First Drafts are Always Bad

I think my 15 year old daughter’s going to be a writer.

She walks around the house depressedly muttering how she’s a shitty writer, and how she hates writing, while working hours a day the whole Christmas vacation on her take home exam answering 5 questions on Brave New World. It’s due tomorrow and she’s half done. Oh and she takes picayune issue with the wording liberties of the teacher’s questions. Oh and she’s only half way through Les Miserables that she’s been reading for two months. She’s on page 700.
Asking all you writers out there, Am I right? Am I right?
But how do I explain to her that first drafts are always shitty. Writing is hard work. That writing is not written, it’s re-written.
She brushes me off.
PS: Yesterday her English teacher gave the class a new assignment, Take a book you like and make it into a children’s book. She’s doing the first half of Les Miserables calling it The Sad People.
The Mock dry humor gene, much?
Yes, I hafta say.

Now this is a Ship!

The “Call Me Ishwhale” dance is the climax of the story. In Act 2 I deconstruct the elements of this dance i.e. the costumes, props, movements, and my five minute version of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Yesterday in Leonard’s class I worked on two bits involving a costume and a prop using mime and clowning:

The first bit is clowning stage business finding Ishmael’s coat and putting in on upside down and backwards.

Oh noes! My coat is upside down and backwards!

then I swing right, left then full circle and get it on correctly over my head.

Phew! That’s better! All’s right with Ishmael’s coat world.

It was inspired by masterful clown, Bill Irwin from “The Regard of Flight” seen here at 12 minutes 30 seconds in…

The second bit is looking for a ship – finding the chair, sitting in it and rowing, “naw, that’s not a ship, that’s a rowboat” getting up picking up the chair, turning and twisting it then putting it down upside down and askew, “that’s not a ship” putting it upright back to the audience then climbing ropes up to the crow’s nest, “there’s a seagull” then “this is a ship!”

This is a ship!
Now this is a ship!

I especially like the second bit because with Leonard’s genius-level and classmate Bernard Vash’s help, the audience really sees the ship created out of Sioux’s imagination. It shows the power of imagination. When I comes back at the finale, it will really be fun for the audience. It took a lot of sweat and repetition and faith to get these bits but so exciting, I hardly noticed how much work it was. Fun times!

Every Time Different, Every Time New

Every time I set out to choreograph something I do it differently. My logical self would dearly like to come up with a sure-fire system for choreographing great stuff. Sadly, the only system that works for me is the no-system-system.

My lastest choreographic project is creating 2.5 minutes of solo choreography for David Ford’s class on Sunday. If you are not a choreographer, let me whisper in your ear.


This piece must be the climax-worthy scene of my WIP novel, A Fish Without a Bicycle. It’s where the teenage girl choreographs “Call Me Ishwale: Moby Dick from the Point of View of the Whale” for the town’s talent show.

This time I had the idea of cutting 3 x 5 cards in half and drawing whale gestures on them. I managed to create 13 cards.

all dance moves
13 Whale Gestures Spread on My Kitchen Table

Then I used my iPhone to video all thirteen gestures, one at a time. Here’s one called “Spinning One Arm as a Fin”.

Then I looked at the video segments and discarded one. It was the gesture inspired by Sunday’s hip hop class at the Berkeley YMCA. Here’s what it looks like on the card. Too complicated, right? Def not whale-ish enough.

bad dance move
The One That Got Away

So I threw that gesture back into the stream-of-consciousness. The rest I’m stringing together into audience-coherent phrases designed to burn a hole in the retina of the viewer then organically build the phrases using repetition, new gestures, voice-over narrative if need be, into 2.5 minutes of whole-grain, choreographic goodness.

Oh and today continue editing the 12 pages of text that comes before and after this dance. And squeezing in work for my new tech writing contract, Bertram Capital (which I cheerfully dub Bertie Wooster’s Cap) documenting the Morpheus (beta) Cloud DB as a Service. Oh and then help out a friend. Oh and then tonight we go to the Pacific Film Archive to see Berkeley in the 60s. I lead an oddly chaotic life.