Sunday, September 25, 2011

Getting A Dose of Culture

This was a very artsy weekend for TV Stevie and me. On Friday night, we saw TURN OF THE SCREW at Syracuse Stage, and on Saturday night, we drove to Rome to see Buster Keaton's THE GENERAL at the Capitol Theatre.

The acting was fabulous, the staging was amazing (Kudos to the lighting whatever!), but the show itself -- well, I was disappointed. The only thing that I knew about the story was that it is a ghost story and that it is supposed to be filled with suspense.

::YAWN:: Maybe for its day, but this late 20th/early 21st century woman wasn't impressed. And that was the flaw of the production. A lame story.

SIDE NOTE: Ever since the Chromos were involved in drama club, I've paid more attention to staging. I find I like the minimalist sets more than the elaborate. (Although I recently attended a stage production of  THE LION KING and was blown away by the staging, costumes, etc. Not a fan of the show itself. Didn't like the movie, prefer the music from Tim Rice and Elton John's other collaboration, AIDA.)
Original installation organ at the Capitol Theatre in Rome, NY

THE GENERAL: I loved it! Great character development. Wonderful print. And Bernie Anderson, Jr. on the organ? Amazing. I forgot I was watching a silent movie with a live organist accompanying it. His playing melded perfectly with the action on the screen.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Critique Groups & Partners

Apparently the new "hot" topic in romance writing circles is critique groups. I did not attend the national conference this year, but heard that there were several workshops on the subject. I also recently learned that a well-known, well-respected author and instructor is writing a book on critique groups.

I was in a critique group until very recently. The group was one of the longest-running groups in my local RWA chapter, and I was thrilled beyond anything when I was invited to join. After I joined, there was a "core four", but we kept losing our published members. Okay, some weren't such a loss, but most, yeah, a real loss.

The Core Four decided to take off the summer this year. And over the summer several of us learned something about our writing and ourselves. Too often we were writing "to the group" instead of to the story. I know that I really like to push boundaries, but found myself toning back the "grit". My former agent and I even talked about it in 2007 or 2008. I let the group's low 'ick-factor' tolerance level dictate some of my story lines.

One of the Core Four wrote to the group in the beginning of September and said she wouldn't be back. We'd still see each other at our monthly chapter meetings, so the friendships would remain, but being in the critique group was no longer part of her roadmap to publication.

That gave me the courage to suggest that we disband. The other two members quickly concurred. So the 2nd oldest crit group in CNYRW is no more.

In a private e-mail to one of my former crit partners, I said that I often wondered if my feedback was of any value to the other members. Sometimes a lot of self-doubt (part of a writer's toolkit!) plagued me. My former crit partner responded that because I was so well read, my feedback carried a lot of weight with her.

I'd never considered that being well-read was a qualification to be a critique partner. In a beta reader, yes. But critique partners are different. A critique relationship is almost like a marriage, a family, with our stories as our children from the first seed of an idea to a completed manuscript. Brainstorming, picking apart story elements, searching for answers: it's similar to raising a child. Beta readers don't do that. ( I adore my beta-readers, and value their feedback because they are readers.)

 I'm glad to know I was of value to my critique partners.
R.I.P. Vs & Ps

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Traffic Tales

Seems like TV Stevie and I have spent a lot of time on the road lately. Which means we've seen some really weird stuff.

I mean, is a prosthetic leg on the roof of a car normal?

And when we were driving to Rome for Capitolfest last month, we witnessed a trooper pulling over . . . a jogger. On the Thruway. I wonder if he went through a tollbooth?

And then there was the adventure of driving X-Chromo to college.

Stretches of the highway are divided and the speed limit is 65mph. Stretches of the highway are regular streets through a small city, and the speed limit is 30 mph. And between said city and the city in which X goes to college is a stretch of highway that is multi-lane, divided, and looks like it should be a 65mph stretch. But looks can be deceiving. This particular section of the road is 55mph. Uh-uh.

Add in last Friday of the month, gorgeous weather, and lots of out-of-towners heading for the SUNY campus, and then see if you can spell S-P-E-E-D-T-R-A-P.

We didn't notice it driving to campus the first time, but on our first return trip home (to fetch a wallet), we saw many cars pulled over on the other side of the highway. Most  vehicles looked packed to overflowing, such as a college student might pack a vehicle.

As we drove back to campus (with the missing wallet), I noticed a tractor trailer flashing its light shortly before we reached that particular stretch of highway. I warned TV, who slowed down. A moment later, we saw several state trooper cars parked in a tree-surrounded hollow. Ahead of us? Flashing lights and several vehicles on the side of the road, accompanied by troopers.  One way only. Heading toward campus. Many young drivers. All cars overflowing with laundry baskets etc.

And as we made our second trip home that afternoon, we witnessed yet more tickets being issued, but not a one on our side of the highway.

I suppose move-in day is a good way for a poverty-stricken county to try to balance its budget. Gotta love those downstate dollars.