July 2016 Inside: ▪ Carol Triffle on writing plays▪ Writing prompt: Not working at work▪ July 31 reading by Howard Schneider and friends▪ Aliens,

Kickstart Your Writing Orange

July 2016



Carol Triffle on writing plays
Writing prompt: Not working at work
July 31 reading by Howard Schneider and friends
Aliens, Fish Tales & Flying Hooves
Ochoco Reach
Market tip: Entropy
Nerdy Words: An historic mnemonic failure?
Student showcase: “Costa Rica” (excerpt) by Ann Sihler

Carol Triffle

Carol Triffle

Carol Triffle on writing plays

Joining us for a Q&A this month is producer, writer, director and actor Carol Triffle. Early in her performance life Triffle became interested in movement theater and eventually she studied at the acclaimed theater school of Jacques Lecoq. In 1979 she co-founded Imago Theater with Jerry Mouawad; their first production was “FROGZ.” To date Triffle has written a total of 14 plays, received two Oregon Arts Commission Fellowships, and served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. She shared with us her thoughts on playwriting.

You’ve said that you don’t begin plays with an outline. What do you start with when writing a new play?

I write outlines to make me feel like I know what I’m doing. But I never really know what I’m doing, so I usually forget to reference the outline. Whenever I stick to an outline, the writing becomes representational, like an explanation of a boring narrative through-line. It gets too wound up in giving information rather than developing characters and dialogue. In the beginning I try to not judge the dialogue and write from a character’s voice. Sometimes I create a fictional characters. Other times I go right to the source and write from a character inspired by some real person.

Do your plays have plots? If so, when in the writing process does the plot come, and how?

In my last play, “Francesca, Isabella, and Margarita on a Cloud,” there was a scene where the characters questioned whether a movie had a plot or not. That would define whether it was an independent movie or a porno movie. It was my statement on the effectiveness of plot in story. I like a good story, but sometimes the plot forces the story to come around to places just so it can end. When someone asks, I do try to be able to explain my plot in a short paragraph.

How do you decide what ideas to include and what to leave out?

I decide what to take out of a play when it takes the story too far in a direction that I can’t justify. I keep the other stuff and add to it or repeat it. It’s usually half the play.

What role does feeling play for you in writing?

I think deep feelings come from a word that can transport you back or forth in time to a place or a situation where you expose yourself to the world. Maybe innocent or evil.

Do you ever have trouble figuring out when a play is done? If so, what do you do?

I have trouble with deadlines. That is a great way to know you are done with a play. I can go on and on until it becomes another play. So myself and the actors are glad for deadlines. I usually try to stop changing the general idea for a play one month away from opening. I make changes right up until the opening and sometimes after. Sometimes actors paraphrase their lines and they are better than mine so I keep them. None of my plays have ever been finished. Many times I thought I would go back to rewrite a play but by the time it was over I [was ready to] go onto something new.

What is the revision process like for you?

The revision process is lengthy. I have readings up to six months before the rehearsal period. This helps inform me on the actual story, dialogue and character development. The creative process takes time. Actors need time. The way actors react or don’t react to a script helps me. Many times their response changes the direction of the story.

What initially drew you to playwriting, and what do you like about it now?

[French actor, mime and acting instructor] Jacques Lecoq drew me to writing plays. He let me believe I could find my own path, and the sooner you start, the better it is. I like more unconventional acting and play writing. I like to laugh and cry. I want that same journey for the audience but done with a mind twist.

What does playwriting offer the writer that other forms of writing don’t?

Playwriting allows me to write conversations that end up telling you a story without knowing how you got there. A book uses story and then adds in the dialogue.

What misunderstandings do people commonly have about playwriting?

That grammar is important.

What suggestions would you give a writer who is just starting to think about maybe writing a play?

Listen to everything. Look at your environment. Write it down and use it for inspiration.

What else about your writing process would you like to share?

It’s okay to be bad. It can lead to some good ideas.

Writing prompt: Not working at work

You’re at work but you’re not working. You’re doing other stuff. What are you doing? Shopping online? Texting a friend? Writing a novel? Come on, tell the truth.

Monkey Casserole cover. Final Zap copy

July 31 reading by Howard Schneider and friends

Kickstart student Howard Schneider will be reading his short stories from the collection Monkey Casserole at the Hollywood Senior Center on Sunday, July 31, starting at 4 p.m. Schneider will be joined by fellow authors Mizeta Moon and Linda Burk; all are members of the Hollywood Senior Center’s Writers Unite flash-writing group. Local artists will provide additional entertainment.

Monkey Casserole is being released by SpearPoint Publications, which Schneider and Moon co-founded last year to focus on writers who participate in senior center writing groups. Monkey Casserole will be available for e-readers in August.


Aliens, Fish Tales & Flying Hooves

The next literary release from SpearPoint Publications is Aliens, Fish Tales & Flying Hooves, by Mizeta Moon (author of the novel Embracing Evil). Aliens is now in preparation for publication by BookBaby and will be available for e-readers in mid-July, priced at $2.99.

SpearPoint Publications is co-owned by Moon and Kickstart student Howard Schneider.

Ochoco Reach

About Ochoco Reach: An Ironwood Novel by Jim Stewart

By Nancy Woods

Take one freelance investigator named Mike Ironwood. Add his faithful dog, a Catahoula leopard dog named Bucket. Toss in one strong-willed woman, red-haired Willimina (“Call me Willy”) Hayes, owner of the H-Bar-H ranch, where some items have gone missing. Or were they just moved? Into the tasty mix toss Ironwood’s Nez Perce half-brother, an ex-SEAL.

Simmer the action in Ironwood’s houseboat on the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, before moving the soft-boiled story to Central Oregon’s Ochoco Mountains. Stir in several chase scenes across Mexico. Spice things up with a DEA bad guy and the Mexican cartel. Sprinkle in dark nights on the high desert, along with a dash of sexual tension and fun banter between siblings. Read until done.

Like this book review? You can read more of Nancy’s writing at her blog.


Market tip

Entropy seems like such a negative word. But it’s not when it’s referring to the website where writer Dennis James Sweeney serves as small-press editor. The site includes a page on where to submit literary work, with an emphasis on lesser-known markets. The “Where to Submit” posts include links to small presses, chapbooks, journals and anthologies, with a few notes about what each market publishes and when it accepts submissions.

Maybe order is not all it’s cracked up to be. Give Entropy a whirl!

Writing Tip

Nerdy Words: An historic mnemonic failure?

by Ann Sihler

Like me, you may rely on mnemonic devices to keep track of the niggling details of the English language. For example, who could forget the pounding rhythm and rhyme (and therefore the spelling advice) of “‘I' before ‘E' except after ‘C,' or when sounding like ‘A’ as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh’”? That mini-ditty is positively shout-worthy!

If a mnemonic for a common writing rule doesn’t already exist, I often make one up, like when I imagine a short horizontal line stretching out from each of the two cute little dots that make up a colon, so that the parallel lines look like an equal sign, which reminds me that that is basically what a colon is: a way of equating two parts of a sentence.

But there are two similar words I commonly use that, even after years of trying, I’ve failed to come up with a good mnemonic for: “historic” and “historical.” For me, not being able to come up with a mnemonic to distinguish those two seems practically an historic failure, with “historic” meaning famous or important in history. The sinking of the Titanic was historic. The discovery of penicillin was historic. President Nixon’s trip to China, the fall of the Berlin wall, the invention of personal computers and the internet and social networking—all are historic.

Contrast those with historical events, meaning things that happened but that are not famous, important, or momentous. Think Abraham Lincoln vs. Millard Fillmore. Steve Jobs vs. the Steve who used to live across the street from me. The earthquake in Haiti vs. 1993’s Portland-area “spring break quake,” which left several paintings hanging cattywampus. It’s pretty obvious which of these are historic and which are historical.

I wish I could remember a mnemonic for “historic” and “historical” because it’s surprising how often people use these words—and use them incorrectly. In my line of work, people often write about historical water temperatures, sediment transport processes, or business practices but label them “historic,” as if they were major events in history. If I had a handy mnemonic, I would share it with my clients. But sometimes as writers we have to rely on plain old memory to get us to the correct word, or simply look it up. Fortunately, those two work approaches have not yet become historical.

Student Showcase

“Costa Rica” (excerpt) by Ann Sihler

Ann Sihler has been writing essays and poems for 20 years. Being a Kickstart student for the past two years has helped her write more consistently and try out different forms and styles, such as flash fiction. The themes of nature and medicine repeatedly appear in her work. This excerpt comes from a long personal essay on ecotourism in Costa Rica.

Our rented jungle room has no glass in the windows—just wooden slats, for privacy, and screens to keep out the mosquitoes. Everything else can find its way in in the dark. Strange buzzes, whistles, and peeps form a tapestry of sound all night long. The patter of rain on leaves slows to a steady drip, drip. Rough coughs from large mammals come from somewhere behind me and to the left. Do jaguars roar, I wonder?

I lie there in the dark listening, sensing the jungle all around, hear it over and over shout “Life! Life!,” feel it reach into my room and touch my skin with its warm, moist breath, like a lover. In that moment I am at peace in a way I seldom am at home, exquisitely balanced between outdoor and indoor, between wild and tamed, between myself and everything else. Just the way I should be.

A Nancy Woods production

Thanks for reading Kickstart, which is a publication of Nancy Woods—author and writing coach. If you have any comments about the newsletter, feel free to email them to Nancy or her newsletter sidekick, Ann Sihler.

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