I have always written. I can still quote the first poem I ever wrote in the first grade. But I never thought of it as a vocation until I got to college and found myself immersed in poetry and writing. I followed that path to grad school where writing poetry didn’t fill the days the way I had hoped, and I took a Playwriting taught by a grad student named Lee Blessing. When the head of the Playwriting Department suddenly quit his job, he was replaced in a matter of hours by an insane Scottish playwright named Tom McGrath, whose exquisite play, The Hard Man, was a huge influence on me, and subsequently by Phil Bosakowski, who taught us that plays were agile and alive in ways I hadn’t thought of. I used my poetry background to craft my plays, and out of this came my first play, The House Across the Street, the story of a family living across the street from serial killer John Wayne Gacy. It won the American College Theatre Festival and went on to be produced at Ensemble Studio Theatre in New York, and I followed it there. I have spent the last 40 years writing for theatre and film, keeping up my poetry and working on two novels.
The sheer joy of writing sustains me through good times and bad, allows me to discover things I didn’t know, to work out problems I haven’t figured out how to handle yet, to feel love and gratitude in an often unlovable, ungracious world. I like lending this out in teaching. I believe that in order to learn one must do, and I believe whole-heartedly in the Goddard model of learning to write by studying the writing of others. A practical person, I also feel it’s important to teach people how to sell what they write. I crave the freedom of working on a novel in obscurity, and I enjoy the restrictions inherent in writing a villanelle, or a play, or a screenplay. I love inventing people and deeds, and I love stepping into the shoes of characters that are difficult and familiar. I teach from the experience of almost thirty years of daily fighting and flying with my talent and my shortcomings and the infinite possibilities inherent on a blank page. I like engaging in dialogue over new work. I know the psychology of being a writer as well as structure and form, and enjoy sharing this as well. I like helping writers get over the fear of revision, find inspiration, and see all the fantastic possibilities in their ideas. I love narrative and I love busting narrative. I love the stage picture and all the elements of performance that one can bring into an evocative piece of theatre or poetry. If I have a static philosophy, it’s something like, as Roethke put it, “…I learn by going where I have to go…”