Monday, November 11, 2019

"Newsies" at Arena Stage

Content warning: Cartoon level on stage violence including police brutality, historically accurate ableist terminology 

I confess I had never seen "Newsies" all the way through before. I know. Not even the Jeremy Jordan version. It was a gap in my pop culture knowledge.
For those with similar gaps, "Newsies" is based on the strike of the newsboys in 1899 a price raise of the cost charged the the newsboys who sold the papers. De facto leader of the newsboys Jack takes new kid Davey and his cute brother under his wing as they take up newselling after their dad is injured at work. When the paper raises the price, the newsboys, who are making pennies as it is, decide to strike. They are encouraged by a reporter one can only describe as plucky who has been writing soft news, and wants real stuff.
This story was originally a Disney movie directed by Kenny Ortega, then turned into a stage production with a book by Harvey Fierstein, and it shows. What I mean is these are deep issues about child labor, the power of million and billionaires over their employees, and it is mostly an excuse for singing and dancing. I am not complaining, a night of Alan Menken songs is not a bad night.
The cast was wonderful, Arena regulars will recognize many of the adult characters. The newsies include female newsies, and there is an actual small child (pleyed by Josiah Smothers the night I saw it) and an actual high school senior which did the work of making those two look younger. 
The choerographer and director made excellent use of the full theater. Action moves into the aisles and even the seats at one point. You know it's a DC crowd when leaflets drop from the ceiling and one audience member in the front row visibly pauses to read it.
There is a tap number and some references to Santa Fe that had me checking who decided Santa Fe first Newsies or "Rent". All in all, a fun night of song and dance.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Overdrive crunched the numbers on the life of a metered book in a library's e or audio catalog and what that means about what Macmillan is trying to suggest is the reasoning for their new policy. 
2. Bright Wall/Dark Room has temporarily taken down their paywall, and just in time for you to read this thoughtful piece about "Veronica Mars" and what it means to genderbend the noir detective.  It's look at the first and most recent season, and what all this means is just amazing. 
3. Over on the NaNo blog, Alexis Daria has some suggestions for the care and feeding of your writing and yourself. 

Monday, November 04, 2019


I have a complex relationship with Fall. My birthday falls in fall so I feel I should love it. The trees turning colors is gorgeous. Breaking out a different set of clothes is fun. But in fourth grade I got pneumonia in fall. In fifth grade my allergies had gotten so bad my parents had me tested and my leaf mold allergy took leaf playing off the table. I spent one fall unable to walk more than a few blocks without my inhaler, as an excessive amount of rain followed by mild weather meant the leaf mold was everywhere. I hate all the darkness, and the sleeping better and warmer and cozier doesn't make up for it.
Fall is NaNo. Fall is a busy period with my day job stuff. Fall is the lead up to the holiday season where there are so many expectations.
I went to an event for the Capital Area Food Bank and was reminded that the cold and the weather and the where will I get food is even more fraught for others. 
I always hesitate to do the other people have it worse stuff, because yes, they do,but you can also have feelings about your own stuff.
So this year I am trying to come to better terms with Fall. In what I expect of it and myself during this time.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Three Interesting Things

1. Alexander Chee talked eloquently about how he now responds to the what should I do if I want to write about some not like me question that writers of color are pretty much constantly asked. 
2. In a story that fascinated me for learning about how things may work, an armed shoplifter broke into these people's house to evade police.  Their house was ruined.  The city and police argued that insurance should cover the damage the armed standoff caused to their house and not them because they were just doing their jobs.  I have mixed feelings about the utility of armed standoffs, since blasting rockets at a house seems like the risk to others outweighs the reward of catching a dude who shoplifted stuff from a big box store. But mostly, it had not occurred to me the collateral damage of aggressive policing if police destroy your property in pursuit of someone unrelated to you.  
3. Oh, and you may have heard, Washington has added another championship team.  (And belated kudos to both the Mystics and the Valor. The hockey team* knows I love them.)

*Sports superstitions must be observed.  Wait, does mentioning them cause problems?  Forget I said anything. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Seven Things Twice - A NaNoWrimo Season Approacheth Guide

Seven reasons NaNoWrimo is great fun! 

1.       Lots of writers writing all across the world.  If you are a person who works better with groups or with the social pressure of knowing other people are out there writing, NaNo provides that. 

2.       50000 words is a lot of words.  Depending on your genre, it may not be a whole book.  It may be half a book or a third of a book.  But it's 50000 more words than you started the month with. 

3.       There are charts!  Do you love charts and graphs of progress?  NaNo has these.  It recalculates based on your progress. 

4.       There are write ins and parties and other gatherings of writers.  If you've never done a write in before, I suggest trying one.  Often, once you've dragged your butt to the coffee shop or library or wherever, I feel motivated to have words written before I leave.  If it doesn't work, now you know more about your process. 

5.       There are sprints!  There's a sprinting tool on the website, and also sprints running on Twitter throughout the month. 

6.       You are encouraged to write without editing.  This means you can do silly things like bracket things you already know you're going to delete later, but still count them towards your total.

7.       NaNo attracts writers throughout the spectrum.  There are folks who literally decided yesterday they were going to do this, all the way up to published writers.  Remember the bright eyed enthusiasm you had when you first thought, "I'm going to write a book!"  NaNo can help you get back in touch with that. 


Seven reasons NaNoWrimo may not be for you:

1.       It's a really fast pace.  It is not everyone's ideal pace.  I will tell you, I almost always have one day where I get nothing done, and a few where I don't hit the target.  But aiming for that goal is helpful.  I once tried doubling the pace, and the book I wrote was a mess, and not in a good way.  If you've never tried this pace, I recommend giving it a shot. 

2.       If you are used to editing as you go, it may be really hard for you to not edit.  Again, I recommend trying. But there is also a thing called NaNo rebelling, and you can do whatever makes the most sense for your process.  Be open to not editing.  But if it's holding you back, then be a rebel.  They still let you come to the write ins. 

3.       November may be a crap month for you work wise, home wise, family wise.  NaNo also runs a Camp NaNo in April and July if those are better for you.  I do November even though it's a short month and there's a holiday stuck in the middle.  I usually find I do almost nothing writing wise in December, but Januaryish when things start to get back to normal, having a story ready for my fresh eyes is good.  Also, if you get say 25000 words in the first half, then that's still progress.

4.       You're a pantser who digs yourself into big plot holes.  I'm a pantser and I do often find I run out of plot in week two.  And the pressure of NaNo makes me invent something new to get me out of the hole and keep going.  But, you may be a writer who writes yourself into a hole and needs a week of TV to get yourself back out.  And then the pressure of the ticking clock may not be useful to you.  I've been told plotters don't have this problem.  Is this true plotters?

5.       You became a writer so you didn't have to talk to people.  And I keep talking about meetups and write ins and talking to strangers on the internet. If all these extra people sound like too much, you can avoid them, I promise.  I like people.  But you can do NaNo and tell no one. You can do NaNo, sign up and never go to a thing, never check the Twitter.  It's up to you. 

6.       You are a real writer who does not need a stated event to write books.  Cool!  Good for you.  I also like writing books in months other than November.  But – and I use this example a lot, runners can run on their own and they can enter marathons.  Both are valid ways to be runners.  You can still be a writer if you never NaNo.  You can also be a writer who NaNos. 

7.       You hate arbitrary numbers.  Look, I don't know why they picked 50000 words either.  But make your own goal.  Or write 50000 knowing you will need more or less to do it.