I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.
September 1, 2021: Greg Changnon
Greg Changnon is a writer who is also a super hero reader and teacher. Currently, he’s a book-club facilitator for over thirty Atlanta-area book clubs. Which means he helps the clubs choose books, and then he reads the books, prepares discussion notes, and steers the conversations so all readers have a meaningful experience. It makes me want to be him AND be a reader in one of those groups. Ironically, I met Greg not in Georgia where we both live, but in Positano, Italy over a decade ago when we both attended the Sirenland Writers Conference.
For years, Greg wrote reviews and guides for the “Reading Room” column of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here’s an excerpt from his November 2005 discussion of Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys.
Is it possible that Spider and Fat Charlie represent two sides of a single person? What does Neil Gaiman seem to be saying about the duality of human nature? Possessing a mixture of wisdom and rebellion, the trickster figure, common to a variety of primal religions, represents the combination of good and bad. If Fat Charlie is the obedient and passive brother, Spider exists as the more spirited and conniving doppelganger.
Greg was featured in the 2013 September/October issue of Poets & Writers magazine for his innovative work infusing theater and playwriting into his classroom at The Paideia Schools in Atlanta where he taught for fifteen years.
Changnon, who graduated from SFSU with an MFA in fiction in 1977, started writing plays for his students a few years ago when, looking for a play they could work on, he realized that most of the scripts that would be appropriate for his students forced them to play adults. At the time, he was teaching Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451, so he wrote a loose dramatic adaptation that transformed Bradbury’s adult characters into teenage ones his students could comfortably portray. The result was so successful that he decided to write a new play for his students every year.
In Encore Atlanta, Julie Bookman mentions Greg’s 2015 play and goes into great detail about Slur, his 2016 play.
In 2015, the classes read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and created a piece called Only Us, about unsupervised students stuck in a school building during a “snowpocalypse.” Slur began with George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, about an Englishman’s efforts to turn an unrefined Cockney flower seller into a duchess.
Slur opens with the word ‘jihadist’ found on a locker. Greg wrote this play along with his Junior High students and another Paideia teacher Martha Caldwell. Later, it was performed at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta. As one reviewer wrote, “[T]he play approaches its weighty subjects of identity and individuality with a winning combination: a light touch, a sense of deep familiarity with the depicted world and best of all, unguarded honesty about life in the seventh grade.”
Greg’s story “How the Nurse Feels” about a high school production of Romeo and Juliet was adapted as a musical by the California Conservatory of the Arts and later developed as a musical by the Disney Musical Theatre Workshop. In June of 2018, it became an Off-Broadway production.
Another of Greg’s stories, “The Half Sister,” was published in Best New American Voices. This story puts us in the car with a mom and two daughters as the mom tells them, shortly after their father has died, not only that they have another sister but that they are on their way to meet her at a Holiday Inn four hours away. Here’s an excerpt in daughter Joan’s point of view in which we are being charmed by the storytelling at the same time that we are learning, in very few words, so much about the father and about the daughter Joan.
Sometimes she thought there was a sort of weather in everyone–climates hidden beneath the bones–and her weather was bad. Cumulonimbus, thundersqualls, mackerel skies–words Joan had learned when her father flicked from one weather report to another, watching the men in plaid he envied, listening to reports that were never true, reports he said he’d never get wrong.
Greg Changnon’s fiction has also appeared in the North American Review and Scribner’s Best of the Fiction Workshops. He was playwright-in-residence at The Galloway School and is a teaching artist at the Alliance Theatre.
Come back on SEPTEMBER 1st to read how GREG CHANGNON spends his days.