Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil


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Writing About Plants of the Century

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“Bertha” The Stalk Sprouting Agave Plant, so big I couldn’t fit her in frame.

Writing Inspiration: When you go out into your neighborhood – what do you see that inspires you? Is it the old lady who lives in 446? Is it the garbage cans that never get picked up, or the old tree that looks like it’s going to come crashing through the Wilson’s new garage? Write about it. Here’s something that inspired me over on Istagram, which I’ve copied and pasted here.  

The Agave plant – aka The Century Plant- waits 25 to 80 years to bloom a stalk that flowers seed pods to propagate the next generation. It blooms like this when it knows it’s ready to die. Its death is sped up by putting all its energy and nutrients toward the growth of that stalk which will stand for a year or more until it falls and its seeds penetrate the earth. You can see her flayed open base yellowing in comparison to the other younger, healthier green Agave plants around her base. Once it starts growing, it grows at a rapid pace – 6 inches a day – and can rise more than 20 feet.

I walk by this beauty every day on my way to and from work. Its story is a testimony towards beauty, dignity and legacy. Unfortunately Bertha – as I like to call her, although I’m not sure if a plant like this is male or female (likely male, I mean…look at that stalk!) – will likely come crashing down and shed her seeds on the sun roof of the Toyota SUV in the neighbors driveway.

Huh… Nature…am I right?


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Autumn Writing Music Monday: All the Trees

“You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!”  Isiah 55:12

With the last few days of official summer drifting closer to the autumnal equinox, I think of fall and all its “mellow fruitfulness”*  I’m not religious, nor am I a bible reader. Yet, I do believe there are written passages in the ‘Good Book’ that reflect a lovely soulful connection to the earth and all its godly goodness.

(Writing Prompt: What does Autumn mean to you in your part of the world? Write about it!)

After the barefoot freedom and long days of summer, when green leaves so hard earned after a cold brutal winter begin their cycle of goodbyes in a glory of golds and color, soft lights, smokey rotten aromas and crisp chilly air….we drift into soulful introspection following the season of fun in the sun.

Trees are life. They are compelling. Not only am I taken by them being a metaphor for family and various generations and cycles of life, I’m mainly fascinated by their growth, their size, their variety and their majesty.

I feel safe under their branches, yet frightened by their towering height. In their bare state in winter, their trunks, branches and twigs look like human arteries, veins and vessels clustered like an x-ray of the human cardiovascular system. They are the living, breathing nervous system of this planet, allowing oxygen and soil to work cohesively to sustain life and to filter out impurities.

I love trees so much, I often wonder why I never studied Dendrology.

The trees of Autumn invite us outside for a celebration of color before bidding farewell for the winter.  The colors bring about new wardrobe, holiday preparations kicked off by the first sign of pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns before we see turkeys, pilgrims and Santa Claus.

It’s the parade of trees. This beautiful fall foliage reminds me of the woods behind the condo where my parents used to live. Forty years before they lived there, that backyard area of woodland used to be a small house-less street,  disused and left to the overgrowth of nature.

The wide path, once road, was no longer concrete, but packed with years of fallen leaves mulched into wide and winding beaten path. Various old telephone poles that had old rusted metal badges marked ‘Bell Telephone’ were still hanging on the dark, rotten wood, old electric cables were still strung from pole to pole leading to the active street beyond the stretch of woods.  A small forgotten fire hydrant sat there, ready in case of danger.

Far off, you could hear the babbling brook that turned rainwater from the hills into a splashing falls near the edges of the land that bordered the parking lot of the condos nearby. There was an old rusted plow with wagon wheels disintegrating into the dead, dry branches. A relic of another time.

Photos like the one above take me back to this memory. Back to when I walked our hound Baldrick under a canopy of yellow and red trees in November. The chill hitting my nose, the smell of hickory smoke from chimney bringing in a feeling of warmth and peace.  We’d walk down that old forgotten wide beaten path and jump over fallen trees – both thin and thick, while Baldrick sniffed and shuffled to bring up scent on an animal that danced by earlier

I’m aiming to return for good. If not this season, then in time to be back and settled by next Fall with my hound Baxter. We will take the train up north, back to those woods, where he can waddle and sniff in the footpath of his predecessor – his late brother Baldrick. Back to that part of the east coast where I felt nature, with cool earth, wet leaves and mellow fruitfulness.

“All the Trees in the Field Will Clap Their Hands”

If I am alive this time next year,
Will I have arrived in time to share?
Mine is about as good this far.
I’m still applied to what you are.
And I am joining all my thoughts to you.
And I’m preparing every part for you.
I heard from the trees a great parade.
And I heard from the hills a band was made.
Will I be invited to the sound?
Will I be a part of what you’ve made?
And I am throwing all my thoughts away.
And I’m destroying every bet I’ve made.
And I am joining all my thoughts to you.
And I’m preparing every part for you.
Words and Lyrics: Sufjan Stevens

 

 

*From ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ by PG Wodehouse

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Writers Be Writing: Join ‘Order of the Good Write’ Community

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“Against Monsanto” -Mural by Pixel Poncho

Hello Writers of WordPress!

The mural in this post by Pixel Poncho inspired me today. His murals turn up around the world and fill in the side walls of buildings, beautifying and colorizing a story for all to observe and interpret. (This one was painted for “Shine on St. Pete”).

It also motivated me to get back to helping and connecting writers. So…

Let’s get down to the gritty of the nitty….

As mentioned a few weeks ago on this blog, I’m  in the midst of building a writing community and would like your help.

I’m bringing ‘The Order of the Good Write’ to another level, and am looking for 15 – 20 writers who would like to help me test out a new writers platform I’m building.

For those first 20 people – I’m offering it for FREE. All I ask in payment is your feedback and continuing participation.

You will be the ‘Mercury Seven’. You will be the highly decorated and sought after test pilots. Your mission will be to create and participate in discussion, share books you’ve read, test out writing challenges and create story lines through exquisite corpse play that will make things interesting. Kick the tires on the Wet.Ink space I’m using and be the first crew members to go forth where no human has gone before. (Well, with the exception of teachers and writers who’ve formed their own groups…this is really an awesome site to carve out private online communities.)

And – I won’t make you sit in a gravity chamber, wait through a battery of tests where you have to hold your bladder or have you break the sound barrier. You will fly and, hopefully, have fun.

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This can be you! If astronauts were writers!

All I ask is that you share your stories, work on gaining confidence and motivation in your writing while using the online tools so I can build the best platform around.

It’s absolutely confidential, and no writing will be copied or shared outside the space.

Please email if you’re interested at drotmil@gmail.com and I will invite you in!

Good writing to you all!

Debi

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‘Fun Home’: The Closing of a Show

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‘Fun Home’, Closing night. September 10, 2016. Photo by Monica Simoes.

The first Broadway show I ever went to was “Godspell”. It was the early seventies. I was so young, it didn’t matter that the musical was about the Gospel of Matthew. I didn’t know the bible from Adam and Eve at the time. I only knew I loved the music and the amazing sadness and joy intermixed with a terrific score. I imagined becoming an actor and performing it on stage, so I could make someone out there feel as expansive and tingly as I did when I saw it. (I never became an actor.)

Then came “A Chorus Line”. Just in time for middle school, where adolescence was breaking through. “Too young to take over. Too old to ignore. Gee, I’m almost ready! But…What..FOR?”  And don’t get me started about “Tits and ass.” Obsessed is the likely word for my love of this show. I was about to enter life and all its auditions. What better way than to dance in front of the mirror and practice piano to play for grandma because…”all those lessons.”

But then came ‘Fun Home’, the groundbreaking, Tony award winning  musical that started at The Public four years ago and ran on Broadway for over a year which closed on Saturday night after a successful run.

Back in May of 2015, when I was getting ready for a trip back home, a neighbor of mine in Los Angeles, a playwright herself, told me about this show called ‘Fun Home’. “Get your tickets now, because it will be sold out!”

I didn’t get tickets. I couldn’t. It was sold out.

But I was intrigued after the show won Tony for Best Musical, Actor, Composer, Writer…etc… to listen to the cast recording.  How good could this be? Even the biggest hits on Broadway sound so…boring to me. If it isn’t Sondheim, it’s nap time.

I bought the score on iTunes and listened. I was floored. It was charming, sweeping – a lovely chamber play of intimate memories and melodic hooks. Each track of the cast recording was a journey of memories, Jackson 5 and Partridge Family infused amazingness until ‘Telephone Wire” – the song that gutted me. The song that was the last car ride, the last moment to talk to your dad that one last time. When an opportunity missed leaves a big empty void of questions for you to figure out in time.

I was hooked. Completely. Indeed, I was obsessed with the story and the music. I was back in NYC a few months later with tickets.

‘Fun Home’ WAS home.

“Come to the Fun Home…the Bechdel Funeral Home, baby!”

And I did. Three times. I’ve never seen a show more than once – not even ‘Hedwig’ – my beautiful broken down rock goddess.

Three times. Some have visited Maple Avenue (the street where the Bechdel family lived in Beech Creek, Pennsylvania) even more.

For one year, ‘Fun Home’ was my New York home.  I’d prepare for a NYC trip and part of that prep was getting a seat at Circle in the Square to share time with the Bechdel family.

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Photo by (c) Tricia Baron for Theatermania.

The intimacy of the theater and the simple elements of this complicated story (based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alison Bechdel) revealed deep universal themes. It was about sexuality and repression. It was about a lesbian coming out and living her true identity when her father (closeted) became overwhelmed by living out his own truth.

But, the particulars and details don’t have to match the audience member’s personal story. They didn’t match mine.

Yet, the theme of family and memory in this show, which embarks on its national tour this Fall, matches everyone.

It’s the world of imagination you find in the midst of hearing your parents argue.

It’s the fun you seek despite the harsh reality of your family’s personal isolation and your folks’ own sacrifice.

It’s about the element of childhood, when you felt safe until you grew up and had to walk the tight rope of existence.

It’s about the joy of being authentic and the perils of not living your true self.

It’s about becoming an artist.

It’s about fathers and daughters.

It’s about memory and placing yourself in the shoes of your parents when they were the same age you are now.

It’s about love.

And it’s also, once again, about the music – gorgeously poignant. So many 11 o’clock numbers in this one, but the final rundown of ‘Days and Days’, ‘Telephone Wire, “Edges of the World’ and ‘Flying’ make it a veritable  ‘Abbey Road’ side two  rush of one song after another, racing with quiet urgency, until the final heart stopping goodbye for the night.

“Caption: Every so often there was a rare moment of  perfect balance, when I soared above you.”

And on Saturday, the cast took their final bows for real. It was the end of this contemplation – the end of mourning for lives that didn’t allow themselves to live and a celebration of those that did.

‘Godspell’ and ‘A Chorus Line’ never did that to me.

Thank you Alison Bechdel, Lisa Kron, Jeanine Tesori, Sam Gold, Michael Cerveris, Judy Kuhn, Beth Malone, Emily Skeggs, Joel Perez, Roberta Colindrez, Sydney Lucas, Gabby Pizzolo, Oscar Williams, Zell Steele Morrow, Lauren Patton, Jim Stanek, the talented orchestra, and all the swings and understudies I followed on social media and loved for their quiet stand-by devotion.  Thank you for being an inspiration, a warm blanket, a catharsis and a wonder. I won’t be able to go home the same way again.

And thank you sweet little Evangeline for being the back stage show mascot.

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Photo by Michael Cerveris

 

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Writing Challenge: What Place Creeps You Out?

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Roosevelt Island on the East River between Manhattan and Queens, NY.

What place on earth really creeps you out? Is it a building somewhere in your hometown? Is it a ruin you walked through years ago while on vacation that felt heavy with history and past demons?

Why not write about it? I did. Here it goes:

For me, it’s Roosevelt Island. The cigar shaped strip of land along the east river that straddles the upper east side of Manhattan and Queens. Fully inhabited, it’s a living, breathing little sleepy nook of NYC, carved off from the mainland.

Back in the black and white dusty days of old timey NYC, it was used to quarantine the contagious from the main land. A small pox hospital (now crumbling and empty) existed. And the Octogon Building, now a luxury condo complex, was the sight of a former insane asylum.

Yup! This place is really cool. And weird. And creepy despite it being inhabited and beloved (or despised, depending on who you talk to) by those who live there.

This long, two mile strip of land wasn’t wasted or left to the elements like the REALLY REALLY creepy North and South Brother Islands – two abandoned small land masses off the coast of The Bronx steeped in sad, depressing history. (More to come in my next post). Roosevelt was developed into a residential, park-like community with no nightlife, a few grocery stores and restaurants. It still houses a working, educational hospital; yet, people come here to buy high end condos and live a peaceful life away from the bustle  across the river.

There is only a Main Street cutting through the island, with an east and west drive. You can get to Roosevelt Island by Tram or by the F train. Cars are not plentiful, so there’s no traffic. The tram ride there is gorgeous, and the biking on the island is nice and easy due to cars being somewhat scarce.

For me, it’s incredibly creepy. Eerie. Strange. Like a New York City parallel universe where you’ve been drugged and thrown in a van only to wake up in the middle of the in-between. Someone online mentioned that it reminded them of the old video game ‘Myst’ – where you’ve been ship wrecked on an island that looks familiar, but it’s vacant and strange and surreal.

They even made a thriller with Jennifer Connolly called ‘Dark Water’ on the premises, using its isolated, dystopic, empty strangeness as part of the atmosphere.

So bizarre is this strip of island  – that only this week during New York’s Fashion Week, Kanye West, now a fashion maven, staged a fashion show to reveal his latest line of shoe wear. Girls clad in nothing but underwear and body stockings stood along the grassy area of the park, staged as living dolls around the makeshift runways. They stood there, like brooding statues in the heat, to which they succumbed, one by one in fainting spells. Meanwhile, animated models strutted and stumbled over shoes that fell apart on the catwalk.

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As each model wobbled and held on to audience members for dear life, the ruins of the small pox hospital loomed in the distance.

A modern day disaster contrasting an older one. A strange land perfect for such a strange performance.

Perfect for a weird place like Roosevelt Island.

Yet, the skyline views were, and are always —  spectacular.

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Photo by: Mabry Campbell – http://www.mabrycampbell.com


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Finding Faith

Screenshot 2016-08-27 13.00.20.png“There was a lot of faith involved in everything that we did. And the people around us had to share that faith or it wouldn’t have worked. Brian had to have faith in us. George Martin had to have faith in us. This is how it was for The Beatles. You had to have faith. We had to have faith in each other.” – Paul, from ‘The Beatles: Eight Days A Week’

Beatle Lessons.