The Afterglow of Success

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Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” -Francis of Assisi

The last of a three part blog about author/playright Jorge Avila will be featured on All Things Fulfilling today. Before Christmas I interviewed Avila about his newfound sucess as a playright. To read the beginning of the interview, please go to from Local Author to Playright and Advancing the Story.

Sue: So what does it feel like now that you have stepped away from all the excitement of seeing your musical played out on stage?

Jorge: There is a little bit of sadness and a let down because it is easy to get carried  away with all that goes with on in the world of L.A.  But we aren’t done yet. My vision for this musical is even more than that.  I have been offered a huge opportunity at the end of September and the first two weeks in October. The production will return to California as part of at the Hispanic Heritage Festival. For four weeks, in four different districts, I am told that 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 people will attend the festival annually. Do you believe that?

Sue: And I understand you received special recognition during the three day run of the musical. What night was that?

Jorge: On the  middle night of the performance, I and the director and musical composer, Caleb Encampos, were each given certificates of award from the City of Los Angeles for work in advancing the arts. It was very exciting.

Avilas certificate from City of LA

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Sue: What can you attribute to the success that you have had with Maricopa Men in Pink?

Jorge: It was a long five years but I never stopped believing that I had a quality product and it was a matter of getting it into the right venue or environment.

Sue: What’s on the docket for the future? 

Jorge: I have two more musicals I am working on and a book but, I would like to do something more with the local high school here in Steamboat. They did a Powerpoint presentation about my book’s storyline with the English as a Second Language (ESL) students. I’d like to put together some sort of workshop. We will see, I’ll have to put more thought into that. And I’d like to take the musical to Chicago. That’s where I’d  really like to see it.

Sue: You have been in a whirlwind for six months or more. Perhaps with a little time off, your visions will become more clear. Now that you have stepped away into a quieter environment, here in Steamboat, you can ponder it.

Before Jorge and I said our goodbyes  I told him how he is a shining example for other independent publishers to press on and not to give up. Although he mentioned feeling a little let down now that things were over, I saw a huge afterglow of success on his face and in his exuberant voice.

Do return to All Things Fulfilling tomorrow when we begin the countdown till the New Year! We will be fulfilling 2016 with new possibilities and opportunity!

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Advancing the Story

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We need to look hard at the stories we create, and wrestle with them. Retell and retell them, and work with them like clay. It is in the retelling and returning that they give us their wisdom.Marni Gillard

Avila and wife MaribelLast week I sat down with author and playright Jorge Avila, a member of We Write Steamboat, to discuss the gigantic leap of success that he has just experienced. To read a short summary of his musical, please go to the blog from last Thursday.

(Photo left: Jorge Avila and his wife Maribel)

Jorge had just returned a week previously to his hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado from a very busy six months in California. His live theatre musical, adapted from his book Maricopa Men in Pink had a three day run at the Plaza de la Raza, Cultural Center for the Arts & Education on Mission Road in Los Angeles. Avila was ebullient as he answered the questions I had for him to learn more about his experience. Here is part of our discussion about going from local author to playright in a very short few years:

Sue: Jorge, when was Maricopa Men in Pink published? 

Jorge: In 2010 it was published. A short time afterward I sent it off to a friend who is a stage designer in L.A. to get his opinion. He reviewed it and gave me some feedback about adapting it for a play. I decided that my vision for the work was a live theatre musical production. So I rewrote it exactly 2 years, nine months ago in script format along with song lyrics. Caleb Encompos, a resident who helps with the music program at the Christian Center here in Steamboat, composed the music to accompany the lyrics. I approached the Chief Theatre here in town, but it didn’t seem to be the right venue. So,then we sent it off to three production companies in California. 

Sue:  So, what was the response? 

Jorge: I’d like to say that there have been few  Latino or controversial political musicals that I am aware of other than In the Heights and Hamilton and the Book of Mormon. So I was happy to even get a response and it was positive response from two of them. I chose one of the production companies that I felt best understood my vision. I was offered a small sum of money from the production company, but I took half of that because I wanted to be directly involved in the entire process, so that the final product would be what I envisioned.

So, I began over the next six months going to L.A. one week out of every month. For the next six months, Caleb Encompos and I chose vocalists and actors for the live musical production. Once we heard my lyrics put to music and saw it performed by the actors we had chosen, there were some tweeks that were made before the opening.

Sue: So, tell me about the three night run.

Jorge: The turnout was outstanding compared to what I had anticipated. I was told for an unknown author/playright, typical sales would be 60% of the seats. The first and third nights we had 95% of all tickets sold, and the middle evening 75%. Surprising, considering I read in a New York Times article that out of 318 million Americans, 58 million agreed with Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s handling of inmates in Tent City Jail in Arizona. Seventy eight million disagreed, and the whole rest of the population knew nothing about the news story.

Sue: How did that feel? To see your musical come before live audience like that?

Jorge: Surreal! I feel flattered and proud but it was very stressful. I even started up a bad habit – smoking. I hadn’t smoked in six years and I ate too much and gained a little weight.

The musical was even mentioned on National TV on Spanish stations. While we were waiting for the production to begin on opening night, I stepped outside and there were 120 people in line to get a ticket – to my show! I couldn’t believe it and I counted every one of them!

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The rest of this interview on All Things Fulfilling will be posted the week after Christmas. Do return because we will be talking about Avila’s rewards in terms of personal fulfillment which were a result of his determination, persistance and his belief that what he had was fitting for a quality live musical production that still has great potential for future audiences. We will be sharing more about his special award from the City of Los Angeles also!

This blog is brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, EVVY award-winning author of Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.

 

 

Living with Heart

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The following is part 1 of my interview with author Mara Purl this morning. If you missed my interviews with Mara when her first book was released, please scroll down to yesterday’s blog. There are links that will take you to them.

Sue: Mara, we are honored to have the opportunity to interview you again on All Things Fulfilling. This time I’d like discuss your new book, the second Milford-Haven novel, Where the Heart Lives. http://bit.ly/SunF8d Congratulations on the success of Book One What the Heart Knows and it’s ranking of #5 on the Amazon best seller list as well as its finalist status for Book of the Year. Also, congratulations on the success of your short story e-book, When Hummers Dream, the prequel to the first book of the series.

Sue: Over the past years, there have been many people who have had to take a look at their own lives due to the job market, and in some cases, they’ve had to change geographical locations for new or different professional opportunities or even to rebuild their life. Your protagonist Miranda Jones makes a difficult personal decision to move from city life (San Francisco) to a small coastal town (Milford-Haven). She pursues her artistic endeavors from what many may see as a more limiting environment. How do your characters help your readers examine their own lives and decisions?

Mara: Our culture typically focuses on using logic and intellect to make life decisions, (both big and small). We tend to choose what feels “safe” and the steady path in life because we make decisions based on external rather than internal “intuitive thinking.” Mentors such as Joseph Campbell, whom I worked under at Open Eye Theatre, along with Jean Erdman, http://bit.ly/S9vmhK  tell us to “follow our bliss.” This can be difficult to do because it tends to be different than the way our culture views things, usually not part of a normal career path. Those that decide to do something because it “feels good” can be opening a crack into what leads to our own fulfilling path in life. People who work in the arts use a life-long practice of listening to their hearts and intuition. It may go against logic but it what they do is personally fulfilling.

My characters in my books either reject this idea of “doing what you love” or they decide to be authentic to themselves, and decide to go against logic. In the case of Miranda Jones, she is at odds because she is a wildlife painter, yet, she is living in a city and in order to observe wildlife, she needs to escape city life. Ultimately, she settles in the coastal town of Milford-Haven against her manager’s advice and against her parent’s wishes. But, she creates a sense of home and connection with nature in Milford-Haven. Many of my characters feel conflicted between what their heads and hearts are telling them, which gives the reader permission to examine their own core beliefs and think about how they live their lives.

In this current economy, people have been forced to think more about making decisions using intuition and they have learned that the secure path they’ve lived may have been an illusion.

Sue: Is what you write based on experience or do your storylines bring realizations to you?

Mara: Both, my experiences and internal direction help craft a story. I don’t feel comfortable if everything I do is based on the external. There is a spiritual component that leads me- beyond intelligence. Many years after I began writing about the town of Milford-Haven which is based on a town in Wales, I found out that I had relatives in that part of the world. It made me realize that I was doing what I was supposed to do.

In doing my research for the third book, I was unable to locate an expert that I wanted to talk to about the architecture of oil rigs. One day, I got on a very crowd flight and sat next to a man and our conversation led to what we did for a living. As it turned out, he designed off shore oil rigs. He drew pictures for me, and I got exactly what I needed to continue the story for the third book.

For information on Mara Purl’s publications, Click here

Return tomorrow to the blog of Cornerstone Fulfillment Service, LLC www.AllThingsFulfilling.com. We will be continuing our conversation with Mara Purl about a shift she has noticed in books people read. We will also discuss how Mara has been able to take the spirit of her character, artist Miranda Jones, and use her own artistic creativity to come up with a reminder for her readers of what they have learned and perhaps the decisions they have made for themselves in the reading of the Milford Haven Series.

This blog brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, author of Gift of a Lifetime:Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.

From Dust to Dreams

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Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Did you see “From Dust to Dreams” on PBS on Friday night? What an outstanding program; made for a fulfilling and fun evening. I can only imagine what it must have been like to have been at the opening evening of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. http://www.thesmithcenter.com   A stunning arena!

The 2,050 seats in the auditorium were filled to capacity reminding us as they pointed out in the show that “if you build it, people will come.” Like other top performing arts centers in the country, this creative space will stay booked and busy. It is in the city of Las Vegas, long known for its outstanding entertainment.

The show could not have been better orchestrated. Stars like Martina McBride, John Fogerty, Willy Nelson, Jennifer Hudson, Carole King, violinist Joshua Bell and many others ushered in the opening season and nearly brought down the house of this much heralded new venue that opened on March 10, 2012.

For me, however, the crème de la crème, were the artists trained in musical theatre; they sing so succinctly and clearly. Musical theatre is my favorite form of art, bar none. The range of tunes, from some of the most notable musicals in history, really carried the night. The audience heard songs from West Side Story, Ragtime,Man of LaMancha, Rent, Life of the Party, Sweet Charity and The King and I.  Some of my favorites.

The cost to build this facility was $470 million dollars and construction took 33 months to complete it. The finale was so appropriate to the evening. “Take Care of this House,” sung by Jennifer Hudson was performed with panache.

If you missed this show, there is a DVD of “From Dust to Dreams” available to the public, thanks to PBS. It is well worth buying and it would bring personal fulfillment as a Christmas present to the fan of performing arts in your family. Here is the link.From Dust to Dreams.

This blog brought to you by www.CornerstoneFulfillmentService.com.

Common Community Through Art and Culture

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“In art, the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can imagine.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you ever noticed how artists flock together and build common community?

People find kinship in their writing, painting, poetry, music, filmmaking, knitting,the performing arts and so forth. You know how it goes. Everyone in the group speaks the same language. 

The Colorado Creative Industries has worked to identify communities where art contributes greatly to the overall culture,  enhancing the lives of local citizens and tourists.  

Telluride has been designated as a one of five prospective Creative Districts in Colorado. Forty-four towns and cities were under consideration. The goal of the Colorado Creative Industries is to bolster the artistic community by providing consulting and technical assistance and an $8,000 grant to help grow the community as an economic driver through art. 

During the winter, outstanding skiing is the impetus behind visiting this “box canyon” with stunning and dramatic scenery, but in summer it is all about art festivals. Each weekend from May to September people flock to the area for two film festivals, music concerts and gatherings of playwrite/screenwriters. There is also a Cajun weekend, chamber music, yoga and bike races,  and more. 

There is even a Compassion Festival held in Telluride, which I was not aware of until I picked up some tourist literature. This event brings in academia from different parts of the country who lecture on the benefits that compassion brings to overall health, well-being and stress reduction. Cultural differences in compassion is also part of the discussion. It is held in collaboration between the Telluride Institute http://bit.ly/U87yzg and Stanford University’s Center for Compassion & Altruism Research & Education (CCARE). Interesting! Please visit this link to read more about it.http://bit.ly/QVb8Kn

Congratulations, Telluride! When I was in the area recently I was impressed with your charming Victorian homes, art galleries, retail spaces, historic hotels, the amazing scenery and the emcompassing flavor of the artistic community. It was fun visiting. I’ll be back!

This blog brought to you by www.CornerstoneFulfillmentService.com.

Creating Legendary Filmmaking

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“At the center of every fairy tale lay a truth that gave the story its power.” ~ Susan Wiggs

There is a new Disney movie that is soon to be released called Brave. It is about family, protecting a kingdom and Celtic legends. The Highlands of Scotland is the setting for this production. A great Christmas present for the entire family. Click for info & ordering Brave

Besides an opportunity to tell a fulfilling fairy tale story, along the lines of Grimms Brothers or Hans Christian Andersen, the production of this film has some the most complex visuals in movie making possible. Pixar Animated Studios rewrote their animation system after twenty five years to bring these computer-animated effects to the viewer.

Don’t miss out on this fantasy adventure film written by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Irene Mecchi and Brenda Chapman.  To read more about the film, to learn about the characters and to watch a video trailer, please visit this website. http://bit.ly/yzz6Ky.

Have a nice weekend, everyone! Return next week to All Things Fulfilling to learn more about creative industry.

This blog brought to you by Sue Batton Leonard, author of Gift of a Lifetime:Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected  and www.CornerstoneFulfillmentService.com.