Monthly Archives: April 2013

Wrestling with Writing…

I have never killed off a character in any of my stories…yet. When wrestling with the idea of how to kill them, when, if it’s even necessary, or what that means for the rest of my story, I try and think of other stories that have dealt with this issue.

First, I think of The Lovely Bones. This is not a spoiler alert because Alice Sebold tells you in the book jacket description in the opening cover, that Susie Salmon is dead. She dies in the first chapter. I have never read a more gutsy book where the author kills off her main character right away, only to resurrect her in the form of a ghost, to tell her story. Some of you may think that there isn’t a difference. It’s still Susie and she is still speaking in first person, so why treat it like it’s something special that she died in the first few pages? What’s the point?

The point is that in her moment of death, Susie instantly became burned in your brain as a tragic character. The same goes for Skeeter Phelan from The Help, who is branded a heroic character when she voices her determination to reveal the truth about the treatment of household help.

The hardest job for any writer is to make a memory. It isn’t the writing itself that is most difficult when putting a pen to paper. Instead, it is how the writer will make an imprint on the mind of the reader. The best way to do that, in my opinion, is to have a memorable character. You can have five, ten, even twenty memorable characters if you can manage it, but as long as you have one who stands out above all of the other words in the book, you have done your job well.

I am currently struggling with that right now. How do you focus on your main character, but have a chorus of others who need to be heard as well? How do you devote enough time and attention to the main character without making the rest of the cast seem like an afterthought? My issue is that I want certain characters to be remembered, and others to be known, and yes, there is a difference.

That being said, I can’t wait for the day when a publisher picks up my book, wants to work on it, and then changes the exact things I have wrestled with for months. Just giving you all a little insight to my writing life right now. It’s not so much writer’s block as it is smashing the crap out of a block until there is nothing left but tiny bits and pieces of fragmented ideas, and I am the only one who will sit there with a glue stick, putting them back together again.

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Proud of You Mom…

Today at Jerusalem Ave School in Bellmore, Nassau BOCES honored it’s many employees who have given 15-45 years of service in the field of education. I am proud to say that my Mom was among them.

Upon entering the lobby, a woman at the desk asked me if I was an honoree or guest. I’m not going to lie, I’d look pretty damn good for working 15+ years, (if only I could get a job and START that process). I flipped through the program and saw dozens upon dozens of men and women who have committed their lives to this one place of work, this one career. I am used to seeing my name in one of these pamphlets, for an award, scholarship, graduation, or some kind of recognition. For once, I was happy to see my mom’s name printed there instead of my own. That entire list of people, they are the eyes and ears behind school teachers, principals, and administrative faculty members. Some are even retired members of said positions. They are the ones who run the schools behind the scenes. When it comes to standardized testing, school budgets, restructuring the curriculum, delivering regents tests, or simply working every day to ensure the best public education has to offer, these people aid in those draining, but challenging responsibilities.

In recognizing these BOCES employees for their many years of work, we not only thank them for their professional services, but we ourselves are humbled by their dedication to a child’s education. Many of them are mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, even grandparents.

One of the speakers ended the ceremony with a quote (being an avid writer and reader, I was thrilled), from the noted anthropologist, Margaret Mead.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

That being said, I hope to be one of those people. My mom already is. She is a wonderful daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend. She is a diligent, determined, passionate individual who loves what she does for a living. I can’t believe she’s been doing it for 15 years. Mom, I am so proud of you. I know I never say it enough, but I am thankful for everything you have done, and continue to do for me. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but being at one company for 15 years and earning recognition for your hard work is inspiring and admirable. I’m so glad I got to see you receive your commemorative pin, which although should have a diamond in it at least, is still nice. Wear it proudly because you deserve it. Congratulations Mom. Here’s to the next 15. 🙂

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When You Wish Upon A Star

A one act play I wrote in college…Enjoy.

 

(Middle Village, Queens.  Early evening at about 7:30.  It is a clear night.  MILLY has just finished dinner and is now out on her balcony looking at the sky with her best friend ROBBIE.

 

AT RISE, MILLY, 9, has a heart of gold and a creative imagination.  She is an only child and doesn’t have many friends.

ROBBIE, 9, is Milly’s neighbor.  He is a real sweetheart, although a little slow.  He has been in foster care for the past four years and has been best friends with Milly since the age of five).

 

SCENE 1

 

MILLY

What happens when you wish on a star?

 

ROBBIE

(itching his nose)

I dunno, it comes true I guess.

 

MILLY

Does it really come true, or do they just tell you that it does?

 

ROBBIE

Well Tony says that’s what grown ups tell you to get you to go to bed earlier.

 

MILLY

Hmm . . . But your brother is 16.  He’s practically a grown up already.  Remember when he told us that Santa Claus wasn’t real?

 

ROBBIE

(laughs)

Yea, he’s so dumb.  No wonder he didn’t get that video game he wanted last year, even though Mrs. Sm- uh, I mean Mom said it was too much money and Santa didn’t have enough to bring to us.

 

(They listen for a few minutes in silence to the noises of the neighborhood below them.  Old Mr. Filibuster is walking his dog Freckles.  His leash jingles against

his dog tags.  The clanging sounds of trashcans are heard as everyone puts out their garbage for the morning).

                                                                                                                   

MILLY

I’m gonna do it.

 

ROBBIE

Do what?

 

MILLY

Make a wish on a star, silly.  I pick that one right there.

 

(SHE points to the biggest and brightest star in the sky, most likely the North Star for this time of year).

 

ROBBIE

Oooo that’s a good one.  It’s almost as big as the diamond ring my sister keeps telling her boyfriend she wants.

 

MILLY

Wow, that big?

 

ROBBIE

Yup.  She said if she doesn’t get it soon she wouldn’t put out anymore.

 

MILLY

Put out what?

 

ROBBIE

(shrugs shoulders)

I dunno, the garbage I guess.

 

MILLY

Oh . . . Ok here I go.

 

(MILLY closes her eyes tightly and begins to make a wish when ROBBIE interrupts her).

 

ROBBIE

Wait wait!

 

MILLY

(startled)

What?  I was in the middle of my wish!  You can’t just stop someone when they’re making a wish.  You only get one!

ROBBIE

Why one?

                   

MILLY

‘Cause there are other kids who need to make wishes too and my Mom said I can’t be selfish.  It may not count now and it’s a really important wish.

 

ROBBIE

How important?

 

MILLY

Really, really important.  I’ve been saving this wish until I saw a really pretty star. It’s same thing I ask my Mom and Dad whenever I’m lonely.  They always gimme the same answer too, “We’re sorry Milly but we can’t do that for you right now.”

 

ROBBIE

Gee Milly, I’m sorry.  I just wanted to know what you were gonna wish for.

 

MILLY

I can’t tell you.  I can’t tell anyone ‘cause then it won’t come true.

 

ROBBIE

Oh yea, I forgot.  Sorry.

 

MILLY

It’s ok.  Now, shush.

 

(MILLY closes her eyes again and returns to her wish.  SHE holds onto the railing and rocks back and forth repeating her wish to herself).

 

MILLY

“I wish I had a sister.”

 

ROBBIE

You done yet?

 

MILLY

Yup.

 

ROBBIE

Think it’ll come true?

 

MILLY

I hope so.

 

ROBBIE

(bored and getting hungry)

Fauci 4

Come on let’s go back to my house.  I hid some of the cookies Mom baked under my pillow so Tony can’t get them.

 

MILLY

Ok.

 

(They leave the balcony, ROBBIE exits first.  MILLY returns to the railing and looks up at the sky).

 

MILLY

(whispers)

I hope you come true.

 

END SCENE

 

SCENE 2

 

(Sunday morning.  MILLY is in her living room watching cartoons and eating Cap’n Crunch out of a cereal box.  She looks through the door to her balcony and listens to the new baby birds chirping in the nest of her neighbor’s tree.  Not paying attention, she gets up to get a drink and accidentally knocks the box of cereal over.  Crunch berries roll under the couch).

 

MILLY

Uh oh.

 

(She crouches down and tries to clean up the spilled cereal.  Her tiny hands fumble around underneath the couch and hit something big and hard.  It feels like a book.  She pulls it out).

 

What’s this?

 

(MILLY blows the dust off and opens the photo album to find pictures from when she was a baby.  The first page is glued to another.  MILLY pulls them apart and discovers a small picture of a sonogram with her parent’s names on it.  There are two blurry circles in the picture).

 

END SCENE

SCENE 3

 

(ROBBIE is in his kitchen making a glass of chocolate milk.  The phone rings).

 

ROBBIE

Hey Milly.  Sure, I’ll be over in a second.

 

(ROBBIE enters MILLY’s house and finds her on the living room floor, her back towards him.  For moment, he hesitates before moving towards her.  His Etnies sneakers cause the carpet to creak, breaking the silence in the room and causing MILLY to turn around).

 

MILLY

Jeez Robbie!  You scared the snot outta me!

 

ROBBIE

I’m sorry Milly.  I didn’t wanna bother you.  You looked so quiet just sitting there.

 

MILLY

Because of this.  Here, look.

 

(shows ROBBIE the picture)

 

ROBBIE

What’s this?

 

MILLY

I think it’s a baby picture.  Like when the baby is in the Mommy’s tummy.

 

ROBBIE

Oh, so then it must be you.  Look your parents’ names are right there.

 

MILLY

Yea but look closer.

 

ROBBIE

(takes the picture from MILLY and holds it close to his face.  His face changes shape as he squints and tries to focus his eyes on the image).

 

I just see two blurry looking circles.

 

MILLY

Exactly.  There are two circles.

 

ROBBIE

Sooo . . .

 

MILLY

So I’m an only child.

 

ROBBIE

That’s right.  There should only be one circle then.  Maybe it’s a mistake?

                                          

MILLY

Or maybe it’s not my picture.  Maybe that’s not me in my Mom’s belly.

 

ROBBIE

But your last name is on it, it has to be you.

 

MILLY

Maybe but…

 

ROBBIE

What are you gonna do?  Ask your Mom and Dad about it?

 

MILLY

No.  I mean, maybe. I dunno.

 

ROBBIE

If you do have a brother or sister then why would they keep it from you?  Maybe there’s a reason why they hid this picture.  They didn’t want to tell you.

 

MILLY

But why wouldn’t they tell me?  What happened?  If I do have a brother or sister where are they?  Lost?

 

ROBBIE

Beats me Milly.  But if there is another one of you out there, then you have a twin.  Isn’t that how it works?

 

MILLY

Yea but where are they?

 

ROBBIE

I dunno.  I think you should talk to your Mom and Dad about this.

 

MILLY

Orrrr we can figure it out ourselves.  Harriet the Spy and Nancy Drew were kid detectives and they figured out mysteries and stuff.

 

ROBBIE

I dunno Milly; I still think you should ask your Mom and Dad.  Grown ups know more than kids do.

 

MILLY

Why should I ask them?  What are they gonna do, huh?  Lie to me again?

 

ROBBIE

                            

You don’t even know if they are lying to you.

 

MILLY

Who’s side are you on anyways Robbie?

 

ROBBIE

Your side!  I just think you should let your parents know that you found this. 

 

MILLY

But why?  Grown ups keep things from kids all the time.  It’s never the other way around.  Well today that’s gonna change.  Now, let’s go watch Harriet the Spy and solve mysteries.

 

ROBBIE

But kids can’t really solve mysteries.  That’s only on TV.

 

MILLY

How do you know?

 

ROBBIE

Because we’re only nine Milly and we’re just two kids.  No one listens to us anyway.

 

MILLY

Well they’re gonna start.  I really need your help Robbie.  Are you in or not?

 

ROBBIE

(pauses for a long time to think about what he wants to do).

Fine.  But only if you promise not to get into trouble.  You’re my best friend Milly and I’ll always help ya, but we’re just kids.  There’s not a lot of stuff we can get our hands on.

 

MILLY

We won’t get into trouble.  And remember, maybe the wish I made last night will come true and I won’t have to worry about being an only child anymore.  Come on let’s get started.

 

(They sit on the couch and flip through the photo album looking for more clues.  ROBBIE is sitting next to MILLY.  SHE is focused on the pictures, HE is staring at her).

 

ROBBIE

This is different.

 

MILLY

Whatya mean different?

Fauci 8

ROBBIE

I mean you’re different Milly.

 

MILLY

(confused and defensive)

Huh?  How am I different?

 

ROBBIE

No, I didn’t mean it that way.  It’s just; you’re just, special.

 

MILLY

Oh.

ROBBIE

Yea.  Most nine-year-old girls wouldn’t be figuring things out own their own ya know.  They would just go to their parents for everything.

 

(she tries to understand what ROBBIE is saying but her attention is distracted by the sound of the front door opening).

 

END SCENE

 

SCENE 4

 

(The front door opens.  It is MILLY’s mother, MRS. DIANA WILKES.  She is on her cell phone with her therapist and goes over to give MILLY a kiss and says hello to ROBBIE by rubbing his shoulder.  Still on the phone, SHE doesn’t see what MILLY and ROBBIE are looking at and walks out on the balcony).

 

MRS. DIANA WILKES, 36, a lawyer who attends therapy sessions to help her cope with a decision she made nine years ago regarding MILLY.

 

MRS. WILKES

Thank you Dr. Johnson.  Goodbye.

 

(SHE hangs up the phone and takes a deep breath.  MILLY and ROBBIE notice HER re-entering the living room and freeze).

 

Hi sweetie, what are you looking at?

 

END SCENE

 

 

SCENE 5

MILLY

(nervously) Hi Mom.

(MILLY shoves the book under the couch as she motions to ROBBIE to start talking).

                                                                                                                                   

ROBBIE

Hi Mrs. Wilkes.  My Mom wanted me to tell you that she washed your casserole dish and is gonna bring it over later.

 

MRS. WILKES

Oh great.  Thank you Robbie.  I need that to make dinner tonight actually.  You’re more than welcome to stay.

 

ROBBIE

Thank Mrs. Wilkes but I ha-

 

(interrupted by MILLY hitting him)

Ow.  I mean I have to ask my Mom but I’m sure she’ll say yes.  Thanks.

 

MRS. WILKES

Good.  Milly hunny, I’ll be in my room folding clothes if you need me (Exits).

 

MILLY

Ok.

 

ROBBIE

Why’d you hit me?  I was gonna come back over later anyways.

 

MILLY

I’m sorry but I just wanted to make sure you were gonna stay.

 

ROBBIE

Of course I was gonna stay. I’ll always be here for you , Milly.

 

MILLY

(smiles sweetly)

Thanks Robbie.  I’ll always be here for you too.

 

ROBBIE

(smiles back and suddenly widens eyes)

Hey!  I think I know how to help you Milly.  Maybe it’ll help us start somewhere.

 

MILLY

Really?  How?

 

ROBBIE

 

My other sister Ariana works at a hospital on the other side of town.  We can call her and see if she can help.

 

MILLY

That’s a great idea!

 

ROBBIE

Yea! (pauses)  But how are we gonna get there?  I’m not allowed to cross the street without a grown up.

 

MILLY

Oh yea, me neither.  Hmm . . .

 

(MILLY and ROBBIE sit on her couch and think of how to get to the hospital on the other side of town.  The blaring siren of an ambulance is heard outside.  Intrigued by the sound, MILLY and ROBBIE relocate to the balcony where they were the night before.  They look across town and see the city bus a few blocks away from the park.  ROBBIE fumbles in his pockets.  MILLY notices the jingling and makes her own music by fishing out sixty-three cents from her overalls pocket.  They hold out their hands admiring the sun’s reflection off of the shiny coins, stare at each other and run back inside).

 

END SCENE

 

 

 

 

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