There is so much I want to say--so much that has been on my mind lately. Things about teaching, about parents, about adolescents, about our culture, about men and women--but I just have not had any time. I'm working through a revision of my book--going from three alternating first-person POVs to one third person. Scarcely a pronoun is escaping unscathed.
Beyond that, our production of The Wizard of Oz opens February 17th, so that is getting busy, busy, busy. Happily, early signs are encouraging. The props, make-up, and costumes are going to be really cool. I've hired a magician to help us make witches appear, disappear, melt and shoot fireballs. We have a dog trainer working with Toto. I have a strong cast and some very talented choreographers. Now, we'll see if I can manage to integrate, coordinate, delegate, and pray all these wonderful ingredients into a unified, harmonious, wonderful whole.
I'm grateful to have a job in this economy. I'm extra-grateful to have a job I like.
But it's more than that I think it's fun. For most of my life, I've felt rather awkward and ungainly. I'm not all that good at many normal and practical things and I don't consider myself to be very engaging or clever. To be quite candid, I'm almost crippled by shyness, insecurity, and self-doubt. However, when I'm in the throes of a play, especially the last few weeks, I feel like the ugly duckling felt when he goes swimming for the first time. His big feet actually helped him, and he felt graceful and competent, but more importantly, he felt like he was home.
That's how I am when I do a play. Something just feels right--I feel like I'm doing what I was meant to do and it's a wonderful, wonderful feeling. I feel blessed to make a living (such as it is) doing this.
Is that too much information? Sorry. It's not meant to be self-pitying, nor am I expecting people to give affirmative comments. I'm just making the point that these weeks going up to a production are consuming and exhausting, but also nourishing and energizing somehow.
Surely I'm not the only one who's like this, right? So, what things make you feel more like a swan--when do
Hope you are all having a good week. I hope to be back to a more regular posting schedule soon. I've missed you all.
Well, I just realized I wrote something stupid on Twitter. I was responding to a tweet by someone who seemed to be lamenting the fact that MLK day was not seriously celebrated because the Civil Rights movement belongs to all Americans.
In response, I wrote that it was sad that MLK day had become simply another holiday, like Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and the 4th of July--holidays where we are observing significant, even sacred things in our country's history. I meant that we generally observe these holidays by staying home, relaxing, and maybe having a party instead of really reflecting. I'm afraid it may have seemed that I was regretting the fact that we celebrate MLK day--which was not what I meant at all. That's what I get for trying to communicate complex ideas in 140 characters on Twitter. Lesson learned!
But back to the idea of holidays. I saw a cartoon many years ago that showed a distraught Abraham Lincoln struggling to compose the Gettysburg Address. The cartoon characters, who were going back in time, comforted him by telling him that everything would be ok: his speech would be great, the Union would win the Civil War, and he would become such a great president that people would celebrate his birthday by selling mattresses at a discount.
This is what I'm talking about. When I think of Lincoln, or Washington, or Dr. King, or the many veterans who fought for our country, I admit to some regret that I personally don't do more to really observe the holidays that are dedicated to their memories. To do what they did required courage and strength that I can't fully comprehend, and I--all of us really--am the beneficiary of their struggles.
I don't mean that we should have to be solemn and sober all day long on these holidays. There's nothing wrong with a barbecue or getting some extra sleep. I just think perhaps the pendulum has swung too far to one extreme and that we are far too casual about honoring the giants on whose shoulders we stand.
I'll be honest. I was not entirely sure what to expect when I was asked to read Bumpy Landings by Donald Carey and provide an endorsement. It is a romantic coming-of-age novel and I'm just not all that into romances. However, Don's a member of my critique group, and people were so helpful to me when I needed endorsements--so I decided to give it a shot. But I was a bit apprehensive. I say that to frame my glowing response. I loved this book! I truly did. It's actually less a romance than a coming-of-age story with some romantic elements.
I actually really don't care what genre a book is. I want to like the characters and be compelled by the plot. Bumpy Landings drew me in with both.
Don crafted a really good novel here! He has a deft hand and I particularly loved the way he elevated the ordinary ups and downs of life int a richly-textured, surprisingly suspenseful novel.
It's about a young returned missionary, struggling to reintegrate himself back into the real world. Trying to go to school as he deals with his dysfunctional family, long-suppressed dreams, and growing romantic attachments.
It's set in and around the campus of BYU-Hawaii, and the location informs and imbues the story. I found this mental trip to Hawaii a wonderful break from the cold weather we've been having.
The characters in this story happen to be Mormons, but there is nothing inherently (or oddly) Mormon about the book. I think this book could be enjoyed by anyone.
I recommend Don's book! I did receive an advance copy, but that didn't effect my review in any way. In fact, I warned Don that I'd only endorse it if I really liked it!
Bumpy Landings is available through Amazon--any bookstore ought to be able to order it, though. You might also stop by Don's website to see the really clever book trailers he did.
Great job, Don! Congrats on your debut novel and I look forward to reading more.
Okay, I'm exaggerating. I didn't burst into tears. I did get pretty choked up, though. Today is the day applications for high schools are due here in Nashville. Big deal for the Bell household as my daughter is applying. My wife, Meredith is much better at logistics than I am and would normally do this. However, she's in charge of the college applications for our son. So, I'm trying to force my right-brain into service for dates and deadlines. This means lots of "Oh-no-was-that-due-today" last minute panics.
My daughter had to write an applicant statement for one of these schools. She wrote it last night and I faxed it over. I've been swamped lately so I didn't have time to read it first. I put in the fax machine and pushed send.
I called the high school to make sure they received it. While I was on the phone with the admissions office, I glanced down at the page and started crying. I had to muster every bit of stage presence trickery I posess to finish the phone call.
Question 3: Whom do you admire and why? Answer: "I admire my dad the most of anyone I know. My dad..."
I won't go into the reasons she listed because that's sort of like sitting next to you on the traand making you look at vacation pictures or grandchild pictures--just more info than you need."
But, given the fairly tempestuous seas of adolescence in which we are sailing, this made my day! Next time, I will read everything before making the phone call.
(Don't forget about my Giveaway!) Since my day job (you know, the responsible, pay-the-bills many authors have) is working as a theatre and choir director, it would be easy to assume I spend my days basking in a constant glow of truth, beauty, and culture.
I am sure people must see me and think, "He's so lucky. Getting to work with bright, receptive minds, exposing them to the great masterworks of our culture." That's my day. Just moving from one artistic highpoint to another.
We're currently rehearsing for The Wizard of Oz. The other day we were working on the sequence where Dorothy and Co. go to maintenance place/beauty shop to get cleaned up before seeing the Wizard. All of the maintenance/beauty shop workers are played by 6th graders.
The boys that polish the Tin Man sing, "Rub, rub here, rub, rub there, whether you're tin or brass, that's how we keep you in repair in the merry old land of Oz."
I pointed out to the polishers that in order to make it rhyme, they needed to make "brass" rhyme with "Oz." I returned to the piano and they sang it with the correct pronunciation. Knowing what was coming, I started counting. It took precisely two seconds for one girl in another group to catch that they were pronouncing it as "bras." She turned to the girl next to her and whispered. They both broke out in giggles and told the next girl and so on. Pretty soon all the girls were laughing while the boys looked at them, completely clueless. One boy kept looking at the girls and mouthing, "What? What?" One girl went and whispered to him. Bless his soul, his face turned as red as the Tinman's heart. I thought he would die. We spent the rest of the rehearsal with the girls giggling and the boys blushing. The braver ones tried to pretend it was no big deal.
With middle school kids. Jokes don't die or eventually wear out. To the contrary, usually the longer it goes, the funnier it becomes to them. And their heightened perception of, and curiosity about new, quasi-adult things makes them incredibly sensitive to certain topics and words.
They don't even need context. We weren't talking about bras. The boys simply pronounced a word that sounded like it. That was all it took.
What did I do? Simply sat at the piano and pretended that I had no idea what was going on. It's often better that way.
Sorry for the light posting. I can practically hear the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.
I got sick last week. I remain sick this week. The only difference is I am now back to work. So blogging is low-ish on the priority list now.
Hopefully I'll be back soon as there is lots to talk about. In the meantime, may I interest you in my Giveaway for a $20 iTunes gift card (if so, click here)? I'm hoping to break the mid-single digits anytime now! Woo-hoo!
Talk to you later.
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