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"Switch Back" by Maryclare McCauley: A FringeNYC Selection. Interview by Maya Contreras.

The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) is the largest multi-arts festival in North America. It takes place annually in August over the course of two weeks on 20 stages spread across several Manhattan neighborhoods. FringeNYC (unlike other Fringe Festivals) uses a jury-based selection process to pick it’s 200 shows. One of those shows is “Switch Back” written by playwright Maryclare McCauley.

Maya Contreras: What is the name of your show?

Maryclare McCauley: Switch Back.

MC: What is it about?

MM: A true story about a restless young woman from Baltimore who goes out west for an adventure. She meets a charismatic cowboy and they fall in love. He invites her to live on an isolated mountain top and -she feels like she is in a dream - Life couldn’t be better! - until she meets his family and friends (who live in the closest town) and dark, strange secrets are revealed. He invites her to live on an isolated mountain top and she feels like she is in a dream! Life couldn’t be better! - until she meets his family and friends (who live in the closest town) and dark, strange secrets are revealed. Her Indian Cowboy (he’s half Souix) is more like a wolf in a sheepskin! What seemed like a fairy tale becomes more like a horror film. The Shining.

MC: What made you want to write about this particular subject?

MM: It’s a true story that happened to me. To write and tell this story 30 years later feels like the next step. I am not wounded by it anymore. It’s a good story.

MC: What was the biggest hurdle for you writing this piece?

MM: Making the Cowboy as loveable as he was when I first met him, so the audience falls in love with him too. That was very difficult since I know what he was really like.

MC: What did you enjoy most about the process of writing it?

MM: The characters were fun. Unfortunately, I had to make a lot of cuts, so many of them are not in this version I am performing for The Fringe.

MC: What does it mean to you to be a part of the New York Fringe Festival?

MM: I am not sure yet! This is my first Fringe. I will be performing in the SF Fringe in September. But I love NYC, so it’s all pretty exciting!

MC: Where can we learn more about you and your show (e.g. website, twitter)?

MM: I am just building a website, so I ask for people to be patient. My Website is: maryclaremccauley.com

PROUST QUESTIONNAIRE:
What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To feel healthy and to be in the moment. To be flexible in mind and in touch with the innate joy inside me.

What is your greatest fear?
To fart loudly on stage during a poignant, quiet moment. Only kidding! Probably to drown. I love the ocean but I am terrified of giant waves. I have nightmares about them. When I want suspense, I watch surfing.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I can be a procrastinator. I do not like this about myself.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Cheapskates. I can’t stand a tightwad.
Not to be confused with a frugal sensibility.

Which living person do you most admire?
President Obama. I am not thrilled with everything he has done, but I admire him. I think he has been a great President and could have been even better if there wasn’t so much obstruction.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I am not so extravagant but I guess I like to buy well made clothes (shoes included) and chocolate. I also love to go my favorite Korean spa for a good massage and scrub.

What is your current state of mind?
I feel relaxed at the moment. I am enjoying answering these questions.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Beauty.

On what occasion do you lie?
When I am late.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
The lines around my mouth and my saggy chin. Omg, I actually wrote that!

Which living person do you most despise?
Probably my eldest daughter’s soccer coach from 20 years ago. He was really cruel to her. A real turd.

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Cool and kind hearted confidence.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
A sense of humor.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
You know, omg, like, I’m tired.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My husband.

When and where were you happiest?
I loved being in my 40’s. I felt wise, confident, still had my looks. It was just a very creative happy time and I was living in Berkeley, CA.- where I still reside.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be able to belt out a song, and sing softly too.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I have a temper and I do not like to lose it.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I had a difficult childhood. I feel like I have evolved in a way that beat the odds. Of course I didn’t do this alone. I have great friends, cool siblings, and a supportive husband.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
A bird (like an eagle or hawk) or a dolphin.

Where would you most like to live?
Somewhere tropical.

What is your most treasured possession?

My dog. I guess I own my dog, right? Yes, my dog.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Being a friendless, uneducated, homeless drug addict would be pretty miserable.

What is your favorite occupation?
A musician.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Generous.

What do you most value in your friends?

Good senses of humor, sensitivity, intelligence, creativity, spontaneity, generosity, and helpfulness.

Who are your favorite writers?
Flannery O’Connor, David Sedaris, Murakami, Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling.

Who is your hero of fiction?
Anne of Green Gables.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Martin Luther King.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My husband, Congressman Grayson, Stevie Wonder.

What are your favorite names?

Olivia, Bridget, Paige, Adam, Andrew, John.

What is it that you most dislike?

Driving in traffic jams when it’s stinking’ hot.

What is your greatest regret?
Not studying a musical instrument.

How would you like to die?
After making love to my husband, eating a bowl of ice cream and gulping down some soda water, I would like to die in my sleep.

What is your motto?
Practice kindness and tolerance everyday and always see how you can be helpful.

Check out “Switch Back” at FringeNYC in August 2014.

Check out The Bloodline of Shadrick Grace by Maya Contreras as well.

Naughty embroidery by Alaina Varrone. I love it!

xo Maya
p.s. Check out our Indiegogo for “The Bloodline of Shadrick Grace” Thank you!

littlebrown:

Ask a Debut Novelist - Question 3
In which thompsonted, author of The Land of Steady Habits, answers your questions about writing, publishing, and making good work. Read the archive.
Anonymous asks: When people compliment your work, do you feel awkward? Do you believe them or do you suspect they are only being polite? Have you figured out how to graciously accept such compliments? 
So here’s a story. Last week I went to a party. It was a big party, and it was in Brooklyn, and it was full of writers and agents and men with tie bars and a few women with retro-peacockish things clipped in their hair. This was an annual party, and during the two years or so after I’d sold my book and was panicking while I rewrote it from scratch, I had been invited to this party and had politely declined, in part because I just couldn’t face a room of people, so many of whom I admired, asking me when my book was coming out. That had become, I guess, a bit of a trigger for me, and it was easier just to avoid it than it was to try to explain why I hadn’t turned in the edits or really what the hell was going on with me. But this year I went because my book was done and out and had been received (if somewhat quietly) and anyway of course this party wasn’t really about me.
When I arrived they handed me a signature cocktail, a plastic cup that I suspect was mostly full of gin because by the time I had finished it I couldn’t feel my cheeks. This, I gather, was the case for almost everyone else because soon the place was roaring and a band was playing some sort of swing-sounding music and I was gabbing freely with people I’d never met before. In other words I was having a great time—it was a great party—and I was wondering why in the world I had ever avoided it. Earlier that day I had received a rejection for something I had applied for, one that felt rather personal, but the booze and the chatter had all but numbed the sting of it. I was hugging acquaintances and was smiling at strangers like we were old friends and repeating the title of my book to everyone I was introduced to, who leaned in to listen because I guess they had never heard of it and wanted to know; one even guy tapped it into his iPhone, which made me feel nice.
Finally there was a woman next to me, a somewhat familiar woman, though I couldn’t remember from where, who was telling me that she had read my book. “I actually liked it,” she was saying. I had no idea who she was, but I could guess from her enunciation she had been given the same cocktail I had. “Thank you,” I said. “It reminded me of Cheever. But not in a derivative way.” “Thank you,” I said. “I mean I didn’t end up finishing it, but you have to understand how many books I have to read.” “Of course,” I said. She squinted somewhere far off, as if remembering the pages she had actually read, and confirmed her assessment with a nod. “But yeah, I did like it.”
I didn’t last too long at the party after that.
I wish I could explain why it was a compliment—one that, despite her tipsy admission of not finishing the book, I do believe was sincere—that punctured me. Or why it was that as soon as she mentioned my book, trying to be nice no doubt, I could only hear her reservation, could only assume that under the tepid word “like” there was an unspoken iceberg of criticism that was in fact the truth. Or why I seemed to care at all.
There is something I’ve noticed among almost every writer I know, including those who publish big, beloved books right out of the gate, which is that there can be a residual shame that comes from publishing anything—or indeed from showing anybody something you’ve written. This is something that gets addressed in workshop settings and maybe among friends in a writers’ group, where presumably you’re discussing drafts and how to make them better. But I don’t think it gets talked about much (at least not publicly) among writers who finally have a book come out. This, I assume, is because having anything published is an honor, so it’s probably wise not to complain. Your job is to be an ambassador for your book, to stand by it and introduce it to the world—shining its shoes and combing its hair and talking about the little guy’s strengths. But underneath that of course there is something else going on, a feeling of exposure that is at once exhilarating and also can be wholly debilitating.
I don’t think it’s necessarily the fear of criticism or failure. That’s somehow different. And I say that because criticism is a stance, it’s another way of showing your hand. This shame is something that manifests mostly in the compliments, in the half-truths and coded language of chitchat, in the casual emails from a distant relative’s book group. I’ve spoken with one writer, whose book was very well-received, who said that at its worst she had the urge to take all of her books back, just pull them from the whole world, and pretend the whole thing had never happened. As extreme as that sounds, I have totally had that urge. Of course when it comes down to it you don’t really want that, but at its worst this shame can make you want to curl up in a ball and disappear.
Exposure, of course, is one of the things we’re after when we write anything. It’s why we do it—to communicate openly, to express something honest or otherwise unsayable, something that cuts through the social language of platitude and concealment, the empty exclamation points of daily email. You *want* to show your hand, and if you’re not risking that vulnerability on some level, if you’re just performing, or flexing the big muscle of your brain, then chances are it won’t be all that interesting. At least not to me. Writing is a project of revealing—of revelation—and the deeper it cuts generally the more engaging it is.
But as a writer, this can put you in a kind of emotional Chinese finger trap. You intentionally expose and then every polite reaction can feel like a disguised slight. There are television self-helpers and a certain kind of macho author who would say that your self-esteem should have nothing to do with other people’s opinions, and while that’s a nice idea, I say that’s probably crap. A fantasy. Because nothing about writing is one-sided, a person in a vacuum banging out books to an adoring public, a macho guy with a beard and a bolo tie invulnerable to other people. A book is nothing, a pile of paper, until it’s engaged by the mind and imagination of a reader. That’s where it comes alive. That’s where it exists. And chances are you got into this writing racket precisely because you’re sensitive to these things, because, whether you want to or not, you register the subtexts of human behavior, you feel it and want to make sense of that feeling, and ultimately want to figure out a way to connect with others over it. Writing is an act of communion, and to pretend otherwise seems to me an unfortunate kind of self-protection.
So then what to do with it? If I were giving easy advice to whoever asked this, I’d probably say to take the compliment on face value, don’t second-guess it, don’t fall down that rabbit hole. Say thank you. Smile. Appreciate the gesture.  But I know my own experience has nothing to do with that. (I recently asked my mother to stop forwarding her friends’ reactions to my book—which were all super nice!—which then made me feel worse about it and has left me feeling like I should apologize to her. So sorry, Mom. That was mean. I know you just want to send the nice ones, to share the good news, so you can keep sending them, I’m weird.) In reality I find that I actually have two competing impulses when I feel exposed: one is to curl into a ball and hope to disappear, and the other is to do the opposite, to reach out and be more social, to court interaction and opinion and compose (ahem) overly personal blog posts, to open up further, and go to other people, to trust. This is the only thing that ever really makes me feel better.
And maybe every piece of writing is an act of trust. I can’t help but feel like the more you put out there, the less it feels like you’re walking around midtown Manhattan naked, in winter, during rush hour, but I have a feeling seasoned writers might disagree with that. Maybe you just get used to the air on your junk. If there’s one thing I’ve come to see as inaccurate, though, it’s the easy characterization of writers as a field of wilting lilies, as an enterprise populated by fragile egotists secretly yearning for approval. Because most of exposure, of course, takes courage. Writing through doubt takes a ton of courage. And the best response to your work, perhaps the only thing that, for me, ever really feels good, isn’t a compliment but deep consideration. Evidence of another mind, of another person, with me in the dark.
Have a question for Ted Thompson, Debut Novelist? Drop it in our Ask Box!

littlebrown:

Ask a Debut Novelist - Question 3

In which thompsonted, author of The Land of Steady Habits, answers your questions about writing, publishing, and making good work. Read the archive.

Anonymous asks: When people compliment your work, do you feel awkward? Do you believe them or do you suspect they are only being polite? Have you figured out how to graciously accept such compliments?

So here’s a story. Last week I went to a party. It was a big party, and it was in Brooklyn, and it was full of writers and agents and men with tie bars and a few women with retro-peacockish things clipped in their hair. This was an annual party, and during the two years or so after I’d sold my book and was panicking while I rewrote it from scratch, I had been invited to this party and had politely declined, in part because I just couldn’t face a room of people, so many of whom I admired, asking me when my book was coming out. That had become, I guess, a bit of a trigger for me, and it was easier just to avoid it than it was to try to explain why I hadn’t turned in the edits or really what the hell was going on with me. But this year I went because my book was done and out and had been received (if somewhat quietly) and anyway of course this party wasn’t really about me.

When I arrived they handed me a signature cocktail, a plastic cup that I suspect was mostly full of gin because by the time I had finished it I couldn’t feel my cheeks. This, I gather, was the case for almost everyone else because soon the place was roaring and a band was playing some sort of swing-sounding music and I was gabbing freely with people I’d never met before. In other words I was having a great time—it was a great party—and I was wondering why in the world I had ever avoided it. Earlier that day I had received a rejection for something I had applied for, one that felt rather personal, but the booze and the chatter had all but numbed the sting of it. I was hugging acquaintances and was smiling at strangers like we were old friends and repeating the title of my book to everyone I was introduced to, who leaned in to listen because I guess they had never heard of it and wanted to know; one even guy tapped it into his iPhone, which made me feel nice.

Finally there was a woman next to me, a somewhat familiar woman, though I couldn’t remember from where, who was telling me that she had read my book. “I actually liked it,” she was saying. I had no idea who she was, but I could guess from her enunciation she had been given the same cocktail I had. “Thank you,” I said. “It reminded me of Cheever. But not in a derivative way.” “Thank you,” I said. “I mean I didn’t end up finishing it, but you have to understand how many books I have to read.” “Of course,” I said. She squinted somewhere far off, as if remembering the pages she had actually read, and confirmed her assessment with a nod. “But yeah, I did like it.”

I didn’t last too long at the party after that.

I wish I could explain why it was a compliment—one that, despite her tipsy admission of not finishing the book, I do believe was sincere—that punctured me. Or why it was that as soon as she mentioned my book, trying to be nice no doubt, I could only hear her reservation, could only assume that under the tepid word “like” there was an unspoken iceberg of criticism that was in fact the truth. Or why I seemed to care at all.

There is something I’ve noticed among almost every writer I know, including those who publish big, beloved books right out of the gate, which is that there can be a residual shame that comes from publishing anything—or indeed from showing anybody something you’ve written. This is something that gets addressed in workshop settings and maybe among friends in a writers’ group, where presumably you’re discussing drafts and how to make them better. But I don’t think it gets talked about much (at least not publicly) among writers who finally have a book come out. This, I assume, is because having anything published is an honor, so it’s probably wise not to complain. Your job is to be an ambassador for your book, to stand by it and introduce it to the world—shining its shoes and combing its hair and talking about the little guy’s strengths. But underneath that of course there is something else going on, a feeling of exposure that is at once exhilarating and also can be wholly debilitating.

I don’t think it’s necessarily the fear of criticism or failure. That’s somehow different. And I say that because criticism is a stance, it’s another way of showing your hand. This shame is something that manifests mostly in the compliments, in the half-truths and coded language of chitchat, in the casual emails from a distant relative’s book group. I’ve spoken with one writer, whose book was very well-received, who said that at its worst she had the urge to take all of her books back, just pull them from the whole world, and pretend the whole thing had never happened. As extreme as that sounds, I have totally had that urge. Of course when it comes down to it you don’t really want that, but at its worst this shame can make you want to curl up in a ball and disappear.

Exposure, of course, is one of the things we’re after when we write anything. It’s why we do it—to communicate openly, to express something honest or otherwise unsayable, something that cuts through the social language of platitude and concealment, the empty exclamation points of daily email. You *want* to show your hand, and if you’re not risking that vulnerability on some level, if you’re just performing, or flexing the big muscle of your brain, then chances are it won’t be all that interesting. At least not to me. Writing is a project of revealing—of revelation—and the deeper it cuts generally the more engaging it is.

But as a writer, this can put you in a kind of emotional Chinese finger trap. You intentionally expose and then every polite reaction can feel like a disguised slight. There are television self-helpers and a certain kind of macho author who would say that your self-esteem should have nothing to do with other people’s opinions, and while that’s a nice idea, I say that’s probably crap. A fantasy. Because nothing about writing is one-sided, a person in a vacuum banging out books to an adoring public, a macho guy with a beard and a bolo tie invulnerable to other people. A book is nothing, a pile of paper, until it’s engaged by the mind and imagination of a reader. That’s where it comes alive. That’s where it exists. And chances are you got into this writing racket precisely because you’re sensitive to these things, because, whether you want to or not, you register the subtexts of human behavior, you feel it and want to make sense of that feeling, and ultimately want to figure out a way to connect with others over it. Writing is an act of communion, and to pretend otherwise seems to me an unfortunate kind of self-protection.

So then what to do with it? If I were giving easy advice to whoever asked this, I’d probably say to take the compliment on face value, don’t second-guess it, don’t fall down that rabbit hole. Say thank you. Smile. Appreciate the gesture.  But I know my own experience has nothing to do with that. (I recently asked my mother to stop forwarding her friends’ reactions to my book—which were all super nice!—which then made me feel worse about it and has left me feeling like I should apologize to her. So sorry, Mom. That was mean. I know you just want to send the nice ones, to share the good news, so you can keep sending them, I’m weird.) In reality I find that I actually have two competing impulses when I feel exposed: one is to curl into a ball and hope to disappear, and the other is to do the opposite, to reach out and be more social, to court interaction and opinion and compose (ahem) overly personal blog posts, to open up further, and go to other people, to trust. This is the only thing that ever really makes me feel better.

And maybe every piece of writing is an act of trust. I can’t help but feel like the more you put out there, the less it feels like you’re walking around midtown Manhattan naked, in winter, during rush hour, but I have a feeling seasoned writers might disagree with that. Maybe you just get used to the air on your junk. If there’s one thing I’ve come to see as inaccurate, though, it’s the easy characterization of writers as a field of wilting lilies, as an enterprise populated by fragile egotists secretly yearning for approval. Because most of exposure, of course, takes courage. Writing through doubt takes a ton of courage. And the best response to your work, perhaps the only thing that, for me, ever really feels good, isn’t a compliment but deep consideration. Evidence of another mind, of another person, with me in the dark.

Have a question for Ted Thompson, Debut Novelist? Drop it in our Ask Box!

(via thompsonted)

humansofnewyork:

"I tend to be cynical about a lot of things, but Maya Angelou is somebody that no matter how much I pick her apart, she still has integrity. She was a victim of incest and rape, and she worked as a stripper. And now she’s a literary icon and Nobel Laureate. It goes to show that life is cumulative, and you can’t devalue any type of experience."

humansofnewyork:

"I tend to be cynical about a lot of things, but Maya Angelou is somebody that no matter how much I pick her apart, she still has integrity. She was a victim of incest and rape, and she worked as a stripper. And now she’s a literary icon and Nobel Laureate. It goes to show that life is cumulative, and you can’t devalue any type of experience."

Drum Machine exhibit. — at Red Bull Music Academy.
Photos by Gary French
xo - Maya

@FringeNYC Today was a wonderful day followed by an even better night. It’s hard to explain the gratitude you feel when extremely talented people collaborate with you (willingly) on your work. I feel like I am stepping on clouds after hearing laughter in the room from words I have written (and their comedic timing and talent made it better then I could have ever imagined) - I could not have asked for (or dreamed up) a better Director in Kristin Skye Hoffmann. I want to thank everyone so much who has already contributed to “The Bloodline of Shadrick Grace.” It should also be stated the gratitude I feel for the man I’m about to marry- Bobby Crace, who works very hard for the two of us so that I can live a creative life (with food, shelter, encouragement and love). We all need our patrons in the arts, he is mine (and I am his). I just want you all to know that we have a wonderful group that is going to put on a really fantastic show for you. Please (and thank you!) continue to spread the word! We have 2 weeks left to make our Kickstarter goal! But we can do it with your help! Thank you! xo Maya https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1553663240/the-bloodline-of-shadrick-grace See you at FRINGE NYC in August!

Meryl Streep, back in the day on the subway. Looking stunning as usual. xo Maya

Meryl Streep, back in the day on the subway. Looking stunning as usual. xo Maya

This sculpture by Isaac Cordal in Berlin is called “Politicians discussing global warming.” xo Maya

This sculpture by Isaac Cordal in Berlin is called “Politicians discussing global warming.” xo Maya

"Take one abandoned at birth Bootlegger, add one bitter Catholic wife, a whisper of a Caddo American Indian, two muddled Aunts, three dashes of corrupt cops, a pinch of lesbian nuns, shake and pour into a depression area glass and you’ve got a liquor soaked Southern tale about a diamond in a rough place.” - The Bloodline of Shadrick Grace by Maya Contreras

"Take one abandoned at birth Bootlegger, add one bitter Catholic wife, a whisper of a Caddo American Indian, two muddled Aunts, three dashes of corrupt cops, a pinch of lesbian nuns, shake and pour into a depression area glass and you’ve got a liquor soaked Southern tale about a diamond in a rough place.” - The Bloodline of Shadrick Grace by Maya Contreras

I’ve been trying to write something. Anything really. But I’ve been a little blocked. Of course part of writing is not writing. We all know that, even if we forget it sometimes. But when it’s pouring out of you nothing feels better. Like, I was thinking, what do I want out of life? I was thinking about how small our existence is, you know, we live for a while and then we stop. We are the stars of our own play but there are billions of plays. And I thought if I could have one thing it wouldn’t be love or money, it would just be another work of art that I felt strongly about. And when I was finished with that I would make the same wish over again. And then I thought, How did it get like that?

—There are days when Stephen Elliott’s Daily Rumpus emails kind of floor me. Today was one of those days. (via thompsonted)

Love this…