It all started with a weekend retreat. Don’t mysteries always start like that? (Well, some of them.)
It’s like the beginning of a typical forties noir film. Think of a battered private dick, his face wrapped in bandages, trapped in a blindingly bright spotlight at the Hollywood police station. All in black and white with lots of shadows. The police want to know about a murder. When he starts talking, the scene dissolves into a flashback.
Except in my case, everything was in color, in the twenty-first century, and by the San Marcos River in Central Texas–not Hollywood.
What on earth are you talking about? I hear someone mutter. Why, I’m flashing back to how I wrote my fast-paced, hard-pulsing, heart-stopping crime melodrama, Holly Through the Heart, a live radio play done in person for an enthusiastic (I hope) audience (captive) of Sisters in Crime: Heart of Texas members.
I had come up with a daring (hare-brained) scheme in September. Why not have an old-fashioned live radio murder mystery play for our Christmas party on December 14? Then I proceeded to ask (beg, cajole) people to be in the cast. I had everything set up. But there was just a tiny, wee problem.
I was having trouble with the play itself. As in, writing it. There were three lovely paragraphs, almost a whole first page done. It was very promising. But I was stuck.
To myself, I said, “Self, you have asked all these folks to be in your play, and we are going to have to rehearse before the show debuts on December 14, so what are you going to do?”
Then fellow AMW critique partner Kathy Waller said we should have a writing retreat the first weekend in October, so we did, at a cabin on the San Marcos River. The cabin was lovely and rustic, surrounded by giant pecan trees and nestled in rural obscurity—except for the eleventy-million trucks hauling monster barbecue smokers in and out of the property next door. There was a barbecue cooking contest being held in close proximity to our cabin on Friday and Saturday. I thought there would be lots of noise and craziness going on next door, but perhaps we might be invited over to partake of delicious delicacies.
But no. There was no offer of succulent meat, but the noise level was kept to a decorous level down by the river. So I couldn’t use loud music and barbecue overdose to excuse my almost nonexistent radio play.
What did I do, you might ask. On Friday night, we went to the Sac ’n Pac on the highway and purchased delicious burgers for our supper. Then we sat around and talked and talked and talked and finally went to sleep.
On Saturday, some troublemaker brought up the fact that we were technically on a writing retreat and that maybe we should write. If I remember correctly, fellow AMW critique partner Valerie Chandler said we should use the Pomodoro technique to write something. We limbered up our laptops and did the Pomodoro. What is the Pomodoro, you may ask? Here’s the word from Wikipedia:
“The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. These intervals are known as “pomodori”, the plural of the Italian word pomodoro for “tomato.” The method is based on the idea that frequent breaks can improve mental agility.” Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique
I knew I was not motivated. But I sat there, hands poised over the keyboard, the timer went off, and I pounded away for twenty-five minutes. Took a break and then pounded for another twenty-five minutes.
And guess what?
I wrote the whole script.
That Saturday night, after we had gone back to the Sac ’n Pac to get pizza for dinner, we sat around and talked and talked and talked some more. One of the subjects we covered was my anguish over my current book plot. It needed help. So we all brainstormed, lying on couches, eating Goldfish (the baked cheese kind) and cookies and solved my plot problem.
That’s my story, coppers, and no matter how much you grill me, I won’t change my tune. That’s how it all went down.
So now, as I write this blog post on the evening of December 13, waiting for my pot roast to get almost done before I put in the potatoes (battered private dicks sometimes cook), and anticipating putting on the play tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Book Spot in Round Rock, I think it’s going to be great.
We’ve rehearsed, given feedback, and worked on sound effects. I’ve had directorial angst, but I feel good about the whole thing.
Kudos to Kathy for setting up the writing retreat and for Valerie’s and Kathy’s help with Pomodoro sprints and book plot brainstorming.
Tomorrow Holly Through the Heart has its debut performance far from Broadway, at the Book Spot in Round Rock, Texas. But the journey begins with a single Pomodori, does it not?
I only wish, Valerie, that you had not gotten me addicted to Goldfish, but then artists must suffer, I suppose.
Star Date: December 14, 2014
From left to right: Alex Ferraro, Kathy Waller, David Ciambrone, Gale Albright, and Valerie Chandler, cast of Holly Through the Heart, an old-time radio mystery drama performed live at its debut at the Book Spot on December 14, in Round Rock, TexasA cookie script of Holly Through the Heart, created by culinary genius Valerie Chandler.
By Gale Albright