Friday, June 29, 2007

Nano Countdown

A few people on my NanoWriter's group have started talking about NANO 2007. Up until it was mentioned, I'd been taking a very apathetic view of participation this year. I'm still eyeballs-deep in trying to get the story I started for NANO 2006 finished, and there is still much work to be done. This book will likely not be done for at least another year, if not longer than that.

So should I participate in Nano this year? I don't see how I can't; it is a process that works well for me and I do have a story or two bobbing around in my head that would lend themselves easily to a Nano project. It is an easy way to push out another romance novel, and get it published on Lulu for my loyal fans, who number all of...uh...five. But still, I do know that if the stories in my head don't get written down, they drive me insane with all their bumping around up there. I have so many ideas, so many characters demanding to be introduced to the world.

So, I'll probably participate this year, then set it aside and get back to Without A Net and get it completed. It would be really great if I had Without A Net done by this fall, but I think there are still too many missing pieces. This story needs to be accurate, above all things, and this alone will take time. I'm still struggling with making my story believable and likable, as well as being realistic. It will be no Water for Elephants, but it still needs to be good. This will be the first book I'll have attempted to sell to a mainstream publisher; no simple romance will do.

The Storm Scene

So, I decided to jump back into working on my novel by skipping ahead to the rather sketchy storm scene I'd written at about page 109. The storm and ensuing cleanup is a "turning point" for my FMC, and is the main crisis in the story line. It is after this that the FMC and MMC come together, and it is when the FMC realizes she is never going to leave circus, that she is thoroughly hooked.

The scene centers around a horrendous thunderstorm and tornado that strike the circus as it is setting up for several weeks of shows. There is the death of a main character (not a human character) and the temporary loss of at least one act due to injury. During this scene, which plays out over several hours, the FMC has her mettle completely tested, and comes out bruised and scarred, but knowing her true self and her true place.

I had sketched out the scene with some detail, but not the hours leading up to it, and this is the part I have been working on the last few days. After not having written on the story for quite some weeks, I'm feeling a bit "behind" and "lost" in trying to catch up to where I was. I do tend to write in "scenes," putting them where they belong and then filling in the connecting threads after the scenes are done. This works well for me but does sometimes require a bit of a heavier hand in editing to make sure I've not lost my flow somehow.

I think once the storm scene is settled, I can write more threads. I did talk the other day to Jeremiah, a model for one of my book's characters. He is doing well, it seems but is the same polite young man I made friends with in Baraboo, Wisconsin. He kept calling me "ma'am." Makes me feel old! It reminded me that I needed to develop that character more; there is much the FMC can do with this young man.

I have also realized that I am going to have three men vying for the FMC's attention. Originally I was only going to have one, but the characters tend to develop themselves and I have at least two other men who will be potential beau's for my FMC. I still know who I want her to end up with, but the ride getting there should be plenty fun.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Less Circus, More Writing

Okay, I know my blog has been pretty heavy circus and very light on writing. Now that Flora is leaving town, I promise to spend more time blogging about (and actually doing) writing than talking about circus. Sometimes my passion for it all starts overrunning my mouth. LOL

I do have much to write about now that I've spent the time with Flora. More of my characters will become three-dimensional. Many of them are still rather flat. I really do need to get back to business here and see if I can at least get this story completely written this year, and spend next year with serious editing.

Not to mention that I will definitely be participating in Nano in November this year, with a completely different story. I will likely stick to romance for that one, I can write those in my sleep.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Some Flora pictures

Anthony and Willy Pages. Hard to believe but Anthony is Willy's son. They look like brothers.

Tater with Tino and Olinka Wallenda. When Tater was less than two months old, Olinka saw me with her, and kissed her little fuzzy head. That's better than being blessed by the Pope, in a circus family. Tino and Nino are half-brothers.

Me with Nino, after he'd signed this year's dolly. He is extremely gracious and I am glad to have gotten a chance to spend time with him.

More Circus Flora

As promised, I have more Circus Flora comments. I wish I'd gotten to these earlier this week, but between travel on Monday and Tuesday to Arizona for the final round of interviews for the potential new job, then coming back to my regular stuff plus everything I missed, I didn't have time to catch up. I'd originally intended to take care of the blogs while I was in Arizona, but my internet connection was almost non-existent while I was there, so nothing got done in the little bit of spare time I had.

After the performance last week, while I was talking with Giovanni Zoppe, I said I was going to try to get out to another performance before it closed. He said, "good, hopefully it will be better next time." I told him I thought the show had been wonderful. He made a very disgusted look and waved his hand as if to say "the whole thing was awful."

I can sort of see his point. Having had a week to "think on it," there were definite flaws in the show. My first disappointment was how little Nino got to interact with the audience. Most of his roles were completely ancillary, he was there in appearance only but had no role in what was going on. The few times he was actually there and could have done something, he was given literally only a few seconds to do it. What could have been a rather promising trampoline act lasted about 20 seconds. He performed with his sister Tosca in a bareback presentation, but that was limited, as well. And in fact that did not appear where it was slated for in the first act, but in the second. I found that odd, and the shortened nature of it was strange. Both Nino and Tosca are well-trained bareback performers (it is what Nino first learned as a child and his father is probably the best bareback rider in the world).

There were some amazing acts, no doubt about that. Andrew Adams and Erika Gilfether, who performed an amazing aerial ballet on straps and crimson silk, took my breath away. I have never seen a circus act so deeply moving. The St. Louis Arches, long-time Flora performers, were top-notch this year, relying less and less on the "cute kid factor" and instead relying on their impressive acrobatic skills. Sacha Nevidonski's combined equestrian and aerial act was breathtaking. And the Flying Pages never disappoint; Willy Pages' 8 year old daughter was in this year's act, and she shows great promise. And there's nothing bad to say about the Flying Wallendas, either. The new elephant, Dondi (trainer Phil Schacht), performed quite well in the tiny ring. Joshua Schacht, son of Phil, leapt around on top of Dondi as if she were a platform stage; his steadiness was a wonder to behold. So there was plenty of good.

But there was plenty of lame, too. Pino was billed as a "physical comedienne," but I didn't see much comedic in her performance. Hard to believe she was with Pickle Family Circus for 10 years, and Cirque's "Mystere." Her act lasted maybe four minutes, and consisted of her bending over so her dog could hop on her back and she could walk with the dog perched on her shoulders while she fed it treats. I was not impressed, and if there was "physical comedy" in that act, I sure didn't see it. My husband's tried-and-true clown stage show has more physical comedy in the first minute than I saw in the entirety of Pino's presentation. And as far as Katja Schumann, if you've seen her act once, you've seen it enough. Her liberty horse act (horses without harness or bridle led by voice command only) are pretty, but lethargic, as if swimming rather than running. I've never been impressed with liberty acts. And if I add in how I feel about Nino's "under-use" in this show, well, then this show was half good and half lame.

But it's still Flora, and I still enjoyed it. I am going to try to squeeze in one more attendance tomorrow; the last show is at 5:00. Have to see if hubby is interested in going after my gig in the early afternoon.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Intimate and astonishing.

"Intimate and astonishing. The way a circus should be."

These are the first words on the cover of the program for Circus Flora Marrakesh.

And I would have to agree. This is my sixth Circus Flora; of the six, this one by far outshines the others I have seen. The music was lush, the costuming absolutely stunning. The story line was easy to follow, unlike some of the other Circus Flora plotlines from the past. Tucked in between the opening scene and the conclusatory Flying Pages, were some of the most incredible acts I've ever seen. While much of Circus Flora is the same from year to year (the Flying Wallendas, the Flying Pages, the St. Louis Arches, Cossack Riders, and Katya's Liberty Horse Act), these acts morph from year to year, and in one case, reached new heights in maturity and depth of performance.

There were two performers new to this year's show. One was Alesya Goulevich, who did amazing things with hula hoops, and Andrew Adams and Erika Gilfether who did an aerial act that will be burned into my mind for many years to come. Using rich music and simple costumes, these two shared space on a pair of woven cotton straps, in a dance that outshone anything I could have seen at the ballet. The audience was enthralled and enamored, and many of us had to resist the urge to present these two with a standing ovation at the conclusion of their act. They were simply spectacular.

A third new performing duo, "Pino and Bonzer," pretty much bored me and it's good they came in a lull between the aerial act and the Flying Wallendas. This rather short woman was, I think, supposed to be a clown, although she didn't act or dress the part, and she had one shaggy dog whose only three tricks included stealing Pino's hat, closing the lid to Pino's accordian case, and jumping on Pino's back and riding around the ring with her. I'm not a fan of dog acts to begin with, but when they are this lame they shouldn't be in the ring.

I was disappointed in Nino's much smaller role this year. He appeared in the ring approximately 15 minutes before the show started and provided his usual schtick involving audience members and the loss of his hat. He also performed a bareback act with his sister Tosca in the second half, and had a very short trampoline act in the first half. In general, however, he was hardly in the ring, and when he was, he was almost completely ancillary to the story and the circus acts. It made me sad; he has always been a huge part of what made Flora so much fun for me. Every time he entered the ring, the children screamed "Nino!" over and over again, showing how much he is loved in this community. I hope they will rethink his role next year and give him a bigger part of the meat of the show.

One act that truly deserves mention is the St. Louis Arches. This troupe of children have been training for literally years in acrobatics, and each year they get better and better. This year's group, about 16 strong, did the usual tricks, but with much more maturity and confidence than ever before. There were few bobbles of landings and joint tosses, and plenty of activity without the "aw" factor I'd seen so many years before by them adding the tiniest tumbler to their routine (even though he is not much of a tumbler). So their act was really good.

Sasha and the Cossack riders did not appear in that usual form this year. This year it was simply Sasha, with his horse Mammut. Their performance was breathtaking, as I knew it would be. I'd seen them rehearsing a couple of weeks ago when I was hanging out on the grounds. Mammut is wild and free, and Sasha created an act that combined an aerialist act with two long white scarves strung from the top of the tent, with the speed and wildness of Mammut.

Afterwards, we waited until the tent had mostly cleared before we left, catching up with many of the performers outside. The first was one of the Arches, who I complimented personally on his performance. These kids are used to seeing me at their home base in the City Museum, so I am semi-familiar with them. Second were Anthony and Willie Pages, spectacular in turquoise costumes. I teased Willie about his hair; during rehearsals he didn't want me to take his picture because his hair "was a mess." I couldn't tell the difference. He looked good either way. This year along with his wife, son Anthony and daughter Mercedes (who is about 8 years old) their act was better than ever. Then we talked to Tino and Olinka Wallenda, then Jessica Henthoff, and waited in line to see Nino (Giovanni Zoppe).

I know I sound like I'm gushing or someone paid me to say this. But truly, this was the best performance I've seen to date. I truly enjoyed it, and knowing what I know about the behind-the-scenes work of Circus, I now have a greater respect and understanding of the process that is circus. I will have more to say over the ensuing days, and of course I'll have pictures, too!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A really good review of Circus Flora

Not having seen the show yet, I can't comment, but here's a review in the local paper.

Circus Flora offers entertaining show

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Where I've Been

Well, it's been a weird two weeks. Amongst my time spent at Circus Flora watching rehearsals and trying to pin down performers for interviews, plus dealing with tech issues at home (DSL gone down, print server bit the dust, home network gone wonky), I also interviewed for job in Flagstaff, Arizona. I had not felt exceedingly confident about the phone interview, and pretty much wrote off getting the job at all.

Then they called me back. They are flying me out to a second interview in about a week. I am the only candidate they are talking to after the first round. I cannot tell you the kinds of nervous this makes me. This would mean a 1400 mile move from my comfort zone in Missouri to something completely new and different. Not bad different, just different. It means uprooting my whole family, it means lots and lots of changes. The advantages are that Flagstaff is a spectacular place to live, I'd be going from working at a two-year college to working at a four-year college, that I'd get to do what I love most (adaptive technology) full-time (right now I am doing that with two other jobs tacked on). It means a "fresh start" and a new adventure. It means a great virtually free education for my kids, it means a big pay raise (almost $10K more), it means lower health care insurance costs. Lots and lots of advantages and I can think of very few disadvantages.

My stomach has been in knots all week and I can't sleep without dreaming about all sorts of weird scenarios. Not much writing or even thinking about writing has been done.

Circus Flora opened tonight and I had thought I would go, but I worked too late, then met a friend at Barnes and Noble to encourage her as she's writing for Script Frenzy, then got home and had to nap in the chair for a bit before I could cook dinner. So maybe I'll go one night next week, that looks like my best chance. I do have tickets for the 2 p.m. show on the 16th, with my husband and the little one. The big ones don't want to go. Too bad for them.

There was a cute article in the paper today about the show, which made me giggle. I'm sure you'd enjoy it to. Be sure to check out the sidebar on the right-hand side for the funny little bios they wrote about some of the performers (both animal and human).

Connecticut Elephant Legislation killed

As the legislative session in Connecticut neared its close, the legislation intended to outlaw the use of the Bullhook was never brought to a vote. The sponsor of the bill admitted that she didn't have the needed votes to even consider asking for the floor to hear her issues. She has promised to renew the bill next year.

We'll see. But for now, many in the circus community are thrilled that the legislation did not pass; no circus with animals would have been able to perform in Connecticut if this measure had passed. If the bill is revived, then another round of letter-writing and public education about the use of the bullhook will ensue, I'm sure.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Interview with Nino Part II

I had the chance to sit down and talk with Nino for about a half-hour on Wednesday before he had to dash off to Home Depot for more parts for the leaking trailer, and then there was a group rehearsal of the opening act of the circus. He is so understated and so quiet, yet underneath runs an intensity that you can literally feel. He is also always in motion; a leg shaking, running his hands through his hair, twiddling with something on the table, etc. Always in motion. He said several things that stuck with me, one is "circus is family" and "I'm passionate about circus."

While I was waiting to talk to him, I stood and looked around, observing the small details I might have missed if I'd been sitting in the interview. Nino's trailer is erected in a small corner of the Circus Flora lot, a bit of an enclave if you will, like a small Italian piazza in the shape of a U. One arm of the U is Nino's trailer, the lower part of the U is a large shiny horse trailer with an awning and portable stalls set up alongside it for the three horses Nino's sister Tosca rides in the show. The other side of the U is Tosca and her husband Jay's trailer, a large 5th-wheel. The top of the U is a portable picket fence, painted a brilliant white, which then forms the courtyard of their piazza. As I stood inside the picket fence, I could see through Tosca's trailer, and in one window was an elaborate candle holder, with 8 candles on spindles of wrought iron, each platform decorated with tiny windchimes. The trailer was "home" and she had it made up to be the home she needed it to be.

I mentioned the "homey" atmosphere of their area and Nino informed me that he lives in his trailer 12 months out of the year, so it is his only "home." The Klown often teases me, saying I'd never make it on a show full time, that I could never live in a trailer. I suspect he is right...staying in that tiny trailer in Wisconsin for a mere week with Klown and three kids nearly drove me insane. I felt like I had nowhere to sit, or get away from the noise, or from people. I can't imagine living like that full-time, no matter how big the trailer.

I will write later about other things I observed during the rehearsal. It was an interesting hour.