The Nederlander Theatre in New York City housing the musical RENT
525, 600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?
“Seasons of Love” from the musical RENT by Jonathon Larson
I first saw RENT in New York City in 2005. I honestly didn’t know anything more about the plot than it was about artists squatting in an empty New York warehouse, and that it was a modern version of the opera, La Boheme, set in Paris. Hello. You had me at Paris. I wasn’t prepared for it to pierce my heart and affect my soul.
I bought the CD and played it nonstop for months. The following year the movie came out. Watched it. Even learned how to play “Seasons of Love” on the piano.
Scary Spice as Mimi in RENT
I saw RENT again over the weekend. This time instead of at the Nederlander Theatre seating 1200 people on Broadway, I was on Miami University’s campus at a theatre seating less than 100. Instead of Drew Lachey and Scary Spice (Melanie Brown) in the leads, college students performed the roles of Mark, Mimi, Roger, Maureen, Joanne, Tom Collins and Angel.
And these students with their raw talent and intense passion pierced my heart and affected my soul all over again, probably even more so than when I saw it on Broadway. (If you count crying four times during the performance “affecting”.)
For those of you who haven’t seen RENT. Go do so. Now, preferably. But if that’s not an option, know it is the story of one year in the lives of a group of friends. They face poverty, rejection, love, glory, success, denial, death, joy, fear, comfort and loss. But mainly, they learn how to appreciate the moments.
It’s impossible for me to see RENT and not reflect on the past year of my life. This is something I usually reserve for New Year’s or birthdays, but today it is fresh on my mind, tugging at my heart. In my last 525,600 minutes I lost a father in law, visited the beach, had my oldest child start high school, made new friends, reconnected with old friends, joined a Bible study, published a new series with a new publisher, looked at the sun through a giant telescope, rode a tiny rollercoaster. But my favorite parts of my year haven’t been the big events, they’ve been the moments, the snapshots in time where I’ve discovered something new, felt loved, was inspired. When listing highlights of my year I wouldn’t write ‘going to Paris’, but instead I’d say, my husband recorded the bells ringing from the infamous bell tower of Notre Dame on a sunny afternoon on his phone for me, so I could listen to them over and over. I don’t measure my year in the 500 soccer games I’ve attended. I might be exaggerating. A little. But the magnificent save my son made as goalie on a Penalty Kick against his team is a moment of pure joy I’ll cherish as I reflect on the year.
And in each moment, I know God was with me. Is with me. Is with you. As the song “Seasons of Love,” says “in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights and cups of coffee.” He is there. Every hour of every day. Every step of the way. Every conversation. Every breeze, every flavor (I think especially the salty caramel mocha flavors) and handshake and hug.
What are the highlights of your last 525,600 minutes?
When I was on my high school’s dance team, our motto was “Teamwork Makes It Happen”. Not very catchy, but there’s a lot of truth in that phrase. On dance team it wasn’t about an individual’s abilities, it was about dancing in sync, together. The perfect example was the kick line. Everyone’s kicks had to be the exact same height, so it appeared as if one giant leg was going up then down, while the other giant leg followed suit. Shorter girls had to stand on tiptoes to make their legs reach. Uber flexible girls actually had to lower their kicks to line up with the team.
Have you ever been part of a softball team? A play? A fundraiser? If so, you know the risks of putting yourself out there. You’ve had to rely on others. You understand the challenges of working collectively for a common good.
I haven’t been in a kick line for a looooonnnnggg time, but this past fall I was invited to be on a team to launch a new line of young adult fiction books. By now, you’ve probably heard me chat about Playlist Fiction. Ever wonder what authors talk about when they get together? Everything, really. But recently, one of the other Playlist authors, Laura Kurk, and I were chatting about the excitement and uncertainty of banding together to create something new. Here’s an inside peek at our conversation.
LS: I remember when our agent suggested forming a team of authors to launch a new line, to include your novels, my novels, Jennifer Murgia’s latest title, Stephanie Morrill’s newest book and debut author Rajdeep Paulus. I know what was going through my mind. What was on yours?
LK: Writing is a lonely profession. It takes physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries to maintain the integrity of our thoughts and ideas while we work.
I’m usually okay with this, being an introverted soul. But sometimes I feel too alone. I’ve dreamed of having a team of like-minded people who would offer support, guidance, and friendship. I said yes, without hesitation.
LS: Me too. It was an incredible idea to have a support network within the solitude, to not have to go these books alone. But there was still a major unknown. None of us had worked together. All of our writing styles were a little different. What were your concerns?
LK: The same all students have when they hear the dreaded words, “Group Project.” I was always the kid who took on the biggest part—because I wanted the project done right. But, it turns out, I think we were all the kids who took on the majority of the work for group projects.
LS: So, was that because we were overachievers, or because we enjoyed writing essays?
LK: Ha! Both. But the great thing about our team is we overachieve for each other. I’ve never really been on a team, so this is my first experience with seeing other people sacrifice their time and talent for each other. It’s overwhelming. Makes me wish I had played t-ball or something.
LS: T-ball was not my best experience. Let’s just say I sat the bench. A writing team uniform fits me way better. I think the two major factors that have led to the success of our team are communication and a common desire to succeed as a whole. LK: We’ve avoided any of us carrying all the weight. L S: Right. We share it. Our communication from the get-go was key. Remember the dozens of emails about expectations and content for the line? LK: Back and forth, plus the conference calls. We agreed on a mission and a feel. We agreed our books would be unique, real, and match the rhythm of our readers’ lives. We incorporated that into everything from our plot lines to the Playlist Fiction website. LS: And once we identified ourselves, we all took responsibilities based on our strengths. You developed our Twitter account. Jennifer worked with the designer. Rajdeep created the count down graphics and manages our Playlist fan mail. And what would we do without Stephanie who writes the newsletter and runs all the spreadsheets? It was remarkable to watch everyone play to her areas of expertise. We had all poured ourselves into our novels. We longed for them to reach readers who would identify with our characters and gravitate to our plots. The more readers engaged with the Playlist Fiction brand overall, the more opportunities we had to touch those readers. LK: We were all invested. LS: All for one and one for all. What hopes did you have for the team? LK: I hoped I would develop relationships with people who shared my faith and my goals. I hoped for friends who would understand why writing is spiritually fulfilling for me, and who would hold me accountable with the words I choose. We’re not just a team. We’ve found friendship, validation, accountability, a louder voice, a bigger splash. We’re even prayer warriors. LS: It’s awesome isn’t it? It’s powerful for me to see how much stronger we are together than alone. But when you gain something, you tend to give something up. What did you sacrifice to be part of a team verses publishing your novels under a solo contract?
LK: I think there’s a misconception that publishing solo with an existing publisher means you can sit back. Authors have to market themselves constantly, so the team has been a blessing. The sacrifices I’ve made have been easy. The amount of work we’ve done to build recognition for this debut line of fiction has been mind-blowing. We’ve worked a lot of late nights.
LS: Which resulted in a lot of late night e-mails. Some of them made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants. Others brought tears to my eyes. We swapped lyrics from everything from the Mickey Mouse Club House theme song to old Depeche Mode tunes. We shared stories about our siblings and children, admitted indulgences and weaknesses. We became good friends.
LK: I love how we support one another. Often you see writers who grab attention, because attention translates into sales. Our team members are more concerned with making sure we all find success. We work like this because we believe in the message of hope and healing we each have for our audience. We write for young adults. We found each other because we all felt there was a lack of hopeful fiction for teens.
LS: I’m praying we’ll provide some of that much needed hope.
LK: I believe we are. But despite the encouragement from one another, it does take maturity to keep this team in tact.
LS: Definitely. All teams do. None of us can be scorekeepers. We can’t say, “she did this and she didn’t do that while I did this.” Just like soccer player can’t say, “I scored and she missed my pass and she should have stolen that ball.” Each author has the integrity to give our team her personal best. As a team, we respect and honor the time and way we each achieve this. On any given day one author could be promoting the line, while another is dealing with family issues and yet another is frantically editing her next novel. The following week those roles can and do switch. What’s beautiful is how much we lean on one another, draw from one another, learn from one another. Like you said at the beginning, writing can be a lonely endeavor. But our team offers a community to share the writing journey.
Jesus didn’t leave one disciple high and dry to share the gospel. He introduced them to one another, had them dine together, travel together, so when it was time for Him to ascend, the disciples were prepared to work as a team. I believe God brought our Playlist Fiction team together to share the stories He’s put in our hearts. Are you part of a team? How do you think God’s equipped you to be an important team member?
SCHOOL'S OUT FOR SUMMER, for Palmer, Claire, Kat and Hannah at Clarkston University, the fictitious setting for my Status Updates series. To celebrate, the four college roommates in the books are offering you their first book, It's Complicated, for only 99 cents!
From left to right - Palmer, Claire, Kat and Hannah get ready to head home for summer vacation. Photo courtesy Kelci Alane Photography
For less than a song on iTunes, less than a pack of Claire's bobby pins, less than a slice of pizza at Clarkston's Ragazza, less than even a small cup of coffee from Corner Cup, you can get an entire novel! Just click on this link and download: http://www.amazon.com/Complicated-Status-Updates-Series-ebook/dp/B00C2BXK6Q/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
(if you don't own a Kindle, no worries, the App is free on the Amazon site for most phones, tablets and laptops)
OR if you don't have access to a Kindle or Free Kindle App, visit Smashwords and enter promo code WK68Z prior to checkout. Offer expires May 16, 2013.
It's Complicated for only 99 cents through May 16!
"I absolutely love love love this book!!!
Here are 3 reasons why...
#1 FAB FRIENDS- these characters are unique, fun, funny, and wonderful! It's hard to pick my fave! There's super-athletic KAT, fashion-forward PALMER, boy-crazy HANNAH, and the serious quiet type CLAIRE. I love them all!!
#2 ISSUES & DRAMA- author Laura L. Smith doesn't shy away from issues that real teens are dealing with today, and when you put four friends together you know there's gonna be some drama!!
#3 IT'S A SERIES!!! I soooo can't wait to read more about these girls. It's Complicated is a totally awesome start to what promises to be one of my fave series ever!!!" JoJo's Corner
It's Complicated by Laura L. Smith book cover
Slide on your flip flops and shades, grab a Tazo or an iced latte and enjoy a summer read that will take you to the beach, the soccer fields and Paris before it's time to dive back into next school year. All for less than a dollar.
Tingling all over with the announcement of the second book in my Status Updates series, It's Over, releasing April 19!
Book cover for the sequel to It's Complicated, It's Over. Photograph by Kelci Alane Photography. Cover Design by Angela Llammas.
HOW CAN YOU MOVE ON WHEN IT'S OVER?
When four college roommates lose pieces of their lives, the pain isolates and the tension rises. Emotions are hard to hide and even harder to tackle. How can the girls move forward, when there is so much pain in letting go? Together, Claire, Kat, Palmer and Hannah learn to lean on God and each other, and through it all they learn loss is a part of life."In It's Over, Laura L. Smith confirms the truth we've been told that we are never alone in the midst of heartache and struggle. In fact, she takes us to a place where we not only get to see, but feel deeply the truth of the fact that every single one of us has a story. Every single one of has experienced pain. But more importantly, that every single one of us has great hope. Laura L. Smith's writing strikes a deep chord in my heart. It makes sense. It's real--and in my opinion, that transparency makes all the difference." ~Holly Starr, Christian recording artist
"Laura Smith speaks for the broken. With a voice that’s warm and true, Laura gives words to those rendered speechless by issues that high school and college girls should never have to deal with—but so many of them do. In writing that’s raw, relevant, and real, Smith goes where few authors dare to go: straight into the heart of today’s young woman." ~Amy Parker, bestselling author of Courageous Teens
"YA author, Laura L. Smith crafts another story that will appeal to all girls, because no one is untouched by heartache in all its forms. The grace Smith extends the four girls in It's Over will touch readers in deep ways, as they follow these characters through some of the worst parts of life. Best of all, they'll cheer when the girls lean on one another and find ways to be thankful in everything. This is a fantastic read, one that will resonate with teens, college girls and their mothers." ~Laura Kurk, author of Glass Girl
Brandi Chastain celebrating the U.S. Women's win in the 1999 World Cup
Last summer, while checking into our hotel in Dresden, Germany I had the treat of meeting soccer legend, Brandi Chastain. She had her hair pulled into a ponytail was wearing a gray t-shirt, navy blue athletic shorts and cleats. She was kicking a pink Nike soccer ball in the hotel lobby. Yes, in the lobby. She is the woman known for kicking the winning penalty kick to win the U.S. Women’s National team the World Cup in 1999. She was in Dresden to be one of the lead ESPN announcers for the World Cup, speaking to tens of thousands of television viewers for two weeks straight.
When I asked Brandi what advice she had for young people who wanted to be soccer stars, she said,
“Do it everyday. Kick it, pass it, dribble it, every day. When I was young, I kicked the ball against the side of the house for an hour every day. I got to know the ball so well, and how it would bounce off the house and where it would go if I tapped it a certain way and how to kick it back if it came to me a certain way, that when I was on the field, when I was in a game, I never had to think. I knew exactly what to do.”
The same is true for whatever it is you want to achieve in life.
For writers, like me, it means writing something every day. Stephen King says it in his book, On Writing. Anne LaMott says it in Bird by Bird. Do it everyday. That doesn’t have to be writing five chapters of my next novel. It could be a blog or a character sketch or a review of someone else’s work. But each day, I need to be conscious of word choice, descriptions, rhythms and flows of words.
You want to learn how to cook? Chef up a meal every day. It could be scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich, but if you do it everyday, you’ll figure out too much salt makes your eggs taste like potato chips and how long to let your grilled cheese sizzle to get the cheese to melt to a perfect gooey consistency.
If you want to get closer to God, read a chapter of the Bible every day and contemplate it. I promise you’ll get closer to Him.
No matter what instrument you play, your instructor will ask you to practice every day. Play your scales. Work on the hardest part of your piece. Soon your ears will know the difference between a C sharp and a B flat. Your fingers will know how to move along the keys of a piano or the frets of a guitar.
If your goal is to become a teacher, explain something to someone every day. It could be how to take care of a tortoise or how to French braid hair or plant pansies, or anything, but the more you practice explaining things to people, the better you’ll be at it. I promise.
So, get going. Today, tomorrow and the day after that – do your thing. As Dr. Seuss said, “You’re off to great places, today is your day.” Today can be your day. You just need to get started.
What can you do on a daily basis to help you achieve your dream?
Girls and boys enjoying the game, while playing spring soccer.
The earthy, fresh smell of mown grass. The squishy, muddy ground, slopping against my feet. The chill of early morning cocooned in a giant sweatshirt and an even more giant dark roast with a shot of chocolate from Starbucks. Pulses racing. Fans cheering. The satisfying slap of leather on the insole of a cleat.
It’s that time of year. The time when every Saturday morning is spent at the soccer fields. Not that different than fall in attire, gear and schedules, but the attitude, the atmosphere is like it’s from a different district altogether.
Fall soccer buzzes with the start of a new school year, new teams, grueling heat, fierce competition. Spring soccer is shorter, random, more congenial, do I dare say it -- relaxed.
In the fall, groups of boys within 24 months of each other’s birthdays and girls within 24 months of each other’s birthdays pass, dribble and shoot together. But in the spring, due to the large clumps of players lost to the ball diamonds – there are co-ed teams, the age spans of leagues goes up to 36, sometimes 48 months!
Teams always seem to be running late, short a player or two. How do you handle that? Sub, trade, swap. What other sport or season takes its best player and loans it to the other team? What other fans cheer for all the players on both teams, because at some point in their sons’ or daughters’ sports careers the other players from both teams have been on their teams?
It is a sport season like no other. Don’t get my wrong. Fall soccer, with all its intensity and speed and skill are an absolute thrill. But, there is so much to be learned from this softer, spring version of the international sport. So much to be gained by teaching players and fans alike what’s truly of value:
Sharing - of players, fields, equipment, high fives, resources
Sportsmanship – valuing all players, old or young, big or small, experienced or newbies for what they add to the game
Appreciation – for the other team, for your own team, the other parents, the refs, a Saturday in April without lightning, the sport, time to play, time to cheer, time to bond
Sounds like the Golden Rule to me: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
Many will argue, that the thrill of the game is embedded in the rivalry. But I will argue back, that the true thrill of the game is playing our best, cheering our loudest, meeting new people and appreciating their talents and strengths.