Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My Writer's Week Experience

This year's writers week left me with mixed feelings. Watching such inspired minds come together in one place gave me hope for my own writing ability. Proof that people of any background can make impactful writing. From revolutionary writers such as Marc Smith to down to earth, independent songwriters such as Daphne Willis & Company.
The first performance I experienced proved to be not much of a performance at all. Bill Kelley, a "famous" Hollywood screenwriter admitted to being completely unprepared, and personally I was suprised that he could fill up all the time through a simple question and answer. Yet his message to us, though a bit cliche (like most of his movie ideas) was clear, do what you love and what your good at, even when people try to bring you down. I liked his dry, monotoned answers to the questions about his movies, which he obviously recognized are a bit lame. His sense of humour which comes through in his scripts also came through in his conversation as he took abuse by several students, and even a teacher, who asked him "how it felt to take on the role of a teenage girl." Instead of becoming akward he admitted that the writing process is not glorious and most often takes a long soak in the bathtub. He also admitted to being a fan of corny popcorn flicks like Matrix, among others. This is clear in his movies that actually got produced as well, such as Premonition, and Enchanted. The best part of his Q&A was his insight into the world of movie production, and his full recognition of the fact that his career makes him "pond scum." The fact that he takes all the abuses of being a writer with generally dumb ideas who has no power at all, yet still does it for the love of the industry and creative liberty is inspiring if nothing else.
After hearing that rant about the generalities of being unsuccessful, anything would be a pump up in my mind...except Billy Lombardo. Right off the bat I knew his ideals and my own did not exactly coincide. His first poem about a baseball game, proved uninteresting to me, though his writing style was admirable. His bland delivery didn't help the matter, and later on as he got to his stories about emotional relationships, between father and son got a bit too mushy for my taste. It didn't end there though, the theme of baseball and father/son protruded throughout the next half and hour. To top it all off, they weren't even true stories, or inspired by truth, he just wrote depressing stories for the heck of it, and that got on my nerves. Stories about hitting his kids, and of adultery, and losing keys. I just saw it as a bummer, and then I'd remember its all happening at some random baseball field and that was a bummer too, cause I don't like baseball. I guess the stories were honest, and serious but not at all captivating or interesting.
On the third day I wasn't expecting much, as I had been pretty clearly disappointed the last two, but I was in for a welcome surprise, as the cast and crew of Speeddating the Musical performed. Though performing about a subject probably none of the students had any experience with, you could instantly tell everyone was interested. To see written word put to such comical use was a relief from the past experiences. The way that the performance aspect adds an entire other layer to the already complicated process of writing, and one that can be at times much more captivating than the words themselves really interested me. Another welcome surprise was the fact that this particular theater group consisted of regular people not actors. Accountants, dentists, lawyers all brought together by a love of the stage, and trained to be naturals in front of a crowd. It really provided evidence of writing put to action.
Perhaps my favorite performance of the week came with Marc Smith, the creator of Poetry Slams. I felt like I was in the room with some one who really made a difference in the writing world. Proof that individuals can revolutionize a field even as isolated as poetry. His performace again added to the power of the pieces, as they weren't bland and drawling but quick, highpaced, and he was always moving to add effect. I knew I was in a room with a master of the art. The parts of his life that he shared with us were also interesting as you got to see that he came from humble roots, and that he wasn't always inclined to write, but found it to be his calling. His innovation, and passion made him inspiring, and easy to watch. If I ever had doubts about whether poetry could exist in our generation, my questions with answered quickly.
Though I enjoyed some speakers more than others, I admired their ability to go in front of a crowd of strangers, and share pieces of themselves, their ideas on paper. I could see that all of these people were empowered by creativity, and that writing is as much an expression of one self as anything.

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