“It’s easy to be alone,” Weehawken resident, journalist, playwright, author, former local newspaper columnist, and spatula enthusiast Sally Deering declared last week, half-believing what she said. “Nobody bothers you, you wake up when you want, you can walk around with a spatula sticking out of your underwear and nobody’s going to say, ‘Knock it off with the spatula in your underwear!”
“Then again,” she added, “we know it’s much more complicated than that. When you’re alone, you want to be with someone, and when you’re with someone, you want to be alone.”
Therein lies the thematic crux of her latest 10-minute short, “Feeding the Kitty,” which premiered last month at Manhattan’s Gene Frankel Theatre in a series of plays called “Bitten and Smitten.” It confronts a woman in the process of a one-night stand. The encounter carries through until morning, and while the woman is disappointed that the man she slept with didn’t disappear into the night, she realizes that she actually yearns for the prolonged human connection.
The paradox of being an oftentimes unwitting part of the human race also runs through many of Deering’s literary works, as well as her life as an author. The nature of the creative process of writing is necessarily alone, and yet, to do it effectively, not only must one appeal to an audience, one must also draw on life experiences created by obligatory human interaction.
“It’s like pulling an agoraphobic from their house and forcing them to go to the lingerie section at Macy’s.” – Sally Deering
“Everyone is percolating here,” she said. “You just percolate with your creativity and with your work and you’re drawn to face the city every day when you walk out the door, and everyone is right there with you one moment and aloof the next. We love each other but we just can’t hang out too long. It’s perfect.”
Deering has been percolating for quite some time, in countless capacities, and by the look in her eyes and the energy in her voice, she has no intention of stopping.
Smitten with writing
In the late 1980s, Deering found herself in the basement office of the Hudson Reporter across the street from its current location on Washington Street in Hoboken. She started out by writing a column and features in a now-cliché smoky newsroom.
After two years, she took her identity with her to the Jersey Journal’s Gold Coast Magazine in 1991. Eventually, she began writing a popular humor column for the Jersey Journal newspaper.
When she moved on to fiction, she discovered she had to learn to give as well as get information to and from people.
“Sometimes we take on this identity, and before it’s taken away we forget how to be a human being,” she explained. “That connection had to be made. It’s like pulling an agoraphobic from their house and forcing them to go to the lingerie section at Macy’s in Manhattan.”
But she did, and she found an entirely new landscape of creativity – or more specifically, what Deering calls her “playground.”
She writes early in the morning when she’s “still in dreamland,” she said. Deering sits at her computer with her coffee when it’s dark, before the bill collectors and the reality people pollute her mind.
Then, she writes. She writes plays, she writes novels, she writes for magazines. Deering says she’s finally found a way to push the limits of journalism with its otherwise formatted method of collecting interviews. Writing with guidelines, she says, helps her grow her craft.
“The older you get, the world is moving and you’re trying to understand it as fast as possible,” Deering said. “Sure, I’m feeling my age a bit, but I still want to connect, be acknowledged and understood and human. In other words, everything I’d hoped I was going to be.”
‘Crime noir mystery novel’
Fortunately and unfortunately for Deering, the “playground” stage of her latest novel is now over and she has entered the dreaded rewrite stage. But she is excited, because what she dubbed her “crime noir mystery novel” marks a new creative frontier.
Set in Hollywood in 1946 at the outset of the bleaker, post-golden age of World War II, her novel is inspired by her fascination with the relationship between Marilyn Monroe and her acting coach Paula Strasberg (wife of Lee of the famous Strasberg acting method).
“Coaches watch your body; they read your subtext or your lack of it; they know when you’re faking it,” Deering said. “One day I started thinking, how interesting would it be if an acting coach was pulled in to solve a murder? I mean, who better?”
And her novel was born. Deering is currently seeking a literary agent. But not just any literary agent; one who will really believe in her work and nurture her story, she said.
“When I was younger I was very proud,” Deering recalled. “Now I realize that you may write alone, but everything about it is relationships. Other people in your world help to keep you going, in everything that you do, at every stage of the process.”
For more information on Deering and her endeavors, visit www.sallydeering.com.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org