Category Archives: Reading

Join Thursday Night Book Club this week to discuss Deck the Malls!

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Join Thursday Night Book Club this week to discuss Deck the Malls!

Deck the Malls with Purple Peacocks is FREE today and tomorrow!!!! Grab your FREE copy at http://amzn.to/2AuArxQ

And here’s the event site if you’d like to join our discussion of Deck the Malls with Purple Peacocks this upcoming Thursday (which is also the winter solstice–cool). https://www.facebook.com/events/372175096539747/

There will be prizes at the discussion! Hope to see you there!

Thurs night book club ad Dec 21 2017

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A great book review for my Christmas book!!!

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In the spirit of this blog, I’m going to post a link to my other great book review of Deck the Malls with Purple Peacocks (book to be found at http://amzn.to/2AuArxQ )

NOTE: This book is FREE December 15-17.

Here’s the link to the Readers’ Favorite review, which is making me have happy feet!  https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/deck-the-malls-with-purple-peacocks

I especially like this part of the review:

Amy Gettinger’s Deck the Malls with Purple Peacocks has romance and comedy and it even has more Christmas cheer than most would ever dream of enjoying at this time of the year, but Gettinger makes it all work beautifully. She does all this while writing a moving and true-to-life story about a young woman whose eleven years working double shifts and paying taxes seem to mean nothing in today’s anti-immigrant fueled America. Gettinger exposes the irony of Quito’s Cuban ancestry making him of more value politically than Aracely with her Mexican heritage, and Aracely’s victimization by the companies that she works for rings sadly true. That said, Deck the Malls with Purple Peacocks is a marvelous romp! I hadn’t read the first book in the series, but had no problem getting involved in the story and am looking forward to backtracking to the first book, Alice in Monologue Land. The Venus Warriors are prodigious and funny — and exactly who I’d want on my side if I’m ever in hot water. Deck the Malls with Purple Peacocks is most highly recommended.” ~ Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

Can you see me grinning from ear to ear? Have a merry mid-December!Deck the Malls with Purple Peacocks Book cover OCT 2017 final

FREE Christmas book Dec. 9-10, 15-17

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FREE this weekend!   http://amzn.to/2AuArxQ

It’s Christmas in Orange County, and the mall is full of purple peacock decorations. Department store employee Aracely Martinez has a goofy Cuban friend, Quito (who’s awfully cute in his mall Santa suit), distracting her from her night-shift restocking job. But Aracely has a long-held secret, which her supervisor at the store, Jacob Thinnes, is holding over her head to make her do his bidding.

Which is untenable.

Enter Aracely’s oldest friends: Alice Chalmers, Georgette Jones and Julie Bowers. The group’s “Venus Warrior” bond from the 2003 production of The Venus Monologues at Garden Beach Community College is still very strong, and these women are ready, willing, and able to kick some butt to help Aracely out of her difficult bind. Join Aracely’s “Three Wise Women” plus her ever-present trickster hunk, Quito, as they work against the odds to give Aracely a fabulous, nearly impossible Christmas gift: the life of her dreams.

Deck the Malls with Purple Peacocks Book cover OCT 2017 final

Celebrating Indie Books Day–Why I’m an Indie Author/Publisher

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I’m an author because I like it.

I like writing.

I like research.

I like pantsing the story. (I am not a detailed outliner.)

I like editing my own stuff as I go.

I like playing with the story and tweaking it until it shines.

I like playing with the words and the syntax until they shine.

I like it when the characters tell me what’s happening next.

I like it when the story reveals itself to me, and it’s not at all what I thought it was going to be. Yee-haa!

I’m an indie publisher because

I even like proofreading, as weird as that sounds, since I was an English teacher and I know the rules pretty well. Proofreading makes the work all shiny. Shiny is good.

I’m not as keen on the promotion part, but I’m becoming more adept at it. Bookbub, ENT, Freebooksy, Book Gorilla, Booktastik, Awesome Gang. I’ve never had a Bookbub, the holy grail of us indies. Sniff. It’s like not getting to go to the Big Leagues. Sniff. But then I haven’t tried that hard. I did get a new book cover, but now I need a promo assistant.

And a bunch of other stuff. See my Ancient History.

Ancient History

I didn’t write much when I was young because my typing skills suck. I took a typing class in high school and they still sucked. See, I never wanted to be a secretary, get stuck behind a desk typing someone else’s correspondence or be a sitting target of sexual harassment, so this was my way to rebel. Easy. I’d suck at typing. I would then have to be a waitress (who is not a target of sexual harassment? Go figure.) and hire people to type my papers for me all through college. Typing was excruciating for me then. Part of this was using all the white-out and correcting tape if you made a mistake, and you’d better believe I made them a lot. It didn’t serve me very well to be bad at typing, but that’s what I did for years. I became an English teacher, and hand wrote my tests and handouts to ditto off for the students. Purple fingers. Remember them? Yes, it was that bad.

Until we got a computer in 1995 and I found out I could make a mistake and correct it on the fly! (I just corrected the word “correct” four times on the fly as I typed it.) YES!!!! FREEDOM!!! FREEDOM!!! Did I say FREEDOM??? No more white-out or correcting tape! No more stopping and ripping the damned paper as I grabbed it out of my damned Brother typewriter or positioning it wrong so the lines were askew. No more retyping complete pages of work!!! (Sorry Brother. It wasn’t your fault. I just wasn’t that into you.) Also, I could now abuse the exclamation point with total abandon in one key stroke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, I promise never to do that again.

Just a couple of years later, the computer was my bosom buddy, the place where I churned out handouts and tests with ease, despite my crappy typing skills.

But we only had one, and the kids were on it constantly, playing World of War Craft.

Then I got my laptop, and I started finding daily reasons to sit down and churn out more than tests. Textbooks were expensive, and copiers were available, so I had been relying on copying jazz chants and skits for grammar practice for the students from a couple of my favorite sources—other people’s books. But that wasn’t really legal. At all.

Sad face.

So my little brain poked me on the way home from classes. “Hey, you could write your own jazz chants and skits that you could use legally. How about this one? I am riding, riding, riding in my car, car, car. I am running, running, running out of gas, gas, gas.” Or this.

What are you doing?                                   I’m walking, I’m walking.

Where are you going?                                To the jungle, the jungle.

What’s in the jungle?                                  We’ll see, we’ll see.

Who’s going with you?                               My puppy, my puppy.

Where are you now?                                   By the river, the river.

What’s in the river?                                     A hippo, a hippo.

What is it doing?                                          It’s swimming, it’s swimming.

Where is its baby?                                       Behind it, behind it.

What’s on the river bank?                          A crocodile, a crocodile.

Where is it moving?                                     Toward us, toward us.

How do its eyes look?                                 They’re bigger, they’re bigger.

Why is it coming here?                               It likes us, it likes us.

How many teeth does it have?                  A hundred, a hundred.

What is it thinking about?                          Lunch, lunch.

Why are you running?                                Guess!

Yeah, they were a kick. I loved writing my own skits and jazz chants. I still have them around somewhere. I need to put them out in book form.

Anyway,  from there, I made the jump to stories. I took a couple of creative writing classes at the local college, and the creative well cap deep within me popped off. WORDS spurted up from there (or maybe from my spleen or tonsils) with fun ideas for weird stories that went nowhere. I was well into my 40’s, and I was having the time of my life with my lifelong friends: WORDS.

See, I am a language person. I studied German starting at age 11 in 7th grade. Followed by Spanish, French, and Italian. I even lived in France for a year to learn the language. Plus I have a degree in math, but only because it’s another language. I LOVE language and WORDS. I taught English to foreigners for 20 years because it was an excuse to play with language and words and get paid for it. Give me words put together in an interesting way and you’ve hooked me for life.

So the challenge was to put my own words together in an interesting way for other people to read and enjoy. Which took years. And classes. And many rewrites. And commentary from editors. And writers’ conferences. The first chapter of each of my books was rewritten probably 50 times each.

In 2003, I wrote Alice in Monologue Land, a humorous mystery/romance/adventure about a college instructor who reluctantly does a monologue in a college production for women and has the ride of her life, meeting three odd, interested men and solving some weird disappearances along the way.

It was a little long.

“You have a 150,000-word manuscript?” the agent or editor at a conference would choke out. “Uh, see. You can’t have a first book over 100,000 words published. Try again. Get it down to 90,000. Or could you cut it in half and have a series?”

Why? Why should I write this story shorter than it wanted to be? And it was not a series. It was a fun book.

Well apparently, paper and ink cost money, and the publishing houses didn’t want to waste money on printing extra pages for the first book of an unknown author, so the book had to be under 400 pages.

Grrrrrr. I’d actually started with 175,000 words. I’d already cut out 1/7—real chaff. But word count was prominent in all submissions to agents and editors.

Fine. Whatever. With great determination and much acute sadness, I cut Alice in Monologue Land to 100,000 words. But Alice was just like me on a starvation diet at my lowest weight. She would not stay put at that very precarious place. She really likes chocolate—and cheesecake. When I reread the book, much of it made no sense, so I put back some words. A bit later, I realized Alice needed a complete overhaul, as the book was based on a certain famous monologue production, and I was never going to get an OK from those famous monologue producers to use their material in my non-famous book. So I invented my own monologue production. And I rewrote. And every time I rewrote, the MS grew again. It needed clarity. It needed to be funny and not rushed. It would not fit in the “ready to print” box of a publishing house. It ended up at 120,000 words. Or so. That’s what it says on Alice’s driver’s license, anyway. I believe her.

Alice also wouldn’t fit on the traditional bookshelf. Print books in brick-and-mortar stores get categorized into a very limited set of narrow genres right off the bat—so the store clerks, who are apparently total nincompoops, can tell where to shelve a book. I mean, seriously? Writers are actually told to limit their books’ scope—i.e. not to mix genres—in order for bookstore staff to be able to shelve the books properly! No matter that readers (like me) are always looking for something new, or that even editors might want something new. Hah! When you give editors/publishers something new, they get all prissy and say they really just want the same old thing, something that fits into their hundred-year-old genre boxes. Grrr.

But Alice in Monologue Land (available on Amazon) is a mystery, a romance, and an adventure, and it’s funny. I put all this in the book intentionally, as a combination of genres was what I wanted to read. (Hey, I like Castle and the movie, Australia. That pretty much says it all.) For me, plain old mysteries needed a little romantic spice, and plain old romance was dull as dust without some mystery. (Sorry, romance writers, but how many men are that commitment phobic? Are there no other personality types in the world to write about? No other types of conflict?) And for my taste, most writers needed to lighten up a LOT and add some humor. Artfully written humor is what brings me to a book and keeps me reading. Hence my fondness for Spencer Quinn’s work, featuring first person narrative by a dog.

So. Genre. My book was not romance—too complex, too many scenes without the hero. And not really women’s fiction—too funny. It was a mystery, but what type? Not a procedural. Not a thriller. Cozy mysteries were not supposed to include sex scenes, and were supposed to be rather short. Not exactly Alice.

Frig.

I decided the book was probably chick lit. Chick lit mystery. Yeah.

But to confuse things no end, the publishing houses/agents/book critics decided right when I wanted to publish my chick lit mystery that chick lit was no longer a viable genre.

Wait. What?!? It’s what I was reading and writing. What gave them (A bunch of fuddy duddy old males?? Surely women would not do this to each other?) the right to say that the exact books I liked–women’s humor = chick lit–weren’t a viable genre?

Actually, they called it a dead genre.

Deaaaaad? Reallllllly? They need to check out all the indie chick lit books that make a lot of money in this “dead” genre.

Upshot: I think there should be a chick lit shelf in all bookstores. Take that, Barnes and Noble, and every other store, brick and mortar or online, that doesn’t have a chick lit section.

Upshot 2: Poor Alice was too pudgy (large word count) and her genres were mixed. The genre she fit into best was “dead.” Not very PC of the publishing houses to hold this against her. I realized that my book would never sell to a big publishing house or get me an agent, even though it was pretty funny and full and it kept me entertained for a long time while I wrote it.

Upshot 3: It was time to write another book, a shorter one.

Which I did in 2006. Roll with the Punches. Starring Rhonda Hamilton, a librarian and author, whose manuscript got stolen by a big, hotshot bestselling author, and who went in search of the thief with the aid of a bunch of derby girls. Despite her dad acting totally weird. The book ended up to have the same mix of genres as Alice in Monologue Land. (Who would have guessed?) Now to her credit, Rhonda started at a svelte 120,000 words. (I had learned a thing or two about conciseness.) I shaved Rhonda down to 100,000 words, trying to make her salable to a big press. That lasted about a minute. She, too, would not stay skinny. When I finally self-published this book on Amazon last year, after a bajillion rewrites, it was back up to 120,000 words. Or so. Don’t ask Rhonda about it. She’s sensitive about her size. She’ll punch you.

Needless to say, my books were not a (narrow-minded) publishing house’s dream. But they were my dream, so when I realized I had another option, I became an indie publisher to get them out there and share them with other people as my vision, not someone else’s. And I haven’t displeased too many readers thus far. Yeah, I have some requisite 1-star reviews. Badge of honor for all indie publishers. Funny = juvenile. LOL. But plenty of readers find my books delightful, even if they don’t exactly fit on the bookstore shelves. Imagine that, Harper Collins. Or Simon & Schuster.

Seriously.

Onward.

Recently, I finished a set of three seasonal short stories: sequels to Alice in Monologue Land, featuring secondary characters from that book. I published them under the title: Kiss My Sweet Skull. They’re chick lit, and two are mysteries. Please read them. The stories are nice little chunks of fun, easy to read in one sitting. I also have a short story coming out in a holiday anthology called: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chick Lit. It will be out in November, free on all platforms. Read it! It’s fun! And because I said so. And if you haven’t read my 2 novels and reviewed them on Amazon, get with the program and do that. Good grief. Don’t make me stop this car and come back there.

Now, I have a third novel started, and need to finish it between writing short stories and the 5000-word plays I write to perform with my group of nonagenarian reader’s theater peeps at the local assisted living. (Not for the timid, working with old peeps—they die on you and have strokes, etc.—but lots of dress-up fun for the living.)

Wish me luck on finishing the novel.

But I don’t need too much luck, as I have this handy-dandy laptop here, just waiting to bring my words to life, and correct me when I’m wrong. LOL. I hope you have as much fun bringing your dreams to life as I have had writing these books and stories.

Thanks for reading.

For more blogs about the indie author experience, here’s a link to Kathryn R. Biel’s  fabulous Indie Books Day Pinterest board. https://www.pinterest.com/kathrynrbiel/indie-book-day-2016/

Go there now. We indie authors/publishers deserve your attention.

Chatting With the Chicks of Chick Lit

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Chatting with the chicks of chick lit Wed blogpost graphic 2016

In honor of #ChickLitMay, we dispense with the formalities and join our local TV channel 7777 mid-broadcast.

talk show host Chuck

Chuck: Ha ha ha ha! Welcome, welcome everyone to Chatting With the Chicks of Chick Lit! I’m your host, Chuck Lottateeth, and I am so thrilled to be able to introduce you to some of the most fascinating characters in literature today. I’m talking about the leading ladies of Chick Lit—those enchanting, romantic, darling, sexy, sweet, funny, headstrong—and, let’s face it, sometimes downright frustrating—modern women who headline this fabulously fun genre. I’m sure you’re going to love getting the skinny on these “novel” heroines, and who knows? You might just find your new BFF on the pages of one of these books!

So. Without further ado, please put your hands together and show some love for today’s guests: Rhonda Hamilton from Roll with the Punches and Alice Chalmers from Alice in Monologue Land.

Audience: Yayyyyy!

Chuck : Rhonda is a librarian with the Orange County Public Library, but when the clock strikes five, she enters that extra-tall phone booth and dons her cape, mask, sexy fishnets and roller skates to become a hot-to-trot roller derby queen! She’s killin’ it on the flat track, right, Rhonda?

derby girl

Rhonda: Actually, a cape and mask would really get in my way on the roller derby track. It’s the reason I didn’t pick “Superwoman” as my derby moniker. I prefer a more solid, regal name, like “Queen Hat Cheap Suit” or  “Empress The Adored One” or “Queen It’s A Belly of Cast Iron.” And I hate masks. We all do. We gotta see where we’re going so we don’t trip over other skaters and cause a dogpile on the track.

Chuck: But you are the sexiest (and tallest) librarian on skates, right? A whole lotta woman there. Listen, I saw you in that red harem girl garb at the fundraiser with that jingly velvet bra that got whipped off, and hello, baby! Va-va-va-—Ow!

Rhonda: Oh, gosh. Does your shin hurt? Put some of this ointment on it right away.

Chuck: Thanks. What’s in it?

Rhonda: Just some capsaicin plus a little battery acid. Great for all the lacerations and contusions we roller derby girls accumulate during a bout. Wanna see my latest road rash? It’s got the pattern of my fishnet stockings etched into the scab. Nice, huh, that purple and green tinge?

Chuck: Ew, not hungry for lunch any more. Well, our other guest today is Ms. Alice Chalmers. Alice teaches English at a local college, where she recently starred in a stage production of The Chronicles of Narnia. You must have made a splendid White Witch. Doesn’t she look the part, everybody?

teacher vector for Alice

Audience: Yes!

Alice: Uh. White Witch? Do I look that bad? I’m only 41. Give a girl a break.

Chuck: Oh, no. Of course not. Well, I’m sure you knocked their socks off as the—the—was it Aslan the Lion? Or maybe Father Christmas? A centaur?

Alice: The Lion? Father Christmas? A centaur? Oh, my God. Do I need a makeover, Rhonda?

Rhonda: Geez. Excuse me, Mr. Lottateeth. Alice was never in that play.

Chuck: So why is she here?

Rhonda: You want me to punch his lights out for you, Alice?

Alice: Not quite yet.

Rhonda: Just say the word.

Alice: Deep breath. Look, Chuck, I was in a production called The Venus Monologues at my college. Only it wasn’t a play. It was a collection of deep, poetic, and powerful monologues, written and performed by the students and faculty at the college. All about being female.

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Chuck:  Ooooh. Sexxxxy. Are the rumors true? Were you all pole dancing throughout?

Alice: Oh, yeah. We were all pole dancing. You should have seen all us teachers in our black dresses and pearls swinging around those poles while we shrieked out our lines.

chubby pole dancer

Chuck: Oh, man. Will there be another performance?

Alice: You doofus! There was no pole dancing! We were reading monologues! About all the amazing and varied facets of being female in this world, from birth to being a mother to being an artist to blazing powerful trails for future women in business and leadership.

woman reading

Chuck: But you had a superhot romance going at the time, right? I believe a little bird told me it was more like threeeee hot romances?

Alice: Sort of. But—

Chuck: And I heard that you Venus girls wore black bustiers and feather boas on stage and then you all stripped at the end, like in Hair.

Alice: No way! Okay, Rhonda. He’s yours.

Chuck: Now, now, ladies! Put away your knitting needles! Hahaha! Moving right along, I have a few questions to ask you two today. First: If you were a shoe, what kind of shoe would you be?

Rhonda: Duh. A quad roller skate, maybe with wings and custom yellow wheels, just for fun.

Retro Style Winged Roller Skate

Retro Style Winged Roller Skate.

Chuck: And you, Alice?

Alice: Comfortable. Blue, maybe.

Chuck: Is that it, Alice? No favorite brand?

Alice: First, you can call me Ms. Chalmers, and second, I need comfort. I teach on my feet all day long. If you want to badger me about it, I can just go read a few grammatically hideous student papers that will be way funnier than you.

Chuck: Touche! Next question. What are the three items you would absolutely need to have with you if you were shipwrecked on a desert island?

Rhonda: My laptop with a battery charged for life. An ice pick to break coconuts open. And my skates. Assuming the island has some sidewalks or roads to skate on. In fact, even if there weren’t any roads, I’d still have them there to look at. They are soooooo awesome.

Chuck: Alice? Er, Ms. Chalmers?

Alice: Oh, wow. A cook, a gardener, and a carpenter. All male, in their thirties.

Chuck: Excuse me? Those aren’t items.

Alice: I know, and you’re excused. But it’s my dream. Stay out of it.

Chuck: Okay. If you had only $15 to spend, what would be the perfect date?

Rhonda: Get ice cream at the beach and walk the cliff walk at Besker Park with my best dude.

Alice: Wait. How did you know I had only $15 to spend on my last date? Did you hack my phone?

Chuck: Of course not! How about if you had $50 to spend?

Rhonda: Take a Gelson’s deli picnic to Anaheim Stadium for a game.

Alice: We’d got out to eat Indian food at the hole-in-the-wall restaurant down the street. I like it spicy.

Chuck: Oooh. You do, huh? Are you free later?

Alice: No.

Chuck: Well then, what’s your ideal date for $5,000?

Rhonda: Are you kidding me? A week in Paris with my BFFs. No men involved.

Chuck: Nice. Alice?

Alice: $5000? To blow on a date? Well, that would be me accompanying my son to the University of California for his first quarter.

Chuck: Okay. Your best friend is asked to describe you in five words. What would they be?

Rhonda: Persistent, clever (shut up—I am, too), devious, strong, and blunt. Maybe loyal. Depends which friend you ask.

Alice: It’s gonna take more than five words for me. Let’s see. Loving, motherly, talented, sometimes a little frustrated, world-wise—no, make that world-weary. Possibly a bit nervous—okay, a lot nervous. And maybe … full. Satisfied. Replete. Who needs men, anyway? They’re so complicated.

Chuck: Hah! Yes, we are, aren’t we? But what if your nemesis is also asked to describe you in five words? What would they be?

Rhonda: Persistent, clever, devious, strong, and blunt.

Alice: I don’t have time for a nemesis. But if you find one, and they want to describe me, I think I’ll just put my fingers in my ears. La-la-la.

Chuck: Ahem. If you could be the heroine in any chick flick, who would it be and why?

Rhonda: Lara Croft. OMG. I’d be all over raiding tombs.

Alice: Oh, I’d be Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone, cutting loose and sliding down the muddy slopes of the Amazon River, swinging on vines across chasms, riding in the “Little Mule.” Wait. Did I say that out loud? Oh, sorry. I … mean … I’d be Miss Pettigrew in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. Much safer.

Chuck: Well, this has been quite exciting and illuminating, meeting the two of you. Can you two lovely ladies visit us again soon—maybe wearing your bustiers and boas next time? Wink, wink? Nudge, nudge? We’ll provide the poles if you do the dances!

Rhonda: Now, Alice? Please?

Alice: Go ahead, Rhonda. Make my day.

kapow

Amy Gettinger’s books:

Roll with the Punches

What happens when the novel you’ve just finished writing and started hawking to agents gets published by a nationally bestselling author—just when Dad starts storing milk in the tool chest? You hunt for the book thief, of course, aided by a goofy roller derby team and two drool-worthy guys. Whether skating in treacherous derby bouts or downhill chasing Dad, one thing is sure: you’d better not fall, girl. http://myBook.to/RWTP

Alice in Monologue Land

Practice your snort laugh! College instructor Alice is headed down the campus rabbit hole into a world of adventure, romance, and danger. Add a splash of chaos and some cringe-producing talk of female body parts–on stage. But her students are going missing. Can Alice find them in time to avert tragedy in this “carnival ride of a tale with more spins than a tilt-a-whirl?” ~ #DiiBylo of Tome Tender Blog http://myBook.to/Alice

Kiss My Sweet Skull

A collection of seasonal short stories featuring the faculty and students of Garden Beach College, the fictional home of my novel, Alice in Monologue Land.

“Cupid, with a Eucalyptus Tree, in the Teachers’ Workroom”: Annabelle Lopez’s anonymously delivered valentine is so perfect that she knows her soul mate is tantalizingly close by, except none of the local candidates seems quite right.

“Apples and Goat Cheese, and a Red Bikini (In France!)”: Frannie, an au pair girl for a surfing family on the sunny French Riviera, finds  romance … and trouble lurking in the dark. The clue could be in the apples and goat cheese.

“Kiss My Sweet Skull”: Is pumpkin pie seriously the best answer for anthropology professor Dr. Betty Hundleby’s awful skull nightmares at Halloween? Or could an oddly timed kiss be just the thing she needs?  http://myBook.to/Skull

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reader’s Theater for Seniors

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In September of 2013, I was bored. I’d spent the past nine months killing at Words With Friends, but never writing a word.

A friend said, “Why don’t you do a reader’s theater class? It’s big in the elementary schools.”

“People are busy,” I said. “Kids do reader’s theater at school. Would such a simple thing attract anyone with a gajillion TV channels, the Internet, and cell phones to play with?”

She said, “Try seniors. They need some fun besides BINGO.”

So I dusted off my trusty laptop and adapted “A Christmas Carol” to a play format and peddled it to the local assisted living as a program to produce a forty-five-minute play every two months. To my surprise, the activities director accepted my offer. A retired teacher friend offered to help me wrangle the seniors. In her words: “Working with seniors is like working with kids. Or herding cats.”

Unsure about it all, I was amazed when eight octogenarians and nonagenarians showed up at the first class meeting. As we practiced, two ladies seemed pretty Alzheimer’sy. I gave them shorter parts.

My trusty helper sat by them and poked them when it was time to read. “You read only the yellow words, Mathilda.”

Mathilda would then read, “Tiny Tim: God Bless us, every one!” Bless her heart.

Jane would dither, “Where are we? Am I on the right page?” (She never was.)

But no matter. We enjoyed including them, and they sang well.

Once my earnest seniors started reading in their gravelly or high, thin voices, the play was like a glacier, barreling slowly, but with deceptive strength, towards its denouement.

I could barely squeeze in a note—“Speak louder? Clearer? Repeat that, please?”—between their inexorable lines.

Sitting all spiffily dressed with their walkers lined up to one side, their hands fiercely clutching the pages of the script, their glasses firmly in place, these beaky bulldozers pressed forward with determination and occasional giggles. If they messed up words or delivery or song tempo, they’d soldier on.

Can’t reach ninety without perseverance.

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We started with scripts printed on both sides, stapled in the corner. This caused some confusion and arthritic flapping of pages until we went to booklet format. I always tailor the scripts to the vocabulary easiest for them to read aloud. At first, for every reprinting, I laboriously highlighted every part for every character in the 32-page scripts by hand. Now, my two-sided color printer and highlighting macro for Word do the job super fast.

Readers have come and gone (sometimes to heaven), but reader’s theater is still fun for everyone. I’ve stocked up on costume hats and feather boas for performances. We have a blast putting on the plays. And the need for 4500-5000 words of funny script (including songs and sound effects) every two months has gotten me back to daily writing. I’ve adapted six plays, written five original plays and published two old manuscripts since 2013.

Win, win. Thanks, seniors. It’s been fun.

RT White Christmas 2014