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Nick Arvin, "The Crying Man" in Another Fine Mess

SoS:Is there anything you’d like people to know about “The Crying Man” before hearing it?

Nick: When I wrote this story, I was thinking about how our society regards men who cry, which is a microcosm of our confused attitude toward masculinity in general. On the one hand, men now are asked to be more open and emotional than they were in the past, but on the other hand a man who cries is still often viewed as pathetic and is likely to be subjected to derision, whether openly or subtly. I was thinking about that contradiction, and so I created a character -- a man -- who simply cannot stop crying. From there, I just followed where the story led me. Interestingly, it turned out to be one of the funniest stories I've written.

SoS:What advice do you have for people wanting to get more involved with writing in the Denver area (for example any good resources, groups, etc)?

Nick: I teach at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop, and that's an excellent resource for anyone who is interested in taking a class in the craft of fiction or nonfiction or poetry or plays or screenplays. It is also place to go for anyone who simply wants to meet some other writers or readers, and to connect with the Denver literary community, which I must say has been thriving remarkably in recent years.

SoS:After hearing one of your stories performed with Stories on Stage, did you think of the story differently or were you at all surprised by the actor’s interpretation? Why or why not?

Nick: I've seen two of my stories performed by Stories on Stage, and both times I sat there stunned, from beginning to end -- in part because writing and reading are usually such separate and private activities that it feels radically different (and more than a little nerve-racking, for the author) to experience my story with a live audience. And while I haven't felt my stories were dramatically reinterpreted on stage, the actors do bring out nuances and spin the words and phrases in ways that contributes an additional layer of voice to the story. It's marvelous, and it enriches the story.

 "The Crying Man" will be performed by Curious Theatre Company member Michael McNeill in Another Fine Mess  on February 9th.


Kyle Wagner, "Midnight Mashed Potatoes" in Making Merry

SoS:Is there anything you'd like people to know about "Midnight Mashed Potatoes" before hearing/reading it?

Kyle: Bits and pieces of “Midnight Mashed Potatoes” have been rolling around in my head for more than a decade, but it was only after Stories on Stage artistic director Anthony Powell asked me if I had any stories available with a holiday theme to them that I got serious about fleshing it out. The idea came from a time when my daughters were little, when they actually stayed up eating leftover mashed potatoes at midnight, but that’s as far as the reality goes – this tale is told by a male narrator, which is something I’ve always wanted to explore, and it’s a bittersweet look at contemporary relationships and family dynamics. It’s not your typical feel-good holiday tale, but I wanted to tell something that felt real and true.

SoS: You are a journalist by trade. How does the process of writing articles vs. stories differ for you?

Kyle: Well, the really fun thing is, with stories, I get to completely make them up in my head, and I'd better not be doing that for the newspaper. Seriously, creative writing is no less work than journalism, but because it gets the brain mashing around in a completely different way, it feels like a bit of a break, like being a mountain biker and running for a while instead. I get to explore characters and how they feel and are motivated, and consider different ways of using adjectives and descriptions to show, rather than tell. Dialogue is tough, though, because it has to be crafted so that it's authentic, but one nice thing is that the writer can change it to make it work better for transition's sake. In journalism, you always have to quote people accurately, which is very rarely tidy or pretty.

SoS:Does being an author affect your experience as a regular audience member of Stories on Stage’s performances? If so, how?

Kyle: Yes, it makes me appreciate all the more the selection process for stories that are read out loud and how and why they work or not for different actors, as well as how much labor goes into pulling off a production like this. It's very different from a play, where actors usually inhabit one character. Here, you come to understand how one actor has to convey the nuances of multiple characters in an engaging and entertaining way. That's no small feat.

SoS:What is it like hearing your stories read aloud by a Stories on Stage actor?

Kyle: When Candy Brown read "Cheese and Crackers" last year, the story I wrote about my mother, it was a little like that scene in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," where the guy gets his heart taken out and he’s watching it pound outside of his body. I held my breath through the whole thing. She did an amazing job, and I could see that people were affected by her interpretation. That's all any writer can ask, really, to connect with others and communicate effectively. It's just an incredible thing, to pull it off.

"Midnight Mashed Potatoes" was performed by Jamie Horton in Making Merry on December 14 at 2:00 (Boulder) & December 15 at 1:30pm & 6:30pm (Denver).

 

Kathleen Boland, "Friend Request" in Readers and Writers

SoS: Is there anything you’d like people to know about “Friend Request” before hearing/reading it?

Kathleen: "Friend Request" was the first story I ever workshopped at Lighthouse. Back then, it was an absolute mess. I dug up the comments from that workshop and most of them linger on descriptions or word choices - nothing about plot or character, nothing of substance, which is a bad sign in a workshop. A thousand revisions, a few more workshops, and two and a half years later, there's the story you have now. Scenes have changed, the plot has inverted, and entire characters have disappeared. In that way "Friend Request" really captures my writing process: the original ideas, the frustrating rewrites, the big changes, the small revelations, the eventual cohesion. I don't think I've labored over a story so much, before or since.

SoS: What advice do you have for people wanting to get more involved with writing in the Denver area (for example any good resources, groups, etc)?

Kathleen: If you're a writer in Denver, or even in Colorado, you must get involved with Lighthouse. I owe my entire Colorado-based writing career to Lighthouse. It's a warm, welcoming place full of wonderful people who love writing and writers. And anyone can join and take classes! It's a no-brainer. Of course, there's Tattered Cover and it's writer visits, but I'd also recommend checking out some of the smaller bookstores in the city: Kilgore's, Broadway Book Mall, Park Hill Community Bookstore, etc. You can meet some really interesting people and books in those stacks. Check out the bulletin boards in those stores, too - there's always someone looking for a writing group or a book group. There's a vibrant, supportive writing community in Denver. You just need to seek it out.

SoS: How did your writing career start?

Kathleen: It's uninteresting to say, but I've always been writing. The earliest story I remember writing was when I was about eight years old. It was about the sun, who was lonely because the planets always circled but never came close enough to be friends. Aside from a few early stories, however, I didn't really write fiction. I wrote a lot of poetry. I got a minor in creative writing as an undergraduate and I never once took a fiction class. I tried! I remember walking into a fiction workshop and the professor immediately making us do a writing prompt. Something about a scene with two people arguing. After a few minutes, he had everyone read aloud what they wrote. I was so terrified by the whole thing that when it was my turn to read, I stood up and walked out of the class. At the time, I already took numerous poetry workshops, I published a few poems, and I was an editor at the school magazine. I loved writing, but there was something about fiction that just petrified me. It wasn't until Lighthouse that I attempted to write fiction again. The poetry workshop didn't fit my schedule, so I enrolled in Paula Younger's Intro to the Short Story. It was in that class that I wrote the first draft of "Friend Request". A few years later, I've written almost twenty short stories. I haven't finished a single poem.

SoS: What are your thoughts (in anticipation) about having an actor read your story aloud with Stories on Stage?

Kathleen: I'm honored. Having the story performed, rather than just published, is a really special opportunity. I think the performance will make the story more immediate and alive because there will be an active relationship between the actor and the audience. There's also the individuality the actor will bring to the story - which scenes will be emphasized? What sort of inflection will be used in the dialogue? What will be the pace of the performance? I'm really excited to see how it all plays out.

"Friend Request" was performed by Misha Johnsonin Readers and Writerson Nov. 9, 2013.

 

Amanda Rea, "The Silver Bullet" in Because I Said So...

SoS: Is there anything you’d like people to know about “The Silver Bullet” before hearing/reading it?

Amanda: Aside from thanking the reader/listener, there isn’t much to say. I hope the story speaks for itself. I’m a slow writer, so it took me several years to finish, and sometimes it felt like trapping a cat in a sack. My challenge was to contain it, and at the same time allow the young narrator a few digressions. Her daydreams and reveries give the story energy, but they also threaten to derail it. It was a matter of striking the right balance.

SoS: What advice do you have for people wanting to get more involved with writing in the Denver area (for example any good resources, groups, etc)?

Amanda: Denver is a lucky city because it has one of the few nonprofit writing centers in the country, Lighthouse Writers Workshop. It’s what brought me back to Denver after years of living elsewhere, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it keeps a lot of writers living and working here. They have workshops and retreats and a big festival every summer, and they’re welcoming to everyone, from first-timers to writers with bestsellers under their belts. They have online classes, and a great program for kids and teens, and they have scholarships available for those who want to write but can’t afford tuition (which is already quite low). They're always bringing major authors to town for readings and classes, so it's a great place for readers too. Along with the mountains and the green chile, it’s one of the best things about Denver.

SoS: As a writer, where do you think most of your inspiration comes from? Does living in Colorado inspire you?

Amanda: Colorado is present in everything I write. My family has been here for five generations, so I have an inborn love of the place. We have such a varied landscape, with deserts and mountains and plains and cities and towns that all have their own particular culture. Boulder is nothing like Pueblo, and Telluride is nothing like Trinidad. And the southwestern part of the state, where I’m from, has its own unique landscape and culture. I’m interested in how place affects people, particularly those in rural areas, who have the privilege and disadvantage of living outside the dominant culture. In her amazing novel Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson describes the fictional town of Fingerbone as “chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere.” I love that. It perfectly captures something I felt growing up here, a sense of my own smallness, and I tend to write about characters who’ve been similarly chastened.

SoS: I know Stories on Stage has read other stories of yours. As an author, what is that experience like?

Amanda: It’s really fun, if a little nerve-wracking, to see one’s own story performed. After spending so much time with the characters and the sentences, it’s kind of mind-blowing to see them reinterpreted onstage. But the actors are terrific performers, and frankly, most writers aren’t. We can’t always do our stories justice.  Seeing Mare Trevathan’s performance of “The Silver Bullet” is like seeing my story all grown up, wearing makeup and driving a motorcycle off into the sunset. What a thrill for any writer.

"The Silver Bullet" was performed by Mare Trevathan in Because I Said So... on Oct. 19 & 20, 2013.