the play and the emotional roller coaster of it.  Most of all, it was gratifying to pack the script back up, after we had so thoroughly unpacked and disassembled it, and find out that not only did it still work, it actually worked a lot better than it did before.

I'm grateful to the entire staff of the Huntington for putting this Summer Workshop series together and giving four playwrights the chance to really get elbow deep into their plays, to try to find out how they work and how to improve them.  Thanks to Lisa Timmel, Charles Haugland, and Bevin O'Gara for getting the funding and making it happen, and to line producer Rebecca Bradshaw for running the workshop.

Now I need to keep making a few more changes to the script and find a way land a full production of it.  Some questions about a script can only be answered with a full production.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Huntington Summer Workshop, Day 1

Photo: Director Jessica Bauman and HPF Patrick Gabridge (FLIGHT)
me and my director, Jessica Bauman at the Meet and Greet
Today was the first day of the Huntington Summer Workshop.  I got to meet with my director, Jessica Bauman, who has already given me some great ideas, and also with my dramaturg, Rachel Carpman, who is very smart and a good listener.  My brain was really buzzing by the end of the day.  Which was helped out by stimulating first readings of new plays by Martha Jane Kaufman and John Oluwole ADEkoje.
Tomorrow, we work from 10-6, with my play, Flight, getting its first read through at 10 am.  Sadly, I'll miss getting to see the first read through of Melinda Lopez's play, Becoming Cuba (though I was lucky enough to see a reading of it in March), because we'll be working.  We've got a terrific cast lined up--David Anzuelo, Cassie Beck, Patrick Curran, and Philana Mia--I'm excited to see them in action with the piece.
Also, at one of our planning meetings, I'd asked if the writers could have a quiet space somewhere in the building to write on breaks. So now it turns out that we each get our own dressing room.  With our names on the door and everything!  Very cool.  I spent some time in there today, as a quiet place to read my script again (without the many distractions that I've got just about everywhere else right now).
My dressing room / office. Big enough for a pick up hockey game, perhaps?

name on door
Yep, that's my name on the door. (Just need a star.)
Mr. Gabridge's key. Gotta love it.

Thanks again to the Huntington, especially Bevin, Lisa, Charles, Rebecca, and the development staff, and all the other staff, who are working to make this all happen.  It's a special thrill to get this sort of time with this high level of talent to work on my play.

Monday, July 2, 2012

update (is June already over?)

cast of Fire on Earth reading
Wow.  Okay, June was a bit of a whirlwind.

I had a blast writing for the T Plays, which just wrapped up this weekend.  My play, will/did/is ended up being a short little two-hander (plus extras) about a time traveler who misses the time traveler's convention and the woman who's been riding the T waiting for him for the past seven years.  Dakota Shepard and Brett Milanowski were brilliant in it.

Just as the T plays were getting underway, I attended the TCG National Theatre Conference. I couldn't afford to buy a ticket (they were something like $250-400 for individual artists), so I volunteered to help out (which got me a free pass).  Seth Godin gave a kick-ass plenary speech, which was followed by a stimulating panel on residencies for playwrights in large theatrical institutions. It got me thinking a lot about what I need as a playwright, versus how the business seems to be working right now.  Yes, I need money and benefits, but I also really, really need help from theatres in developing an audience for my work in my own community. And this doesn't happen without productions.  (More on all this when I have a spare minute to breathe and think and write.)

Speaking of local productions of my work, on the 26th I had a reading of my play, Fire on Earth, from Fresh Ink Theatre, in preparation for a workshop and production of the play.  The cast, of Omar Robinson, Bob Mussett, Chris Larson, Kevin LaVelle, and Kevin Fennessy, totally blew me away.  I hadn't seen the play since its last reading at the Huntington about a year and a half ago.  I'd made some changes since then, and these guys just completely devoured this script with intense energy and humor, all for a receptive (capacity) crowd at the Factory Theatre.  My excitement level for this workshop and production is a bit nuts, but it feels matched by my director, Rebecca Bradshaw.  Very cool.

During all this, I've been farming at our Pen and Pepper Farm in Dracut, and selling our produce to the World PEAS collective CSA and at a Thursday farmer's market in Jamaica Plain.  My capacity to do work, both physical and mental, has been stretched pretty hard this month.

I have a lot to think about and write about from all of it, but not quite yet.  Because July promises to be equally intense, with more farming, a production of my short play Organic Seed from Boston Actors Theatre (July 20-28), and a two-week workshop of my full-length play, Flight, at the Huntington Theatre (talk about excited!).  We'll have a reading of Flight at 5 pm on July 21.

Here we go!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fire on Earth reading tonight!

Fire on Earth image

Tonight, the Fresh Ink Theatre will be presenting a reading of my play, Fire on Earth, at the Factory Theatre in Boston at 7:30 pm (791 Tremont Street).  It's free.  It's fun (well, "intense" might be a better way to describe the play than "fun", but it depends on what you call fun.  It's the kind of play that I find fun.).   It's got a terrific cast.  And I'm baking brownies.

This is the start of the development and production process with Fresh Ink, which will continue with a workshop in August and a full production in February.  I've been working on this play for a very, very, very long time, so it's extra sweet to finally see it work its way onstage.

Here's what the play's about in a nutshell.  If you're around, I hope you'll join us.
1524. John Tewkesbury is a savvy trader and smuggler, smart enough to know William Tyndale's illegal translation of the Bible will be a hot commodity. But, to sell the good book, he must elude the spies of Sir Thomas More and escape the fires of the Catholic bishops. In this true story about the struggle between dangerous information and powerful knowledge, one man journeys from merchant to martyr.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Off to write my T Play

Last night we had our match-up meeting for the T Plays festival produced by Mill 6 Productions.  I met my actors, Dakota Shepard and Brett Malinowski, director Chris Anton, and got assigned the Orange Line.  So now I have until 5pm on Saturday to come up with a new short play inspired by and set on and written on Boston's subway system.  I'm heading out right now to ride the rails and see what sort of inspiration will strike.

I have a busy day tomorrow, so basically I have the next five hours to come up with something, or else I'm in trouble.

No pressure.

One thing I really like about this festival is getting to write for specific actors.  I always come to these meeting with lots of questions and a camera, to try to get a sense of what they're like and what they can do, in a very short time.  I just hope I can come up with something good.

Here are my actors:

Everyone involved with the production will meet Saturday night and have a read-through of what the writers have scripted.  By Wednesday night, the shows will be up and on their feet for a pay-what-you-can preview at Boston Playwrights Theatre.  Opening night is Thursday, June 21. 

Here's a little preview video for the festival:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Juggler Interviews, #12: Diana Renn

Diana Renn and I have been in the same fiction writer's group since 2005.  She's a prolific writer and reviser, and will tear a story or novel apart and rebuild it from bottom up and make it seem all so easy.  She's also a mother of a young, son, now 5 years old.  Her debut novel, Tokyo Heist, a YA mystery, will hit the shelves this week.  We saw many drafts of it in our group, and it's a thrill to see it finally published and have a chance to reach a well-deserved broad audience.  For those of you in the Boston area, she'll have her book launch this Saturday, June 16, at 2pm at Newtonville Book.

She took some time to answer questions in the midst of all the book launch preparations:

It feels like you started bringing in pieces of Tokyo Heist to our writers group quite a while ago (perhaps before I was even a member), how long have you been working on it?

I started writing Tokyo Heist (with a different title, and as an adult novel) in the fall of 2004. From first word to publication, the journey has taken almost eight years!

One thing I’ve always admired about you as a writer is your ability to rewrite, and rewrite some more, and fearlessly tackle anything that wasn’t working. Did this talent come in handy in the process of working with your agent to find a publisher, and then working with an editor?

Thanks! This book was revised extensively, including three times starting over almost from scratch. Revision doesn’t scare me; drafting does. When I’m revising, I have something to work with. I love the feeling of making something stronger.

I actually didn’t do too much revising for my agent. I did revise extensively for my editor. When I got my first edit later (several single-spaced pages of notes!), I admit I was daunted, but then I threw myself into the job. I was glad I’d had so much revision experience; I knew I’d get through it and the book would come out better. Also, I’ve worked as an editor and a writer in educational publishing, and I’m sure that experience trained me to be a good reviser, especially with deadlines in mind.

You had your son when you were in the thick of writing the main drafts of Tokyo Heist, and then were busy being the parent of a pre-schooler during the sale and subsequent editing. How did you manage to get it all done? What’s your writing schedule like? Do you have a certain routine?

I pushed to finish my first complete draft in the months before my son was born; I finished with just a couple days to spare. I was terrified that once he was born I would never write a complete novel. (I’d written two other attempts at novels, but with many missing scenes – they didn’t feel “complete” to me). At one point I didn’t even care about selling this book. I just wanted to see the words “the end.”

For the first few months after my son was born, in 2007, I set the novel aside. I worked on short stories and essays. One night, in a sleep-deprived haze, I looked at that “finished” novel manuscript of what would become Tokyo Heist. I realized much of what I’d written – 80% of it – really wasn’t working. I’d reached “the end,” but in the wrong way. I nearly trashed it, but I still loved the premise, and some characters, so I started over.

I was fortunate to have some babysitting help, and a son who loved to nap. I worked those naps. Sometimes he only slept in the car, though, so I’d drive to a remote location and work on the novel in the car, on my laptop. I think that’s how I pushed through the next draft. Feedback from my wonderful writing group also kept me going. Some people like to wait to show a complete draft to beta readers, but honesty, if I’d had no sense of audience, I’m not sure I could have pressed on. I was very isolated in those early months of being a mother, and isolated as a writer; I’d given up my teaching job by then. Writing group feedback was a huge motivator and got me banging out more pages.

By 2009 I felt the novel was ready for querying agents. I did that for the better part of a year, with no luck – lots of partial and full requests, but no takers. I got two fresh sets of eyes on the manuscript and some good advice. I revised YET AGAIN. My tireless writing group read the novel YET AGAIN. I queried YET AGAIN. Now my son was napping less, and my babysitting help was less reliable. He wasn’t adjusting well to an attempt at daycare. I had fewer hours to work with but kept querying, spending any available time researching agents and sending the thing out. Finally I got my agent in April 2010. I revised a little for him and he sold the book to Viking in July 2010.

Revising for the editor, which happened in waves over 2011 (mostly last spring and summer) felt harder, time-wise, than drafting. My son was in preschool, which should have given me more time, but he had some health issues and other things going on, and missed a lot of school. It was scary to have real deadlines hanging over my head and a kid who needed to be out of school, or needed to be ferried to various appointments, or just needed attention. I switched to the night shift a lot as I revised.

I don’t remember sleeping much in 2011.

Two of my biggest deadlines happened to hit on two separate weeks when we’d scheduled family vacations last year. This meant our Cape Cod summer rental turned into an office and my husband took on more of the childcare. This meant our family reunion in Seattle was spent with me working in a hotel room a lot while other people entertained our son. In retrospect, I feel lucky these deadlines hit at vacations because I had family around to help and didn’t have to hire sitters.

How did I manage to get it all done? I don’t really know. I think I just scavenged for time whenever I could, and sacrificed some other time-consuming things, like watching TV. Like sleep.

I no longer have a routine. I feel like any time I set a schedule, the rug gets pulled out from under me. Something will go awry in the house, or a school vacation will hit. (Why are there so many school vacation weeks?) In general, though, I have gone back to that night shift, drafting new material from roughly 9 pm to midnight, and using any daytime hours I have to edit/revise that work, catch up on email, and work on promotional activities, including keeping up with my mystery writers blog. The night shift works for me for drafting; it’s the only uninterrupted time I can absolutely count on these days.

You’ve completely leaped into the world of YA publishing and YA mysteries over the past year or so, with your blog, Sleuths, Spies, and Alibis, and Apocalypsies, plus your own personal blog. Plus rewrites. Plus being a mom. And writing new stuff. How are you juggling all of it?

Honestly, I’m in awe to be included in your “Juggler” interview series because when I read about the other people you’ve featured, they seem to get SO much done, juggling SO much more than I do. But then I have to remind myself not to make comparisons, and to remember that some days and weeks are more productive than others. And even if I took something out of the equation – motherhood, rewrites, my mystery blog, whatever – I’d still be juggling, because I’ve always had too much on my plate. I think that’s just how I am. I take on a lot.

I’ve learned to put different weight on different activities and forgive myself if some things slide. My personal blog gets updated weekly, if I’m lucky, and I’m fine with that. I’m involved in an amazing debut author group, the Apocalypsies, with 160 authors, and I try to support this group and participating as much as I can, while accepting that I simply can’t respond to every email or post, or wish every single person a happy birthday, or some weeks I’m on Twitter and some weeks I’m not. I’m starting to pull back on social media (even though with a book launch I know I shouldn’t) so that I can focus more energy on writing the next book. A few years ago I used to try to work harder to get more things done. Now I’m feeling a shift of energy, like I’d rather get less done, but do less better, and not feel so scattered.

I used to set weekly or daily goals for productivity. Now I don’t. I inevitably fail to make those goals – often due to circumstances beyond my control – and then I just feel bad. I make modest lists of morning and afternoon goals.

I’ve seen the book since its early forms. When you started out, you weren’t really writing a lot of YA material During the editing process, how have you and your editor worked to shape the book to make sure it would be a book that met the expectations of young adult readers?
I made the conscious decision to make the novel a YA novel back in 2006. But I didn’t actually read a lot of YA until a couple of years ago – until after the novel sold. In a way that’s a good thing. People say the book is “original” and “unique” in the YA market, and I think it’s because I had no idea what was out there. My editor and I did do some work to add more exciting scenes that would appeal to YA readers. We changed the title from the original one to have more teen appeal and to allow us to use an edgy cover.

Now I read almost exclusively YA novels – partly because I love the genre, partly because I know many YA authors now, and partly because I love participating in the community of children’s fiction, and keeping up with current and classic YA books helps me to do that.

Now that you’re a mother, did you find that some of your sympathies towards your characters shifted a little? Or was it a good escape from being a mother to inhabit the character of Violet for a while every day?

It was easy tapping into my inner teen and getting into Violet’s head. And refreshing. An escape. My daily life is filled with responsibilities, so it was fun to hang out with Violet in her world -- getting into trouble, sneaking around, outrunning mobsters, etc. However, being a parent does enable me to sympathize with the parent characters. I can’t think about them too much. Sometimes I’d read over a scene where Violet’s grousing about her dad, and I’d think, “Hey, he’s just doing the best he can! Nobody told ever told him how to parent!” But it’s Violet’s book, not her dad’s, and so she gets to grouse.

What’s next? I love the character of Violet—any chance we’ll get to see her in another book someday?

I’m currently working on another YA mystery, with very different characters and a different setting. Tokyo Heist sold as a standalone, but I’d love to write another Violet mystery someday, and have lots of ideas, so we shall see!

Thanks, Diana! And good luck with the release!

Thanks for the interview; it’s great to be in the company of such amazing jugglers! 

Here's new book trailer for the Tokyo Heist:

You can visit Diana's web site at:  You can also follower on Twitter at @dianarenn   or on Facebook.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fire on Earth reading on June 26, at Boston Playwrights Theatre

Fire on Earth image 

Fire on Earth, will get a reading from Fresh Ink, on June 26, 7:30pm, at the Boston Playwrights Theatre.  This is part of their InkSpot reading series.  My director will be the fabulous Rebecca Bradshaw. We're still putting the cast together.  I'm super psyched about this reading and the start of the process that will lead to a full production in February.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Juggler Interviews, #11: Laura Harrington

Laura Harrington is an award-winning writer of plays, musicals, operas, radio plays, and her first novel, the heartbreaking and lovely Alice Bliss, has been met with critical acclaim.  She's also the mother of a daughter who recently graduated from college.  I've been a big admirer of Laura's work for the stage, and now I'm a big fan of her novel, too.  She's off in London for the paperback release of Alice Bliss right now, but took some time to answer some questions for me.

You’ve had so much success writing for the stage, both plays, musicals, and operas. What made you decide to write a novel?

A few things conspired to open up this world to me. I was given this incredible award for my music theatre work that gave me two years of writing time. Which was an awe-inspiring moment – so much validation for my theatre career coupled with so much possibility. But I didn’t immediately think: Great! I can’t wait to write my next musical. Instead I thought: This is my chance to be a beginner again, to re-connect to the creative process by trying to do something I’ve never done before. I also wanted to pick up my pen without thinking about anything other than story. No worries about the size of the cast, the cost of production, etc.

Did you find yourself able to do things in prose that you hadn’t been able to do in script form?

Yes and yes and yes. It was so liberating to be able to spend time with a character’s interior voice. I also loved being able to tell a story that unfolded slowly. And it was just plain fun to be able to play with language in new ways.

from the TN Rep production of THE PERFECT 36: "A Woman's Voice"

Your writing for stage often deals with historical topics, and isn’t necessarily grounded in strict realism or traditional styles. For Alice Bliss, for which the writing is heartbreaking and lovely, you chose to write a contemporary story, grounded in realism. How do your approaches to tackling prose and drama differ?

As for all that history: I write about what obsesses me, the things I can’t stop thinking about. In some ways, my stories choose me. I’m also drawn to the voiceless and the displaced. And I’m deeply disturbed about war and wish that I could do something to make a difference.

Is my approach to writing prose and drama really different? I’m not sure. For me it’s all about voice. Once I have the voice and the rhythm of the book, the play, the character, then I just follow it through the first draft. I’m sure that sounds overly simplistic, but it’s as though the world of the play or the book has a voice, a style, a look, a feel and so does each character’s individual voice. I’m fascinated by layering voice/ image/ sound/ smell, etc. For me writing comes from a very, very physical place, from specific physical observations, from all the senses, no matter what genre I’m in.

Your daughter is a recent college graduate. In this interview series, I’ve talked a lot to writers who are in the thick of raising kids. You’ve succeeded!

Thank you! She’s a great kid.

And you’ve written so many plays and operas. How did you do it?
I am blessed with a lot of energy and focus. People are always commenting on how self disciplined I am, but it’s more that I love my work. And, to be honest, I’m pretty driven and ambitious.

What advice can you give those parents of small children (and teenagers) who are also trying to write?

Don’t think about the big picture. Keep it simple and small and write a page a day. I love the story of Andre Dubus III writing his first book. He had 4 kids, was working construction full time and spent 20 minutes a day writing while parked at the cemetery before going home.

In some ways playwriting is ideal for short bursts of time because you really can write a play one scene at a time. I could not have written a novel while my daughter was young. It’s no accident that my writing world expanded as my daughter headed off to college.

I find that when I’m working on a novel, I need a long stretch of predictable time to write, whereas a play is so much shorter, so I can get more done in bursts. What’s your writing schedule like? Does it vary a lot, depending on whether you’re working a play, opera, or novel?

The actual writing process, the day-to-day activity of writing is the same no matter what the form. You have to show up and give yourself to it. But the book took more time, lots more time. I found I had to make my life very, very quiet in order to create the mental space for a book.

One of the best things about writing a book is that the fun part – what I think of as the honeymoon phase when you’re living inside the work – lasts longer.

It seems like Alice Bliss has really struck a chord with many readers, of various ages. You’ve attended many productions of your work for stage. How does the response from readers of Alice Bliss compare to the response you’ve had from your plays and operas?

A reader lives in the world of the book for much longer than an audience member lives in the world of a play. I would say that the response of readers has been more intense, perhaps because of that longer, more personal and more private relationship with a book.

from Pilgrim Theatre production of N (Bonaparte) directed by Kim Mancuso

Marketing a book is very different from marketing a play. These days, the author of a book bears a lot more responsibility for getting the word out, even when you’re with a large publisher. Talk about some of the lessons you’ve learned about marketing a book. Do you think they’ll have any use for you in your work for stage?

Book marketing feels very different from marketing for the theatre because - if you’re lucky - it lasts such a long time. I was working intensely on the hardcover release of Alice Bliss for a solid 6 months. And now it’s time to work on the paperback release, which will be more extensive.

Lessons learned? Getting up to speed with social media, learning how to reach out to and engage with readers and fellow writers. Learning how open and friendly and supportive novelists can be. Meeting dozens of book bloggers – a world I did not even know existed. There is a very generous spirit at the moment and the world of books feels very open. I don’t know if this openness will last, or whether it is just the first flush of all of this social media potential.

The contact and connections with other writers has been amazing and really fun. I’ve found people who are friendly, open, and supportive; I’ve met and corresponded with writers in South Africa, England, Sweden, Canada, and all over the US.

What are you working on now?

I’m about to begin work on a commission from Playwrights Horizons, to write Alice Bliss, the musical, with the composer Jenny Giering and lyricist Adam Gwon.

And I’m deep into my second book. My next novel begins with water, as Alice Bliss does. There’s a large Irish Catholic family with six kids. It’s 1966 and the Viet Nam war changes everything.

Thanks for taking the time for this, Laura!
Thank you, Pat. Always fun to talk with you. 

You can read more about Laura and her work at and
The next installment of the Juggler Interviews will feature a talk with Diana Renn.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Measuring Matthew Film in NYC, May 31

Measuring Matthew poster

The film version of Measuring Matthew made it into the New York Shorts Fest.  This will be my New York film debut!  It will be screened on May 31, in Program 8 at 7:30pm.  You can now buy tickets online here. The festival is at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema, 143 E. Houston Street.  The screening room only seats 100, so if you're going to go, buy your tickets early. I won't be able to be there, but my producer and director will.

If you're in New York next Thursday, I hope you'll check it out.  With any luck, this will be just the first of many festival appearances around the country.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Playwriting in 3D: Playwriting and Puppetry, May 29

Next Tuesday, May 29, I'll be moderating the fourth installment in StageSource's Playwriting in 3D series.  This time we'll be talking about Playwriting and Puppetry.  We'll have an in-depth discussion at the Brookline Puppet Showplace Theatre with Roxie Myhrum, Bonnie Duncan, Faye Dupras, and Brad Shur.  And show-and-tell, too.

The use of puppets dates backs to the very beginning of theatre, and now more and more new plays and theatre productions are using puppets as ways to help tell stories. Recent examples include Paula Vogel's Long Christmas Ride Home and the production of Wild Swans at American Repertory Theatre.   The very popular Avenue Q is running right now at Lyric Stage.

The panel will discuss different uses of puppets in narrative theatre, and how writing for puppets is both similar and different from writing for live actors. Whether you're interested in writing your own puppet show or want to integrate the use of puppets into your own script/production, this is a great chance to learn from the experts.

Panelists will show examples of their own work, and there will be plenty of time for audience questions and discussion.

The cost $20 for StageSource members, $30 for non-members.

To purchase a ticket visit

Come check it out.  We've had great discussions at the other panels and this one promises to be more interesting and fun than ever. 

(You can also help spread the word, by inviting people to the event via Facebook at the Facebook event page.)

Monday, May 21, 2012

2012 Boston Theater Marathon Round Up

I had a great time at the Boston Theater Marathon yesterday.  My daughter, Kira, and fellow Rhombus playwrights, Alexa Mavromatis and Ginger Lazarus, were part of our theatre-absorbing team.  We saw them all.  Yep, 53 plays in 10 hours. 

My play, Second Look, ran in the 6-7pm hour, and I was delighted.  It's a serious piece, and the audience was clearly with us.  The house grew very, very quiet, which is just what we needed.  Actors Charles Van Eman and Bob DeLibero did a fantastic job, under Stephen Faria's direction, of capturing the awkwardness and silent pauses in the difficult encounter portrayed in Second Look.  Much thanks to the Firehouse Center for the Arts for choosing and producing the play.

Bob DeLibero, Stephen Faria, and Charles Van Eman at rehearsal.
I was was a little concerned about how the audience would react to our piece when I first sat down and saw the program, because our hour started with Designated Sitter, by George Sauer, featuring Hannah Husband, Nael Nacer, and Ed Hoopman--and this promised to have the audience laughing.  (And it did.)  And then right before Second Look was scheduled Walt McGough's piece, The Dinosaurs Have a Request, with a cast of a dozen actors.  I'm a huge fan of Walt's work, and this promised to keep the audience chuckling.  How would we get them to settle down for Second Look?

Turns out, Walt's piece was funny, sure, but it was also extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking, and highly theatrical.  A hard act to follow, but it fully engaged the audience.  This was just what we needed and Bob and Charlie kept a tight trip on them throughout our piece.

There were many good plays and performances over the course of the evening.  Far too many to list all of them here, but besides Walt and George's pieces, here are a few that stood out for me:
  • Shrapnel by young playwright Yavni Bar-Yam. Intense play about potential high school shooters.
  • Love, Billy Bunny by Peter Floyd.  I'm a big fan of plays about obsessives, and any play that features a gun being held to the head of a stuffed bunny has my vote.
  • Kevin LaVelle completely grabbed our attention in William Donnelly's play, Animal Boat, as a former writer of children's songs turned corporate PR hack.  (This was one of Kira's favorite's, too.)
  • Ronan Noone's I Glue You showed his dark, dark sense of humor and clear love and skill with language.
  • Bob Mussett and Lynn R. Guerra shone in an intense encounter between two people who have trouble dealing with other people in Sheri Wilner's Arts and Sciences
  • Grant MacDermott made a fine playwriting debut with the heartfelt King Richards, with strong performances from Dale Place and Bob Pemberton.
  • C.J. Erlich, whom I met at the EstroGenius festival last year, gave us some great laughs with The Lilac Ticket, about an elderly married couple.  Kippy Goldfarb and Stephen Benson had terrific chemistry.
  • I was delighted to see Audrey Claire Johnson, who is in the film version of Measuring Matthew, give a strong performance as a sleepless mother in Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich's play, 3 A.M.
  • Hand Down the Chesterfield, by Tom Grady, was one of the more ambitious pieces of the day, with Michael Fordham Walker giving a fluid performance as a coat, in a play that had a complex view of time, place, and memory.
  • I like a play with a good surprise, and John Shanahan's play, Hot Water, featuring Will Lyman, Bill Mootos, and Amanda Collins, certainly made me happy.
  • Erin Striff's The As-If Sisters was a solid adoption play, and I happen to love writing and watching adoption plays.  As well as plays with Georgia Lyman in them.
  • Deirdre Girard's play, Frickin' Woodpecker, got a great cast in Steven Barkhimer and Barlow Adamson, that got this script to land with just the right gentle touch.
  • Esme Allen blew me away in The Accidents of Bread by William Orem.  I turned to Alexa and said, "who the hell was that?"  Having spent the last zillion years working on a play about the creation of the English Bible, I loved seeing someone flip out over the nature of transubstantiation.
  • And Reproduction by Elizabeth Dupre, featured some great romantic geek humor.  I adore romantic geek humor, since I might actually be a romantic geek myself (you'll have to ask Tracy for confirmation).  Excellent performances in this one by Andrew Bernap and Rachel Dulude.
 The day ran, as always, seamlessly.  The BPT staff, designers, running crew, and stage managers are special kinds of magicians and deserve high prize for this most intense juggling act.

I dragged Kira to the party afterwards.  I promised that we'd only stay 15 minutes (she protested that she needed to go home and get to bed because she had school the next day.  Pshaw!)  but of course I kept us there for almost an hour.  My wife pointed out that the BTM is basically Bring-Your-Daughter-To-Work Day for me.   [The following is apparently a secret.  Do not tell anyone:]  The BTM party is pretty much the ideal networking situation for playwrights.  There's plentiful, delicious food, cheap drinks, and LOTS of actors and directors who like working on new plays.  Is there a better place to catch up with old friends and make new contacts?  If you're a playwright working in Boston, you're a fool, a fool I say, not to go to the BTM and the party, even if you don't have a play selected.  You can scout dozens of actors, directors, and theatre companies.  What kind of new scripts interest these folks?  And then that very same night, you can hunt down the ones you like and introduce yourself, tell them how much you love their work, and give them business cards.  Seriously--you get all this for $25 (if you buy in advance).  It'd be worth that much just to go to the party alone, but no, you can watch 53 short plays, too.  It's pure insanity.   [Some playwrights are very shy and find parties painful.  The solution is to find an extroverted friend and go as a tag team.  It works.  Trust me.]

It was a great night.  I can't wait for next year!

(My apologies to playwright Erin Striff.  In the initial version of this post, I mistakenly gave writing credit for The As-If Sisters to Laura Crook, who was the director for the piece. Erin wrote the piece and North Shore Music Theatre produced.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Juggler Interviews, #10: Georgia Stitt

Georgia Stitt is a composer and a lyricist. Her musicals currently in development include: Big Red Sun (NAMT Festival winner in 2010, Harold Arlen Award in 2005 and and written with playwright John Jiler); The Water (winner of the 2008 ANMT Search for New Voices in American Musical Theatre and written with collaborators Jeff Hylton and Tim Werenko); Sing Me A Happy Song (a musical revue); and Mosaic (commissioned for Off-Broadway in 2010 and written with Cheri Steinkellner).  She's also released several albums, including My Lifelong Love, and is a music director.  And she's a mother of two daughters.  Together with actress Susan Egan, she writes about mixing busy musical careers with parenting in their blog, Glamour & Goop.  I was delighted that she was able to take some time to answer questions about juggling her artistic life and motherhood.

You’ve got two young daughters (how old are they now?) and also a very busy career, one that can require a lot of travel, sessions in the studio, rehearsals, performances. Plus your husband, Jason Robert Brown, is also a composer/lyricist, so you have two chaotic careers/schedules in the house. How do you balance the career stuff and motherhood?

Balancing -- it's the never-ending challenge in our household. My daughters are 6 (first grade) and 2 1/2 (starting preschool this fall). And the magical secret is that we have a nanny. After our house payment I think the nanny might be the biggest expense in our household, but there's simply no way we could pull off these two careers without her. She is a much-beloved part of our family. The gift of the third set of hands means that, for the most part, my husband and I both assume we have the traditional business hours available to work, just as if we went to an office. I schedule meetings, conference calls, rehearsals, recording sessions and writing during the hours when the nanny is on duty. And I stop working at exactly six p.m. so I can be with the kids for homework, dinner, bath, and bedtime. The mornings are great, because I work at home so I'm very aware of the rhythms of the younger daughter playing, eating, napping. And then in the afternoons, they head out. I do miss out on a lot of the after-school activity, but every few weeks I'll take the afternoon off to go watch a swimming lesson or a ballet class. And of course, if the nanny is sick, I cancel everything.

As far as the travel goes, Jason and I try as often as possible to make sure we're not out of town at the same time. In the few times when we've had to travel simultaneously, we've either taken the kids with us or hired the nanny to stay overnight. Neither is ideal, but all of the grandparents live far away so it is what it is. Getting on a plane is always hard, and I don't see how that will ever change. Theater is developed all over the country, and those of us who make theater have to travel. It is the necessary evil of this business.

Heidi Blickenstaff sings from “MOSAIC” (produced Off-Broadway, 2010)

How and when do you write and compose? Do you have a studio at home, or do you need to get out of the house? Do you have a routine that you follow, or does it vary from project to project?

Jason and I each have a sound-proof piano studio in our home. It's part of why we left New York and moved to Los Angeles. When we were young and childless we shared a one-bedroom apartment with a grand piano in the living room. We were each constantly encouraging the other one to go away so that we could be alone with the piano! When we decided to buy a house, we looked for one that had two separate spaces that we could adapt to accommodate our unique needs. My studio is the converted garage, so I do actually have to walk out the front door to go to work. I find that I usually get into the studio in the late morning, and there's the inevitable dealing with business -- returning phone calls, emails, etc. If I can get into writing mode by lunchtime I can usually have a nice long stretch of composing in the afternoon. Sometimes I come back to writing after the kids are in bed, but more often than not I'm dealing with household stuff in the evening and my creative energy is sapped.

I love the blog that you and Susan Egan write together, Glamour and Goop. In one post, you tell a great story about traveling with your kids to work on your musical at Goodspeed Musicals. How did it end up working out? It seems the ultimate juggling act to try to work on a workshop or production of a new play or musical, all while trying to manage the kids in a strange place.

It was really, really, really hard. Jason had work in New York when I had to be at Goodspeed (in Connecticut), so the kids had to come with one of us. He offered to take them (and our magnificent nanny) to New York, but we knew that I would have better housing and the temporary school situation in CT seemed more manageable than in Manhattan. My eldest daughter enrolled in public school a few miles away from the theater, and I drove her to class each morning before rehearsal. Any production or collaborator meetings we needed to have after rehearsal had to happen in my living room, because I had to let the nanny have SOME time off each day. I requested an electric keyboard for my bedroom, and I stayed up very late at night doing the orchestrations and rewrites for the next day's rehearsal. For five weeks I was underslept and anti-social but my kids, who are troopers, really loved being in New England in the fall. (The pumpkins! The leaves! The hayrides! The apples!) Just as I was about to say "never again," I realized how happy everyone was. It is an experience we will all remember. And the truth is, if I had said no, the production of that show wouldn't have happened. So that's how it goes. We've taken the kids across the country countless times, and they've been to Denmark, to London, to Australia. It's an adventure, to be sure, and every trip is different.

How do you find that being a mother has changed your approach to writing and composing? Both in terms of how you create and what you create. Your album, My Lifelong Love, seems so clearly influenced by motherhood, as is the work you did with Susan Egan on The Secret of Happiness.

I really think the biggest change in HOW I write is about time management, as described above. The change in WHAT I write is bigger. I always challenge myself to write about things in ways I haven't heard them said before. And as I entered this phase of my life and my career, I realized that most of the songs about mothers and children were written by men. (I mean, come on, most of the songs about everything are written by men.) So I figured I had this unique opportunity to describe something that was very real and all-consuming to me with a voice that was truthful but under-represented. I walk the line very carefully -- I want to write from a distinctly personal and feminine point of view, but I don't want to be a "girl writer." If all I wrote about was motherhood I would turn into my own little cabaret show. But I see the world through the eyes of a mother, a wife, a daughter, a writer, a former Southerner, a liberal Democrat, a church-goer, an almost-forty-year-old, a student... Somewhere in there is my voice.

Susan and I had a lot of fun putting the two albums together at the same time. We are in similar chapters in our lives -- former New Yorkers living in southern California and raising our daughters. Our collaboration -- the blog, the concerts, the albums -- all comes from exploring where those shared experiences meet.

You’ve managed to keep working, thriving really, while still being fully engaged as a mother. But the demands of working the theatre are intense and it’s not exactly known as being a family-friendly business. We lose a lot of promising artists in our field as they hit the age where they’re trying to have a family. Is there something that development or producing organizations could to be more accessible (or at least understanding) or artists with children?

It's lovely to read that you think I'm thriving. I think I'm barely coming up for air. I'm very aware that when my younger daughter starts school this fall I'll have my days back in a way that I don't have them right now, and I am trying to make sure that I'm up on the business I left behind seven years ago. I moved away from New York at exactly the same time I first got pregnant, and a lot of what I've done in the meantime is just try to stay relevant. I am active on social media because it makes people think about who you are and what you do, especially when you spend your days in a studio or a nursery or a carpool. I have to say, the organizations I've worked for have been very accommodating at every step along the way. I've nursed in recording studios, I've spread blankets and babies on the floor of rehearsal rooms, I've hired sitters in cities where the only contacts I had were the stage managers of my shows. What I won't do anymore is travel for something I don't believe in, or take a job that costs more in childcare than it returns in satisfaction. And if I'm going to have to miss bedtime, it better be good.

If it ever entered my mind to stop writing and focus more exclusively on parenting, it didn't last long. I would be a very cranky mother if I stopped working. I have convinced myself that it's important to show my girls what it looks like to be in pursuit of a dream. For all the good and all the bad, they seem to understand what I do and how much it means to me.

What are you working on now?

I have two musicals that are in various stages of development -- BIG RED SUN is a story about a teenager looking for his father in post WWII America, and the songs draw from the wildly different musical sounds of the 40s and the 60s. SING ME A HAPPY SONG is a book musical about five contemporary characters who are more technologically connected than ever but find actual human connection elusive. Beyond that, and the ongoing concerts with Susan Egan, I'm writing a musical this summer for TADA!, a children's theater in NYC, and I'm the composer in residence at the Pasadena Presbyterian Church here in California. I have the beginnings of a few new projects that are just starting to crack out of their shells, but I'm protecting them until they reveal themselves more fully. It's sort of like being pregnant again... but actually not like that at all.

Thanks much for taking the time to do this! Good luck with all your upcoming projects! 

Georgia will appear in concert with Susan Egan, this upcoming Monday, May 21st, in New York at Birdland, at 7pm, 315 W 44th Street.