Tuesday, January 09, 2007

It's the morning of my last full day here, and I actually made it to breakfast, something I haven't done in over a week. Here's the way my "real-life" schedule worked out in the end:

9:30ish Wake up, eat cereal and OJ in my studio.
10:15ish Start to think about working.
10:45 Start working. Slowly.
11:45 Start listening for lunch basket delivery.
12:00 Start looking out the window for lunch basket delivery.
12:15 Lunch!
12:30 Starting productive period.
3:00 Break, shower.
3:30 Really on a roll now.
5:00 Have to stop, unfortunately, to return lunch basket and go to dinner. The only problem with my schedule here: dinner comes when I'm working my best.
5:45 Email
6:30 Dinner.
7:30 Usually someone's presentation.
8:30 More email, blog, MySpace upkeep, chatting, ping pong, a movie.
10:00 Impromptu party or open studio.
12:30 Go to bed.

Not as ambitious or productive as I first set out, but one must be realistic. I should have worked more in the evenings, probably, but the few times I tried I got almost nothing done.

All told, I "finished" a 60-page draft of the entire Gloryana libretto, minus most of the lyrics, wrote two big songs from the first act (music and lyrics), and sketched a third lyric. Maybe I'll get to finish it today. Also, Eddie and I wrote an entire new song for Meet John Doe and got a good start on a second, plus a pile of little book rewrites. Not bad!

Tomorrow, I catch the 8:15AM(!) bus home from Keene, then on Thursday I fly to Memphis for four days of music and research for Gloryana. After that, a few more weeks of work polishing John Doe and I'm down to DC to start rehearsals!

Thanks to everyone who's been reading this, it's been a great outlet for my stuck-in-the-woods thoughts. Though I can't say I've had the proverbial life-changing experience, I certainly came to understand my own creative process a lot more, something I hope to be able to recreate away from here. There is a sense of freedom here, as if you can try anything and it might just be good. An "edit later" attitude, which is so valuable and sometimes so hard to find under the pressures of daily life, when every second counts and every word and note feels like it should be perfect right off the bat, so as not to squander what precious writing time you get. The sense of community is also a terrific boon-- there are a lot of people out there doing amazing work, struggling the same way, trying to communicate something, and, it turns out, most of them live in Brooklyn, so I'll be seeing a lot more of them.

As for the rest of you, see you at the show!

Friday, January 05, 2007

The week ends and things are looking up. My block, it turns out, was created by being under the weather with no other symptoms than having no words or notes to put on paper and being tired all the time. Three days of much sleeping seems to have corrected that and I'm back on track. A few pangs of homesickness, almost completely remedied by going into town to the Petersborough Historical Society tonight for their "MacDowell Downtown" evening, held on the first Friday of each month. Tonight, they were showing "Lady in the Wings", the 1950s Hallmark of Fame movie about the MacDowells, Marian, especially. Seeing a 50-year-old movie about my life of the past 3 weeks was very strange and very moving. So little has changed, down to the lunch baskets and the hours of the meals, all the buildings look the same, everything. Really brought home the incredible tradition I've been a part of.

Spent several hours after the movie drinking red wine in an Iranian visual artist/architect's studio with another visual artist and a Japanese-American/Swedish translator trying not to look too ignorant while they discussed "theory" and Georges Bataille and Michel Foucault while in the background someone's laptop played Björk singing "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun" in Icelandic. You know, basically what I'd be doing at home.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Had a lousy first day of the new year. Terrible, depressing weather and a miserable day of work coupled to make me feel hopelessly marooned in the middle of nowhere. The work problems, I think, came from forcing myself to work on a project which is completely stumping me and which I didn't want to work on but felt I should. The result: no productive work done on that project and none on the one I wanted to be working on. I watched a couple DVDs from the library: a film called "The Best Thief in the World" by Jacob Kornbluth, starring Mary Louise Parker, and a collection of animation shorts by George Griffin. Both worth seeing, probably more enjoyable when they're not methods of distracting one from the work one should be doing. Maybe I'll go back to work tonight and try the project I want to be working on. Who knows. Trying not to look at the day as a forecaster of the whole year.

New Years Eve was a great success. Pitchers of Ketel One martinis, great music, starting with several hours of Motown gems (Edwin Starr is my new hero), a roaring fire. See pics for some impressionistic shots of the room.

Picture of the MacDowell's music room from the tour the other day. The piano belonged to composer Louise Talma, who spent many of her birthdays here.

It snowed! Not much, but enough to be picturesque, at least, and enough to capture the deer, fox and bear(!) tracks on my lane.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Yesterday, I was one of 8 people who squeezed into a 6-person van to take the much-hyped tour of the entire campus given by Blake, the astonishing MacDowell spirit guide and do-everything man. Three hours later, we had learned more than we ever expected and got a real sense of the history and importance of this place, how close it had come to going under, and the exciting plans for its future. 2007 marks the Colony's Centennial, and we are all very fortunate to be here for the New Year's! We think we'll be having a mini-reading by whoever wants to participate, then Bobby Previte, a composer who just joined us, told us he will be setting up the DJ-quality sound system that inexplicably lives in the library and treating us to the "7 hours of dance mixes" he has brought with him. I will keep you all fully posted.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The faces with wings were called "soul effigies", and were meant to resemble the deceased.

This morning, a woman who works part time at the Colony and the rest of the time at the Peterborough Historical Society took three of us on a tour of the graveyard where Thornton Wilder drew his inspiration for Our Town. It overlooked a hill, as the play says, and there, in "Avenue F" was the Gibbs family plot. Amazing.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Yule Log, accompanied by the vat of bourbon that Suzanne bought for a song at the local liquor store. Suzanne. Not Amanda. Amanda wishes there to be great clarity on the matter. It's Suzanne's hooch. Suzanne.

The 3 1/2 foot Yule Log, Julia Child's own recipe with almond extract and meringue mushrooms. Awesome.

Christmas Dinner!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Beatrix Gates, Judy Stone and Wendy Walters at Christmas breakfast
It's 8:15 on Christmas evening, and it feels like it's very late, mostly because we had dinner at 4:00 (see pic). After delicious chicken with pomegranate seeds (an Iranian dish in honor of one of the colonists) and the world's longest yule log, one of the filmmakers here presented a few selections from the vast MacDowell library of avant-garde films, some more accessible than others. (One started, and after a few minutes, one confused colonist asked "Is this the film?" He had a point.)

The past few days have been somewhat peaceful, as about a third of the colonists either left for good or went home for the holidays. I've started writing the first music of my time here, and it's a great relief to be using that part of my brain. One song I actually wrote most of on the guitar, which ended up great, very different from anything I would've written on the piano.

Christmas Eve, I decided to join the 21st Century by creating a MySpace page for myself (and one where I can upload music). Several colonists suggested other equally pathetic Christmas Eve activities, like calling exes and "seeing if they're doing anything" or hanging out on Match.com. I ignored them, and I already have 10, count them 10 friends. If you want to be my friend (and are on MySpace), please click here immediately. You will be treated to an embarrassingly out-of-date headshot, among other things.

I've also been reading a collection of the writings of Lorraine Hansberry, author of "A Raisin in the Sun", all written before she was 34 (my age), when she died of cancer. (The title of the collection is "To Be Young, Gifted and Black", which inspired the iconic song by Nina Simone.) The fragments of essays and personal correspondence are so dazzling, so assured about the responsibility of art in the world, and specifically her place in the art and voice of her time, it makes me sit in awe and wonder if I have any idea what I'm doing. And if I do know what I'm doing, could I sit and articulate it, and if I could articulate it, I'm pretty certain I would never have the self-confidence to set it down on paper and show it to anyone. When writing for characters who are very different than oneself, from backgrounds worlds apart, I guess it's only natural to think "What business have I putting words in their mouths, or even inviting them to walk out on stage?" But then I don't know anyone else writing about the subjects in Gloryana, certainly not in musical theater, so I guess I'll keep on trying to "say what I can say", as fellow Colonist and poet/librettist Beatrix Gates said on my first night here.

At some point, I guess one has to realize that no one will give you that kind of license if you don't have it yourself. I can't decide if it's more important to cultivate that assurance and risk seeming like an egomaniac (what if what I write doesn't measure up?), or if a sense of humility and reverence for everyone I respect keeps me open to growth (or will that self-effacement hold me back from "breaking open the form" and other pretentious obsessions that keep me up at night? Actually, they don't, I sleep very well. Do I sleep too well to be great?)

The echoes of these piteous thoughts reverberate off every other young writer of the past 1000 years and make an insipid and un-festive noise this Christmas night. I'll return to the couch area and listen to the writers argue about the fantastic young novelists I've never heard of and most likely won't have time to read.