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Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.

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Hello dear readers,

This weekend, I saw a Fringe play. That in itself is not extraordinary. The exceptional part of this story is that the writer is a close friend of mine. And this was his very first play for a live audience.

I first met Rick at the Whodunit Mystery Writer’s Group. The group held its meetings in the little Whodunit bookstore on Lilac Street. It was an unusual arrangement. The bookstore’s owners–at that time, two very nice (and perhaps too trusting) women by the name of Henrietta and Gaylene–would stay open till around six, then hand our fearless leader the keys, and leave! Leave their precious shop, with its many tempting books, in the care of a group of crazy writers. Guess we must have had trusting faces. Thankfully, we managed not to get into much trouble.

When I joined the group, I was walking wounded. I’d just tried to return to another writer’s group, of which I was a founding member, and had been rejected! My own group wouldn’t have me–talk about a blow to the self-esteem! So I went to Whodunit, hoping to find some kindred spirits and on the lookout for the fabled “published author” I’d been told attended.

I had no idea who the published author was, but when Rick read aloud that night from Where The World Comes to Die, I thought, “There he is! That’s the published author!” It wasn’t just his work, which was funny and interesting and well-crafted. It was the way he read, as if he’d been performing to an appreciative audience all his life. This person was born to tell stories.

Sadly, when I got to know Rick a little better, I discovered that he wasn’t the published author. (Said published author actually never attended the meetings anymore.) What he was was a most prolific writer, and he became one of my closest friends. On the surface, it may have seemed like this 53-year-old man had very little in common with a 30-year-old woman, but in truth, we had much more in common than I could find with most people of my own age and gender. In spite of our very different tastes in music, we got along. We started a garden together, joined a gym, and even did our grocery shopping as a pair. Together, we survived a lot of tough times–the end of my engagement, his divorce; my too-long stint at a job I hated, the dissolution of his business. We could always count on each other for a laugh, or a shoulder to cry on.

We eventually left the Whodunit group. I worked with an agent while Rick found a new love–play writing. His girlfriend Sherry paid for him to take a play writing class as a gift, and Rick never looked back. He took to this new love as Rick does everything–110%, plunging in with passion, dedication, and never-ending enthusiasm. The end result is Recycled, unveiled at this year’s Winnipeg Fringe Festival. It is a tale of two former lovers who reconnect thirty years later. Now in their fifties, she’s a militant environmentalist vegetarian, while he is a beef-loving, plastic bag-using business man. From these conflicts, much comedy–and unexpected tenderness–ensues.

For those of you that are not writers, it is difficult to fully explain how much guts it takes to do what my friend Rick is doing. To slave away over a piece of writing in whatever little room you happen to work in, believing in the story you have to tell and loving those characters who tell it so much that you’re willing to miss out on parties, evenings with friends, dinners out, days in the sun, and even much needed quality time with the significant other. And then, when you have your little story as perfect as it could possibly be, to be brave enough to hold it up to the light and expose it to an audience? That takes the most guts of all. It is a step many writers never dare to take.

Maybe we lose sight of what a feat of courage this is, since there is a Fringe Festival every year with performers from all over the world. But I’m willing to bet that every single one of them approaches opening night with his heart on his sleeve and a bit of a lump in his throat. Fringe audiences can be fickle–they have so much choice, after all–so many plays and so little time. And Fringe reviewers are notoriously cruel. (I can attest to this, as I used to be one of them.) But in spite of all these obstacles, my friend Rick threw his hat into the ring and presented his beloved first play, Recycled. And you know what?

It was good. It was really, really good.

Bravo, my friend.

PS – Exciting writing news! TWELVE new pages written on the work-in-progress yesterday!

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8 Comments

  1. Chris

    Congrats on the 12 pages! That’s amazing. And I’ll second the praise for “Recycled.” It must take so much courage to share your baby with the public like Rick did.

    Reply
  2. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comment and congrats, Chris. Perhaps, once the Fringe is over, I’ll be able to get the great playwright to guest blog and tell us how it felt in his own words.

    Reply
  3. Jocé

    “No guts, no glory” well said Holli. I too found Recycled to be awesome, funny and touching. And a great achievement for Rick. I think he might well be persuaded to guest on your blog when his hectic life calms down somewhat 🙂

    Reply
  4. Story Teller

    It was great, wasn’t it? I’m so proud of him. It takes so much courage to put yourself out there the way he has.

    I think we should all get together to toast his success in August! Would love to see you and Jane, too.

    Reply
  5. Jocé

    That sounds like a plan. And I haven’t forgotten your Daisies, I could bring you some roots then too. (the daisies are looking rather sad, soon after that photo they were flattened in a storm… but if I dig up some good roots then I think they should come up for you next year.)

    Reply
  6. Story Teller

    That would be wonderful, Jocelyn! Thanks for thinking of me. I do miss seeing you each month. I’ve recently reconnected with Ken, and it’s definitely bringing back the “good ol’ days”. Hugs.

    Reply
  7. jane

    Holli I heartily agree with all your sentiments regarding Rick. He always credited Jocelyn and I with getting him started in the playwriting business,but truth to tell he did it all by himself with great courage and tenacity and all the gusto he brings to all his projects. Jane

    Reply
  8. Story Teller

    Hi Jane – thanks for your comments, and welcome to my blog! Rick never hesitates to give a compliment when it’s due, so I’m sure you and Jocelyn did have something to do with his playwriting bug. His tendency to always recognize the very best in others is one of the reasons why we love him. Very few people are as generous with praise, or so unfailingly gracious. He definitely deserves his success.

    Reply

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