Tuesday, 30 November 2010

This month I am mainly being distracted by

Matters of the heart: turns out I do have a heart! I wasn't sure for a while. Complicated, as always. These things always are. Especially as it turns out I'm attracted to the kind of lovely arty men who are SO MUCH fun to be with and SO UNLIKELY to be remotely sane and grounded.

All of which is pretty entertaining in any case. But not leaving me a lot of spare energy for writing. All my creative skill is being used up in emailing long and heartfelt and funny missives (this is a long distance relationship, soon to be internationally long distance because obviously I don't do things in any kind of simple way, not me...)

So the writing projects are buggered. Although you could argue that there is no finer writing project to be involved with than this. Playwriting will have to wait, then, for now...

Thursday, 28 October 2010

hello lamppost

I met someone interesting a few weeks ago. I don't really know how I feel about this person except it's not like on rubbish dates where I find myself telling my face to look interested in whatever they're saying, cos I'm busy trying to be someone else. It's not like that at all. Beyond that I don't know.

I am being a complete woman about the whole thing by which I mean telling 50 people a day about the latest unexciting updates on the whole scenario. (I am in quite a tedious phase, I can't deny it. Like when someone says 'I'm thinking of moving house' or some such and I say 'oh that's interesting, this bloke I like lives in a house.')

I am also frantically scanning every text and email for every piece of evidence to show that this is great and totally going to work out or this is all rubbish and a total disaster, delete as applicable according to mood.

Do men do all this? I doubt it.

Sigh. We shall see...

Monday, 20 September 2010


I sat in on my first ever proper rehearsal for something I've written tonight. It was very exciting. There were proper actorly things going on about motivation, and backstories and all sorts. I felt a bit unsure of my role, to be honest. I mainly sat there, nodding wisely whenever the actors said anything about their characters, which was mostly what I had in mind, with occasional flights of fancy on their part. This is fine, to be fair. The important stuff is in the script. I'm quite happy for others to fill in the gaps. That kind of feels like the point.

Sometimes they asked me things about the setting, and I had to admit that I hadn't fully defined it. Afterwards I thought I should have said something clever about it being deliberately vague in order to represent the essential homogenity of modern workplace. I didn't think of it in the moment though, I just gibbered a bit and looked embarrassed. This is why I'm a writer, not an actor.

Actors intimidate me slightly, if truth be told. They're often very funny and entertaining and have big expressive personalities which I sort of envy and admire. I'd like to think that I retain an air of mystique or some such. In fact I often just feel awkward and uninteresting in comparison. The funny stuff goes in the scripts. (I hope).

This time next week it will all be over. I'm cautiously optimistic. I've had a few things put on now, so I'm less willing to judge from the first readthrough. It will depend on how things develop at rehearsals (I won't be going to them all). And it will depend on the venue and the audience on the night. This is what makes it scary. This is what makes it so flipping EXCITING...

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Not one, not two but three productions in the offing! By which I mean one fully staged, and two rehearsed readings of short scripts I have written...

'Tis amazing, and very gratifying, and exactly like that bus metaphor (simile?) which it would be embarrassingly cliched to use, thinking of myself as a writer as I do...

(I didn't experience the truth of the bus metaphor till I moved to London. In other parts of Britain, the scenario would be, 'you wait ages for a bus to come along, but it doesn't ever arrive, because of cuts to the service due to deregulation, privatisation etc)

Not sure how I've made this mainly about buses, but anyway, the Thailand opus and the scary attempt at writing something not a comedy are both getting outings and for this I am glad.

More soon, sleep beckons...

Monday, 23 August 2010

Arts funding cuts: almost certainly a genuine document about them

Memo - Strictly confidential
From: Conservative Press and PR office To: Jeremy Hunt, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

Hi Jeremy,

As you may be aware, we recently had our blue-sky-thinking-outside-the-box away day. Cuts in arts funding haven’t gone down very well and the deptartment isn't very popular at the moment. So we put our best brains onto it (Tabitha and George the intern), and here’s our thoughts on how to sell the cuts as a positive force for good.

The key is to focus on innovation. Whenever people talk about cuts, gently remind them that artists thrive in difficult economic times. Where they say ‘disastrous loss of funding’, we say ‘opportunity to rebrand and repurpose.’ Here’s some stuff we brainstormed – think you’ll agree it's dynamite.

Theatre companies
Lots of opportunities here.

Verbatim: don’t bother with a writer.
Site specific: hold your show outside to cut down on rent, bills etc.
Community-based: get local people to act for free.

People have very short attention spans these days, so instead of novels, why not just write a blog? Or set up a twitter account? If you must write something longer, why not just print out and hand round photocopies at local library.

Haikus in, epic poetry out. Will save significantly on print and publishing costs.

Filmmakers: just source your stuff off Youtube. Honestly, there is nothing on there that doesn’t already exist. Or else film it on your iPhone. They’re very advanced these days.

Blue sky thinking action point: can we get BBC to take lead and film next series of Sherlock entirely on iPhone?

Apparently, ‘playing the spoons’ was big in the 50s. Can we encourage a revival? Spoons significantly cheaper than guitar/synthesiser-based music. Have sounded out Scouting for Girls people as possible early adopters. Cautiously optimistic.

Also, remind people of the Smiths

We did a kind of step-by-step chart for this, which might be helpful

People still seem to like the Smiths.
The Smiths made their music in the 80s.
The Conservatives were in power in the 80s.
(this is the clever bit!)
We can take full credit for providing the vibrant cultural environment that allowed this kind of music to thrive. We did it in then, and we’ll do it again!

Blue sky thinking action point: could we get ‘mass unemployment = great music’ to work as a slogan?

Gently remind artists that twitter and facebook are free. No reason why all marketing activities can’t be done on there.

You might want to run with one of these the next time they use your name as rhyming slang again. LOL!

Your PR gurus

P.s. When some addled hippy demands to know why we’re no longer funding their innovative parsnip sculptures, simply say: ‘Well at least we’re not taking the country to illegal war!’ (Checked this with the Foreign Office, no imminent plans to invade Iran, so you’re good to go for next few months at least.)

Sunday, 15 August 2010


There's a really nice park near where I used to live. It's a massive expanse of space, with a canal at the bottom, and an excellent cafe. I used to go jogging there. When I started out, I did 2 mins at a time, with about 5 mins walking inbetween. Eventually - very, very slowly - I got up to being able to run for 40 mins, or 5km. (The same thing, in case you're wondering. AKA incredibly slow. But still.)

I used to go to this park all the time. I walked round it with friends and put the world to rights. I pottered on my own and dreamed impossible dreams. I took a notebook and wrote.

I left my old house in a manner not of my choosing. And I've missed it for a really long time. So much so that I couldn't bring myself to go back to the area, even though it's really not that far from where I live now. I couldn't bring myself to go back to the park either. Because it reminded me of a time when I felt like anything was possible. And I haven't exactly felt that way for a little while.

I went back today. An impromptu visit on my bike. It was everything I remembered and more. I really enjoyed it. And it occured to me that it was in that very park that I wrote a little sketch that turned into my first ever script. The script got staged, remarkably enough. And I went on a writing course, and I kept writing and it felt really good.

I haven't wanted to write for the last few months. Not this blog, not anything. But I think maybe I can again.

This is a long way of saying that after the last few months hiatus I am, officially (ish) back.

And I will be writing things that are considerably less self-indulgent than this. I promise.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

cold hard cash

I have very few rules about writing, but one of them has always been that I won't pay anyone to look at my script. Whether it's entries fees or script consultancies or whatever...

Until now.

I ummed and ahhed. But in the end I decided I would, with a heavy heart, pay a £10 fee to enter a competition.

The reasons are twofold, and I will elaborate.

1. Good, old-fashioned enthusiasm to get this script on somewhere. It's proper and it makes sense and I like it. (Which is why I've sent it to about 7 different things and am waiting to hear back on all of them.)

2. I know some people who run open submission showcases, and to be honest, they get sent a right load of old shit. Obviously, some good stuff in there. But there are a lot of people who dust off their script from the bottom drawer and send it in without bothering to look at the guidelines.

'You wanted romantic comedy? Well, this is more of an Estonian hitman revenge thriller, but I think with the right director, you could really find the laughs...'

Of course, I've never been guilty of this...

Oh no, wait. hang on. I actually have. Sort of.

Here's the thing: last year when this same showcase opened entries (for free) I got well carried away, and sent in two things, neither of which were in any way finished/ready. But they had, y'know, some good lines, and so I was hopeful. (I can do 'some good lines'. Storytelling remains a work in progress.)

So when this year's competition rolled around, I felt more kindly inclined. Since I'd sent my dear, misshapen misfits in last year, I thought I would pay the £10 in some kind of recompense.

(This is the kind of guilt-ridden thinking you get from being steeped in the dramatic narrative of sin and penance from birth to rational thinking age. Thanks Catholicism!)

Anyway, I've paid, and it's in, so the fuckers better pick it or I'm going round to kick some doors in.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

a small selection of the stupid questions I'm pondering right now

Why am I so motivated by jealousy?
Like, when I see that a writer who took part in a showcase thing I did is having a short piece put on, I immediately do a trawl of everywhere I can think of to start getting some scripts sent out. I mean, it's great that it gives me a kick up the arse, but is that really what it takes? Am I really so uncharitable? (Yes, yes I am. It doesn't help, of course, that she wrote a very beautiful piece that was quite frankly better than mine.)

What on earth is going on in my head?
The last script I've written is weird and a bit dark. I re-read it last night and there was a point I just had to stop. It was TOO STRANGE. All this stuff comes straight out of my head, scarily enough.

It's a bit terrifying when I write things I had no idea I thought.
I discovered a deep-seated aversion to homeopaths in one of the first things I ever wrote. I never even thought I had an opinion on the matter. I'm going to hope it's a good thing that this stuff comes out.

Why do I need constant praise and validation?

And this being the case, why do I persist in writing scripts, which have approximately a 97 per cent rejection rate?

How do I tell some bloke off the internet I don't want to see him again?
I find it deeply unnerving when people go all keen on me. And I have no idea how to tell them that I find them completely, irredemably unattractive. Not because they're horrible. Just because. God I'm rubbish at this.

Feel free to provide answers to any of the above.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

anyone but Cameron

I really, really need to meet some Tories. People like my friend's flatmate, who has a signed photograph af Margaret Thatcher displayed pride of place, his best ever birthday present.

This is not because I have gone mental. It is because right now I only have political debate with people who agree with me.

It's good, I think, that I mix with like-minded people. That I live and work with people who are broadly similar in political terms. That the 57 people I follow on Twitter are all clearly on the left-wing side of the spectrum.

And yet... lots and lots of people in the country voted Tory on Thursday, and I want to meet them and have a conversation with them/shake them firmly and ask why oh why in a disappointed tone.

Hating the Tories is more than a default position. I grew up experiencing the worst of Thatcher. My home town was all but destroyed by their policies. I still feel slightly sick when I think of the wealth accrued by over-privileged, over-entitled grandees who thought it would be quite a laugh to dismantle industry, sell it off, bit by bit, to provide a massive profit for them and their mates.

And at this stage you might be thinking, well what about Labour? Their record hasn't exactly been great. They're very relaxed about people being filthy rich and avoiding their taxes.

Labour have been a disappointment. I don't doubt that there are people growing up who feel exactly as I feel about the Tories. On the Iraq War and the surveillence state and lots of other ways they got it wrong.

But I don't hate Labour in the way that I hate the Tories. I may be the only person in the country who doesn't hate Gordon Brown. I feel exasperated. I wanted more from them. But they don't make me feel sick to the stomach like David Cameron, who as far as I can tell has no discernible belief in anything except his entitlement to rule, and the god-given right for rich people to stay being rich.

I don't hate rich people, or people who went to public school. I just find it difficult when they don't realise that not everyone had the same opportunities that they did, that it's not a level playing field, that the place where you're born still determines far too much about your destiny in life.

I don't want people who've lived in a bubble of Eton and Oxbridge to be making the decisions that affect single mums and people on benefits and people who don't have aspirations because they don't realise they can.

In short, if and when the Lib Dems do their deal with these knob-ends, I will feel sad.

And I will need to find a way to hang out with some Tristans and Quentins and Camillas and Tabithas to indulge my need to argue.

Watch this space.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

the latest work of genius. also, crap telly.

This is the typical cycle of my feelings towards any given script I write:

Stage 1: in which I am wildly enthused about my most recent scribblings. And decide that it is by far the best thing I've ever written.

Stage 2: doubt creeps in. It's good but...
Editing ensues. It's brilliant again! Stage 1 and 2 can take a little while.

Stage 3: It's bloody awful. Irredemable. Why did I ever think I could write. I'm an idiot.

(At this stage I pause and go away and do something else to forget about it all. I'd like to pretend that 'something else' is generally a highbrow cultural event, but more often than not its those Friends repeats on E4. Still! What's wrong with me? I have no idea.)

Stage 4: Revelation: the final piece slots into place, and I have a script that is - in my head at least - somewhere on the scale of not bad to quite good.

In case you're wondering, I'm somewhere between stages 3 and 4, so metaphorically speaking on the Friends repeats.

Something is definitely missing from my latest script. I just can't work out what.

One problem is that I feel like I'm beating people around the head to make my point. So it needs some nuance. And after months and months of writing short, sharp scenes, I've gone a bit mentile and decided to write a sustained piece over 15 minutes real time, which requires quite a lot of skill with pacing that I'm not sure I have yet. But for it to work at all, it has to work in this format.


Wonder what Ross and Rachel are up to.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

My greatest work of fiction yet

I hate internet dating. It's soulless and heartless and effectively reduces romance to the status of shopping from Tesco.

Which is why I never have and I never will...

Oh no, hang on, I am. I am internet dating.

Why oh why oh why would I do that? Because I've yet to find an alternative. Let me rephrase that: I've yet to find an alternative that doesn't involve being horrifically drunk, and I gave up on that caper a little while ago.

Oh, but it'll just happen. This is what people say. Pah.

If you live in London, take a look next time you walk down the South Bank in nice weather, at the cafes and the benches. Tens of single women sitting winsomely on their own in cafes reading an interesting intelligent book and just waiting for an interesting intelligent other to engage them in conversation. To start off on a path that will end in something deeply romantic.

It doesn't happen, I bloody assure you. The South Bank isn't so much a side of the river as a graveyard for crushed dreams of romance, built on the lonely tears and misplaced optimism of women. The men, sensibly, are mainly down the pub.

So that's why I'm doing internet dating, and that's why I've written a stupid profile to try and show how, ahem, cool and amazing I am. Or, er, something. It's true, mainly, what I've written about myself. It's just selective. So watch this space.

Material, that's what I remind myself. As well as being my life, this is all material.

Pah, and thrice pah.


This is probably the nicest rejection email I've had to date:

Many thanks for your entry. We had over 200 entries and sorry to say your script wasn't selected for the final six. It did make it to a final shortlist of fifteen, however, and we thought it was an excellent piece of work...

Excellent work, eh? My best review ever, and it hasn't even been staged.

Producers of open script things take note: Be nice! Even if it's not true. Just pretend. Nothing wrong with some politeness to spare sensitive writerly feelings. OK?

I'm being a bit flippant. But a personalised email saying something nice genuinely does feel better than the usual half-hearted round robin seven months after the closing date/no response at all.

I did a playwriting course a couple of years and one of the tutors brought along some of his rejection letters. He had a lot of rejection letters, but is now wildly successful. So it just goes to show... something or other.

Monday, 22 March 2010

15 minutes

I don't know why I feel compelled to give advice - I haven't achieved any great measure of success - and yet there's something I find I want to share. If any aspiring writer has somehow stumbled on to my nonsense, there is just one bit of advice I feel I have to give. (Drum roll please).

Write a 15 minute script.

Actually, the main bit of advice I would give is to start writing. Don't waste time thinking how much you'd like to be a writer without actually commiting to put pen to paper in case what you write isn't a masterpiece.

(A cautionary tale: that's mainly how I spent my 20s, and now I'm considered pretty ancient and decrepit at the grand old age of 31, too old for most of the new writing development work that happens in London, cos apparently you stop being interesting at the age of 26. I was fucking tedious at the age of 26. I'm much more interesting now. I digress.)

Anyway, once you've become one of the small minority of would-be writers who actually write, and you've started something - anything - aiming for a 15 minute script is helpful. It's a manageable length. It's good practise for story-telling. And much, much more importantly than either of these things is the fact that once you start looking, there are loads of wee showcases going on looking for short scripts. Which means you might have a chance of getting something put on.

Ok, that was my brief foray into advice. I'm going to stop now.

The reason I'm sharing this, and that I'm slightly excited about it all, is that a script I wrote on my hols (with love and care and attention obviously) is having not one, but two outings.

Performance number one happened last week. A rehearsed reading. It was... ok. Heck. It was quite good. The flaws I mainly knew about already, I think.

But in subsequent revising I have done a couple of things: I've gotten rid of some swearing. It looks fine on the page, but it's hard on the ear if you overuse it. And it loses impact. I've also clarified some of the lines that made perfect sense to me, but got lost in the melee.

The rehearsed reading was interesting in lots of ways. There were five other writers there, most of them more experienced than me. Some of them intimidatingly successful. And yet there we all were, in some tiny fringe venue, just glad to have an audience. Just glad that someone was bringing to life some words we wrote down, some words that mean something.

Hopefully - TBC - which is why I'm being a tad cagey, there is a performance number two happening next week. Once the deal is done, I will be more celebratory.

Deal I mean in a metaphorical sense. No actual money is changing hands. it's just for the, er, glory, or something like that (see above).

Last but not least, a comedy script I wrote last year is having an outing on the actual radio. Ok, community radio, but radio nonetheless.

Now, I realise that all of the above isn't exactly an Oscar nomination, but little bits and bobs like these keep me going, and help me believe I might actually be a writer. So this is good news.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

sick as a parrot

Gutted. The footballers' adjective of choice, and the one I have used most liberally in the last few weeks to describe the feeling of not quite getting through to the finals of a live comedy competition.

That is to say, getting very close, final 32 close, but falling at the final hurdle, to use another overused sporting metaphor.

That is to say, writing a lot. And for nothing, because none of it will be staged (not for this, anyhow.)

Damn this genre and its need to be produced to mean anything. At this rate, I'm going to start writing bloody poetry and publishing it on here and then you will all be very sorry indeed. (You really will. I'm terrible at poetry.)

Do I deal with losing out well? No. In this instance I bloody do not. For a number of reasons:

I worked my arse off. I had a really good script. And there was some shenanigans relating to the way it all happened that I am too disheartened to go into, but let's just say it didn't work out as I would have hoped.

So this has been disappointing.

There's something very personal about writing, and when it gets rejected, it's hard not to feel it personally. And when you're emotionally involved with your writing, this is especially the case.

And you have to be emotionally involved with writing if it's going to be any good, don't you? At least a bit. Otherwise why are you writing at all? Why bother if it doesn't have some connection, however small, however tenuous, to some important feeling or thought or moment you have or have had in your life that means something.

That's what I think anyway.

But maybe it's just about writing more funny lines, and that's where I went wrong.

And of course, if you get too emotionally involved, when stuff doeesn't work out, it feels like you've been kicked repeatedly in the kidneys, and that's not great.

And that's the good news.

Not really! There is actually some proper good news. I will write about it imminently...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

not a sob story

I can remember exactly what I was doing this time two years ago, this equivalent Sunday just after my birthday.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and bright. I went to Hampstead Heath. It must have been raining the week before, because it was incredibly muddy - I trashed a pair of boots by bravely tramping through the mud to try and impress... someone. Let's call him Mike.

Mike and me had been seeing each other for a few weeks. It was our fifth date, or thereabouts. He'd never been to Hampstead Heath. We watched the people flying kites - it was windy - and we sat looking out over London. And we kissed. And I thought, this is what other people do. They get together and go for walks on Hampstead Heath and kiss. And now I'm doing it. This is me.

This is what I thought.

And after the heath, we went to a beautiful pub and had a couple of pints of very nice ale. And then, we giggled our way to the bus stop in that happy way you do, when you're with someone you like. And we made our way back to Angel.

It was a perfect day. The kind of day that if you saw in some terrible rom-com you would dismiss as embarrassingly twee and naff and some kind of Richard Curtis view of London and how great it is. (London is great, obviously, but not generally in the way that Richard Curtis makes it look.)

And so there it was, this moment of happiness.

And not just the romance. Work was going well. I'd just had an interview with a big publishing company, and it made me realise that I didn't want to work there. I really loved the job I was in. I worked with people I liked and respected. I felt useful and good.

And when, inevitably, it all came crashing down, when, three weeks later, I found out I was being made redundant, and a week after that Mike said 'meh, not for me thanks' or words to that effect, it was ok.

This isn't a sob story. My woes are pretty paltry compared to most. Who didn't have a shitty 2008 as the ecomomy crashed and burned? I was one of the lucky ones. I found another job. The Mike thing wasn't heartbreak, it was pure bruised ego and bad timing.

But what makes me sad now, as I think about that day on Hampstead Heath, is how difficult it is to feel ok about feeling ok. Because as soon as I feel like stuff might be going well, it scares the shit out of me that some vengeful god will hear and pull the rug from under my feet once again, and find new ways to make me wish I'd never even thought that things were ok. Because it's terrifying to feel ok, because the only way is down. And at least, through the self-pitying, self-indulgent misery, there is the sense that things will be better. They can only be better - they can't possibly get worse.

And so now, as I write this, I think well fuck it, I'm tempting fate but there we are:

Things are ok.

My writing is going well - there's a possibility that something I've written might be staged. I feel less of an idiot than I have for a long time. And that maybe it really is possible that things can change - not be perfect, but be ok.

We shall see.

If you hear, by the way, of unexpected job cuts and freak thunder and plagues of moths in the north London area over the next month, that will probably be my fault. Sorry about that.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

story (again) - some good news

I did a playwriting course in 2008 where I was lucky enough to meet Sir Lord Roy Williams, playwright extraordinaire, and very nice chap.

One of the many interesting things he said was that before he writes a script, he writes the whole story out as if it were a novel first. (This from memory, so I may not be remembering it exactly right, but this was the gist.)

At the time, I remember thinking this seemed a very labour-intensive way of writing a play - to start off in prose before you get to the script. And I thought no more of it.

Until I gave it a try, whilst lounging louchely* on a foreign beach mere weeks ago.

And do you know what? It works. It really works.

This has been my problem: I start writing in order to find out who my characters are, and where they, and what the story is. And this works, to a point. It makes dialogue the starting point, and I feel like the characters come to life from the off. And it works much, much better than when I try some 'A loves B, C is having a sex change, D is taking up darts' kind of plotting.

Because in that 'A does x, meanwhile B does y' scenario of outlining, I get bored. And it feels like I'm trying to get some people to do some stuff for no good reason. And my dialogue goes to shit.

But my approach naturally has some drawbacks: namely, I get half-way in with no idea of where I'm going. (And, as other more sensible writers have pointed out, this is not a good place to be in.)

So I found that by writing something, properly writing it, a story emerges through the prose much more strongly, but in a natural way. That keeps me interested enough to want to write the script for it.

And the proof that this works? Well, I managed to write a wee 15-minute script over a couple of days. When you consider the last 15-minute script I did took about 18 months (in a very torturous route, but still, I'm not even kidding), this is a RESULT of the highest order.

So I'm a convert. That is to say, I'm going to be giving it a go from now on...

And refreshed from foreign climes, I actually have some ideas again, so this is all to the good...

In fact, I think my darts/sex change epic farce melodrama is on course to be better than Pinter. Much better.

(Joke. I can joke again! Thank god for holidays, eh...)

*By lounging louchely I mean, of course, sitting with half the sand on the beach stuck to me because of tons of factor 50 sunblock and gallons of DEET which does absolutely nothing to stop the little bastard mosquitos biting me on the ankle. And looking awkward about the whole thing. But still, you get the point.