Saturday, July 21, 2012

Page Writing vs Stage Writing

Two recent experiences have me thinking about the quality of writing and different types of writing. My thoughts have focused on both the experience of the writer and the experience of the audience member when engaging with the work. The first experience was working on a short-story-for-hire. In the end, I don't own the rights to the work so at best I can only provide a rough sketch. But it was in part a romance, so there were some G or PG rated love scenes.

The second experience was watching the film version of my favorite book, Jude the Obscure.I've put off watching Jude because I have this rule against watching movies based on books, particularly movies based on books I like (Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys being the sole exception).

I usually gloss over any bit of love scene when writing stories. I've always found it awkward, and judging by the awkward stuff I've read in even the best of novels, most other writers do too, to some extent. One of the big challenges of writing prose is conveying that romantic feeling without making the reader want to vomit. I'm referring to graphic sex scenes as well as far less graphic kissy scenes. In the case of my project, it was the non-explicit kissy scenes that tripped me up since graphic stuff was verboten (and as a writer, I wouldn't go near there anyway).

But the experience is very different when I'm writing for performance. I don't have to really imbue the characters with as great an amount of feeling when describing a kiss or sex. There's a bit of laziness on my part as a writer, or more gently, I get a bit of a break. As in, I'm giving a director and actors a sketch of what I want, and they add the flesh and bones and feeling. It's a much less awkward experience for me, since in part I realize I'm not the only creator involved in the process.

There's the difference between writing a story and writing a script and there's also the difference between reading a novel and watching a film of it. When I watched Jude, I felt as if I was going on a mad dash of a marathon. By the time Jude stood in the graveyard, yelling as Sue left him, I felt as if I was beaten to a pulp. The book is bleak and disturbing, but after reading it multiple times, I didn't feel exhausted.

A book invites you into to its world and lets you travel on a long, slow moving journey with it. When that same book gets turned into film, everything has to speed up. The bloody gut wrenching pig scene in Jude the Obscure gets turned into a not very noticeable 3 minute scene in Jude. Suddenly, Jude's married. Suddenly, Arabella is gone. It all happens so quickly, it's hard to digest.

All of this is not to diminish the quality of the film. Though it's a mad dash through a 400 page novel that spans years, it's still a nice enough film. The experience is just so different as to be jarring.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Gardentime 2012: Growing Carrots

The first crop of carrots is in for the summer. They are a short, squat variety, as you can see from the picture. The fact that the carrots were able to grow well very much surprised me. I always thought of carrots as being difficult to grow and requiring a lot of space. A few of the carrots were not more than one inch or an inch and a half away from each other, but they still managed to thrive. I has half expecting to get some sort of Frankencarrot, or two carrots that merged together.

Root vegetables have proven tricky for me in the past. I've struggled with even easy to grow roots, like radishes. The beets last year were a disappointing flop. Yet, these carrots worked. Who knows why.

Growing roots is a lot different than growing herbs or fruits. There's no way to know how the roots are progressing. In my experience, leafy green tops is no indication of the health of the root itself. I wasn't sure if the carrots would be ready to be pulled yet. I kept waiting for their shoulders to push out of the dirt, but that never happened.

Instead, I just started pulling the other day. The first carrot was alarming. It was considerably wider on top than I was expecting. My initial reaction was to scream "holy shit" and run away. I had no idea of the total size of the carrot that was about to come out of the ground. In the end, it was thick on top but not very long, at most three and a half inches.

I grew the carrots in a wide, 15 inch deep pot. In the end, I had a harvest of 10 carrots. One was a micro carrot, not longer than an inch. The others grew to full size. This first crop was planted on April 1. The seeds took about three weeks to germinate. I pulled the last eight on Monday, July 2, so in all they took about 90 days from seed to harvest.

The plan is to plant another batch at the start of August, giving the hot pepper that shared the pot with them time to grow and thrive. If the new crop works out, it should be ready to harvest by the beginning of November.

Care for the plants was not difficult. I used a basic organic potting mix and watered daily or as the soil became dry. Over watering was an issue I've had with other roots, so I was a little light on the water, especially at first. For the next crop, I think I will mix some compost into the potting mix to give the plants an extra boost of food.