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.


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 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


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


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