Photo of the Week

FunInTheVineyard

“Fun in the Vineyard” © Dennis Eamon Young

Of Note

Heading to the California Mid-State FairThis week music lovers still have plenty of concerts to choose from, including Lady Antebellum, The Doobie Brothers and the three-pack of Journey/The Steve Miller Band/Tower of Power. Buy your tickets here.  &&&   And if you find yourself looking for an original work of art or just looking for some inspiration, stop by the “Pop-Up” Studios that Studios on the Park (usually found in downtown Paso Robles) is presenting every day til Sunday with artists Carol Timson Ball, Robert Simola, Dennis Curry, Debra Jurey, Sharon Sobraske, Lauriel Carlisle, Hap Happoldt and Grace Iaquinto.

AnnualFundReportCoverArts organizations are among the biggest users of annual fund campaigns, a new nonprofit survey reports. The study says more charitable organizations with annual funds reach their fundraising goals than those organizations without such funds. Survey results are available FREE from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative.

Sarah Linn, a reporter for the last nine years with The Tribune, has been named editor of Ticket, the newspaper’s arts and entertainment section that appears in print each Thursday. The Tribune

FestivalMozaic2014Classical music lovers can find Festival Mozaic performances throughout the county from July 21 to 27, ranging from a baroque concert in Mission San Luis Obispo to an evening with the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet. Buy tickets here.

Book Notes: Thinking about writing a novel? Check out what mistakes Anne R. Allen suggests you avoid on Page One. Anne R. Allen   &&&    Another independent bookstore closes, this time down in Glendale. David Allen writes the obituary for The Brand Bookshop. The David Allen Blog   &&&   Jason Diamond introduces you to the 35 writers who run the “Literary Internet.” How many do you know? Flavorwire

fiestaPlanning to visit Santa Barbara towards the end of the month? The city is celebrating its 90th Old Spanish Days Fiesta from July 30 to August 3, with everything from a downtown parade to a rodeo to heritage tours. And the food should be pretty good, as well.

SLOLTSeasonBroAccording to San Luis Obispo Little Theatre officials, the organization may have to cut off sales of its season tickets to ensure there are enough seats available throughout the year for non-subscribers. For $115 ($99 for seniors 62+) subscribers get to see all five season shows and may exchange their tickets at any time, for any reason, as many times as they would like.

Actor James Garner, known for a wide body of television and film work, died at his Brentwood home Saturday night. He was 88. Garner starred in two classic television series, Maverick and The Rockford Files, plus a slew of made-for-television movies. He achieved wider fame starting in the 1960s with a series of movie roles including The Great Escape, 36 Hours, and The Americanization of Emily. Pete Hammond provides an appreciation of the late actor’s work. Deadline: Hollywood

ARTSLooking for grants? Calls for entries? Auditions? Ideas for professional or personal creative growth? For artists and those who love the arts, we select some morsels for thought each week under the label “OPPORTUNITIES in the Arts.” Be sure to check them out in the right-hand column each week as you browse Two for the Show.

Review

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Oklahoma!: To Dance and To Dream

By Charlotte Alexander

July 19, 2014 (Santa Maria, CA ) — So . . . invariably, whether you’re sitting in a high school gymnasium or a Broadway theatre, by the time cast members get to the title song in Oklahoma! you’re ready to admit that Rodgers and Hammerstein got it right.

For the uninitiated, the song comes at the end of the production, and it is so invigorating that whatever the level of talent displayed by the cast and crew of a particular show, most audiences are on their feet before the final “OK!” practically singing their own ovations.

OK2The popularity of the show, not to mention its age (it opened on Broadway in 1943), has assured its place in the musical theatre pantheon. That is likely the reason PCPA, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, chose to include Oklahoma! in its 2013-14 season.

Described in the program notes as a “quintessential piece of American Musical theatre” and “one of the anchors for America’s Golden Era of musicals,” it is thanks to director and choreographer Michael Jenkinson that this production rises above all the historical hype and is, simply, a delight.

While the acting and singing and music and set design and lighting and costuming and sound are all of the high caliber we expect from PCPA, it is the dancing that provides the enchantment of this production. That Jenkinson plays choreographer as well as director ensures the smooth and at times joyous integration of uninhibited physical movement into the proceedings. His buoyant cast, particularly the men, seem exhilarated, even intoxicated by what he demands of them, and the audience is clearly captivated by the choreography.

For lack of talent or time, many productions of Oklahoma! cut short or eliminate the 15-minute “dream ballet” that concludes Act 1, which was one of the OK1Broadway show’s most notable features. The sequence is certainly one of the best reasons to see PCPA’s production. Here George Walker as Curly and Jackie Vanderbeck as Laurey—both strong performers with voices perfectly pitched for their roles—hand the spotlight over to Alex Stewart as Dream Curly and Katie Wackowski as Dream Laurey. Representing Laurey’s inner turmoil, the movements of Stewart, Wackowski and company boldly intensify the darker themes of desire and rejection running through the show.

The second act explores those themes when confrontation erupts over Laurey between Curly and Jud Fry, played by a believably menacing Galloway Stevens. His lament about getting a woman to call his own in “Lonely Room” is foreboding and fearsome.

OK3Of course Walker as Curly is winsome as well as handsome from the first strains we hear of his “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.” Some of the other musical numbers are a hoot, especially those designed to let the cocky cowboys show off. Will Parker (played by Jake Delaney) and the male ensemble establish their dancing credentials in “Kansas City” and “The Farmer and the Cowman.”

This production, rather than downplaying the underlying tensions between farmers and cowhands, between Curly and Jud, between men and women, seems to embrace turmoil and turn it into a motive to move—to drive forward, to take action, to sing and, most wonderfully, to dance.

If you think you just can’t see Oklahoma! performed one more time, or you think you’ve seen it as good as it gets, think again.

Asked & Answered

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Judy Salamacha, Director, Central Coast Writers Conference

“Experience is not as important as the passion . . .

JudySalamacha

July 21, 2014 (San Luis Obispo, CA) — This is a busy time of year for Judy Salamacha. When she’s not writing her weekly Monday column for The Tribune, or promoting her book about Bakersfield history, Judy is focused on organizing the annual Central Coast Writers Conference at Cuesta College. This year is special because the conference celebrates its 30th anniversary. We asked Judy about what’s happening September 19-20 and why writers of all levels of experience should attend.

David Congalton: How did you become the director of the Central Coast Writers Conference (CCWC)?

Judy Salamacha: Six years ago I finally wrapped up my public relations agency work in Bakersfield and joined my husband full time on the Central Coast. My goal was to focus on my writing. As a working journalist first for The Bay News,  then the Sun-Bulletin, I attended the conference to check it out. Like most of the attendees I was an aspiring writer, but not sure what genre I might want to pursue. I was inspired by the workshops I selected to continue the personality profiles I had started to write, which ultimately developed my style as a columnist for the San Luis Obispo County Tribune. I knew I wanted to be part of CCWC in the future. Before the end of the conference, I made sure I mentioned to then-director Cathe Olson that I would love to volunteer the following year. She called soon after and said she had secured her dream job as full-time librarian and that Cuesta Community Programs would be interviewing candidates. It didn’t take much encouragement to ask where to send my resume. Cathe had offered me my dream job. The job description incorporated all the skills I had developed over the years complimented by an opportunity to learn and network with writers and people working in the industry.

DC: You’ve snagged a huge name to be your keynoter this year in author Anne Perry. How did that come to be?

JS: My first workshop six years ago was with Victoria Zackheim. I was mesmerized by her nonfiction anthology concept. I purchased her book, The Other Woman, which Victoria ultimately was asked to adapt for the stage. When I asked for her autograph, we realized we had been at UCLA at the same time, but had never met. We instantly bonded and she has not only returned to present two times during my tenure, but has led me to excellent presenters such as Barbara Abercrombie. Two years ago I was invited to volunteer for the San Francisco Writers Conference. Victoria had been invited to introduce Anne Perry as their keynote. Instead of the traditional introduction and keynote presentation, the two authors discussed their careers, writing styles, aspiration and inspiration together as if two friends talking in their living rooms. It was unique and enthralling for the audience. When I congratulated Victoria on their presentation, she introduced me to Anne and suggested to both of us that Anne should keynote CCWC. I was not confident we could ever afford such an icon as Anne Perry. My friend and supporter of CCWC, Victoria Zackheim, is the reason we have Anne Perry for our 30th Anniversary Conference. And, believe me, their presentation will be magical.

DC: What level of experience should you have as a writer to attend a conference like CCWC?

JS: Experience is not as important as the passion to learn to write, the fortitude to keep trying, the confidence to accept rejection and seek those who will nurture your desire to succeed, and the belief that you have something significant to create. The conference offers workshops in a variety of genres for every level of writing skill from our aspiring PG&E Teen Writers to published authors that understand they can always learn new tricks of the trade.

DC: I always encourage beginning writers to attend conferences because they tend to come away so inspired. Has that been your experience?

JS: I rarely share personal experience, but the conference has been totally inspirational and the catalyst to my debut book, so I will share. The first year was my discovery I preferred nonfiction to fiction, but once a friend attended we changed our seedling of a concept to a creative nonfiction middle grade novel. Ultimately, we connected with Chris Brewer, the great-great grandson of the subject my co-author and I had decided to write about. In 2013 we published the first biography of Colonel Thomas Baker, the namesake of Bakersfield. At the conference I had learned I didn’t have to write a dry history book. Editor Jordan Rosenfeld talked about her book, Make A Scene, which inspired the style of our book. We also took advantage of CCWC’s 10-page manuscript critique service and additional workshops to help guide our interpretive biography, Colonel Baker’s Field: An American Pioneer StoryInspired by the presenters willing to share their talents and tips at the conference? Absolutely, we have so many testimonials of attendees discovering their idea, molding their concept, changing their first page, connecting with an agent, and publishing their first and second books after attending the conference. Yes, the conference will inspire if you are ready and open to inspiration.

DC: Tell us about this special event you have planned following the opening keynote speech by Anne Perry. Sounds like you’re shaking things up a bit.

JS: Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall and hear authors, songwriters, screenwriters, creative talents discuss among themselves what inspires them, their methodology, their favorite works, their rejections, career highlights and their passions? Anne Perry will be joined on stage at the Cuesta College Performing Arts Center by Victoria Zackheim, Mara Purl and Barbara Abercrombie to discuss these areas and share a reading with each other – and we, the audience, get to listen in – and then ask questions of the performers. Victoria Zackheim developed this concept and called it “Women’s Voices.” It has been performed throughout the United States at book stores, libraries and smaller writers groups comparable to SLO NightWriters. We are the first conference to witness the presentation. It is scheduled to tour the United Kingdom where Anne Perry makes her home in 2015.

DC: Any special moments come to mind for you as director over the last few years?

JS: I love how the PG&E Teen Writers Program has developed. You and Victoria Heckman started the program years ago, but with PG&E’s scholarships it has grown to provide over 25 aspiring writers each year the chance to take specific workshops designed for them by published authors that also do workshops for all of us. They also select two more workshops in their genre area, plus have access to the entire conference. Social media and a graphic novelist will work with them this year. Last year when our keynote novelist, Rebecca Rasmussen, called for questions, it was a teen that opened up the discussion with a brilliant question about character and setting. I was so impressed the conference had made a significant difference and we were just starting the weekend. Of course, the Zombie Parade in Mission Plaza led by former SLO Library director Brian Reynolds to surprise our keynote novelist, Jonathan Maberry, was a hoot. And standing room only for poet, Jack Grapes, warmed my heart since I felt I was taking a risk inviting a poet to keynote the first time in the history of the conference. Most of all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how willing these wonderful presenters will give of their time and talents to teach others the joy of writing.

DC: How about your own writing? How’s your book doing and what’s your next project?

JS: Thanks for asking. Colonel Baker’s Field: An American Pioneer Story is going through the 2nd edition print edit process. For a niche book and little time to market so far, we’ve been blessed to sell over 1200 copies. And my original goal was met – I have a published book in the Kern County and San Luis Obispo Library system – and some fine books stores in Morro Bay and Los Osos! Sandra Mittelsteadt, my co-author, and I are working on our original concept – the creative nonfiction middle grade novel – but it is still morphing so I will save the pitch for a surprise. Actually, once we adapted Jordan Rosenfeld’s Make A Scene theory to write Colonel Baker’s Field I felt Colonel Baker’s story would make a darn good historical movie. Maybe I should take your class and learn how to adapt it to a screenplay!

July 31 is the deadline for Early Bird registration for the 30th Annual Central Coast Writers Conference at Cuesta College with Anne Perry and 25 authors, editors, agents and publishers teaching over 30 workshops on writing, September 19-20 on the Cuesta College main campus. A $20 savings. 

By David Congalton

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The Art of Rewriting: Digging Deeper

By David Congalton

July 21, 2014 (Nipomo, CA) — My absolute favorite quote about writing comes from the late, great Dorothy Parker, who once admitted, “I can’t write five words, but that I change seven.” This is the mantra of rewriting, something that I believe so strongly in that I actually snuck Parker’s quote into the screenplay for Authors Anonymous in an exchange between Henry (Chris Klein) and William (Jonathan Bennett).

photo copy 54There is a growing stack of pages on the dining room table at our house in Nipomo; must be in the hundreds by now, likely to grow even further by the time I’m through. The pile represents a small fraction of the writing and rewriting I’ve been doing on a new screenplay Seven Sisters since last April. Actually, I’ve been working on this script for the past three years. Yes, you’ve read that correctly—one-two-three years on one writing project. The good news is that the script has been optioned by an impressive Hollywood team. They’re ready to go. They’re just waiting on me. And the latest rewrite.

All good writers, all successful writers, embrace the rewriting process. A first draft is merely that, whether it be poetry or nonfiction or advertising copy. You start writing, you get something, anything, down on paper, and now you have to mold and shape it into something special. I like to compare the rewriting process to digging a hole. With your first draft, you break new ground, but then it becomes a challenge of digging deeper and deeper as you discover new things about your characters, about your story. There’s always that temptation to stop, put down the shovel (or tell the editor or producer where they can stick that shovel) and consider the job done, but you can’t. More often than not, there’s more work to be done.

I take rewriting to an extreme. Way back when, before laptops and the Internet and working from home, I was a reporter for the Telegram-Tribune and living in Los Osos. One day, I had filed my story and come home, but thinking things over, I realized I needed to change a word, a single word. So around nine o’clock that night, I drove all the way to Johnson Avenue and back to change that one word in my story. Of course, you want to know what the infamous word was, but in all honesty, I don’t remember. Yet I didn’t hesitate to make the drive. My name was on the story. It had to be the best it could be.

UnknownWhen I wrote my two nonfiction books about animal welfare, the editorial process was pretty straight forward. The manuscript was submitted, an editor up in Portland went over every page, every line, making notes and edits. There was some back and forth between writer and editor, but in both cases, the entire exchange took a month, or two, at most. You could count the rewrites for both books on one hand.

Then came Authors Anonymous and my introduction to professional screenwriting. Even the original title of the movie, Scribble, ended up being rewritten during the seven years it took to get the script from page to production. I still have the first draft 42-page synopsis I wrote back in 2005 and it’s interesting to see how the storyline evolved. Originally the writing group met at a local theater run by a burnt-out hippie named Marty Makepeace. He vanished eventually. John K. Butzin’s German girlfriend Sigrid would not appear in the script for another three years. When writing a script for an independent film, the possible investors often lurk in the back of your mind, so one draft saw Henry become British for potential British investors, while in another, Hannah magically morphed into being Swiss for Swiss investors. Somewhere along the way, a script note emerged that Hannah needed to have some “quirks” and more rewriting was requested to make her superstitious and not very aware of key literary figures. Dig deeper, Dave. I did. Repeatedly. The total rewriting on Authors Anonymous ultimately reached more than a thousand pages, but it took that long to discover the characters, make the dialogue sparkle, and punch up the jokes.

136572_baRequests for a script rewrite can come from the director, the producer(s), and even the actors. We were rewriting Authors Anonymous right up to the day we started shooting, making changes in the script throughout production, and even adding a couple voiceover lines in post-production. More digging. The process literally doesn’t stop until the film is finally locked and ready to go. The biggest rewriting challenge came when our director and one of our early producers decided that there should be Where-Are-They-Now vignettes for each of the major characters at the end of the movie. I wrote and revised, digging and digging, for the better part of two years before I came up with something that pleased everyone—only to have most of it cut at the 11th hour due to budget considerations.

There are two main principles I swear by when it comes to editing and rewriting my work: (1) I read everything, absolutely everything, out loud because that’s the only way I can judge pacing, and (2) When I review my work, I try to act as a tough, demanding judge, forcing every word, every line, to justify their existence. If they can’t, I hit the Delete button. The more I write, the more I hit that Delete button.

I am about to begin Week No. 4 on the latest rewrite of Seven Sisters, all stemming from seven pages of precise notes from the producers and director. I have at least one more full week to go, and I suspect at least one more rewrite after this. More digging. That pile of pages on our dining room table is likely to grow larger before I’m done. However, I have to admit that the script has developed exponentially under their guidance—they have made me dig deeper within myself. So hand me the shovel and go off to enjoy your summer. I’ll be right here, at my computer, digging away. Searching for the gold.