Learn About Grand Prize Winner: Jacob M. Appel

Grand-prize winner Jacob M. Appel’s comedic stage play puts a wife and a mistress at odds over one man, but for very different reasons. by Jessie Gridley
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Writing stage plays hasn’t always been Appel’s genre of choice. He has published short fiction in more than 70 journals and has won many contests and awards, including the Boston Review short story competition and the North American Review Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize. He stumbled into writing stage plays in true gauntlet fashion. Six years ago, a playwright friend challenged him to switch genres with her. Appel took up the offer.

Since then, he’s had plays performed at numerous theaters, including the Manhattan Repertory Theatre and the Detroit Repertory Theatre. He found not only a new passion, but also a whole community of playwrights. “When writing fiction, you’re alone. Plays are very communal,” Appel says. “There’s nothing more magical than seeing your play come to life.”

One of the biggest hurdles in going from short fiction to stage plays was the fear of writing convincing dialogue. After taking a weekly workshop, Appel picked up some helpful advice from the instructor, who simply told him to listen to his work read out loud. Suddenly, friends and family members transformed into actors as they read—and sometimes performed—his work.

“I think stage plays are much harder to write than fiction,” Appel says. “All you have is dialogue—you can’t spare a word. One bad line can ruin a play. At the same time, one great line can make a play.”

Click here to read Appel's winning entry, “The Mistress of Wholesome.”


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