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Here’s What’s On Tap

16 Nov

Yes, let’s title with a beer analogy, because 2016 my friends. I think we can all agree this year has been a wash of ugly. (I still miss you Alan Rickman). Luckily in addition to beer, art-making is also a beautiful and highly effective coping mechanism.

This weekend, for the first time in a very long while I am performing in a straight dance show. No singing, no acting, just moving. The showcase is called I’d Rather Be Dancing. My piece is less than two minutes long, but I’ve already put in about five hours of rehearsal and here’s a lovely taste of what I have to show for it.

file-nov-16-3-08-31-pm

I bet you thought it was going to be a cute dancer pose. ahHA. ah ha ha ha.

dance

There we go

If you’re not busy this weekend, come see me! My piece is a really neat contemporary lyrical/hip hop amalgamation. Showtimes are Friday, Saturday, Sunday at 8:00 at Dance 101 Atlanta. Tickets are only $10! If you’re looking for even more cultural entertainment, I highly recommend checking out my insanely talented buds at Act 3 in Violet, and over at OnionMan an original work called Cul-de-Sac, both in their final weekends.

While we’re on the subject of original works, I’m sure you’re dying to know how NaNoWriMo is coming along *snort*. So far, I’ve stuck to my goal of five minutes per day, and it does usually turn into more (my evil plan is working muwahaha). With wild extremes at both ends, I’m averaging about 45 minutes and 400 words per day. As a result, here at the mid-month mark I’m very close to being done with my short story and have about 40 (.doc) pages of the play. My current struggle is making each scene follow a logical set up without having the structure be completely naked and obvious (don’t you hate that?). I have no actual training or experience in play construction other than just reading and acting in them, and it’s harder than it looks.

For your entertainment, here are the summary blurbs I’ve written about my pieces.

All There Is (Play):

The Finleys are a work in progress. Winn’s long-time marriage is starting to feel more like a triathlon than happily ever after and Willa can’t understand why her childhood neighbor Sam is suddenly on her mind. Formidable matriarch Polly is white-knuckling her tenuous influence upon her children and the community without the support of her checked-out husband Ernie, even as her elderly father-in-law’s grasp on reality is starting to slip. Down the street, Sam’s fragile wife Laura seems ready to drag them both beneath the surface. It will take a national tragedy for this balancing act to right itself.

The Sieve (Short Story):

Gia and Leece are close as sisters. When Leece becomes a White Walker, a voluntary citizen honor guard tasked with a series of targeted peace-keeping assassinations every third year called the Sieve, their friendship will be put to the ultimate test. This is one girl’s story told through the lens of the other, exploring the nature of good and evil, the undercurrent of violence that exists in all of us, and the sacrifices we make for peace.

For those who are really invested in this, below is a sneak preview from the short story. It’s stumbling towards the unlikely genre of Literary YA fantasy, because that’s how it came out of my head. You may recall that the plot is based on a dream, and in that dream the characters were, in fact, young adults and the events were, in fact, fantastical. So you can blame my subconscious. At this point my biggest accomplishment of the entire piece is having worked in a word that T invented at age 2, but which I totally think should be an actual word (since it’s not in this excerpt and I don’t want to leave you on the edge of your seat – it’s lasterday).

Please bear in mind that this is a totally unedited rough draft. Sorry for any references that don’t make sense out of context. 

Hours later, as we filter out into the watery sunlight, Leece finds me. I recognize the violet layered gown she wears as the one I liked best from the Tiny Frock mock-ups. She’s had it readjusted though, with mauve wrappers at the arms and bodice that serve to make it both beautiful and warm. The ever-present white quilted jacket, which by all right should have made the effect gawky, instead makes it entirely original. Her increasingly haunted face does nothing to detract from this. She looks dazzling.

I don’t say this though. Instead I say, ‘We couldn’t afford a new gown this year. My brothers grew too much and needed new things.’

‘You should have said something. I would have given you one of mine.’

‘It’s too cold for any decent Mayfair dresses anyway,’ I say, and immediately regret it.

Leece is unruffled. ‘You did a lovely job today. Your solo piece was extraordinary, truly.’

‘It was only two lines.’

‘Oh, but they are the most beautiful lines of the whole song. And I’ve never heard anyone perform them that way. It felt like dancing.’

‘Well,’ a flush creeps under my collarbone and I try to resist the urge to scratch it. ‘I practiced a lot.’

‘Gia,’ she says, and stops walking, pulls my hand and leads me away from the flow of bodies moving toward the market fairway, where the celebration is tuning up. ‘I need to ask you something. A favor.’

‘What is it?’ I say warily. Her hand is sweaty. She drops mine and licks her lips, glancing sideways. We’re in a natural alcove created by a stand of lullapple trees. The lush buds which had burst into blossom over the past few days look stunted and shocked from the chill.

‘This isn’t usually done.’

I’m intrigued but I force myself to act nonchalant. ‘OK.’

‘You know tomorrow is Assignment day.’

I hadn’t known. Of course I know Mayfair marks the beginning of Sieve season. But I’ve never paid attention to this particular part of it. It seems like I’ve learned more about the Sieve in the past month than I gleaned from an entire lifetime. How blind have I been all these years?

‘OK,’ I repeat, feeling stupid.

‘I need you to get my assignment for me. Please.’

‘What?’ I couldn’t have been more shocked if she’d walked up and licked my face. ‘Am I even allowed to do that?’

‘Well…it isn’t the usual way of doing things, it’s true,’ her eyes skirt sideways. ‘But it’s not totally unprecedented. The Guide states that if a White Walker is prevented by earnest affairs from receiving his or her target assignment, a proxy may be appointed to receive the scroll.’

‘What earnest affair is preventing you?’ fire rises in my gut, sizzling the words on my tongue. This business has been eating our entire lives for weeks. When will we have peace? Haven’t I laid enough at this altar?

‘I…I can’t tell you.’

I stare flatly. ‘You want me to pick up your scroll – which is not ever done – and you can’t tell me why?’

‘I’m so sorry Gia. I promise I’ll tell you when I can.’ Apology shimmers off her like a road throwing heat. It’s absolutely suffocating.

‘Alright. Fine, yes.’

‘Yes?’

‘Didn’t you hear, yes!’ I have to get out of here. I feel dangerous. My fingers curl and stretch of their own accord. ‘Tell me what I have to do.’

Then she does.

All of you out there doing writing projects – it ain’t easy, is it? [she says, wiping away beads of sweat].

But despite the bruising and the sweating and the nightly crises of self-doubt, I’ve kind of been enjoying my time off from involvement in a production. P and I are planning a trip to Harry Potter World in early December (HELLZ YEAH) and I’m headed to the beach next week (HELLZ YEAH²), where I plan to huddle on a mermaid-looking rock wrapped in a blanket guzzling my decaf and write. like. crazy. I’ve even been doing a little cooking at home (don’t look so shocked) and will share an easy recipe in time for T-gizzle.

And not to worry, the stage is in store for the near future. I’m all lined up for my next gig in February, playing Alice in the stage version of Closer. Yep, it’s the stripper part, which should surprise absolutely zero people considering my track record of playing prostitutes and other morally bankrupt characters (is it the red hair?).

alice

Alice is considerably closer to 20 than Janie is, so this holiday season I will be accepting gift cards for Juvederm and Botox. Kthanks bai.

At least this one has deep, deep layers. Mark your calendars for February 9 – 26!

Working Title

31 Oct

There’s a slice of conventional wisdom that admonishes you to do something every day that scares you.

I’ve never been a big fan of this saying. I don’t believe that a state of perpetual trepidation is any guarantee of a more productive and fulfilling life. It pretty much only guarantees high blood pressure.

And yet.

There’s something to be said for challenging yourself in small doses. Calculated risk-taking, if you will. Most of us have a Thing we want to do, and for whatever reason–fear of failure chief among them–most of us do a whole lot of other things to avoid doing the Thing. Not to say that if you never pursue your Thing, or if you never make money doing it, your life will be incomplete. There are so many paths to contentment that it’s absurd to think that missing one means you’re doomed to deathbed regrets. I find that concept, like the one of a single soulmate, kind of illogical.

And yet.

There can be a lot of joy exploring something kind of scary that you always wanted to do. One Thing I’ve always wanted to do is write. Cushion Cut, and its predecessor Against Type, was started at least partially as a channel for this. I started writing in elementary school because I couldn’t find anything I wanted to read. As I got older, I wrote trying to get at some kind of universal truth, either observed or my own. There was a lot of terrible and delicious writing that came out of this epoch.

Today, I mostly see writing as an extension of my identity as a storyteller – a cousin of the kind of storytelling I do as an actor and in my daylight career. I’ve talked before about how I wrote two short plays — those are some of the only completed works in my canon. Everything else (that isn’t on this blog or graded) is in fragments. I attempted to write a novel in my early twenties that fell victim to outdated technology.  That was such a discouraging turn of events that I gave up on fiction for a long time.

And yet.

I guess the story has still been slumbering somewhere in my unconscious. Because when some friends invited me a few months ago to arrange a writer’s retreat, and I sat down to free write some ideas, it came back up. It had picked up a lot of other random debris snowballing towards my prefrontal lobe, but the essential core was still there, like an itch. That is to say, persistent and really freaking irritating.

So when we finally had the retreat earlier this month, and I started putting a scene together, it started to resurface. It felt good to be writing, and I’m not in a show right now, so the time seemed right to do the Thing.

So in honor of today’s horror-filled holiday, I announce to the world today that I am committing to participate in National Novel Writing Month.

shield-nano-side-blue-brown-rgb-hires

If you don’t know about NaNoWriMo, you should check it out. The premise is to write an entire novel in one month. Some well known works including Water for Elephants have come out of this initiative. 

I’ll be using the worldwide digital event to write a full length play (yes, I’m not technically following the rules but it’s long form fiction so close enough). The scary part isn’t really making the commitment, but telling people about it. Taking the chance that people are going to ask on November 20 – and 11th, and 6th – how that play is coming. And that I’ll have to either tell them about my story or make one up on the spot.

Speaking of cheating: I have a sidepiece. A couple of weeks ago I had a vivid dream, what I secretly call in my head an adventure dream. Unlike most dreams which don’t make sense and are hard to remember, this one stuck with me. It also had a clear beginning, middle, and end. The timing seemed too fortuitous to not to turn it into a story.

So as a warm-up I’m fleshing out the dream into a short story. It was supposed to be done today, but 17 pages into it it’s still sputtering out of my fingers. So I’ll be using NaNoWriMo, which starts tomorrow, to work on both pieces. Traditionally you’re supposed to have ambitious daily wordcount goals, but I’m rusty so my goal is very simple: to write for at least five minutes one one of the pieces every day. Supposedly if you take the time to write for even a few minutes, the human compulsion to achieve will kick in resulting in some actual progress. The idea is that, by December, I’ll be somewhere close to two sh!tty first drafts. It may never come to anything, it may never even see the light of day, but I will have done the Thing.

It’s not going to be easy. Unlike doing a show which forces you to be social, writing does the opposite. Not only is it a solitary activity, but it requires you to become completely immersed in a world that isn’t your own. Even the most normal person on earth can get a little bonkers digging around the confines of their skull for hours every day. And this may alarm some of you, but: I’m not really a normal person.

What I’m saying is, if I seem weird next month? Just give me chocolate and invite me someplace.

So what’s your Thing? Anyone other NaNoWriMo participants out there? 

Greetings, Earthlings

21 Jan

Welcome to 2016! Clearly I’ve been floating far away from this corner of the galaxy for a while–getting buffeted by strong winds on all sides.

First, I accepted a new day job. The interview process, which stretched across the entire holiday season, was the most arduous and exacting of my life so far–to say nothing of the avalanche of work that subsequently descended upon me at my current position. But at the end of the day, I’m going to be writing for a living! So that’s a huge coup for my personal and professional life. Even if the trauma of resigning (what can I say, I hate disappointing people) basically caused me to gain two pounds in half a day due to stress cortisol.

Then the downside of the rollercoaster: not two days after all this came to a head, an intruder broke into my home while T and I were asleep. P had left for work and the thief must have thought the house was empty. As soon as he saw us he walked out the front door without disturbing us–but not before he grabbed my large work handbag with my entire life in it. So this past week has been a flurry of phone calls (on a landline because I have no cell phone, GAH) to banks, credit card companies, identity theft professionals, the DMV, insurance agencies, the police, and basically everyone I’ve ever been in contact with.

On top of that, we’re looking at the prospect of moving–and by extension elementary school selection (charter school choice for most districts starts around now). And of course, just because a bunch of my money got stolen, and it’s my birthday in two weeks, my car decided it needs $2000 worth of repairs in order to pass emissions.

It’s enough to drive a girl to drink–but dammit, I don’t have any ID.*

*Kind souls, when they hear my story, keep asking what they can do to help. Answer: please bring me a bottle of Ketel One and/or Buffalo Trace. 

Anyway. All this to say that I haven’t found time to post lately. I’m sure you’re utterly bereft. So I’ve compiled a few things to keep you busy until I get my feet under me and start writing again.

The Genius Notations of Hamilton

From the June 2015 Vogue

If you’re a theatre person, you’ve already heard of the musical Hamilton, the hip hopera biographic of that dude on the ten dollar bill that got killed in a duel. And if you’re not a theatre person, you’ve probably heard of it too. But have you read the annotated lyrics on Genius? Genius.com, the site where users and artists can footnote the lyrics of pop music, has done an utterly epic job of breaking down the musical line by line. Even before this particular cultural phenomenon hit the scene last year, Alexander Hamilton the person was enjoying a slight resurgence in admiration after years of being eclipsed by the other founding fathers who were his ideological rivals (and incidentally, didn’t die in duels). In the musical, all those old white dudes are played by young black and brown people. Even the women get a decent word in, which is saying a lot for both then and now. So now, A. Ham is basically a cult hero and everyone and their mother is interested in American history, which is nothing but awesome. (But I’d like to take a moment to remind you all that – ahem- I was into this time period before it was cool).

Anyhoo. Go check it out pronto. It will keep you busy for a while.

Just Mercy. Just Read It

My current place of employment is having a one time campus-wide book club (how cute is that?). I don’t get to participate, due to leaving the job and all. But I read the book anyway, and was really moved. In the broadest strokes, it’s about the inequities of the legal system in America. The heart of the story centers on one representative example of a man who spent years on death row and was almost executed for a crime that mounds of evidence made clear he did not commit. There are a lot of people who won’t even give the book a chance based on those two sentences alone. Don’t be one of those people. Read it now–instant paradigm shift.

Bkr

Before it was stolen, I got to use part of a gift card my dad gave me for Christmas to buy a schmancy new beverage vessel. Everyone is into S’well but I went with a Bkr. The bottle is cool enough, but go check out their website. You’ll kill an hour or two reading the wacko names and descriptions on all of the dozens of color choices, and laugh at the pretentious styling and captions of their promo shots. A sample: I only use Bkr on two occasions: when I am in love and when I am not. (Who are these copywriters and how do I get some of what they’re on?).

Stars who may or may not be in love.

Rearrange Furniture

Virtually, that is. The Icovia MakeRoom Planner allows you to choose a room design (or enter your own custom dimensions), enter all sorts of furniture pieces, and then move them around willy nilly. Endless entertainment and no scratches on the hardwood.

Check out my headshots

I guess this isn’t really something to do, but lookee! I got new headshots!

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but if I did, they would be something along the lines of investing more in my acting career. I’m choreographing right now, taking an acting class, getting ready to start voice lessons, and have a big audition on Saturday (as if I didn’t have enough on my plate). Also I plan to do Unifieds this year. New headshots were definitely in order.

It goes against my instincts as a feminist and a trained actor to complain about this, but I felt seriously old after these were taken. My previous headshots were only taken about four years ago–not a very long time–but I look very different. Not since infancy has my body undergone such rapid..er..revisions.

New Headshots

JANIE_YOUNG Headshot 2016

I’m sort of getting used to them now…but not to the point where I’m going to show you guys the un-retouched versions.

I had all this in the works before this new job fell from the sky and hit my Chicken Little head. Previously I would have put it on hold due to my ineptness at juggling too many large undertakings at one time, but I’m grabbing the bull by the balls, to put it elegantly. What with these wrankly-ass headshots, plus David Bowie and Alan Rickman gone in the space of a week, life is starting to feel short (it’s getting dark…*cough*).

Or maybe I’ve just been listening to too much Hamilton.

Dirty Thirty

5 Nov

I’m excited to announce that today, I am the guest poster on My Thirty Spot‘s Love for 30 project. My Thirty Spot is a blog dedicated to ladies lovin’ the best decade of their lives. My article, a nod to the last few months remaining in my twenties, talks about all the things that suck about being under 30. Check it out, and then check out the rest of the blog; it’s great!

Facets

23 Oct

Hey Hey! You may have noticed that I used to post every day, and now I don’t. That was a calculated move on my part, calculated with your entertainment and my sanity in mind (I see you in the peanut gallery saying you’re entertained by my insanity–trust me, it’s the opposite of interesting). Topmost and foremost, I am focusing on quality over quantity as an overall blog strategy. But also, let us not forget that I run this ride entirely in my spare time.

I work full time (I’ve got the annual United Way campaign coming up, which I chair), have a baby at home, and then of course there’s Tenny* (just kidding, P ;). I teach a dance class every week and am always making playlists, lesson plans, and choreography for that. I make a huge effort to spend quality (as in non-virtual) time with both husband and friends on a regular basis. All 457 books I’ve been on the waiting list for at the public library decided to become available at once, so I’ve been reading like crazy. I’m preparing to take a few resume-enhancing courses (HTML: I will bust you) while helping P prepare to take quite a few more when he goes back to finish his BA. Following the presidential race, working on Halloween costumes/plans, nursing a terrible cough and cold that’s making its way through everyone in the house, a dog with a slipped disk, and a washing machine and dryer that both broke in the same week round out my current working-on list. Facets!

But I don’t mean to complain. Things are going pretty great! (Well, besides the washer and dryer…curse you, BrandsMart). In fact, I’m so so excited to be resurrecting one of the most prominent facets of my personality over the next few weeks: performing! I have been cast in the musical Cabaret, which will be my first onstage appearance (unless you count the flash mob) since Steel Magnolias a.k.a. The Sticky Baby Dust Play two years ago. It’s a dance-heavy show too, my favorite!

Confession: I’ve been to several auditions since T was born, and haven’t been cast or even called back for any of them. I was in a dark place for a while, wondering if I still had it in me to act, whether it was selfish to spend the time away from my family anyway. After the last rejection I seriously considered quitting permanently.  Since I’ve spent the majority of my life pursuing the stage in some capacity, it was a gut-wrenching prospect, akin to contemplating losing a limb. There is very little else I’m good at or interested in, and although there’s probably a special spot for me in the terrible-mother Hell for saying so, work and family life aren’t enough to fulfill me. I felt like a total failure, compounded by the feeling that I was a failure for feeling like a failure over something as [comparatively] insignificant as community theatre.

But P talked me into going to this last audition, and I threw everything I had into it. And thank God I listened to him, because now not only am I doing a show, I feel a renewed vigor and interest in the whole process, which it must be confessed I had somewhat soured on in the last few productions I did. If you happen to be in the Atlanta area in December, I so hope you’ll come out. We had our first cast meeting last night to go over the vision, and it’s going to be great! Here’s a snipet from the revival that our production will be modeled after–I’ll be playing the chick in the hat (don’t bring the little ones, folks, this one’s rated R).

So I’ll be really busy the next few weeks, but no worries, I’m not neglecting the blog. I’m constantly thinking of new ideas for Cushion Cut, not only topics but broadening and enhancing my online social presence (still getting to know Twitter and Polyvore). And I’ve been writing a TON lately, much of it just hasn’t been published yet (working on that quality!). I’ve also been working on some exciting cross-blog prospects that I hope to tell you about soon!

*big drama on the daycare front, by the way…I see another NAMB post in the future

Tweet Tweet!

9 Oct

I finally took the plunge and opened a Twitter account today. I’m still getting acquainted, so it may be a while before the tide of wit starts rolling. But meanwhile…I’ll follow you if you follow me (snicker snicker). @itsmejanielee

What I’m reading: bloglove

5 Oct

If you liked the Cushion post on kids books, you’ve got to read this one at Honest Toddler. It’s even more hilarious than mine (I know, hard to believe).

Actually, this whole blog is uproariously funny, if you’re into that kind of thing. Humor, I mean.