Friday, December 16, 2011


By no means am I done, really.  I'm just done with the crappy first draft.  It is out of my head, now, though.  Saved on my computer.  Saved on a thumb drive.  Now I need to print it out in its entirety for Steph.

I haven't even read the whole thing start to finish.  And right now, I don't even want to.  I just want to bask in the accomplishment of writing


on page 104.

Soon enough will come reading Steph's comments and the refining... where I thwak myself on the forehead and say "How could I have forgotten to put that in?"  Or come to the sobering realization that this play is only funny to me.  And then I'll have to steel myself for a reading, which always sends my insides through a pasta machine.  But today, I am done.  Heave a huge sigh.  Kick back. 

Now, I can finally let myself read again.  Which book shall I choose...

Thursday, December 15, 2011


One of the reasons I got involved with writing for the Parkway Playhouse is to give me deadlines.  Real deadlines, as in ones that I put other things off for... And well, this holiday season I've done it.  The are costumes for Sunday's Church Christmas Pageant still un-sewn.  A few presents yet to be purchased.  A county vehicle tax unpaid.  I think the milk has been left out since breakfast.  The house is in a constant state of shambles.  I even forgot to call the phone company today about the mice in the walls that have chewed through our phone line... I can still get online.  (I moved the modem.)  But we have no phone.  Which has led to things like missed dental appointments.  Oops.

But I am here to tell you:  I only have one scene left to write.

Of course, then will come the revising.  But you've got to get the thing done before you can polish.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two-Minute Drill

I feel like things are down to the wire.  Originally, I'd planned for the script to be 95 pages long.  But somehow, it's going to be longer.  I have a lot to do and not very much time to do it.  (Maybe I should study some Tebow film.)  I suppose it could be that if you put three long-time guy friends in a room and you want the dialog to be believable you're going to have to devote a few pages to stuff like this:

Him, not you. Although, if you have to ask, yes, you too.
Why are you calling me an idiot? I'm not the one who accidentally purchased non-alcoholic beer. You're the idiot.
Shut up.
You shut up.
Both of you shut up.  I'm trying to watch the game.

No, these aren't actually lines in the play, though they could be.  But get enough of that mindless banter in there, and maybe that's what's pushing the page count longer.  They all need to shut up, my characters.  They just need to stop talking so this play can be over already!  Problem is, at this point, I know what they need to say yet before it can be done. The end is so close I can almost taste it... except that it's not.  And I'm still not done.  And I have exactly 2.5 school days to work before the winter break and the kids invade my quiet head-space at home.  (Because I've frittered half of today away, one day is only a half day, and there's the awards program and all...)  Ahhh!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Let me emphasize the stress

Sports watching can be a stressful way to relax.  Instead of a Thursday night treat of watching your team rumble over a weaker opponent, it can cause what will be a week and a half of "update checking" and worry.  When you watch your QB go down and limp on the field, a stone the heft of Pouncey settles on your chest and your shoulders melt.  You repeat yourself,  "This is not good.  This is not good."  And even a win, while satisfying, still doesn't feel like a win.  From your couch, you do things like vow to the Browns you will not forget this.  Ever.

On the writing front, this is all fodder.  Sick, sick fodder.
Today I went from 13 pages behind schedule to only 7 pages behind schedule.  Progress.  And, finally, after much patience with the characters, I got to write the line "that's what she said."  I knew those guys would get around to it at some point.

* I suppose I should add an apology to Steph, who was probably again sickened by my inclusion of the Rothelisburger injury video.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Good vs. Lucky

Ultimately, I'd like to be good and lucky.  But I'll settle for either.

A few months ago, I learned about a grant for artists in my area.  I talked to a few other folks about it and decided my chances were just not that good.  It probably wouldn't be worth the effort of putting together the application packet, which needed to be done, not in triplicate, but septuplicate!  But there were a few things about getting the grant which just seemed so appealing:  yes, the extra $ to help the project along, but also the validation from the artists' community and perhaps increased attention for the play... and bigger audiences...

So one day, I finally woke up on the right side of the bed and realized I was going to let them say "no" to me--I wasn't going to say it to myself.

And Friday, I got a response letter from the Toe River Arts Council* and they didn't say no either!  Between the Tackles and I are recipients of the Regional Artists Project Grant.

I liken submitting work and applying for grants to buying lottery tickets... and I recognize that there were many deserving artists who also applied.  This time, I got to be the lucky one.  (This is where a football star would take a knee and point to the heavens -- probably because his agent told him this would help public opinion of him and might land him some more endorsements.)

On a less-jaded note, I'm really excited to be a RAPG recipient and want to thank all of those who already believe in this project.  In fact, the grant application process has made me more aware of organizations and people who exist to support artists.  When I work on this play, it is a very solitary experience (except for all the times I call and email Steph and disrupt her day with questions like "Can I just call him The Traitor or do I need to actually come up with a name?  If so, what's a good name?"  These types of questions probably happen way too often for her to get her real-life work done.)  But back to my main point:  There are a whole group of people who devote their time and energy to helping us create our work and promote it.  What a gift.  I feel very lucky to have garnered their support.  I promise to work my tail off to make them proud.

A special "Thank You" to the women who wrote me letters of recommendation and encouraged me:  Katey Schultz and Mary Charbonnet.

* in collaboration with the Avery Arts Council, Madison Arts Council, the Asheville Area Arts Council and with support from the North Carolina Arts Council

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Half-Time & Western Carolina University

Over the writing weekend, I did reach the half-way mark.  Woo-hoo.  And while I didn't reach my page goal, I realized that I'd made those projections based upon a false memory.  I thought I'd remembered writing thirty pages on a writing weekend when I was working on An Uncivil Union... but I'd only written 25 and it was a 3-day weekend.  So, I need to reconcile myself with what I did get done.  Today, after adding 3.5 new pages, I reached page 50!  Ta-daaa.

So, the half-time tradition in the play is toasts.

Here's to the second-half writing itself!

Yesterday, I also got to "guest lecture" in novelist Pam Duncan's creative writing class.  They're about to start their playwriting segment, so she asked me in to give them some tips.  Being such a newbie, I tried not to come across as an expert, but just tried to share some things that worked for me.  Or didn't work.  I hope they found it as helpful as I found it fun.  They had good questions and I wish I could see what they come up with for their 10 minute collaboratively written plays.  Maybe they'll tape 'em and post 'em on YouTube.  Hint hint.

On the drive home, though, I kept thinking of all the things I forgot to mention.  So, here they are:
A Very Helpful Book 

#1 - The book I recommended is called Save the Cat because the author says that in every good film, usually within the first 2 minutes, there is a seemingly insignificant moment where the hero performs some random act of kindness for someone.  i.e. saving the cat stuck up the tree for a kid, returning a dropped $20 bill, holding the elevator door for someone,  helping an elderly person across a street  This "save the cat" moment aligns audiences with the main character, we just know he/she's a good person underneath whatever flaws come next.

#2 - for more 

#3 - there is a version of Nanowrimo for playwrights called Script Frenzy that happens each April.  Their website has a document already set up like plays should be formatted as a Word .doc that you can download.  Makes formatting much easier.  Scroll to bottom of this page:  

#4 - I have found that having a character on stage re-enact a story (or imitate another character) allows them to be over-dramatic and can be a quick gimmick to add a laugh. 

#5 - Unsolicited Advice:  There are going to be lots of people who tell you "no" in your writing life, just never say it to yourself.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


It's going slow.  Slow.  Slow.  I haven't hit the 20 page mark yet and it's Saturday night.  Sigh.

So, I turned on college football for inspiration, listening to the announcers, trying to pick up phrases:  dial up a perfect blitz, they were sitting on all the short routes, the best scrambling quarterback in the conference, suspended for a bar fight in late August, he's a game changer, excellent is 80%...  um, what?

But I still felt stuck, so I went down to the hotel restaurant (so I wouldn't waste time driving around) for some caffeine and something not too filling (so that I wouldn't get sleepy).  And lo and behold, what should I see?  But three guys at the bar, watching college football, talking to each other, and more importantly, yelling at the TV.  So, I started eavesdropping on them too:   they're gonna get their comeuppance, Get going! Go! Go! Go!,  somebody get open for him, that's a quarterback who just made mayonnaise outta, what? In all seriousness.  A guy said that.  No way I could make that up.
Regardless, it was enough to get me to back up here and keep typing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

End of the 1st Quarter

as far as writing goes...

We are somewhere between 22 and 28 pages (depending on how Steph is doing with her scenes).  So, with an ending goal of around 90 pages, that puts us about 1/4 of the way done (with the first draft).  But this second quarter is going to have some big scoring opportunities.  And hopefully we'll see some big numbers put up this weekend since...

I'm taking a writing vacation.  No, this is not a writer's conference.  (Though there is one going on in Asheville this weekend.)  My "vacation" looks more like this:  Me, a hotel room (aka no familial/household distractions) and my laptop.  And my notecards, and outlines, and these matches. - The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball... And this lamp.  That's all I need.  (Thank you, Steve Martin.)

The goal?  To more than double my page count. I'm just going to put this out there:  I'd like to be to page 60 by Sunday.  How will I do this?  The obvious answer:  butt in chair.  Yes.  But how do I keep myself there?   I set myself small, gentle goals... with harsh penalties.  No breakfast until 2 pages are written.  No lunch until another 10 are written... and so on and so-forth.  After the next 5 pages, 20 minutes of exercise.  No excuses.  No pedicure until 20 pages are written.  You get the picture:  threats and rewards.

Wish me luck, I'll be living in the play for the next 3 days.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"100 Yards of Glory" by Bob Costas and others

As I was driving into town for my rec league volleyball game (which we won, even though we had to play with only four -- and yes, I'm so sore I can hardly move today) I heard an NPR interview with Bob Costas about his new book that just released November 8.  Fascinating stuff and timely too.  (Note to NPR:  I'd like to throw a illegal formation flag on your title -- the title of your piece should match matched the title of the book.  of/to)
Grammatical technicalities aside, I'm wondering if maybe Steph and I need to stop what we're doing and read this first...  HA!  No.  We just need to keep writing, of course.  (We're somewhere between 14 and 20 pages.)

However, if you're looking for a Christmas present for your favorite football fan, this just might be your ticket.  I will be so bold as to suggest that you buy it from Better World Books HERE.  If you don't know about Better World Books, you should.  Here's what they say about themselves (and they're former Domers too!):

Better World Books collects and sells books online to fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than 8 million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders.We were founded in 2002 by three friends from the University of Notre Dame who started selling textbooks online to earn some money, and ended up forming a pioneering social enterprise — a business with a mission to promote literacy.

We’re not a traditional company with an add-on “cause” component. Social and environmental responsibility is at the core of our business. You could say it's in our DNA.  We’re breaking new ground in online bookselling. We believe that education and access to books are basic human rights. That's why books sold on help fund high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world.

About the Book
The Immaculate Reception. The Ice Bowl. The Music City Miracle. The Catch. For nearly a century, the National Football League has provided fans with pulse-pounding moments on the gridiron. In the tradition of their revolutionary collaboration, "And the Crowd Goes Wild," veteran chronicler of broadcast history, Joe Garner, and broadcast icon, Bob Costas team up to bring fans this one-of-a-kind compendium of NFL history -- a lavishly illustrated hardcover book, with gripping text and archival photographs, as well as an original 10-part documentary, produced by an Emmy-Award winning team, hosted by the inimitable Costas and featuring official NFL video highlights.
From the great dynasties to the improbable catches, the legendary coaches to the heroic QBs, the most incredible comebacks to the most notorious flubs, 100 Yards of Glory relives -- in text and video -- the most unforgettable moments in the game. Also available as an enhanced ebook, "100 Yards of Glory" is a must have for any football fan.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Procrastination x 1000

Britt Kaufmann thinks she is a procrastinator? Well, she has never met anyone on the face of the planet who can procrastinate quite like I can! I am a master. If anyone needs a lesson on how to fine-tune this art, just let me know. I might not get back to you right away because of, you know, the procrastination, but eventually, at the last possible minute before whatever said deadline we are working under, I will get the job done in a terrific manner!

Just right now, I am procrastinating on not only one project, but several - some of which I have actually tried to finish, only to be tempted away by some shiny distraction, like rearranging my closet for winter or snuggling a beagle or both. I also have not yet taken down the Halloween decorations and replaced them with Thanksgiving ones, have not filled empty picture frames hung on the wall from last weekend, have not read the manual for a videocamera I received in August, have not finished a letter I wanted to send to a friend several months ago, have not mailed a wedding card for a ceremony held last month, and have not scrapbooked any trips taken in the last 5 or so years.

Britt got over her so-called procrastination in just about a day or so. That is fantastic. For her. I hope that by the middle of next week, I will have accomplished a pittance of what I should have accomplished in the past month. This will be considered a success in my book.

We all will have to later evaluate what Britt thinks about my progress. You can bet I will wait until...just the last second before I ask her opinion.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Maybe if I confess, I'll get motivated to actually do something productive.

I have spent a lot of time today with my butt in the chair, intending to write... but this is what I've actually accomplished:

  • 136 new words... and some of those words are just the characters' names
  • some math: i.e. if we average 2.5 pages a day, we'll be done by early December (goal)
  • web surfing... for additional movie quotes to slip into the dialog
  • blog updating... my own and this one
  • I even began sketching what I think the t-shirts should look like...
  • Oh.  I made a title page.
  • ... and the one that lists the characters...
  • ... and have decided to include them in my page count
Page Count:  10*

*includes title page, character page & well, one of those pages just has one line on it...


Monday, October 31, 2011

The Kiss of Death (Times Two)

I planned on writing a blog post prior to Sunday's NFL lineup, all about how various football "experts" (i.e. talking heads) had predicted a Steelers win over the Patriots, and how this was seriously the kiss of death to any chance the Steelers had of actually winning that game. Because everyone with a lick of sense knows that once "they" pick you, you are finished. Your team will probably lose in some nasty, traumatic fashion designed to scar your sleepless nights for weeks on end. Or something like that.

But, I decided against writing said blog post. Because I truly believed that if I did that, it would be a double kiss of death. If we had any sliver of hope to take down Tom Terrific and his Hoodie-clad Spygate mastermind, it would certainly be dashed with my audacious decision to write about it in public. I know it's Halloween weekend, but even I can't handle that level of macabre horror.

So, I just kept my big mouth shut about the whole deal. Until I went to Britt Kaufmann's to watch said Steelers/Pats game with a slew of other fans and mentioned this failed plan to her. She, of course, strongly encouraged me to go forth with said post on Monday - which I agreed to do, if (and only if) the Steelers managed to hang on for the win.

And so, since all of you are reading this grand post, you know it is true - the Steelers dismantled the Patriots in a performance of historic, glorious beauty that will live forever in the hearts of Steeler Nation forever. The kiss of death did not materialize.

This time around. All bets are off, though, starting this very minute. Because come tomorrow, after the experts dissect the MNF game, there will be nothing left to do but start in on next week's match-ups and begin another round of predictions sure to go wrong. No doubt, after that stellar game yesterday, the Steelers will be favored by some to beat their arch rivals, the Baltimore Ravens.

And, as you now know, that could be the kiss of death.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Watching football just isn't the same without announcers. (So we have a character affectionately named ANNOUNCER.) Love 'em.  Hate 'em.  Enjoy their well researched and expert insight.  Or, become horrified at their abject grammar and mixed metaphors.  For example, some NFL announcer often used the phrase "beating a dead horse into the ground"  which seems a ridiculous and cruel way to treat the individual phrases "beat a dead horse" and "beat it into the ground."

I also remember when NCAA hoops announcers became fans of the phrase "playing with pace."  Or, even further back, when they kept calling players "pepper-pots."  I was even less fond of announcers saying, when a coach benched a guy so he could catch his breath, that he was "getting a blow."  And need I even mention the over-over-used "bubble team" references that surface every February, baby.

So, listen closely this weekend.  Any word/phrases you particularly like, dislike, hope catches on, could go by the wayside in a hurry?

Obviously we're fans of "between the tackles" and also like the newish "running downhill"... but have concluded "perennial" may be used more by football announcers than master gardeners.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Field Research

We could probably write off our DirecTV NFL package as a business expense this year... but that might be pushing it.  Regardless, Steph and I got together for a little research this Sunday.  To top it off, we added some chili, cornbread, chips, salsa and much angsty pacing at the end of the game.  Here's us at half-time (with a the comfortable cushion we knew we'd give up).  We determined a few things this game which were very important to the season.  #1 - watching at our place is not a jinx this year  #2 - the Jack Lambert jersey is not a jinx  #3 - me watching with my husband is not a jinx... though I watched from just outside the room just to be sure. I'll leave any other game analysis up to Steph. ~bk

Friday, October 14, 2011


Hi, my name is Britt, and I'm an opportunist.

So, when Andrew Gall (artistic director at the Parkway Playhouse) said, Write me a play for three male leads, I said Sure!  And then he told me it should include Elvis, moonshining, NASCAR and Lynryd Skynyrd.  I hope he was kidding, but regardless, we finally got it pared down to guys watching football.  That is a play I can write, I said.  Though what I really meant by that was, it was a play I could write with help from a friend of mine who takes football more seriously than your average face-painting yelling-at-the-TV fanatic.  Enter Stephanie Stark Poling.

We got to be friends back when she and her husband first moved here because we're all Steelers fans.  Which immediately says things like solid folks and excellent taste and highly intelligent.  Naturally, being all of those things, it turns out we hit it off very well.  Steph and I even found we had a love of writing in common (she is pop-culture and funny and I am desperately earnest).

I am a stay@home mom, yes, but I am also a writer.  My first play An Uncivil Union: The Battle of Burnsville was produced at the Parkway Playhouse this past June and my first book of poetry Belonging was published in January.  (It might be worth noting that my last play was a romantic comedy -- despite the fact it was set in the Appalachians during the Civil War. The new play should already be screaming comedy at you.)  My poetry or essays have appeared in various publications such as WNC Magazine, WNC Woman, Main Street Rag, Now & Then, and Solander.   I also host a monthly women's open-mic, help plan a literary festival, and am a sub with a SUITcase.  Plus, some other stuff...

Anyway, it's been a lot of fun planning this play.  So much fun, in fact, that we though it wouldn't be fair to keep it all to ourselves.  Enjoy our off-the-field pre-season antics.
Steph on the left as the Mayor of Whoville's Wife,
Britt in the center as an adoring fan
and mutual friend Mary Katherine Smith-Gall as Gertrude.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kick Off

First and foremost, I am Stephanie Stark Poling, a thirty-something attorney who would much rather be onstage somewhere. (But really, is there much of a difference between the two? We are all pretending to be someone else, just some with better costumes.) I have one or two discernible talents, but a true penchant for turning things I like into actual, no-kidding obsessions which can (and probably will) take over my entire life. Some examples? Dave Matthews Band, certain documentaries, The Beatles, showtunes, gymnastics, Penguins Hockey, Twin Peaks, V (the one from the 80's with Marc Singer) and true stories where someone dies at the end. You know, pretty much the norm. I have been told this is charming and/or ridiculously annoying, and both are pretty much right.

There is no truer incarnation of this than my serious, passionate, often dysfunctional addiction to the Pittsburgh Steelers. This has caused me unimaginable joy throughout the years - many of my best life moments occurred because of something that happened on a football field, to people not me. (And the heartache? Oh, the heartache...)

So, obviously, with a resume and background like that, I have decided to collaborate with my talented good friend, Britt Kaufmann, and write a play. Sure, I have never written a play before, and I can be unfocused, sort of lazy, and leave everything undone until the day before the deadline. (I did mention I am an attorney, right?)  But, Britt Kaufmann wrote a doozy of a play last year called "An Uncivil Union: The Battle of Burnsville" and it was a smash hit here at The Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville, North Carolina. And this new work is about, wait for it,  football. Ah, the sweet smell of the perfect fit.

So, I have accepted the challenge and am looking forward to a new venture to join the other adventures upon which I shall embark in this life. I will get to try my hand at dialogue, work with a co-writer, and talk about football way past season's end. Does it get much better?

And, as for you out there, what better way to keep track of what is sure to become your new favorite play by your new favorite authors? This blog, of course! Thanks for stopping by. See you often!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Title

Today we met for two hours... and decided to rename the play!  Actually, we talked about a lot more than renaming the play.  But here you have it, the new working title:  Between the Tackles.

Coming soon, we'll each introduce ourselves.