Tag Archives: books

The Transformative Power of Theatre – A Patron’s Perspective

“To enter a theatre for a performance is to be inducted into a magical space, to be ushered into the sacred arena of the imagination.”
– Simon Callow

I had to take some time to share an audience member’s thoughts after watching our latest performance of Proof by David Auburn at our little theatre in Ashe County, North Carolina.  If you’ve ever been a part of the theatre in any fashion — or even if you’ve ever found yourself sitting in an audience — these words are for you.  We are all storytellers, each and every one of us.

Thank you, David, for these magical words.

Ashe County Little Theatre’s Proof by David Auburn / Photo by: Bobbi Jo Scott

ASHE COUNTY LITTLE THEATER
by David Desautels

Since seeing the most excellent latest production by the Ashe County Little Theater on opening night this past Friday, I’ve been wondering about why I like going to plays so much.

Growing up in our household money was scarce. But we always had books. And books meant travel, if only in my mind.

My mother and I journeyed down the Mighty Mississippi River visiting Tom Sawyer and even stopping by Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A bout of strep throat and missing school for a week set me on my journey without even leaving my Jefferson bedroom.

I remember begging Mom to read “just one more chapter” and next thing you know I was in Missouri with an eye on Tom conning his buddies into whitewashing a fence.

She read to me after a long day at work and fixing dinner for the remaining four (of seven) kids. She read till she could hardly talk, her voice barely above a whisper at times.

Her reading to me was the highlight of my day. That is until she suggested that, while she was gone, I might pick up the book myself.

I did. And that led to a lifetime of adventure. Marco Polo took me along with him from Italy to China. George Washington let me take a swing at the cherry tree with his axe. Zane Grey allowed me to shoot up the Old West.

Helen Keller won me over with her triumph over tragedy. Abe Lincoln encouraged me to keep the kerosene lantern burning. And George Washington Carver elevated the lowly peanut to a place of honor practically making it an obligation to eat peanut butter.

Louis Pasteur made milk drinkable. Henry Mortin Stanley’s “Dr. Livingston I presume” made Africa accessible. And Thomas Edison made discoveries believable.

Which leads me back to the Ashe County Little Theater by way of The Parkway Theatre. A 6th grade outing there to see Gone With the Wind made Margaret Mitchell’s classic come to life in full color.

Friday night at the play I, once again, traveled to another place. I do it with books, movies and, especially, plays. For two hours my normal world stands still and I am in an alternate reality.

I BECAME THE CHARACTERS. ALL OF THEM.

Over the years, our Little Theater has taken me places.
All with ordinary people putting in extraordinary performances.

I’ve seen a pharmacist become a lawyer. A teacher become a Steel Magnolia. A radio repairman become a radio announcer. A paralegal become a director.

Ordinary people–a shopkeeper conducting an orchestra, a local funny guy putting on a robe and being a judge, a kid becoming an Orphan. A barista becoming transformed into a math wiz.

Local people giving their talents as set designers, ticket takers, actors, sound and lighting wizards.

And, to my knowledge, not a single one of them makes a penny for their efforts.

But that’s not to say they don’t get paid. Their currency is the applause they receive from folks like me who, for a couple of hours, travel the world without ever leaving our precious county.

Thanks Ashe County Little Theater for your decades of tireless and selfless giving.

***

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”
– Chinese Proverb

 

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Wordkeepers: An Ode to my Writing Group

“If a story is in you, it has got to come out.”
– William Faulkner

artscenterTake a trip with me. Come along as we make our way to a tiny stone building that sits on a street corner in a small town in the mountains. In this tiny building, there lies one little room. At first glance, there is nothing special about this room—nothing magical. A few pictures on the wall, a podium, some fold-out chairs. A few windows that allow the last slants of evening light to dance across the hardwood floor.

People begin to arrive and fill the chairs—a wide variety of ages and genders. (There are probably even bigger varieties in religion, profession, and political standings, but you do not know this, nor do you care.) You hear the shuffling of papers, the scraping of one of the chair’s legs across the floor as its occupant tries in vain to find a comfortable position. You hear a nervous cough or two. More paper shuffling.

Now, the silence will be broken as the first makes her way to the podium.

A throat clears. A nervous voice rings out. “I wrote this piece when I…”

Ah. This is where the magic begins.

You are in the storytellers’ room, my friend. The first storyteller has begun her journey and soon the others will follow suit, including you.

Welcome to the group.

This is where we meet to shed the life outside these stone walls and dive headfirst into the world within. This is where the stories are set free. All are true, even the fiction ones, for they come from within the mind and heart of the writer, and what could be more real than that?

Join us. Experience a new consciousness. That thing that has been sleeping inside you will gradually open one lazy, hesitant eye and take a quick peek. Once it sees that it is safe to awaken, both eyes will snap open and, with a yawn that stems from far too much time spent in hibernation, the sleeping creature will come to life.
Prepare yourself. For once it’s alive, there will be no stopping it. You will no longer remember the life you lived before this being inside of you was allowed to roam free. It will rule you. You will be at its mercy. You will not be able to rest until you obey its command to release your stories into the world. At first, it will scare you. But soon, you come to realize that it is not there to harm you, it is there to save you.

You are free. You are free from the chains of self-doubt that kept you prisoner. You are free from the fear of criticism and critique.

You are free from the fear of succeeding.

You walked into this room not knowing what might lie within. Now you walk away knowing that you will never be the same. You are one of us.

You are a storyteller.

Welcome home.

***

 “Writing is an extreme privilege, but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.”
– Amy Tan

Books

“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.”
– Vera Nazarian

booksOk, I’m bustin out the geek card for this blog.

I’m going to talk about how much I love books.  And, holy crap, do I love books!  I mean, I really really love books.

I saw the picture to the right on Facebook the other day, and I felt a little tingle in my stomach.  Seriously, I’m that big of a nerd!  I know that feeling of ‘magic’ that it’s referring to….the feeling of holding a book in your hand, smelling the pages, wondering what other life is waiting inside for you to slip into.  It’s addictive, man, I’m tellin’ ya.

And, admittedly, I do have a slight problem when it comes to that kind of addiction.  I’m obsessed with buying and owning these books, but I don’t exactly always get around to reading them.  You know what I mean?  It’s like the food thing – you know how when someone thinks they’re crazy hungry so they pile their plate with food and then they’re not quite able to finish it?  You call that your eyes being bigger than your stomach, right?  Or something like that.  Well, I have that problem with books.  My eyes are bigger than the amount of free hours I have in a day.  So, with that being the case, I own a huge bookshelf, overflowing with books, and I could honestly bet you that there are about 1/3 of them sitting there unread.

Eh.  Oh well.  I’m sure there are worse addictions to have.

librarySo, with this book addiction of mine comes another addiction.  The library.  Holy cow, the library is the greatest thing ever invented.  EVER.  I mean, hello?  There are thousands of books just sitting there waiting for you to borrow them and read them. For free!  What kind of person doesn’t take advantage of that?  Books.  For you to read.  For free.  Duuuuh!  Ok, am I the only person that gets this excited about books?  Please tell me I’m not.  Please?  Anybody?

I’m lucky enough to work right down the road from the local library.  And, apparently, I spend quite a bit of time there.  Just yesterday when I went by to check out a book, one of the librarians said, “I haven’t seen your name on the ‘hold’ list in a while.  Everything ok?”  Heh.  Um, wow.  Ok, first of all, I don’t even know this lady.  I’ve seen her quite a few times, of course, but there are many librarians that file in and out and I didn’t recall having seen her any more often than anyone else.  But apparently, she remembers me.  Strangely, that made me kind of proud.  See?  Nerd.

I have turned to that library so many times over the years.  Problems with the kids?  Head to the library.  There’s a parenting book for that.  Stressful day at work?  Head to the library at lunch.  Grab an easy read and sit in the stillness for an hour before you have to jump back into reality.  Relationship problems?  Head to the library.  Breathe in the quiet and calm and check out a book about relationship issues and find out where you’re going wrong.  [Funny tidbit on that topic: a friend of mine was going through a rough time in a relationship recently, so I went to the library and checked out my ‘go-to’ relationship book for her to read.  When I gave her my precious breakup bible, she realized there was a piece of paper stuck in it.  What was it, you ask?  A receipt.  My receipt.  The receipt from the last time I checked the book out was still in it.  Ha!  Apparently I’m the only one who reads that thing.  Isn’t it time for them to just give it to me??  By the way, the book is called “It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken” by the author of “He’s Just Not That Into You,” Greg Behrendt and his wife, Amiira.  It rocks.]

chickensoupAnd now that you know what a nerd I am about books, you’ll have a better understanding for why I’m so incredibly excited about what is getting ready to happen to me.  One of these days over the next few weeks, I’m going to get home from work and there is going to be a box waiting at my door.  And inside this box is going to be ten brand new books that haven’t even been released in the stores yet.  And you know why I’m getting that box of books?  Because my name is listed in them as an author.

My name is listed as an author.

Holy crap, just typing that sentence gave me goose bumps.  This silly blog that I started just nine short months ago, and that now is bordering on 13,000 views, has led me to this.  Because I took the chance that someone might like something that I had written, I am going to be a published author.  A published author!  The closer it gets, the more real it becomes.  My name is going to be listed among other writers in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game.  Me!  The lover of the written word, the nerd who can’t stay out of bookstores, the girl who is known on a first name basis by the librarian…I am now going to walk into these places knowing that somewhere within them lies a book that has my name in it.

Somebody pinch me!

Kind of strange how life works out sometimes, isn’t it?  I am so grateful to all of the authors that have come before me.  The ones who have written the many books that I have read and have shown me what pleasure can come from reading someone else’s story.  It blows my mind to think that I am going to be sitting on their side of the table now.  Somewhere someone will be in my place – they will be the nerd sitting at the bookstore or at the library or on their couch with their cat.  They will pick up this book and start reading a story that touches them in some way, and they’ll look to the name of the author, and it will be mine.  Mine.

Full circle, people.  Life always finds a way to come back full circle.

This is the stuff dreams are made of.

***

“It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.”
– Isaac Asimov

Writing

“I must write it all out, at any cost.  Writing is thinking.  It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.”
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Ok, I better stick to this thankful list kick while I’m still in the mood.

This blog is dedicated to writing.

Oh my gosh, am I thankful for writing.  Not only my own, but others’ as well.  I can’t even begin to explain what therapy exists for me in picking up a book to read or picking up a pen to write.  writingblogOh, who am I kidding – no one uses pens anymore.  Maybe I should say grabbing a keyboard and hearing the clicks.  Yeah, that sounds a bit more truthful.  Some of my earliest memories involved hiding out in my room and writing.  Either in a journal, or in a trapper keeper (remember those! Gosh, I’m old…) where I would stash all my poetry.  Unfortunately in all my many moves growing up as an Army brat, that Trapper Keeper got misplaced.  It’s crazy to think of all the hundreds of 12-year-old girl poems that are floating around out there somewhere.  I’m sure they were masterful works of art, mind you.  I mean, New Kids on the Block was a pretty deep subject, ya know.  Duh!

And not only would I retreat to my room to write, but I would also read.  I couldn’t read enough.  You would never see me without a book in my hand (and I’m proud to say, that hasn’t changed much).  Escaping my world and delving into someone else’s was better than any therapy that money could buy.  My therapy would cost me about $5 a session (if it was a paperback, a little more for a hard cover).  Hey, and the session was totally free if I rented my therapist from the local library.  And what brilliant, effective therapy it was.  And still is.

My now-famous friend Zoe (from my previous blogs) sent me a quote one day that made her think of me.  It goes like this:

“Writers are like other people, except for at least one important difference. Other people have daily thoughts and feelings, notice this sky or that smell, but they don’t do much about it. All those thoughts, feelings, sensations, and opinions pass through them like the air they breathe. Not writers. Writers react.”
– Ralph Fletcher

That is it exactly.  I always felt like I was a little weird.  A little different than others because of the fact that I felt things so deeply.  Nothing was insignificant in my life – everything had some kind of deeper meaning.  And eventually, as I grew older, I finally figured out what to do about that.  Put it on paper.  I think that’s what writing is all about.  Those feelings and emotions that well up inside of you need somewhere to go.  It happens to all of us, and we all find ways to deal with it.  Some with writing.  Some with exercise.  Some with music.  Some with art.  Theatre.  Dance.  The list goes on and on.  And then, sadly, there are those who haven’t found a way to express all that is inside of them.  So they suppress instead of express.  Drugs.  Alcohol.  Promiscuity.  Etc.

Oh, I don’t know – maybe I’m full of crap.  But I kinda don’t think so.  I think we all have the same feelings and emotions inside of us at any given time.  What differentiates us from each other, is what we decide to do with them.

time concept, selective focus point, special toned photo f/xSo, will my writing matter someday?  Oh, I don’t know.  I’d like to think so.  So far, this year alone, I have managed to win a writing contest (what I said must have mattered to some judge somewhere); get published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book (a book that is intended to out to millions of readers with positive messages about how to live life to the fullest); and have a small quote published in Guideposts magazine (again, a “pick-me-up” type of publication).  This first year of going public with my writing has given me a pretty good boost.  Maybe it’s beginners’ luck, or maybe it’s the start to something big.  Who knows?  Either way, I know that writing saves me.  I don’t mean that in some drama queen “I’d die without it” kind of way.  I mean it just like I said.  It saves me.  It saves my sanity.  It saves me from feeling like I’m all alone (thanks to you readers who continue to comment telling me how much something I’ve said makes you think of you or your current situation).  And most importantly, it saves me from holding all of these jumbled thoughts and words inside of me.  Thank God I’ve found a way to get it all out there.

So, thank you, Writing.  You are on my thankful list.  Thank you for the gift you’ve given to me, and to others, to somehow change the world.  Even if that world may just be our own.

***

“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
– Gloria Steinem

Liebster Award

“You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”
– Stephen King

So, I got a notification earlier this week that I had been nominated for the Liebster Award.  Woohoo!  The Liebster Award!  Awesome!

Ok, um, the what?  I have no idea what that is.

Having my German heritage that I do (ok, I just lived there for three years as a military brat.  But still…), I recognized the word “liebster.”  I always thought it meant ‘loved one’ or ‘beloved’ or something like that.  So, I did a little research, and it turns out that I was right.  The Liebster Award is given by fellow bloggers to up and coming blogs in order to call them out and recognize them for their merit.  In other words, to show them that their blog is a ‘loved one.’  And get them a little recognition in the process.

How cool is that?

Dave Cenker is the awesome person who nominated me.  (If you’d like to read the post where I was nominated and where he so eloquently describes the Liebster Award process, click here.)  Dave, thank you so much for this. And I’ll be honest with you – when I first did the research and realized what was involved, I didn’t think I wanted to participate.  Being in the ‘blah’ mood that I’ve been in lately, I didn’t feel like putting forth the effort involved in accepting this award.  I know that sounds awful, but I just haven’t been myself lately.  I didn’t feel ready to “pay it forward” because I wasn’t even sure that I deserved it myself.  And besides all that, I wasn’t really ready to answer all those personal questions about myself.  (As you will see, part of accepting the award involves answering the questions that the presenter poses to you.)  So, at first, I had the idea to just silently thank Dave for the sweet gesture, but sweep it under the rug and hope it was soon forgotten about.

Well, that didn’t last long.

As my mood started to improve, so did my attitude.  As I started thinking about the award (and realizing what a true honor it really is to be recognized by a fellow blogger – especially one whose work I so highly respect), I started thinking about who I would nominate as well.  And in the process, I went and checked out their blogs again and realized how little I have appreciated the works of my fellow bloggers.  I am honored and humbled to be among such talented writers in the blog world and am proud to pass their blogs along to my readers.  Check them out when you get a chance.  You won’t be disappointed.   I hope they know how grateful I am to be considered a part of them.

So, without further adieu, the following is my list of nominees.  (The “rules” vary on this award and I’ve seen differing figures regarding how many blogs to nominate.  I’m going with five.  Once you’ve been nominated, should you choose to accept the nomination, the requirements are to 1) Link back to the author who nominated you; 2) Answer the questions presented by the author who nominated you; 3) Nominate five other authors for the award (or whatever number you choose); and 4) Ask ten questions of those you nominate.  Clear as mud?)

liebster award

Blog Nominees

1. Rampant and Golden – This is a wonderful blog full of beautiful poetry that never fails to inspire me.

2. Victorious Val – My fellow “Chicken Soup for the Soul” contributor who blogs about her victory over breast cancer.

3. Jenna Reinvented – A wonderful blog that I stumbled across full of wit and humor that never ceases to amuse me.

4. Beth Runs in RI – One of my favorite running bloggers whose unique “sign offs” on each blog always give me a chuckle.

5. Perpetual Ramblings – I love her “confession Thursdays” and creative use of “lists” to convey her subject matter.  Very intriguing.

(** And an honorable mention goes to Jill Haymaker.  Jill just had her work published for the second time in Chicken Soup for the Soul.  I’m always proud to find fellow Chicken Soup contributor blogs!)

Questions

And now for my answers to Dave’s ten questions.

1. If you could choose one mode of preferred transportation, what would it be?  Easy.  Boat.  If I could get everywhere I had to go in a boat, I’d be a happy woman.

2. You have the opportunity to lead any corporation, organization, or charity. Which one would you choose and why?  Oooh.  That’s hard.  I’m not sure I’m the “leader” type, but if I had to choose, I think I would like to be involved with the Muscular Dystrophy association.  My children’s father has Becker Muscular Dystrophy and my daughter is a carrier of the disease.  It would make my heart happy to see a cure found before it’s time for my daughter to start having children of her own.

3. You have a $20 bill in your pocket. What do you do with it?  Hmmm.  If I didn’t have to worry about anything ‘practical,’ I’d probably go buy some frozen yogurt and a book.

4. You may live your childhood during any era since the dawn of human civilization. Which one would you choose?  I’m pretty happy with the era I was born in.  Things are a little too crazy now, and I’m not crazy about the stereotypes that went along with the woman’s role in the home prior to my era.  So, I’m fine right where I am.

5. What is the most played piece of music on your digital player of choice?  Well, I listen to music when I’m running, so I’d say the most played song on my list is “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child.  There’s just something about that song that gets me moving.  When I’m not running, I always turn to the Matchbox 20 Pandora station.

6. You are able to ask one question about anything and know that you will get a truthful answer. What question do you ask? I would ask what people think of me.  And in most cases, I’d probably be sorry I asked that.  But I deeply believe in open honesty and would really like to know what I’m doing right and wrong.  Some things maybe could not be changed, but some things could.  And I’d like to know what they are.

7. If you could invoke any one law that society is required to follow, what would it be?  No bullying.  Period.  Just be nice to one another and accept each other exactly the way we are.  Differences are beautiful.

8. What is the one thing that you do each and every day that has the biggest impact on the quality of your life? I can’t say that I do this “each and every day,” but I would say writing has a huge impact on my life.  I express myself in ways that I might not otherwise do, and that release is extremely important for someone with my personality.  I can’t hold things in.  Ever.

9. What book are you reading now, or are planning on reading next?  I just finished Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (LOVED it!), and am currently reading Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson.  Next up: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh at the suggestion of my dear book buddy, Connie.  I always have at least one book going at any given time – sometimes two.  Even three on occasion.

10. What inspirational quote best defines you?  Wow, what a hard one!  I ADORE quotes, as can be seen by my blogs.  Hardly any of my writings are not centered around the words of a quote.  But if I had to choose, I suppose I’d say it’s the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about success.  It is what I strive for, even when I don’t consciously realize I’m doing it.  It’s why we’re here.

“Success: to laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Questions to the Nominees

And here’s my ten questions for any of my nominees that choose to accept their award:

1.  How old were you when you first realized that you were a writer?

2.  If you had to choose one person in your life who was your biggest inspiration – good or bad – who would that person be?

3.  What do you consider your biggest vice?

4.  Your biggest virtue?

5.  What do you consider your biggest passion (non-human passion, that is.  If you’re a parent, the standard answer is your children, I get it.  But I mean, what is your biggest passion)?

6.  What’s your favorite quote?  And why?

7.  What’s your favorite book?  And why?

8.  What’s your fondest childhood memory?

9.  Have you ever been published?  Do you want to be?

10.  How often do you write?  Do you wish you had time to write more, or do you feel like you spend too much time writing as it is?

Thanks for ‘playing’!  And thank you all for the inspiration you continue to provide through your words.  Keep writing – never stop.  It’s a gift that you were blessed with.  Even when you feel like no one is listening, they are.  I promise.  And your words will resonate in ways you can hardly imagine.

***

“I must write it all out, at any cost.  Writing is thinking, it is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.”
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh