Reading Tim Conway’s autobiography made me smile…

Spent the first day of my summer vacation (which didn’t start until all grades everywhere were calculated and posted) in my most favorite way to spend a day – reading an entire book in my garden in a series of sittings (interrupted by tea and lunch and hanging laundry and dinner, etc).    What book you ask?  Something deep and dark like War and Peace or Dr. Zhivago?  Nope.  I opted to open my summer with the autobiography of an old friend, though we’ve never met (though why he never appeared as a guest on Touched by an Angel is a mystery to me).  Tim Conway, aka Ensign Parker on McHale’s Navy; aka Barnacleboy on Spongebob Squarepants aka a dozen crazy characters on The Carol Burnett Show

Why did I choose that to begin my summer reading?  Partly because he was raised in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where my Mom used to take me for ice cream treats during the summer; partly because he graduated from Bowling Green State University (as Doug and I did); and partly because I knew it would be full of fun tidbits about the early days of radio and television both in Cleveland (where he worked with Ernie Anderson before he became Ghoulardi) and in Los Angeles.  Just about as funny as the book Jim Backus (Thurston Howell III) wrote with his wife, Henny, in the 1980s.

Conway’s book is full of funny stories about scrambling to fill time on early radio and television shows and honest discussions of being happy in life even if you’re always the second banana, never the star.  He talks about being raised by his immigrant parents – Dad Daniel from Ireland and Mom Sophia from Romania — and then raising his own 6 kids with their lessons in his mind all the time.  He talks about being bilingual (English and Romanian) and losing that second language as he grew up.  He talks about the joy and honor of meeting and working with the great stars of his childhood movie-viewing including Cary Grant and Ernest Borgnine and his enthusiasm for all the blessings in his life is catchy.

I smiled often until page 70 when I fell on the floor laughing (much as I did while watching all those Carol Burnett shows in elementary school) and pretty much never got back in my chair.  It was too precarious to ponder.  I found myself regaling Doug with several of the stories even as he tried to read something else.  If you’d like to spend some time in happy company I highly recommend What’s so Funny?

See all my favorite book and DVD picks in the WelchWrite Bookstore

Davies creates fully realized characters from “Doctor Who and Culture” with Dr. Rosanne Welch

A short clip from the presentation “Doctor Who and Culture: with Dr. Rosanne Welch

View the entire presentation

Davies creates fully-realized characters from

 

 

Transcript:

“When Mickey shows up on the show, he is the boyfriend of Rose who is the blonde, white, girl, who is going to become the companion to the Doctor and there is no discussion about it. The show wasn’t about, “Oh no, they have an interracial relationship and it’s difficult.” It’s not. It’s just Rose an Mickey and they’re together and that’s how life goes. Right? So Russell T. Davies, in my argument, has a better representation of characters of color. He gives them 3 dimensionality. His characters of color have real lives. They have jobs. They have relationships and they have sex. Real people have sex. They really do.

(Laughter)

Wooo!

All married people…well they weren’t married.

(Laughter)

So, that makes a full character. So I was interested, when I looked at characters that Russell created. Right? So here is Mickey Smith. What’s also interesting about Mickey is that he starts out afraid to join the Doctor. It’s too much for him. It’s too scary, but Rose goes along and after a couple of seasons, Mickey starts to realize, “I missed out on something. I made the wrong choice. Can I change my mind?” So he grows as a human being. He doesn’t just stay the same funny guy the whole four seasons or 5 seasons we know him. So, a character being given a true character arc means you are taking that character completely seriously as a full human being. That’s what Russell Davies was able to do.”

Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona Faculty from the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education discusses Doctor Who and how the show has changed television writing. Doctor Welch will further discuss how society looks at culture and gender roles with the use of the Doctor and his companions’ adventures.

“Natalie Lopez at the CalPoly University Library invited me to do a presentation for National Libraries Week on Doctor Who and Culture so that’s why a group of Whovians from both CalPoly and CSUF gathered in the Special Events room on April 16th.  It was wonderful to look out over a sea of t-shirts and other Doctor paraphernalia present among the crowd as I pontificated about what makes Who great – mostly giving me a chance to present a case for the fact that writers make Doctor Who and therefore writers make culture.”

Writers Save Doctor Who from “Doctor Who and Culture” with Dr. Rosanne Welch

A short clip from the presentation “Doctor Who and Culture: with Dr. Rosanne Welch

View the entire presentation

Drwho writers save

 

Transcript:

“What was great about the show from my standpoint — from a writing standpoint — is that they had a problem in the first few years. William Hartnell was an older man and he started to get sick and he didn’t want to work anymore. And this is is where writers save the day, because one of the writers back then realized if Wiliam Hartnell resigned, everybody lost their job. 200 people who work on set, who do the writing, who do all the work is gone. So this writer said to himself, “Hey, wait a minute. Our lead character is not human. He’s not a human. He doesn’t have to die. What if our aliens regenerate in a completely different body any time they get sick. Brilliant! He can retire. We can wave goodbye and we can invite new actors to play the character and every time a new actor is hired he can be unique and different and bring a whole different personality to the story.”

Dr. Rosanne Welch, Cal Poly Pomona Faculty from the Department of Interdisciplinary General Education discusses Doctor Who and how the show has changed television writing. Doctor Welch will further discuss how society looks at culture and gender roles with the use of the Doctor and his companions’ adventures.

“Natalie Lopez at the CalPoly University Library invited me to do a presentation for National Libraries Week on Doctor Who and Culture so that’s why a group of Whovians from both CalPoly and CSUF gathered in the Special Events room on April 16th.  It was wonderful to look out over a sea of t-shirts and other Doctor paraphernalia present among the crowd as I pontificated about what makes Who great – mostly giving me a chance to present a case for the fact that writers make Doctor Who and therefore writers make culture.”

 

Subscribe to Dr. Welch’s YouTube Channel

 

Surprised by the Good Read GIDGET turned out to be!

While I have much grading to do as always, I was drawn to spend the weekend reading Gidget (by Frederick Kohner) thanks to my friend Ken Lazebnik’s book Hollywood Digs which includes an interview with the real life Franzie Kohner who IS Gidget.  In fact, she kindly appeared with Ken at a book reading he did in Malibu recently.

Before actually reading the book I didn’t know gidget stood for “girl midget” since she was so small on her surfboard (and now wonder how many women were named Gidget without now that); I didn’t know her father was a refugee from Nazi Germany who came to LA to be a screenwriter; and I didn’t know the book was going to be so good (both Gidget AND Hollywood Digs! – which I  knew would be good because Ken is such a wonderfully evocative writer). I suggest them both.

Turns out when it was released  Gidget was compared favorably to Catcher in the Rye by book critics… and probably  lost its edge in readers’ minds thanks to the bubblegum reputation the films gave the story – compounded by the fact that it was a girl’s coming of age story and not a boy’s.  I learned long ago in teaching American Literature, to an all girl high school of all things, that educators believe girls will read about boy protagonists (in an effort to understand them enough to hook them) but boys will not be as enthusiastic about reading the story of a girl protagonist).  So schools adjusted and chose mostly books with male protagonists for high school students of both sexes to study, which means boys lost the chance to learn the lessons first generation immigrants surviving economic hardship from A Tree Grows in Brooklynamong other losses.

Of course, the advent of such things as The Hunger Games trilogy seems to belie that idea — but you’ll notice publishers felt that in order to engage boy readers Katniss needed to wield a weapon, not merely master a craft like surfing.  Another reason to return to reading Gidget.

And all of this mulling reminds me of a TED Talk on How Movies Teach Manhood that  I showed students the other day by Colin Stokes, director of communications for the non-profit Citizen Schools.  He compares the heroine of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale from Kansas, to Luke Skywalker of everyone’s much beloved Star Wars and finds that Dorothy triumphs by mastering the leadership skills of working with others and bringing them together toward a common goal that benefits all while Luke triumphs as an individual by mastering a violent skill that requires killing the enemy to win.

My comparison between Gidget and Catcher seems similar in that Gidget experiments in the world of romance and sex without needing to make the acquaintance of a hooker – yet high schools read Holden’s story as literature and are never exposed to Gidget’s story at all.

Interview with John Leggett about Ross & Tom: Two American Tragedies

I had a great time talking to John Leggett about the Foreverland Press reissue of his dual biography of 2 tragically uber successful writers who couldn’t handle their success…

Here’s the beginning of the interview and a link to the complete text.

foreverland-press

Rosanne Welch Interviews John Leggett about Ross & Tom: Two American Tragedies

When muckraker Theodore Dreiser wrote An American Tragedy in 1925 he hoped to help society focus on the debilitating effects of poverty.  Nearly fifty years later, in Ross and Tom: Two American Tragedies, John Leggett found similar effects could come from the opposite end of the spectrum, an abundance of talent, money and fame.  Leggett’s fascination with the (spoiler alert) suicides of best-selling authors Ross Lockridge and Thomas Heggen, after the publication of their wildly successful first novels led Leggett to write this dual biography.  Published first in 1974 Ross and Tom is now back in circulation in an era far more fascinated with fame than even Leggett could have imagined. Ross and Tom is such a deeply researched book about the act of writing, as well as the sacrifices of the writing life, one reads on despite knowing each man will leave behind loved ones as well as lasting legacies in the world of American Literature.

Read the entire interview at Foreverland Press

Audio: Rosanne Welch and Dawn Comer Jefferson interviewed on the Go Write Something! Podcast

Dawn and Rosanne were recently interviewed by Candice L. Davis of the Go Write Something podcast. You can listen to the entire interview here or directly from the GoWriteSomething.com web site.

Listen to this podcast – GWS 001: How Writing for TV Prepared These Writers for Indie Publishing

GWS 001: How Writing for TV Prepared These Writers for Indie Publishing

Woo hoo! The premiere episode of the Go Write Something podcast! I can’t wait to get some more interviewing experience under my belt, so I can look back and laugh at how dorky I sound in the early episodes.

Dawn Comer Jefferson and Rosanne Welch are writing partners who’ve done most of their work in television. (Their full bios are below.) In this episode I interview them about their first novel, based on historical events, The Promise.

We talk about:

  • how to collaborate with another writer
  • how writing for television influenced their novel writing journey
  • how to create your own writing lifestyle
  • and more

Writers on Writing: ‘Backbeat’ creators go beyond the standard musical theater fare

I read this review of Backbeat, the new theatrical musical about the early days of the Beatles, to my MFA writing class because of its discussion of ‘the Jerome Robbins question’. Apparently when working on a new show Robbins would always ask for a one word description of the play.

For example, for Fiddler on the Roof the word was ‘tradition’. For this play about the Beatles, the word was ‘courage’. Read the review to figure out why – and try this same question in your own writing!

‘Backbeat’ creators go beyond the standard musical theater fare

Backbeat

In telling the pre-history of the Beatles, director David Leveaux aims to make the action of both the music and drama converge in the Ahmanson-bound show.

Searching for his way into the new musical “Backbeat,” which examines the Beatles’ early days (and nights) in Hamburg, Germany, David Leveaux asked himself what he called “the Jerome Robbins question.”

It’s a tactic he picked up in 2004 while overseeing a Broadway revival of “Fiddler on the Roof.” That show’s book writer, Joseph Stein, was recounting his experience on Robbins’ original 1964 production and told Leveaux that one day the director asked, ‘OK, so what is this musical about? I want one word,'” Leveaux said.

Read the Entire Article

Previously in Writers on Writing:

Writers on Writing: Phillipa Boyens on Adapting “The Lord of the Rings”

This post begins my new series, Writers on Writing, (or WOW!) — a collection of the kinds of articles I bring to the attention of my writing classes on a regular basis.

This piece on Philippa Boyens seems like a nice place to start since she discusses the ten year odyssey she’s been on since agreeing to help adapt the world of J.R.R. Tolkien with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. She is particularly interesting when analyzing how writing The Hobbitt is different from Lord of the Rings.

Read on McGuff – and watch this spot for more WOW in the future. Feel free to send me good things you read about writing and I’ll post those as well. — Rosanne

Phillipaboyens

Philippa Boyens: Del Toro’s ‘Hobbit’ would have been ‘amazing’

“There and Back Again” is the subtitle of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” and it would certainly serve handily for a biography of many of those involved in taking the book to film, though none perhaps as well as Philippa Boyens.

Asked one day in 1997 if, as a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, she might have any interest in helping out friends and fellow New Zealanders Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh adapt “The Lord of the Rings” for film, Boyens, a former teacher and then executive director of the New Zealand Writers Guild, shrugged and said, “Sure, why not?”

Read the entire article