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published in Uncategorized by Maryanne | February 18, 2019 | No Comment

Two Playwrights Talk Shop

 

Maryanne Pope, Photo by Roxanne Low

This an in-depth interview with yours truly by playwright, director & blogger, James Hutchison (published Jan 14th, 2019):

JAMES HUTCHISON

You’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time?

MARYANNE POPE

Oh yeah, I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was seven. I think that was probably when I first thought of it. But I never really got the concept that you actually have to sit down and write. It was always something in the distance that I wanted to do.

JAMES

As far as your writing career goes your husband’s death seems to be a marker. There was a life before that and a life after that.

MARYANNE

After I graduated from the University of Calgary when I was twenty-five and up until John’s death when I was thirty-two I wanted to try and write a novel. I had no interest in playwriting or screenwriting or anything like that. So, I started to work on a novel but I didn’t really know what I was doing and I was just creating a female protagonist who’s unhappy with her life and wanted to change the world and become a writer. And I wasn’t unhappy with my life, but I was unhappy with the fact that I wasn’t finding the time to write because by this time John and I were married. We’d bought a house. The financial pressure was on. The family pressure was on – are you going to have kids? You’ve got the mortgage now. John’s working full time. I was working full time, and so I was writing less and less and I was very anxious…

Please click here to read entire interview.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

 

published in Uncategorized by Maryanne | September 18, 2018 | 10 Comments

Comment on A Widow’s Awakening Book Cover Sparks Candid Discussion

 

“Sometimes we must lose what we love the most to awaken the person we are meant to be.”

– Words on cover of A Widow’s Awakening novel

Words have tremendous power

Words can heal. Words can help. Words can hurt. Words can forge relationships and words can end them. And the words on a book cover, I recently learned, don’t just help sell books; they can also send potential readers running in the opposite direction.

That’s exactly what happened after the launch of the A Widow’s Awakening novel. And I am grateful the potential reader in question chose to contact me directly…because her comment sparked a candid discussion about a deeper question:

When tragedy strikes, are we “supposed” to learn from loss and try to transform a horrific situation into some sort of change for the better, either in ourselves or the world around us?

This is the original comment I received:

Good morning Maryanne,

“Sometimes we must lose what we love the most to awaken the person we are meant to be”. I was about to order the book when this stopped me in my tracks. I hear things like this, and I cannot reconcile anyone saying this to me. I would give anything to have had my life path go in a direction that did not include my losses. I will never know how my life path would be if my son and husband were still here. I will never know the difference between them being here and them not being here. Nobody knows, nobody could ever know. My son was killed at work October 2015 at 25 years old. My husband died of brain cancer February 2016 at 51 years old.

I came across your blog a year or more ago (I have no sense of time) and I think your name caught my eye at first. Then I really connected with your way of thinking, writing, feeling. I understand from you, that your loss allows for writing from the financial point of view, and it prompted you, I just cannot wrap my head around the sentence. I do not know you, even so, I wonder if you wrote the sentence? I would have guessed your line of thinking was the same as what I have tried to explain. I would love to hear from you.

This was my response (edited slightly for this blog): 

Thank you for your heartfelt comment on my Pink Gazelle blog – about the sentence on the cover of A Widow’s Awakening: “Sometimes we must lose what we love the most to awaken the person we are meant to be.”

No, I did not personally write that exact sentence. The publisher came up with that – based on the contents of my book AND on all the additional content (for marketing and PR) that I wrote and sent to them. I approved the sentence and stand by it. But I can totally understand your perspective…because that is certainly NOT everyone’s belief: that everything happens for a reason and when we suffer horrendous losses, we can choose to become better people through the experience.

Your comment raises an extremely important question: ARE we meant to learn from horrific tragedies and strive to become happier than we were before those we love were yanked from us? Or do tragedies just happen…and we get to move forward however we choose?

I do NOT have the answer. As a writer, however, I have chosen the path of exploring the possibility that sometimes a tragedy has the potential for positive change – both in ourselves in and in the world around us. My personal experience has shown me that maybe, just maybe, there is always some sort of larger plan unfolding and that my husband John’s death was part of that…everything that happens is.

But I could be wrong. John’s death could just be a simple case of cause and effect…no safety railing, no husband. And my choice to ‘awaken and become the person I was meant to be’ was simply a personal choice based on my beliefs, my relationship with John, the circumstances of his death, my financial situation and my dream of becoming a writer.

The argument John and I had hours before he died was a defining moment for me. I had been complaining to him, yet again, about how frustrated I was with myself for not writing…and how scared I was of waking up 20 years later and STILL not have finished writing a book. He looked at me and said, “You’re probably right about that…just as long as you know that will have been your choice.”

Ouch. So when he died the next the day, I knew exactly what I had to do: write. And in the process of grieving his death, writing, working with the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund, determining whether or not I wanted to have a child on my own, and trying to find a new guy to have a relationship with, I gradually began to realize that I had a choice: I could more or less stay the same person I was when John died…or I could change and grow and become better – with or without a new partner to share my life with.

There is a quote (it is in A Widow’s Awakening near the end) by Louis Menand that goes: “Organisms don’t struggle because they evolve; they evolve because they struggle.” That sums up my journey through grief.

Interestingly, the book I am currently writing is entitled, Life After Loss; Lessons Learned from Grief, Grace & Growth. It is an exploration of the very subject matter you and I are e-mailing each other about: the possibility that tragedy, loss and suffering hold the potential for personal growth. But at the end of the day, this particular path/perspective is a personal choice. There have been many days (and still are) when I wonder if John’s death was ‘meant to be.’ My writing explores this possibility…but that’s all it is: a possibility.

The only thing I really know for certain is that I have grown as a person in the wake of losing John. Yes, I was kicking and screaming for much of the process but at the end of the day, I have learned an awful lot that I likely wouldn’t have if he had lived. But if he had lived, I know I would have learned different things!

I hope this answers your question. I cannot thank you enough for being so candid in your comments. I am so very sorry that you lost both your son and your husband.

Please take care,

Maryanne

And then this happened…

I sent the e-mail then went to my kitchen for coffee. My friends, Lynne and Gavin, happened to be staying with me for the weekend and I ran into Gavin in the kitchen. I told him about the exchange, to which he said, “I think the key word in the sentence on your book cover is sometimes. You’re not saying that everyone who loses someone they love is going to – or needs to – have the experience of awakening to the person they are meant to be.”

I went back to my computer & sent the person this follow-up e-mail:

Hello again…after I sent that e-mail, I remembered one more thing I wanted to mention. In that sentence that struck a real nerve with you, there is the word “sometimes” at the beginning. I think that is a really important word.

I think we are each on very different journeys and are going to experience different things in the wake of whatever it is we are dealing with. In my personal situation, I really got the sense early on that John’s death was a wake-up call for me. His death forced me to face a great many things about myself that I likely wouldn’t have dealt with otherwise.

But I don’t think that every time someone experiences a significant loss, there is a some sort of mandatory requirement to learn from the experience. I think that is a choice…and a very personal one based on many factors.

Maryanne

And then Lynne woke up…

Lynne actually read A Widow’s Awakening a couple of weeks ago, so the story was fresh in her mind. When I told her about the e-mail exchange, she had a different take. This was her response: “I agree the sentence on the book cover is a possible message one could take from the actual story – but to be honest, it really should be up to the reader to decide that after reading the book…versus being told that on the book cover.”

Lynne, the actress working with me on my Bungalow by the Sea play script, then smiled and added (oh so cheekily), “It’s like a play, Maryanne…you don’t TELL the audience what you think they are supposed to take from it or even what they could consider taking from it. You let them determine that for themselves based on the story.”

And there you have it. If you would like to weigh in on this discussion, I would love to hear your feedback (at least I think I would…this constant learning is really rather exhausting!).

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

published in Uncategorized by Maryanne | August 25, 2018 | 2 Comments

Sojourn to the City of Angels

 

“Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.”

– Winnie the Pooh

Oh my good golly, can you believe August is nearly over? Where the heck did the summer go? I hope you’ve had a delightful one, with plenty of rest and relaxation.

As per usual, it was the body versus the mind that called a time-out for this gazelle on a recent trip to Los Angeles. I had high hopes of doing some work on a screenplay, as the creative energy in L.A. is fantastic. But a crummy cold put an end to that plan.

Instead, I slept, ate, visited with my friend Nina and her family, took in a few sights and ate some more. Okay, so I wasn’t that sick 🙂

On Saturday afternoon, we saw Christopher Robin at the El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard. I am a Pooh fan and appreciated the reminder that sometimes it’s okay to just play…or do nothing at all. For that does indeed often lead to the very best of something.

I loved the movie AND the old theater (owned by Disney). Before the film started, there was even an organist on stage, playing Disney songs!

The original reason for my sojourn to the City of Angels was to celebrate Nina’s 80th birthday. And we certainly did that in true Hollywood style…what a party! Nina’s daughters, Lani and Westerly, threw their Mom a splendid soiree. There was much laughter, a few tears and we were treated to some fabulous photos of Nina from her days as an actress in Hollywood.

You could feel the love in the room as people – family, friends and colleagues – from different stages of Nina’s life shared their stories and memories. I was honoured to be included.

MA & Nina

I have known Nina for 14 years – when I first contacted her about the rights to Nell Shipman’s autobiography for a screenplay I wanted to write.

Nell Shipman was a Canadian-born silent screen star who had her own production company and was an early advocate for the fair treatment of animals in film. Nell was a pioneer – in film and in her passion for animals and the wilderness.

Nina is Nell Shipman’s granddaughter. Showbiz runs in the Shipman family.

While working my way through dozens of rewrites of the God’s Country screenplay over the years, I have to got to know Nina and her family. What started as a working relationship gradually grew into a friendship.

Here are a few more photos from LA

This is a great shot of the Shipman girls: Lani and Westerly are Nina’s daughters – so Nell’s great granddaughters. Serena is Westerly’s daughter – so Nell’s great great granddaughter!

L to R: Lani, Westerly, Serena & Nina

Another example of showbiz running in the Shipman family is Lani. She is an actress as well as the co-founder of YADA (Youth Academy for the Dramatic Arts) – which has been offering comprehensive theatrical training to youth in LA for 21 years.

YADA offers a safe and exciting environment in which students can learn, grow, and enrich their lives while practicing the skills of theatrical performance. Since 1997, more than 20,000 students have participated in 574 productions! I have seen several performances at YADA over the years and the shows are outstanding.

If your child is interested in learning the ropes of theater from the pros (the 2 week summer camps are extremely popular) be sure to check out YADA’s programs.

While in L.A., Nina and I watched a dress rehearsal of Peter Pan at YADA and it was excellent, as usual. Here is the set:

Of course, there was also a little shopping done at Nordstrom’s 🙂 which is dangerously located a mere block away from the hotel at The Grove shopping center. These are the fountains at The Grove:

And this is a neat shot of a fruit vendor on Hollywood Boulevard:

These are the toes of yours truly, relaxing by the hotel pool (getting the hang of doing nothing):

Take care, thanks for reading and have a great week!

“People say doing nothing is impossible, but I do nothing everyday.”

– Winnie the Pooh

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.