June 4th, 2015
Selectric Artists logoWriting is a solitary task. When things go well, when they go ill, when they don't go at all . . . It's one person's toil and one person's vision. But when the words are done, nothing gets done without the energy, encouragement, and effort of someone who believes in the worth of those words before anyone else has seen them. Christopher Schelling has been the champion and accompanist for my writing for many years, and I'm beyond grateful for them all: and for him, his guidance, his wit, and his tenacity. This fall, Roadswell Editions will publish THE BASTARDS' PARADISE, the final book in the UNDER THE POPPY trilogy, and it could have no better home. Thank you, Chris, for always playing that accordion, and playing so amazingly well. RSLOGO        

A screamingly bad review

May 15th, 2015
The goal of writing is to communicate, but the goal of communication goes beyond just being heard: it's being understood. What the person who understands then does with the communication received, well, that's past the writer's purview. Which is why bad reviews - really, scorchingly, over-the-top bad ones - interest me. Call the book names, call me names: now I know - you proved - that you heard what I had to say. Of course I'm happiest when what you heard pleased you greatly, but sometimes we scream the loudest when someone's told us something we do not want to hear. Munch_The_Scream_lithography

STRANGE and BAD and made of art

May 13th, 2015
Austen Bandy just wants to paint pictures and reunite with Emily, his ex - very ex - wife. Book cover illustration   Grant Cotto just wants to help the gifted and troubled Robin Tobias - help him create his art. Book cover illustration   How could everything go so immensely wrong for them both? Is art that dangerous?   BAD BRAINS and STRANGE ANGELS, available in ebook now.

A 30-minute Ring Cycle?

May 11th, 2015
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA As our commissioning patron Stan Mendenhall notes, "The entire Ring Cycle, consisting of 4 operas (Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung), takes 15 hours to hear in their totality. If we produced all of these and started at 8pm, we would be done at 11am the next day. "We are pleased to announce that ours will be the only 'complete' production of the Ring Cycle in 2015 in the United States. Of course we had to cut corners a bit to get it down to 30 minutes, but ... Dr. Daniel Jordan, our librettist and PhD in Microbiology, and producer/director Kathe Koja ... have reduced the number of characters in the 'real' Ring Cycle from about 36 to 3 (Wotan, Siegfried, and Brunnhilde), and Annie Gallup will be playing sections on the guitar. (Wagner on the guitar? Who knew?)" Musical thrill and thrum, our nimble cast of three - Steve Xander Carson, Egla Kishta, and Jonathan West - plus the set and costume creation talents of Rena Hopkins, a wee Valkyrie drone in the skies and the lush summer landscape all around us  . . . Thirty amazing minutes. We're going to have big operatic fun on the folly. (Folly #2 above, with Daniel Jordan, Kathe Koja, and Steve Xander Carson.)

The madness of art

May 1st, 2015
We work in the dark - we do what we can . . . The rest is the madness of art. Book cover illustration Book cover illustration Austen Bandy and Robin Tobias, two men who made art as art made them, transformed them, overtook them. Two novels where vision means everything. "Koja hot-wires her character's descent directly to the readers' perceptions with her punk-poet writing." BAD BRAINS and STRANGE ANGELS are back. [Quote: Henry James. Book covers: Rick Lieder.]

A reader walks into a book

April 29th, 2015
I get asked a lot why I started creating performance adaptations. Here's an answer.   I feel like I’m still in Wonderland. Puppet Alice A writer's job, and calling, is to create characters and landscapes in which the reader can lose herself, himself, themselves, and emerge energized, blinking, pleasured, disturbed. The one-on-one meeting of reader and page, one mind recreating the story another has assembled. . . It’s a shared and singular intimacy. Films—video, movies—are of necessity much more passive: you engage by sitting and watching. Conventional theatre is sit-and-watch, too. To remake the narrative in the 3D, tactile, sensual world, is a more immediate, and very personal, way of opening the book. Take the text. Take Lewis Carroll’s: now the tiny chairs are piled upside down, it reeks like burned sugar cookie, it’s dark in here. It’s dark on the altar, too, where Christopher Marlowe’s devil who never lies throws down for Faustus’ soul, while in the pews, deadly Sins snatch at your ankles from below. Three bedizened floors beckon at my own Under the Poppy, with perfume and whiskey in the air. And at Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Cathy’s thoughts are scrawled across the floor, and heaven’s made of cloudy sheets and twinkling lights. I thought, if those Sins touch me I’m going to scream. Lieder_Faustus_29100310 All the words are the writers’ own. I adapt those texts, and, with the rotating ensemble of impassioned actors and artists who make up my performance group nerve, make those words a landscape as near to the heart of the books as we possibly can: offering the audience a way to experience the stories in a fierce and playful, physical, transformative way. And it is transformative. Because the audience ceases to be an “audience” when the Tea Party goes wild, when a floozy flirts with you, when Mephistopheles catches your eye, when you write with painted hands on the walls of the Heights. Your eagerness or hesitation or laughter or silence helps to create the story for you; and for us, all of us who are there, that night, any night. No night is the same at a nerve performance, ever. Sometimes people get offended and leave. Sometimes they won’t leave, even when the performance is over. Sometimes they try to protect one character from another! And sometimes, afterwards, they volunteer, they sign on to help us make the next world. I'm still reeling from THE HEIGHTS. Lieder-Heights-180415_X6 Again and again, patrons say “I’m going to go back and read that book!” or “Where can I get that book?” For THE HEIGHTS we even heard from people who don’t like the Brontë novel, who trusted us to show them a new way into the story. Because nothing we do replaces the actual reading of the book: it’s never meant to, but to enhance, to foster that spark of connection between mind and mind. It was everything I was hoping it would be, and so much more. Lieder_Poppy_090413x2 A story begins with an impression, an inspiration, a feeling. A writer writes. And a curious, adventurous reader finds, considers, and walks into a book.   [All quotes from nerve patrons, from performances of ALI<E, FAUSTUS,  THE HEIGHTS, and UNDER THE POPPY. ALI<E photo: Rena Hopkins. All others: Rick Lieder.]