Twinkle Burke Does It ALL

by Julie Chibbaro

As the founder of Get Lit Beacon, I’m always curious about what sorts of writers we have in our midst. I’m always impressed by who lives in Beacon, their accomplishments, their concern with community and how they go about making a difference through their work. After a conversation with Twinkle Burke, writer, actress, creative maker, homeschooling mom, I felt like I wanted to go even deeper, to find out how she weaves in so many talents. Luckily, she generously agreed to answer a few questions:

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GLB: Can you talk about all the different writing venues you’re involved in and how they help you to be productive?

TB: Sure. I am a regular attendee of the Write Now, Right Later., weekly workshop in Manhattan run by Emma Goldman-Sherman of the 29th Street Playwrights Collective. Emma provides a prompt for writers. We write for approximately an hour and then discuss the writing, then actors join and cold read scenes provided by the playwrights. Emma leads the discussion on what works and what questions participants have about the work. I participate as a writer and an actor. I have been involved at the ground level with several plays that have been workshopped there and had staged readings at the Dramatists Guild as well as other venues.

This year I have done 2 writing workshops with the TMI Project in Kingston. Most recently, my son and I participated in the “Black Stories Matter: Truth to Power” weekend workshop, which will have it’s culminating event on June 21. We will perform monologues of our writings that have been put together and edited by the TMI workshop leaders.

Recently, I was invited to join Dorset Theatre Festival’s Women Artists Writers. It’s a group of mid-career female Actor/Writers, who meet 2-3 times a month to share and workshop our pieces. It is 100% funded by Dorset Theatre Festival, which is an INCREDIBLE gift.  We just did a very successful presentation on the theme of “Sanctuary” to a full and enthusiastic audience at Alchemical Studios a couple of weeks ago. We will have our annual weeklong writing retreat late this Summer in Dorset.

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And last but certainly not least, I am a regular participant in the Get Lit Beacon Salon!!!

I am currently working on a YA novel, “Blacker Than You”, a series of short stories and essays for a collection called, The W(ai)(eigh)T. of Skin, a play — “Space” and am researching 2 others, “An Orange on the Seder Plate” and one about the fictional integration of the “Tiffany Girls”. Each of the groups I am a part of lends itself to at least one of my projects.

For me, Get Lit is the best place for me to read prose. I promised myself that when I attend, I will sign up to read.  There is a publisher interested in the YA novel, and that propels me to work on it. The W(ai)(eigh)T. of Skin, was sparked by a conversation I had with a member of the Diversity Committee here in Beacon about racism and being told “These things take time.” It made me think about how much longer people of color are expected to “wait” for racism to be eradicated and where the burden/weight of racism lies.  This gives me a couple of choices about what to work on since both projects are pressing and timely.

DTFWAW is primarily for plays and screenplays. Most of us bring pages to every meeting, so there is the construct of a deadline, which I appreciate. They are a group of incredibly talented and extremely supportive women. I always come away with such constructive and intriguing questions and ideas, that propels me to work on these projects and tell the stories in a better way.

For Write now, Right Later, just writing, reading, and listening gives me information and ideas. I got the idea for “An Orange on the Seder Plate” based on notes that were given to another writer about her play.

GLB: Your work is so honest in dealing with issues of your past. Where do you go inside to allow yourself to open so fully to your readers? How do you take care of yourself?

TB: The main job of a writer is to tell the story. The main job of an actor is to tell the story. As a working professional actor, honestly accessing emotions around events and issues is very familiar territory. It’s the same, for me, in writing. With writing, even if there are sensitive autobiographical aspects to it, I can approach it as character, which helps me to be one step removed if necessary. With things that are deeply personal, close, recent, or written in an active voice, telling the story and connecting with the readers in an emotional way is cathartic and bonding. That in and of itself, making a real connection with even one person that can identify with my story, helps me feel supported. I also have a very strong, close, and encouraging family which always helps.

GLB: You are active in a number of arts, as well as encouraging your family’s endeavors. Can you tell us how you manage that so successfully?

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TB: Hmmm . . . As I said, I am a working Actor-Writer, so I am auditioning and working mostly in NYC all of the time. I’m also a Teaching-Artist for Teacher & Writers and at the 1199SEIU Retirees Division.  My husband Brad, is a Musician/Composer, who gigs regularly all over the place, as well as being the Woodwinds teacher at Beacon Music Factory. Our 15-year-old son, Ezra, is homeschooled, which really means he is *rarely* at home. He takes classes in Beacon, Manhattan, Wappingers Falls, Gardiner, and in the Fall he will be in Poughkeepsie participating in a Homeschool Model Senate as well as starting the 24 hour Credit program at Ulster Community College! He travels independently in the city, but outside of that we have to get him to these places. (Homeschooling is a misnomer!)   I also administrate and run a homeschool group called Homeschool New York as well as run a hand-craft business, Transit Creations. Some days, I don’t feel as if I am managing it so successfully. The thing that always goes first is housekeeping, we think it’s an equitable trade off, given all of the great things we are doing.

BUT- I am a big proponent for Metro-North. A couple of weeks ago, we all needed to be in NYC 3 days last week, so economically, it made more sense for us to drive. The first day was “cute”, but after that it was a nightmare. I truly missed the train, because on the train, I can have my coffee, sleep, eat, create items for my Etsy shop (Transit Creations), meditate, study lines, sleep, make brief phone calls, read, catch up on email, think, write, and did I mention SLEEP??? SO, I guess I one of the best ways I manage all of my things, at the least, is to take good advantage of the time that I am on the train!

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