Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


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Scary writing experience

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Through an odd fluke of scheduling (including three different trips out of town in November), the “Words That Speak” playwriting workshop that I lead is off until November 29. This is highly unusual; in general, we meet every Saturday, and then take about a three-week break after eight sessions. There’s an occasional Saturday that gets scheduled off — but 10 weeks off? Unheard of in its 22-year history.

So what’s a guy to do when he’s got 10 weeks off from his workshop? Sign up for someone else’s!

I was thrilled — thrilled! — to see that my schedule is clear on Saturday the 25th, so I signed up for Chris DeWan’s “Monsters in the Woods” one-day writing workshop. JUST THE NAME ALONE appealed to me. But here’s more about it:

A ONE-DAY INTENSIVE IN WRITING HORROR
(and other scary magicks)

Why are we afraid of the dark? How do writers terrify us with nothing but their words? And how can we do it in our own stories?

Come celebrate Halloween with a one-day intensive horror-writing workshop. And do it at an eerie, isolated site in the Angeles National Forest*.

Through a series of unnerving exercises, we will plumb classic fairy tales, ghost story tropes, and our own memories to generate material for new and in-progress horror stories.

The “Monsters in the Woods” workshop isn’t just for horror writers. It’s for any writers who want to explore their own fears, dreams, and memories for new story material.

At a spooky, undisclosed location in the Angeles National Forest!

That just has “me” written all over it. Years ago, I wrote a show called “Monster Stories” — a collection of three short plays — and I’d sure like to get back into something like that. And I know Chris is a good writer, and he’s a theatre person (that’s how we met), so I’m feeling confident about this experience.

(By the way, how did I find out about this? I’ve known Chris for about 15 years — but I don’t believe I’ve actually seen him in person since 2013, as he reminded me via email this morning. I saw this workshop posted on LinkedIn, and then on Facebook, both of which were open to me because, as I said, I know Chris. So hey, everybody who complains about social media — in your face.)

Anyway — I believe there’s still a slot or two open. So if you’d like to join me for a few hours of being terrorized by snakes or a guy with an axe, here’s your link.

You’ll see this coming

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Today’s music video

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

In which K-Pop meets CGI, and the singer seemingly pays a debt to Yoko Ono. This is either the worst or best music video ever. As a song, it’s the nadir. Let’s see how much of this you can handle.

Thought for the day

Friday, September 19th, 2014

3 a.m. on a sleepless Friday morning. I finally finished Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth. Like Newark, New Jersey, it was terrible through and through, but I finally got to the end of it. Picking up the next book now — Love Will Make You Drink & Gamble, Stay Out Late at Night by my friend Shelly Lowenkopf — as a way of rinsing off my brain after too much time in the maze of muck with Mickey Sabbath.

Oh, THAT’S where I left that!

Monday, September 15th, 2014

How often has this happened to you? You open up the trunk of your car and realize you’d left something in there too long?

Maybe something like this.

Thrill ride

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Pere Ubu’s latest CD, “Carnival of Souls,” hit stores today. I had to have it instantly, and now I do. I’m playing it over and over and over while writing. Whatever impact the video below (of “Golden Surf II,” the first track on the album) might make on you, I can tell you that it makes me incredibly happy. Almost thirty years after discovering this band, the thrill is still very much with me.

A revolutionary reading device

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

This could change the way everyone reads!

The reading report

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
  1. Now on page 321 of Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth. One question remains: Is it the worst novel I’ve ever read, or merely one of the worst? Given that it’s by a writer of otherwise extraordinary talent, it seems to qualify as the first.
  2. Read over the table of contents of this week’s New Yorker. Twice. Finally handed the entire issue over to offspring unread. Usually can find at least one “Talk of the Town” item, or a review, or a “Briefly Noted” worth engaging. Not this time.
  3. Still need to finish reading a script for a client. Also a stack — er, wait, four stacks — of books within reach waiting to be read. But, oh, the thrill of getting a new book to read. I keep salivating over the prospect of reading The Martian — surely a survivalist tale of the most difficult challenges.
  4. One third of the way through The Filth, a collection of the 13-issue comic-book title by Grant Morrison that I picked up at Comic-Con this year. Typical of Morrison’s latter-day comics, it’s equally invigorating and incomprehensible. Once upon a time, one could enjoy his inventiveness while also understanding what’s going on. But that seems to have been 10 (or 20) years ago.
  5. Various newspapers, mailings, magazines and other communications, including the latest issue of Inc. magazine, enumerating the “500 fastest growing privately held companies in America,” of which several at least are flat-out lying about their results. I’ve been to their websites, and if their businesses are anything like their online presence, they ceased to exist sometime during the first Bush admiseration.

More reading tomorrow, and every day hereafter.

The next day

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

On Facebook, a friend of mine congratulated his brother Mike, who “built this Northern MN cabin for $4500, retired off the grid, collects rainwater from a roof irrigation system, eats berries, reads by candle light, catches trout & talks to the animals. He’s gone inside the world to grok its natural rhythms while the rest of us watch Netflix. Here’s to living life on one’s own terms.”

And I thought, that’s great. That’s really great. So, let’s say that’s on Monday. What’s Mike going to be doing on the next day, on Tuesday? My bet is: going batshit crazy.

Mike is entitled to do whatever he wants, so long as he isn’t, say, spending time in his hinterland chateau plotting to overthrow the government. But those of us who grew up in nature – who aren’t tourists who’ve moved there for some idealized bucolic existence – know that nature is more accurately not a place of “natural rhythms” where we can escape Netflix, but is more properly known as a place that swings wildly between being boring and deadly. Nature is a place filled with flying dusky things that like to bite or sting you, that either way want to eat a part of you. It’s a place where one wrong step plunges you into a sinkhole or crevasse you can’t get out of. It’s a place where if you’re not eating, something is eating you. It is also a place where it’s exceedingly hard to get a cold beer, let alone a roast beef sandwich or even a pillow. It’s a place where, when that glowing orb in the sky drops below the crestline, it becomes pretty hard to read, and the places to recharge your smartphone are scant. In short, nature sucks.

Oh, it’s fine to go there. As a tourist. Briefly. A week or two – or even a day (half a day!) – should suffice. Have at it! But when you get back to your campsite and hanker after that thing you forgot to pack – salt, or another book, or, my God, is there any water left in the cooler? — then you’ll remember all the reasons we as a people left this place behind millennia ago.

After our having spent thousands of years of trying to best it, to idealize it now is just stupid. It’s sentimental drivel. It’s not beautiful, and it’s not peaceful. It’s the ugly reality of striving after day-to-day existence.

Before you get the wrong idea, please be reassured that I love the rhinos. And the giraffes. And the lemurs and all those other things that live out there. I want them to survive. I want them to thrive! They may have these outdoors, now and forever. And I may want to visit them from time to time. But to live with them, to commune with them, seems to me to be like reducing myself to their circumstance. As they are without theatre, and music, and museums, and opera, and liquor stores, and cigar bars, and supermarkets, and 30% off sales at Macy’s, so would I be. This is antithetical to progress, and should hold no attraction for any of us.

I prefer to think of nature as this: Nature is the space between buildings. Because it’s the buildings that have made us into what we are.

It’s not actually that challenging

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

As part of this ALS challenge, I have submerged a bottle of Chardonnay in a bucket of ice. And then I have emptied that bottle into myself.