Songs for the Struggling Artist


A Big Disappointment (and How to Go On)

When I was in college, I had one goal and one goal only and that was to be part of a particular Shakespeare company I’d been inspired by a few years earlier. While I was still in school, I auditioned for them and secured my very first acting job at what was then my dream company. The fact that I was making $50 a week did not matter to me in the least. I was on track for the life I wanted. I thought I’d just keep working there forever and my artistic destiny was set. But then I had rather a rude awakening when none of us were cast in the next season.

I picked myself up, dusted myself off and worked in Atlanta, Roanoke and Memphis before returning to audition again a year later and got to do another season of Shakespeare with them. It wasn’t long after that that I moved to NYC and away from performing.

But that theatre where I started is firmly imprinted on me. It was formative in my aesthetic, my career path and my sense of self. I’ve done a LOT of other things since then and grown and shifted in lots of directions I’d never have predicted – but there’s something about that company that will always have a quality of home for me.

So when this writing opportunity with them came up, it had a sense of fated poetry to it. Artist returns to artistic home in a new role to a new beginning. It also had a curious quality of uniting what has always felt like two parallel tracks that would never meet – that is, my Shakespeare identity and my feminist playwriting identity. I just generally assumed those two aspects of myself would never have much call to meet (aside, of course from the devised Shakespeare piece I made a few years ago – where I used my dramaturgical skills to “write” with Shakespeare’s words.)

Anyway – something about the call for submissions for this just felt like little blocks of fate, slotting one into another. I wrote a play VERY QUICKLY that grappled with things in Comedy of Errors that I have always struggled with and found I’d woven together two strands of my artistry that I hadn’t known I could. Because I know the company well, I wrote it with them in mind. I saw their space, I saw their actors. It came to me more easily than almost anything else I’ve ever written. Part of me thought, “They’d be crazy not to select this play. It is for them. It is their aesthetic. It will showcase their particular skills. It gives their actors – particularly the women – opportunities that they don’t often get – and because I’m a former actor in their company from twenty years ago, this press release just writes itself.” As a friend of mine said, “That’s a marketing gold mine. They’d have to choose you for that alone.”

But I am pretty used to rejection and pretty used to not being the choice of the status quo so I was actually pretty delightfully surprised to be first a semi-finalist and then a finalist for what would be a life-changing prize and a kick ass opportunity to return to an artistic home.

When I received the email that I was a finalist, I started to fantasize about what would happen were I to get it. I’d return, not just to a theatre that was once a home, but also my home state. I’d finally get some recognition as a playwright in a well-publicized prestigious situation. It would have paid me more money than I have ever made in a year.

I began to acknowledge to myself that it was something I really wanted. (Generally, I try not to do this. I just apply for stuff and move on.) I thought about it a lot. It started to feel a little bit like when I was in college wanting to work for this company. I started to feel like the poetic circularity of the thing meant that I was destined to get it.

When the rejection came this morning, it hit me harder than any rejection has in a long while. The O’Neill was hard but I never really thought I’d get even as far as the semi-finals so I wasn’t surprised not to get an acceptance there. But this one, I knew I had a shot. The poetry of the story was too good.

But real life doesn’t really work like a story. I seem to have to learn this lesson over and over again. I suppose that’s the peril of being a story maker. I am infinitely vulnerable to good stories. (For example: I cannot be 100% positive that I didn’t partly choose to go to the graduate school I went to due to the serendipity of my sharing a name with it. This would not be a good reason to go to a school, btw.)

I have twenty plus years of practice at dealing with rejection. When the American Shakespeare Center (then known as Shenandoah Shakespeare Express) didn’t hire me in 1996 as I expected them to, it was a shocking betrayal that took me a while to recover from. Here in the spring of 2018, I saw that rejection email from them, felt the blow to my solar plexus and then just got on with making things. I finished recording a song for the podcast and practiced the choreography for the Nelken line I’m joining this weekend. I’m grateful for the decades of artistic practice that has helped me put my eggs in multiple baskets so that when, say, the playwriting basket falls to the ground and all my eggs break, I can just reach into the music basket or the blogging basket, as I’m doing now, and I know I’ll have eggs enough for an omelet later.

I can’t say I’m not sad to not get to see my play performed on that damn beautiful stage by those actors I tailor-made that play for. I am fucking sad about it, no doubt. But, I now have a play that is much more easily produced than most of my other work. I have a prequel to Comedy of Errors that maybe one day someone else might want to do.

It’s sad. I’m sad. And the Hope Hangover (a phenomenon and song I wrote about recently) will be brutal, I know. But I have weathered disappointment consistently for the last two decades. I can do it some more. The thing to do when you are disappointed by art is to make more art. It is the only way through.

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Anchor, click here.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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You can help me deal with disappointment

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog (but aren’t into the commitment of Patreon) and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

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And Now: The Rejection We’ve All Been Waiting For

First, the good news. My play about Medusa and Perseus was a semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference. They asked that we not share our semi-finalism status – so I’ve been sitting on this particular piece of good news since December.

What’s funny about this part is that because the O’Neill is such a prestigious situation, I had never applied to it before. I was sure I’d stand a snowball’s chance in hell of making it in (not because I don’t believe in my work but because I know how these sorts of systems tend to work) and because they charge a fee to apply, it just didn’t seem like a judicious use of the limited resources at my disposal before now. So I became a semi-finalist on my first pass. Which never happens. So that’s all good news. Or it was good news several months ago.

It is good news that I couldn’t share with you until the letter arrived in the mail today (Paper again! Much appreciated! I’ll wallpaper a bathroom yet!) and the good news became bad news. So – in sharing the bad news that the play isn’t moving forward into the finals, in sharing the rejection, I also get to share the good news, for those who aren’t my Patreon patrons, or people I’ve seen in person recently.

I can’t deny that it is a disappointment. This is the rejection that I have felt most acutely of the dozens and dozens these last few years. This is not because I expected to get it – I didn’t – but because becoming a semi-finalist, for something I didn’t think I stood a chance for, birthed a little butterfly of hope in me. It helped me apply for more things than I ever have before. That butterfly gave me a much needed boost and it has been flying around spreading the pollen of hope these last few months.

So watching that little butterfly fly away now is a painful loss, of course. It has left behind a lot of good but I am sad to see it go.

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And here, below, are some other recent rejections. These application fees added up are roughly equivalent to my patronage for this blog post. And my patrons are the reason that I felt I could apply for those things. I am ever grateful for their support. I would never have met that hope butterfly at all were not for them
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Space at Ryder Farm Rejection
This place gives off a vibe of insidery insiders so I’m not at all surprised I’ve been rejected here again as I’m a pretty outsidery outsider. (*Working on a post about this outsider thing. Coming soon!) But I keep applying, despite a general suspicion of insidery insiders, because the only way to know for sure what it’s like inside is to get inside somehow.
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VCCA
This was a kind of odd rejection. It was a “We’re sorry we don’t have enough space to offer you right now but maybe you’d like to be on our waiting list?”
I mean, sure, yes.
Of course, they didn’t respond to my email requesting clarity about how to do that – so….not so sure it was a real waitlist suggestion.
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Edward Albee Residency
A couple of hours after the big letter from the O’Neill, I got my annual Edward Albee Residency rejection. It doesn’t really sting so much since I’ve gotten it so many times before and bless them, they don’t charge a fee to apply or send a wordy rejection. It’s, like, a few sentences. Bing, Bang, Rejected.

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*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and more. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

You, too, can help me ease the sting of continual rejection

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 



An Actual Paper Rejection Letter
April 4, 2018, 7:43 pm
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , , , , ,

You guys, I was actually excited when I saw the letter in the mailbox. I mean, I knew it was a rejection – but it has become such a rarity to receive an actual piece of paper in a envelope, with a stamp on it and everything. I have always loved all those stories about artist who created things with their rejection notices – the one who wallpapered his bathroom, for example – others who set them on fire or turned them into paper mache. I used to collect them for just such a possible eventuality – or at least just to have the satisfaction of ripping or crumpling them up. But it is increasingly so rare to receive actual paper rejections that it would take decades to collect enough to paper over even one wall of a very small bathroom.

So, thank you, Jentel Residency for actually sending me a piece of paper to reject me.

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Yaddo

When I got the rejection notice from Yaddo, (yes, an email one) I remembered why I’d never applied before. They have this policy wherein you cannot apply again immediately. They’re very explicit about this. So it’ll be 2020 before I get another rejection from Yaddo.

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Wildacres

I’ve applied to this residency at least once (maybe twice? thrice?) before. I have no idea if it’s a good one but I like its name so much, I have a good feeling about it for no reason at all. And the rejections come fast and thick.

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Blue Mountain

A few hours after the Wildacres rejection came in, the one from Blue Mountain showed up in my email box as well. This one also has a positive name resonance for me. I’m from the Blue Ridge Mountains – so even though this isn’t in the Blue Ridge, a Blue Mountain residency sounds like home. It’s not, though, because home wouldn’t reject me like that.

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*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

 

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and more. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

You, too, can help me ease the sting of continual rejection

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 



Rejection Season 2018
March 27, 2018, 12:20 am
Filed under: Rejections | Tags:

The last time rejection season came around for me, I thought I was inventing the experience, or the concept of a rejection season. But – in the Official Playwrights of Facebook Group, the last few weeks, everyone has been talking about rejection season. I guess this thing I observed and thought only happened to me, happens to many other people. So many, in fact, that this rejection season thing becomes a thing everyone talks about as if it’s real. And so it is.

I applied to many more things than usual this January so I expect to get more rejections than usual. Here’s the first batch:

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Opportunity to Create – ART/NY

I haven’t gotten a grant from ART/NY for the company in ages. This is likely mostly to do with not producing quite as much as they would like. When they ask for our budgets or financial statements, they’re looking at whether or not we can be responsible with their money. And when we haven’t spent much money in the previous year, they don’t want to give us more to allow for our crazy plans. But if they did, we’d have more money on the sheet for next year, which might increase our chances.

What I proposed was a reading series inspired by Mary Beard’s book Women and Power. I think it’s a pretty good idea. But – without some seed money, I just don’t think I have it in me to make it happen. More and more, I feel like the hoops I have to jump through for company grant funding just aren’t worth the trouble.

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Akrai Residency

This was for a residency in Italy, which I would have loved to have done. I spent my junior year of college in Italy and I haven’t been back since. My language skills are rusty but would return pretty quickly I think – and I’d love to see what a residency in Italy would do to my writing brain.

When I was there in college, I really began to tap into songwriting. Some of my favorite songs I ever wrote, I wrote that year. The theme of the residency was Tempo Lento – Slow Time. I kept thinking the theme was Tempo Lungo which is Long Time – and it has been a long time since I’ve been to Italy. And it may be a long time still. Non andró alla residenza perché mi hanno rifiutato.

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BAU Institute at Camargo

You can tell you’ve been applying for things for a while when you see the names of things change. I know I applied for something at Camargo before but someone must have taken charge of it as it is now the BAU Institute and the Camargo side of it has receded to the location, not the title. Maybe it’ll be an entirely different place the next time they reject me.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

 

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs and more. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

You, too, can help me ease the sting of continual rejection

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



Please Stop Asking for Recommendations

Dear Residencies, Grantmakers, Award Givers and Artist Opportunity Makers,

Please stop asking for recommendations. Do you ever make your decisions based on them? I suspect not. I understand that you’re probably trying to weed out jerks – but almost anyone can find two people to say nice things about them. Heck, a really cagey jerk could just write them himself from a couple of extra email addresses and phone numbers.

It’s not that I can’t get my colleagues, friends, and fans to write recommendations for me, I can. It’s just that I apply for a LOT of things and I fear that your demands (for things that I am skeptical about you even READING) may be burning out my support team.

A life in the arts is not like college. I understand you need recs for college. But college happens once – maybe twice if there’s a Masters in the works – while an artistic life is ALL the time.

In continually asking for recommendations, you wear out, not just the applicants but also their networks. I try to spread out my asking – but…I know it is a burden on those I ask. They love me so they always say yes when I ask them and some have even said there is no need to ask anymore. But, after twenty plus years of this, I’m guessing even the most dedicated supporter would prefer not to have to deliver a letter every few weeks.

I suspect that one reason you ask for letters is that you want to see if maybe we know a famous person and can get them to write us a letter. Like, if Paula Vogel wrote a playwright’s recommendation, you’d take that applicant a lot more seriously. You want to know who of your applicants has connections. But the thing of it is, even if I did know Paula Vogel (I’ve only met her once in a totally random non-theatre context,) I wouldn’t ask her for a recommendation. Because Paula Vogel has better things to do than write recommendations. I don’t want her writing recommendations to residencies and whatnot for writers. I want her writing plays. I think, if you really want to know who Paula Vogel recommends, you should just call her up and ask her and every year, you can have a slot for the Vogel recommended writer and she can just send you a list.

With extremely busy famous people, artists have pretty much one favor, one recommendation we can ask for – and I’m sorry to tell you that your residency, grant, award or opportunity is not that thing. (I regret to inform you, that after reviewing your opportunity, we are unable to offer you our favor from a famous person. You must understand that the competition is fierce and there are a lot of opportunities to consider.)

So please – not for me – but for my friends, colleagues and support team – stop asking for recommendations. Please. You don’t have to ask for them. A lot of the more prestigious places I have applied to do not. You don’t have to either. And it’s two or three fewer things you’ll have to read!

Signed,

An Artist Who Has Missed a Fair Amount of Deadlines Due to Not Realizing She’d Need to Have Asked for Recommendations a Lot Sooner

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Bonus Rejection Post:

(Don’t worry, I’ve got a LOT more of these coming – so I thought I’d just tag this one on the end here.)

I keep applying. And I keep getting rejected by the Millay Colony. Luckily, I have support for the persistent “No.” And I recently read a piece that suggested aiming at 100 years rejections a year. I’ve upped my applications a lot in the last few years. But 100 would be a lot. I’ve gotten pretty close to that, if I added up the previous three years – but in order to really reach a hundred rejections this year, I’m going to have to apply to the Millay a whole lot more times.

In January I applied to ten things –which has seemed like a LOT. If I kept up that pace, I’d get to 100 before the end of the year – but January is application season and that was a hell of a lot of applying.

I will say, too, that I’ve done more applying this year than I have before, in part, because my confidence was boosted by a yes. That yes made it seem less impossible that another yes could be forth coming. Maybe if I get another yes, I really could reach 100 rejections this year.

*Wondering why I’m telling you about rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

You, too, can help me ease the sting of continual rejection

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message*

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs and an album of Love Songs. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

 

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



Some Very Competitive Rejections

“It’s very competitive,” they said.

The rejection notice, for a residency at U Cross, informed me that their applications are very competitive. I find this a funny thing to say. Partly because I can’t imagine it would take the sting out of rejection for anyone but also because I sort of feel like, if you have to say that, it’s not actually that prestigious a situation. This is a thing I haven’t applied to before so it’s a relatively unknown organization for me. I’m sure I learned lots of things about it when I applied but I have already forgotten them.

What’s also funny to me is that I received an actual acceptance from an actually prestigious organization recently and there’s none of this sort of self-inflating language in their materials. This is generally true that those with actual power and prestige (almost) never feel compelled to self-advertise. This is why having Donny Twimp in office is so baffling.

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In other rejection news, at a friend’s suggestion, I have begun to explore the possibilities of doing voice overs for games. It is super fun to investigate. I submitted for the first time a few weeks ago. I recorded a couple of different characters. It’s a relatively steep learning curve but a fun learning curve! They did not call and I was not surprised. It would be crazy to get an acceptance on the first voyage out.

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There’s a program to work at senior centers in the city. It need to be called Sparc and now is called Su Casa. A couple of years ago I did it in Manhattan and we put on a Romeo and Juliet at Lenox Hill Senior Center. I applied to Su Casa in Queens this year to work on devising a piece around “The Angel in the House” with seniors – particularly senior women – but my proposal was rejected. I’m not particularly surprised – generally the visual and literary arts do better in this context – but I do think it’s rather a shame as I have a bucket of experience on this front.

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And finally, the Drama League says no again. I never remember what I applied with for them but whatever it was – it ain’t happenin’.

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*Wondering why I’m telling you about all these rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

You, too, can help me ease the sting of continual rejection

by becoming my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message*

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs and an album of Love Songs. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

 

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



Something Old and Something New
November 22, 2017, 1:00 am
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , , ,

One of the funny things about spending years applying for (and getting rejected from) things is that you start to see patterns in the application cycles, as well as the rejection cycles. I know when things I have applied for before have had changes in their structure or staff because their timing shifts.

And because of that, I was 99.9999% sure I’d already been rejected by the New Victory Theatre before my friend from there passed along my rejection via Facebook messenger. But, that was the first time I’ve gotten a rejection notice via that platform – so that’s new, even if the rejection is old.

And the Queen’s Council for the Arts, which is an organization I’ve been rejected by in the past, had a new funding opportunity: commissions. And I am really glad to see funding taking this turn – I’d love to see more of that kind of opportunity – even if I did get rejected from this one. (97 applications. 4 receive commissions.) The organization rejecting me is old but the program is new. In any case, I’d love to see the new thing in this rejection drama be a juicy acceptance. But we never really know where that’s coming from.

And since none of the many residencies I’ve applied for have panned out, I’m making my own, with the support of two of my patrons here on Patreon. So – in my Make Your Own Acceptance project, I am in Vancouver now to finally take the time I need to edit my first draft of my novel for young people. I don’t need no stinking official acceptance letters, y’all. (Not true, I’d like a basket of them but this is a great thing, too.)

*Wondering why I’m telling you about all these rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

You can help ease the sting of rejection by becoming my patron on Patreon.

 kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message

Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page

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This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

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Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

 




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