Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Whole Day for Writers

That's me kicking off the conference Saturday.
The Ninth Roanoke Regional Writers Conference Saturday at Hollins was a bit of a different ballgame than our students had seen in the past, but they seemed pleased with the results. It was a smaller conference, but the level of enthusiasm and electricity remained high.

Greg Trafidlo sings for us.
The conference went from two days to one and from 24 classes to 18, so the students--and the director, for whom I will speak--didn't completely wear themselves out.

There were a few surprises, one of them the quality of keynote speaker Terry Maggert's 10-minute kickoff talk. It was simply dynamic and caused a buzz all day. There were a number of business deals made during the conference and at least one young--very young, like 14--writer was discovered among us. I tried to chat with her at one point, but I think I terrified her. Several of the women writers came to the rescue.

The writers conference is quite a breakout for people in a profession who work alone in dark places. This is an annual recess for something like 120 of us. And we have fun. Promise.

Janeson Keeley and me teaching a class on billing (Yaaaaaawn).
I watched another young student blossom in the atmosphere, which is a sweet thing to be exposed to. She came in a scared kid, but ginned up her courage, talked to the pros and found a level of confidence I suspect she has rarely seen before. I suspect that young'un is on her way.

Here is some of what it looked like (photos by Anne Sampson and me.

Leah Weiss' class drew a full house.
But Leah had some technical problems, which were fixed.
Annie Woodford, a teacher, made a lovely student.
Todd Ristau of Hollins taught playwrighting.
Minister Joe Cobb's class was popular.
Storyteller Saundra Kelly in the middle (left).
Ed Falco of Virginia Tech teaches fiction in the auditorium.
Indy author Liz Long.
Author Diane Fanning seeks peace.
Not everybody listened all the time.
Professor emeratis Paul Sorrentino of Tech.
Ran Henry (left) with Floydians Neil Sagebiel and Sarah Beth Jones.
This shot in the auditorium will make you dizzy.
Leaning into learning during class.
Joe Cobb and Tom Gerdy chat.
Me pretending to be a teacher. (Note my unruly hair. That's why I wear a baseball cap.)

A Snowy Day in the Woods

Janeson and Susan on the Hollins/Tinker Mountain Trail earlier today.
Postcard shot.
My friends Susan and Janeson set the pace on the Tinker Mountain/Hollins greenway trail today and we did our first snow hike in a while.

It was one of those magical days where the temperatures were high enough so that we left our coats at home and cool enough that they were invigorating. And it was beautiful. Breathtaking.

Susan and I took our SLR cameras and Janeson was equipped with her trusty camera phone, so we all took photos on a day that was made for them. Herewith are some of the best, mostly from my Canon. Janeson contributed a couple and I haven't seen Susan's yet, but she is quite a photog, so I can't wait to see what she got.

Susan and me shooting (so to speak) each other.
The girls: making tracks.
Shooting flora, fauna and lots of snow.
Pausing at the bridge.
Angles and lines.
Janeson jumps a creek.
Susan jumps back.
The beauty of our forest.
Overlooking Carvins Cove.
Janeson on top.
Winter vines.
Janeson: Treed.
My favorite photo of the day.
Susan shot this of Janeson and me.
Susan shot me doing what I do.
Janeson treed.
Susan found a small bear print.

Friday, January 29, 2016

'Coupler' Smart, Entertaining, Sold Out

"Coupler" cast on the London underground.
Meredith Levy's "Coupler," showing this weekend at Mill Mountain Theatre's Waldron Stage, is an engaging, entertain and fun play about the vagaries of youth and love.

It is a fun, if short, evening of theater by a rising star, who wrote the dazzling "Decision Height" two years ago. Miss Levy, who is a Hollins grad, now works at the University in alumni relations and writes by night.

This play, with a big cast of mostly Hollins students, features the talented and busy Janemarie Laucella as the voice of the London Underground train on which the piece is set, and the she becomes the centerpiece of the work. (The spare set here is just about perfect and allows seating on two sides of the "stage".)

Miss Laucella leads the players through their various conflicts, love interests and success/failures, all the while telling them which station the tube is approaching.

It is an interesting--and in Miss Laucella's hands, fun--way of moving the story along. The director of this first of two plays in the Hollins/Mill Mountain Festival of New Works is Hollins Playwrights Lab director Todd Ristau and his fingers are solidly all over it.

There are notable performances by Rachel Nelson, Taylor Cobb, Claire Josselyn, Emma Sala and Eamon Hyland. Tonight was a sellout and my guess it is not the last sellout of this run. It is a lovely evening.

(Photo: Todd Restau.)

Oz Lightyear: Hockeyboy!

This is my little grandbuddy, Oz, with his new Buzz Lightyear professional hockey jersey. The kid opened the box (I shipped it to Spain) and went bonkers, said his mom.

It's nice to get the kiddos something they like and we apparently struck gold for Oz this time.

Dog Barking? Make 'Em Quit: Here's How

Late yesterday afternoon (about 5:30), I got a request from an editor  for a sidebar to a pet ownership story I'd turned in several weeks ago. Things go slowly in the magazine business until the last minute, and then they become a daily newspaper with deadlines marked "yesterday."

The editor wanted a short addition to a barking dogs story on why they bark and how the barking can be stopped. In the story, I had concentrated on the annoyance factor and what could be done about that. (Hint: not much.)

Anyhow, I put out a call for expertise on my Facebook page, which has more than 3,000 friends--who come in handy at times like these. I got a lot of suggestions, followed up on two and had my story turned in within 30 minutes.

Some of the responses I got were entertaining, even if I couldn't use them, and here I share them with you--without editing. This is as they appeared on FB.

Caroline Scarborough Bain  We once used an electronic shock collar that allowed you to give audible ping warnings and hopefully not have to shock. It also allowed the degree of shock to be controlled. I generally think shock collars are cruel, but nuisance barking can be hard to stop. The collar worked great for two big barkers and we didn't have to use it that long. I loaned it to several others who also thought it worked great great. In fact, one person liked it so well, I wasn't able to recover it. I think it [cost] around $150. 

Jamie Beverly Waldrop I LOVE this thing called the "Pet Corrector"…..Its just a little red can of air. (You could also use just compressed air used for keyboards). Angus HATES the sound. If he is out barking at the UPS man, all he has to see is me heading out the door. He knows I have the can… THE SOUND!!!! 

Lynn Phelps As a puppy they can be talk the " no bark" command. As an adult dog it depends on all the variables in the dogs history. 

Teresa L. Hartman Well... When we got this alleged "Chihuahua," I knew they were known as "yappers." Constant barkers. We really socialized this puppy with just not people but other animals, let her watch the traffic from the porch. Just really tried to get her use to "daily life." She did great the first 2 years of her life. She went to doggie day care for a few hours a couple times a week for training and socializing. She was taught when I held my hand up it meant for her to stop barking. 

James Lagueux my suggestion is to not get an animal. 

Jeri Warner Layne Barking with mine makes her stop. She ends up confused or frustrated. I dunno. But it works. Barooooooooo 

Mike Ashley There are 'professionals' that deal with that sort of thing. Google them. 

Lisa Welsh Teach it to speak on command. 

Dreama K. Lay took me all night...ALL break a dog from barking at thin air. I waited for the bark...went outside, and whispered in his ear...I'm going to kill you ! It took all night, and almost killed me. True story. 

Mark McClain Barkers gonna bark.

(Top photo:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Supporting a Worthy Cause with My Bud

Anna Holland and me with a promo sign.
Mill Mountain Theatre has a promotion going on as we speak called (and if you'll just look at the picture, you won't have to read the rest of this) "I Played My Part at Mill Mountain Theatre!"

I was asked to pose with the sign as part of the promotion; they had a spot for an old guy in a red shirt and I seemed to fit the part nicely, so I did. Then I asked our photographer buddy, Stephanie Wollmann, to shoot a photo of one of my favorite young actors, Anna Holland, and me. Anna is interning at Mill Mountain Theatre during Hollins University's inter-term. She's a freshman theater student there and a Roanoker.

Anna and Stephanie are in Meredith Levy's "Coupler" this weekend as part of the Hollins/Mill Mountain Festival of New Works. I saw a piece of a dress rehearsal last week and saw the play some months ago as a reading and I will vouch for it being very good. Anna says much of it has changed, including the ending. I really liked the play I saw in the reading and Meredith's work is consistently good.

The working relationship between Hollins and Mill Mountain has resulted in nothing but better theater in the Roanoke Valley for us all. Our little city is quite well known for the quality of this special art form and the fact that our people work together--instead of opposing each other--makes a huge difference.

Support MMT and go see "Coupler" on the Trinkle Stage. It runs Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday at 2 and 7:30; and Sunday at 2 and 4, if ticket sales justify the 4 p.m. performance. Tickets are $10. Say hello to Anna and Steph.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A First Piercing ... with Flying Pigs To Come

That tiny do-dad on Maddie's ear is an earring. A pierced earring.
Maddie just got her ears pierced. The other day, I said, "Listen kid, you're looking too much like a teen-ager. Back off."

She said, "But Pampa, I am a pre-teen."

"Yeh," says I. "Like a waaaaaay pre-teen. You're 11. You have 20 percent of your current life left before you turn teen-ager. Enjoy it. And let me enjoy it."

So, her mama takes the photo at the right today and posts it on Facebook, proclaiming, "I surprised her with [the piercing] ... She was nervous and excited at the same time!!! Very few tears, mostly from nerves, and very happy with the results."

And, so I reply, "Oh, my! Do I have some earrings for you! Danglies. With pigs on the end. Flying pigs. Good for Maddiegirl!"

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Winter Reflections in Tinker Creek

I shot this photo of Tinker Creek from the bridge on the Hollins campus today, where I was on photo assignment for something totally unrelated. Sometimes, the best photo philosophy is "F8 and be there," which is what this one is.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Doot, Doot, Doot, Lookin' Out My Back Door

The view out the backdoor was one of melty contentment, while the view out the front--at least earlier--was one of a mound of snow piled at the front of my driveway. That was the result of a city truck hauling ass up Edinburgh Drive "clearing" the road. That means moving the snow into a more inconvenient place. Sheesh.