Collaborative Writing x 2

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Friends,

Have you ever written with other people?

I don’t mean in the same room all quietly chipping away at your individual writing — I mean have you ever collaborated during the creation phase, writer’s room-style where you’re together breaking the story, pitching ideas, fleshing out characters, and debating storylines on a shared project? 

If you have done this, how did it go? What worked, what didn’t? What are the pros and cons? What did you learn about yourself?

If you haven’t written on a team, does that writing process interest you? How do you imagine it would go? What’s your ideal collaborative writing experience?

Under the right circumstances and with the right people for me, creative collaboration is my happiest happy place. 

Last week, I release two podcast episodes about writing collaboratively (specifically writing scripted audio fiction collaboratively). I hope these conversations offer windows into two different collaborative writing processes, including what we learned, and tips for other writers who might want to try that approach.

As you’ll hear in both episodes, there are many important ingredients for successful collaboration, including a clear process and goals, flexibility around story, and a general abundance mentality.

Collaborative writing is not the best option for all projects or for all people. However, when a writing team clicks, projects move with great speed and certainty, and participants maximize their strengths and grow in the areas in which they are less proficient. Also, creating together can be incredibly joyful, inspirational, and just plain fun.

I’ll include the links below if you’d like to listen. I’d love to hear what you think and what your experience has been.

(Transcripts available upon request. Reach out to artistsoapbox@gmail.com)

This is the first of two ASBX episodes about writing scripted audio fiction collaboratively. You’ll hear from the Soapbox Audio Collective Writing Team 1 that includes Juliana Finch, Mara Thomas, Katy Koop, and me, Tamara Kissane.
Together we’re writing Jesus Pancake.

132: Collaborative Writing 1: Jesus Pancake

This is the second of two ASBX episodes about writing scripted audio fiction collaboratively. You’ll hear from the Soapbox Audio Collective Writing Team 2 that includes Allan Maule, Ian Finley and me, Tamara Kissane.
Together we’re writing The Last Glacier Hotel.

133: Collaborative Writing 2: The Last Glacier Hotel

Wishing you all the best, and ever grateful for you,

Tamara

A conversation with Poet Laureate and first Piedmont Laureate, Jaki Shelton Green

Breathe, write and listen to this podcast episode with our North Carolina Poet Laureate, the incredible Jaki Shelton Green. Jaki delivers restorative words, creative encouragement, and spiritual succor. It’s no accident that I released this interview on the Monday of Election Week; consider this a balm for your unease and a motivation to claim your narrative. 

Jaki muses about writing through difficult times, retreating ‘SistaWRITE style’, and her amazing new poetry album The River Speaks of Thirst.

Photo by Sylvia Freeman

Click here to read the transcript of this interview.

Listen via the Artist Soapbox website or via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and the usual podcisty-places.

BIO:

Jaki Shelton Green is the first African American and third woman to be appointed as the North Carolina Poet Laureate. When he appointed her in 2018, Governor Cooper stated that “Jaki Shelton Green brings a deep appreciation of our state’s diverse communities to her role as an ambassador of North Carolina literature. Jaki’s appointment is a wonderful new chapter in North Carolina’s rich literary history.”

Her collegiate and professional experiences include currently teaching Documentary Poetry at the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies, Visiting Professor for the Carlow University MFA Program, Lenoir-Rhyne University Writer-in-Residence, Duke University Teaching for Equity Fellow, 2019 Barnard College Africana Studies Department Lewis-Ezekoye Distinguished Lecturer, 2019 UNC Chapel Hill Sonja Stone Memorial Lecturer, Taller Portobelo Artist Colony Portobelo Panama, University of Panama, Department of Cultural Resources for Brazil, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Distinguished Visiting Writer, North Carolina Turkish Association, Alhambra Cultural Center in Marrakech Morocco, NC Symphony, NC African American Cultural Heritage Commission.

She is the owner of SistaWRITE and co-partner with Dream Yourself Awake and Vertikal Creative Ventures providing writing retreats and travel excursions for women writers in Sedona Arizona, Ocracoke North Carolina, Agadir Morocco, and Tullamore Ireland.

A FEW ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

INDYWeek: N.C. Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green’s “The River Speaks of Thirst” Reclaims Stolen Breath

Buy the album: The River Speaks of Thirst

Watch the video: Oh My Brother

INDYWeek: N.C. Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green Mourns George Floyd with “Oh My Brother”

Listen to the podcast: Creativity is Medicine: A Conversation With N.C. Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green

NC writers make a Declaration of Love

If you are looking for love, you now have access to 11 original audio varieties constructed by amazing local NC writers, actors, and directors.

The Declaration of Love audio anthology is live and ready for your ears.

Over the last four months, remotely and from our homes, we have written, rehearsed, recorded, and produced The DOL series. That’s 2 producers, 2 directors, 1 sound designer, 11 playwrights, 24 actors, 1 quarantine, and 1 writing prompt – all working together to bring you 11 short audio fiction episodes for free.

We are thrilled to share these with you as a gesture of our love.

I think I speak for everyone involved when I say that it has been a joy to connect with other artists and exercise our creative muscles during this time of isolation and dis-ease.

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, I am consistently buoyed and delighted by the abundance of creativity in our Triangle community.  In 2020, I’d hoped to spread love and joy for local playwrights and the writing process. The Declaration of Love anthology is a project that I undertook as Piedmont Laureate to live out my intention for this year. I hope it does so.

Below you’ll see the marketing blurb and links to each short episode. Scripts are embedded in the show notes if you’d like to see the raw material and/or read along. You’ll see content warnings there as well.

Enjoy, be safe, best well,

Tamara


Love in space, at the seashore, in the backyard.

Love in the future, one hundred years ago, and right this very moment.

Love between family, friends, and lovers.

Broken love, silly love, healing love.

It’s all in here.

The Declaration of Love Project: Eleven original audio pieces written by NC playwrights

Co-producers Aurelia Belfield and Tamara Kissane of Artist Soapbox commissioned eleven NC playwrights to craft short audio scenes based on the prompt “Declaration of Love.”

Though the resulting original pieces span the gamut in style, setting, and content, they all spark our emotions and unleash our imagination through story and sound.

Recorded remotely by local actors, the finished scenes have been lightly sound designed by David Hill, and were released to the public on Oct 27-30, 2020.

LISTEN TO ALL 11 EPISODES (PLUS A BONUS):

The Gifts We Leave: Declaration of Love Episode 1

Game On: Declaration of Love Episode 2

Agape: Declaration of Love Episode 3

Stone Flower: Declaration of Love Episode 4

Love is All I Know: Declaration of Love Episode 5

Open Book: Declaration of Love Episode 6

Dangerous: Declaration of Love Episode 7

Happy Anniversary: Declaration of Love Episode 8

Stretchy Shorts: Declaration of Love Episode 9

Constellation: Declaration of Love Episode 10

Always: Declaration of Love Episode 11

Bonus Episode: A conversation with the producers of the Declaration of Love audio anthology, Aurelia Belfield and Tamara Kissane

The Declaration of Love project: upcoming livestream and podcast series

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In January of this year, a million years ago, I was formally introduced to our community at the State of Arts and Culture in Wake County event.

You can read more about that experience and my Piedmont Laureate Remarks in my first blog post:

2020: we begin with love for writers and writing

Here is a snippet of what I said then:

I applied for the Piedmont Laureate position because I’m in love. In addition to my spouse, I’m in love with North Carolina and our growing region of the world. I’m in love with the people who reside here, including a multitude of creatives, artists, and writers of all genres and mediums. 

I’m in love with writing plays and audio fiction, and what’s more I love encouraging others to experience the soulful benefits, the exquisite struggle, the gentle bliss, the crucible of putting words on a page…and then sharing them…and then hearing them performed by others. Playwriting has transformed my world internally and externally. Experiencing a powerful script — whether it’s powerfully funny, gut-wrenching, or thought-provoking — is one of the greatest joys of my life.

My intention for the year was to amplify love and joy for local playwrights and the writing process. 2020 has proven to be a year of unexpected, formidable and heart-breaking challenges, and yet, I have witnessed pockets of love and joy that sustain me, our creative community, and our work as writers.

One such pocket of love and joy is The Declaration of Love Project: an audio anthology written, performed, and created by over 30 Triangle-area artists. It is a project that I have undertaken as Piedmont Laureate to live out my intention for this year. I hope it does so.

In July, my co-producer Aurelia Belfield and I commissioned eleven NC playwrights to craft short audio scenes based on the prompt “Declaration of Love.”

Recorded remotely by local actors, the finished scenes will be lightly sound designed, and released to the public in podcast form later this year.

If you would like to hear more about Declaration of Love, please join us for the livestream from the Clayton Center on Tuesday, September 29 at 7pm.

Here’s the event link

Aurelia and I will be talking generally about DOL, how it came together and why we think projects like this one are valuable. And, we’ll be showing 6 of the 11 pieces in various forms (mostly unfinished because we don’t want to give it all away before the release!).

Here’s the event link (again!)

If you are available, we’d love for you to tune in on Tuesday and give the project an audience boost.

Featured actors for this event: Aurelia Belfield, Lakeisha Coffey, Thaddaeus Edwards, Sai Graham, Trevor Johnson, Kyma Lassiter, Yolanda Rabun, AhDream Smith.

Featured playwrights for this event: Aurelia Belfield, Lakeisha Coffey, Thaddaeus Edwards, Michael Ivory, Jr, Tamara Kissane, Robin Carmon Marshall.

I’ll be sharing more details about the Declaration of Love in the coming weeks. For now, please share the link, mark your calendars, and get your popcorn ready. (Actually, a quieter snack would be better. 😄)

Sending you love and good writing vibes,

Tamara

Conversations like coffee, again

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Friends, how are you?

It’s beginning to seem like autumn is a distinct possibility even here in the toasty Triangle. Perhaps I might wear those sweaters tucked away in the closet. Perhaps I might not break into a sweat walking to the mailbox at the end of the drive. What do you think? Is pumpkin spice in your future? Fall leaves and frosty breath? All possible?

Seasonal transitions are often a time of reflection for me.

My reflection, to state the obvious, is that this year has been enormously so much.

My own writing practice is ever evolving and changes from day to day. I’m churning out more work, but it’s shorter in length, written for different mediums; it is more collaborative in nature, but often, deeply private solo writing that I will show to no one else but me.

Much of my work in 2020 is new work for a new time in my life when everything seems especially up for grabs and precarious and precious. I’m working with new people in new ways in new roles, and there’s so much unprecedented EVERYTHING in my life. So much that is never-before-experienced.

And, much of my work in 2020 is me revisiting my old writing from years ago – writing that feels ancient from decades past! I scan that old text, asking myself, “Can I mine some treasure from those words or plant them like seeds I’d secretly squirreled away? Will I discover old language that has somehow richly composted in the notebooks under my bed? Maybe I can add to that fertile mess and grow something entirely different?”

What has your work been this year? New and old?

Have you revisited your writing from years before? Do you remember being that person? Do those ‘old’ words still apply and seem relevant to this ‘new’ you?

Today, I’d like to share a blog post that I wrote in March 2014 titled Conversations like Coffee. You’ll see it below. I discovered it recently during a bout of writer’s block.

Six + years ago, my life was very different. Almost unrecognizable in many ways. Like an echo from across the sea. However, although I don’t remember writing this blog post, and don’t remember the specific incidents that I reference, I find that much of what I wrote then, I am experiencing now.

2020 me is experiencing strong conversations, deep listening, and messy human connections just like 2014 me did. All of these experiences are worthwhile and essential for my growth and for our growth as a community. All of these experiences are challenging and nourishing and press on my tender heart too.

So, take a trip back in time with me below. Perhaps my old words will resonate with you now.

Be well and safe. I hope you are holding steady. Write when you can.

******************

Conversations Like Coffee

March 17, 2014

“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

My brain got stretched this week, and it was uncomfortable. My head ached. I felt exhausted every night from the extra hard thinking I was doing — from trying to keep up with the conversations, the connections, the leaps of thinking and the much-too-muchness of all people have to offer. Sheesh, people! People and their words! On Thursday night, I cried. Then I mopped my face with a tissue and went straight to bed so I could be well-rested for the more that the next day would bring. More uncomfortable brain-stretching, more conversation, more connections, more much-too-muchness of all people have to offer.

It was a week of deep conversations every single day. Even the conversations that were brief, were taxing for my imagination and my equilibrium:

In conversation with my daughter, I pointed out the rain drops on the car’s windshield, and she explained that “rain drops are made of souls.”

In conversation with a group, a participant suggested that ‘the sky would teach me everything if I really looked at it several times a day.’

In a conversation with friends, we talked about the nets we build and do not build to catch each other when we fall. We talked about the far-reaching life-altering decisions that we make as a result of our connectedness to others.

I had lengthy, far-ranging conversations about illness, legacies, writing, poetry, death, theatre, politics, race, religion, parenting, poverty, libraries, pornography, and life. I made small talk that wasn’t small talk about parodies, calendars, brunches, rock bands, cat food, human food, dreams, real estate, bodies, television, laundry, coloring books, and more, and more, and more. These were conversations face-to-face, over the phone, and via the interwebs — a communications assault on all fronts.

I found myself dropped in conversations that were so unexpected they took my breath away. How did I get here? People surprised me with the size of their hearts, their intellects, their compassion, their blind spots. It was a week full of conversations laced with yearning and unsettledness. It was a week of seeking peace and seeking solutions where there were none. It was a week of reaching out for human connection with laughter and joy, with anger and frustration, with wonder, with confusion, with words, words, and more words…and some tears.

Human beings being human beings.

And I was so grateful. I am so grateful for all of those conversations. I am so eager for more because this was a week that left me vibrating and overwhelmed by the people I encountered. I felt literally impressed — pressed into — by the energy of humanity in a way that made me feel alive and exhausted by the possibilities and the mysteries and the answers on the horizon.

It was a highly caffeinated week.

Even though I love it, it is really scary for me to talk with people. Even though I want to, it’s really scariest for me to have high-wire conversations about the deep stuff of life with all those emotions along for the ride. God forbid I say something stupid or rude and have someone dislike me. God forbid I offend someone. What if someone gets angry? God forbid I have nothing interesting or comforting to say. What if I don’t have an answer when someone is looking to me for an answer? What if this conversation ‘gets out of control’?!

People are messy and the words that we use to communicate with each other can be confusing and frustrating and distracting. Conversations are incredibly inefficient — they take a lot of time. And who has time for anything these days? Sheesh, just send me an email. Sheesh, just get to the point. Just tell me what you want me to do. Many words = many opportunities for misunderstanding. And so much of what we are trying to convey is heart-stuff, laden with emotions and history and hopes that we can barely articulate to ourselves let alone another person.

Talking with people….it’s so much work.

For me, right now I think the work is worth it.

Yes, I think the work is worth it. I’m hanging in there (until I just need a break! until I just need to rest!) thru the hard messy stuff to keep talking. I want to. What do you think?

Real conversations — sincere attempts at connection and a commitment to vulnerability and understanding — we gotta have them to grow as individuals and as a community. Conversations build the (metaphorical) nets and bridges that we need to hold our society together. Conversations lead to commitments and actions that make change. Conversations light a fire under our butts, and help us re-examine our assumptions about responsibility and preconceived ideas of what other people think. Conversations tear down walls, and expose shoddy arguments and lies. Conversations reinforce connection and the idea that we live together on this planet. Of course, conversations lead to great art too.

I am grateful for the talking-talking-talking that makes my head hurt and keeps me awake at night like strong coffee. I am grateful for the seekers and bridge-builders who move thru my life with the curiosity and openness and respect that make these conversations possible. They drop keys/clues/crumbs into my lap that open ideas and connections I wouldn’t have access to otherwise. This is one way I learn about the world.

I am grateful that people allow me to speak and that they allow me to listen. (Yeah, cuz the listening is as important as the talking.)

Let’s keep talking. Let’s keep listening.

Let’s keep hanging in there, even we when need to pass the tissues all around, even when we question whether we should have had that fourth cup of coffee-like conversation.

14 playwrights + 13 theatre companies = multitudinous perspectives on the 19th Amendment

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According to ourdocuments.gov, the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution was “passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920.”  It goes on to say “the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote.” The Amendment “prohibits the state and federal government from denying citizens of the United States the right to vote on the basis of sex”.

To mark the 100 year anniversary of ratification, Burning Coal Theatre Company in partnership with The League of Women Voters of Wake County and thirteen other theatre and/or opera companies from across central North Carolina will present The 19th Amendment Project, a collection of 14 short plays written about the passage of the 19th Amendment 100 years ago and its impact on our society.

Each of the short plays will be released virtually, one at a time, between August 17 – August 30, 2020. The plays will all be available until September 30, 2020. For more info: call 919.834.4001 or https://burningcoal.org/the-nineteenth-amendment-project/.

I’m honored and humbled to be a name on this roster of playwrights for my 10 minute piece THUNDERCLAP.

THUNDERCLAP description: Parents Rachel and Jake are stoked that their daughter, Alice is now 18 and can vote, but she doesn’t believe that her vote will actually help.  Content warning: language and sexual violence.

This week, I’m grateful to have been given space to talk about this project in podcast form and in print. Big thanks to journalists Lauren Van Hemert and Byron Woods for listening to me go on about writing generally and writing 10 minute plays more specifically, setting a play in the current moment, the future of theatre and what voting means to me.

If you’d like to listen or read, please see the info below. And then grab your tickets for The 19th Amendment Project. The other playwrights are amazing (including 2014 Piedmont Laureate Carrie Knowles) and it has truly been an impressive collaborative effort across our theatre community.

ALSO, VOTE. #votevotevote

RDU ON STAGE PODCAST

Do you know about THE 19th AMENDMENT PROJECT?
Want to hear me confess my love for Geraldine Ferraro?

Listen to this podcast from RDU on Stage and the ones to follow!

This is the 1st episode in a nine part series featuring playwrights and creatives working on The 19th Amendment Project. Lauren speaks with the wonderful Playwright Hannah Benitez (The 19th), Dianna Wynn with the League of Women Voters, Jerome Davis, the Artistic Director of Burning Coal, ….and ME saying things (a lot of things!) about my play Thunderclap, what voting means to me, the conflict I feel about celebrating the 19th Amendment, and the present and future of theatre (just a few small topics!).

All this week and next, RDU on Stage will be spotlighting the playwrights behind this collection of plays. (Here’s the podcast interview with Carrie Knowles: Episode 73: Carrie Knowles get Arthurian with Ladies are Waiting)

INDY WEEK

Check out this promo piece for The 19th Amendment Project at Burning Coal in INDY Week:

Fourteen Ways of Looking at What the 19th Amendment Achieved—and What It Didn’t