All posts by marilyn jaye lewis

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

Brain dead but still walking around!

Yes, that would describe moi yesterday.

No, not the gutter girl part — the brain dead part! Thank you very much.

I spent several days writing up some promo materials that Sandra needed for the Helen LaFrance play (Tell My Bones). And as is par for the course, Sandra’s brief text said she needed  something simple, but then it turned out that she needed a whole lot more than something simple, and a couple hours of work turned into several days of work just to create a 3-page promo.

But it’s done now and off, and now I’m back to scaling the play down to a 30-minute staged reading version. Not an easy thing to do.

I’m trying to sort of internalize the director’s notes, and trying to get a feel for his “vision” for the reading. And in the process of trying to do that – a process of psychic phenomena — I realized that I had become brain dead.

I decided that what I needed was some really strong coffee. That brings most brains quickly back from the dead, but all that it made me do was suddenly vacuum the whole house.

I have one of those bag-less vacuum cleaners, where you remove the center thingy and then click open the bottom and empty the contents directly into the trash.

Yesterday, it worked in a different way. I removed the center thingy and the bottom clicked open  on its own and deposited a whole house full of dust and dirt and cat hair and who-knows-what-all filth into a nice billowing pile in the center of my family room carpeting.

When you’re wired on really strong coffee, it’s hard not to lose your mind. Luckily, I was already brain dead, so I looked at it and said, “You’re kidding me, right?” I had to vacuum up the whole darn thing again. I was covered in dust, and I’m allergic to dust. So then I had to drop everything, throw my clothes in the wash and take a shower. By the time I was sitting in front of the play again, I was even more brain dead than before and really only capable of staring.

I’m hoping that today will be more fruitful. I’m steering clear of strong coffee, for one thing. Just let the house vacuum itself from now on.

Life is just weird, isn’t it? The brain works when it wants to work. And stares the rest of the time.

Okay, on that lofty note! I’m going back to bed!! Oops! I meant: I’m gonna get crackin’ around here. See ya, gang! I love you and thanks for visiting.

One More from Hell’s Kitchen

Yes, it’s that time! When I regale you with another one of my songs from my Hell’s Kitchen singer-songwriter days. (If you’re on your phone, you gotta turn it to the side to see this post correctly.)

This is a song I wrote in 1982.  I wrote it primarily for Blare N. Bitch (who was not called that back then, and back then, she played bass) because I was indescribably in love with her, but I also wrote it for all the other girl-musicians around the Lower East Side back then, who all had dark hair, played punk rock, and wore black leather motorcycle jackets. And, of course, played around with all that heroin until it became a really bad habit.

I never, ever touched heroin because I knew I would be a prime candidate for becoming an addict. Plus, heroin seemed to be better suited to the girls who played electric guitars.  I already had a ferocious problem with pills and bourbon.  But I played folk-country music in Greenwich  Village (the lower West side), so pills and bourbon fit in just fine there.  (I’m only partially kidding.)

Once again, this is the only digital demo of this song that I have. It’s not my favorite because I prefer the very first, homemade demos, of all the songs I wrote. But it’s an okay one.  I definitely love the guitar work here, just not crazy about the vocals.

Blare N. Bitch of course got clean, moved to LA, stayed clean – lo! these many decades later – got all inked up and is a truly awesome heavy metal guitar player, even though all of us are now pushing [WHISPERS]: sixty!

Sorry for the disappearing act!

But it was a pretty good act, wasn’t it? You probably couldn’t see me at all — for, like 8 or 9 days!

Except maybe for my quite comely yet furry little ears….

Anyway, yes! I’ve been away from the blog! I’ve been hard at work doing stuff! Like working on a new chapter in Blessed By Light. And working on a new chapter in Girl in the Night: Erotic Love Letters to the Muse. And having my first meeting with the director on my new play! And now working on some revisions for the play. (The stage adaptation of Tell My Bones.)

And, most importantly of all, I was hard at work taking out the front right end of my Honda Fit by hitting an enormous pothole in the road! Man, what a huge mess. It completely obliterated the tire. Bent the steel wheel rim. Put the whole car way out of alignment. Indescribably expensive stuff.  The only thing that I didn’t have to pay through the nose for was the tow truck.

So that was fun.

But all in all, things are good.  I need that car to get me back & forth to NYC again in the near future — and probably a few times — so, alas, gotta keep the car perfect.

Yes! More trips to NYC are on the horizon.  There will be a couple of staged readings of the play in the intensely beautiful village of Rhinebeck NY, and then probably at least one in New York City itself.  But there will be plenty of rehearsals there before the readings occur.  (Loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall that for a couple of years, I was planning to move to Rhinebeck, only to end up in the intensely quirky and magical village of Crazyland in Muskingum County, Ohio! So any opportunity to get back to Rhinebeck makes me really happy.)

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Village of Rhinebeck, NY

I’m happy, just overall. Actually, I’m over the moon.

You know, it recently occurred to me that many light years ago, in a galaxy far, far away — meaning, the very first time I went to college, right after high school — I majored in Theater and really wanted to be a playwright. For some inexplicable reason I had forgotten about this. However, what I wanted more was to go to NYC and be a singer-songwriter, which is what I ended up doing once I promptly dropped out of college. But as anyone who knows me knows so well, that once I was living in NYC, I attended every single  Broadway play, and Off-Broadway play, and Off-Off-Broadway play, and plays in the most unexpected hard-to-find venues, etc., etc. I have always just loved theater. So for all of this to be happening now — lo! these many decades later — I can’t even tell you how happy and astonished it makes me feel,  to have it all unfolding like this.

Well, we’ve been working on both these plays for several years (Tell My Bones and The Guide to Being Fabulous), but still. Now suddenly it’s all happening, with prospects at 2 incredible theaters in the US and Canada, and it’s almost hard to believe.

I think the person who’s happiest for me, oddly enough, is my first husband. We have been divorced for almost 30 years, but when we were married, in 1981, we lived in a small apartment that was a hop, skip, and a jump from the theater district in Manhattan and he remembers quite well how much I loved the theater. So he is kinda  over the moon with happiness for me, too.

It’s an incredible feeling. To suddenly come full circle when you absolutely least expect it.

Truly loyal readers of this lofty blog, might possibly recall that for over 20 years, I believed that my first husband was dead.  Two summers ago, he popped back up, in an email, that said, “Hi how are you doing?” And I wrote back, “WTF??!! I thought you had died!! Where have you been for 20 years??!! We were all trying to find you!!” And he said, “Sorry. I was really busy.”

I’ve lived long enough now to know that if a man says that he’s been really busy for 20 years, just accept it and move on. Because you probably don’t really want to know “busy with what?”

But anyway. It’s funny. If you can manage to live long enough, the most amazing dreams come true. (In ways that I can’t even go into here on the blog. It is sufficient to say that I am incredibly happy.)

Well, I must get crackin’ here now and start writing. Thanks for visiting, gang, and sorry for the long delay in posting.  Have a wonderful Wednesday wherever you are in the world. I love you guys!! See ya.

This is poor Yorick. I knew him… 🙂

Lest you believe otherwise!

The Muse did, indeed, return!

We’ve been working at Chapter 19 for several days now, and I believe it is finished and I am very happy and entirely grateful. It was worth the day-after-day waiting, typing, and deleting. The Muse once again simply started talking about stuff that I was not expecting in any way, shape or form; and we were off and running again.  (For you who are new to my blog: on  this current novel, Blessed By Light – the Muse is writing it; I’m only typing it! So I never know what’s coming next. It’s always a complete and utter surprise.)

My Muse is not one to be cajoled; he comes in his own good time. But when he does come, you’d best be awake and at the desk, otherwise be prepared to just speak it into your phone because he’s not likely to repeat himself!!

I jest, a bit. But not entirely. Loyal readers of this lofty blog will no doubt recall what the Muse put me through this past summer!

First of all, he appeared out of nowhere, basically, on July 16th and turned my creative life completely around. I had been muse-less for about 5 years and thought that it was just over. The writing – or, I should say, the inspired, delightful writing; the writing that was so much fun; it seemed like that part of my long life was simply over and I was just kinda waiting around here until I died, literally. I was working on stuff — TV shows, mostly; developing scripts. But it didn’t feel particularly exciting or anything.

And then, the Muse appeared! A totally new Muse. And a thoroughly interactive one — as in, I could talk to this one and it felt like he was answering me! In English. I could feel him when he was in my room. And for the most part, he stayed in my room (where my desk is); I couldn’t feel him anywhere else in the house.  But in my room – I was bowled over by the palpable energy. Plus, he was almost ridiculously erotic; all that erotic fiction stuff that I thought was behind me, suddenly began leaping to the fore! And posthaste, he began waking me pretty much every single morning, all summer long, at around 4am, in mid-dictation, and I had to type everything down on my phone as quickly as possible, which I kept on the night table next to my bed.

And my memoirs started coming out – Dirty Girl; Beautiful Mind. Which was harrowing because I was suddenly having to revisit some very unexpected places in my turbulent erotic past and a lot of my angst about that wound up on my blog, wherein I discovered that, well, mob guys I hadn’t seen in 20 years were still following my blog!

And then suddenly, the Muse abruptly stopped that in late August and began dictating Blessed By Light. A novel that has been astonishing to me, in more ways than I can post about here on this blog. And of course, he helped me with the revisions of the TV pilot and then the adaptation of the Helen LaFrance play.

But curiously, a few weeks back, I began writing another kind of erotic memoir of sorts, titled: Girl in the Night: Erotic Love Letters to the Muse, and I was having some recent difficulties with it and I said to him, “What are doing with this? Help me.” And he said, “That one’s your book; not mine.” He was polite and all, not malicious, or anything, but he really said that!

I mean, I don’t hear voices, but I do feel the voice.  And under the circumstances of this particular book, which I won’t detail on the blog because they’re personal, I thought to myself: Wow, now that is very interesting indeed.

So, yes! The Muse returned. No more blank pages hovering in front of me. And I couldn’t be happier, gang!

But there is still plenty o’ stress! With 2 plays now barreling towards actual production, here in the USA and in Canada.  Which means, I will likely have to travel a whole lot and I really don’t enjoy that too much anymore, especially after my unnerving “questioning & detainment” experience with UK airport security in Exeter, England, over my illustrious writing career and my FBI file. Plus, I have these crazy, high-maintenance cats, who dislike people intensely, and I no longer have a cat sitter because of my permanent falling out with my friend, Diane.

So, yes, life is good! Plenty of huge question marks on the horizon! What more could you ask for??

Okay, I’m gonna go make some lunch now and then get back at it! All that Muse-infused dictation!!Thanks for visiting. Have a really good Monday, wherever you are in the world. I love you guys! See ya!

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!