back to work

When I was eighteen years old, I had a truly extraordinary stroke of luck  

It was 1980 and I was an acting student at NYU, in the fall of my sophomore year. I was not a great student, honestly. To succeed in the New York theatre was my dream, but there was much about it that flew way over my naïve suburban head. 

But luck found me nevertheless. After attending an open audition for a new musical with a score written by Stephen Sondheim, one of my idols, I was cast in a Broadway show.

Recall that I was eighteen. I was a student. My resume was a list of all the school plays I'd been in during high school. How could this happen?

Nevertheless, it happened. That show was called MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, and it was directed by Broadway legend Harold Prince.

There are so many great Hal stories. Many have been told and retold, but one that sticks with me was his career-long practice every time he opened a new show. Whenever opening night was, he’d schedule a meeting in his office the next morning to kick off his next project. 

Not to sit around fuming or gloating about reviews, checking the box office stats or taking congratulatory or commiserating phone calls from friends. Hal knew you must get back to work. All the rest is distraction.

Our job as artists is to make stuff. Most of us try to make the best stuff we can, and we never give up trying to improve. We care about the impact our work has in the world. As writers, we care about the stories we tell. What vision of the world are we supporting? How do we want our readers to feel after they’ve given their precious time and attention to our work?

I had a double stroke of luck this weekend. My latest book, ALICE’S FARM, A RABBIT’S TALE, was reviewed with appreciation in the New York Times. It was also selected as a 2021 recommended book by NCTE’s Charlotte Huck Award committee, committed to recognizing “fiction that that has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder.” What a tremendous honor.

When I got the news I was tinkering with a draft that's still in the early stages. I was thrilled, of course. I posted on social media, emailed a happy reply to the ALICE’S FARM team at my publisher, and had a coffee break.

Then I thought of Hal, and I got back to work. 

TIP: To be a writer means that you write. The vast machinery of the “business” — the agents, editors, conferences, reviews, book deals, bestseller lists and all the rest — are not the writing. The writing is the writing. Get back to work. 

Good writing is my jam! Put me on the mailing list, please.


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