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Poem Featured on Home Page of PoetrySoup.com

Dear Trisha,

Congratulations, this is just a quick notice to let you know that your poem The Farm is one of the poems being featured on the PoetrySoup.com home page this week. Poems are rotated each day in groups of 14-16 to give each poem an equal opportunity to be displayed.

Thanks again and congratulations.
Sincerely, PoetrySoup

The Farm ©
by Trisha Sugarek

Fields of mustard seed
as far and beyond the eye
the farm dogs return
dusted in yellow

The clapboard grey of the old
farm house stands in testimony of
generations of pea farmers,
hunters, fishermen, and cooks

Heady fragrance of a farm dinner
immerses the senses as the screen
door slaps open

The matriarchal voice sings out
‘tea party!’ A call to supper

the city folk sit around a battered
and scared wooden table laden with
baked chicken, fried steak, mashed potatoes,

green beans and corn that hung from the
vine just minutes ago

Her biscuits and corn bread are the stuff that
dreams are made of

Later they all sit on the warped porch steps
and listen as the geese honk their way in to
the fields and their nightly time of respite

Bats fly across the moon, frogs call out their
secrets, a loon wails its loneliness

For more poetry:  Click here
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Review ~~ Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan Hyde

5+ out of 5 stars  Book Review

 

Odd, loveable, quirky characters are sprinkled throughout this story. From the first page they  seduce and beguile the reader.

Stewie, a 10 year old boy (when we first meet him) is passively neglected by his overly taxed, older sister.  His Gam has recently died and as a way to stay connected to his much beloved grandmother, he adopts and takes over the care of her chickens.  During his ‘egg route’ he meets Marilyn, another grandma-type with the same rough edge as his Gam. 

And that’s where I’ll leave the spoiler alert.  The writing is done with the same brilliance we have come to expect from Catherine Ryan Hyde. Her turn of phrase is unapparelled.  Her balance of descriptive text and dialogue is near-perfect. And my readers know how too little dialogue irks me!  This will never happen in a Hyde book.  The characters are well thought out and deeply written. Hyde ‘shows’ you her characters; never tells you who and what they are. And who else could get a beautiful story out of a young boy and his chickens?

I highly recommend this book to my readers. If you loved Allie and Bea (and I did!) you will certainly love Dreaming of Flight.

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Did you miss my interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde
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Writing isn’t a calling; it’s a Doing!

Lillian Hellman said this. ‘If you hope to be any good, nothing you write will ever come out as you first hoped.’     It is true and if you are truly lucky it will happen to you.

In my novel, Women Outside the Walls, I have waited until Joe dies at Charlie’s hands to share with you the back story of how the last chapters of my book came to be.   How I experienced this lucky event of my book not turning out as I had first hoped.

In the play script version , this is where the story ends; Joe dying on the cold floor of a prison and Charlie’s line:  “I got you to find Chelsea, didn’t I?”  And this was where I had planned for the  novel to end too.

IF I had not been working closely with a woman who had ‘stood by her man’ for 15 years while he was in prison. Women Outside the Walls Shortly after he was paroled, her son received 13 years for manslaughter.  She has been there, done that, times two!  After SK (the woman outside real walls) read the last pages, she looked up and asked: “What happened to Charlie?  To Alma?”

I looked blank for a moment. I was, first and foremost, a playwright after all. Then replied, “do you think anyone would care?” She said, “Absolutely.  Is Charlie in a death penalty state?  Does Alma stick by him?” she asked.  And “By the way, what happened to Hattie and her kids?”

The problem was I had no experience with death row……BUT I did have SK, whose son narrowly avoided the death penalty when he  pled down from murder two to voluntary manslaughter.  SK never spoke of those dark days when she thought she would lose her son when the state executed him.  Now she was willing to speak of it with me.

Based upon her stories and the stories of her friends (other women outside the walls) I was able to write those
final chapters.  Did Charlie walk down that long hallway to the ‘needle’?  Was anyone there to witness his death?
You might be surprised.  And yes, what happened to Hattie and Kitty?

Try to explore everything you can about your characters’ lives.  Don’t leave a single road untraveled.  We all care about what happens to the villain!

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Reading Books!

This was my journey with books except for the frustration part.

Somewhere around #7 “Rediscovering books” I began to seriously write. Stage plays to begin with…then children’s books….

then full length novels and poetry. And then more stage plays. But always reading…reading…reading.  Non-Stop! 

Books take you away…to far off lands, to adventures which you’d probably never have, and
to meet other people from all walks of life. 

Keep reading, keep writing……remember,

Writing isn’t a calling….it’s a doing! 

 

 

 

(acknowledgement: www.grantsnider.com)

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Conflict, Lighting, Sets……Action!

As a playwright you better find some conflict in your story. Little Women had soft, cozy conflict but make no mistake there was conflict. Romeo and Juliet had glaring conflict represented by a family feud that wrought murder and mayhem. To be successful, you must have antagonists and protagonists in your plot.
CONFLICT: It is a challenge to write conflict with dialogue only. There is no description (like fiction) where you can tell the reader how angry and against something your antagonist is. Granted you have the characters right there in front of you, to tell the story with their body language but the dialogue carries the day and is the difference between weak writing and strong, successful writing.
Using examples from a recent play of mine, I will demonstrate conflict in simple, but successful (to the overall plot of the play) terms. A children’s play but the rules still apply and are no less challenging because it’s a kids’ play. Perhaps even more of a challenge.
Sub-PLOT: The sooner the plot is revealed the better. If you haven’t engaged the audience in the first three minutes, you don’t have a very good plot. 

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Back in the day when there were truly ‘starving actors’ we started up theatre companies all the time with a couple of platforms and four ‘spots’ that one would use in a shop in the garage at home. This is a cheap ($12. a piece) adaptable, portable light. You can even attach a gel to the cone for a few pennies per gel. Use blues for night and warm colors (amber) for day. Each light has a wire running back to the control desk/booth and while you won’t have a dimmer option, you must be able to turn the light off and on.

When we started our own company, we had to be totally portable as our performance space could be an art gallery, a café, a gymnasium, or school auditorium. Anywhere they would allow us to use their space. All sites had to be vacated when the weekend was over and then loaded back in for the next performance date.

We could light just about any play with four of these clamp-on, shop lights. The purpose of any stage lighting is to light the actors and the set. If you don’t accomplish anything else, you need to make certain this happens. If your stage is in a very small space, it’s not super critical to light the actors brightly. Just be certain they stay in the light, which is where the director’s blocking comes in.

Even if you need to stick to the basics of simple illumination, lighting makes everything feel more professional and helps the audience to better focus on what is going on, on the stage. Theatrical lighting doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Lighting is about making certain that you can see the people on stage and that the moods of the play are represented and amplified.
Clamp lights aren’t the be all and end all. You’ll have to live with the shadows that they cast.
But remember, this is all you can afford now, and you’ll also need to be able to break it down and take the lighting with you.

I still remember the thrill when we could finally afford a couple of Klieg lights.

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Most theatres have a set designer who creates the set based on the director’s vision. But it is important that the playwright sees the set. Where your story takes place. If your set requires two different scenes/sets and you have structured the play around two sets you must think about time and money. Anticipate the cost because you want the director to choose your play to produce. But if the cost of more than one set is too much, your play might never be chosen.
An envelope design works nicely for the need of two locations/sets in one play. The first set in created on the outside fold of an envelope. When the scene changes the ‘flap’ is opened, like a tri-fold (by the stage crew) and a new set/location is used. Set pieces (Furnishings) have to be changed out and this calls for some cleverness on the director’s part.
One play comes to mind that I directed: The Cemetery Club. The main set was a living room of one of the female characters. But I also needed a Jewish cemetery. The four widows went there every month to visit their dead husbands and maintain the gravesite.
So what I designed was a single backdrop (scenery). What you might see out the living room window. Then I furnished the living room with set pieces. Sofa, chairs, coffee table, lamps, etc.
Upstage on a riser I created the cemetery with three graves. I designed starfoam monuments with the Star of David on the downstage side. The women would walk up on the risers and, while gazing at the graves, deliver their monologues. It worked because the actors believed it. Thus the audience believed it.   The magic of theatre!
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From Samurai Warrior to Haiku Poetry (Nostalgia #14)

As I swiveled around in my office chair I faced the back wall of my office and stared unseeing at a (manually) typed letter from James Clavell dated June, 1971. Clavell being the author of the classic and world renowned, ‘SHOGUN‘. (for you poor pathetic illiterate readers out there who have never read this classic or heard of James Clavell.)  The letter was a response to my asking him for more information on the word ‘joss’ and how it was used in ancient Japan. He responded with my answer and an invitation for us to sail up through the Strait of Juan De Fuca and the Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island and his home.  WOW! 

‘SHOGUN‘ began my love affair with Samurai Japan and the history of ancient Japan.  The Samurai, a military caste in feudal Japan, began as provincial warriors before rising to power in the 12th century with the beginning of the country’s first military dictatorship, known as the shogunate. They continue to rise to great power, known for their superb fighting skills, their unwavering loyalty, and (oddly)  their poetry.  I became a student of this warrior class for over two decades. Searching out and reading their Haiku and Renku writings. 

I was fascinated by the fact that these fierce, bloodied, bigger-than-life warriors who dedicated their lives to their lord and war could, in turn, write delicate, tender poetry. So delicate you felt as though the paper the poetry was written on would crumble if you held it too tightly. So tender your heart wept at the reading.  

One day; I don’t know which day or what prompted me, I wrote my first Haiku. And as they say, the rest is history.  I have written Haiku for over three decades, published three books of poetry. 

It is a wonderful exercise in brevity and translates over to your other writings. Helping you to cut away the excess, the fluff in your writing. And if you write enough of this poetry, the fluff in your writing will never appear in the first place. 

The Garden

I wander my blooms
the morning sun barely peeks
above the far hills
~~Trisha Sugarek

Samurai Song (Renku)
                                                                                                                                                   
delicate blossom                                                                                                                       
rests in the still gnarled hand                                                                                                                              
bruised petals weep tears                                                       

weary eyes open
tiny cuts, the body bleeds
peace still years away

sun rise breaks the hill
heralds another battle
draw your sword and charge
~~Trisha Sugarek

If you want to try writing some Haiku, click here

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Inspiration Comes in All Forms

  chilren's theatre, children's plays, fairy tales, inspiration, actors You find inspiration in the strangest places.   I was dedicated to writing scripts for the stage.   A few years back, I attended this production of my children’s play, Emma and the Lost Unicorn, outside of Boston .

After the actors had their curtain calls, the Director told them that if they changed out of their costumes and did their assigned tasks back stage, they could ‘have some time with  Trisha’.

So I found myself holding impromptu stage craft classes with these adorable young actors (age 5–18).  I was struck how serious they were about their craft.  Their questions were very sophisticated.  And then it happened……the inspiration to dare to write something completely out of my comfort zone…..a book.

children's theatre, plays for kids, writing, stage plays,

Emma

The  youngest ones begged me to write the stories from my scripts into storybook form.  They wanted to have Emma, Stare, Cheets, and Stanley in their personal libraries.  Six children’s books, a mystery series and three novels later I have found a new outlet for my story fairy tales, dragons, books for children, children's playstelling.  These children, who knew no fear, gave me enough courage to try chapter books, poetry, and becoming a novelist. Experimental at times, risky at times, scary, but so rewarding.
 
I was lucky and had a head start using my stage plays as a story outline as I adapted them to story book form.  But for my true crime series and the novels, I was flying solo….staring at a blank screen, typing that first sentence (that I am always talking about). 

   So step out of your comfort zone and try writing in a different format… it’s very liberating and you might surprise yourself.  I did!
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Book 1 in series

 

 

 

Writer’s Sprints/Writer’s Block (part 2)

Writing Sprints (Part 2)

In writing my sample of a writing sprint (for this blogging session) it WORKED!  I had been ‘resting’ from my creative writing; fiction, scripts, etc., but writing every day, my blog, etc. But after writing a couple of ‘sprints’ I seemed to have kicked aside whatever was holding me back and wrote a short, one act play in less than a week.  And returned to an unfinished novel in my true crime series. 

If you want extra accountability, start your writing sprint by posting “Starting a 30-minute writing sprint” on one of your social

A new short play

media sites (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) with the hashtag #writingsprint.
Before you start, double check one last time that you have everything you need to do your writing sprint. Preparation is critical to a successful sprint.
Once you are ready, start your timer. As soon as you start the timer, start writing and don’t stop until the timer stops. Don’t pause to consider word choice. Don’t stop for a sip of water (or wine). That can wait. Don’t think about what to do next (hopefully, you have planned it out earlier, so just implement your plan). It doesn’t matter what you write as much as that you keep your fingers or hands moving and words going down on the page or screen.
You can always edit your writing later. Remember:  “Writing is not a calling; it’s a doing.” (t. sugarek)
Stop only when the timer goes off. Then celebrate your successful sprint (and motivate others) by posting your word count achieved on social media and in any group forums if you are participating in an event.
Finally, record your sprinting session to track your progress.

When to Do a Writing Sprint

There are certain times where writing sprints can be extremely useful.
• When you have writer’s block
• When you only have a limited amount of time to write
• When you want to increase your writing speed
• When you want to reach a specific word count goal by a specific time
• When you want to break out of editing mode

There is no right way or wrong way to do writing sprints. So you can’t write 500 words in fifteen minutes. So what?  Just do your best. Stop over thinking it and just write as fast and furiously as you can. Put words down and see what happens. That blank page isn’t going to fill up by itself. 

Did you miss Part I of this post? 
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Writing Sprints May Cure Writer’s Block

Writing sprints are timed writing sessions of usually 15-60 minutes where writers try to achieve a specific word count or write as many words as possible. Just like running sprints, writing sprints aim to maximize results in minimal time.
We are going to explore exactly how to do just that…every time.

Why Writers Do Writing Sprints

There are many reasons why a writer might conduct a writing sprint. But the most helpful is to cure writer’s block.
A writing sprint can be an effective way to break out of a writing slump. Writing sprints, with their focus on high intensity pace and word count over quality, can be just the kickstart a writer needs to shatter writer’s block.

Ok, that’s all well and good, but how do you actually do a writing sprint?

Start by deciding whether you want to do a writing sprint alone or as part of an event with other writers. Solo sprints are more flexible because you only have yourself to think about, but tandem sprints or group sprints can be incredibly motivating and fun.
Select a writing goal, usually a set word count or number of pages if you want to complete. Usually this number is between 500 and (gulp) 1,000 words.
Next, choose a time limit between 15 and 60 minutes. Obviously, make sure the time limit is reasonable for the goal! You don’t want your hand to fall off.
If possible, remove all distractions. Choose a quiet place to conduct your sprint so you won’t be disturbed or interrupted by noise or other people. (Of course, some writers thrive off ambient coffee shop sounds or music, so do whatever works best for you!)

Prepare your writing tools. Gather your pencils, pens, paper, timer, laptop, writing software or apps, etc. It’s a good idea to have backup writing tools and to ensure that your computer is fully charged with a charging cable available in case you need it.
If you are using a timing device like an egg timer, get that ready and ensure that it is fully charged or has batteries with backup batteries available.
Make a writing plan. Either have a prompt (or series of prompts) ready or create an outline for the scene, chapter or sequence you want to write. A little bit of preplanning can make all the difference in your pace during a sprint.
Choose a time of day when you know that you will have high energy and few distractions. Some writers write best in the mornings, others do better at night. If you have a choice, pick the optimum time for your sprinting.

Following is a sample of my own writing sprint. Four hundred words in 15 minutes. I used only one punctuation, the period. As I intended to use an edited version of this in my current book-in-progress, I threw in quote marks out of habit.  A habit hard to break. 

Detective Phoebe Sneed knew she had one shot to make people believe that she was under age, no more than seventeen. These men liked ‘em young if reports were to be believed. She put on her big eyed innocent look and walked through the door of the mansion. She heard music coming from somewhere in the back of the house. She found a hallway leading back of the house and walked down it. the music intensifying. Stepping through a doorway, she entered what looked like a small ballroom. Some furniture bordered the walls leaving a sizable space for dancing. The girl she met last night rushed up to her. “Where’d you go last night?” You disappeared.” Phoebe sighed and pouted, “I got sick. I ate at a bodega for lunch and it hit me. Something must have been bad.”
“Well, come join the party. I told Geoff all about ya. He wants to meet you. He’s fond of brunettes. How old are ya, did you say?”
“I’m sixteen.”. Phoebe waited for the incongruitous laughter but the girl just nodded and grabbed her by the wrist. Pulling her onto the dance floor, she began to gyrate in front of Phoebe and they joined the dancers.
Meanwhile, a small knot of middle-aged men stood in a corner watching the young dancers. It was reputed that Geoff Wexstein collected princes, politicians,

Book 1 in series

CEO’s, and an occasional Catholic Bishop to his parties. Their leers were not hidden as the men all but salivated in front of the young girls. A politician, in an Italian silk suit and bold red tie whispered in Geoff’s ear.
“Fuck, Geoff, this is a prime batch of pussy, here. How old are they?”
“Giselle tells me the usual; around fifteen, sixteen. Nice, huh?”
“I’m gonna go dance.” The politician peeled off and half danced across the floor to join the girls. Soon they were are around him, laughing and gyrating. They could smell the money coming off of him in waves, mixed with the Armani after shave.
Phoebe danced with the guy, avoiding his hands which had a propensity to wander and accidently brush butts and breasts. “Eww.” She thought. What a creep.”
Soon the other men had joined in the group dance and in a few minutes, pairs were being formed. Geoff, the host, was very careful that there were always more girls than men so there was plenty of choice.  ©

Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion. In the meantime try your own writing sprint.
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A new short play


I Guess It’s All In the Writing…

What makes us, as readers, care about the characters in a book?  What is it about one book over another? I recently took a chance on a couple of new authors (to me) and was pretty disappointed. The books were like eating a slice of Wonder White Bread, with nothing on it; not even butter. Bland, tasteless and of little interest. 

Sophie was listless, I’m sorry to say with long run-on sentences. Beachcomber Motel was not interesting for a different and ‘deadly’ reason; the characters were not well drawn. They could have been more interesting; instead all three had been ‘done wrong’ by life. And quite frankly, I didn’t care about them. The love story of Jules didn’t develop until the last few pages and was more like: ‘Oh! I forgot to finish up Jules and Nick’s story.’  But, I misspoke, it wasn’t finished up but left the reader dangling mid-relationship with those two. Probably in the author’s hope that readers would be enticed to read a sequel.  Both of these are going to be a series, which I cannot recommend.  
  1 out of 5 stars 

This is beginning to sound more like a book review but hang in there….I will get to my point about writing. 

4 out of 5 stars

So I gave up on those two and cracked another new one; The Stationmaster’s Daughter.  I was instantly engaged and worried about Tilly and her dad, Ken, Ted and Annie. Of course, the setting didn’t hurt; a discarded railway station out in the wilds of Dorset. (UK)  Through no fault of her own, Tilly’s been kicked pretty hard by life. We find that out (artfully written) pretty soon after page one but with no feeling of being rushed.  Then there are flashbacks to 1935 when the trains were running in rural counties.

So no surprise, the difference is simple. It’s all about the writing. That something that a writer has in their storytelling that weaves a charming, enticing, well-drawn and interesting tale. This one’s about trains; I don’t care about trains except if they are on time and relatively clean. But the writer based the back story on trains in their heyday; the steam locomotion. And it was just enough that a reader like me didn’t grow weary with the history of trains.  It was well balanced with beautifully drawn characters. And the dialogue was excellent; I could hear their voices.             
It’s all in the writing. Full stop!
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