Writer, editor, playwright

To quote Piggie from Mo Willem’s excellent series of “Elephant and Piggie” books:

“I am one lucky pig.”

Piggie, “The Thank-You Book” by Mo Willems

I often think of that great opening (and, spoiler alert, closing) line, especially when I find that other playwrights have read my plays and recommended them on New Play Exchange.

It’s common practice for writers in my playwriting group on Facebook to compose long gratitude posts on that site. I’m instead going to post my thank-yous here, because the list of people I have to thank is long and I want to include links to all their fantastic works. I’ve read their plays and I think you should, too.

Here goes:

Thanks to Aly Kantor and Monica Cross for their kind recommendations of my new science-fiction play, “Hard Deadline.”

Aly’s works can be found at this link. I recently read and recommend “Narcissa Narcissa,” a wonderful updating of the myth of Narcisuss and Echo.

Monica’s works can be found on her NPX page (and check out her website, as well). Check out “Red Pen, Green Ink” and “Errata,” two of her newest works.

Thank you to Vince Gatton, Philip Middleton Williams, Scott Sickles, Dominica Plummer, Paul Donnelly, Sam Heyman, Steven G. Martin, Jillian Blevins, Hannah Lee DeFrates, Monica Cross, Christopher Soucy and Miranda Jonte for their recommendations of “Jacob and Ebenezer: A Love Story,” my prequel about the “Christmas Carol” characters.

Vince Gatton’s plays can be found on New Play Exchange, and his website is at this link. I recently read, and recommend, his short play “In the Whole History of Hi-Q.”

Philip Middleton Williams is a prolific playwright whose work I’ve admired for a long time. His works can be found on his website and at his New Play Exchange page. Check out “The Christmas Commercial Conspiracy” or, if you are in the mood for skewering science fiction sacred cows, read “Chewie, Get Us Out Of Here.”

Scott Sickles seems to write a play a day, and they’re all brilliant. I recommend his short “Wheel of Fortune Reversed,” which you can find on his NPX page.

Dominica Plummer is a brilliant playwright and theater critic. Check out “Cäterwäul,” a terrific comedy about high-school bands.

Paul Donnelly‘s plays can be found on his NPX page. Check out “‘Tis True, Ma,” a short play about family and prejudice, two things that too often go together.

Sam Heyman has a long list of works on his NPX page. One recent addition that I recommend is “The Next Time Portnoy Sneezed,” a brilliant twist on the narrator trope.

Steven G. Martin is an incredible playwright and master of the short form. If you can, check out “Normalcy,” a play so emotionally resonant you’ll be surprised to find it’s only one minute long.

Jillian Blevins is a writer whose work I have only just begun to read, but her short play “Space Laser, In Space!” is one hell of an introduction.

Likewise, Hannah Lee-DeFrates is a writer whose work I’m only now discovering. “All The Pretty Colored Bottles Under the Sink” is a great place to start, especially if you like thrillers.

Christopher Soucy‘s holiday satire “The Great Tinsel War of 1979” could bring up PTSD for anyone who lived through the days of old-fashioned tinsel. Despite — because of — that, it’s a terrific read.

Miranda Jonte wrote a beautiful, poetic piece about grief and longing. It’s called “Once Upon a Smorgasbord,” and you should read it. If you’re a theater company, you should produce it.

Blackout: End of play

It’s the second of January, and already I’ve broken my rhythm.

That’s not to say I’ve broken any resolutions. Not yet, anyway.

But I’ve gone off the beaten path with my writing goals already today.

I have this plan, you see. I have a plan to write a full-length script before the month of January is out. With luck, the momentum will carry forward through the rest of 2023 and I’ll get a few more full-lengths under my belt.

At the moment, the number of full-length (90-minute+) scripts on my New Play Exchange page is, well, zero. While I’ve written more than 50 plays, and even gotten a few produced, none are longer than 45 minutes or so. A few years ago I wrote a rough draft of a two-act play, but it’s been dormant since then. 2023, I decided, would be the year I revive and revise it, getting it to the point where I can show it to other people. Today was to be the day I finished the new outline so scene rewrites can start tomorrow.

And then #NationalScienceFictionDay happened.

I wish I could say that I’m enough of a science fiction fan to know that today, Jan. 2, is the birthday of Isaac Asimov. But I’m not.I found out because my friend Monica Cross, a playwright and science-fiction expert, posted on a group chat that not only is today #NationalScienceFictionDay but that she wrote a short play in honor of the day.

Challenge accepted.

Instead of outlining the play I WANT to write (and finish by the end of the month), I spent my writing time today cranking out a 10-minute play about an alien, their best friend and the end of the world. It’s called “Hard Deadline” and, if you’re interested, available to read on my NPX page. (If you want to produce it or stage a reading, please reach out. We can talk.)

Monica’s play, called “Errata,” is on her NPX page, and it is fantastic. Here’s what I wrote in my recommendation:

On the one hand, I feel good having written something. On the other, the full-length project still nags at me, begging to be finished.

I think fear underlies a good many New Year’s resolutions. We are afraid we won’t accomplish x — whether x means to lose weight, get rich or just stop wasting time — so we make resolutions, as if they hold a magic more powerful than whatever our abilities were pre-Jan. 1. We make them to stave off our fear of not getting what we want, but then we live in fear of breaking those resolutions.

The mentally healthy among us, of course, don’t make resolutions or they just don’t care when they break them. How nice.

I fear letting this play molder in a desk drawer, never to be finished. But it was worth it, for a day, to put off that fear, for the purpose of creating something else. I’ll go back to confronting my fear of never finishing the full-length tomorrow.

I already checked. Jan. 3 is National Drinking Straw Day.

No chance I’ll be tempted to write about that.

Sign: "Dunmore Head: Film Location for: Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

I posted this on Mastodon earlier today, just a kernel of a thought. Since one of my New Year’s resolutions is (or ought to be) more blogging, it seems fitting to re-post it here as an actual blog post.

In 2023, my New Year’s resolution can be boiled down to a simple word:


That doesn’t mean excess. Rather, in the last few years I’ve learned what brings satisfaction and a healthy outlook, and I know that a lack of these things — or insufficient attention to them — can lead to a downward spiral. While 2022 was not a bad year, it’s a year that I let good habits slip away. So for this new year, my goal is:


More walking.

More listening to records.

More learning.

More writing in notebooks with a pen.

More writing plays.

More writing, period. (shopping lists and blog posts totally count)

More staying in touch with friends and family.

More reading.

More creating.

More exercise.

More meditating.

More reading plays on New Play Exchange.

More thank-you notes to people who read my plays on New Play Exchange.

More plans with friends.

More following up on plans with friends.

More games with my kid.

More time with my wife.

More printed magazines.

More recycling of printed magazines after, not before, I’ve read them.

Less Twitter.

I hope for nothing but more of whatever brings you happiness in the new year.

I will try to be less maudlin in future posts.

No promises. It’s not a resolution, after all.

This year, as with every year, I made a New Year’s resolution to write “more.” Whatever that means.

The best way to do this, of course, is to actually write more. Write every day. It’s that simple, and that complicated. But if you want to be a writer, that’s what you do. Much smarter and more talented people than me have said it.

Getting into that daily practice is easier said than done, even when we’re NOT in the middle of a pandemic. People have jobs, bills, kids, spouses, family. For artists of any type, the need to balance creative pursuits and, well, everything else can feel like walking on a tightrope made of dental floss. How does anyone do it?

For me, the answer was: Enter a monthlong writing challenge.

I signed up for the 28 Plays Later, a contest of sorts run by the UK-based nonprofit The Literal Challenge. And, strangely enough, it worked. I wrote more plays in the month of February than I have from 2018, when I started playwriting, through Jan. 31. The forced habit of writing something new every single day taught me a few lessons. I’m putting them here in case you find them useful.

1. Write every day

Opinions vary on whether you should wait for inspiration to strike or simply sit down each day and grind something, anything, out that you can throw on the page. I’ve tried both techniques in my life and can say with certainty that the former method does not work. If you wait for inspiration or the next great idea, it will never come.

The problem with waiting for inspiration is that you’re not really waiting for an idea; you’re waiting for a good idea, one that will let you form your first draft in exactly the way you want. But — again, smarter people than me have said this — if you want to be a writer, you have to write. If you want to be a painter, you have to paint. If you want to do any sort of creative endeavor, you have to work at it. Every day. Most of your output will be terrible. This leads me to the second, also not original, lesson that hit home for me in February:

2. Accept the lousy first draft

In her book “Bird By Bird,” author Annie Lamott devotes an entire chapter to the perils of perfectionism. She warns, rightly, that the pursuit of perfection stands between you and the “shitty first draft.”

I’ve spent countless hours at my desk, staring either at a blank screen on my laptop or at an empty notebook page, struggling to come up with a story, a paragraph, a sentence that my inner editor won’t reject with a “that sucks” admonition. When you have a deadline every single day, you don’t have time for such nonsense. Tell that inner editor to STFU and get some words on the page. It doesn’t matter if they’re awful. It doesn’t matter if they don’t make sense, if they’re too flowery, if they’re too sparse, too clichéd, too bizarre.

Once the words are on the page, you can do anything with them. You just have to get them from your brain to the page.

Again, this advice has been said before by smarter and more talented writers than me. But a daily deadline, where you have to turn something — anything — in helps bring into focus the importance of creating that lousy first draft. Anything after that is gravy.

3. Know how it ends

One of the rules of 28 Plays Later was that it had to be a full play. You couldn’t turn in a single scene from what you hope might be a larger piece. It had to be a self-contained work. That meant it had to have a beginning, a middle and an end.

I only have a finite amount of time to write each day, so I don’t often think of endings; I just think of how much I can get done in the early morning hours before my kid gets up.

28 Plays Later forced me to look at the whole story. Even if what I wrote was incredibly short — no full-length plays were born in this process — each of the 28 plays had a defined story arc.

One of my weaknesses as a writer is that I will often start with a great idea, carry it through to a solid middle and have no idea how to resolve it. Then the piece goes in a metaphorical drawer and never sees the light of day. This challenged forced me to think of endings. It helps to know where you’re going when you start on a journey. That’s true of plays, stories and any other creative endeavor.

4. Learn different styles

The prompts for the 28 Plays Later challenge were varied and incorporated theatrical styles I knew nothing about.

I’ve never seen or read a play by Bertolt Brecht. But I still had to write a play in the Brechtian tradition (hello, Wikipedia!). Same with Sanskrit theater.

Do I understand what that is? No.

Was I helped by watching performances of Sanskrit plays on YouTube? Also no. (Actually, a little bit.)

But now I have a better idea of the many different styles of theater that are out there, beyond the simple two-characters-in-pursuit-of-a-goal.

The lesson of these prompts can apply to any creative pursuit, and it can be summed up in two words:

Absorb everything.

5. Accept that some of what you write will be good.

You know how I just said, three subheads ago, that you should accept the lousy first draft? Here’s the flip side:

Be prepared to like some of what you write.

In February, I wrote 28 plays. Six or seven I’m going to treat as mere writing exercises (no one needs to see my hurried rewrite of “A Doll’s House”). A few I’m throwing into the editing pile to see if I can’t flesh them out a little and make them submission-friendly.

The good news is, one play I wrote in February was good enough to get accepted into a short-play festival. More importantly, a few of the plays that I showed to playwright friends received good feedback.

Even most importantly, some of the plays I wrote I actually enjoy reading. I don’t know if they have a future on the stage, or Zoom, or whatever form theater is going to take in our messed-up world. But to have a handful out of 28 plays that you, the writer, like, is a notable achievement.

Now it’s March. I’m going to spend a lot of the month editing, and perhaps writing something new that will take more than a day to complete.

Keep creating. Whatever you’re after, just keep working at it.

Every. Damn. Day.


The past week has been a maelstrom of anxiety for many in the Twitterverse, after the gradual-then-sudden purchase of Twitter by billionaire Elon Musk. 

Of course, we all know that if there’s anything this world needs more of, it’s collective anxiety.

Many people fled the platform. Racists filled Twitter with their disgusting, hateful garbage. And Musk himself shared a debunked tweet about the attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

When the guy at the top acts the way the bottom-feeding trolls do, it’s no wonder why decent folk want to ditch the platform.

The question is, where would they go? Mastodon? (Sure; I have an account there, if you’re interested). Vero? Facebook? LinkedIn? Each has its own weird mix of utility and garbage.

Hang on.

That’s not the question.

The question is, what is it all for?

The promise of all social media is that it was supposed to foster connections between people all over the world. What we’ve learned in the past decade — especially the past six years — is that it’s easy to weaponize and not only turn us against one another, but into the worst versions of ourselves. The so-called “darkest corners of the internet” that brought so much consternation in the late 1990s and early 2000s are now basking in the sunlight of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and everywhere else, and we are no better off for it.

So maybe it’s time to just chuck it all and say the hell with social media altogether.

Except …

Some people use these platforms for good. Journalists, historians, scientists, musicians and artists have, in too many examples to count, shared informative, entertaining and resonant content on Twitter. On a personal note, it’s how I discovered several musicians, including the great Patrick Dexter. His timeline is a daily source of joy. But in the post-Musk world, anything good on this platform risks getting drowned out by hateful, fact-free garbage.

The question that each Twitter user has to ask is, is it worth it? Will it be worth it to pay for the privilege of a blue checkmark? To put up with the hordes of abuse from keyboard brownshirts?

There are other ways, even in this increasingly digital and disconnected world, to stem the isolation of modern life. There are other platforms, both real and virtual. So if you think Twitter is too toxic for you to stay, there are other options, and other ways to make your voice heard.

Like a blog, for instance. Hence this post.

Twitter, like every other social platform, only has value insofar as it has utility. Once the noise of troll abuse — as well as the burden of paying for the privilege — outweigh whatever benefits each user gets from it, I suspect it will go in the dustbin of internet history alongside Friendster and Livejournal. Whether Musk makes or loses a fortune from the deal makes no difference to me.

It shouldn’t make a difference to you, either. If Twitter helps you find (or keep) your tribe, then stick with it. If you find a better community and better mental health benefits somewhere else, then ditch the little blue bird.

I’m going to stick around on Twitter, but I may post more frequently on this blog as my need to tweet diminishes.

If you want to give feedback on this little screed, feel free to leave a comment.

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