Tips for Teenage Writers

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A few months ago I had the privilege of speaking at a theater event sponsored by Playwrights Project, a fantastic organization which uses drama-based activities to teach literacy and communication skills to youth and seniors. They also sponsor the California Young Playwrights Contest, professionally producing winning plays by writers under age 19.  They produced my first play as a teenager and were instrumental in my becoming a writer.

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On this special night I got to speak to the teen finalists and winners of this year’s Contest, being produced this month of January and premiering this coming week (http://www.playwrightsproject.org/PBYW.htm).

I hope these words are an encouragement to writers of all ages.

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Great to be with you tonight and congratulations to all the finalists and winners!

To me you’re all winners, because I wrote three plays over three years, before being a winner of the California Young Playwrights Contest, and each year I took the page of written comments they sent me, you know what I’m talking about — I took those comments to heart and tried to do better the next time. And the next time, and the next time. For that habit of seeking improvement, for those practical examples of how to work past mistakes and weaknesses toward success, I’m forever grateful to Playwrights Project, because those lessons have served me well in writing and life ever since.

That winning play production in 1989, 25 years ago amazingly, and during my freshman year at Stanford, was my very first. I thought: maybe I had a voice, something worthwhile to say, and maybe I was saying it in a way that made people listen, think, or be inspired to live or act differently. Or maybe, just maybe, I was writing so that I would live or act or think differently. Your playwriting, your art, will change you as much or more than it changes anyone else.

Whatever you do in your life, with your life, and whomever you do it with, here are three things to remember, whether you go on to be a playwright, an accountant, a lab scientist, or anything else:

  1. Notice the Unnoticeable. Don’t stop looking around you, noticing others who are rarely seen or think they’re not being seen. Listen carefully to what they say, speaking honestly about what you see and hear.
  2. Ask the Unaskable. Don’t stop asking tough questions. Don’t be afraid to suggest tough solutions — or to not suggest a solution at all.
  3. Feel the Unfeelable. Don’t say, “I can’t put that much anger out there.” Put it out there. Or don’t say, “I can’t put that much joy out there.” Put it out there, and everything in between. The scariest place in the world might be on the empty page. But it’s also the safest and freest place in the world, to be yourself.

Just think. Your winning play, the one you’re being honored for, today, the one being lauded above hundreds of others across the state, the one that’s going to be produced in a few months and bring you so much encouragement and confidence and joy? Imagine: This play of yours will one day be your worst play.

But that’s okay. Because it means you’ll only be getting better and better. Every play you write builds upon the last one, just as every year of your life ahead will build on the year you live before. Nothing is wasted in the life of a writer, an artist, nothing is ever wasted in the life of one who chooses to see with both eyes, nothing is wasted in the life of one who chooses to live with their whole heart, chooses to be grateful for the life they have, no matter what, and who want to share about it with everyone, warts and all.

Nothing you experience, or hear, or suffer, or succeed in, or learn in life, will ever be wasted. My first playwriting teacher, Janet Tiger, said that if you decide to be a writer, you’ll never be bored again. She was right. From then on, after that playwriting residency at Patrick Henry High School, even if I was dragged to the mall by my mom, or sitting in a doctor’s office with gross beige walls, I was never bored. I was always checking things out. Checking people out.

You should always be watching people, listening to people, to what they say and what goes unsaid, what they do and leave undone. Because as a writer what you leave out is just as important as what you leave in. What you leave to our imagination in the audience, is just as powerful as what you explicitly tell or show us on stage.

I can’t wait to hear all you have to say, to show, to share. Just never, ever stop. Congratulations.

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Onward!

(This blog originally posted on Jan. 19, 2015. em>)

The Voice of Victory

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Yesterday, April 26, 2015, I had the privilege of speaking in Times Square for the 100th Armenian Genocide Commemoration – a call to remember the 1.5 million Armenians massacred by Ottoman Turkey seeking to ethnically cleanse its country (a good portion of which used to be ancient Armenia).

Among writers and scholars far more qualified than I to speak on the subject, I was honored to be there because of service, because I currently chair a national Armenian women’s organization dedicated to serving our people around the world.

Sometimes when we serve, we go on unexpected journeys, learning unexpected lessons and benefiting from unexpected opportunities. Yesterday’s was the largest crowd I had ever given a speech to, and perhaps ignorance is bliss: I later learned that there were 15,000 people in the crowd, which might have been a knee-freezer had I known earlier!

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Word for 2015 – Revisited

It seemed fitting to start my blog’s second year with a closer look at the word I chose as my theme for 2015: shed.

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Since we’re nearing the end of first quarter 2015, I decided to check in quarterly about this word, this goal, of mine. Every three months seems like a decent interval to assess and recalibrate my efforts.

So far, I’m learning that the more I try to shed, the more needs shedding. Or at least, the more I realize needs shedding. On some level, like a pile of mail, or like exploratory surgery, you don’t fully realize all that there is, until you jump full in.

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Here are the areas I identified three months ago.

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Done with Year One!

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This week is the first anniversary of my blog, Musings from a Writer, Director & Encourager.

Like with most meaningful things in life, I can’t believe it went so fast and yet it seemed like forever ago when I started. Perhaps that’s because I learned so much, grew so much and found my view of the writing life expanded so much – just when I thought I had it down.

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Rave Awards!

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Dear Readers-

I’m so proud to share that my blog has won Best Blog, Third Place in the “Rave Awards” of the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB (RRBC).

I appreciate everyone’s readership and votes worldwide to make this a reality — and I’m even more grateful given that my blog is not even a year old yet! Looking forward to learning and growing as I go, one post at a time.

I’m also happy to report that a short inspirational piece of mine has also been published in the RRBC’s recent anthology, Rave Soup for the Writer’s Soul, available on Amazon at http://amzn.com/B00QVOGEHC.

Thank you again. Onward!

Lisa Kirazian

For more information about the Rave Reviews Book Club and their resources for writers, visit http://ravereviewsbynonniejules.wordpress.com/.

Blog Tour — ​JESSICA: The Autobiography of an Infant​​​, by Dr. Jeffrey Von Glahn

I am pleased today to host a blog tour stop for Dr. Jeffrey Von Glahn’s fascinating book, JESSICA: The Autobiography of an Infant.

Jessica by Jeffrey Von Glahn

Background:  

​Jessica had always been haunted by the fear that the unthinkable had happened when she had been “made-up.” For as far back as she could remember, she had no sense of a Self. Her mother thought of her as the “perfect infant” because “she never wanted anything and she never needed anything.” As a child, just thinking of saying “I need” or “I want” left her feeling like an empty shell and that her mind was about to spin out of control. Terrified of who––or what––she was, she lived in constant dread over being found guilty of impersonating a human being.

Jeffrey Von Glahn, Ph.D., an experienced therapist with an unshakable belief in the healing powers of the human spirit, and Jessica blaze a trail into this unexplored territory. As if she has, in fact, become an infant again, Jessica remembers in extraordinary detail events from the earliest days of her life––events that threatened to twist her embryonic humanness from its natural course of development. Her recollections are like listening to an infant who could talk describe every psychologically dramatic moment of its life as it was happening.

When Dr. Von Glahn met Jessica, she was 23. Everyone regarded her as a responsible, caring person – except that she never drove and she stayed at her mother’s when her husband worked nights.

For many months, Jessica’s therapy was stuck in an impasse. Dr. Von Glahn had absolutely no idea that she was so terrified over simply talking about herself. In hopes of breakthrough, she boldly asked for four hours of therapy a day, for three days a week, for six weeks. The mystery that was Jessica cracked open in dramatic fashion, and in a way that Dr. Von Glahn could never have imagined. Then she asked for four days a week – and for however long it took. In the following months, her electrifying journey into her mystifying past brought her ever closer to a final confrontation with the events that had threatened to forever strip her of her basic humanness.

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BLOG POST:

​In this excerpt, I had been seeing Jessica for over a year. I was still struggling with getting her to be more open about herself.

I knew I had to do something about Jessica’s continuing guardedness about herself. I had a foolish urge to ask Jessica herself about this, but, fortunately, the notion flew out of my mind as fast as it had entered….I finally developed what I thought was a rather creative idea. Little did I know that…I would make an unexpected discovery: for all these months, I had been laboring under a delusion about who was sitting across from me; and, in fact, I had been deluded from the moment Jessica first stepped into my office….

One day, after Jessica finished venting her feelings about whatever had troubled her since the last session, I said I had a question, gave her a warm smile and said, “How do you feel about me trying to get to know you?”

I sprang this question on her without any warning, for a very specific reason. I hoped it would force her to react on the spot, before her defenses had had a chance to get organized. I was tired of listening to bland reports of incidents that had already happened, after her psyche had transformed them into emotionally sterile recollections….

Even though I had never before asked her anything even remotely similar, she replied immediately. It was as if she had been expecting my question from the very start of therapy and had been steeling herself for it ever since.

“You’re just a computer,” she quickly began. She sounded like a professor who was impatiently explaining a fundamental point to an obtuse student. “You’re just a thing I put information into and get a program back. You can’t be human. You can’t have any feelings.” Then her words stopped as abruptly as they had started. She stared blankly at me.

It felt like a million light bulbs went off in my head. I immediately thought, “No wonder I’ve had such a hard time reaching her. In her mind, I’m not a person. I’m just a pile of electrical parts!”

When Jessica looked at me, did she see that I was a human being? Of course she did. Yet, that reality wasn’t enough for her to overcome her fear about relating to me as a human being. Why she wasn’t able to do that was beyond my comprehension. I just couldn’t understand how she could see me as something other than human, after I’d spent months of unrelenting effort trying to reach her.

Her chilling answer was one I might have expected from a robot, not from someone who functioned in society, talked face-to-face to me, and, aside from her inability to stay home alone at night and her fear of driving, behaved like an ordinary person. I had never felt so estranged from another human being in my life.

Jessica by Jeffrey Von Glahn

Twitter Handle:  @JeffreyVonGlahn
Website:  http://jeffreyvonglahn.com

Purchase Link for book:  http://www.amazon.com/Jessica-Autobiography-Jeffrey-Von-Glahn-ebook/dp/B00IUCKOD8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418530951&sr=1-1&keywords=JESSICA+by+jeffrey+von+glahn​

This tour sponsored by 4WillsPublishing.wordpress.com.

Thank you, Jeffrey and 4Wills Publishing, for such an insightful and important work.

Onward!

Beauty Equals Good: A Beastly Myth, by February Grace (Guest Post)

It is a pleasure to welcome author February Grace to my blog this week for a guest post. I greatly admire her as a person and as a writer (see past blog entry here). Her newest novel, UPON A TIME, debuts this month.

And her perspective, now more than ever, is a meaningful one for all of us. Read her post below:

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It has bothered me for a very long time that the ‘good’ in people is represented by beauty in most fairy tales and indeed, overall in our culture.

Anyone who is less than perfect or dare I say it, less than gorgeous, is usually portrayed in these stories as being on the wrong side of the fight.

If you’d believe these tales, most disfigured people turn evil and murderous.

Born without perfect looks? Forget it, you’re doomed to evil, or at least to suffering from day one. You will be branded a ‘monster’ (I’m thinking about Quasimodo here…) or worse. Tortured, bullied, humiliated.

It’s a tired old myth that has stayed with me, leading me to ask myself a question not too long ago: what if Prince Charming’s looks were no longer flawless? Would his betrothed (you know, the girl from the ball who lost her shoe) still look at him the same way? How would he cope with the changes in his appearance, himself?

We all know that the Beast was cursed with a change in his appearance because his heart was unkind; but what if a kind-hearted person was suddenly disfigured through no fault of his own?

It happens in the real world, every day.

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Go There.

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If there’s a place that has inspired you in the past — to write a specific story, or to revel in a great life experience, a place where you somehow feel free and most yourself, a place that you always come away from refreshed, better than you were before, then guess what?

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Write What You Know?

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Writers often hear the advice ‘Write What You Know’ – sometimes attributed to Mark Twain. But this certainly is a loaded idea and issue.

Most people misinterpret the adage to mean ‘write only about what we have directly experienced,’ but that can be extremely limiting.

What does it really mean to Write What We Know?

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