Report on The Last Ekphrasis

IMG_3748Last night we enjoyed one another’s company for the last time — at least, it was the last time that Ekphrasis will gather under my auspices with its regular purpose of sharing and critique, since I’m moving to Texas to start my PhD at Baylor. It was a magnificent meeting! There were food and flowers, hilarity and drama, literature and art. In attendance were myself, Sharon G, Devon W, Eric M, Richard B, Curt D, Laura W, Andrew S MacD, Betsy G, Jeff H, Amanda L, and two newcomers, Thaina D and Diante R.

Even though it was a sort of a going-away shindig, it was really just an ordinary hard-working meeting. Lots of people shared excellent work.

IMG_3744(1)At the beginning of the meeting, Thaina and Devon shared the hot-off-the-press Spring 2016 issue of Xanadu, Lehigh Carbon Community College’s literary magazine. Thaina and Devon, along with Diante, are student editors of the magazine this semester, and I’ve been a faculty adviser to it for six years. This semester’s may have been the most professional issue of the magazine we’ve ever produced: the design is streamlined and debonair. Diante has a poem published in it; Thaina has a few poems and several pieces of prose.

indexThen Sharon G read another chapter of her Robin Hood novel adaptation, Mercy and Justice. This chapter included a sad story of a poor, cast-off, single, expectant mother, helped by Marian and Robin, which was a good way of revealing their compassionate character. Sharon has completed about half of this novel and hopes to draft the rest of it this fall, after finishing her current novel-in-progress, Chrysalis!

13184680_1014038361966917_2053915199_oRichard B and Eric M each showed pieces of their artwork. Richard is writing and illustrating a comic book starring his Jack Windsword character. Eric is working on drawings he’ll bring to the Baltimore Comic Con. Their work is somewhat similar–both depict heroes, villians, mythic, archetypal characters with bold lines and swift action–but their techniques are quite different. The black-and-white image to the right is from Richard’s book. The colored images below from Star Wars and Star Trek are some of Eric’s works of art.

13170539_935769673203519_1959451713_o

 

 

Then we moved into a sort of stage-like area we had set up, in order to watch several theatrical scenes.

First up was a stage adaptation of a bit from a Brandon Sanderson novel, by Betsy G. It was a scene packed with secondary-world-building, lots of neologisms and names and cultural references. In it, an experienced con artist is teaching her apprentice how to fool her potential victims by posing as a foreign princess. The prize? Her dupe’s boots. 13184742_935769666536853_1112604979_o

Next up was a selection from Jeff H’s recent full-length adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, which was recently produced by Players of the Stage. This scene was Toad on trial for causing a motor car accident–which is really just a cover for his enemies to lock him up and take his ancestral mansion.

Then came my short play, Galatea Awakes, which I wrote for my creative writing class at LCCC, and from which I previously posted a selection. It’s a retelling of the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, and I’m exploring themes of the artist’s isolation and relationships, the idea of the art as a child, issues of voyeurism and objectification, questions about the nature of beauty, etc. It was admirably performed by Richard, Andrew, and Sharon, and much hilarity ensued–sometimes when it wasn’t in the script, such as when Pygmalion whispers to his animated statue to “scroll down, scroll down” for him so he can read his script!

We got to see another play from my creative writing class, too: this one by Thaina. It is a side-splittingly funny drama entitled Why Deals With the Devil Never Work (And You Should Always Read the Fine Print). I’ll give you just a tiny snippet here to give you an idea of how funny it is:

ASH: Look man, I just really want my soul back. Please? Pretty please? Have a heart.
SATAN: What part of Lucifer, Demon, King of Hell, do you not understand?
ASH: I know you’re Satan and all, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk!
SATAN: Do you listen to yourself when you speak?
ASH: Hm? Of course I do! My soul is gone, not my hearing!

Yup, it’s all like that. With a great twist at the end.

And we were treated to a performance of a powerful slam poem by Diante, a tale of troubles and salvation. It is meant to become his final project for Creative Writing class.

Finally, Laura W ended our evening with a mind-boggling 2-min mystery: a piece of flash fiction in 500 words. Since Laura won most of the weeks of Signum University’s “Almost an Inkling” flash fiction contest, you won’t be surprised to hear that it was magnificent!

There were some amazing conversations, too, about the “Artist-as-inspired-romantic-genius” myth, about the use of profanity and taking the Lord’s name in writing and drama, about anachronism and style and craft. These are the talks on which my soul feeds.

So, yes: a fitting ending for, what, eight years, I think, of Ekphrasis meetings. I’ll miss you guys, and I hope you carry on!

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Sharon’s #3DNC: Scene 1

Sharon wrote an entire play over the Three-Day Novel weekend! Here is scene one of Love’s Labours Happily Ever After

 

ACT [1]

SCENE [1]

(The field surrounding PRINCE KIT’S castle. The entrance to the castle is UR. PRINCE KIT is preset gripping a glass slipper. PHILIP and EUGENE enter dejectedly. PHILIP is helping the blind EUGENE, who is holding a long braid of golden hair. They take a few steps, unbeknownst to KIT, and EUGENE’s feet gets tangled in the hair, causing him to trip and fall to the ground. The noise gets the attention of KIT.)

PHILIP:

(helping EUGENE stand)

Are you alright?

EUGENE:

Fine, fine. Who’d have known something so pretty could get you so tangled up? Must be why people tell you to stay out of their hair.

PHILIP:

I wish you’d let me carry it for you.

EUGENE:

No. No, thank you. I can manage, but maybe we should wrap it round like a scarf or something.

KIT:

Welcome, travelers. Where do you come from?

EUGENE:

Who’s that?

PHILIP:

Prince Kit if I’m not mistaken. It’s an honor to meet you, Your Highness. I am Prince Philip, son of King Hubert.

EUGENE:

Eugene.

KIT:

You look worn and weary. What brings you to my kingdom?

EUGENE:

Philip.

PHILIP:

We seek refuge, Your Highness. Strange things are happening in our lands, and we both have suffered great loss. The entire castle of my betrothed has been put under an enchanted sleep. Rumor has it that she has hired an evil fairy to cast the sleeping spell so that she would avoid marrying me. I met Eugene as I tried to search for her. He was stumbling in the forest from a newfound blindness that had been inflicted upon him for pursuit of the woman who once bore the weight of that hair.

KIT:

Why do you not go to the land of your father?

PHILIP:

He too is under the spell.

(PRINCE FERDINAND enters carrying an apple with one bite taken out of it.)

FERDINAND:

Well met, gentle friends! It is beyond hope, but is there any chance that you know the whereabouts, the most glorious whereabouts, of my true love whose beauty is beyond compare? Lips red as the rose. Hair black as ebony. Skin white as snow.

PHLIP:

What is her name, sir?

FERDINAND: (pause)

In truth I don’t know. I was so caught up in the life changing moment of meeting her, that I didn’t ask her name.

EUGENE:

But she’s your true love?

FERDINAND:

The moment I saw her one love possessed me, thrilling me, and now my heart keeps singing of my one love, constant and true, only of her.

EUGENE:

How come you don’t know where she is if your love is so constant?

FERDINAND:

(holding up the apple)

Do you see this?

EUGENE:

No.

PHILIP:

It’s an apple, with a bite taken out of it.

FERDINAND:

Yes. A dreadful, fateful bite has taken my love from me. After our hearts joined across the stone courtyard, she disappeared. I’ve been in search for her ever since. Finally, I heard of a woman with lips red as the rose, hair as black as ebony, and skin white as snow that was enshrined in a coffin wrought by skilled dwarves, waiting for a prince to break an evil spell cast upon her. A long journey lay ahead of me, but I was spurred on by the hope that she – my true love – was waiting for me to free her.

EUGENE:

Let me guess, she wasn’t waiting for you.

FERDINAND:

Alas, no. When I arrived the Dwarves told me that she and the coffin had disappeared. The only thing they had left was this apple, the cause of her demise.

KIT:

It was a ruse. A ruse to wound you and leave you alone.

FERDINAND:

A ruse? Who are you to say such slander against my true love?

KIT:

Prince Philip has a tale of a woman going to desperate tactics to prevent wooing. I too could tell my own tale of feminine jilting, and I imagine this man has a similar story –

EUGENE: (interrupting)

Women don’t jilt me. They can’t resist the smolder.

KIT:

It is clear to me that we have been dealt cruel blows under the guise of damsels in distresses. Fate has brought the four of us together to give us an opportunity to learn from our weak-hearted ways. Together, let us forgo the profitless war of love and make war over our passions and desires.

FERDINAND:

A noble quest perhaps?

KIT:

We will devote three years to live in the living art of contemplation.

PHILIP:

But what if the maidens are in fact damsels in distress? Doesn’t it seem strange to you that all the women we have sought after have been unexplainably taken from us.

KIT:

There is nothing unexplainable about a woman running away from you, leaving nothing behind but a glass slipper to haunt you. No, friends. There is no magic involved to explain away the answer.

PHILIP:

And King Stephan’s castle? It may be true that the Princess Aurora herself used magic to keep me away, but what about my father and the other innocents trapped behind the wall of thorns? Do we leave them to their fate?

KIT:

Make this pact with me and I swear we will find a way to free them. Finding a way to overcome the thorns will be a part of our study.

FERDINAND:

I have yet to go on a true quest with companions of valor. I swear to follow you…

KIT:

His Royal Highness, Prince Christoph Henry Edward the 4th. You may call me Prince Kit.

FERDINAND:

I swear to follow you Prince Kit. Till death.

EUGENE:

Three years of contemplation and study isn’t likely to involve dying.

PHILIP:

If you promise to help me free my father from the spell, I’ll give you my oath.

KIT:

(to Eugene)

And you sir?

EUGENE:

Why not?

KIT:

There will be strict rules. No pursuit of romance, no seeing of women, fasting once a week, and little sleep so that we can dedicate ourselves completely to remaking ourselves.

EUGENE:

I hope you mean we’ll be feasting once a week.

FERDINAND:

No, indeed. There is no growth of gallantry without attacking the vice of gluttony.

PHILIP:

It does seem a bit hard. What is the end of this stringent study? Fasting won’t break a spell, will it?

KIT:

To know which else we should not know if we did not study. To be our own masters, free from the torments of women.

EUGENE:

Well then, I swear to study to know the thing I am forbid to know; such as food, sleep, and the torments of women.

FERDINAND:

Will you take back your word? You swore against these things. Have you no sense of honor?

EUGENE:

The way I see it, I swore to three years of contemplation, Kit the 4th here added all the other things afterwards, so I didn’t give my word to any of it.

KIT:

Women, food, and sleep hinder study.

EUGENE:

You need to not put all your arrow in one quiver. Are you really going to give up on love because one woman lost her nerve and a shoe?

KIT:

I won’t be made a fool again. She left me at the ball where I was to choose my bride, the clumsy thief who could not steal a woman’s heart but instead was robbed of his own heart. She left this glass slipper on the steps of my palace as a hope that I would be able to find her again, but the search proved to be a torment.

EUGENE:

Isn’t that a bit dramatic?

PHILIP:

And harsh.

FERDINAND:

Whatever it is, it was beautifully said.

PHILIP:

If you are so intent on forsaking women, why do you keep the slipper with you?

KIT:

To remind myself of the pain that I can avoid by focusing on to pursuit of knowledge rather than the pursuit of love.

EUGENE:

Mind if I hold it? I’ve never heard of a shoe made out of glass before. It’s beyond me how anyone can wear that and not get shards of glass stuck in their foot. I’d like to feel it if you don’t mind.

(KIT hands him the slipper. EUGENE slowly runs his fingers around it.)

Amazing. Not a single sharp edge. This etched design is very intricate.

(He rubs the sides several times trying to get a sense of what the design is)

It feels like… A sword… Maybe?

(There is a poof and a flashing of light. The FAIRY GODMOTHER enters and plops to the ground to sit.)

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

Fairy dust! Give me a moment for my head to stop spinning, then I’ll help you. Right now there are four of you. Best wait until I only see one.

PHILIP:

But Madam, there are four of us.

EUGENE: (whispering)

Who’s there?

PHILIP: (whispering)

A fairy.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

Oh. In that case.

(she stands and brushes herself off. When she catches sight of the glass slipper she snatches it out of EUGENE’S hands.)

Where did you get this?

EUGENE:

From Kit the 4th.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

And where is this Kit that I may inquire of him?

KIT:

I am Prince Kit. Tell me who you are and how you came to be in my kingdom.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

I am a Fairy Godmother and was brought here by the rubbing of this glass slipper, which I demand you explain your possession of it.

KIT:

Do you know the woman who wore this slipper?

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

Know her? I gave her that slipper to attend your ball. What have you done to her?

KIT:

Nothing, besides dance with her. Barely ten minutes had passed before she ran away. This is all she left behind.

EUGENE:

That and his broken heart.

KIT:

I would you were mute instead of blind.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

You must have done something to frighten her off.

KIT:

Nothing, I swear.

PHILIP:

Perhaps you can help us, Madam. We’ve all been separated from our true love.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

Where are they?

 

PHILIP:

We lost them.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

Lost them?

PHILIP:

We’ve lost our true loves.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

Women don’t vanish into thin air.

PHILIP:

But ours have. We each of us have searched for his true love, but all we have left are these trinkets of remembrance.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

A slipper, a bitten apple, and long rope of hair. What is your trinket, sir?

PHILIP:

A walk, once upon a dream.

FAIRY GODMOTHER: (sighing)

 

Let me see the apple.

(FERDINAND hands over the apple to her, and she examines it closely.)

FERDINAND:

Hold it gently, I pray you. It is a precious reminder of her whose lips are red as the rose, hair as black as ebony, skin –

EUGENE:

We know, we know. Snow white.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

This apple is poisoned.

(going over to EUGENE and examining his eyes.)

And your blindness is not natural. At least that can be easily fixed.

(She waves her wand in front of his eyes)

EUGENE:

(Catching sight of KIT first)

You look as pretentious as I imagined.

PHILIP:

A long time ago, an evil fairy roamed the lands of King Stepen named Malificent. She hasn’t been heard from for sixteen years, but I could believe she is behind these strange happenings.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

That is a name I hoped to never hear again.

(Beat)

Well, come along then. Let’s go find your lady loves.

KIT:

But our vow.

EUGENE:

Your vow.

FERDINAND:

We all vowed.

PHILIP:

Surely our vow to chivalry negates a misinformed vow taken in haste.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

What vow?

KIT:

To forsake the company of women for three years.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

Fairy dust. What prompted you to that foolishness?

KIT:

I thought we had been jilted. Perhaps I was mistaken, but a vow is still a vow.

FERDINAND:

There may be a way to fulfill both our vows. If our illustrious Fairy Godmother will bring the maidens to us, we can protect them here in your field without needing to interact with them. Thus, being both chivalrous and free to focus on study.

PHILIP:

What do you say milord?

EUGENE:

I say it will never work.

KIT:

Very well. Bring the maidens here if they are willing, and we will protect them if they are indeed damsels-in-distress.

FAIRY GODMOTHER:

I’ll see what I can do. If I was them, I wouldn’t want to be protected by men foolish enough to forswear love. (She exits)

EUGENE:

I’m telling you, once the women arrive our vow will be forgotten.

FERDINAND:

I will elicit the help of the Seven Dwarves to keep guard over them! (Exits)

BLACKOUT.

 

 

 

 

 

#3DNC Journal

Please don’t read this. If you do, you will think we are all 7 years old.

 

3DNC 2015

Friday, 4th September

 

7pm    Sorina & Betsy arrive at the Coffee Pot

Welcome back to the lush mossy carpet & vaulted ceiling of leaves! Welcome back to the brook singing to itself, to the fire that leaps up in greeting. Welcome back to the work & the madness, the music & the silence, the fellowship & the competition. ~SH

 

7:?? Je suis le monde. ~SH

 

7:??pm

Q: How do you know when your bagel is done toasting?

A: When it bursts into flame. ~SH

 

8:32pm

The bugs are murdering me this year. ~BG

 

9:08pm

“Nothing is wrong with a little cleavage.” (Sorina) The camera promptly focuses on my chest. ~BG

 

9:10pm

It was a bright and shiny day. ~SH

 

9:10pm

“I don’t suppose you’d be the best person to ask for death metal quotes?” (Sorina) ~BG

 

9:28pm

Sorina has checked off one square out of 585 on her novel-planning spreadsheet. ~BG

 

9:30pm

“A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single box in the spreadsheet.” (Sorina) ~BG

 

9:52pm

“Let’s listen to the Jupiter Symphony after Angry Birds. Never thought I’d say those words!” (Sorina) ~BG

 

Saturday, 5th September

6:36am

Woke up. ~BG

 

6:37am

Me too. ~SH

 

9:58am

Oh, come on, characters; it’s too early in the morning to be using such profanity. ~SH

 

11:47am

Went on a walk up the powerline, bathed in the creek, put up the screen house, and are now eating lunch and getting back to writing. ~BG

 

12:10pm

“Don’t say that! That’s really dirty!”(Sorina to a character) ~BG

 

12:20pm

Not enough verbs. ~SH

 

12:21pm

“Last year, Marian & I were talking about donuts and men…” (said Betsy) ~SH

 

1:30pm

Finished Chapter one! ~SH

 

1:51pm

Heard from Nadine that my Mom is in the hospital again. ~SH

 

5:20pm

Mom is home. They didn’t find anything wrong. ~SH

 

5:24pm

Finally finished one page of my spreadsheet – 39 out of 585 little boxes. 7,845 words. 42 pages. Not bad, I guess. Today’s goal: 10,000 words, 3 chapters. ~SH

 

5:31pm

Scrivener random name generator – almost as much fun as the Benedict Cumberbatch parody name generator. ~SH

 

5:30pm

Started a stir-fry for dinner. ~BG

 

5:57pm

“Hyphens are my favorite endangered species.” (Sorina) ~BG

 

6:02pm

We complain about characters getting off-topic. ~BG

Sorina complemented me on my biceps. ~BG

 

6:49pm

About getting bitten by mosquitos:

“Maybe you are getting sweeter.” (Sorina)

“If only to reduce bugbites, I would not want to be any sweeter.” (Betsy)

 

7:00pm

Marian arrives! ~BG

 

7:15pm

Marian’s Awkward Existence Part 2 ~MB

 

7:23pm

Marian’s Awkward Existence Part 1 ~MB

 

7:25pm

“I want more flames.” (Sorina) ~BG

8:15pm

Finished chapter 2. 9,323 words. 43 of 585 squares. ~SH

 

8:48pm

*Marian grasps the air in frustration*

Sorina: “What?”

Me: “I had a word…” *it comes back* “got it!”

Sorina: “What was it?”

Me: “Snort.” ~MB

 

9:07pm

“Is Sorina tap-dancing on the porch?” ~MB

 

10:13pm

“Because everything’s better with sex.” ~BG

 

10:14pm

“Ok. Hamlet.” (Marian) ~BG

 

10:50pm

Marian applauds ~BG

 

11:36pm

Bedtime for all ~BG
11,110 words today. ~SH

 

Sunday, 6th September

7:47am

Everyone up! ~BG

 

8:08am

Non-sequitur? We try to figure out how it’s spelled. ~MB

 

10:15ish am

Went for a walk to the waterfall. Discovered a dead frog and an old lady. One was pleasant. One was not. ~MB

 

2:30ish pm

Sharon arrived! ~SH

 

4:00pm

Sorina, Marian, and Betsy go for a swim in the Deep Hole. ~BG

 

5:50pm

“My characters are doing horrible, creepy, unexpected things!” (Sorina)

“Fry them.” (Betsy)

“I will kill them soon” (Sorina) ~SH

 

7:14pm

Marian finishes reading Piccalilli & Sharon declares that illustration is a different skill set. ~SG

 

7:15pm

Marian is a heathen in the morning. ~SG

 

7:17pm

According to Sharon, Avatar has “See-a-jor-oujie” Weaver in it. ~MB

 

7:23pm

Marian: You can’t live up to everyone’s standards.

Sharon: I can’t even live up to my own. ~MB

 

8:07pm

Bandaged vs. Brandished ~BG

Sharon asked what’s the word for waving a sword around. “Brandished,” we said, & after the brandishing comes the bandaging. ~SH

 

8:13pm

“Cats and Commas” is an alliteration ~SG

Marian is wearing a shirt that says: “Let’s eat kitty. Let’s eat, kitty. Punctuation saves cats.” My two favorite things: Cats & commas. ~SH

 

8:48pm

Lobster ~BG

Betsy is going to boil her feet like Lobsters. Sorina tells a story about her relative not being able to cook a lobster because her son was attached to it. We discuss the reason why lobsters must be boiled alive — because they’re poisonous otherwise. ~BG

“It he tries to kill me even after he’s dead, then I don’t care if it’s a horrible death!” (Betsy) ~SH

 

8:51pm

Sharon hushes us for the first time ~BG

 

9pm

Sharon tells us something sappy she & Robbie do: “That’s about as sappy as we get. We’ve gotten more sappy as we get more married.” ~SH

 

9:30pm

I wrote 20,000 words! ~SH

 

9:55pm

20,000 words! ~BG

 

10:09pm

1st Draft of Love’s Labor’s Happily Ever After finished. ~SG

 

10:15pm

“I would be offended if you didn’t come if I didn’t invite you.” (Sharon to Betsy in regards to her play reading) ~SH

 

22:30pm

Conversation about Old Testament rape laws ~SG

 

22:45pm

The door’s name is Carina – Marian’s dubbing. ~SG

 

Monday, 7th September

 

8:05am

“We’re here to write, not look pretty.” (Sharon) ~BG

 

10:06am

Sorina and I return from a lovely walk and finally get to work. ~SG

I had a dream last night that I met Benedict Cumberbatch at the Underground. We had such a lovely conversation about his performance of Hamlet that he invited me out for tea so we could continue the chat. ~SH

 

1ish pm

I’ve always thought that groundhogs end rather abruptly. ~SH

 

1:30pm

Finished Demae’s book! 24,800 words. ~BG

 

2:50pm

Finished reading K. M. Weildman’s book on novel structure. Gearing up to put all my parts into an outline and check them for what I’ve learned. ~SG

 

3ish pm

Marian: “I apologize for my crass language, sullen disposition, & for making you cancel Ekphrasis.”

 

5:23pm

27,005 words ~SH

 

5:52pm

Sewing is not about fashion. Seamstresses know how to put a garment together. Fashion is about knowing how to put an outfit together.” ~MB

 

5:58pm

“Okay, let’s go bathe so we don’t be stinky anymore.” (Sharon) ~MB

 

Not Quite a Novel: Sørina’s #3DNC Report

IMG_2597

The Coffee Pot.

The three-day novel contest is over again for this year. We survived, happily, with deeper friendships and great work accomplished. I at least am amazed that we have managed to make this dream come true three years in a row in the face of enormous obstacles. And, as is usual for me, the work is barely beginning. Here are the stats of what was accomplished, a narrative of the weekend, and a plan for what to do next. 

8 Ekphrasians participated in some permutation or other of this intensive writing retreat, composing well over 100,000 words collectively! These words were written in community, alone, in the woods, in a cabin, at a retreat center, at home, in various states of euphoria, inspiration, or drudgery.

IMG_2594* I began a new novel, a murder mystery. I wrote 27,005 words, but only got about 15% of the way into the plot. The story takes place over a 20-hour period, and I only got my characters through the first three hours. They kept doing things that weren’t in my notes!
 * Sharon wrote an entire play. It is called Love’s Labours Happily Ever After, and it blends fairy-tale characters with Shakespearean plot lines from Love’s Labour’s LostMidsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and As you Like it. She completed a full draft at 17,000 words. She also worked through a book about structuring fiction and wrote her outline for her next book!
* Betsy
roughed out the entire plot of her novel, Demae’s Story, writing what she calls the skeleton of the story at 24,000 words.
* Steph is the only one who paid the fee and entered the contest for real. She wrote most of the story she had planned.
* Jeff spent the time working on a play called “Hail Mary.”
* Andrew worked on a novella and wrote about 18,000 words.
* Marian wrote a complete children’s story, called “Piccalilli.” (Which I love, by the way). She wrote a journal, did lots of homework, practiced her lines for two roles she’s got in upcoming plays, and edited some of Aakroveil, the novel she completed earlier this year.
* Devon planned to spend the weekend editing her personal narrative.
If this year goes like previous years, most of us should have complete manuscripts by Christmas, then spend any number of months or years revising, revising, revising. (I also plan to start The Four Senses, my 2013 #3DNC production, over again from scratch. Sigh).

IMG_2598

The situation room, with a map of my cemetery setting.

Unfortunately, most of us had a very interrupted weekend. I traveled up to Massachusetts on Monday to be with my mother, who had unexpected heart surgery. I did get home late on Thursday, and Betsy and I made it up to the cabin on Friday evening, but we didn’t really start working until Saturday morning. Marian got cast in two plays and had rehearsals until late Saturday afternoon, so she arrived Saturday evening. Sharon got cast in one play, is directing another, and had both a funeral and a wedding to attend on Saturday. So she and Betsy worked at home on Friday, then Sharon joined us on Sunday. We all left by 7 on Monday evening. Next year, we all want to join the official contest, get up there earlier, start right at midnight on Friday, end at midnight on Monday, and leave on Tuesday. I plan to develop a plot for a novella that can be completed within 30,000 words.

But what a beautiful time it was! The Coffee Pot, the cabin owned by Betsy’s family, where we have the retreat, is an idyllic location. We enjoyed it thoroughly. We didn’t push ourselves, sleeping eight hours a night, going for long walks, swimming (and washing) in the creek, having hour-long intense conversations. Sure, we could have written more words if we hadn’t taken those mental-and-physical-health breaks. But I think we are happier people for those times. And now we have all those words there, ready for the adding and editing. Stay tuned for selections and for posts by the other Ekphrasians!

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Sharon’s 3DNC Plans

Here is Sharon’s 3DNC post, reblogged from her own site, Sacred Scars.

The Late Bloomer

In three weeks I will be joining three of my friends to participate in our yearly 3Day Novel Contest weekend. Various time constraints and the fact that none of us are officially joining the contests have us starting our weekend writing madness earlier than the standard 12:00 am Saturday morning.

This year I’ve got a wedding to break up my weekend, so unfortunately I’ll have less then 72 hours to write, but I am still very excited about it. What exactly I’ll be working on is still up in the air. There are two possibilities.

Possibility #1 is Love’s Labours Happily Ever After, a play that meshes Fairytale characters with Shakespearen plot lines from (not surprisingly) Love’s Labours LostMidsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and As you Like it. This would be the more practical choice. I am hoping to have my theater group perform it Fall…

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An Invitation to a reading of “Rifton”

Dear Ekphrasians:

You are invited to attend a staged reading of the play RIFTON  by Sharon Gerdes, read by members of Players of the Stage. The stage will be cleared and set up as the set in the Diner might actually look. This will allow the readers to experiment with blocking, and it will give the playwright a greater sense of the structure of the play.

at-the-dinerFebruary 19th, 7:00 pm
Living Hope Presbyterian Church, 330 Schantz Road, Allentown

You are all invited to participate!

“Tulips” by Sharon Gerdes

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Today’s post is by Sharon Gerdes, about the above triptych, “Tulips.”

Working on these three paintings over the last three years has been a challenge, to put it mildly. This project started out as a triptych, but after completing the middle painting twice, once for me and one for a friend as her wedding present, I was sufficiently bored of the same tree branches and leaves. I fully intended to never paint the first and last pictures. Unfortunately, my husband was rather fond of them and wanted a complete set. For his sake, I pushed on, very slowly, often allowing myself to get distracted by other projects to delay the inevitable boredom of the same branches and leaves.

I’m glad I pushed through the difficulties of the project. One of the biggest issues for me as a painter is that I have so little time to devote to painting that once I get around to pouring out paint and picking up the brush I have trouble remembering how to the mix the colors, how to make the lines… in short, how to paint! Often when I would find an hour or two to devote to painting, I would not accomplish anything, because I spent so much time repainting the same things trying to remember how in the world it worked!

The other trouble was the length of time separating the pieces meant that the style is somewhat different in each piece. I used to worry that I was going to have to repaint all of them to match stylistically, and perhaps I should. There are things about each painting that I love, and things that I dislike, and things that I’m embarrassed by, but they are what they are: a triptych revealing my struggle and my progression as a painter.

Finishing the last painting last Saturday was a relief, but also bittersweet as that will probably be my last painting for a long time. As I’ve worked on developing my skill outside of college, I’ve been forced to come to the realization that I am better at drawing than painting, both in talent, skill, and in the time available to me. One day, I may have the opportunity to pick up painting again. Until then, I will draw as much as I’m able and enjoy the paintings I have.