Overheard Conversation at the Podiatrist's Office

Eavesdropping is a useful skill for a playwright. So beware of sitting near me...

I recently visited a podiatrist's office here in small town, Tennessee, where I overheard the following... to be fair I didn't have to eavesdrop because they were talking loudly and politely talking in my direction. The majority of their clientele are, to put it politely, advanced in life. Let's face it, these are the people with stories to tell. 

(A podiatrist’s waiting room. Two OLD TIMERS, a heavy-set MAN, 78, wearing a sweaty canvas hat and wearing orthotic black shoes and a frail WOMAN neatly dressed, 78, leaning on a cane as she waits in a chair. The man stands at a window waiting on his health insurance card from the receptionist. A moment passes, and the Man gets his card and laboriously finds his way to a chair near the Woman.)

You know Jesus, don’tcha?

Yeah, I sure do.

Well, I’m about ready to get on out of this world.

Me too. I’m about as old as dirt.

Well, I think you got a few years on me. But I know where I’m going.

Me too. I’m 78.

You’re 78? I am too. These feet give me trouble. They sent me these diabetic socks that go up to the knees.

(He lifts his jeans to show his socks.)

You have diabetes? The tops of my feet burn. And I wondered if it was diabetes.

My little wife’s feet burn, on the tops and bottoms. But she don’t have it.

She’s not diabetic?


Oh, well. It bothers me something terrible.

Me too. I got these shoes to help some. But I should be dead. 
(There is a slight pause.)
He’s been good to me, now,  I’m tellin’ ya. Been shot 8 times.


My own war. Don’t know why them folks just wanted to kill me, I guess. Yep, 8 bullets shot into me and I’m still here.

You were in a war?

My own personal war. I was a moonshiner. Used to run a load up to Murphy, North Carolina on Friday nights. Had three sawed off guns next to me. I made up my mind if somebody was gonna die, it wouldn’t be me. Now, I’ve changed. I don’t do that business no more. One time had two men shooting at me from opposite sides of a road. My guardian angel must’ve been there. They both emptied their guns on me and no bullets hit me. Must’ve been my guardian angel standing there like this--

(He poses with has arms slightly open, like wings.)

‘Cos if he wasn’t protecting me, they would’ve shot each other. Yep, they emptied their guns and when they was finished I said, “Now it’s my turn.” And I raised my sawed off shot gun like to shoot ‘em. But said I wasn’t gonna waste a bullet on them. Left.

(End of overheard conversation.)

Unfortunately my name was called before I heard more.



I just finished a phone meeting with Heather Helinsky, dramaturg. I learned so much, and I want to share it with my playwriting friends. 

I first met Heather at GPTC in 2012, where she was the dramaturg for my play On the 8's. I was totally impressed with her then. She's scary smart, and I came away from that experience with the impression: this woman knows her stuff. 

Recently, I felt stalled on my play, The Memory of Ice. I had read on FB that she was working with another play that had a science base about global warming. So kind of on a whim, I reached out to see if she took on clients. And she said yes! 

For reading/thinking about my play and 90-minute phone session, she charged me a very reasonable fee, which makes it seem possible to afford dramaturgical support on an on-going basis. Side note: anyone interested would have to approach her for current rates, availability, etc. 


  1. Clear notes about the characters, the relationships, and the stakes.
  2. Confirmation about what was working and what wasn't. These were things I had some gut feelings about, but it really helped to have another person articulate it.
  3. Identification of places where my voice was coming through. And I felt like my authentic voice was something that was being encouraged, even nurtured. 
  4. Revelation that my play has stakes, but they are in wrong place! I don't know why I couldn't see it before. Maybe it's because the play has had two vastly different iterations, written 10-years apart, and things just have become muddy. Probably most writers can relate to the feeling of not being able to see a script clearly anymore. This revelation has clarified new stakes for the play that makes total sense to me. 

Now I feel all jazzed up and ready to revise. I have a clear idea of several things I need to work on. She suggested a homework assignment, some resources, and even connected me to another playwright writing about Alaska.  

I wish now I had been working with Heather all along. Why didn't I do this with her years ago? I don't know. I probably thought I couldn't afford it. Or maybe I thought I didn't need it, since I teach playwriting. Wrong! No matter how much I know about the craft of playwriting, when it comes to my own work, I'm convinced now that I need this specific kind of support. 

Bottom line, a dramaturg can be a gift. The fee for this expertise is extremely reasonable. Could I spend that money on other things? Sure. But when it comes down to it, very few things in my life are as important to me as making progress with my plays. 

Heather's website includes a list of recent plays she has worked with, her impressive resume, and client reviews. 

Play Penn also offers a rent-a-dramaturg service that I used a few years ago. They paired me with someone excellent. Their prices have gone up slightly, I think. But I'm sure the money is well worth it. 

Great Plains Theatre Conference

I'm so excited to announce that my play Dough & Cookies was selected to receive a PlayLab reading at GPTC this summer. It was one of 21 plays chosen out of over 800. With those odds, I feel incredibly lucky. 

Check it out: http://www.gptcplays.com/playlab/

It's especially gratifying because of the intensive revision I did to the play after attending the Kenyon Institute last summer. Seriously, I can pinpoint specific sessions at Kenyon that helped feed the latest revision. So if you're a playwright who needs to recharge, get a reminder of some core craft, and meet some inspiring people, you should apply. 

After revising, I was invited to do a developmental workshop at Third Course: Theatre in Austin, TX, which helped solidify those changes. Lisa Neely (director), Leslie Dovale (dramaturg), and the talented cast provided me with the necessary next step. 

I also received some notes from my mentor, Brian Silberman. It's been more than a decade since I studied with Brian, and he's still willing to read my work and give me thoughtful feedback. How great is that? 

Maybe that's the lucky part, having the convergence of so many wonderful people who helped me get this one ready. 

Upcoming Contests - 3 for March

My play On the 8's was a top-10 finalist for the Henley Rose Competition. It's nice to be acknowledged, even when you don't win I suppose. Nicer to win, though, right? 

But I'll definitely take it! And it serves as a reminder that we have to continue getting our work out there into the world. 

I hope to apply again next year and recommend this contest. Here's a link to their information: 


3 Contest to Apply to in March: 

1. Barter Theatre (Abingdon | VA) Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights

DEADLINE: 3 / 3 / 2017

FEE: No Fee


Plays must be written by an Appalachian playwright (currently living in the Appalachian Mountains which, for these purposes, run from New York to Alabama) OR the plays must be set in the Appalachian region.




The Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights celebrates the richness of the Appalachian tradition by showcasing the stories of the region, both past and present, and the inspiration it provides the writers who live here. A brief rehearsal process (six hours/play) takes place in June, followed by public readings of the play. The festival is accepting submissions of plays (full length preferred) for consideration.


Plays must be written by an Appalachian playwright (currently living in the Appalachian Mountains which, for our purposes, run from New York to Alabama) OR the plays must be set in the Appalachian region.
Plays must be unpublished and must not have had a full professional production.
Full length plays are preferred.


To submit your play electronically:
Send a PDF of the script along with contact info and a brief synopsis of the play to: apfestival@bartertheatre.com

2. Theatre Conspiracy (Ft. Myers | FL): 19th Annual New Play Contest

DEADLINE: 3 / 30 / 2017

FEE: $5; free for Dramatists Guild Members


Open to all playwrights.




Theatre Conspiracy will be accepting submissions for its 19th Annual New Play Contest between December 2016 and March 30, 2017. All works submitted will be read and judged by a panel of qualified theatre teachers, directors and performers. Script Parameters: Work submitted to the contest must be a full length play with seven actors or less and have simple to moderate technical demands. Plays having up to three previous productions are welcome. No musicals, we are a tone deaf theatre company!. Remuneration: First place: $700.00 and full production. However, it is our goal to produce more than one entry each year.

3. Relative Theatrics Playwrights Voiced Festival of New Works


3 / 20 / 2017

FEE: No fee

RESTRICTIONS: Open to all playwrights




Each year, Relative Theatrics selects four new full-length plays from submissions by local and regional playwrights to be part of their Playwrights Voiced Festival of New Works.


Each year, Relative Theatrics selects four new full-length plays from submissions by local and regional playwrights to be part of their Playwrights Voiced Festival of New Works. Selected scripts receive 10-20 hours of rehearsal, one public reading in May followed by a proctored talkback session, and a $50 honorarium for the playwright. Our goal to showcase an exciting, diverse, and inclusive slate of plays that reflect the next phase of new work coming to the fore in the American theatre and beyond and to further playwriting development in the Laramie area. 

Submission Guidelines


7 Upcoming Short Play Contests

Life got busy about three months ago... and I'm only now coming back to blogging again. I feel all the usual emotions about letting this lag -- guilt, frustration, etc. -- even though I have some really good excuses that I'll spare you. But I'm telling myself -- just get back at it. Don't waste valuable resources of energy and time by rehashing it. So, back to blogging: 

I heard from a former student a week ago asking about upcoming contests for short plays. He felt this would give him a goal to write toward. Absolutely! Maybe this will help you too. 

So, I've decided to make a list of upcoming contests part of my blog. Maybe I'll post a new list each month. I am not necessarily familiar with every opportunity that I am posting here. So, you will have to look it up and do your due diligence. But I'm happy to curate a brief list of opportunities as I come across them. One of the main resources I use in finding contests is the Playwrights' Center website (pwcenter.org), where I have a membership. I highly recommend membership to this organization. They offer classes (online seminars and on site), contest information, essays written by playwrights, opportunities for readings, and a lot more. 

1. Changing Face (UK)

DEADLINE: 1 / 16 / 2017

FEE: No Fee; RESTRICTIONS: Open to all playwrights.

See opportunity on company website


Changing Face is seeking 10-15 minute short plays for their "Dare to Dream" evening of theatre.


We are looking for short plays / extracts about new adventures, hopes, dreams and our wildest fantasies. We are especially interested in plays about borders, barriers and boundaries; what it means to overcome these and to delve into a world of second chances, courage and wonder. 

Stories can come in any form. This brief is open - it can be a direct response to the society we live in now - our work places, relationships, communities, politics or it can come from a more personal place. It's up to you! 

Please send a 10-15 minute short play/extract to Lucy and Ellie by emailing hello@changingfacecollective.com

The evening of new short plays will take place at the Arcola Theatre Studio 1 on the 26 February 2017. 


2. Theatre dArt (Colorado Springs | CO)

DEADLINE: 1 / 15 / 2017

FEE: No Fee; RESTRICTIONS: Open to all playwrights.

DETAILS: Theatregasm will feature a variety of short plays under 10 minutes. 

Two rules:

1. Submissions must be sent before January 15 to be considered for Theatregasm 2017. 

2. Shows should be roughly 10-minutes long or shorter. Now, we're not going to sit there with a timer and calculate length down to the second so there is some flexibility, but please refrain from submitting full lengths. Very short scripts (similar to Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind) are also welcome. 

Please send all submissions to info@theatredart.org

WEBSITE: http://www.theatredart.org/

3. Mississippi University for Women (Columbus | Mississippi)

Ponder Review seeking submissions

DEADLINE: 3 / 6 / 2017

FEE: $2

RESTRICTIONS: Open to all playwrights.

See opportunity on company website


Ponder Review is a new literary magazine, and is currently looking for short play scripts or excerpts for its premiere issue.


The low-residency MFA program in Creative Writing at University of Mississippi is publishing the literary magazine Ponder Review. This is the first issue and we are pondering all of the "FIRSTS" people encounter in their lives...first job, first child, first kiss, etc. 

Our submission period for the Spring issue — FIRSTS — is December 12, 2016- March 6, 2017.

We can't wait to hear from you.

Ponder Review welcomes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short plays, flash-fiction, new media, and visual art.

For playwrights, please submit either a script excerpt or a one act play. One submission of 10-15 pages. 

Submit online here: https://ponderreview.submittable.com/submit.

WEBSITE: http://www.muw.edu/as/llp/english/graduate

4. Minnesota Shorts Festival (North Mankato | MN)

Minnesota Shorts Festival 2017 accepting submissions

DEADLINE: 2 / 1 / 2017

FEE: No Fee; RESTRICTIONS: Playwrights must be US citizens.

See opportunity on company website


The Minnesota Shorts Festival is seeking submissions of 10 minute plays for its 2017 festival. DEADLINE INFO: The national playwright deadline is Feb. 1, 2017; the deadline for Minnesota playwrights is Mar. 1, 2017.)


Submissions for the 2017 MN Shorts Festival will open Jan. 1st and will be taken through Feb. 1st, 2017. (Minnesota playwrights have until March 1st.) 

To enter, send your 10-minute play in a pdf format to mnshorts@yahoo.com. The play MUST have a postal address and name of the author on the title page, along with a phone contact. Keep identifying information to the title page because plays are given to judges blind. Only ONE short play per national author, two for Minnesota authors, with a maximum of 10 pages (if you can't read it out loud in 10 minutes, your play is too long). Previously produced or published shorts are fine, and the topic is wide open. No monologues. NOTE: These are performed for an all-ages audience, so nudity and an abundance of f-bombs will get a script tossed. 

A total of 14 short plays will be chosen -- 7 from national writers and 7 from Minnesota writers. (Minnesota writers are allowed to submit TWO short plays) 

The performance will be Sept. 7 and 8 at the Lincoln Community Center in Mankato, MN. Semi-finalists will be named in May, with finalists chosen in June. 

Each night, the audience will pick a Best of the Fest winner from the seven plays performed. The writer of the winning play will receive a check for $100.

WEBSITE: http://www.mnshorts.com/

5. Magnolia Arts Center (Greenville | NC)

12th Annual Playwriting Contest seeks 10-minute-play submissions

DEADLINE: 4 / 30 / 2017

FEE: $5 for mailed submissions; $7 for electronic submissions

RESTRICTIONS: Playwrights must be US citizens.

See opportunity on company website


Magnolia Arts Center is accepting submissions of 10-minute-plays for their 12th Annual Playwriting Contest.


First Prize is $50, as voted by a live audience.  For questions or problems, please email us at info@magnoliaartscenter.com.

Submission Period: January 1 – April 30, 2017

Judging: Three judges will read through all of the submissions and select the top five 10-Minute plays. Each of these will be performed and then the audience will vote on their favorite.

For more info on how to submit, please visit the official website: http://www.magnoliaartscenter.com/annual-play-writing-contest/.

6. City Theatre of Independence (Independence | MO)

Playwright Festival 2017 seeking submissions

DEADLINE: 1 / 15 / 2017

FEE: No Fee; RESTRICTIONS: Open to all playwrights.

See opportunity on company website


City Theatre of Independence is seeking short plays that run 10-15 minutes for their 2017 Play Festival.


Theme: Playwright’s Choice

Submission dates for the Playwright Festival are from January 1 to January 15, 2017. A limited number of submissions will be accepted.


The short play must have a run time of 10-15 minutes.
Work must be original and not be published or produced before June 2017.
Maximum of four cast members.
Must be performed on one set: 1 loveseat, 1 side table, 2 straight-backed chairs, 1 ottoman, and 1 hall tree.

Submit plays to email address:  playwrightsubmissionscti@gmail.com. Only the first 75 plays received will be accepted.

IMPORTANT:  Please email two copies of each play, one with your full contact information, one without any identification.

No entry fee required.

Awards will be given for Best Overall Production and Best Script.

Performance Dates: July 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th, 2017

WEBSITE: http://citytheatreofindependence.org/

7. Indie Boots Theatre (Chicago | IL)

Indie Boots Theatre seeks submissions of short plays for their 2017 festival: The Zoe Plays

DEADLINE: 2 / 14 / 2017

FEE: No Fee; RESTRICTIONS: Open to all playwrights.

See opportunity on company website


Indie Boots Theatre is seeking submissions of 5-15 minute plays with the name "Zoe" in the title for their 2017 festival, "The Zoe Plays".


Regular Deadline: January 31, 2017
Late Deadline: February 14, 2017
An Audience Award will be presented at our 5th annual theatre festival!
All plays must use the word "Zoe" in the title ("Zoe's Room," "Guitar Lessons with Zoë," etc. To read about the plays from last year's festival, click here.)
Selected plays usually run 5-10 minutes. (No minimum. 15 minute max.)
Cast size: 2-10 actors (3-6 are encouraged). All characters are played by adults.

Writers of selected scripts will be notified via email in March 2017. Finalists will be performed as fully staged plays in spring 2017 in Chicago.

Complete the form (http://www.indieboots.org/playsubmissions.html) and email your script (with subject line and file name: Title, Writer) to: IndieBootsOrg@gmail.com

PDF and DOC files are preferred. If you are unable to fill out the online form, please email relevant information.

WEBSITE: http://www.indieboots.org

My First New Play Commission!

I'm excited to announce that I have been commissioned to write a new play for the Lee University Theatre. Chris (Dr. Christine Williams) and I have been tossing around this possibility for a couple of years. Finally, this summer the idea started to seem like something we could pull off. 

Details have been arranged, contracts have been signed, and we are officially doing this! 

A Bullet Journal for Writers

If you haven't heard of the bullet journal phenomenon, search bujo in Pinterest or Instagram and behold the latest craze. Enter with caution -- it may take over your life! It's become something the founder of this system probably never envisioned. My version is painfully simple and embarrassingly plain in comparison to the creations of those with more time and better artistic ability. So, it is with a bit of apprehension that I share my version of the bujo.

I never planned to share this on my blog or admit to this level of geeky obsession. But I was having coffee with a former student this week (Anna Kholod), and she asked me how I make time to write while working a full-time job -- the struggle most of us are trying to navigate. So, with a little hesitation, I pulled out my bullet journal to show her my humble system of trying to make my writing goals tangible and real. And we frankly nerded out! 

Kenyon Playwrights Institute

In June, I had the opportunity to visit Gambier, Ohio, where I spent a week at the Kenyon Institute. I was really excited and nervous for the opportunity to be a student again. I knew my students would get some perverse pleasure from the idea that I had homework and deadlines and all the things they face. 

Despite the intense schedule and homework, I was reminded by how privileged we are when we have the opportunity to be a student, especially when we get to learn from great teachers. So, I really wanted to soak up everything.