There was a bit of a stretch of time between week 9 and week 10 blogs, but my “year of new” project is still ongoing—and great! Finding time to write about each week’s new event has been the issue—but more about that later.
Friends have climbed on my “year of new” bandwagon and have helped with ideas and, on occasion, have been my intrepid partners for adventures. Susan found the Groupon for the drag queen brunch, and suggested we go. It definitely qualified as a new experience for me. We collected some other friends and six of us abandoned the bright Seattle sunshine on a Sunday afternoon to sit at the long plank tables in a packed, small darkened theatre, facing a dimly lit stage. We sipped our mimosas (part of the Groupon) and awaited the show.
Okay, I’ll be frank here. I had an idea of what a drag queen is, but honestly, I wasn’t sure that I had it right. So I did a little online research:
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a drag queen as a homosexual who dresses as a woman especially to entertain people.
dictionary.com states that a drag queen is a male transvestite, especially a performer, who dresses as a woman to entertain the public.
Both those definitions were straightforward. But the most intriguing information came from a Huffington Post blog:
It turns out that in the drag queen world there is nuance. For examples: Most drag queens are gay, but there is a small minority who are straight. “Bear” or “slag” drag queens don’t shave their facial hair. It’s a little more complicated than it first appears.
Our show began with the introduction of our mistress of ceremonies, a roundly robust and extraordinarily festooned and wigged figure with a voice that could flatten a room. We were exhorted to drink heavily, tip the performers liberally, and applaud at pretty much every juncture. Audience participation (and tipping), we were told, were the keys to a great show.
Then began the parade of acts. The performers lip-synced to very loud popular songs while dancing around the stage in spike-heeled boots, sequins, feathers and fans, fishnet stockings, giant wigs and headdresses. The two main performers were strikingly attractive, with figures any woman would envy. In spite of their heavy makeup and restricting costuming (imagine Cher all dolled up, but even more so), they were masterful dancers and athletes.
If there was a defining theme, it was that vast excess was required. One drag queen wore contact lenses that made her eyes glitter and glow like an alien from another planet. The drag queens were accompanied by dancers, men not in drag, but in very puzzling costumes. I couldn’t tell you why one dancer in the finale wore only a silver bikini and what appeared to be a silver submarine on his head, topped with the number 12. (Well, I do know about the number 12, because this is Seattle and 12 is shorthand for support for the Seahawks. But still.)
For me, it all fell a little flat. I’m fine with bawdy (and there was plenty of bawdy) but somehow the energy in the room didn’t build to a crescendo. The cast worked hard, but the show didn’t quite come together—perhaps because this was brunch, and for most of us, a mimosa is all we manage on a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps if this had been a late-night show with late-night energy and more alcohol, the experience would have felt different. It was an interesting experience, but I don’t think I need to go again.
But one thing I did realize: These are hard-working people. They strutted and danced and jumped and cartwheeled—they didn’t hold back.
It must be frustrating for them when the right energy doesn’t materialize in the audience during a show. Crowd energy is such an elusive quality, that invisible thrum, almost a pulse, that surfaces at great parties and concerts, sometimes emerging unexpectedly and spontaneously with a swelling updraft of pure fun and even joy. We’ve all experienced it—but it’s finicky. Sometimes it’s just not there, and that’s all there is to it.
So…why the blogs might be a little further apart in the weeks to come…
I am still pursuing my “year of new.” It’s infused me with optimism. In fact, it’s helped me regain the focus I need to recommit to finish my next book.
I don’t know if all authors experience the stages of writing in the same way, but I think most do. In the book writing world, composing the first draft is a dreadful slog. You’re putting together the bones for your book, and although the story may be living in your head, it’s a painful and slow process to pull it out of your brain and get it into written words. It takes a long time and it’s exhausting.
(Stephen King wrote that first drafts of books should take no longer than three months. If he could show me how to manage that, I would worship at his feet.)
I began my first draft of the sequel to Compass North before Mark received his devastating cancer diagnosis. As he struggled through treatment, the draft languished. There was no help for that. I’d pick it up periodically and write a scene or fiddle with some language, but I couldn’t give it the attention necessary to move it forward.
Then, when Mark died, I felt as if I’d dropped deep below the surface of an ocean. I was submerged in grief and loneliness and loss. It’s taken a long time to emerge from that, and though I’ll never be the same person I was before, I’m back in the world.
I have a wonderful event coming up in late October (more about that in later blogs) and I am determined to finish the first draft of my next book before then. It’s a huge amount of work to do in a short period of time, but I think it’s attainable if I work diligently. So I’m diving back into the world of my story, and already I’m experiencing some of the less desirable side effects. I miss turns when I’m driving because my brain is gnawing on a problem with a scene. Emails go unanswered. Garbage cans don’t get moved to the street on pickup days. I open the refrigerator and find, to my surprise, that there’s nothing for dinner because I haven’t thought to go to the grocery store. It’s all part of the process.
The completion of the first draft, of course, is only the beginning, but it’s a huge accomplishment. For me, it will mean the worst is over. I love the process of revision, of chewing on words and sentences and paragraphs, of rearranging scenes, revisiting my characters. It’s hard work, too, but it’s so much fun!
So yes, the “year of new” is continuing, but if there are reporting gaps, it will only mean that I’m once again putting in time at a table at Starbucks, Bose noise-cancelling earphones firmly clamped over my ears, and I’m probably frowning at my computer screen because the right words are sometimes so darn elusive.
Wish me luck!