Sunday, June 17, 2012

Featured Post on BlogHer

I am happy to share the news that a recent post of mine has been featured on the BlogHer Publishing Network.  Please stop by to check it out and be sure to take some time to browse the other amazing bloggers on the site.

Working for Art

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Artist Feature: Author (and more) Gregory G. Allen

I recently had the opportunity to interview, by email and phone, author Gregory G. Allen who will be visiting my home state of Maine on June 23rd to 25th to promote his new book, Patchwork of Me.   The novel, his third adult title, takes place in Arizona and Maine and is the story of one woman’s discovery of her forgotten past.  The novel won the NewYork Book Festival general fiction award and the Fiction: Chick Lit/Women's Lit category of the 2012 International Book Awards.  He is also the author of the children’s book, Chicken Boy, inspired by his godson who is autistic.  I’ll be reviewing the Patchwork of Me in a later post.

Mr. Allen did not set out to be an author.  As a young man he moved to New York City with the intent of becoming a full-time actor.   While he did find plenty of work on the stage along with bit parts on Saturday Night Live, a stint as a touring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a day job that took up more time than he would have liked, his path also led him to writing plays and musicals, producing shows and eventually writing novels.  I asked him about his eclectic creative history and if he had found it at all difficult to move between these different forms of expression:
I've always believed I was telling a story: no matter the medium I was working in.  Either writing my own [story] or directing or acting another. I actually love moving from one to another and believe the creative aspects feed each other. Once I became a managing director of an arts center 6 years ago, my creative juices started flowing and my writing took off.”
Mr. Allen’s penchant for story telling showed itself in our telephone interview which, as it progressed, became less and less like an interview and more a conversation that eventually became an exchange of stories.   We discussed his love of tales of transformation, a theme that often finds its way into his writing; his unexpected discovery of the story of Chicken Boy that came out of his relationship with his autistic Godson; and the difficulty of making a living in the arts; a subject that was of great personal interest to me having recently made the commitment to pursuing a creative life.

While his tale of Big-City-Plans to become an actor while trying to find that balance between the day job and one’s art is a common one, for Mr. Allen it is a tale that has a happy ending:
“I moved to [New York City] to be a performer, but the day job slowly took over. And then I spent 13 years climbing the corporate ladder & making a great living. But my soul wasn't being fed. So I walked away from the money & security and took a job managing an arts center and never felt happier. My life is now all about creative arts. Producing, writing, is all wrapped up together. Do I make a living as an author? No. But my day job is a pretty amazing way to live as well.”
We went on to talk about far more than I can fit into one blog post but I expect I will make reference back to our discussion in future posts.  Meanwhile to learn more about Gregory Allen and his writing you can visit his website and facebook page

I’ll be reviewing Patchwork of Me early next week; though I will say now that if it isn’t already on your summer reading list it should be.   Once you have purchased your copy if you are in the area of Southern Maine you can also take advantage of Mr. Allen’s visit to have your copy of the book signed!

Gregory Allen will be in Maine from June 23rd to 25th at the following locations:

Saturday,  June 23Bath Book Shop - 11:00 am - 1:00 pm Bath, ME

Sunday,  June 24 -  Tugboat Inn - 12:00 - 1:30 pm Boothbay Harbor, ME

Monday,  June 25 - Freeport Community Library  - 7:00-8:30 pm Freeport, ME

….and P.S. – For all you children of the 80s out there, I did ask - “I toured for two years switching off as Michelangelo & Leonardo. And sometimes I'd play the Evil Shredder to mix it up. :). A very cool job for a young guy & a great way to see the country.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Will Work for Art

A few nights ago I volunteered to run the concession stand at a local theater.  The one woman show that was playing, The Emancipation of Lala by Rivera Sun Cook, was not something I had planned on attending but being able to watch whatever is at the theater is one of the benefits of volunteering and so of course I sat in.  I enjoyed the play, but that isn’t what I’m planning to write about.  What stuck with me more was something that was said during the discussion with the playwright that took place following the show.
It was pretty standard Q & A type of set up and a lot of the usual questions about where she found her inspiration, how does she get into character and was she working on any new projects were asked.  Then someone asked her how she was able to do it; how was she able to conceive, write, and bring to the stage a one woman show such as this one and then keep doing it night after night?  She mentioned her great director, getting enough sleep, hydration, proper diet and then “but mostly I’m just willing to work really, really hard.”

I go through periods of pretty heavy duty creative sloth where I have a lot of grand ideas, I have rarely lacked that initial inspiration, but I just can’t seem to pull my supposedly artistic self off the couch to actually DO anything about it.  And yes, I will complain about time, money, energy, etc. but in the end, whenever I have wanted something enough I have found a way to make it happen – no matter how broke, tired, or pressed for time I may be.
We can ask all kinds of questions about how people are inspired in the hopes we can tap into that special magic in ourselves that will light the fire of creativity but no matter how many great ideas we may have they are nothing without the willingness to put in the work necessary to bring them to life.  There is no secret or shortcut to achieving that.  You have to be willing to work really, really hard in order to make your creation become reality or there is a pretty solid chance that it won’t happen.

PS - Of course during those times when I am busily pursuing a creative goal I’m not always at my most disciplined.  I will procrastinate, eat poorly, not get enough rest and generally take care of myself in a manner that pretty much destines me to a monumental crash upon the completion of the project.   If I attended to those things more I’d have a deeper reserve to rely upon over the long term so perhaps I should also be listening to her advice on hydration, sleep and eating right too (after all a steady diet of Swedish fish, peanuts and red wine really isn’t sustainable for more than a few weeks). 

PPS - Speaking of art and creating...a particular group of creative types that I work with is seeking some support for their summer show. They've six days left to raise the funds - please take a moment to check out their Kickstarter page and, if so moved, lend your support.