Friday, May 21, 2004

Summer Preview

What's this?---Half of Arcata's population has suddenly disappeared!

Taken by aliens? The rapture? Health care and cheap gasoline in Canada?

Not exactly. School is out.

The university students who comprise half of Arcata's population are mostly gone for summer vacation. As are the ones who won't be back, the graduates. Last weekend their families gladdened the hearts of the local restaurants with their traditional biggest weekend. Now some of the local eating establishments will shut down completely for weeks or months, while others shrink their hours.

This was as close to an alien invasion as we get, though. I remember several years ago sitting in a local establishment called Los Bagels (yes, it is a Mexican bagel bakery and café) near a table of invaders from the Planet New York. Having spent some time there, I recognized the accent. But then, so would everyone else here. I've learned that here in far northern California, "the East" (which begins just past Las Vegas) is essentially defined as "New York," and everyone who lives there is Jewish. But the provincialism of the cultural capital of New York is also justifiably famous. From that table I heard one older woman exclaim, "I can't believe we're eating bagels here, on the edge of the oith!"

So now summer begins. Despite the increased quiet, the decreased traffic on the streets, it's shaping up to be a busy one. I'm doing three, maybe four writing jobs for the university, plus an article for a magazine. All of them will be due in July. As an elected Kerry delegate alternate, I could attend the Democratic National Convention in Boston in late July, if I scrape up the money to do so.

Counting the reviews and articles I just finished, I haven't had so much paying work at the same time in several years. Last summer's highlight though was the time I spent writing a play. As regular readers may recall, my goal was to finish it in time to enter it in a contest, which I did. It turned out to be a strange sort of contest. I didn't win, and I didn't lose. As far as I know, no one did. The theatre involved seems to have run into financial problems, and never chose a winner, perhaps because they were obligated to mount two productions of the winning play in two different cities, and pay out some prize money.

This spring I entered this play, a full length called "Dance of Souls," in another competition. Though it is for a festival to be held locally, the judging is "blind" (no names on the scripts), and the final choices are made by judges far away. The theme is ecological theatre. This spring I also wrote another play for this contest, a one-act comedy called "That Human Comedy." I suppose I could find out, but at the moment I have no idea whether either or both of these plays made the final cut and got sent to the distinguished outside judges.

Writing and entering the comedy may have been a mistake, since it's easier to like comedies and I'm more interested in the success of the full length. Still, even if they didn't make the cut and/or don't win, I have high hopes for future productions or at least readings.

Writing these plays was a blissful experience both times. Follow my bliss? I'm tempted. I do have the itch to do another this summer. I've had a basic idea for one for at least a decade but every time I wrote a little dialogue for it, it didn't work. If I get enough good dialogue to get started, I may have to. There are other projects of my own that it would be smarter to work on, after this blitz of paying work. The chapters I wrote (also this spring) for the nonfiction "Soul of the Future" finally worked, after several attempts over way too many years. I have a really good plan for the rest of the book, and I'm confident that I can write it, and that I will write it, eventually, and publish it, even if I have to self-publish. And there's my young adult novel, which an agent in the field encouraged me to rewrite. After many false starts, I think I've come up with a way to do it. It would make more sense to work on either or both of those.

I enjoy writing on both of these projects. But plays somehow are the best. Realistically, what I should be concentrating on is getting productions or readings of the ones I've already written-the abovementioned two, plus my antismoking musical for middle school age. But realistic is a relative word when you are my age, without credits or credentials in the field, up here at the edge of the oith.