It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged about anything. At work, I’ve been busy since December trying to figure out how to make a virtual musical happen. This weekend, we are opening Disney’s High School Musical, Jr. Needless to say, it’s been a busy few months.
Since we closed the fall production of the How Do We Feel Right Now?, I had been trying to figure out the best way to publish the play. I knew I wanted to get it out there sooner than later, and my struggle was whether to find a publisher or to self-publish. I had taken some advice and submitted the script to two different youth theatre publishers, hoping someone would bite. While I did get some nice feedback, they were not interested in dealing with the potential rigors of this kind of docudrama. Impatient person that I am, I decided to take things into my own hands.
Enter KDP Amazon. I had learned about their services over the summer as I was considering them for another piece I had been working on. When How Do We Feel Right Now? took over my existence, I put that piece on the back burner and went full steam ahead with the writing and producing of the show. I knew I’d have to consider publishing sooner than later, and I really wanted to get it out there before the anniversary of Mr. Floyd’s tragic demise. I did my research, figured out what was required, got the script edited in December. In March, I started working on the formatting process required for submission.
Really, the whole experience happened so fast once I made my decision. The formatting, while meticulous and somewhat grueling, was relatively simple and straightforward. I think I read and re-read the script a hundred times, checking for small errors, landing on appropriate font sizes, margins and cover art. I was both frightened and exhilarated by the whole process, thinking I’d find a way to mess it all up, but knowing that in the end, I would be holding my own book sometime in the near future.
On Friday, April 2, 2021, I pressed the submit button. The paperback version was complete. I was now a published author.
Over that weekend, I started to get the word out on social media. Lots of congratulatory messages from friends near and far started to pour in. One friend said he’d buy twenty copies to send out to his friends. He had shared with me some of the more difficult stories in the play and was so grateful that I had given him the opportunity to express those painful moments in his life. If he only knew how grateful I am to him for trusting me to share those things. Then, he mentioned something about sharing a press release, which gave me anxiety. The one thing in my life that I’ve always felt so uncomfortable about: self-promotion. It’s one of the things that steered me away from a life of performing. Now, I’d have to make friends with it.
That Monday, another friend texted me some congratulations. He also told me that my book was #1 in New Releases in Dramas by Women. That hit me. No matter how small, #1 in something good is something great. I kept clicking and looking at that image – a little orange banner under the title and publishing date. I’m really proud of that little banner.
I decided to order my own copy, since I figured the author should own one of her own books. My copy arrived a few days later and I had the surreal experience of unboxing a book that I had authored.
Some people had asked about an ebook, which I had intended to do right away, but my real life decided other things were more important at the time. However, never wanting to disappoint, I got it together and pressed submit on the ebook less than a week later.
Week #2 was sort of quiet – a few sales here and there. My school librarian brought me a copy to sign so she could put it on display in the school’s library – that felt great. Though my #1 status was over, and now it was just another play out there in Amazon land, I was happy. My efforts were out there, for anyone to see, and at any point, someone could see it and be affected in some way. In week #3, my #1 status came back for a day or two. By April 19, I had sold over fifty books and I had eight five-star reviews. I know this is small potatoes by any other standard, but for me, this was really a big deal. I was following through on promises I had made to people, and to myself. These stories were too important not to get out to the public.
On April 20, 2021, after a trial that lasted for three weeks, a jury found the former officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges for the killing of George Floyd: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. It was a nice closure for this particular event, even though the societal circumstances that led to that event haven’t really changed. Justice was served; one man was held accountable for his heinous actions, but the timeline of fear, exhaustion, terror and sadness lingers on.
As I scrolled through Facebook the morning before the verdict, I saw someone had posted a meme that quoted Pastor Mark Burns as saying, “We’ve got to stop being African-American or Hispanic-American. We’ve got to just start seeing ourselves…as Americans.” In response, I posted, When everyone is actually treated equally by others, maybe that can actually happen. I was going to leave it at that, until someone else decided to try to school me in the ways of the real world. She said…
We live in an imperfect world, unfortunately too many people fail to grasp that concept. All groups have their own biases, it’s a behavior hardwired into humans since the beginning of humanity. There will NEVER be a time when all people treat each other equally, to believe that could happen is the height of naivety. If it’s not color or race it’s physical attributes or it’s income, your neighborhood or your house. Or your gender. Wake up to humanity…to reality.
If this is humanity, then humanity has a big problem. Not being able to let it go, I responded…
Thank you for the social sciences lesson. However, to take the position that things will never change, means that it’s okay to accept things that are clearly wrong in our society. That is how we devolve as a community and as a civilization. Messaging counts, actions count, and as individuals, we need to take more responsibility in looking inward at how we treat others and check ourselves. Too many people refuse to do that. That is the reality.
In addition, we need to challenge our leadership to check their rhetoric and make sure they aren’t pitting us against each other. You can include media in that if you want, but they are simply reporting and often interpreting their “viewpoint” based on what their viewership wants to hear. And It’s a vicious cycle of people saying, “well they said this so it must be ok for me to say that.” It’s ludicrous, lazy, and not what we should be teaching our children.
This is why I’m still anxious – because even though justice was served for the perpetrator of this one crime against humanity, there will always be people who decide that they will side with “the way things have always been.” This is also why we must continue to counter those perspectives. I think that by illuminating how people are personally affected when someone who looks like them, or who looks like their friends and family, is abused or killed at the hands of the law or their community, we take a step towards elucidating something for those who are stuck in the past to the actual reality that people experience. We cannot simply be okay with “this is the reality – this is the way it always has been.”
This is why I wrote a play. This is why it needs to be read and shared. This is one of my contributions to creating change. I can only hope that it can serve as a vehicle for inspiration, education, and helping to shift the cultural dynamics to something more kind and inclusive.