Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Dry Well

Do you ever feel like the well has run dry in your life? 

Maybe it's coming off of a three day weekend where I allowed my brain to shut down and not be a slave to social media and lists. Maybe it's due to being in the middle of a blog tour and I've been writing several guests posts for other sites (which is so wonderful to get to share your thoughts on someone else's blog). Or because I've been preparing for my mini book tour/road trip at the end of June to Maine. But I looked at my blog today and thought "I have nothing to write about."

These things can certainly happen and I think it happens to us all. That 'end of school year' feeling when you didn't want to do any more work because summer was coming. Plus we got hit with a heat/humidity wave in the Northeast that sort of sucked the life out of all things creative in my brain. Sitting in an air-conditioned room was all I could do.

When my well runs dry: I re-group. I stop and think of the exciting things I have going on in my life and what is coming up. (That's the planner in me. And I saw a report the other day that the anticipation of something is many times just as exciting as the actual event.) I'm really excited about some projects on the horizon as well as a few summer trips I have planned (starting with next week when I get to be with my family in Punta Cana to celebrate my sister's upcoming marriage in a beach ceremony). 

For now, I continue to plowing along and I know my creative juices will return - at some point.

So if your well dries up...don't fret. The rain will come again and fill it up with the greatly needed sustenance to get you back on track.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Patchwork Of Me Wins Award

As an author, we write for the joy of it. We write to inspire. We write because we HAVE to write. But sometimes, we are awarded for that work by an amazing review, a complimentary private email, or an award in a contest.

I'm very excited to share that Patchwork of Me has been named the winner in the category of Women's Lit/Chick-Lit with the 2012 International Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the category of Cross-Genre. These awards mean a great deal to me because of my new foray into this world. I write stories. I don't always think in terms of the genre (which so many authors, editors, publishers will tell you is a terrible way to write). Not thinking of your audience: not so smart. But I didn't think of my book as a mystery (though it has some of those elements). It's not a romance (though again: you definitely get a sense of romantic aspects in the book). Which is why I loved it was honored in the Cross-genre category as for me: that's what it is. But for a man to write a woman's book in 1st person and then win the women's lit category...excites me more than I can say. (Especially when I read so much about what women's lit is...according to which site you are on.) Some say it needs to be a woman author. Other's believe (as I) that it is a female protagonist that deals with empowerment and relationships...not always romantic. If a man does come into the story, he doesn't get as much weight and importance as our heroine. And for me...that's what I believe Patchwork is. Sara deals with her own life without the need to be saved by the knight on the white horse. She's a tough chick (making wrong decisions at time) that learns how to stand on her on. 

Perhaps one day these 'genres' we must think in will be gone. Because a book of mine has a gay character doesn't mean it needs to be pushed into the GLBT Book Shelf where others won't go and find it. A story with a female protagonist doesn't mean men can't read and relate as well. (Actually several of my amazon reviews seem to be from men even for this book.) 

But with all of that said - I'm eager and anxious to meet new readers (male and female) who will enjoy Sara Butler and her band of 'misfit' friends as they travel through life. I just started a two month blog book tour where I can come in contact with new people and I love that aspect of book marketing in our 'social media conscious world'. 

And for all the women who have inspired me - I can't say thanks enough and hope I have portrayed honest relationships with the women and men in this book. And to the people behind the IB Awards - thanks for looking at the work and not the gender of the person doing the writing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Once is NOT Enough

There have been so many movies turned into Broadway musicals the past several years. Producers and creative teams feel they have a ready-made audience if people come in knowing the story. For the most part, they stay fairly close to the movie (sometimes copying the actors) and at times feel as if they have been put through the 'movie-to-musical' machine.

And then there is Once.

Before I say anything more, let me admit that I had no desire to see this show. When I received the postcard for discount seats (before it opened) I threw it out. I didn't think it would speak to me. What a fool I am.

As an indie artist, I should have been all over this show the moment it was slated to open. It speaks to the soul of the 'indie' attempting to make something of their art so that people can hear it, see it, feel it.

The website for the show says:

"once is the celebrated new musical based on the Academy Award®-winning film. It tells the story of an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant drawn together by their shared love of music. Over the course of one fateful week, their unexpected friendship and collaborationevolves into a powerful but complicated romance, heightened by the raw emotion of the songs they create together. Brought to the stage by an award-winning team of visionary artists and featuring an ensemble cast of gifted actor/musiciansonce is a musical celebration of life and love: thrilling in its originality, daring in its honesty... and unforgettable in every way."

I've been thinking 'how does one describe this show?' At times, it feels like a play with music as it doesn't follow the standard musical theater format (that was banged in my head when I was in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop). The cast is the band. Each moment of chair, table, body-part is choreographed in a stylized way you just have to see. It even starts with audience members drinking on the stage while the cast plays music and then it just sort of 'starts' out of nowhere...pulling us into the world in a slow way where we almost forget we're watching a show.

But it is the story that grabs you instantly. A romance that grows out of an organic place unlike what we've witnessed in other musicals. And it is the Tony nominated performances of Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti that make this show so special (along with a stellar ensemble that are so in sync with each other - they make the audience feel a part of it all). I was about five rows back and could feel every breath the leads took. The angst in their bodies. The power in their longing. It - in a word - was beautiful. A show where tears roll down your face and you don't even reach up to remove them. Heartbreaking in how underplayed it is compared to the big musicals that take New York by storm. 

I'm not sure what more I could say about this show except don't be an idiot like me. If you are in the New York area, you must see this show...at least once. I plan on going back again.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

We All Need a Friend Like Harvey

"Harvey" was first on Broadway back in 1944 and won the pulitzer prize for author Mary Chase. I usually am not a lover of seeing the 'old-time classic comedies' that I remember doing in high school. But as my theater friend and I discussed after seeing the new Broadway revival in previews, not many people do this one.

I'm so glad she talked me into going.

What a charming piece that still holds up today. Seeing a show in previews means there are still changes going on so I know things will tighten up prior to opening...which only means this wonderful ensemble cast will get better and better.

So many people know the movie and instantly think of Jimmy Stewart (who was actually the replacement in the original Broadway show and got the role in the movie).  I honestly had forgotten much of the story so it felt completely new to me watching the play. (Though the people next to us found it silly and talked throughout. Why they would go to a show not knowing it's about an invisible white rabbit is beyond me.)

Jim Parsons is inevitably going to be compared to Jimmy Stewart by many reviewers when the show opens, but for this blogger - I found him wonderfully charming. A different take from Stewart. A little like his 'all-knowing' character on "The Big Bang Theory", but still a child-like silliness that is kind and welcoming to all he comes in contact with.

The stand-out of the night is Jessica Hecht (who has done numerous Broadway shows, but many remember from "Friends" as the lesbian girlfriend of Ross's wife). She plays the sister who is concerned for her brother and his rabbit friend and every time she is on the stage it is comic magic. Her physicality is amazing with every nervous tick of the hand and her 'rubbery legs' in Act II. I just loved her!

Also great seeing Charles Kimbrough back on Broadway and the delightful Carol Kane in this ensemble show. The audience seemed to give in to the light-hearted story line and be taken away by it. The revolving set is pretty darn spectacular too and the original three act play has now been put into two. (So be prepared for the second act to feel a little longer to you.) 

If looking for something light and fun this summer (as it is only a limited run) - get to Studio 54 and check out the big bunny!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Visiting Schools Make Me Smile

There is honestly nothing like speaking to a group of children.

I understand why my friends that teach love their jobs so much. Kids genuinely want to learn and (for the most part) are interested in what you have to say. Especially if you're talking about things like children's book, actors, and ninja turtles. 

To say I've been humbled by my experiences of speaking to schools doesn't seem to convey it enough. I know I'm not a specialist about autism. I know I'm just a regular guy who loves to write and who happens to know one child that touched my life and caused me to write about it. But I also know that I've completely enjoyed every place I've gone the past few weeks and have shared my story. I've talked to a college creative writing class, a 3rd grade class, a huge group of four 6th grade classes, two preK classes of 3 & 4 year old special needs children, and was guest speaker at a big celebration of K-5th graders. I've met them at all ages and they have been so excited and could not make me feel better about what I'm doing.

I wish I had it in me to be able to go out on the road and visit many schools; but there is such a thing as life/responsibilities/bills that keep that from happening. But I'm really grateful to the local schools that have welcomed me with open arms.

I really have my mother to thank for the joy and love of children. She has spent a lifetime working with preschoolers and kindergarten kids. I would go to work with her many times when I was younger and this path I'm on now makes me think back to those times. I'll never have my own kids, but I sure do love witnessing the wonder and awe in which they view life. The smiles they gave me as I'd read Chicken Boy to them and the sounds of BAHCAAAAAH! they would shout back.

Hopefully more kids and teachers will help spread the word about the book, but even if not: I can see I'm touching one kid at a time when I go to these schools.

And that is just fine to me!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Peter is Back on Broadway

Who would take an epic book and turn it into a Tony nominated play? When you're Disney and you are behind the book and the play...you can do whatever you want. Not that it hasn't been done before. Nicholas, Nickleby (which starred one of this show's directors) - Les MizTale of Two Cities...but something is very different about Peter and the Starcatcher from those huge shows. This doesn't feel "huge".

If you were like me and knew nothing of the story: in short - a prequel to the story of Peter Pan. There. That's the story written by Rick Elice, based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. 

As mentioned above, it is helmed by two directors (each bringing their own style to the show) Roger Rees and Alex Timbers. A mix of regional/college/experimental theater....the type that Broadway is usually afraid of...along with a vaudeville "let's do a show in my yard & we'll play multiple roles". Boy do they ever. Sweat is falling on the stage with this hard working ensemble. And it is great ensemble work. Christian Borle (who most now know from the TV show SMASH) and Celia Keenan-Bolger have been singled out for Tony nominations along with 7 other noms for this show. Borle's monologue in Act 2 makes him very worthy. I've seen him before on stage, but never like this. He was Kevin Cline meets Tim Curry. What a performance! I also enjoyed Adam Chanler-Berat as Peter (from Next to Normal) & Ms. Keenan-Bolger as a 13 year old known-it-all Starcatcher in training. 

The direction really is genius. Using things like rope and actor's bodies to create multiple locations and sets. Very much as a child would. After all, it's a child's story for adults to enjoy too. I've not read the books, but really enjoyed seeing where Peter came from and knowing where we were headed.

The audience rushed to their feet (which is nothing new on Broadway now) and cheered for the most nominated play on Broadway. 

I do have a few issues with the show. I'm not one for the 60s British humor. And this is full of silly jokes and over the top gags to make children laugh. (And several adults.) Not my type of humor. (Benny Hill, Monty Python). But many love that comedy and will love it in this show.

My other issue: The Tony nomination for Best Score. Yes, it has original songs...but none are overly memorable. I almost wish they would have just gone for it and created it as a small musical instead of a play with music.

All that said, the kid in me was touched by the ending & for a moment I wished I could be forever young like Peter Pan. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Mother's Journey

It's Mother's Day. The day we celebrate those women who raised us...who made us the people we are today. I wanted to use my blog to share part of my mother's journal (with her permission) of the journey she has started on the past two weeks. 

I've shared of her strength and courage in some of my postings recently as she was diagnosed with breast cancer almost two weeks ago. But I asked if I could share this with people that read my blog: to not only celebrate her on this day, but to perhaps speak to someone else going through it. 

Mom wrote this only a few days after she found out and shared it with me. (She wants to make sure people know she is not a writer, but I told her the words her real and truthful.)

So here they are - in her words:

Ok, so I guess it's time to write about it. By IT I mean "the big C".  Cancer. My Dr. told me on May 1st that I have cancer in my right breast. People keep asking me how I'm doing. (I know they don't know what else to say.) And so I'm now asking myself "How am I doing?" and I don't know how to answer. 

Was it a shock, yes of course it was. When he said that word I think I kind of went someplace else. I remember talking to him and telling him I wanted the pathology report to send to my son in law, but I don't remember everything else he said. Later I started to remember tests he had mentioned and possible treatments. I jumped right in to "What do I need to do about this".  

I keep waiting for that 'ah ha' moment. That "Oh my God, I've got cancer" moment. But it hasn't come yet. Shouldn't I be crying and screaming "WHY ME" or something like that? But I don't even feel scared or even destined to die from this (even though I know it's possible)...maybe I'll just wake up one night screaming.

Everyone keeps saying how strong I am. Funny I don't feel strong. I'm just trying to get the best help I can get with this. I'm still sleeping at night and going to school and reading with the kids and making sure they are making their letters correctly. So am I weird or could I still be in shock or am I just accepting what will be will be? 

Only time will tell.

My mother is a foster grandparent at a public school with kindergarten kids and they love that she helps them 'with their letters and reads to them'. She keeps going to work and only took off this past Tuesday to go see a specialist and then again on Thursday for an MRI. Now we wait for more info from the doctor this Tuesday, but with each step she takes on this road...she demonstrates to us how she is the strongest person I know. (Even if her journal says otherwise.)

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Love you!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Inspiration from Women

Sometimes it's a mom, an aunt, a female friend - but I am inspired by women all around me...all of the time. There is a certain strength I see in my friends who are moms - juggling in a way that only a mom can. Or those women I know that have persevered through something and come out wiser and stronger on the other side. Again: amazement and awe as I witness what they are capable of accomplishing.

I turned to many of those (in my mind) when I constructed Patchwork of Me. People wondered how a man could write a female story - in the first person no less. Well, I've been surrounded by wonderful women my whole life. I speak to several daily or contact them via social media. I stay in contact with them and learn from them. And yes...even used qualities of some as Sara Butler developed for me. 

Sara is a woman who didn't have the best childhood - but didn't expect a pity party either. She made the best of her life in foster care and learned how to create her own 'family' as needed. She makes mistakes. She's flawed. And she turns to the wrong men. But she doesn't give up. She keeps going (fighting the negative voice in her head) and learns she needs to explore her past to truly let go and create a brilliant future for herself.

The book has been out for almost a month and I'm preparing to do a blog tour the next few months to get it out there to more people. I'm really proud of this story. It's very different from my other works, but hopefully means it can find its way into the hands of women who will appreciate what the character is going through (and the crazy friends that she has). 

So if you've read it: thank you! (Leave a review online so others can learn about it.) If you haven't read it - I hope you will give it a try.

And if you're one of the many, MANY women that have touched my life...I hope you take a look at the acknowledgement page. (I couldn't fit every single name that I knew, so if your name is missing...it doesn't mean I'm not inspired by you - I just ran out of room.)

Enjoy this mother's day weekend. Celebrate the beauty and strength of women!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: Amazing Evening at End of The Rainbow

End of the Rainbow
There are certain performances I have the privilege of saying I witnessed. Glenn Close as Norma Desmond. Hugh Jackman as Peter Allen. Tyne Daly as Mama Rose. Frank Gorshin as George Burns.

Now I can add Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland to the list.

Seeing her in the play "End of the Rainbow" is watching a masterclass on acting. Not only did I feel as if I was in the room with Judy herself, but I knew I was in the presence of an actress who takes her job seriously. Who understands 
commitment to a role. And she throws every ounce of her heart and soul into what she is doing.

This play with music by Peter Quilter chronicles the life of the star just months prior to her death as she returns to a five week engagement in London with her new fiancĂ© Mickey Deans and friend/pianist Anthony. We go from the hotel room where Garland is staying (and unable to pay her bills) to on stage of the concert (with an exciting live band that adds such dimension as Garland performs under the influence and pushes tempos to a frenzy). What a concert Ms. Bennett is giving us as if we are truly reliving the moment.

Garland in 1968
There have been so many bio-pics on this beloved woman, but Quilter has chosen to zero in on one particular time to give us a glimpse into her life. The role of Anthony (played by the wonderful Michael Cumpsty) represents the adoring gay men in Judy's life. Both those she's turned to for comfort (and times-marriage) and those that admire her from afar. Mickey Deans was her fifth husband and Tom Pelphrey has a bit of tougher time with this character the way it was written. (Depending on accounts you read/believe - Quilter has chosen to display Deans as a type of pusher as if Garland could not make certain decisions on her own.) I also felt Pelphrey went over the top on some of his scenes...as if the TV actor has been told bigger is always better for the stage. But that aside - I still wholeheartedly recommend people run and get tickets to this show.

Tracie Bennett
There have been so many Judy Garland impersonators through the years (both men and women) and I've seen several. And I'm sure you can google and find gay men debating over this play online...but Bennett is not doing an impersonation. She is acting. And she is acting at its finest. She has created a character (notice I don't say caricature) that is palpable and amazing to watch on this roller coaster. How she can sustain the highs and lows each evening in this show is truly beyond me. I was utterly exhausted by the end...and yet it stuck with me as I went to sleep in such a melancholy mood over Judy Garland. I was only born two months prior to her death, but still stunned when you hear she was only 47 when she died. We see photos. We see a woman 20 years beyond that. We grieve such a talented loss at such an early age.

But Ms. Bennett brings her back to life every night in this play. And that is worth the price of admission.        

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Does Mother's Day Only Need to be One Day?

Me & Mom: Cruise 2011
One week from today is Mother's Day. People will be sending cards and flowers that day to the women in their lives that serve as 'mom'. It's great to give them that day each year...but I also believe one day isn't enough. I'm so many miles away from my mom which sometimes can make it very difficult. It's been almost 25 years since I moved away, but that doesn't make the distance easier. So we speak on the phone all the time. We keep up via Facebook. (And yes, I found out my mother actually stalks me on twitter too.) ;-)

My mother is more than just the woman who gave birth to me and raised me. She is the woman who instilled in me my creative voice. My need to tell stories. To sing and perform on stage. To chase my dreams. It was all because she made me believe "I could do it". She made it clear that I should always go for it.

And everyone says a mother never stops being a mom...which I see is true. She still worries about me and my sister and brother and what is happening in our lives. Wanting each of our relationships to be strong. That we make good career choices. That we are happy and healthy and get 'the best'.

I've always thought my mama was an amazingly strong woman, but recently it came to mind just how strong. Not just for her kids...but for those around her. She's always been 'the ear' family and friends go to for advice or for a talk. People usually want her with them when they are going through medical issues because they know she will Google everything the doctor says and research-research-research  (I must get that last trait from her). My father had heart disease for a good ten years before it took his life and Mama had notebooks full of notes from doctors. 

I thought of these strength the other night as she was delivered some news that could make others crumble...but she went right into 'attack' mode: researching, planning, and showing how she can take a diagnosis and be the one in control instead of sitting and allowing things to happen to her.

This strength is nothing new. She didn't have the easiest life when she married my father and the two had to blend families. I chronicled that time in my book PROUD PANTS. Originally, the book was called A MOTHER'S LOVE when I wrote it as a short story...and I've always said it's sort of a love letter to my mom. It grew to the length of a novella and I love that some of my new followers on several social media sites are still finding that eBook. (If you want to try out my writing style...give that one a try and learn a little about my mom!)

So yes, it's a week away from Mother's Day...but there is no need to wait to tell that person you love them. To pick up the phone throughout the week and make a call to hear how her day has gone. To surprise her by declaring that love before she gets a card on 'that one day' the calendar dictates. 

I certainly love mine and I'm so happy she passed so many of her awesome traits on to me. Thanks, mom! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Talking to Your Younger Self

Greg: early 20s
Imagine for a moment that someone was documenting everything you did during your twenties. If you're like me (in my forties) and some of that time seems like a blur...can you imagine it all coming back to you now? A time when we are coming into our own. Making mistakes. Stepping into the world and deciding our path. 

I may enjoy reading a personal journal from that time to see what that man 20 years ago was thinking, but I'd hate if that same journal made it into the hands of everyone to read.

Yet that is what is happening with the new book coming out next month "Barack Obama: The Story,” by Washington Post reporter David Maraniss. Maraniss has located Obama's then girlfriend Genevieve Cook who (for some reason) kept a journal and letters from the man that had wooed her over 25 years ago. And now has decided to share those letters.

Politics aside (whichever side of the aisle you sit on) - I can't imagine this happening to anyone. (And yet...I do enjoy reading biographies.) But still, this one got me thinking about my own life and if someone had followed me along my early trek in New York City when I first moved here. I've come in contact with some of those people from back then due to social media and they see the changed Greg along with the characteristics that make me who I am. Already being developed at that point in my life.

But going back to Obama. I can only imagine the embarrassing escapades this book will hold. And naturally, it occurs during an election year (so I guess we really can't remove politics from it). 

If you found an old journal (or old girlfriend/boyfriend who decided to do a tell-all and had plenty of letters and photos to go along with it) - what would you say to that younger self?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Power of a Word

I spend my life in words. 

Not large or fancy ones. Words people say and think. Stringing  them together to make them  accessible. Words can make us feel. Can be a call to arms. Can test us on what we know. And there is awesome power in words. The speech of our  president. The valedictorian's address at a graduation. The legacy left by someone that is passed through generations.

But I'm amazed how one word can change the course of your life. Can alter what you know. Can shake you to the core. 

Marriage. Divorce. Cancer. AIDS. Autism. MS. War. 

All of a sudden, what you thought you knew is tested. You learn what strength is. You view it all in a different way. 

There is awesome power in words. 

Find other word that challenge those single words and allow you to take back that power. 

I spend my life in words. 

Sometimes they can make your heart hurt. 
Sometimes they can heal.