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

Friday, August 28, 2015

Unravelling...(...and reading at KGB Bar on 9/25!)

So, when you finish a five-year long project - like oh say a book about your grandmothers - apparently the first response - if you're me - is to: get a summer cold.

I have, in short, been unravelling for the past week or so. A long process of unwinding tightly held together string or something along those lines.

The good news is: I'm present again in the world. The bad news is: I feel barely functional within it. Part of that has to do with the cold.

Good news is the local grocer hooked me up with some dried sage and told me to make a tea out of it for the cold, and that is working.

Bad news is I need to turn around two syllabi for teaching by Friday latest. Yes, I have outlines of both, and one class I have taught already so not a big issue, but the second one: yikes. Good news is: I'm really excited about teaching that class, which I have entitled Reality Hunger inspired by David Shields' eponymous manifesto.

So, I've been sleeping for a couple days, with yesterday and today including walks in the local gorgeous park. Reconnecting with friends and suchlike.

It's a slow unwind.

On a practical level: have sent the manuscript to an agent who was interested in reading it and to a novelist friend whom I trust to give me both honest and constructive feedback. Now, I wait.

There is not really much else to say. I could rant and rave about many aspects of the world right now, but happily there's Facebook for that now. So, you all just get me reflecting in calmer moments.

More as I know it.

Gratitude for completion of the project, even if I barely know what to do with myself now...but oh, before I forget:

SAVE THE DATE: I will be reading from The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani at KGB Bar on East 4th Street on Friday, September 25 at 7pm - along with some other writers from Paragraph. Should be a great night of writing shared with some very cool people and it's FREE! I would LOVE to see you there!

Peace out (and put down the damn gun...OK, so I couldn't not mention something...)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

On completing a manuscript with the help of the Sisters of Wisdom

So, it's done. The book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani. Five years later, I have a complete (revised and twice-edited) draft, ready to send out to others to read. That doesn't mean there won't be revisions, etc., to come, but this does mean - for the first time in five years - this book leaves my own little sphere. Meaning me. As in no one else has read it. No one.

So, yeah, no biggie.

Ha.

I finished the final edit just yesterday at this beautiful place where I am until tomorrow morning, Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT. This gorgeous ex-nunnery is still administered by the Sisters of Wisdom, but is ecumenical now. There are group retreat - spiritual and artistic - of all kinds, but they also allow people like me to come in - artists or writers - to have a private retreat. I've been here for 2 weeks in a beautiful room overlooking countryside, with access to a labyrinth to walk and a pool and amazing farm to table meals. I've learned that my suspicion about nuns these days - that they are more punk rock that anyone else in this time of rampant capitalism that overcodes any kind of 'rebellion' as a new marketing technique - is true. These women are walking a kind of walk most of us could only dream of in terms of integrity, grit, depth and lack of bullshit. Plus, wow, feminists much? Oh yeah. These are American nuns remember, the kind that are forever getting in trouble with the Vatican. Not so much these days with Pope (I have actually read the Bible and sussed it out a bit better than the recent other guys) Francis, but historically, they have been the troublemakers.

The Sisters have been very supportive of me here, and see the links between my life and work and theirs. They speak of things like 'the flow' and understand what deep thinking about one's self and the world really means. They also understand what it's like to commit for ages to something that is not very popular or well-understood. However - and this is my favorite thing about them - they seem so Joyful. These are not dour women wandering around imposing rules, but instead people who have committed to something larger than themselves and are reaping the reward for that, which is, unless I am completely missing something: joyful living. Plus, they are really funny (and get my jokes).

So, I  couldn't have ordered up a better place to finish a book about my grandmothers. The many women with whom I have spoken with while here - not just the Sisters, but also other retreaters - are interested in this story about my grandmothers - and their grandmothers - and unearthing the story of women in general. They reminded me why I was doing this project in the first place, which helped keep me motivated.

I am also now, as you can probably imagine, scared out of my mind to send it out. What if it just sucks and I've spent 5 years only to be looked at like an idiot child by people who I send it to - who will probably feel sorry for me and not know how to tell me it's Just Not Quite Good Enough...etc.

So, there's that.

But, send it out I will. It's time. I know what it is. It can stand or fall. May need changes here and there, but the core exists. This terrifies me to say because of all the screaming self-doubt voices, but it's true. I've done as much as I can now - and need others to look in on the Thing.

The Thing is btw 250K, which would be about 650 pages in paperback. This may seem extreme, but it covers two women's entire lives, one from 1915-1992 (in other words through the beginning to end of the Soviet Union and Cold War...for starters) and another one from 1916-1980. The more research I did, the more I saw was missing, the more I tried to add, the more I also cut away...and this is what I have. I believe they deserve a voice that takes up this much time and space, because women like them have never had that time and space, and it's time - past time - to hear their voices.

So, wish me luck as I send this manuscript out into the world - that I find the right agent and publisher - that Dick and Jani find those who can shepherd their voices into the larger world, in a way that people will want to take notice and listen.

If that happens, I will know my life has not been lived in vain. This process has taken everything from me for five years - most of my time, heart, intellect, spirit and even love. I have been barely available to anyone or anything else. I have devoted my life to this project. I have to believe it was worth it.

If nothing else, I could teach a hella 20th C. American history class now - I even know when sliced bread was invented. Women rock, and they keep the earth on its orbit. This too I have learned. I never used to believe in gender - and I know these days (hilariously as per usual I am out of synch) it's trendy to dispute gender as a valid identity, but I gotta say: women - historically - have been left out of the history books and even the general ways of telling stories - only the exceptions are heard from - but not the average female life. We know almost Everything about male consciousness in the 20th century in minute detail, but the female consciousness - except as an Object of study by men? - not so much. This is my contribution in order to redress that imbalance.

p.s. The room where I have stayed is called the Our Lady of the Fiat room. You can't make this shit up, kids. Yes! Let it be so!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

New Hampshire, finishing a book, and the fine art of letting go (no I'm not good at it)

So, I have edited a section of the book in record time staying at a cottage in New Hampshire, thanks to a most excellent friend, Marietta, who is hosting me. There is something about being on a lake, writing on a deck overlooking water and just not having to deal with most of modern life that suits me just fine - and my writing, too.

On to the very last section tomorrow, then to review what I have done over the next few weeks, with an eye to sending it out to some beta readers by end of August.

So, why do I feel depressed? I think it's because this process is about to go out of my hands, meaning I will be sharing the writing, after 5 years almost of incubating it. I think this is scaring the living crap out of me and one way that is manifesting is some level of depression - not the debilitating clinical kind - because I'm writing and taking care of myself, etc. - more the underlying, mild variety.

This is not a complaint, by the way, just an observation and somewhat of a puzzlement. But, I think it indicates something coming to an end and a letting go, neither of those things being anything I'm particularly good at pulling off with grace. Ends and/or letting go that is.

But I am moving forward (my theater director soul with a schedule as if I was in rehearsals with an opening night motoring away). And supported by all the wonders of clean air, pine trees, blue skies, white cloud, gorgeous sunsets, good food and a good friend. I miss my beloved John, but we Skype each night - back to the way we started. No substitute for in person being together, but it does mitigate the missing. My cat, Ugo, is not impressed with Skype however and just ignores me. Happily, he and John are now friends, so at least I don't have to feel guilty about that.

So, the weather forecast is: book on schedule to be in draft form by end of the summer with underlying northeastern depression. More as I know it.

However, I do want to end this post on note of profound gratitude for my week up here, which is already glorious and as always when I'm near the water and out of the way of most of civilization deeply healing...and some photos...(these were taken with my phone so not the best quality, but to give you an idea....)

beautiful sunset on the lake yesterday, from dock in front of cottage

reflected sunset light back of cottage, pine forest

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Happy 21st Birthday!

Happy 21st Birthday, Willow!

I hope you are having a fabulous day.

If you are reading this blog, I want you to know how much I look forward to meeting you, and how much I can relate to the weirdness of having step-parents thrust upon one. If you read back into this blog, you will see that my mother and father split up when I was young and there was much re-marrying and relocation in my life. I found it a bit dizzying and by the time I was your age, frankly annoying.

So, if you are annoyed by this post even, I get it. Unfortunately, I now also know what it was like for the step-parents. I thought, when I was young (yes I'm old enough to say that, which makes me even More annoying), that these people were trying to curry favor with me or one or the other parent, etc. I found their efforts to be disingenuous or lacking in some way. Now, what I know is that they just wanted to get to know me. However,  I - especially in my teens and twenties - did not want to get known. So, if you feel like that, too, I get it.

I also didn't talk to my father for years. Understand that, too. Though I am glad we did reconnect later on. Was our relationship perfect? No. Did it exist? Yes. Could I even venture to know what you want in this regard? No. Do I hope you'll someday want to get to know your Dad again? Yes. Is that my call? Absolutely not.

So, why am I yammering on anyway...well, just so you know, whenever, if ever, you do want to be in touch, I'm here, happy to get to know you in any way you'd like to be known. My virtual and actual door open to you at any time.

But no matter what, have a great birthday and welcome to 21!  For me, that was a wonderful, scary, strange but gorgeous year. I wish for you that your dearest dream come true.

All love to you from your (probably not evil) step-mother.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Another retreat and random good stuff...

So, hooray, I've been accepted to another writing retreat, this one is Wisdom House in Connecticut - a place that offers artists, writers and spiritual seekers refuge in the beautiful Litchfield!

I will be there in the first two weeks of August to - hopefully - complete the draft of the book. I really need to have that happen before I start teaching again in the autumn.  I'm about 4/5 through the current edit but still need to do another fine-tuning pass through before I'll feel comfortable sending it out, even to beta readers (friends who are writers who have agreed to read the draft and give me feedback) or possible agents.

I'm not writing much on the blog, because I'm writing many hours a day - or rather editing - but also writing, so am fried. I'm sure you understand.

In other good news, Indiegogo invited me to re-open the crowd-funding campaign for The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani (see right hand column). They have invited projects that reached their original goals (like this book did back in May 2014) to be able to accept contributions again on an 'in-demand' platform. So, like, if you want to help me out, please do!  There are nice perks involved (such as copies of the book, manuscript reviews and suchlike) and for all contributors an invite to the draft completion party.  Even if you can't contribute monetarily or if you already have, giving the campaign a shout-out on Facebook or Twitter, etc. would be great. Even clicking on the site helps bring project to attention of people browsing apparently...So, whatever floats your boat, and...

ANOTHER HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who has already supported this project without whom it would be nowhere near completion.

The book will get written no matter what, but my funds are running low and the writing process has taken way longer than I expected, so any help is appreciated.

Now, back to the book....

Friday, June 26, 2015

Love saves the day

That was the name of a store in the East Village that doesn't exist anymore...but love does save the day. This day.

FINALLY, gay marriage is legal. I argued - alone - in my psychology class in 1979 (when I was 16) that being gay was not a mental illness. That was still up for debate then. I saw many people I loved and grew up with die of AIDs, friends agonize over coming out and lose their families when they did, get harassed and bullied, all sorts of horrible things. Most of my classmates assumed I was a lesbian after that day. My response to that "accusation" was: I wish. That shut them up (and was true).

The Conservative Supreme Court just told the rest of the country to get over it. ACT-UP's wonderful chant from the 1980s "We're here! We're queer! Get over it!" becoming manifest in Anthony Kennedy's decision that says the petitioners ask for the same right to love as everyone else and, so movingly, "Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.....It is so ordered."

We get so much wrong in this country, a moment like this when a Conservative Supreme Court gets it so right is worth noting.

ALSO, in no small part due to the extraordinary actions of the families of the Charleston massacre - their acts of love in the face of hate - which is more than I could Ever do - the Confederate flag, which represents slavery and that is all, is FINALLY - after 150 years and a slaughter that included a state senator in a church - coming down all over the South. Yes, it is time, it is PAST time to let it go and understand that while the North is not, was not, and never will be free of racism and there were business interests in the Civil War, as with all wars, this symbol must go. It's as offensive to African-Americans as the Swastika is to Jewish people (and indeed Catholics and gay people).

(If you want to see Obama's eulogy for State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinckney - and you really should if you wonder where soul of America is and why we haven't just turned into a country of babbling idiots - you can go to whitehouse.gov)

Are we changing as a people? I don't know. The demographics are shifting and the country I was born in that was 80% white is no more and that is a GOOD thing. Maybe we can be what we say we are finally - a country for everyone.

I'm also happy the Supreme Court upheld health care subsidies, because without Obamacare, I am without health insurance again, as I was for over 20 years. And fair housing access, too.

I am recovering from the final (I hope) round of root canal work so apologize in advance if this is a somewhat incoherent post. But I wanted to say something.

Finally, I want to thank all my gay friends from the 1970s and 80s and 90s who struggled to come out, fought for everyone's rights, died of AIDS, didn't die of AIDS, loved me and each other, had pride even when that meant being harassed, bullied or attacked and generally paved the way for today by LOVING one another against ALL ODDS.

You have made this country a better place. This is for you. Unfortunately, many of you are not here to see this, but I have faith you know.

Some names: Derek, Oskar, Dennis, Bob, Beau, Bobby, Paul....So many amazing, beautiful men that died too young that were so important to me as a teenager and as a young woman. I love you so.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Of birthdays, readings and rituals...

Amazing how every year, you have a birthday. No getting around it.

This will be the fourth time I write about it on this blog, the first time was 2011. Let's review.

In 2011, I was beginning what would turn into a final separation from my then-husband. It was a painful time. I spent the day with my dear friend Julie at a spa in Montauk, getting massages and such. A beautiful day with one of my best friends, but with sad undertones.

In 2012, I was sitting in my beloved step-father Tom's ICU room. He would die a few days later. More fun times. This year, for some reason, that time came back quite vividly yesterday and I cried and cried. I didn't cry that much at the time because my mother's suffering was quite acute and his biological children were present. I shelved my direct pain for the most part (except one moment at memorial service) in order to be present for others. That is OK. But now, it's coming out. That is OK, too.

In 2013, I turned 50 and we spent the time in what had been a family cottage on Peaks Island, Maine where I spent time during the summer from 1971-1982. I was with John whom I had met a few months prior, so that was a much more joyful time, though I was aware it was also the anniversary of Tom's death, so soon after, there was a lot of sadness - especially when my mother arrived the next day. Staying at the cottage was also bittersweet, because it was lovely to return, but sad to know the cottage was no longer in the family. However, overall a gorgeous time. Some of Jani's ashes are buried there, BTW, and I write about the cottage a lot in the book, because she and I spent her last summer together there in 1979.

Last year, 2014, John had just arrived from Canada, with his Green Card finally approved. That was such a relief that we did nothing for my birthday other than hang out together and mostly sleep. That was the right thing to do then because we were so exhausted from the strain of all that and were just relieved to finally be 'allowed' to be together.

This year, I thought: wow, OK, it's time for a group celebration! I thought going to the Hayden Planetarium would be fun and give much-needed perspective upon turning 52 and not being able to pretend I'm young anymore. While I'm not old, I'm not young either. I still do yoga and walk and enjoy myself, but being at Vermont Studio Center this past May, surrounded by people in general much younger than me, it was clear. I'm not young anymore. So, cosmic perspective would be a good thing.

But, then when I called they told me the Planetarium is closed today. Drat!

On the other hand, I also booked a table at a restaurant for a some friends and me and that is happening! So, while I will not be able to be aided in consoling myself that we are all made of stardust so therefore 52, so what, I will have the day to commune with friends and my beloved and just enjoy the fact of community and the greatest consolation of growing older: good friends, especially friends that span one's life. While many of my friends live elsewhere, in fact are dotted all over the globe, there will be a nice group of folks, new and old friends, celebrating another human's next year on the planet. So hooray for that!

Speak of celebrations, I had the great privilege of witnessing a friend's adult Bat Mitzvah on Saturday. I've never seen anyone's Bat Mitzvah, so can't compare but this was truly special. I am not Jewish but at times like this, really wish I was. The sense of community and of redemption through that community is so palpable and human and Joyful. There were 18 celebrants, all of whom spoke of their spiritual journey through the year to this place and how it linked to some part of the (reform) ceremony. Then there was lots of singing and chanting in Hebrew (translated in prayer book, so I had some clue what was happening).

There was a time when everyone who had lost someone throughout the year - or who had lost someone at that time of year - could stand up and say their name. I so wanted to stand up and say Tom's name, but of course am not part of the congregation so did not. However, I was deeply moved by how people are remembered in this way.

Speaking of memorials....I read some of this blog, Dick and Jani, and a piece I wrote for a gathering at The Present Company Theatorium the week after 9/11/01, at Bruce's Garden last Wednesday. Bruce's Garden is named after the son of the man who created the garden, because his son died in the attack as a first responder. So, the feeling of memorial was in the air in that beautiful place as well. Below are two pictures from the reading, which went very well. Dick and Jani are gaining voice and moving out into the world, the blog was well-received, and it was good to remember what we all shared fourteen years ago. One man said, of the 9/11 piece (which you can read here: No Words - Prentice-Hall Pearson) that it reminded him of how everyone was forced to have an opinion right away, while we were all still in shock. That comment was a huge compliment, because that was my main slow-burning rage at the time: that an event in which thousands of human beings died was immediately turned into a Symbol by people of all political stripes and no one took even a moment's breath to take in the reality of it. That experience changed my artistic practice. I now only am interested in any methods that get me closer to reality, however experimental or not, whether with writing or performance. I am convinced, have been since then, that all of our delusions about where, who, what we are are what cause us suffering. I do not - by the way - harbor the illusion that I know reality. I understand it's a constant struggle and I can be as deluded as the next person. It's a search, that is all. Just because it's impossible to do perfectly, does not exempt us from trying.

One of my favorite recent books is David Shields' Reality Hunger; this fall semester at Fordham I will be teaching a class based on it. I do not obviously mean 'reality' as in 'reality shows', which are the biggest fictions ever. Instead, as Shields proposes in his manifesto, through his own and others' words, it's through levels of fictionalization that reality shows through, but fictions that announce themselves as such. Work that allows the seams to show. The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani is clearly in this camp. As is all my theater work.

(In case you're keeping score, I'm still editing the book and it's slow as molasses now that I'm back in NYC - in part because the past week and a half included three - count 'em - three root canal surgeries and I couldn't do a damn thing. I think hope pray that is done for now...editing will commence again soon.)

OK, gonna go enjoy my birthday now... and here's some reading pictures:

Geoff Wisner and me answering questions after we both read (Bruce's Garden) - June 10

Q&A in Bruce's Garden, Isham Park (Inwood, NYC) - photo by John Barclay-Morton