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Hotel in Ohio (Or Why I Haven’t Been Blogging)

I also loved Love, Actually, actually
I started this blog with the grand notion that I would write several times a week, which has yet to happen although I assure you I have started several brilliant blog posts that are now dated because I waited a few days too long to post them. I do, however, have an excuse: in the last week or so, I successfully pulled together the second draft of Hotel in Ohio, the end result of a few scenes I pulled together back in 2010 when I was doing my Katie Writes a Play a Day Blog. So I figured I would take a quick moment to reflect on that old blog and the experience of revisiting it. 

The inspiration for Katie Writes a Play a Day came from my experiences at CSSSA, the California State Summer School for the Arts, which I attended the summer between sophomore and junior year. Zay Amsbury, the playwriting teacher, had embarked on a similar project years before. Of course, when I got home from CSSSA, back in 2007, I immediately set out to do the same

It didn’t work.

Fast forward to 2009, and I decided I was just going to do it. I was going to write a play a day for a year. So on December 31, 2009, I wrote out my manifesto: “All I Want to Do is Write Love Stories.” The basic conceit of my approach was that every story is a love story:

I believe that, at heart, all stories come from love. This does not necessarily mean every single story is boy meets girl (though oh how I love that phrase). This abstract concept referred to as “love” serves as the basis of every single narrative, whether it be the pursuit of it, the absence of it, the abhorrence of it, or the consequences of it. The idea of love forges the greatest, tightest relationships, thus creating the highest, most dramatic stakes.

Damn. 18-year-old Katie was deep.

This experiment lasted a year and, despite the haters, I succeeded: I wrote a scene a day for 365 days. (To be fair, a few days I’d stock up on a few, or edit something old, or write a review). For 2011, I made a half-hearted attempt at writing a short story a week, before remembering I hate writing short stories (which is why I really should write them). I took a playwriting class in the fall of 2011, wrote one play I hated and one I could somewhat stand, and then ended up dedicating the rest of my collegiate career to writing research papers that exceeded the expected limit.

After graduating though, I realized just how much I missed it. So I chose the play that seemed most fitting to what I wanted to say: Lipstick on a Lark. Lipstick focused on the one-night romance between the daughter of an Alaskan governor and the son of a Presidential candidate. One cozy night at a convention, and that Alaskan governor suddenly finds herself with a knocked up daughter and a spot on the national ticket. Because that’s how politics work, right?

I came of age during the 2008 election, and I may have developed a soft spot for writing about Sarah Palin.

I came of age during the 2008 election, and I may have developed a soft spot for writing about Sarah Palin.

I’ve returned to these old scenes, thrown out half of them, renamed the leading man and given it a new title. It’s still not exactly where I want it to be, but it’s gone from a handful of disparate scenes to a cohesive, two-act narrative. This process differed greatly from my Play a Day. With the blog, I was spitting out as many ideas as possible in a short amount of time – a process I’m truly grateful for, because I have see material for at least two dozen plays. Play a Day was also about being public – forcing myself to publish for all the world to see, to keep myself accountable. But going through something slowly and privately allows for a different creative process. The first draft sucked, and I knew it sucked – but I was able to muddle through it without worrying about anyone reading it.

Earlier this week, I started flipping through the archives. It’s interesting to look at the blog as a kind of journal from that year. I can flip through the pages and pinpoint almost the exact moment or the exact emotion that triggered a certain scene. You can see who I was friends with, who I interacted with, how people interacted with me, what I thought of them. There was the cute guy who worked at Noah’s Bagels. (Where did you gooooo Bagel Boy?) All coded into these short snippets of scenes.

He looked like Jim Sturgess plus Jake Gylenhaal and served me bagels. How could 18-year-old Katie resist? gdcgraphics [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

He looked like Jim Sturgess plus Jake Gylenhaal and served me bagels. How could 18-year-old Katie resist?
gdcgraphics [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

And like I said, 2010 Katie could be wise. Looking back through them, I see morals and lessons that I had totally forgotten in the two and a half year interim. But what’s most interesting about reading back through them is a) realizing how much I had written and forgotten about and b) remembering how much it could still resonate. Even though these were thoughts and characters I conceived three years ago, I can still adapt them to my (somewhat) more developed worldview and enrich them in a way I couldn’t do back then.

One of the next pieces I have in my queue is based on a story I came up with when I was thirteen. The original version was thin and farcical; I hope to keep the whimsy, but I’ve realized I can use that childish idea to create a deeper story. Which is pretty exciting. (I’ll write about it more later, but let’s just say the idiot men theme runs deep in the Katie Fleeman corpus.)

With all these lessons in mind, I’m going to reiterate an observation Joey made last night. We were talking about a play I had started junior year of high school and somewhat abandoned.

“Just think how great Love Letters is going to be when we finally produce it in 20 years.”

(I’ll finish it someday, I promise!)

Moral of this post is: I have been writing, but I’ve been focusing all my attention on a pair of stupid teenagers in Ohio. I’m tabling it for now, but next round through I’ll write some more about it. Until then, I will try to blog more. If I’m not too distracted by the transgender frat boys up on the queue. (Spoilers!)



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