Welcome to my blog..


"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty

When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.

I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.

As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.

This summer I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May.

Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.

For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Yoga of Writing

So, this post will veer in a number of directions but the title will make sense in the end. Bear with me.

Yesterday, which was the day I was supposed to begin reading The Draft of The Book saw me weak and with a fragile tummy because of either something I ate or a stomach bug the night before. Whatever may have precipitated that, I was aware that I had an anxiety level exacerbated by the fact I had decided yesterday was the day to begin reading the draft.

True fact: the night before then-Artistic Director of The Present Company, John Clancy, was scheduled to see a rehearsal of the first play I had both written and directed  (Word To Your Mama), I had 'food poisoning' and puked through the night, and was so wiped out I couldn't make it to the rehearsal. However, John did make it to the run through and left a glowing review on my answering machine (this was a while ago kids - early 2000 - we still had answering machines and Luddite that I was - did not yet have a cell phone), hearing his opinion miraculously cured me...So...

Back to yesterday. Even though I'm the only one reading the draft, I think that sometimes my stomach gets queasy at the idea of visibility or the emergence of something new. Even if in this case, it's just me judging (right now anyway).

So, what I did instead of reading was get to a yoga class, something I haven't done since - well - since the retreat back in December. I found, while barely able to get out of bed, that there was - miracle of miracles - a Kripalu teacher at a local yoga studio teaching a gentle restorative class. I managed to throw on my yoga togs and get there.

Besides moving my aching body in healing ways, there were two other profound moments of healing that relate ultimately to my writing and how I will approach the reading of the draft.

First, when we were breathing in and out in a three-part breath, the teacher mentioned that we should pay attention to whether we were inhaling or exhaling longer. I realized that my exhale was up to twice as long as my inhale. She said "breathing in is bringing energy into our bodies and exhaling is releasing" or something along those lines. What I felt in my body (not just thought - big difference) - was how I breathe in like I don't deserve the air. I have a fairly good idea where this idea came from, but that's not the point. The point is, I felt it manifesting physically in my body and that linked with that ancient message. It almost made me cry to attempt to breathe in as deeply as I exhaled. I realized even then that this related to my work as well - how I have historically and still do sometimes give everything away too quickly and in my life, too - my affections, attention, trust - only to - many times - get hurt.

This relates to the second even more profound realization during the class. So profound that I can't even remember the precise moment it was connected to because it felt almost like lucid dreaming. The sensation was: you're only good enough to be hurt. Seriously. Felt in the deepest core of my being was the belief, before now unconscious it was buried so deeply, that I was here to be hurt and that is all. Again, I have some good ideas about where this could have from, but never ever have I experienced this as a felt sense - nor have I even theorized it in those words - so in truth in no way. It was a direct bit of body memory from the deep dark abyss.

As depressing as that may sound, to me this was a profound moment of healing, because now that I have felt it, not just thought about the damage of this and that from thus and such time in my life, but understood how imprinted it is in my body, now that horrendous believe that has been driving me all along, can be healed.

(By the way: this is why I love Kripalu yoga, only doing yoga guided by Kripalu teachers do I get these profound insights, because it's built into the system. The yoga isn't about poses, it's about deep healing and creating meditation in motion. I am sure for others who do yoga there are many different schools that work; it's deeply personal, but for me, it's Kripalu all the way.)

But this sensation was also scary to feel because it made me realize a lot about certain choices I have made in my life, none of which I am not going to go into here. But - now that this is a conscious and bodily-felt-informed realization - and only now - do I think I have a prayer of NOT acting on it anymore.

So, WTF does this have to do with the draft of my book you may ask? Well, a bit of a lot actually.

Today, feeling better, I felt I should begin reading the draft, but the Terror came over me again. I breathed. I meditated. I reached out to a few trusted friends. I did manage to set up my space and divide up some of the text so I could begin reading it, but still I fiddled. I even - I shit you not - organized the spice cabinet. You know things are bad at that point. Little plastic containers for the soy sauce packages from old take-out and the free ranging garlic cloves, that kind of thing...

Then finally I brought in the big guns. I called my friend Julie. She suggested (also being a writer - but even more than that someone who has known me intimately for close to 15 years) that I read the draft as a reader (which had been my instinct and also an idea another friend - and excellent writer - from college suggested). We talked about different ways to approach it and between that and some other suggestions, I'm on my way to a strategy for this.

I was walking in Inwood Hill Park during this conversation and breathing in air with a spring tinge, seeing patches of grass emerging from under the snow and seeing the swans again in the muddy patches of the field.

Near the end of our conversation, I told her these realizations from the yoga class, while I was sitting on a bench looking out at where the Harlem and Hudson meet. Somewhere after that, she said: think about reading your rough draft as a privilege, as if someone else were giving you their rough draft - you would think of that as a privilege. And I realized she was right. I said "yes, but I'm getting the privilege this time - I'm not giving it away." (Just like the breathing - not just exhaling, also inhaling.) Right, she said. Yes, exactly. I get the privilege of reading my own rough draft. I'm not sharing. For once.

Later, walking back home, I realized, this also relates to the hurt thing. Because if you show a rough draft to the wrong person or to anyone really before you're ready for criticism or even know what you're doing, you can set yourself up for a world of hurt. I'm not doing that either.

This made me think that perhaps - however stutteringly - I'm working from a different place now. A place where I protect myself from hurt, where I am allowed to inhale. I know how to exhale, thank you very much. I know how to be hurt. I'm the fucking world expert at that shit.

It's time to allow some protection, to enjoy some privilege, some space, some love - and to let go of the unconscious expectation that the world stop being a hurting place where approval can be offered or taken away that can affect me way too much. That somehow Someone Will Appear who can protect me from all that...the never-ending dream of the abused child that must be given up in order to become an adult, no matter how painful...

I need to be my own champion. Yes, that's right, it's taken me close to 52 years to figure that one out. Sometimes slowly...

So the yoga of writing is in all this. Learning to breathe and listening to my body's wisdom, the body I abandoned many years ago out of necessity, is also the key to my writing process. It in some deeper way is my writing process.

Jai bhagwan.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Preparing to read draft and revise...

OK, so having printed out the rough draft of The Book, I now need to read it. Then revise it. Because I'm more accustomed to writing stage texts, this part of the process is stumping me.

Why?

Because, if you're as lucky as I've been, when you write text for the stage, you get to hear actors read the words rather than simply read it over by yourself. Then you get to talk to those actors and maybe a couple other folks who are in your living room about said draft. Then you revise.

This is a book. There are 754 pages. No one could read it aloud in one evening.

So, I have to read it.

Duh.

Some people have suggested I have others read it at this stage, but I don't want to do that, because I know it's not done yet. I know there needs to be at the very least one revision for the book to be constituted as a book I would be interested in getting feedback on...It's too raw and I don't want to be overly influenced right now by outsider readers' ideas of what 'works' and what doesn't, etc. Praise can be as destructed as criticism at this stage. There are parts that 'don't work' but that doesn't mean I want to lose them yet, and I don't want to be lulled by praise into not making something that might 'work' better...

So, I have to figure out how I'm going to do this. My instinct is to read it once over as much as possible like a reader. Take some notes but not get into minutiae. Then re-read it and at that stage begin revisions and add the things in I know need to be added, cut what needs to be cut, rewrite whatever is staying, etc...

I have done so many revisions on academic type things, shorter prose pieces, etc., but this is a different animal.  I'll have to feel it out, I suppose. I kind of want something like angels with trumpets or something to start me off and then tell me when it's done...not that I'm grandiose or anything...

***

Meanwhile it feels like the world is going kind of crazy now that I've had a few moments to concentrate on it - Ferguson, weird ass weather, Republicans going crazy(er) and writing Iran, I mean WTF people?

So, I am grateful for this little pause in my life wherein I can focus on a writing project and that is all.

I apologize to all of my friends to whom I am not available and to everything/anything else anyone wants or needs from me. I simply don't have it. I have discovered a truth I am sure all writers of books already know: writing is a selfish business. It's like you have to eat the air or something just to survive the process.

I'm used to sharing the wealth of this selfishness with other people (aka rehearsing a play), so we can pretend we're not selfish, we're just Making a Performance Together. But when you write - alone - you're left with yourself, thinking about this thing you are making, by yourself, which takes fucking YEARS. And convince yourself the whole time that it's WORTH it. It's so weird.

But I also feel some kind of addiction to this process happening...in the very middle of putting together the draft I would have sworn to you up and down that I would Never do this again - but as I am now at this place, where it's about revision and Something Exists, I already have ideas for New Books.

Oh dear. Sorry, world.

OK, back to my few days in real life. The plan is to start reading by Sunday - having taken time off to do taxes, see friends, do some self care and just - well - rest.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A draft of book printed out - on paper!

Here's the first printed out rough draft of The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani! Yes, it's rough, but yee-ha it's a draft! Printed out! On Paper!

OK, I'm just a little excited about this.  Gonna take a few days off to enjoy this...

But wanted to share this with you first to explain the radio silence on the blog...

There's a long way to go yet, but this is a huge first step - 754 pages - 4 years in the making...

Woot!


photo take on my meditation chair - nicely frayed at edges by beloved cat, Ugo.

p.s. Manuscript was carried home by steadfast, supportive and generally wonderful husband, John, in truly hellacious downfall of icy slush. We plodded home in puddles, came back soaked but happy. This has been a long time coming, and even if it's just a step, it's a biggie.

Time to celebrate!

And again a shout out to all of you who have made this possible - all the Indiegogo supporters and others with moral support, writing conversations, coffees - all valuable, all the time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dispatches from the Writing Warren

I don't know what else to call it. I go into some kind of place where I write a lot every day. This place has many little cubby areas where a bunch of people, including me, are beavering away at writing projects. We sit there and write ... and write ... and write.

I have become addicted to this place, because (a) it's quiet - except for every once in a while there's an annoying person who sniffles a lot (not as in crying, as in has a cold and for some reason doesn't understand the world includes tissues) or clicks a pen...but these people are at a minimum (and FYI - male - the women somehow all seem to be able to stay quiet - as do, to be fair, most of the men), (b) everyone else's focus seems to help mine and (c) somehow even though no one is checking on me I feel guilty if I'm not actually writing. When I need a break, I go out to the kitchen and get a coffee or tea, heat up some food, whatever, chat to my new cell-I mean writing-mates.

Because of this focus, the writing is moving ahead at a brisk clip. The words are piling up, as they have been all along, but also other things are happening - synchronistic things, the more mysterious things that start happening when Something is taking shape...it still feels like early stages in some ways - even though I'm close to a rough draft now (at over 225K words, I certainly freaking hope so) - the shape of what this will become is only now coming into view - and it comes in and out - still not entirely clear - but that's OK.

And this is the best part: it seems like that's OK - for perhaps the first time - and I don't even want to write this because I'm sure I'll jinx it and tomorrow I will go back and think What a Dump! So, we'll just say to hedge bets - for today - for today it's OK. (I've been writing about the ins and outs of all the self-hatred, fears and in some cases just emotional pain due to subject matter that has gone into this day by day on the evil that is Facebook - so this is an overview more or less...)

In the middle of the writing, FYI, John, my beloved Canadian and I had a lovely Valentine's Day back at Bread and Yoga - doing a Thai Partner Massage workshop that ended with homemade chocolate tasting. Can you imagine anything better? It was as great as it sounds. And we did need it, even though we were the creaky oldsters, we managed...

This is important, too, to this process: the pauses to rejuvenate - gather energies, but also need the relentless moving forward - it's a balance.

I saw an amazing documentary from 1982 about James Baldwin retracing the steps of the Civil Rights movement from the 1950s forward - it's called Heard it Through the Grapevine and if you can find a way to see it, you should. More relevant now than ever. This served to remind me of what 1980-81 looked like (when the film was being shot) in the US, among many other things. And what a weird ass time that was....from Carter to Reagan...the end of one era (FDR) into another - an era that began in 1980 and in which we still live...God help us and When Dear Lord does the pendulum swing back? Please tell me...but anyway, it's an amazing film and should be required viewing in every high school and college in the US. If you haven't read Baldwin, just do it. If you want to understand the US and especially racial politics in the US, it's a must...he does way more than that, but he was more clear-sighted than most on these issues...

This all relates, because of so many strands of my grandmothers' lives, but too tired to go into all of those right now (plus that will be in the book)...

However, I will tell you my realization about Nietzsche - which I'm sure you're all dying to know - and it's this: his whole thing about beyond good and evil (and about the inability to judge anyone because there is no place from which you can stand to do so - and there is no way to judge without isolating someone else's action from the course of their entire life and all that has affected that person and led to that particular action)...is directly related to what any great art does. If you are writing or creating anything that involves stories about human beings - even if what they have done is horrendous - you can't just stand outside and judge them.  If you do that, you become a moralist, but you are not creating great art. Great art happens in the place where all judgment - as in standing outside and tut-tutting - ceases. It also means letting go of all resentment (which was another big Nietzschean no-no - bwahahahahaha - but still...), because that stands in the way of clear seeing.

I seriously doubt I am anywhere near the first person to see or say this, but the realization had a profound effect on me, because it affirms not only the challenges of being a deeply flawed granddaughter writing a book about my deeply flawed grandmothers but also my whole PhD thesis (about theater/art being an act of philosophy and art usually being out ahead of philosophy...etc.)

But even more than any of that is what it implies for living, too. How important it is to find a way to see clearly without searching for an illusory moral high ground from which you think you can fling your judgements hither and yon and in order to be considered Wise or at least Clever.

Is that an ideal? Sure as shit it is, but it's one worth shooting for. I think this is also what Virginia Woolf was on about when she was saying it would take women 100 years (from when she wrote A Room of One's Own) to write something as incandescent as Shakespeare, because there would be a need for women to be able to stand on their own two feet without fear or favor...without having to simply be in a rage over their own status...This is troublesome politically of course in many ways to contemplate, but there is some truth to it. There is a certain level of serenity needed to write or create anything with clarity that does not fall into some form of self-justification or ego-feeding. What creates the soil for that serenity/clarity can be argued, but there does need to be a still point out of which all the rest can emerge.

OK, I'm now babbling and it's 3:30 a.m. so it's time to wrap this up...but a book is on the way, my friends, at least there is that...this rough beast is indeed slouching towards - well - me, I suppose - waiting to be born...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

new space to write and publish - not a bad day!

Very tired but a couple updates (especially for anyone not on the evil that is Facebook).

Started working at a writing studio where I was accepted today and writing in a space where other writers are writing and nothing else is happening is a religious experience. I was able to go further and deeper with my writing in part because felt buoyed by the focus of everyone else, none of whom I spoke with or even know, except maybe one person. Just hearing the clicking of keyboards and feeling the energy of concentration. Beautiful. It's the perfect NYC experience - surrounded by like-minded people with whom you don't have to share even a word - though when out in the kitchen area you can if you want. I'm in love...and feel for the first time like I might actually get a legible draft of my book done by the end of April.

Today, also, an excerpt from my stage tex Besides, you lose your soul or the History of Western Civilization was just published on the wonderful literary and art site: Ohio Edit.  So nice to see those words again, since it was last produced in 2009.  Check it out, because I'm now open to other directors and/or companies doing my work...if you're interested, give a shout. 

OK, gotta go to sleep now, so I can get up bright and early and go back to my new favorite place... (to which I have 24/7 access, WiFi, a locker, place to keep food, make coffee and tea and a laser printer...heaven, I'm in heaven....)


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Day 22 of At-Home Writing Retreat

I posted part of the below on Facebook (aka the Evil That Is...), and realized it qualified as a blog post, too, so for those of you wiser than me who have not been seduced into that evil, here's a report from the Front (of the at-home writing retreat):

Writing retreat at home continues. Moving forward and spending a lot of time now in the 1940s, listening to the music and imagining life in the U.S. during the War, deciding which of my grandmother Jani's original pieces of writing to include and which stories to tell about both Dick and Jani. Finding out details like - because there was a rubber shortage (and all rubber needed was used for bombs), women were asked to give up their girdles and there was no elastic for underwear so undergarments were fastened with buttons. I knew about the rations, but the details are fascinating. Days included listening to the radio three times a day for reports on the fighting, especially if a loved one was over there, which of course included not only Europe but the Pacific. What is particularly hard to imagine in the realest sense is that No One Knew the Outcome of the War...now, it's all newsreels and heroic movies, but then...much more difficult.

I spent many summers in an old family cottage of one of my stepfathers in Maine, where there were big rusty hooks in the rocks below our place and on the island nearby. During WWII these hooks held metal nets to catch German submarines before they could get into Casco Bay and into Portland. This always seemed funny to me, but it was real. There were U-boats around. Also, the cottage was painted green inside still because it had been requisitioned as a look-out post for the Army. There were/are old forts on the back shore of the island.

Being a child of Watergate and Vietnam, it was so hard to wrap my mind around the reality of a World War in which so much was at stake and most people thought the government was right (not everyone of course, but most), so to allow myself to sink into that point of view now feels almost like a challenging acting exercise...such a time of rupture the 40s...not to mention people seeing pictures of the Holocaust for the first time (which Jani's second husband, Bob, helped shoot and send - from Dachau) and the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki (which Dick's husband, George, knew about in advance because he was an executive secretary for part of the Manhattan Project). We had become death, the destroyer of worlds. While the First World War titled the world on its axis, the Second plunged it over the cliff. The age of irony begins for the next generation and the concomitant clinging desperately to old values of many of the older generation. My grandmothers were smack in the middle, one foot in the old and one foot thrust into the new.

These are the things I think about, and these are the worlds I am attempting to unfold from the point of view of two women living through it. This is deeply exciting and of course scary, because the hungry ghosts of inadequacy are always nipping at my heels.

Please wish me luck, because I do so dearly want to allow these silenced women to speak.

While no one in Milwaukee would have considered Jani in the 1970s silenced (and she wasn't in terms of speeches and articles), there were deeper reaches of her that were profoundly silenced - certainly before the 1970s and even during that decade itself - a voice that emerges from her more vulnerable correspondence and private conversations. Dick barely ever showed her cards except to judge the young people of the day as wanting and opine politically in support of Nixon and against the Kennedy's (but nothing about her interior world), and I seriously doubt that wasn't because she didn't have any deeper feelings or thoughts. The only glimpse she gave me when I was an adult was when she told me how much she had wanted to be an artist as a girl and how the classes being cancelled during the Depression stopped her cold.  She figured no one would listen to her, and in her position, where and how she grew up - with the options she felt she had - I think she was probably right.

I'm doing my best now to open up these closed off spaces...raids, as T.S. Eliot said, on the inarticulate.

Some moments it feels like I come back from a raid with a jewel, but other times after a lot of work, I feel all I have in my hand upon further inspection is shiny crap...My goal when rewriting in detail will be to discern between the two. This can sometimes be harder than it seems like it should be, but getting voice and tone right for Dick and Jani, not only as they were when I knew them, but also when they - and the country - were younger...the pre-irony days in other words - can be tricky. Don't want to be fake simple but also can't transplant our sensibility now to then...or even them in the 70s and 80s to then. Jani has left behind original writing from as far back as the 30s, which is very helpful, and Dick left behind all her photos, which I use as launchpads for so many stories...So many threads...following them all (which is why the first draft is so damn long already...but that's another story...)

The good news is: I do feel I will complete the book this year. It's getting close to a full first draft, tantalizingly so.  Fingers crossed and all that...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

This message brought to you by Kennedy Fraser (or why writing this book is so f---ing hard)

A friend sent me this quote today and I felt I had to share it, especially for my female writer friends...and for any male friends who want to understand what may appear on the outside like almost psychotic levels of resistance from women they love to writing certain kinds of stories...this is what we're up against. No joke.

"To a woman writer, exposing family secrets can seem perilously close to going mad. Men have had the support of the culture as they recognized their own experience and laid claim to it by writing it down. On the whole, they have been able, without inhibition to feed their creative ambitions with the details of other people's lives. Men had a mandate, after all, to inform the public about the nature of life. Things have not been--are not--so simple for a woman. Women have often withheld their stories, because honesty about emotions and about the family feels to many women like a sin. It means drawing aside the curtain, lifting lids. It means renouncing the role of good girl and ceasing to be ladylike. It may mean expressing anger and being brave enough to watch loved ones be angry. Women must set aside the bowl they have used to beg for approval and praise. George Eliot was not free as an artist until her respectable family had cast her out. Only a community larger than family, only powers greater than lovers or husbands, can sustain women writers when they start asking the big questions: Who am I? Who made me? What is my place in this world?"


Kennedy Fraser from Ornament and Silence: Essays on Women's Lives from Edith Wharton to Germaine Greer. (This quote from New Yorker  essay 'Demented Pilgrimage' published in 1990)