Monday, February 28, 2011


Inspiration can come from anywhere; a dream, a photograph, a walk down the street you've walked a thousand times before. It's the transformation of that inspiration into an actual story that takes time and dedication.

One of the myths I've encountered over the years is the attitude that a career in any creative field is fun, easy and really more play instead of work. In my experience, this certainly wasn't true when I was working in the theatre and it certainly isn't true for writing. Of course, there are good times, but there are also times of pure nose-to-the-grindstone work. And writers usually write alone. There is no one at the next desk to share a laugh or a joke with, there is only (in my experience) your self-editor, who makes the dictator of your choice a soft cuddly puppy in comparison, hissing that what you're writing is bad, bad, bad.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's all awful. Every writer has experienced that warm glow that rushes through them when they're pleased with what's on the page. There is nothing like the relief of meeting a deadline with time to spare, or that floating-above-the ground sensation when you open that envelope which contains your first royalty cheque.

But yes, it's work. Researching takes time. Pulling yourself through that first draft takes perseverance. Not deleting it when you read it through for the first time takes self-control. Rewriting takes patience. Listening to criticism takes humility.

Over the past few years, I've seen posters with my name on them, crediting me as the playwright, and I've had many kind people write to me telling me they've enjoyed playing my murder mystery games, but...holding your first book must feel like holding an Oscar.

I really, really want that feeling.

Time for work.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fun Friday

More deliciousness sent to me by a correspondent; you've got to love the British...

If you're planning to watch the Oscars, give a thought to me - winning one of those statutes has always been one of my brightest ambitions. Ah well.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


A list of actual announcements that London Tube train drivers have made to their passengers...

1) 'Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologize for the delay to your service. I know you're all dying to get home, unless, of course, you happen to be married to my ex-wife, in which case you'll want to cross over to the Westbound and go in the opposite direction.'

2) 'Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering from A & E syndrome: not knowing his arse from his elbow. I'll let you know any further information as soon as I'm given any.'

3) 'Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the delay but there is a security alert at Victoria station and we are therefore stuck here for the foreseeable future, so let's take our minds off it and pass some time together. All together now.... Ten green bottles, hanging on a wall.'

4) 'Beggars are operating on this train. Please do NOT encourage these professional beggars. If you have any spare change, please give it to a registered charity. Failing that, give it to me.'

5) 'Let the passengers off the train FIRST!' (Pause) 'Oh go on then, stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care - I'm going home....'

6) 'Please allow the doors to close; try not to confuse this with 'Please hold the doors open - the two are distinct and separate instructions.'

7) 'Please note that the beeping noise coming from the doors means that the doors are about to close. It does not mean throw yourself or your bags into the doors.'

8) 'We can't move off because some idiot has their hand stuck in the door.'

9) 'To the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the second carriage - what part of 'stand clear of the doors' don't you understand?'

10) 'Please move all baggage away from the doors.' (Pause..) 'Please move ALL belongings away from the doors.' (Pause...) 'This is a personal message to the man in the brown suit wearing glasses at the rear of the train: Put the pie down, Four-eyes, and move your bloody golf clubs away from the door before I come down there and shove them up your arse sideways!'

11) 'May I remind all passengers that there is strictly no smoking allowed on any part of the Underground. However, if you are smoking a joint, it's only fair that you pass it round the rest of the carriage.'

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said: 'We agree it was rather high for the time of year. It's possible Mr. Purdey has been charged for the gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house.' (The Daily Telegraph)

Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami in her underwear. When asked why, she said it was because she was missing her Italian boyfriend. (The Manchester Evening News)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because they cannot issue a description. It's a Special Branch vehicle and they don't want the public to know what it looks like.
(The Guardian)

A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coast guard spokesman commented, 'This sort of thing is all too common'.
(The Times)

At the height of the gale, the harbourmaster radioed a coast guard and asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied he was sorry, but he didn't have a gauge. However, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his Land Rover off the cliff. (Aberdeen Evening Express)

Mrs. Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue, Boscombe, delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled: 'He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap but, when the crocuses came up in the middle of our
lawn in February 1946, they spelt out 'Heil Hitler.'' (Bournemouth Evening Echo)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thirties Thursday

The Oscars are being handed out this Sunday, and in that spirit, this Thirties Thursday post salutes the winners of 1939.

It was quite a year. The awards were actually held February 29, 1940 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. It was also the year of a bit of a faux pas; up until this time the Academy had always sent out a press release with the winners' names so that they could be announced in later editions. Unfortunately, that year, if the nominees happened to pick up the 8:30 evening edition of the Los Angeles Times on their way into the hotel they would have seen the names of the winners printed in the paper.


That was the end of early press releases. From then until now, everyone learns the winners at the same time - when the envelope is opened on stage. (except for a few at Price Waterhouse...)

I hope you enjoy this montage of 1939's winners.

And if you're watching the Oscars Sunday night and a certain West Wing creator wins the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, you might hear a faint scream of triumph wafting over the horizon.

Don't worry. It'll just be me.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We Writers Know...

When you know this...

will turn into this...

And you're not surprised that this...

turns into this...

And a character who you were sure looked as clear as this...

you discover actually looks like this...

You know that it's possible this...

could contain this...

but it also might be hiding this...

and your favourite character who's been behaving like this...

will probably turn out to have a touch of this...

Then I say this...
to doing this...

and best of luck with your this!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

10 Signs of a Typical Writing Day

10. The mug of coffee by your side seems to have cooled incredibly fast. You know you couldn't have spent that much time reading emails and checking in on Facebook.

9. That idea that kept you up last night (and you were so sure you'd remember that you didn't take notes) has vanished without a trace.

8. At the same moment that your fingers touch the keyboard, your previously peacefully snoozing pets leap up and begin a vigorous reenactment of the D Day landings at Normandy.

7. The dialogue which sounded so bright, witty and (let's just say it) literary in your head has revealed itself to be trite, cliche-filled and (let's just say it) stupid on paper.

6. You've spent the last 15 minutes imagining how you'll feel when you finish this manuscript. You're presently on page 10.

5. You love your plot. You love your characters. It's your actual writing of which you're not so enamoured.

4. Your coffee has cooled again. You know you couldn't have spent that much time reading and commenting on your favourite blogs.

3. You decide to get up and get active. Whilst moving around you can't help but notice your feet are sticking to the floor and you wonder idly how long it's been since you washed it. You immediately decide this line of thought could be dangerous to your writing, but grudgingly admit this sticky a floor might be dangerous to your health.

2. Moving to a bookshelf, you pick out one of your favourite novels for inspiration. After only a few sentences you know in your heart that you will never write as well as this author. Practice self-restraint and reach for the cold coffee instead of the wine.

1. You sit back down and face your blank screen. Summoning the inner strength of St. Joan of Arc, you pound out a sentence. It isn't completely awful. Resist the urge to belt out "Tomorrow" from "Annie". Your pets will judge you. Harshly.

Monday, February 21, 2011

But What Went Wrong?

Over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to reconnect with actors I've worked with in the past. Although we spent the majority of our time rehearsing, there were stories told. Actors love to tell stories about past productions; but the stories that get told over and over again are the stories where something went wrong.

Telling a story of everyone getting along, the rehearsals going smoothly, and the show being a huge hit are informative, but also quickly forgotten. Imagine writing a plot in which your protagonist quickly identifies their goal and achieves it just as smoothly. Who would read such a book?

We need to remember to throw obstacles at our characters. Let them slip on a banana peel or fall in love with a poor choice of partner or get stuck at the bottom of a hole. Perfect characters are perfectly dull.

The stories that last, the stories that get retold, are the ones where even though things go wrong, people persevere, wipe the mud off and make it to that final curtain.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fun Friday

Today we take a moment to consider the animals in our lives and what they might be thinking. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Have a great weekend, everyone! I'm back on stage this Saturday for the first time in 4 1/2 years, hosting my newest murder mystery evening. Let's hope the only person who 'dies' is the intended victim...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Writing Partners

I'm a lone writer. But the writing collaboration of Elisa Lorello and Sarah Girrell with their new book Why I Love Singlehood proves that sometimes two heads (or pens) are better than one. I can't imagine having the patience or the grace to be able to write a book with someone else, but these two have managed it with aplomb.

As an added bonus, Elisa and Sarah are giving away a free e-copy of WILS to a randomly-picked commentator on today's post. So leave a comment!

Here's a peek into the evolution of Elisa and Sarah's writing relationship...


Sarah: Let me start from the beginning. I met Elisa my first week of undergrad. I was the one along the far wall of the room trying desperately to be unnoticeable. The magic started the moment Elisa had us all writing. It was brilliant. Not the writing, mind you. That was total crap. But somewhere in those first 75 minutes of class, Elisa gave us all permission to love writing as much as she did.

Elisa: Wait, I remember it differently. The one sitting in the back—that was true; but Sarah was also was the first one to approach me on the first day of class, shake my hand, and introduce herself—

Sarah: I did? God, what a dork.

Elisa: At least I thought that was you… After reading Sarah’s revised draft of her first essay, I knew she was something special—she got it.

Sarah: Flash forward three years—Elisa was my advisor for an independent study in writing style (which basically meant we got to schedule weekly time to geek out together about writing). And though I did my best not to show it, I wrote as if she were leaning over my shoulder, and revised like a madwoman before handing her a single sentence.

Elisa: Really? And yet all along, I was afraid Sarah was going to find out how little I really knew. But those weekly geek-out sessions really were fabulous.

I remember the first time I asked Sarah to critique one of my pieces. She looked at me, rather shell-shocked. And yet, she’s still one of the readers I trust most with my writing, even at its most suckiest stage.

Sarah: A year later I was living in her apartment during winter break, co-writing daily, and rationing out cookies as rewards for pages completed. Gone was the intimidation; all that remained was respect.

Elisa: And cookies. I recall lots of cookies.

Sarah: Whenever asked about drafting Why I Love Singlehood another year later—

Elisa: From two different states, mind you!

Sarah: I’d hastily add, “It’s okay, though, cause I’m co-writing it? And my friend, the uh, other writer? She’s already like, a published author.” As if that made me more legit.

Elisa: But here’s the thing: the writing process? It always worked. We were writers who engaged the craft of revision. We were constantly giving each other feedback, giving each other the credit when the writing worked, and taking the sole blame when it didn’t. We talked for hours on end about our characters, their hopes and dreams and fears and failures.

Sarah: We emailed, we google-chatted. The phone calls, when they happened, were epic. We’re talking max-your-minutes-in-one-call sort of epic. But mostly we wrote: questions, critiques, re-writes, snippets. We wrote more words about our novel than in it, and I think articulating it – literally spelling it out – made the writing stronger and the revising easier.

Elisa: Most importantly, we listened—to each other, and to our characters. We compromised. We deleted. We revised and revised and revised until we called it done, even though we learned that writing is somehow never finished.

Sarah: Forty-eight grueling hours before our publishing deadline with Amazon Encore, we argued. We spent 45 minutes arguing over three words of dialogue—I can’t even remember which three they were—but we went head-to-head, round after round. In the end, neither of us got our way; the character won.

Elisa: Looking back, I’d say it was a defining moment. We began as student and teacher (although over the years she has taught me plenty), evolved into friends, and emerged as co-authors. Put another way, as a relationship revised.

Why I Love Singlehood
Eva Perino is single and proud of it. Owner of The Grounds, a coffee shop nestled in the heart of a college town, thirtysomething Eva cherishes her comfortable life filled with quirky friends, a fun job, and no significant other. In fact, she’s so content to be on her own that she started a blog about it: “Why I Love Singlehood.” Yet when she hears the news of her ex-boyfriend’s engagement, her confidence in her single status takes a surprisingly hard hit.

So begins Eva’s clumsy (and occasionally uproarious) search for love as she secretly joins an online dating site, tries her hand at speed-dating, and breaks her own rule by getting involved with one of The Grounds’ regulars. Soon Eva is forced to figure out exactly who—or what—is the true love of her life. Sparkling with warmth and wit,
Why I Love Singlehood is a charming and insightful must-read for anyone—single or otherwise—who has ever been stymied by love.

About the Authors:
Elisa Lorello is the Kindle-bestselling author of Faking It and Ordinary World. Born and raised on Long Island, New York, she spent eleven years in southeastern Massachusetts before moving to central North Carolina, where she teaches and writes today.

Sarah Girrell has a background in art history, writing, and rhetoric. After moving to Ithaca, New York to earn a medical degree, she and her husband returned to her native Vermont, where she is a physician and writer.

Sarah and Elisa met at UMass-Dartmouth in 2002, where they quickly discovered a shared love of writing and a humor for everyday life.Why I Love Singlehood is their second collaboration and Sarah’s authorial debut.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


When we do this...

We know it's not always going to be this...

We know we should expect it to be more like this...


What do you do when you encounter this?

Take a this...

and do this...

That this...

might not be telling you you've hit this...

But it usually is a sign you're going this..

Maybe it's telling you your plot is doing this...

or this...

or maybe your main character needs to do this...

So remember do do this...

the next time you run into this...

You might find it's hiding this...

But of course, it could be hiding this.


Tomorrow, I'm hosting a stop on Elisa Lorello and Sarah Girrell's blog tour promoting their book Why I Love Singlehood. Do drop by and say hello.