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IWSG August 2016


Quote of the Day: Life it is not just a series of calculations and a sum total of statistics, it’s about experience, it’s about participation, it is something more complex and more interesting than what is obvious. Daniel Libeskind, found at Brainy Quotes 

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeHere we are again, at the first Wednesday of the month, writing our posts for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by the amazing blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh. Click on either link to find out more information, to connect with other writers, or to participate.

Participation is the word to ponder. What are all the places where you participate in your life? Do you feel like you’re a full member, a newbie, or someone who is on the fringes? As I’ve watched my kids progress through school and various activities, I see how it goes from “Everyone gets to play,” to “Only the select few, the best of the best, will be allowed on the field.” When you’re little, people seem to be rooting for you no matter what. Simply trying is rewarded. Standing up front and waving a ribbon is a great act. The older you get, the harsher the judgement. The crowd might forgive a few missed baskets, clunker notes, or slips in the routine when you’re still in the learning process. But, once you hit a certain age, or even size, expectations become rigid. We applaud the perceived “flawless” performances. Only the most polished are allowed to play or perform. All others are kept on the sidelines, invited to be helpers and spectators. 

I run a theatre program for kids in the Brainerd lakes area. I do workshops. I don’t do published plays where the cast is limited. I don’t do shows where there is one star, princess, or just a select few who get lines. I do workshops where everyone gets to play. Sure, some kids might have more to do on stage because their skill and confidence are higher, but no one is left to watch the whole show from the sidelines. Participating in the arts means that everyone gets a chance to learn the skill and to show someone what they’ve accomplished. Yes, some people will get a bigger audience, but no one is left out.

The people who organize the Insecure Writer’s Support Group are starting to ask questions. This is good. It keeps us thinking, improving, and participating. This month’s question is:  What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

My answer: I wrote a historical novel which I titled Hiding from Evil Eyes, set in Nazi Germany, early in the war against the Jews. I have a scene from Krystallnacht (the night of broken glass, November 1938) near the beginning of the book. Two kids, a brother and sister, are trying to find their way to Switzerland where they hope to meet up with their mother. I read tons and tons of books set during that time, mostly from survivors. It was fascinating to read how people survived the ordeal and lived to tell their stories. I think what I needed to do was process this giant evil. I needed to see the good in people who would help the outcasts at a risk to their own safety, even endangering their own families. My book is not special enough. It’s a sweet story of kids hiding, using their resources, and finding their way. It’s middle grade, so I didn’t have to write about all the horrors. That book is in a drawer, so to speak, and will never be published.

I do not regret all the time I put into researching, writing, work-shopping, and revising that book. I learned so much while I was participating in the process. I now write plays, articles, and gobs and gobs of blog posts. I am a writer who participates in life. How about you?

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Promp: Where are you in your creative life? In what ways are you participating? 

If you’re looking for a good TED talk to watch while eating your lunch (that’s something I like to do), check out this one by Daniel Libeskind, on architecture, taking risks in your creative field, and participating in the creation.

  1. My daughter just finished a four week theatre camp that ended with three performances of a well-known Disney story. She was in the ensemble and was always wishing for a line or a better costume or just the chance to hold a mop. It was frustrating, but she still loved performing. It is hard to accept not being “the star”, but maybe that’s a good thing (in small doses). I commend you for striving to give each child in your program “their moment.”

  2. Thanks for sharing Libeskind’s talk. A while back, I organized a play at a Girl Scout day camp. I told stories about Sacajawea (the name of the camp) and the kids acted it out. On the last day, they presented the “play” to the rest of the campers. Everyone who wanted to participated, and they seemed to have a great time.

  3. That story helped you in many ways.
    Not everyone can be a star, but everyone can participate and try.

  4. I was never good at much as a kid. Competition crushed me.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  5. I love historical fiction and research! The second novel I wrote was set in the 1960s around the space race and I read a ton about the early space program that never made it into the book. I loved it.

    Here’s my August IWSG post on my first novel attempt (note I said ATTEMPT). YA Author Stephanie Scott: IWSG August

  6. Hi Mary,
    On behalf of other parents, thank you! My 7 year old’s nativity play last year felt so frustrating as along with many others he was stood in the back row with very little to do.
    By contrast, My 10 year old’s class did a piece at our local country house and every child had a part, it made such a difference, to the audience and to them.

  7. Very insightful–the broad “everyone plays” to “only the stars.” I think that applies to every aspect of life. But I’m with you, I like the everyone plays stage. The inclusive stage.

    Historical, eh? I would never touch Nazi Germany just because there are so many stories set in the time period, but the ones I read still fascinate me.

  8. Sounds like you enjoyed writing your first story so that is what counts most.
    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  9. I also love reading stories based on Holocaust survivors.
    Research is never a waste.
    All the time you spent researching, writing, work-shopping, and revising that book will always impact on your writing/theatre programs/play scripts in some way.
    It may not always be obvious or observable…more likely to be subtle.
    Happy IWSG Day, Mary!

  10. I love that everyone gets to play in your theater group. It is quite disheartening to see how many kids get left behind in various activities as they grow older. I also love your idea of being a writer who participates in life. That’s so important to balance the two.

  11. Hi, Mary. This is my first time at your blog. It is beautiful! I’ve joined your blog. Bravo to you and your theater group of children. There are no small parts only small actors. All the best to that project. I LOVE your story idea for middle grade and feel you should pursue it and finish the book. I, too, enjoy reading young books on that subject. How about Number the Stars? I can’t read adult versions of the subject because my tears keep me from seeing the page. All the best, my dear!

    • Number the Stars is one of my favorite books. Maybe the novel will turn into a play. That’s what I’ve been doing more of lately. I could work it into my theatre classes with the kids. Thank you, Victoria.

  12. I was always far too shy to participate in many things as a kid, but I was forced to do school plays. I played violin as a kid, too, but I started later and with no real talent for music, I gave it up in high school because high school was becoming demanding. But I’m definitely thankful to have had that exposure to the arts! Plus, my parents were always good about taking me to museums, plays, and historical sights.

    I love that your first piece of writing was a MG historical. Those were the kinds of books that fed my history obsession.

  13. Writing is a learning experience every time we put pen to paper/ fingers to keyboard. I do love the sound of your MG, though.

  14. It’s so true, Mary. Even in grade school, I was dismayed by how kids were treated in gym class. If you were a natural athlete, it was a great experience.

    However, the rest of us were ridiculed, harassed, and made to sit on the sidelines. When people refer to me as an athlete today, it’s bittersweet, because I know I had it in me back then if anyone had taken the time to help me.

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