I am not throwing away my shot
“I am not throwing away my shot/I am not throwing away my shot/I am just like my country/I?am young, scrappy and hungry and/I am not throwing away my shot.”
These are the lyrics to “My Shot,”?a song from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s multiple Tony Award winning hip-hop musical, “Hamilton,”?which is about colonial oppression and costs up to $10,000 per ticket to see in New York.
Perhaps when it goes on tour next year, some regular people can see something new and amazing. Miranda spoofed his own song on a recent episode of “Saturday Night Live,” when he became only the second member of the Dramatists Guild (the first was Steve Martin) and likely the only playwright to ever host the show.
I’m a member of the Dramatists Guild, which is possibly the only thing I?have in common with the Dominican-American musical mogul Miranda.
I did use the iconic song’s chorus to build up my courage and mojo for something I did a week ago. Oct. 27, I had a reading at the university where I?went for my undergraduate degree (and dropped out just a few credits short and took it up later from a different university, then went for my master’s on that momentum).
I played hooky from this job as a reporter and put on my hat as a playwright. I?was kind of shocked, given the nature of my separation from that university that they not only accepted my proposal to their conference, but that they made it the opening event of the conference, and gave me my own 90 minute session for the half hour reading and a talkback of my new one-act play.
My playwright friends on social media told me to expect some throwaway comments, some who might try to convince me to rewrite it their way, and others who would simply try to make me feel insecure.
That didn’t happen. The professor who was head of the English department when I went to school at the university, who later became Dean of the School of Arts &?Sciences, a powerful, personable, radical feminist (a personal friend of Adrienne Rich)?whom I then found terrifying, attended my reading. Now she is smaller than I remember. She walks with a cane. She still has that fire, but she also asked if I?needed a hug, because she could use a hug. And she did remember me from a quarter century ago, saying that memories came quicker from then than from the day before yesterday.
Dr. W. gave a reading, too, during a session about feminist themes in science fiction novels.
I met a Facebook friend named Jessica Danger. I thought it was a pen name like mine, Ash Sanborn, but in her case, she really is Jessica, and she really married a guy whose real last name is Danger. Isn’t that the greatest name for an author, though??She read a piece about a trip she took with her then-preschool-aged son through the desert, which she wrote after she dropped him off at college.
I thought I?knew a lot about being a writer; I’ve been at it since my first play when?I was eight years old. But I learned this weekend that baring your soul can have great rewards, though it is high-risk.
I learned to keep writing, no matter what. To learn from every experience and write it down. To write something every day.
Even with the tight schedule during the three-day conference, I?managed to write during the down time. I have nearly completed the framing of my next play, Dorothy Day and Cesar Chavez Answer Your Letters, which is fortunate, because I’m committed to complete it by the end of the year.
The writer’s conference brought together a lot of creative people who have stepped onto a better train, one going to publication and more conferences, and possibly one day fame.
I was struck, as I said, by Californian Jessica Danger’s work, but also Lee Ann Roripaugh’s, duncan barlow’s (lower case letters intentional), Ryan Allen’s, former Old Dominion basketball standout (who helped bring her team to the final four once and the sweet sixteen three times) and Mojave poet Natalie Diaz, Nigerian writer Chris Abani, who spent time on Nigerian death row for alleged insurrection before coming to the U.S., and many others.
I was the only playwright at this conference. I may be the only playwright invited to the conference in its nearly 20 year history. And those of you who are acquainted with me in real life may think I’m hesitant and diffident. I’m not.
There are times for all of us in which we’re in the zone. This was one of those times. Through mindfulness meditation, I’ve come to the point that while I’d love for audience to love my shows, and I need readers to want my reporting for this paper, on a personal level, I?can accept what is.
If the play reading had fallen apart, the worst that would happen is that we’d have a humorous discussion about process, and everyone would forget as the conference moved on.
I hope, if you have a great thing you’re doing, that you determine you are not throwing away your shot.