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Redwood Writers Conference: Santa Rosa CA 4/26/14. Don’t miss it!

April 16, 2014

I can’t praise the value of a writers’ conference to the life and work of anyone with a strong self-image as a writer. This will be the third or fourth Redwood Writers Conference I’ve attended, and every time I come away fully charged, greatly informed, energized and ready to hit the keys. There’s much more to it than just the new information on craft and genre that comes from the sessions—new business contacts, new friends, new energy. All in one day, and all for a remarkably modest cost.

The journey “From Pen to Published!” is an all-day event, Redwood Writers eighth conference, Saturday, April 26, 2014 at the Bertolini Student Center of the Santa Rosa Junior College, 1501 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95401 (map), 8:00 am – 5:30 pm. Click here for Redwood Writers Conference home page.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Register here.  Registration closes April 24th.

Morning Keynote Speaker–John Rothmann, “From Conception to Delivery (Not to Mention Labor!): Making The Dream Become A Reality!” John F. Rothmann is a political and foreign policy consultant and is an expert on the American Presidency. He is a professor serving on the faculty of the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco. Rothmann is the co-author of Icon of Evil: Hitler’s Mufti, and the Rise of Radical Islam (Random House, 2008) and Harold E Stassen: The Life and Perennial Candidacy of the Progressive Republican (McFarland, 2013). Rothmann was a Talk Show Host on KGO News Talk 810 AM from 1996 to 2011 and is currently the Political Analyst on KKSF 910 AM

Lunch Keynote Speaker Dana Gioia, “The Joy and Misery of Being a Poet” Dana Gioia is a poet, critic, and teacher who’s published four collections of poetry and Can Poetry Matter. As Chairman of the National Endowments for the Arts, he created the largest and most effective literary programs in federal history: Shakespeare in American Communities, Poetry Out Loud, and The Big Read. Gioia currently teaches poetry and public culture at USC.

Schedule for April 26th:
–8:00 am: Check-in with casual breakfast and hear morning keynote speaker, John Rothmann.
–All-day: Craft, Genre, Publishing, Marketing: Select among four tracks with sixteen sessions. We’ll explore topics with expert presenters who’ve made this trek and know the landmarks.
–Noon: Enjoy a buffet lunch with an all-poetry program celebrating National Poetry Month, a Redwood Writers first-ever poetry anthology, conference poetry contest awards, and a keynote presentation by noted poet and critic, Dana Gioia.
–5:00 pm:  Take part in the event finale with Your First Page session, the Helene S. Barnhart Award, and conference prose contest awards. 

Download Full Schedule

“Independence is a myth. . . .”

March 31, 2014

“Independence is a myth. Instead, we choose our dependencies. The only independence we have is the independence of mind.”

–Fabrice Weissman, research director for MSF (Doctors without Borders) Foundation

Wisdom not mine: the Future

March 4, 2014

“The future can look mighty scary, especially when you consider the present.”

“Why challenge assumptions when you can have them confirmed? . . . You can’t burn books anymore, they’re all online.”

–columnist Jon Carroll, SF Chronicle 3/4/14

“An Evening of Short Plays”–Trifles, The Jewish Wife, Miss Julie at Theatre Marin

March 1, 2014

Theater Marin’s current season is nothing if not ambitious, bringing to the stage plays that were new a hundred years ago, by playwrights in their prime. The works of Strindberg, Brecht, Ibsen, and O’Neill play more often in the black boxes than the big houses. They laid the foundations for modern theater that is still evolving today, and I’m grateful to Theater Marin for taking up the challenge of putting some of them on. Good theater, no matter when it was originally produced, continues to enlighten us to this fact: no matter what era we live in, we humans are always milling about, trying to find our own ways through the turmoil and constraints of our contemporary societies.

The current production “An Evening of Short Plays” opens with two short plays before the intermission. Susan Glaspell’s Trifles (first produced in 1916) takes us into the farmhouse investigation of a rural murder scene, where the two detectives come into and out of the set, looking for “evidence.” In a witty take on women’s innate superiority in a time of repression, their wives remain in the kitchen chatting and rummaging through the effects of the accused, uncovering (and then covering up) a host of clues to which their husbands remain oblivious.

Next Berthold Brecht’s The Jewish Wife plans her escape from 1938 Nazi Germany before it is to late to leave. In a remarkable performance Judith Stein, along on the stage for most of the play with only a telephone and an empty chair to which to direct her words, builds the story of her world in a stage of collapse. How can she tell him that she is leaving him in order to save his career? It will only be for two or three weeks. . . . .

The real powerhouse of the evening’s lineup is director Ron Nash’s production of Strindberg’s 1888 play Miss Julie. Set in Sweden in an era when social class and class awareness ruled all of society. There were boundaries which could not be crossed, and the Countess Miss Julie (Stephanie Ann Foster) is determined to ignore them all. She seduces her father the Count’s valet Jean (Michael Walraven). These two actors so intertwine their performances that it seems almost a perfect dance, a powerful waltz to the music of passion and despair, as the dutiful cook Kristin (Jocelyn Roddie) looks on. This is one of those memorable productions that keep you thinking and wondering long after you have left the theater. I think we may expect the same when Ron Nash takes on Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten for Theater Marin in May. Don’t miss that one, either.

“An Evening of Short Plays” ends soon. Two performances left: Saturday March 1 at 8:00 p.m., and Sunday March 2 At 3:00 p.m.

Stage: The Little Theatre at St. Vincent’s, 1 St. Vincent Drive, San Rafael CA

Box Office: 414-448-6152 or

August Strindberg’s Notes for an Effective Play

February 21, 2014

–translated from Samlade otryckta skrifter (Stockholm 1919)–

“An effective play should contain or make use of:
–hints and intimations
–a secret made known to the audience either at the beginning or toward the end. If the spectator but not the actors know the secret, the spectator enjoys their game of blindman’s bluff. If the spectator is not in on the secret, his curiosity is aroused and his attention held.
–a discovery
–a punishment (nemisis), a humiliation
–a careful resolution, either with or without a reconciliation
–a quid pro quo
–a parallelism
–a reversal (revirement), an upset, a well-prepared surprise”

Wisdom Not Mine: How to get your writing ignored

January 26, 2014

I was listening to a public radio station last week—an interview of an actress nominated for her performance in a leading role in one of 2013′s best films. The part of the conversation that most caught my attention did not make it into the final cut of the interview available on the web for me to get the quote right, so they (the actress, the interviewer, and the broadcaster) must here remain nameless.

The question (here paraphrased) was “When you are reading a script, what is it that you find attractive, that makes you want to be a part of this production?”

The answer (here also paraphrased): “You know, that is a very difficult question to answer. I can’t really say. But I can tell you what makes me take that script and throw it across the room and up against the wall. When all the characters speak with the same voice. Scriptwriting is such a difficult art. All the characters spring from the mind of one person, and it is almost impossible for that person to give each character a voice that belongs to him, that is not the writer’s voice.”

As writers, whether of scripts or short stories or novels or narrative nonfiction, we need to be vigilant about that issue: that each of the characters speaks in a voice that is uniquely his own. Each of our characters must be fully drawn as a living breathing human being, the sum of birthplace, parentage, education, livelihood, essences of comedy and tragedy and confusion in daily life across the sum of days so far. Some might think of this as backstory, but there is so much more to it than that.

My characters are not me, and I am not them. Their voices must be different from my own.

Most important of all, I want my pages and my words to be read, and acted upon—not thrown across the room in contempt.

Playwrights on Playwriting: John Osborne (“Look Back in Anger”)

January 10, 2014

–from “Declaration”–

“Part of my job [as a playwright] is to try and keep people interested in their seats for about two and a half hours. It is a very difficult thing to do. . . . I want to make people feel, to give them lessons in feeling. They can think afterward. In some countries this would be a difficult approach. . . . [to make them think] ‘we’ve been through this and we know what it is like.’ This is what audiences have muttered their heartbeat as they have watched Oedipus or Lear or Willy Loman.”


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