Saturday, May 25, 2013

Moving Ahead, and Looking Back, Post 1

The past week was one of many good things, which I am grateful for. Life does go on, and we find ways to continue to find joy and to do what must be done. I thought a retrospective of the past 10 days might help me catch up again here. This my life journal in a way; it is where I write the things I want to remember and share the things I think others will enjoy. When I don't write, I feel like I have lost those special times and thoughts. So here, in brief, is some of what I've been doing and thinking recently, starting with my trip to Philadelphia.

It had been almost 10 years since last I set foot on an airplane and I wasn't really looking forward to finding my way through all the new regulations. But as it turned out it was really simple: dress carefully to avoid metal bits, pack carefully to avoid bottles and strange shapes in the carry-in luggage, and allow plenty of time. That last was a little tricky as we somehow missed the turnoff to the airport and drove through some interesting places in Columbus, Ohio before arriving with minutes to spare. They were calling my name on the speaker, so you know how rushed I was! All went well, however, and I was on the plane in record time.

I noticed that people behave differently on planes these days. No one talks. Everyone seemed to have some device they were listening to or looking at. I've met many interesting people on flights so this new change was a little disappointing. I had my own device, however: a book. I loved looking out the window, though, and watching the clouds move below us. My flight connected in Cleveland, and the crew held us on the plane so long before disembarking that I had to run once again to make my next flight. I was glad I'd decided to wear my athletic shoes because I had to make tracks. Again, all was well and we arrived in Philadelphia on time.

Our working weekend began with a walk. I was the first arrival so there were only the two of us for the first hike. Although we were in the Philly suburbs there were beautiful nature trails in this area known as Rose Valley (established as an artists' colony years ago, and filled with gorgeous one-of-a-kind homes).

Little waterfalls, plants of all kinds in a lush greenness that felt almost tropical, was lovely. Megan introduced me to Arnica gel for my hurting knee and let me tell you, that stuff is magic! My knee felt fine for our first mile and a half walk.

The others began arriving later in the afternoon and we got right to work. The structure was simple: divide the available time by the number of people; each person can work on whatever they needed help with--marketing, presentation techniques, characters, approach, etc. We were so bad that first day! None of us stayed within our time, although we did try. So the next day we made sure we followed our own rules, and we were able to spend an entire hour on each person's work. We discussed ways to market ourselves better, including using Twitter (you will notice I now have a Twitter feed on this blog--please feel free to follow me there!), exploring new venues, how to contact schools most effectively and cold calls. We delved deep into stories, asking questions, discussing alternate versions and the background of the tales. I learned why it is not good to aspirate (I don't think I do it, but it's something to watch for); we sought stronger beginnings, clearer endings. We sang along, listened deeply and laughed a lot. We also made time for more walks, and took two more lovely hikes during our time together.

And we ate. And ate. Such good food: homemade chicken salad with green grapes, bean dip that I am going to make and post here, homemade hummis (which I always disliked, but now I am a fan since tasting the homemade version), chili, and then an evening out. I cannot remember the name of the restaurant but it serves only locally grown foods. I chose trout with roasted red potatoes, fennel, and of all things, ramps! (Called "ramp" on the menu, which I thought was quite funny.) Dessert was a chocolate custard-y thing with chocolate-mint ice cream and a divine sauce.

Superb, all of it. It cost more than I have ever spent for one meal (and equal to our weekly grocery bill!) but it was worth every penny. I never liked fennel before, either--I came home a convert. And here I have grown it in my garden for years and never used it, but I never tasted it cooked, and the raw just did not taste good to me. Live and learn.

I was ready to come home Sunday and get to work, filled with good ideas and two new stories almost ready for performance. But my flight was canceled because the tornadoes in the Midwest had disrupted flight schedules. So I had another evening with my friends, and then was finally home by Monday evening.

If you ever wondered about how storytellers work on their work, now you know. It was much more fun and more productive, honestly, than working alone because the varied points of view provided insights I would not have considered. And it was just as valuable to work on the others' stories because it forced me to think about new things, to learn new perspectives and to consider more possible ways of developing and telling stories than I might ever have found on my own.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

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