The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hope in the Form of a One-Act Play

           For close to 10 summers, my friend and I taught a creative writing camp for our school district. It was at an idyllic setting: a nature center, with 94 acres of wooded trails, air-conditioned classrooms (necessary for the 2 menopausal teachers; we tried to set the thermostat lower each day), prairies to write in, and even a creek to wade in.  Every summer, we'd decided what age group we wanted to invite...Sometimes it was more elementary, but most summers, we worked with middle and high school students.

          For every one of those summers, we worked with a young man named Scott.  He is an exceptional young man, and seeing his one-act play performed this past weekend rejuvenated us. But his writing was not always as inspirational.  For many years, it was pure crap... 

          Scott used to write long stories---pages and pages and pages. They were hand-written when he was younger, and then when he got older and  typed them on the computer, he'd never save them to help in the revision process later.  And they definitely needed revision, but at that point, he didn't care. He'd just churn stuff out, it would end (in his mind) and he'd start on  a new story.

photo by eyeliam

           He wrote a lot of sweeping stories with huge battle scenes. Think Braveheart meets Greek mythology. My friend and never cared about his characters because he gave us nothing to care about. We never were interested in what happened in his stories because there was never any background built, there was never any dialogue other than grunting and yelling during the fighting, the characters were never fleshed out.

           And my friend and I tried.  We pleaded with him to try his hand at a short story with a smaller focus. We gave him loads of suggestions. We gave him books and stories to read that--we thought--might prod him in the right direction. We had other young writers read his work...all in vain. He never wavered from what he saw as his vision. 

          Why did we stick with him and never lose faith in him?  Why did we continue to wade through the manure-on-paper that he produced? Because Scott, for all his faults,  was a true writer. He had spent years finding what worked for him as a writer, and he was absolutely-and-positively sure of his talent as a writer, to the point of being cocky. And being thick-skinned and cockily-confident is necessary as a writer.  

          For example, when he was in middle school,  there was a "career fair" for the students. People from various types of work came to talk about their jobs. Architects. Engineers. Nurses. Scott was so looking forward to this day...

       And when that day came, he was so crestfallen and angry. There was no writer there! That was the only job he was interested in hearing about. What a waste of time! How disappointing!

        From the very beginning, Scott was a voracious reader as well as a ravenous movie watcher. He read like a writer, and he studied every detail when he fell in love with a movie. He absorbed the lighting, the close-ups, the bits of slow-motion. 

        And he collected disc after disc of movie scores. Not movie soundtracks. Movie scores. They inspired him. He found that he wrote best while listening to them, and had quite a collection of favorites to choose from. And he had the discs alphabetized.  By director.

         Last year, he wrote a short story. It had the flavor of No Country for Old Men. It blew our minds away. And then, we knew that Scott had finally evolved. He had finally arrived as an author. His writerly habits had enveloped him, like a coccoon, and he had emerged, a true writer.

photo by pirlouiiiit

         His play this weekend, part of an evening of senior one-acts, was incredible. Paradox was so Scott!  It so clearly came from a writer, had monologues of the main character (a writer) as they offered up to the audience what was going on in their head as they wrote, and was pure brilliance. (My friend and I have asked Scott for a copy of his script; we want it autographed. When he's a famous writer, we are going to sell our scripts so we can retire!)

        Some day, you will see the name Scott Blackwell on a best-selling novel or emblazoned across a movie screen. You'll see a scene---juxtaposed---of two poochy-bellied women as they sip from umbrella-adorned glasses as they read books all day long. And you'll know. Scott has arrived...


  1. What a wonderful story, Sioux! And what marvelous teachers you and your friend are...and not only teachers, but...just...people! To care that much about helping another human being, to help bring out his talents, etc....Priceless! I'm truly proud to know you and be your friend! (When Scott gets famous, can I come along and sip drinks and read books with ya?)

  2. What a great testament to this young man who believed in himself and his teachers. Yes, you will say you knew him when!

  3. Hi, Sioux--love the post! By the way, thanks for your comment, and I wanted to tell you I just added a postscript. Walrus Publishing asked me to announce they are accepting manuscripts through their new website: Thanks again!

  4. How exciting, Sioux, to be able to travel through one of your student's lives to watch his growth. It would be interesting to have a reunion with your campers to see if writing has been a large part of their lives too.


Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by...