On one of the boards I frequent, there was a discussion of cursive writing, or “joined up” writing, as Gilderoy Lockhart called it. I went to a Catholic school as a child, where the nuns and other teachers (who were, contrary to stereotype, very kind and never would have raised a hand to a child) made sure we learned the Palmer Method of Penmanship.
I noted that I still write in cursive (which is apparently becoming a lost art), especially when I send “thank you” notes. I had to go to the store yesterday to buy more when I ran out, and have noted (ha!) that it’s getting harder and harder to find them, with the exception of small pre-printed packets that pertain to babies or weddings.
Since I have had/am planning neither, I have to take whatever too-small glossy pink or green thing in a barely-suitable font is hanging in a packet of 8 on the endcap at the drugstore. Condoms come in more sizes. I’m also sorry to see that there are fewer beautiful blank cards. (Well, except for things with kittens on them, and I’m just not sending a card with a kitten on it. Shades of Dolores Umbridge!)
But getting back to both penmanship and thank you notes, I’ve dropped a steady pile of hand-addressed envelopes in the mailbox across the street in the last few days. If no one dumps snow or a suspicious package in the blue box, the cards will be headed to their destinations Monday. It’s not instantaneous, it’s not convenient, but it’s nice. People appreciate hand-written notes, usually with a level of positive response that more than covers the minimal effort to write them.
It’s a personal style that makes sense to carry over into a professional style: everyone appreciates a thank you, an apology, a “nice job,” whether the person who’s getting it is your sister or the director of your new play.
I’ve been working on a book about marketing for playwrights with Patrick Gabridge, a guy who knows a lot about these things, and as we put together the outline, I suggested we include a section on the importance of saying “thank you.” Each morning, when I’m planning my day, I make a note of anyone who needs to be thanked. Did a colleague create a really cool map on deadline? Did a fellow writer give good critique at Playwrights Circle? Did someone read a beautiful piece at Drunken! Careening! Writers!? (interrobang!)
So a line or two of thanks is in order, more if it was a big project. Detail is always appropriate: as in “your comments helped me figure out the first act” or “the character in your short story is someone I will think about for a long time,” or “I really, really liked the chocolate-covered bacon.”
And at the end of the year, along with totting up things like how many books I’ve edited, how many plays and stories I’ve submitted, how many readings I’ve curated, how many manuscripts I’ve screened, how many plays and novels I have unfinished, and how many birthdays I’ve forgotten, I try to remember if I’ve thanked everyone. (That’s one of the things that keeps me up at night, or wakes me up, along with scary dreams of giant animals attacking my pets. No, I don’t know what that means.)
There were many people to thank in 2010, especially because there some unpleasant surprises where people stepped up and stepped in, both personally and professionally.
As a playwright, I have to thank the folks at Upstart Productions in Colorado, the Universal Theatre in Provincetown, PlaySlam in Boston, Twenty Percent Theatre in Minneapolis, and The Women’s International Theatre Festival (also in Provincetown), Working Theatre Collecective in Portland (OR), Playwrights for Pets in NYC, and Vanguard Rep in Los Angeles, along with my alma mater, UMBC, for putting on/giving staged readings of my plays (and thank you, Dramatists Guild for representing my interests!)
Thank you Smith & Kraus, Applause, Samuel French, Dramatic Publishing and United Stages for publishing and keeping many of my plays, scenes and monologues in print. And of course, I must thank my home theaters EAT and TOSOS for making it possible for me to help put on a benefit for the Dublin Gay Theatre Festival last March (and all the artists who gave of their time and donated to the raffle), and for giving me a platform to hear my work read, and presenting staged readings by playwrights whose work I LOVE and often producing it.
Team Wombat (aka the team that put on the TOSOS production of The Five Lesbian Brothers’ “The Secretaries” at the NY Fringe and Fringe Extension) deserve “not over yet” thanks for one of the productions I’m most proud to have been part of in my career.
Thanks to all the talented writers who participated in Drunken! Careening! Writers!, and to KGB Bar, which continues to host the series for an eighth consecutive year. And thanks also to the hot writers (and guest judge Lea DeLaria) who made editing Best Lesbian Erotica a sweaty joy (and all the people at Cleis, who continue to back this series!)
Huge, great thanks to all the bloggers (and the Extra Criticum blog, where I endeavor to blog on occasion!), journalists, photographers, editors, artistic directors, directors of marketing and publicity, and fellow travelers who list the events I host and plays I have produced, and books I edit, and give of their time, talent, knowledge and wisdom.
Thanks as always to mentors and friends from Tina Howe to Kaylie Jones to Doric Wilson, Mark Finley, Paul Adams, Carol Rosenfeld, PENolan and so many others. And if I haven’t thanked you this particular time, expect to hear from me soon & often.
I’ve just ordered some new thank you notes from Vistaprint, which are much nicer than the ones at the drugstore.
Oh, and before I close, I should tell that you can say “thank you” in an infinite variety of ways. The only constant is that when you say it, you have to mean it.