All posts by marilyn jaye lewis

writer, editor, publisher, thinker -- all-around joyful gal!

The blank page continues…

Yes, I have no idea how many days running this is, but I am still facing the blank page daily on 2 of my works-in-progress, and I am typing & deleting; typing & deleting all day long. It’s making me a wee bit nuts.

I’m hanging in there; showing up at the desk each morning and bravely facing the laptop, the manuscripts, the many blank pages. However… it is getting to me. I’m the kind of writer who measures the overall scope of my validity by my writing (which, btw, you’re not supposed to do! You’re supposed to have value no matter what!). Right.

Well, I slept in until 5:45am and the first thing I did upon opening my quite lovely peepers, was to start crying. Just a little of the waterworks, nothing like serious weeping or anything. But tears, nonetheless. And I told the Muse that I could not take this another day. That he simply had to get back to this novel with me or I didn’t know what I was going to do.

And he was right there (in spirit, you know) and he said: “Don’t create a drama, Marilyn.  We’ve been over this and over this. I’m not going anywhere. We’ll finish the book when we finish the book.”

I respond really well to directness, especially from the Muse.

And so I was able to immediately switch gears away from being a big baby and started thinking about faith instead, and about how so much of my life right now seems to be about that whole concept of FAITH. Just have faith, Marilyn. In people, in yourself, in the process of life.

So I’m going to try to go a little easier on things here today. Focus primarily on the things that are really making me happy and stop all the stressing. And just move forward.

I keep forgetting to mention here that last week, I finally read the book The Death of Bunny Munro. I don’t know why I had a complete lack of response to this book for so many years. I think it was the cover, to be honest. I could not connect with that cover at all. And my brain would just gloss right past it.

Then last week I saw an old interview on Youtube re: the book and Nick Cave mentioned that the book was partly influenced by Valerie Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto. Which, of course, surprised me.

I read the SCUM Manifesto back in the early 1980s, and came to the conclusion that probably most women come to upon reading it and that is, that Valerie Solanas may have been extreme, but her underlying assertions made a whole lot of sense. Unfortunately.  I mean, not enough to cause me to want to stab Andy Warhol, although, I’m guessing a lot of people did want to stab him and Valerie simply was the one to answer that clarion call. (When I worked at MoMA in the 1980s, I met a lot of amazing artists, and they were usually so memorable in how kind and intelligent and giving they were – of themselves and their spirits — even to the employees of MoMA. But when I met Andy Warhol there, all I could feel was this sort of incongruous “deep vacuity” in him.  It was not necessarily negative, but it wasn’t positive, either.) [Oops. She shot Andy Warhol, she didn’t stab him! — Ed.]

But back to the SCUM Manifesto

It is a man’s world and growing up female in that world is often not a lot of fun.  I don’t play the woman card, though.  When I’ve come up against male roadblocks in society, I try to find my best way either around them or through them. And frankly, over the years, other women have been more detrimental to my various careers than any one man has. And that is the sobering truth.

However, right at this moment, I am reminded of Tom Petty’s brilliant song, Free Girl Now. Jesus, that’s a hard song to listen to. A whole lotta truth going on in that song. I lived everything in that song at one time in my life or another. And eventually (as the song ultimately celebrates) got past it. I still love men. (The opening lyrics: I remember/ when you were his dog… ouch.)  Anyway. Well, I love that whole album, Echo, even though it is the least popular album by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.  Most of the songs on that album are hard to take, but they are, for the most part, really brilliant songs. Rhino Skin is amazing. Echo is an absolute heartbreaker (if you’ll excuse the sad pun).  These are allegedly songs that were written during Tom Petty’s addiction to heroin, and while he was getting his divorce. Brilliant but intense, dark, sad songs.

Okay. I digress yet again.

The Death of Bunny Munro was an incredible book!! Oh my god.

After I saw the interview, I decided to open the book and actually read it. I read it in 2 sittings, and only had to stop during the first sitting because my eyes were just ridiculously tired. But wow. What a great book.

It’s filthy as hell. It’s incredibly funny. Shocking, demoralizing, insightful, sad, jaw-dropping. And so well written.  Just an amazing look at ordinary human beings, in general, and an extreme womanizing, sex-addicted man, specifically. Wow. I literally couldn’t put it down except when forced to.

But I think that says something about the power of book covers to dissuade… So, I guess, don’t judge the book by it’s cover, okay? (In other words: Do as I say, not as I do!)

All righty, gang! On that lofty note, I will get crackin’ around here and see if anything worth keeping hits the blank page today. Have a terrific Thursday, wherever you are in the world. I love you guys!! Thanks for visiting. See ya real soon!

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Joy at Every Possible Turn

Well, we are coming up on my 1-year anniversary of owning this 118 year-old house and moving here to this amazing little village tucked into some sort of valley in the gorgeous hills & farmlands of Muskingum County, Ohio.

The old train depot in my town from a hundred years ago

I have never been happier in my life.  This town is magical, on some deep level. And it is an open portal to the most accessible spirits I’ve ever encountered in my life.  It has not only changed the quality of my writing, but it has increased the seemingly unstoppable flow of inspiration.

When I first moved here, my life became so intensely magical that I began to wonder, in earnest, if I had actually died and gone to the afterlife and had not yet realized that fact.  Everything, absolutely everything in my life had finally gotten just so good. And how could that be? I wondered. My life had pretty much always sucked.

I was actually starting to be convinced of the fact that I had died. Loyal readers of this lofty blog will no doubt recall that in the space of about 18 months (shortly before moving here), I had 4 near-death experiences. I began to assume that the 4th one had perhaps been the final one and had been quite a success! That I was now dead and didn’t know it, and that this amazing town was just a sort of weigh-station for me until I figured out that I was actually dead and could then move on to some sort of full-blown heaven or something.

Well, I’m not actually dead. (Unless of course, we are all actually dead and this blogging stuff is all part of the pre-heaven experience for all of us!) Well, whatever.

I actually did begin writing a short story on that topic of my uncertain death, called “Camouflage,” wherein I could not safely determine if I was alive or not, and/or if my dear colleague, the writer Michael Hemmingson, was dead or not.

I had to stop writing it because I am incapable of processing the fact that most people do believe Michael Hemmingson is dead, and I cannot allow myself to believe it. Even though he has allegedly been dead now for 5 years or something like that, I just cannot bring myself to process it. So I had to stop writing the short story, since it pretty  much required that I come to some sort of decision about reality.

Even though I have had to accept and process the deaths of many dear loved ones throughout the course of my near-6 decades on Earth, for some reason, I cannot bring myself to accept Michael’s death, or Tom Petty’s for that matter.

Well,  I am willing to accept that the 66-year-old version of Tom Petty did, in fact, die. But the 29-year-old version of Tom Petty that I fell in love with when I was 19, right before I moved to NYC and became a professional singer-songwriter — I cannot process the fact that that version of him died, too. I absolutely refuse to accept it. It has something to do with that specific juncture, of how he intersected with my life at that particular point in time that I cannot process the overall death of.

However, I figure I’m not hurting anybody by refusing to accept these two deaths, so there is no real need for me to adjust to anything. I just move onward, thoroughly unprocessed, and my life still ends up being pretty magnificent.

I am, of course, referring specifically to the 2 plays finally barreling toward not only being produced, but being produced in 2 different countries, pretty much at once, and at 2 rather prestigious venues.

I began writing my first play when I was in my teens, in high school. And during what would have been a “study hall,” I was instead assigned to work privately with an English teacher who was helping me write my first play.

It was going swimmingly until I “accidentally” (or not so accidentally!) discovered quite eerie parallels between the play I was “making up in my imagination” at age 17 and the actual life story of the ballet dancer Nijinsky and his mentor Diaghilev — 2 men I had never heard of until I began writing my play.

I was so freaked out by the parallels that I had to stop writing the play, even though the English teacher assigned to me was disappointed because she thought I had talent.  But I felt like I was either crazy, or psychic, or being invaded by ghosts. Not sure what scared me most, but I was really spooked. I couldn’t tell anybody about it, I simply stopped writing the play.

In a related “freak-out,” several years after that, when I was living in NYC, a friend told me in earnest that she was reading Nijinsky’s infamous diaries and couldn’t believe how much the diaries made her think of me. I did not freak out because I thought I was Nijinsky in some previous life, but because when someone tells you Nijinsky’s diaries make them think of you, they are in fact saying that they think you cannot deal with your own sexuality and that you are out of your fucking mind.

I digress.

I’m really only wanting to write about how thrilling it feels to be this close to the fruition of 2 of my plays — one that I wrote in its entirety, the other I co-wrote, or contributed to, with Sandra Caldwell.

I’ve known Sandra since 1992; she was and is a really good friend of  one of my ex-husband’s. And he was the one who gave Sandra a copy of my screenplay, Tell My Bones, a couple years back and her response was extremely positive.

From there, she asked me to take a look at her one-woman musical, The Guide to Being Fabulous, and we’ve been collaborating since then.

But the highlight of all that, I think, was when I was visiting her in Rhinebeck a couple summers ago, to begin work on the stage adaptation of Tell My Bones. One morning, around  6am, I came down to her kitchen and discovered that she was awake, sitting alone, still in her nightgown, drinking coffee.

She said, “I’m glad you’re up. I’ve been wanting to talk to you alone.”

At that point, the adaptation wasn’t going so great; we’d locked horns on it several times over the course of the weekend, so I thought maybe she wanted to ask me to just leave and never come back.

instead, she said, “Marilyn, you write like a motherfucker. I’m starting my own theatrical production company and I want you to write plays for me.”

I was so excited, it was ridiculous. Not only was I going to get to stay the rest of the weekend, but she saw some sort of future in our locking of horns!

And now, here we are, with Tell My Bones finally completed, and  a director attached. And The Guide to Being Fabulous on its way, as well.

It’s just so cool to me.  Even though I abandoned the writing of my first play,  and then went on to write a ton of songs, then write and have published 5 novels, edit 7 anthologies of other people’s fiction, have about 60 short stories published in 5 languages, and then have my screenplays do well in contests and in film festivals — all of that was exciting; all of it. Still, nothing makes me more excited than the prospects of having my plays produced and watching Sandra knock them out of the park. Which she will.

I can definitely die happy now, gang. Assuming I’m not already dead, that is.

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More Good News!

Yes! Finally!

The original one-woman musical that I’ve been working on with Sandra Caldwell for the last 5 years — the play we finally finished when I went to work with her in Rhinebeck, NY this past October — might actually have a very exciting first run in Toronto, Canada, gang!

It’s too soon to go into the details, but it is extremely exciting and prestigious, and bodes very well for a comparable Off-Broadway opening in NYC.

I simply could not be happier, gang.  This means that, yes, both plays that I’ve been working steadily on with Sandra for the last few years are likely to have openings, in 2 different countries, at pretty much the same time!

I will keep you posted!!

In other good, but bittersweet news: Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever solo album was just entered into the Grammy’s Hall of Fame as a record of outstanding cultural significance for the last 25 years.

I beg to differ — surely it’s only been about 25 minutes, not 25 YEARS!! Oh, people! What the heck?? How can it possibly be 25 years already?

I loved that album. Still love that album. Still play it. Was, in fact, playing it yesterday morning in my kitchen when I read the Grammy news on my iPhone.

In fact, that part bothered me most.

ME: Wait a minute. This record I am listening to right now is already 25 years old? So, like, how old does that make me??!!

Please don’t feel compelled to answer that.

Anyway. I remember Full Moon Fever coming out like it was the proverbial yesterday. I loved the song Free Fallin’ but I remember not liking the video very much. I was not a huge fan of videos, in general. I felt that videos robbed a lot of imaginative power from the songs.  Anyone’s songs. I guess because I loved that song so much, the video could only irritate me.

But that album is full of amazing rock & roll songs. In fact, Running Down a Dream, which I think I posted here only yesterday (?) is from that album.

My favorite song on that album, though, is one that I feel speaks directly to me:  I have a near pathological issue with doubt. Doubt is something that plagues me. Over the years, it unraveled a lot of what should have been good things in my life. I still struggle with it, but I have been working really, really hard on it for the past couple months and making good progress with it — my debilitating struggles with doubt.

This is, in all honesty, the song I go to when I am really floundering. Some mornings have been so bad, doubt-wise, that I have to literally play this song really loudly before I can even get out of bed. It helps me kind of get back to reality, to realize that people are depending on me not to lose my fucking mind. (Sadly, it’s no joke.) This particular song is often the only thing that helps me.

And I leave you to it, gang!! And thanks for visiting. I love you guys. See ya!

Cold snowy winter!

Yes. It’s another really cold, snowy day today!

Yes, that’s how old I am! I still call it a “really cold snowy day” although “polar vortex” is more newsworthy and helps to politicize the glorious Midwest weather… Anyway.

And, yes! I am still in love. I know I don’t talk about it very much these days,  so you’re probably thinking that all my insane efforts to completely sabotage this whole thing were a resounding triumph (see various incredibly insane posts from the last several months…). But au contraire! I am more in love now than ever before. In my actual life, I mean.

It makes “polar vortex” snowy days very romantic, although the snowy romance stuff is kinda one-sided right now, because he is someplace sunshiney. However.

I am just so happy.

And the writing projects are going great.

That said, though — apparently, once I made that Herculean effort to get the adaptation of Tell My Bones completed within a handful of days, I’m a little bit tapped out, creativity-wise. I’m trying to be patient. I try to allow the water in the well of creativity to rise again. I sit at my desk with the laptop open, the manuscript in front of me; I stare out at the lovely snow. And I type and delete; type and delete; type and delete.

This goes on for hours. It gets a bit frustrating but perhaps today will be the day that inspired stuff finally hits the page again. We shall see!

Meanwhile, I leave you with this amazing song that I always sing when I wake up to a bunch of freshly fallen snow — who doesn’t??!! (I know — probably you, but anyway.) Enjoy, gang! And thanks for visiting. I love you. See ya soon!

Anything is Possible!

I have a sterling silver ring, it’s meant to be a wedding band but I wear it on my right hand ring finger. Engraved on the outside of it, in Italian, it says: Tutto e possibile. engraved on the inside, in English, it says: Anything is possible.

Obviously, I look at this ring every day. Since I’m wearing it, I can’t help but see it. But even after all these years of wearing it, it really does serve as a constant reminder to me that, as overwhelming as my life usually gets, and as demanding as I am in regards to what I expect from my creative life, any of it can happen. It’s all in the realm of the possible.

When I’m overwhelmed (which is frequently), I see that ring. I remind myself. And on I go.

So!! At last!!

I’m happy to announce that the play I wrote last week for Sandra Caldwell, Tell My Bones (the adaptation of my award-winning screenplay of the same name) now has a NYC-based director attached. The playhouse down in Sarasota, FL is expecting our staged reading within the near future. As a trial run, we’ll be doing the staged reading, first, in the wonderful Village of Rhinebeck, NY! (Loyal readers of this lofty blog will no doubt recall that this is the very same town I was planning to move to before I discovered the joys and awesomeness of Muskingum County, Ohio and decided to settle here and just drive to Rhinebeck whenever I had to work with Sandra and that proved to be the most amazingly magical decision I ever made, for so many reasons).  Anyway.

All things going according to plan, we will do a run of the play later this year, first in Sarasota, then move it to NYC, somewhere Off-Broadway.

Yes. That’s right. It’s only taken years for this to finally happen. And now it’s happening at warp speed. (If today is your first day visiting this blog, I didn’t really write the play last week; technically, I did, but it’s been in the works for a while.)

Two years ago, I first saw a play the above-referenced director had directed. And even back then, I immediately thought: He would be a good director to meet so that I could get him to direct Sandra when I finally adapt Tell My Bones.

That’s a lot of “if’s” in the air. However, this past summer, I saw a couple more shows he directed and I was convinced beyond doubt that he would be the perfect director for the project that was not yet entirely conceptualized. But I still just started going for it.

You know, I did that rude thing where, when he and his husband were having a quiet dinner alone, tucked in the corner of a lovely candle-lit restaurant, I saw them and went directly over to them, uninvited and just started talking. Hi. I think you’re a great director. I’m a writer.  I write for this actress in NYC. I’ll friend you on Facebook and text you on Messenger.

And then in October, I’ll drive 11 hours to Rhinebeck and pull off the most miraculous thing ever: I get Sandra to not only agree to come into the city with me and meet someone she doesn’t know for cocktails (the husband of the director), but I also get her to do this on time. We very nearly missed the train… and yet, we didn’t!!

And then it’ suddenly January. Sandra suddenly needs the play to be entirely finished. She was under the impression that it already was entirely finished. This had something to do with something I might have said a few months back that heavily implied it was entirely finished and that I hadn’t started it over completely from scratch.

But now it’s finished. She loves the play. I asked said director, “Would you like to see this play I wrote for Sandra?”  He says yes. Flies in from California on his way to NYC, reads part of it and says “this is pure poetry” and then I say, “Will you direct it?” and even though he’s stupifyingly busy, he said yes. Then I finally get Sandra on the phone down in Florida yesterday, where she’s in the middle of a show, and I tell her the news. She’s in a not entirely good mood, but says, “All right. I’ll trust your instinct on this, Marilyn. ”  And voila!

Two years later.

Tutto e possibile, gang! (And, YES!, I played this song almost nonstop, at top volume, for those 11 hours I was driving to NY…) (Pay close attention to the second verse.)

Okay, see ya! I love you guys. Thanks for visiting!

Oh, People!

Yes!

Yesterday, I did a final read-through of my theatrical adaptation of Tell My Bones and then sent it off to Sandra .

Yes, you read that right! I finally finished it, after many versions, many drafts, many hours of staring at copious amounts of notes and declaring aloud, “What the hell am I doing!?” (This went on for a couple of years.)

It is done. I am intensely happy with it, gang. And the best part was getting a text from Sandra last evening — a text with many exclamation points (!!!) saying how much she loved it.

So, we will either do it in Florida, or go directly to NYC with it. I still don’t know for sure, but it is done. And I am just so thrilled.

Today, I need to really, really, really update the show bible for my CLEVELAND TV pilot, so that I can safely put it on the back burner without forgetting all the many changes I made to the plot, and then I want to focus on one of the new works-in-progress. Whichever one speaks loudest to me right now:

The Hurley Falls Mysteries: Down to the Meadows of Sleep
Blessed By Light
Girl in the Night: Erotic Love Letters to the Muse

We shall see, gang! We shall see. I still have 3 other TV projects I’m developing, and 2 more plays with Sandra that we’re developing, and then a play I’m writing that can’t involve Sandra because it’s a one-man play. But all of that can wait.

I hope this finds you gearing up for a perfect Friday, wherever you are in the world! Thanks for visiting. I love you, gang. See ya!

Another one from Hell’s Kitchen!

You mean there are more??!!

Why yes, there are more! Plenty more! All I used to do back then (in Hell’s Kitchen in NYC) was write songs. (If you’re viewing this on your phone, you have to turn your phone sideways to view this.)

Sadly, this song featured today, LOU, is one of my favorites but this is the worst demo ever of this song! However, it’s the only demo of it that I have in a digital format.

Lou Reed was one of my heroes and I wrote this song about Lou Reed. Back when I wrote this song, in 1984, I was taking a songwriting class taught by another one of my heroes, Jim Carroll. The two men were extremely close friends, and so Lou actually got to hear this song. I have no idea if he liked it or not. All I know is that the demo Lou Reed got to hear of this song was one million times better than this one, and so for that I am grateful!

The one he got to hear was of course made on the 4-track in my bedroom. It was me, my guitar, a bass player and some percussion, which was how I performed it live.

This awful demo posted here was actually made in a huge 24-track studio, wherein my opinion mattered not one iota. Oh, those heady days!! I don’t miss them at all…

Anyway, at least enjoy the lyrics, gang! Thanks for visiting. I love you!! See ya!!!

Lou Reed 1978
Jim Carroll, late 1970s

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the USA

It is so easy to give up, to look the other way, to be hypocritical, to dismiss, to not care, to be lazy, to justify hate and ignorance and  intolerance, to deconstruct, to ignore, to make excuses, to watch TV instead, to let others think for you, to turn over and go back to sleep, to forget to vote, to let fear rule your actions, to walk away.

It is also easy to choose love and see where it leads you.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth his rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew, 5:44-45 KJV; Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

Quite a precious day!

Yes!!! It snowed heavily during the night and it will remain well below freezing for the next 2 days. Yay!!

All I have to do is sit here in my snuggly (very) old house and write!

My backyard at around 7 AM this morning. These 2 snowed-over slabs of concrete in the foreground are covering up the original well, back before the house had running water.

Plus, I am almost done with my stage adaptation of Tell My Bones, my script about the life of the folk artist, Helen LaFrance. I am really, really happy with it, gang. Finally. It is almost finished.  And I am just so happy with it. It’s only the 5th version… But you know, you gotta just keep on going until it clicks.

Well, the Conversations with Nick Cave  that have been going on in Australia and New Zealand this month are almost over.  The reviews have just been so good — and I’m talking mostly about the people posting on Instagram who have been to see the actual shows.

(I know, all you Americans out there are going, “What the fuck are you talking about?? And why do I want to know this??”)

I’m only bringing it up because I sure wish that I could have a conversation with Nick Cave… I’m just sayin’… Oh well. Such is life in Crazyland, Ohio, where nothing happens but snow… But I will settle for that for now!

I am gonna go back to my writing now. Thanks for stopping in on this snowy Sunday in the Hinterlands! I leave you with this bit of awesomeness!!  (God, I love this song! I could listen to it all day. And sometimes I actually do…) Okay! I love you, gang! See ya!!

I’m just sayin’

Loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall that I am a believer in the radical Jesus, and that I am also a minister practicing in that vein, even while my divinity education was conservative and traditional.

Since I almost never wear my white collar and black shirt, even people who know me reasonably well forget that I’m a minister.  I love when people suddenly remember that I am one and they say, “Wow, does this mean you can marry me?!”

Yes, if I love you, I can. Hahaha

But, seriously, yes I can marry you, but I’m only registered in the State of Ohio.

But that’s not what I wanted to post here about today. I wanted to talk about how amazing the Christian Healthcare Ministries are. it’s a Christian healthcare cooperative, which means, we don’t believe in health insurance. We follow Christ’s mandate to carry one another’s burdens, and we voluntarily contribute whatever amount of money we want to help pay one another’s medical bills. Even the catastrophic ones.

And it works. Above and beyond paying our monthly contribution, which is always a set amount (which is a FRACTION of what health insurance costs), the amount we end up contributing each month to pay for the medical bills of other members is just kind of staggering.

For instance, I send in an additional check of anywhere between $9 to $13 each month, to help cover a specific person’s hospital bill – a total stranger, whom I will never know and they will never know me. We all do this every month, until everybody’s bills are paid. We also pray for each other – strangers. (And we go to our own doctors, there is never any “network” we have to stay within.)

This is from December. Yes. What we chose to voluntarily contribute to strangers last month. It just astounds me, the power of Christ in people’s lives.