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WRITERLIST The E-Zine For Writers!

December 1998


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Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year to all WRITERLIST members and readers!


Some Fractured Facts About Christmas!

Who's Birthday?

For several hundred years after the Christian era began, the date of Christ's birth was unimportant. The highest celebration, as it still is in the Eastern Church, was Easter.

If one reads the New Testament carefully, it is evident that Christ was probably born in the spring.

Well, then, who was really born on December 25? You many be surprised to find that it was a Persian sun god named Mithras!

During Roman times, our Christmas was a celebration of the birth of the ancient pagan sun god. It was only natural for the church fathers invent Chirstmas to give the old Persian diety some competition!

Did Coca Cola Invent Santa Clause?

In 1931, artist Haddon Sundblom drew his first Santa portrate for Coca Cola. Myth has it that this was when Santa was really invented, and, perhaps, from a modern commercial view this is true.

Santa first appeared in the new world when Dutch immigrants settled in New Amsterdam. St. Nicholas, an early bishop, was part of the Dutch winter celebrations with a special feast day on December 14 in which he visited good children and put small gifts in their shoes which were left on the front steps.

Officially, we see Santa, or Old St. Nick, become known when the New York Historical Society was founded in 1804 with St. Nicholas as its patron saint, reviving the idea of St. Nicholas the gift bringer!

Let's Celebrate Boxing Day!

In mideval England Boxing Day, the feast of St. Stephen on December 26, was of equal importance to Christmas. In fact, it is still celebrated in the British Commonwealth. In the US, we have adopted a celebration popular in Canada, where Boxing Day is a national holiday, of merchants having clearance sales to reduce their Christmas inventories.

Boxing Day, however, has its roots in the English mideval manor life where the Lord of the manor would distribute goods to the manor servants who had come to the castle to celebrate the Christmas festival. At this time the servants were given their allotmnents of clothing, food, and other items to last until the summer harvests.

As people moved into the cities, the custom was continued. Masters traditionally gave their servants gifts on Boxing Day and even today many employers continue the custom for their employees.

By the way, in the 14th century Boxing Day was outlawed because it was thought to give a servant a gift was barbaric!

Do You Have A Yule Log Under Your Bed?

The Yule Log has a long tradition which in this century has gradually faded. The tradition is certainly of pagan origin and protect the home from fire and lightning.

One should never buy a Yule Log; it must come from one's on woodlot or that of a neighbors. In former times, yule logs were often just a stump or root.

The Yule Log is placed in the fireplace on Christmas Eve and the remains of the previous year's log, kept under the bed to protect the home, is used to light the new log. It is important the one has clean hands and that the log is lit before the evening meal. To works its charm, the log must burn for twelve hours and there are specific instructions as to how the log must be tended. For instance, the log cannot be tended during any meal in which food remains on the table.

The Yule Log brought, not only protection, but a magic time to the house on Christmas Eve. Occupants of the house would sit before the log telling ghost stories and watching the shadows cast upon the walls by the flames. Here, one's fortune or tragedy could be told for the coming year. For instance, a headless shadow surely meant a death in the home.

Once the log had burned it's twelve hours, the remains were carefully wrapped and put under the bed until the coming Christmas!

What About Christmas Candles?"

As cities grew, it was obvious that not everyone could find a free Yule Log, so it became custom for town merchants to give small candles away to replace the Yule Log. Christmas candles afforded the same protection as did Yule Logs and became a traditional part of Christmas.

The story goes that Martin Luther, the religious reformer, was riding home one Christmas morning from Midnight Mass and noticed the stars shining brightly though the forest trees. From this, Luther got the idea of decorating a tree with small candles to celebrate Christmas, thus, today, we have lights on the Yule Tree!

The Story of Christmas Candy Canes

There are many stories about the striped Christmas candy canes, one being that they were used by early Christians to identify one another. The fact is, by the time Christmas canes came into being the Western world was heavily Christianized and non-Christians would have been the ones using such items to identify one another!

The most believable story is that the canes first came into being in 16th-century Germany when a clever choirmaster handed them out to keep the children quiet during Midnight Mass. He reportedly had a local merchant make the canes with bent ends to represent the crooks used by the shepherd in the live nativity scenes of the time.

There is no record of what these canes looked like, though we are sure they were not striped. This innovation was added late in the last century when a US confectioner introduced the canes to be hung as decorations on the Christmas tree!


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Is There A Market For Drama?

by Allen Rolf

Drama is alive and well around the world ... and a fun thing to write!

Ever thought about writing a play? Maybe you should look into drama writing because it is alive and healthy and many writers find it an exciting creative form that can produce both immediate and residual income.

Of course, we are all acquainted with New York Broadway and off-Broadway productions, several hundred which hit the boards every year. Write a three-act Broadway hit and you will not only become somewhat rich but also famous. This is what most writers envision when you mention the subject of drama, but most of today's drama writers never get to Broadway. The majority of American playwrights today are simple people who live quiet lives in villages across the land just like everyone else. What most of us don't realize is that most modern drama is presented in the schools, colleges, and institutions that we ourselves frequent.

Can I Write Drama?

Most writers, even accomplished fiction writers, freeze when they think of writing a play. In some ways it is easier to write a three act play than a modern short story, and certainly much easier than a modern novel. Play writing is just another way to tell a story.

Our concept of drama comes from the Greek religious festivals that were prominent throughout the Greek City States in late 6th century BCE. These festivals were religious rituals used to honor the Greek god of theater Dionysis and used choral groups and masked actors to explain the religious stories to the populace.

Legend has it that one Thespis, an actor, hit upon the idea of introducing speaking parts to the masked actors (Thespians), thus creating a unique story telling form that is the basis for all drama in the Western world. Needless to say, the introduction of drama was a tremendous sophistication over the older story telling form.

(Note: for more history information: http://www.warwick.ac.uk/didaskalia/Didintro.html

Most people, including writers, think of the three-act Broadway play form which consists of three parts; Act 1: Introduction and statement of the thesis; Act 2: Introduction of Anti-Thesis (seemingly insurmountable conflict); and Act 3: Creation of the Synthesis (resolution of conflict). You will find these divisions identical to the basic rule of thirds for witing either long or short fiction. (See "The Rule of Thirds" - http://members.tripod.com/~flornella2/HowToWrite4.html)

As with other forms of story telling, there are several separate sub-forms in drama. Principle among these are one and two act plays which were developed as shorter versions to the classic three act play with which we are all familiar.

Again, the storyline process is identical (thesis, antithesis, synthesis), but with more compact construction. In today's drama market there is a very large market for one act plays; two act plays are not as popular.

Where Do I Learn To Write Drama?

There are several methods that can be used to discover how to write drama. The first and least expensive is to study scripts of plays that have been written and successfully produced. In this respect, there is a wealth of information on the Internet, ranging from the ancient Classical Greek and Roman plays all the way to plays that have been written in our era. Here are some links where you can actually study drama construction and get a good idea of subject matter:

The English Drama Collection (A very complete collection of modern modern short and long plays, as well as Classical Greek plays) - http://english.hss.cmu.edu/drama/

Dramatic Arts Links (All sorts of information about theatre as well as links to many complete plays) - http://www.zephryus.demon.co.uk/education/links/artdr.html

Religious Drama Center (A sampling of contemporary religious plays) - http://studentweb.cs.bham.ac.uk/~pjm/art/dramatic/

Drama Exchange (Full scripts of many plays) - http://www.dramex.org/

A second method of learning how to write drama is to actually join a theater group and become immersed in actual play production. This method provides a real feel for drama as well as develop contacts which can be invaluable. Almost every community has a local theater group one can join. To get involved, check with your local school district, college, or arts center or arts council. Many sources are listed on the Internet. Two good sites are:

The American Academy of Community Theater (http://aact.org/aactlink.html) which lists community theatre groups across the US.

Similar information can also be found at the Sacramento Ca Area Performing Arts site (http://www.lightsup.com/) You will also find some excellent links to other sites here.

The third method of learning to write drama is to take one of the many courses being offered at local colleges and universities, or to study one of the many books on the subject of play writing. A trip to your local library will provide a wealth of "how-to" information. Several good books, available from Amazon ( http://www.amazon.com) are:

The Art & Craft of Playwriting - Jeffrey Hatcher / Hardcover / Published 1996 $13.29

Art of Dramatic Writing - Lajos Egri / Paperback / Published 1977 $8.76

The Art of the Playwright : Creating the Magic of Theatre - William Packard / Paperback / Published 1997 $11.16

Characters in Action : Playwriting the Easy Way - Marsh Cassady / Paperback / Published 1995 Our Price: $11.96

How Do I Get Published?

Getting a play published is very much like getting a short story or novel published. Here is a list of drama publishers that have sites on the Internet:

http://www.stagekids.com/
http://www.samuelfrench.com/
http://www.kmrscripts.com/
http://www.dramapublishers.com/
http://www.broadwayplaypubl.com/
http://www.pioneerdrama.com/

Visit these sites and request a copy of their Writer/Submission Guidelines. This information will tell you what kind of drama the publisher is seeking, how much they pay, and particulars on submission. I would suggest a short query letter before submitting your manuscript.

Other markets include your local community theatre group (many such groups hold annual contests), youth directors of local churches, local museums, as well as local business promotion groups. If you plumb these markets well, you may be surprised at the possibilities that exist. One excellent source of referral is your local State Tourism office who often will be involved in local festivals and pageants. All too often, the promoters of these events go begging for drama material simply because they have no access to a writer with such interests.

What Should I Expect In Pay

Writing drama, you will find, is a highly speculative market and the range of pay for a script will range from as little as $50 for a one-act play to a full consultant retainer for a play that you write and actually help produce. Generally, commercial publishers will operate on an advance against royalties much like many book publishers. One of the important things about writing drama is that if you write a hit, even a one-act hit, you will see royalty income over a period of many years since a play can be produced over and over again.

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