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Carol White finds success as an author and playwright

By Mary Yuhas

Carol White, a Boca Raton, Fla. resident, is an award-winning novelist, playwright and freelance writer. Her essays, stories and columns have been published by The Sun Sentinel, Writers Journal, Insight for Playwrights, Working Writers, Woman’s World, The Florida Writer, and Senior Scene. She is a frequent fiction contributor to the East Hampton Star Newspaper. Carol is a long-standing member and officer of the National League of American Pen Women, and also belongs to the South Florida Theatre League, and Florida Writers Association. Her second novel, From One Place to Another won three independent awards, and her third, Sitting Pretty recently won Best Book in the 2014 NABE Pinnacle Awards.

LitVote: How did you start writing plays?

Carol: After my divorce in 2001, I searched out evening activities and wound up volunteering as a back stage dresser for the Willow Theatre in Boca Raton, Fla. After becoming a costumer there and at other local theatres, I became friendly with the directors and often sat in with them as a sounding board during rehearsals. Shortly thereafter I was appointed to the board of the Boca Raton Theatre Guild, and we did three staged readings a year, plus two full scale productions. Two of the readings were for ten-minute play festivals, meaning eight to ten short plays that were performed in an evening or matinee over the course of two-three weekends. By that time, I was the Executive Producer for the Guild and read, saw, learned, and produced dozens of short plays. I knew what worked and why. That’s when I began to write my own short plays.

LiteVote: On July 25 and 26th, your 10-minute play, The Gluten-Free, Organic, Artisan Date, directed by Steven Strickland, will be performed off Broadway in NYC at The Jewel Box Theater. What’s it like to sit in the audience and watch your play come alive?

Carol: I’ve had good and bad experiences with that. My first short play, Speed Date, was produced in a community theatre in Boca Raton. It was exceptionally directed and acted, and I was thrilled. I saw the same play professionally produced by equity players off Broadway a year later and was very disappointed. It’s really hit or miss, and because it’s live theatre, there are no do-overs. The July 25th and 26th dates for my new play in New York will be Steven Strickland’s second directorial endeavor for me, and since we won best play of the 2013 festival, I have full confidence in him.

White, CarolLit Vote: Do you think beginning playwrights should start with short plays?

Carol: There are several versions of the quote below, and it’s been attributed to writers from Mark Twain to George Bernard Shaw:

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”

I think this quote sums up writing the short or ten-minute play. A short play is not simply a conversation. It must have a beginning, a middle, and an end…with some sort of conflict, surprise or twist. If a beginning playwright has experience writing short stories, a good exercise would be to try turning one of them into a ten-minute play. Full length plays give the playwright a better opportunity to develop plot and characters.

LitVote: You coach other playwrights and review their work. What is the most common mistake beginning playwrights make?

Carol: The playwright workshop I lead at the Delray Beach Playhouse concentrates on writing the short play. I’ve given the participants copies of a published article I wrote for Insight for Playwrights listing the  do’s and don’ts from the producer’s point of view, but I still see plays with too many props, sets, and scenes that can’t possibly be managed within the timeframe of ten minutes. However, because of our critique sessions, many of the writers rework their plays, which is highly encouraged, and we  re-read them at another session. I’m happy to say that my students have made fantastic progress.

LitVote: Is it harder to sell a play now than it was ten years ago?

Carol: The competition is fierce; two and three-fold from what it was ten years ago. Short play festivals have become very popular and many people are getting into the game.

LitVote: You also write books and you have written mystery, women’s fiction and comedy and have won awards for almost all of them. How do you manage to write different genres so well?

Carol: I’ve written two novels of contemporary fiction, and one book of short stories. From One Place to Another won three awards, and Sitting Pretty won two. My first book, Hidden Choices, was really a novella so I didn’t submit that to any contests. As to your question regarding the various genres: it comes naturally to me and usually a story is formed from an idea that I might have had twenty years ago, or a current fad, or even from a personal experience.

LitVote: What do you enjoy writing more, scripts or books?

Carol: Right now, I’m finishing my third full-length play, and putting together another book of short stories, so I go back and forth with those two projects. Whatever I’m currently working on is my favorite!

LitVote: Which is more difficult for you to write and why?

Carol: Plays are easier for me because there isn’t much back story, and I don’t have to deal with as many characters as there are in books. I don’t have to add description because much of that is taken care of in the set, props and costumes. Sitting Pretty, the book of short stories, was extremely difficult to put together because there were twenty stories – and I had to keep track of names, places, professions, food (yes, there is food mentioned in all my work) and even clothing. I use a postcard template to list the basic elements for each story. The bonus novella, Reptilian, at the end of the book was quite easy because I had the entire story in my head and knew where it was going.

LitVote: Why is food mentioned in all of your work?

Carol: I’ve always had a keen interest in food, and for many years cooked and entertained at home for friends and family. My parents were both excellent cooks, and my sister is as well. I worked as a party planner for a large catering company in Boca Raton, Florida, and learned even more about certain cuts of meats, cooking methods, etc. Although that was a short-lived career, it became the outline for my second book, From One Place to Another. Throughout the years I’ve taking many cooking classes, and have met and interviewed chefs and restaurant owners.

LitVote: What’s in your future?

Carol: I’d like to continue teaching my playwright workshop, and hopefully, present a showcase of my students’ work. I’d like to have my own plays continue to be performed in south Florida. I’ve had two theatres produce an evening of my short plays, and I’m working on a third for one of those venues. My first full length play, The Road to Remsenburg, was produced as part of the South Florida Theatre League’s Summer Reading Program, and I’d like to see that one picked up by another theatre. I have a new idea about a column I’d like to pitch, but that is in the beginning stages.

Find out more about Carol

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Author Mary Yuhas, has over 87,000 reads on Scribd of the first three chapters of her memoir, QUIT AND BE QUIET, about growing up with a severely mentally ill mother.

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