29 July 2016

It's been a while

Writers, classmates, lend my your ears.

In case you don't already know, I am moving to Maryland to take up a teaching job there. I am very excited and of course you have a standing invitation to come visit me in my new apartment. DC, Baltimore, and Annapolis are all near and I will be keeping an eye out for coffee and tea shops to take you to.

I don't have any pictures of the interior of my apartment yet, but when I traveled down to pick up my keys and begin moving in I found that it was too hot and stuffy to sleep inside. Therefore, I hung my sleeping bag off of the railing of my balcony and slept there. It was honestly one of the most restful nights I've ever had.

I am driving down from Vermont over the weekend to move in completely and begin to decorate properly. Right now the only thing framed in the rooms is my Master's diploma.

As the summer continues my goal is to move an herb garden into window boxes outside and get a couple of plants for the other rooms.

How is everyone else?


02 November 2014

I wrote something too.

It's called The Haunted House because I'm obvious like that. I'm a little worried it's contrived or forced or a sucker punch to the audience. But I've turned it in already, so it's too late now.
                                   ACT I                                
                                   Scene 1                              
                    The lights go up to reveal a bare stage. BARKLEY       
                    enters followed by ANNA, a real estate agent.        
               We’ve got the house opening at three o’clock. Are you    
               thinking of buying?                                      
               I grew up here, actually. What time is it now?            
               Two-thirty. Do you think you’ll stay?                    
               Probably not. I’d just like to walk through. Thank you,  
               Stroll through memory lane? I don’t mind. You have a      
               wonderful day, Miss Barkley.                              
                    Anna exits and leaves Barkley alone on stage. She      
                    begins walking around the room, surveying              
                    imaginary furniture.                                   
               That’s where we put the Christmas tree. We’d hang the    
               stockings over there. Mom and Dad would make breakfast    
               while we opened our presents. And there’s the melted      
               crayon in the carpet from when we did that art project,  
               the one with the hairdryers. And up above the fireplace  
               we hung one of her paintings, this gorgeous abstract of  
               yellows and golds. I remember Gemma used to paint out    
               on the back porch until it got dark. Sometimes later.    
               (She crosses the stage to look out of a window only she     
               can see.) They took our tire swing down. We had that      
               tire swing forever. (She crosses to center stage.) God.  
               I didn’t think I’d remember so much. It’s all right      
               here in front of me. I don’t know what else I expected.  
               I talk about it enough, talk about her enough. Like      
               she’s following me. Haunting. (A small laugh.) Like      
               those stupid little stories we used to tell.              
                    The lights go down.                                  
                                   Scene 2                              
                    The stage is bare and unlit. The first two lines       
                    are spoken in the dark.                              
               ...and he was never seen or heard from again.            
               Okay. But are you sure that’s what really happened?      
                    The lights go up to reveal three teenage girls         
                    sitting in a circle, young LILY, GEMMA, and            
                    BARKLEY. Gemma and Lily are in sweatpants and          
                    T-shirts. Barkley is in pajamas.                       
               Uh huh. (LILY nods in agreement.)                        
               It’s not just a story? (GEMMA crosses her heart.) But    
               how did he escape?                                        
               Duh. He’s a psychopath. He probably, like, cut himself    
               out of his straightjacket with like a knife or            
               I heard it was an axe.                                    
               No you didn’t!                                            
                         (to LILY, but staring down BARKLEY)            
               Have you heard the one about Bloody Mary?                
               Guys, come on, it’s late...                              
               Oh yeah! You have to go into the bathroom and shut the    
               Turn off all the lights and go up to the mirror...        
               And say her name three times. And then...                
               She’ll climb out of the mirror...                        
               With her white face and black eyes and long black        
               And STAB YOU!                                            
                    Lily digs her fist into Barkley’s side.                
                    (Gemma and Lily laugh.)                              
               Come on, Gemma! That wasn’t funny!                        
               Don’t be such a fraidy-cat, Barkley.                      
               Yeah, it’s only a story.                                  
               I know. But...still.                                      
               Well, we can talk about something different instead.      
               Like Hunter Boyle’s new haircut.                          
               Lily, oh my gosh, he walked into history yesterday and    
               Mr. Holten said (in a low voice, mimicking her teacher)     
               "Hunter, what happened? You lost your lion’s mane."      
               Oh my gosh! It did look like a lion’s mane!              
               There’s a girl in my English class who called him        
                         (mimicking Mufasa from the Lion King)          
                    (Barkley and Lily join in.)                          
          GEMMA, LILY, AND BARKLEY:                                      
               Who you are...                                            
                    The girls dissolve into laughter as the lights go      
                                   Scene 3                              
                    Lights go up to reveal Lily and Barkley, now in        
                    their early twenties, sitting at a coffee table.       
                    Each girl holds a mug.                                 
               So how’s school going for you?                            
               It’s okay. My roommates are nice. And I think I’ll do    
               English as a major. (Laughs.) You’ll never guess who      
               lives in my building.                                    
               Hunter Boyle.                                            
               Are you serious?! I’d forgotten all about him!            
               Yep, he’s in my comp class.                              
               Oh my gosh, how is he?                                    
               Still pretty douchey. His hair’s down to his shoulders    
               now. And he’s got this huge beard that makes him look    
               What was it with him and his hair?!                      
               I don’t know! (They laugh. A beat.) Yeah. He asked me    
               how Gemma was doing.                                      
               Oh, Barkley...(Takes her hand across the table)          
               It’s fine. (Slides her hand out from under Lily’s) It’s  
               What did you say?                                        
               I had to tell him.                                        
               Oh, my...how’d he take it?                                
               He said he was sorry. I mean, what else could he say?    
               (A nervous laugh. Beat) It got me thinking, do you        
               remember the sleepovers we used to have?                  
               I was thinking about those too!                          
               Remember one night we snuck out to the park?              
               Was that when Gemma bought, what was it, wine coolers?    
               With her friend’s ID? Yeah!                              
               You were so scared we were gonna get caught!              
               I was like sixteen! Give me a break!                      
               Oh gosh, remember her ghost stories? I think she made    
               one up in the park.                                      
               I remember that one! About the...oh, what was it,        
               serial killer?                                            
               Yeah, he hid his bodies under the slide or something.    
               I thought it was under the swings.                        
               It was wherever we were sitting. (She and BARKLEY           
                Yeah. She loved those stories. (beat.) You want some    
               more coffee?                                              
                    Barkley gets up from the table with her mug.        
               I’m fine.                                                
               Alright. Be right back.                                  
                    Barkley exits and leaves Lily at the table as the      
                    lights go down.                                      
                                   Scene 4                              
                    Lights go up to reveal Barkely alone on a bare         
                    stage, surveying the imaginary furniture of an         
                    imaginary room.                                      
                The fireplace looks bare now without her painting in    
               front of it. I can see Mom standing on her ladder to      
               hang it up. I can see Gemma on the back porch finishing  
               it. Gemma’s shoes are still in the kitchen, her coat’s    
               still on the back of her chair. (She stands center           
               stage.) And up those steps is her bedroom, where she’d    
               help me with biology. Where she’d sit on her windowsill  
               with her French press and sketchbook and draw for hours  
               and hours. Where she nailed her note to the door.        
               (beat.) God, Gemma, you loved ghost stories so much,      
               you became one. Is that what you wanted? You’re          
               everywhere. You’re around every corner, behind every      
               door. Is that what you wanted? Why are you always here?
               Are you afraid we would forget you? I could never      
               forget you. (beat.) You’ve got me telling ghost          
               stories, now that I’ve got one of my own. I keep          
               telling them to Lily, to Mom and Dad, to myself, over    
               and over. So I won’t forget. You’re too good to forget,  
               Gemma. I can’t. I can’t forget you. I can’t...            
               Miss Barkley? (beat.) It’s three o’clock.                
               Let them inside. (ANNA exits.) Sorry, Gemma. Guess        
               there’ll be new ghosts in the house soon. You won’t be    
               alone. I’m so sorry, Gemma. You know I can’t stay. I      
               love you, and I’ll always love you. But I can’t stay in  
               this godforsaken haunted house.                          
                    Barkley exits and the lights go down on the bare       

01 November 2014

Peace be with you

I just submitted my play for the 10-minute play festival, thank you all so much for your help and comments! Professor K. (sounds like a Bond character) gave me a week to do up the other one. Anyway, in long form is what I just submitted.
Johnson, one of your comments that I didn't have time or space to deal with properly, especially since it's hard to develop round characters in so short a space was about the binary nature of the two girls, heaven and hell. In the end, I rather liked that Salome ended up playing the part of the good "Christian" girl who thinks that if you only just focus on "truth" all your problems will sort themselves out and has a romanticized view of suffering for a noble cause. It's nice, but doing the right thing isn't always the most fun choice and is almost never cute. But I should step back and let my work speak for itself.

Edit: Both this one and the other play I wrote have been selected for the festival! Thank you all so much for your helpful comments. You helped me turn an angsty play about teenage melodrama into something a lot more interesting.

George Byron

The Cast
Mom: Dina-Beth Mara neƩ Saloman
Father: Gideon Mara
Oldest Daughter: Jerusha called Judy
Youngest Daughter: Salome called Sally

Scene: an attic. An old steamer trunk to the right of center stage with an old lamp, magazines, various attic junk on top and around it. A sign reading HOME SWEET HOME hangs on the back wall. A table and trash-can on stage left.

JERUSHA walks on stage and begins to move attic junk away from the trunk.
SALOME walks on stage flipping through a stack of mail.

SALOME: Mail’s here.

JERUSHA: Anything for me?

SALOME: Just something from UPenn. It came a few days ago.

JERUSHA: Great. Put them over there and come help me move this stuff.

SALOME I can’t believe you are still going to keep the date so soon after everything!

JERUSHA: It’s what she would have wanted.

SALOME: Do you think we can really celebrate at a time like this?

JERUSHA: I can’t wait any more than we have I don’t want to deal with that kind of trouble.

SALOME: What kind of trouble?

JERUSHA: I can’t tell you.

SALOME: I’m your sister. You can tell me anything.

JERUSHA: I’m not sure I can.

SALOME: What did you do?

JERUSHA: You have to promise me you will never tell Dad.

SALOME: Oh, ok. I promise.

JERUSHA: I’m pregnant.

SALOME: What?!

JERUSHA: Pregnant. With child. Expecting. Bun in the oven. Eating for two. Do I need to go on?

SALOME: How could you?

JERUSHA: I guess, when mom died he was the only one there for me.

SALOME: That’s not true!

JERUSHA: That’s how it felt. Can we just keep looking?

SALOME: I thought Mark was better than that.

JERUSHA: It wasn’t just him. It was us. He’s a better man than you think and we all make mistakes. Please, let’s not talk about this anymore, ok? Dad said her things were in the trunk.

SALOME: Here. (Moves stuff off of the steamer trunk. JERUSHA moves to help pull the trunk out but SALOME refuses any help. She opens the lid.) So that’s why you’re getting married?

JERUSHA: Look! It's the doll I used to carry everywhere when I was a kid!

SALOME: You didn’t answer my question.

(A beat.)

SALOME: What else is going on?

JERUSHA: I’m not going to keep it.

SALOME: Jerusha!

JERUSHA: You don’t know what it’s like. I need to finish school first. Then we will start a family.

SALOME: It’s not just your life we are talking about anymore. You are talking about an actual human being. Haven’t you learned anything?

JERUSHA: Salome, this is not up for discussion.

SALOME: Yes, yes it is! Why would you do it?

JERUSHA: It’s not the right time yet. I need finish school first.

SALOME: Why do you have to, I mean, can’t you take the year off and then go back?

JERUSHA: I can’t. If I take a year off I lose my scholarship and I can’t afford that.

SALOME: Maybe there’s another way.

JERUSHA: It’s not like we are never going to have kids.

SALOME: This isn’t about some future family you plan on having. You’ve started now.

JERUSHA: Mark and I talked about it and we have made our peace with the decision. Please?

SALOME: What’s this?


SALOME: It has your name on it. (Holds up a small journal bursting with notes)

JERUSHA: Here is one with yours. (Holds up a similar journal)

(They trade journals and read.)

SALOME: This is from my first haircut.

JERUSHA: Here is mine!

SALOME: I never knew that’s what my name meant.


SALOME: It means Peace. Look, she wrote it down. What does yours mean?

JERUSHA: Banished.

SALOME: What? I thought you were named after Aunt Jerusha.

JERUSHA: I hope so.

(Jerusha flips through the notebook)

JERUSHA: Everything is here! From the haircut to that time that I fell at the ocean and had to go to the hospital, and my grades and my Bat Mitzvah and pictures from my 4-H competitions. Here’s the first picture of Mark and me together when he asked me to junior prom. (Shows picture to SALOME)

SALOME: She kept a record of our childhood. Look, here’s a collage of me reading in weird places. Oh look, remember those science fairs she made us do? You flourished in those!

JERUSHA: That was where I learned to love Chemistry. You hated doing it though. She taught me so much.

(A beat)

SALOME: Let’s keep searching. If we stop I’ll start crying again and I hate crying.

JERUSHA: Here's the dress anyway. (Pulls out a hideous 80’s wedding gown, complete with puffed sleeves and too much lace.) I had forgotten how terrible 80’s wedding dresses were.

SALOME: Here is the tiara you were looking for.
What’s this?

JERUSHA: What’s what?

SALOME: This stack of letters. It isn’t mom and dad’s correspondence, is it?

JERUSHA: Don’t you mean love-letters?

SALOME: (Holds up a bundle of betters tied with a blue ribbon) Not unless her boyfriend was named Columbia.

JERUSHA: Those are all from Columbia University?

SALOME: Yeah. (Opens the top one) This is her acceptance letter.

JERUSHA: (Opens the second one) This is another acceptance letter.

SALOME: She got accepted twice? (Shows her the letter)

JERUSHA: Oh, but this is for a Ph.D. program. And they gave her a full scholarship. And a fellowship.

SALOME: I thought that Columbia was her dream school but she couldn’t afford it.

JERUSHA: She should have. This would have covered more than everything.

SALOME: So why didn’t she go?

JERUSHA: I don’t know.

SALOME: But wait, this one is addressed to Dina-Beth Saloman, her maiden name. What year is that?

JERUSHA: Oh. This is ‘88, the year she married dad and moved to Chicago. I was born a year later.

SALOME: She even kept some school brochures. (Fishes out a tri-fold pamphlet.)

JERUSHA: That’s not for Columbia, it’s, it’s an abortion clinic. Here’s an appointment card.

(A beat)

SALOME: Let me see. When was it?

JERUSHA: 18th of July, 1988.


SALOME: And you were born in February of ‘89?


(A Beat)

JERUSHA: Mom chose me over Columbia.

SALOME: She chose us every day.

JERUSHA: What do you mean?

SALOME: She could have gone back to school or taught science full time. But she stayed every day to make sure the house was in order and to cook and all of those things that I had no idea she did until she wasn’t there to do them. And...I think she was happy.

JERUSHA: How could she have been happy? She must have spent her entire life dreaming after a school and then spent the rest of her short life just running this house.

(Salome has been sorting through the papers)

SALOME: And she was good at both. Look: here’s a paper she published when she was at Vanderbilt. I wonder if I could find this on JSTOR. I never thought to look. Here’s another one. I’ve heard of publish or perish, but she wasn’t about to perish any time soon.

JERUSHA: Oh my gosh, here is an interview she did with Richard Feynman!!! How did I not know about this? (Begins to read.)

SALOME: Sorry, who?

JERUSHA: You don’t know who Feynman is?

SALOME: I study Romantic literature. Not science.

JERUSHA: He’s the coolest theoretical physicist. Seriously. He took up bongo drums and painting just because he could. When he wasn’t doing that he was outsmarting professors in his undergrad. Heck, he joined the Manhattan Project when he was only 24 and had just finished his Ph.D. He also solved the problem of the Challenger disaster. Well, sort of. He claims he got the idea from the scientists down in the lab and only just presented the problem at the panel. But really. And this interview was just before he died, too.

SALOME: Here’s a letter from Stephen Hawking.

JERUSHA: How did we never know that she was so involved with physics? She was good at it. Really good.

SALOME: She put all of it away. You notice that there is nothing in the house to suggest that she was part of that sphere except her diplomas and the journals that always end up in the bathroom.

JERUSHA: Why would she hide it?

SALOME: I don’t think she hid it. It seems like she set it aside. Like that was her world before she married and then she was just a wife and mother.

JERUSHA: But she was better than that. She could have gone back and gotten that degree and then taught somewhere or worked. We could have managed without her.

SALOME: But that’s just it. She didn’t want us to grow up without her. Remember how she and Dad used to fight about him not spending enough time with us? “One day you will wake up and they will be grown up and gone” she’d say.

JERUSHA: Do you really think that she chose raising us over pursuing her passions?

SALOME: But she was happy here.

JERUSHA: But she could have done so much more. Anyone could cook and clean and pay the bills. Only mom could have done the work she was primed to do in her field.

SALOME: But she wouldn’t have been here for us.

JERUSHA: But we were never around. We were always at school or summer camps or something.

SALOME: Do you really think that she could have been truly satisfied?

JERUSHA: I don’t know.

SALOME: Is that why you won’t keep your child?

JERUSHA: If I do, won’t I just be doing all this over again?

SALOME: What do you mean?

JERUSHA: What if I put away my own dreams to raise my child? You know I have never liked housework and well, children. What if this is all I become? What if this is all I want to become?

SALOME: Isn’t motherhood a good thing to aim for anyway?

JERUSHA: Yes, I guess so, but you know I have never felt gifted in that but I am good at what I do. I never told you this, but my O-Chem professor said that my research project was good enough to send to a journal for consideration.

SALOME: That’s fantastic!

JERUSHA: Even if it does get accepted I won’t have the resources anymore to make any edits I’ll need and I don’t think I’ll even have time.

SALOME: Maybe you can make it work.

JERUSHA: You don’t understand. I have only ever aspired to the life of a scientist but I could be forced into the role of a mother. I don’t know how compatible those are and clearly mom didn’t make it. Worse, she didn’t even try! She let her ambitions go to raise a family. She was more than intelligent enough to succeed at anything she put her hand to but she chose to do something just any woman can do. I just think she sold herself short somehow.

SALOME: I feel like we would have known if she wanted something more.

JERUSHA: You said she set it aside. If she really was as gifted in this as it seems wouldn’t it be hard for her to just set it aside?

SALOME: I think she replaced it with us. She turned her passion for physics to building a home.

JERUSHA: I just don’t see that they are comparable.

SALOME: It’s not like childrearing is any less of an honorable pursuit than a career. In fact, isn’t it more? Physics can be done by anyone, but only she was our mother.

JERUSHA: But Mom was passionate about this field and I don’t see that you can just turn off that part of you and create another one.

SALOME: I don’t think she was sorry to have you. I really do think she found a way to close that chapter in her life. Maybe this is me applying my literary skills to life a bit too far, but you notice that she left her school things under her wedding dress? It’s like her wedding overshadowed her academic life.

JERUSHA: That’s what I’m afraid of.


JERUSHA: I’m afraid that I’ll get so caught up in raising a family that I will forget who I am.

SALOME: Of course that won’t happen.

JERUSHA: Didn’t it happen to mom? You saw, her life as a physicist was integral to who she was. How much of her was left when she gave it up?

SALOME: People change. It’s how we work.

JERUSHA: I just don’t see how someone can alter so much and still be happy. You are right, she was happy here, but she had to become a different person in order to do that.

(SALOME walks over to where she left the letters and picks up one she set aside. JERUSHA follows and picks up the one from UPENN.)

SALOME: Are you and Mark still going to keep your appointment?

JERUSHA: I don’t know. I’ll talk with him again. Maybe I’m just being selfish. (Contents of letter seem to upset her)

SALOME: What does it say?

JERUSHA: It’s the confirmation letter for my scholarship. I have to answer by midnight tonight whether I keep or reject it.

SALOME: What time is it?

JERUSHA: 8:37.

SALOME: Jerusha, remember that mom kept you and was happy here at home.

JERUSHA: You’re right. Maybe I’ll call Mark and we can cancel the appointment in the morning.

SALOME: Mom would be proud I think.

JERUSHA: Life is going to be so different.

SALOME: You are going to be a wonderful mother.

JERUSHA: Thanks. You can finally start making me that baby quilt.

(SALOME starts flipping through her letters and tearing and throwing the junk-mail out.)

SALOME: As soon as you know whether it’s a boy or a girl let me know. I want to know what theme to make it.

JERUSHA: Maybe it will be one of each.

SALOME: Don’t look so down about it. Sure, it won’t be easy, but no one ever said it would be.

(JERUSHA puts on a huge, fake grin.)

JERUSHA: That better?

SALOME: Perfect. Here, let me have that. (Reaches for the UPenn letter.)

JERUSHA: No, wait, what are you going to do with it?

SALOME: Put it with the others. (Gestures toward trash can)


SALOME: Sorry?

JERUSHA: You can’t have it.

SALOME: I just wanted to clean up.

JERUSHA: My life is not something you can just clean up.

SALOME: I just....

JERUSHA: I am not going to let someone else define who I am or what I’m going to do. I’m going back to college. I’m going to finish my degree. I’m not letting anything stop me. (Turns to leave room.)

SALOME: Not even a life? (Goes to catch arm.)

JERUSHA: I have my own life to live. (Throws Salome off of her) It involves test tubes and pipettes not babies and diapers.

SALOME: Jerusha!

JERUSHA: Save it.