Getting a Clear Head — and Table.

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My husband Steve trained as a scientist before becoming a high-level consultant for biotech companies. Yes, about 180 degrees from my professional world, but that’s the spice of life 🙂

But when God gave us two children and our already-cluttered lives took on an even greater load of messes and piles, and when the girls are eager to start a craft or a board game on the already-loaded kitchen table, Steve says: “We need to do a line clearance.”

And of course I roll my eyes — here’s the scientist lingo entering our lives again. But I also love how he applies his complicated field to everyday life.

A term used in manufacturing and lab work, Line Clearance means a segregation and cleaning of different processing and work areas to avoid cross-contamination.

Translation?

Clean up one project/mess before you start another one.

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Time-Saving Tips for Writers — or Anyone

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The next three weeks are major for me, as I help put on a conference for a national women’s organization I currently chair. Lots of workshop material to finalize, speeches to write and present, business sessions to run, and supplementary resources to prepare for participants.

I have to be ON and make every minute count. Not just for the conference, but for our family, relatives coming to town, my other writing projects, my own health and sleep — everything. People often comment that I do too much, and it’s true (and I do even more than most of them know!).  But I’m able to do ‘a lot’ because of some time-saving tips that have hugely helped me over the years.

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When I Grow Up: Matilda and Our Armenian Daughters

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And when I grow up, when I grow up, I will be brave enough
To fight the creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed each night to
Be a grown up.

“When I Grow Up,” Matilda (Original Broadway Production, Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin)

We were in New York last week with our daughters – their first time there. I wrote last week about the special Armenian Genocide Commemorations we were honored to participate in. Unforgettable.

But it was also an unforgettable family weekend with our girls: Going to the top of the Empire State Building to take in the view of the city and the Statue of Liberty, shopping at the Toys R Us (with the four-story ferris wheel inside!) and the larger-than-life M&M Store in Times Square, eating Junior’s Cheesecake, seeing their aunt and uncle, cousins, great aunt and uncle, family — and seeing their first Broadway show.

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Their first Broadway show – no small moment for this playwright. Thanks to some finagling by their uncle, my brother-in-law, we got tickets to see Matilda, one of my older daughter’s favorite books.

It was a delight, deeply meaningful and yet also humorous and musically catchy. A brave and unusually gifted girl overcoming a horrible family situation and bonding with a kind teacher who also benefits from the girl’s bravery and becomes braver herself.

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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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Why This Week Matters

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The purple forget-me-not flower is the official emblem of the worldwide 100th Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. See http://armeniangenocide100.org.


The week ahead is 100 years in the making.

The 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 will be commemorated this week around the world, at a variety of marches, events, services, performances and monuments, on April 24th. Those who call ourselves Armenian, or who are friends with Armenians, are all too familiar with this milestone tragedy in world history.

But many are not familiar with this, the first genocide of the 20th century — Ottoman Turkey’s systematic killings of 1.5 million Armenians – as well as Assyrians and others – in their effort to create a pan-Turkish state.

Hitler studied this atrocity when planning the Holocaust; lawyer and scholar Raphael Lemkin coined the word “genocide” in the early 1940s in response to what happened to the Armenians in 1915; documentation is clear and deep in worldwide archives — 145 articles in The New York Times alone that year, Turkish military records and memos authorizing murder, first-hand foreign diplomat accounts by letter, photos too gruesome to show here, missionary diaries, and family oral histories. Turkey wanted these enterprising Armenian Christians wiped off the face of the earth. Kill the leaders and drive the rest into the desert to die.


Henry Morgenthau Sr.
U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, 1919:

“When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact. . . . I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915.”


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The In-Between Places: How My Faith and Art Fit Together

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How my faith and my art fit together has been one of the great challenges — and satisfactions — of my life and writing career so far.

For years, I separated my beliefs and my creative work — writing faith-themed non-fiction (articles) for Christian publications and audiences, and fiction (plays/screenplays/novels) for mainstream audiences.

Only here and there would I create small overlaps. But recently I decided it was time to fully integrate these two ‘sides’ of who I am, with a novel series and script adaptation I will share about more when completed (soon!)  They’re not ‘sides’ really; they’re at my core. They don’t run contrary to each other.  But in this world of ours, the various parts of who we are can seem that way.

Because here’s the dilemma I’ve encountered in the writing industry, or so I’ve been told: my writing is too spiritual for mainstream publishers/producers and too worldly for Christian publishers/producers.

Translation? Too many faith professions or references to Jesus, God and the Bible for nonbelievers; too much ‘language,’ sex/intimacy or misguided behavior for believers.  (Not that there’s very much of either, outright — but even a single instance of one seems to bother somebody or other).

Why be so inclusive? Because I want to explore who people really are. How messy and imperfect we all are. I select contexts very carefully, and I strive to make all situations and choices believable for the characters in the story. Not glorified, but clarified. Even if I don’t personally agree with all that my characters do, and all that happens to them in the story, I want to show the reality of who they are and where they are at.  I want readers/viewers to understand how and why they got there.  Just like I’m called, in life, to understand and care for people who may be different from me.

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Being a Musician vs. Being a Writer

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In my freshman year of college a few things happened where I felt I had to decide between being a musician and being a writer.

 

I had gotten to the point in the repertoire as a violinist where I’d either have to become a professional or keep it as a hobby. To take the professional route would require me to spend a dozen or more hours a day in practice and let go of most other time commitments in my life. I had concertized; I had been in orchestras, even toured a bit — but I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted above all else.

 

Alongside my musical studies in those years, I also studied theater, acting and playwriting. It just so happened that in this same period of my freshman year, I had entered a young playwrights festival contest and got word that I was one of the contest winners. The prize was to have my play produced professionally.

 

The process of seeing my play come to life for the first time — working with a director and dramaturg, doing revisions, watching actors audition to play my characters, seeing them bring the roles to life — all of it transformed me. My words, my thoughts, my voice were not only coming out but being affirmed by professional artists and by audiences.

 

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As an 18-year old, this took me in a direction I didn’t quite expect. Music was always my main thing; theater was second. But winning that contest and seeing my play performed in front of me that year clarified my decision.

 

I decided to be a writer.

 

Why? For the “glory”? No. There were gloriously satisfying moments as a musician too — performing solo on stage to enthusiastic applause after hours of learning a piece, winning regional or national competitions, touring the country. It required my creativity, my being, poured into the work, just like with writing. I knew that either field would require a lot of un-glorious work, rejection, and persistence, like in any arts field.

 

What was different?

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