Tag Archives: Tell My Bones: The Helen LaFrance Story

Good Things!

Yes, 42nd Street was an amazing amount of wonderful dancing feet — tap-dancing feet, no less. And tons of singing. It was really, really fun.

A couple of those songs made me a little misty-eyed for the New York City that I remember from the old days.  (No, I didn’t live there in the 1930s! I meant, when the show first came out in 1980.) But overall, it was just plain fun.

As for those boys of summer (post below), it was really heartbreaking — but in the best way. I want so much to make time stand still, but it can’t be done, gang! (Unless, of course, it’s something torturous and horrible and filled to the brim with hell — high school springs to mind! Then time does indeed stand still…)

But 2 more shows, and then they strike the set for good and go off to have lives.  The one guy in particular that I am really crazy about only has one more show before he’s done for the season. I saw him outside as I was leaving the theater last night. I had the perfect opportunity to speak to him, but all I could think of to say was, “Oh my god! Don’t leave me!! Luckily, I have a working brain filter, so I was able to just keep walking…

When I reached my car, though, I leaned against it for a while and watched him, watched all of them — the whole cast was outside. It was a beautiful, clear night; thousands of stars in the sky; only 67 lovely degrees. And I watched those beautiful young people and wondered about the flow of human beings coming together, dispersing, coming together again.  I know there is an underlying emotional order to all of it, to the flow of life. I can’t explain it in linear sentences, but I feel the emotional order in my heart. And sometimes that flow of human beings is just too beautiful for words.

When I finally got in my car, I checked my phone and discovered a text from the Mormon missionaries! They received permission to still take that trip up to Kirtland next week to see the temple with me. What great news!

Also, yesterday, I had the conference call with Peitor Angell (see post below from a couple days ago) regarding my needing help with the re-structuring of the stage adaptation of Tell My Bones.

He’s out of the country right now; on a  whole different time zone, 3 hours behind me. But he got up at 6 AM in order to find a quiet place, as well as a place where his cell phone could get reception, so that he could talk to me uninterrupted by life.

That is a true friend, isn’t it? To get up at 6 AM when you’re on vacation in another country, just to help a friend figure something out.

He gave me the most amazing, detailed advice for how I could find a better way in to the story. I could barely keep up, I was taking so many notes.

I said, “Is this a process you already do, or something? It is so detailed and so well thought out.”

He said, “No, I’m just coming up with it now. I’m trying to intuitively tap into the whole project and help bring out the artist in you.”

Well, it worked. It was staggering, really — how helpful he was. I am really just so blessed.

And so, on that note, I have to get down to the kitchen table, spread out a bunch of papers and notes and re-think my whole script.

Have a really great Thursday, wherever you are and with whatever you’re doing, gang. Keep looking for those miracles, they’re probably right in front of you. Thanks for visiting. See ya.

42nd Street, Weathervane Playhouse

 

 

 

 

Life, Re-writes, Love, & the Muse

Happy as I am with the new direction I’ve taken the past couple weeks with the Hurley Falls Mysteries, I am also still dealing with the theatrical adaptation of my screenplay, Tell My Bones, the life story of the Outsider Artist, Helen LaFrance. I’m adapting it for the stage specifically for Sandra Caldwell.

When I first wrote the screenplay, things like #BlackLivesMatter hadn’t happened yet, although it was getting ready to. And even while the screenplay was well received at film festivals and among producers, the climate Off-Broadway for plays about African-American lives has changed considerably in just a couple of years. So, even while I’m okay with how I’m staging the play, how I’m presenting the music, the sets and the characters, I’m finding that the entire way I present Helen’s life has to seriously be re-framed to fit the tone people want to experience now.

5 years ago, when I went to Kentucky and met with Helen, she was already in her 90s, in a nursing home, and in a wheelchair due to a paralyzing stroke. I walked into the day room of the nursing home, where she sat in front of a canvas, preparing to paint (she’d taught herself to paint with her left hand because the stroke had left her paralyzed down her right side), and I said hello.

She barely looked at me. She knew I had come because I wanted to write a screenplay about her life.  Still, she was not impressed, and her greeting to me, after I’d driven 12 hours to meet her, was: “What do you want?”

After a couple hours of talking, she warmed up and ended the conversation by giving me the rights to write her life story, and after that, I had access to all her paintings, her interviews, and even her private diaries.  In all the research I did, while it was clear she had to contend with racism and the unfairness of how blacks were treated in Kentucky, her art, her diaries, and her conversation were focused more on simply being a woman who was always trying to find enough time and money to do her art.

There was so much beauty in how she saw her life. Just so much beauty. A lot of heartbreak that centered on the people she loved who had died, but not very much about having to rise above oppression.  Just needing enough time & money to paint. And so I told her life story in a very particular way, which now has to be re-framed. Same life, but I have to focus on it in a different way.

My seriously long-time, good friend in L.A., producer/composer Peitor Angell,  is eventually going to be helping me with the musical arrangements for the show, but yesterday he agreed to help me try to re-think the telling of the story, too. So I feel excited about that project again.  You know, the energy of one good friend can turn your whole world around.

I don’t need to have this adaptation done until the end of this year, since Sandra and I will be focused on doing the staged reading of her one-woman musical in NYC this fall. Still it has bogged me down emotionally that I couldn’t make better progress with Tell My Bones, so it feels good to feel encouraged again.

The other thing that has taken me unaware, that is also a really incredibly wonderful thing, is that the Muse has come back into my life! [Muse – noun – a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.]

After having been blessed all my life with the beneficence of a Muse, I haven’t had the energy of the Muse in my world for several years now. It has been depressing. Even though I can still write without a Muse, it’s more laborious, a lot less joyful from moment to moment. And when I least expected it, and had pretty much given up on ever feeling that energy again, in he walked. Right into my field of vision.

I felt like Bill & Ted in their excellent adventure:

I don’t know him at all, although I’ve now seen him a few times. Yet suddenly life in my inner world is 360% not the same. So beautiful. I am so, so blessed. My inner world now is a deluge of inspiration, keen feelings, intensely beautiful images that my mind & heart respond to. And all of that makes its way to the page, to benefit you, gentle reader!

That is simply the very best way to write. And on that note, I’m going to go… get some lunch!! Yay! Have a super Saturday, gang, wherever the Muse takes you. Thanks for visiting. See ya.

 

Updates on Happiness, Raccoons, Writing & More!

It’s a stunning morning here in the Hinterlands! Hard to believe it’s supposed to be raining, yet again, by this evening.  I guess we’ll see. The only thing I don’t like about the rain, is that I have to go around and close all 22 of the windows I had already opened.

Since I last posted here, there have been all sorts of interesting things going on. For starters, my friend Diane came out to the Hinterlands and helped me FINALLY get my main barn door OPEN.

Yes! That means I was finally able to get into the main section of my barn. The part where the horse was kept long, long ago. The other section, the part where the buggy was kept, was really easy to get into from day one. And inside that section was the half-door for feeding the long-ago horse once  kept in the stall side, so I could at least look into that side of the barn. But what a cool feeling to actually be able to get into the other side and look at all the ancient stuff that’s still in there.

For one thing, we discovered that the barn had a front addition built onto it at some distant point in the long ago past. So the current (really old) front of the barn (pictured above) has perfectly preserved the original old front of the barn that was built in 1910.

I was going to get you photos of all this, but as it happened, at the last minute, a friend needed a place to store his 1965 VW camper van as he headed out to Yellowstone National Park for the summer. Since I can’t really afford to do the thousands of dollars worth of work that the barn needs right now, I offered him the use of the barn since we were finally able to get the door open, and now a great big VW camper van is taking up the entire space for the next few months…

Not this one — but this is a very reasonable facsimile!

 

There is enough room left along one side of the inside of the barn to kind of get one of the side doors of the camper open a smidge. So my friend generously offered that anytime I wanted to just hang out inside  the camper, I could!

Well, that was too cute! While it is often really fun to hang out inside those old VW camper vans, I have an entire new house to hang out in, as well as a really cool porch! But I did appreciate the offer, nevertheless.

My porch, by the way, is wonderful. Quite a few friends have already come by my new 117-year-old house in the Hinterlands  and they all immediately head for a chair on the side porch, plop down and get comfortable.  Not only is the porch really welcoming, but the screen door also opens right onto the kitchen, where the fridge is always stocked with beer. (Not the kind of beer that I drink, btw. Everybody around here seems to like Bud Light. Whereas, loyal readers of this lofty blog will no doubt recall that I like Newcastle Brown Ale — a far cry from Bud Light. My guy-friend was over the other day to say farewell before heading off to Alaska for a big fishing tournament, and he accidentally helped himself to my one and only bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale. He said, “What the hell is this??!!” And I replied, “It’s MINE!!!” and I grabbed it away from him. My hostessing politeness only extends so far…)

Anyhow.  Not only is it so cool to finally have a great porch of my own that people actually stop by and hang out on, regardless of how deep into the Hinterlands I have gotten, but it is also cool that neighbors drive by — neighbors that I have not met yet — and they all smile and wave.

I don’t know, gang; I think I somehow ended up in Mayberry…

Mayberry — The Andy Griffith Show TV town

Yes, I am so happy here.

And for those of you waiting with bated breath on any updates regarding my raccoon… Ah yes. The dear little thing is indeed a female, and already has a pack of little cubs down inside the hollow of the tree.

No not these kinds of raccoon cubs…

These kind!!

And these kind get up onto the roof and create havoc a lot more frequently than the other kind do… Well, we’ll see how it goes as the unbelievably cute destructiveness pervades the upcoming summer months.

Meanwhile, I have been getting literally tons of inspiration for both of the mystery books I’ve had on the back burner for nearly 2 years (The Tea Cozy Murder Club: A Murder at Parsons Ridge (also a TV pilot), and The Miracle Cats: The Case of the Purloined Passport).  I just need to get some breathing room from the theater projects and the Cleveland’s Burning TV pilot. However, all of those projects are looking so incredibly promising right now, that they all seem to need my attention before I can get back to writing novels.

I can’t go into detail on the blog right now re: the one-woman musical I’m working on with Sandra Caldwell in NYC, but it is a really exciting development connected with the workshop/staged reading of the show. And it continues to bode really, really well for the stage adaptation I’m working on of  Tell My Bones, the play about Helen LaFrance that I’m writing as a vehicle for Sandra.

However, regarding my TV pilot, once titled Cleveland’s Burning but now known more affectionately as Untitled Cleveland Drama, I can say here that we have had interest in the project from several places within the last few days, including OWN, ABC-Disney, and Act 4 Entertainment. This is all just initial interest, gang, but it still excites me beyond belief.  I came so close to simply shelving the project forever, after working with several other producers who wound up not really sharing my vision for it and who completely exasperated me. But after I hooked up with the EVP of Development at Bohemia Group (for the Tea Cozy Murder Club pilot),  things with Cleveland’s Burning came back to life with them, specifically with the EVP’s all-out enthusiasm for the Cleveland project.

Well, as usual, the morning has now pretty much evaporated while I’ve been sitting here blogging at the computer! I must scurry, gang, and get some other stuff done.

Hope you have a terrific Monday that leads into a really amazing week, wherever you are! Thanks for visiting, gang.  See ya!

“That’s all, folks!”

 

 

Getting to be that splendid time of year!

Yes, as this picture illustrates, it’s the time of year where I go for a ride on my bike, with my terrier tagging along, while I wear what was once referred to as a “coolie hat.” Now the word “coolie” is politically incorrect in most parts of the world and we’re supposed to refer to it as a “conical Asian hat.” However, it doesn’t quite trip off the tongue in the same vivid way. So we need a new word.

I guess we could call it my “cool” hat.  Which would not be a lie, but neither would it give you any accurate idea of what type of hat I’m really wearing, and if you were “visionally challenged” (or “blind”, in the old 20th-Century version of English), you’d be strictly on your own as far as understanding what comprised a “cool” hat. (Although if you’d been visionally challenged since birth, the whole concept of a hat would be in the realm of the somewhat fantastical altogether.) (By the way — do not use the word “visionally” out in public or at a party where you’re trying to attract the attention of someone “cool.” It is not, in fact, a word. I’m making it up.)

Anyway. I digress. I don’t actually have a bike, or a terrier, or any type of hat whatsoever.

However. Yes, autumn is beginning to arrive! My favorite time of year! The heatwave broke on Wednesday evening. The temperatures are down where I like them best: around 70 during the day and way down in the lower50s-upper40s at night. My cats are friskier than ever, since I leave some of the windows open until it really, really gets cold outside. And the cats are so darn cute when they’re being frisky. And cute cats make me happy.

Things are looking good on all fronts. Including revisions of my theatrical adaptation of my script, Tell My Bones. So I’m happy.  I’m still waiting to find out the amount I’m pre-approved for on my mortgage, though, so that’s making me a little antsy. I don’t like that limbo feeling.  But I’m guessing I will find out one day next week.

James Tabor has announced the itinerary for his 2018 Tour of the Holy Land. Each year, I tell myself that “next year, I’ll be able to afford to go.” And then I keep hoping that he’ll, in fact, have a tour the following year. These are not theological tours of Israel, by the way,  but archeological/biblical/historical tours. They hit all the places I would truly love to see with my own eyes, with none of the dogma.

Even though the tour is actually really affordable considering what it offers, I still can’t imagine — what, with getting ready to buy a new house, and all — that I can afford to go in 2018.

That is why I direct your attention to the link at the top right-hand corner of this blog! (Top-right, if you are facing the blog; top-left, if you have somehow managed to get inside the blog and are looking out…) Yes, that’s right. All you need do is buy me about two thousand cups of coffee (anonymously, if you prefer), which in turn puts $3 per cup into my Paypal account, and then I will finally be able to take that trip with James Tabor to the Holy Land.

James Tabor in Ceasaria

I’m officially thanking you in advance for all that coffee: Thanks, gang! You guys are the best! I’ll be sure to send plenty of postcards!

Okay! I gotta scoot. Gotta get back to the revisions of Tell My Bones. Thanks for visiting, gang! Have a terrific Friday, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. See ya!

 

Oddly enough, things are getting better & better

Anyone who has known me well for a really long time, can attest to the fact that from the moment I was born, until just a few months ago, my life pretty much always sucked and generally got worse and worse as the years zipped by.

I’ve basically been a walking case of C-PTSD my entire life (from seemingly limitless physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse, with no psychological safety-net, ever).  Even though a huge portion of my life has been spent struggling with suicidal depression,  I also seem to have been born with a boundless belief that God had a better plan for my life and all I had to do was keep looking and I would find it. (It’s called faith.) (It’s also called “Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, and Start All Over“.)

I’ve also been blessed as a writer — just keep getting the words out, no matter what. Through any and all emotional upheavals and various & sundry dire circumstances and stressful situations. Even though it’s financially difficult, most of the time, to be a writer, I have always found the energy and time to get my projects done and send them “out there.” It gives this ridiculously difficult life what is called: A purpose.

Yes.

That’s why this move to the Hinterlands came as such an astounding surprise to me — that I could ever find a place that made me so happy and that could really feel like home — for the first time, ever, and I have been alive now for over half a century.

I did get approved for my USDA mortgage — I still don’t know for how much, yet. It won’t be a lot but it’ll be enough to buy a little cottage out here and stay put, forever. I have been on Cloud 9 since I got the letter.

Although I will probably have to travel constantly between NYC and LA, and occasionally to Bristol, England; my home base will be here in the Hinterlands and I simply couldn’t be happier. I wake up every day and cannot believe how blessed I am. Whenever I feel those niggling feelings of stress, I simply step outside and am instantly reminded that this place is magical. The stress simply evaporates.

The old farmhouse from 1910, that I mentioned in a previous post below somewhere, sold a couple weeks ago. The little lake house, which is really just indescribably cute, is still available  but I don’t think I want to get involved with the cost of flood insurance. I currently have my eye on a really cute old house — really tiny– from 1900 that’s been completely updated and is very close to the lake, but wouldn’t involve flood insurance. We’ll see how much of a mortgage I get pre-approved for, then I can make up my mind and life will finally begin!

Meanwhile… I need to close this and go focus on the Helen LaFrance theatrical adaptation. During my last phone call with Sandra Caldwell in NYC, mere hours before she had to go onstage for the opening night of Charm, she very pointedly asked, “when are you going to get here?” and made it plain that she had a number of people she wanted to discuss the Helen LaFrance piece with, so getting the revisions finished might be a really good idea…

Indeed.

So here I go.

Have a great Friday, wherever you are and with whatever you’re doing! I leave you with this, gang! Play it loud and keep on keeping on, regardless of what anyone else advises. Thanks for visiting. See ya!

 

 

Happy Updates from the Hinterlands!

First and foremost: They should have a response to my recent revisions on the Untitled Cleveland Drama TV pilot by the end of this week!

Wouldn’t it be spectacular if there were no more revisions needed?? After all, eventually the rewrites must cease and the production must begin…

I first got the idea for this particular TV series when I was studying for the ministry at the Ohio Christian University (once known as Circleville Bible College) a small school literally built out in the middle of farmland:

Ohio Christian University

I loved that school and I loved studying for the ministry (I was on the Dean’s List every single semester and graduated summa cum laude) and I loved becoming a minister, even while my views about Jesus are radical and heretical by evangelical standards. (I guess, by most people’s standards, come to think of it.)

Anyway, liberal and far-flung as I am psychologically, I still believe that Jesus himself gave me the idea for the premise of Cleveland’s Burning (now known more loftily as the Untitled Cleveland Drama).  After my involvement with 11 various producers in LA came to nothing, I set aside the script for a couple of years, until suddenly another production company in LA asked to read it and now, here we are, on the verge of actually getting the pilot made.

Interestingly, though, one of their recent comments about my script was to tone down the Christian stuff.  The pilot centers around a black family in Cleveland during the early 1960s, and most of the men in the family are ministers in various stages of their careers. So I wasn’t quite sure how “toning down the Christian stuff” would work…

But seriously, I wrote the show because it really irks me how, nowadays, people try to position DR. Martin Luther King in a strictly cultural and political sense, when in reality, he was more commonly  known for a long time as the REVEREND Martin Luther King; he was a Baptist preacher, completely at odds with political groups like the NAACP.

King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail is the focal point of the pilot episode of my TV series and that letter (addressed to clergymen) is nothing but Christian doctrine — which happens to be all about love, not politics. Hence, it really just irks me that contemporary society wants to sort of erase the Christian influence on the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-60s. (Sort of like how early Christians erased as much of Jesus’s Jewishness and of his family life as they possibly could.)

Ah. But I digress. Anyway.

So I developed an entire TV series about the Christian “evolvement” of the Civil Rights Movement so that I might be able to sort of bang you over the head with it…. (Kind of kidding here, but kind of not!) And even though the producers want to focus more on the one non-minister brother who goes off to Vietnam and comes back a Black Panther/Black Nationalist (because I guess violence is more palatable today than any Christian doctrines of love), I am still indescribably excited and still believe wholeheartedly that Jesus gave me the idea while I was studying for his ministry and that’s all that really matters to me.

In other news… I have decided to buy a new house instead of rent. By “new” I am referring, of course, to really old houses, but they will be new to me! I’m still going to remain out here in the Hinterlands, where I have been so happy for the first time in my life. I am waiting to hear how it will go, mortgage-wise.

I want one of those home loans from the US Department of Agriculture, which mandates that I must purchase a home in a rural area, which includes the nearby lake region, which is just fine with me! Me and the kitties might become nautical!! I sure hope so. And I really hope to be re-located by Christmas, if I can. We will see. I will indeed keep you posted. (I currently have my eye on 2 houses: one is an old farm house from 1910; the other an old lake house from 1930. Both have been updated to modern standards, although the lake house, more so.)

Meanwhile, I must get back to re-writes on the theatrical version of Tell My Bones. It is slow-going. Mostly because it is distracting, knowing that I have to move soon and having all that drudgery of moving again hanging over my head.

Okay, thanks for visiting!! Have a great Wednesday, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.  And if you’d like to hear a computer read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail  (and, frankly, who wouldn’t want to hear a computer read the Letter from a Birmingham Jail??) well, here ya’ go!!

See ya!!

 

Just a quick hi!

I’m just popping in to regale you with a few photos!

As loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall, I am now under a SUPER tight deadline to revise my one-act theatrical version of Tell My Bones: The Helen LaFrance Story by September 17th, when I must speed mightily toward the great State of New York in my tiny Honda Fit, in order to see Sandra Caldwell on the opening night of her new play, and hand her the revised script of the above-mentioned Tell My Bones.

In short, I have little time for posting to the blog right now!

However…. Photos have come into my life this week that I must share!

First and foremost, a couple of really high-quality digital photos of some of Helen LaFrance’s paintings that will be in my play, Tell My Bones. Be sure to click on them so that you can enlarge them and see the astounding detail that her paintings are famous for.

Canning Peaches by Helen LaFrance. Permanent Collection of Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University
Pete’s Place by Helen LaFrance. Permanent Collection of Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University

Next! Some cats on my bed yesterday!!

Clockwise from top left: Tommy, Huckleberry, Daddycakes, Doris, Weenie, Lucie. (I love the dramatic pose taken by Daddycakes here! Click to enlarge.)

Next! Loyal readers of this lofty blog will no doubt recall that I once had an ideal patio here in the Hinterlands; a patio that filled me with bliss, which was sweetly appointed with numerous pots of impatiens that a lovely deer and her equally-lovely fawns decimated in early July…

I then moved all the flower pots to my front patio, since it is closer to the house and I didn’t think the deer would be likely to come up so close to a human dwelling place… [Dramatic foreshadowing –Editor]

The impatiens rebounded with gusto and were once again blooming like mad, even though I rarely hang out on my front patio and enjoy them!

Several days ago, a bunny rabbit happened along during the night and made good progress with devouring one of the pots of impatiens that was lower to the ground. Then, this past Wednesday morning, I awoke to discover that the deer had returned! WOW, did they do a good job of getting rid of my pesky impatiens!!  (Click below to get a close-up view of some of the carnage!)

Three of the 8 impatiens planters after the deer.

Honestly, though, I don’t really care that much. I thought it was really funny when I looked out the huge picture window early Wednesday morning and saw what was left of my beautiful flowers. And this was after having watered all the flowers the evening before, marveling at how fully the plants had recovered and at all their many riotous blooms… My only lament that morning was that I didn’t get to see how cute the deer were, munching away leisurely until every blossom was gone!

I will keep watering the plants and they will likely bloom again before any frost comes, a few months from now. But now that I know I have to move away, I am emotionally detaching myself from this lovely place and nothing means quite as much as it did only a few weeks ago, when I thought I would be able to stay here indefinitely.

I also completely detached myself emotionally from my back patio. Not only because I had moved all the pretty flowers to the front of the house, but more because I kept asking people around here to come over and hang out on my cool back patio and have a beer and watch the fireflies and the stars come out, and absolutely no one accepted my invitation! It just got very sad and lonely and frustrating. Once the many melodious robins had moved on and the fireflies burned out and the intense humidity came along with the mosquitoes, I stopped spending my evenings outdoors and now I only go out to water the plants in the evening. And I dream of my next heavenly abode.

But it’s all good, gang, because better things are truly on my horizon. Another move to some awesome place does indeed loom large. And I’m sure I’ll make new friends somewhere, somehow, some way!! After all, I’m not dead yet!

All righty. Gotta scoot! Deadlines also loom large on my horizon! Hope you have a terrific weekend planned, wherever you are on the planet! Thanks for visiting. (Oh, and enjoy the upcoming Great American Solar Eclipse, New Moon, and various trining planets! I’ll be participating in some sort of world-wide meditation, as usual.) Okay. See ya!

Watson’s General Store by Helen LaFrance. Permanent Collection of Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University.