Collaborative Writing – Week 2

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As expected the group of extremely keen writers in week one had dwindled slightly in week two.

Perhaps it wasn’t what they thought it would be, or maybe they didn’t realise it would be a weekly writers meeting. Anyway our large group of writers in week one was reduced by a third in week two.

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Not only was it nicer to work in a smaller, more intimate group setting but it also meant that I managed to take a larger share of the Jaffa cakes during the three hour meeting.

The aim of the meeting was to recap what we had covered in week one, come up with more characters for our project and start looking at potential conflicts and stories between the characters.

In week one it was apparent when we shared our characters that our project wasn’t culturally representative of Manchester.

This gave me all the ammunition I needed to create my next character who is of black origin and is the local councillor for the area.

In the next exercise which involved us writing with a partner myself and another writer who had created an MP decided to lock horns and have a bit of fun with our characters and their dialogue.

I really enjoyed this exercise as the gentleman that I was partnered with was very quiet within the session, but once we began writing together he produced some great one-liners and comedic moments.

We really bounced off each other, and it has made me think of finding a writing partner in the future. Having another set of ideas is refreshing and means that the partner may suggest something that leads to me coming up with a different angle on a story. I wouldn’t excuse it in the future.

The lesson of this week for me is never judge a book by it’s cover.

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Joining a writing team

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Get out of your comfort zone and do something that terrifies you. That’s a healthy motto – right?

One of the aspects of my MA which challenged me the most was the collaborative group project in semester two.

An eight part radio drama where I worked with seven other writers and devised a radio serial with a forty-five minute episode written by each member of the team.

It was a challenge to say the least. Not only a divide in age and gender, but also in sense of humour. We spent most of the semester arguing about the serial storyline and at the last meeting still hadn’t nailed it down fully.

Not one to learn by my mistakes I’ve gone and done it again and joined a writing team for a soap opera at a community radio station.Collaborative working

Firstly it’ll be great to get my writing on the radio again, secondly it will be good for the CV if I can show that I’ve worked as part of a writing team in a professional context,  and thirdly if I don’t have someone giving me strict deadlines I fear that my writing will only occur when meeting competition deadlines.

This project is at the very beginning of becoming a radio soap opera, and with a team of twelve writers we won’t all get commissioned to write an episode. Which mirrors real life on a television soap opera too.

Last night was the first get together of this new writing team, and I thought I would blog about the journey from inception to writing that first episode.

The writing team is a diverse group of local people from Manchester who are a mix of volunteers at the radio station, writers and others who just want to get involved in this thrilling project.

We began the session by reading aloud a couple of short radio scripts. When asked for volunteers there was an uncomfortable silence so I put my hand up. Reading scripts out loud doesn’t phase me anymore as I’ve had two and a half years of doing this week in week out.

We were then given a large selection of photographs of people which had been cut out from newspapers and magazines. A range of ages, gender and ethnicity were covered and each of us chose one picture. Mine was a woman in her mid-twenties in a yoga pose. I thought I could have a lot of fun in creating her character as she looked quite chilled and peaceful.

My aim is to make my character the least stereotype for that particular image which is what I did when writing her character biography.

Other groups worked together on each of the characters, but the group that I was put in we worked solo and then shared our ideas. I found this approach better as the least conflict at the early stages the better.

Briefly we then came up with a long list of places that would be featured in our make shift soap opera world. Pub, café, library, bridge, park and pound shop were just a few of the suggested places that would feature in our community.

We also need to name our community in the upcoming weeks.

It’s certainly exciting to be part of something new creatively, and of course getting to know new people in this context is something that I find beneficial. Who knows, today community radio – tomorrow the writing team on House of Cards!

Reflections from the April A-Z Challenge

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I’d like to thank the team that put together this challenge. There were a heck of a lot of people signed up to this and I’d spend several hours each day just reading different blogs which interested me, all through the @AprilA-Z

The reason I decided to take on this blogging challenge in April was mainly to keep me focused and writing each day throughout  the month. I had surgery at the beginning of April so knew that I would be off work for a number of weeks. Having the challenge to focus on each day really did keep me from feeling too sorry for myself whilst I was recovering from surgery.

I decided to have one theme throughout the challenge which was New York City. I visited New York City for the first time last summer. Talk about a dream come true for me, the city lived up to everything I imagined it would be and much more. Since returning home I couldn’t quite bring myself to blog about it as I didn’t think I could do it justice in one blog post.

After all visiting such a city rich in culture and attractions could never be fully written about in one blog post, so doing it in 26 blog posts was even better.

The challenge and the theme also gave me the excuse to go through all of my 1,500 photographs and select my favourites to display with my post for the day..

Thinking about what to blog about each day was something I really enjoyed too. I’d kept a notebook of each day while I was in NYC so I kept referring to that and reliving my wonderful five days.

I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to recover from surgery, and as I’m an active person I knew I had to do something to keep my spirits up. This blog challenge certainly did that, as it made sure I did the thing I enjoy doing each day which is writing. Even bed-bound I still managed to get on the laptop and post every day.

My blog traffic increased throughout the month and I picked up about thirty new followers which was a welcome surprise.

I do enjoy blog challenges, now the difficult part is trying to keep up with interesting blog entries throughout the year.

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Zoo as in Central Park Zoo

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Z is for Zoo

MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

Only in America would you find a zoo in a park. Okay, I admit I haven’t actually checked if that is correct or if there are more zoos in parks.

What I do know is in the North West of England we have Chester Zoo (not in a park) and Blackpool Zoo (not in a park).

In New York, they have a children’s zoo in a park. That park being Central Park. Admittedly they can afford the space for a park given how vast Central Park is.

I was very grateful for this distraction so my son could visit the zoo with his dad, while I went off on a Mad Men tour.

That’s it folks. Z is the final day in this April A-Z Challenge.

It’s been a hoot.

Thanks for reading.

The photograph below is me by the fountain in the opening credits of Friends, I think I was trying to be Jennifer Aniston plus 30 pounds!!!

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Yellow Cabs

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Y is for Yellow

MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

For every outdoor scene featured in a movie or a television show there will always be a yellow cab in sight.IMG_5064

I always thought that the amount of yellow cabs was an exaggeration, given how infrequent British black cabs are in our cities.

It’s true though, there are cabs a plenty from the moment you step outside of the airport.

Walk down any of the streets or the avenues in New York City, whatever time of day and there will be a cab or two in sight.

They are not only visual, but the constant beeping of them is something that I found very amusing too.

There is beeping, and there is New York City beeping. An endless string of beeps for no other reason than to let other cabbies know they are on the road too.

Gotta love New York!

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Xanadu

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X is for Xanadu

MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

Alright, I know I’m scraping the barrel with todays blog entry which is a post about the letter X. Coming up with X in a blog challenge about New York City is proving to be difficult.

And then the word Xanadu popped into my head.

When I think of Xanadu I am immediately transported back to the 80s and I’m watching a dodgy movie starring Olivia Newton-John, where she plays a greek goddess or something as obscure as that. I can remember roller skates, singing and a painting where there were several equally gorgeous ladies and that’s about all.

Well I’m not referring to that Xanadu.

According to the dictionary Xanadu can be defined as “dreamland, dreamworld, promised land”.

New York City was all of those descriptions to me. I’d dreamed of visiting New York from the first time I watched Ghostbusters as a geeky ten-year old.

Everytime I would get asked if I could visit one place in the world where would it be? New York City was always my response. I was attracted to films and TV shows about this wonderful city – 30 Rock, Friends, Sex and the City, Elf, Big and Girls.

I knew one day that I would get there. It should have been in 2011 when I’d first booked flights there but a long-term back injury ruined that chance. Two years later I finally got to step foot in my Xanadu.

And boy it did not disappoint.

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World Trade Center

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W is for World Trade Center

MY NEW YORK ADVENTURE A-Z BLOGGING CHALLENGE

Not many people will visit New York City without paying a visit to the World Trade Center.

After all it is now boasting a brand new building which has added to the iconic skyline, filling a gap where those twin towers left a space.IMG_4848

A trip to the 9/11 memorial is also a must-visit spot if not for anything else but to pay respects to all of those who lost their lives on that fateful day in 2001.

I would also recommend visiting St Pauls Chapel located at 209 Broadway between Fulton and Vesey Streets in Lower Manhattan.

The Chapel’s rear faces the east side of the World Trade Center site and when the towers collapsed it served as a place of rest and refuge for the recovery workers who were at the World Trade Center site.

It is a miracle that the Chapel survived the impact of the towers collapsing. For eight months hundreds of volunteers worked 12 hour shifts around the clock. It served as a resting place for the New York Fire Department staff, police, construction working and others, and these volunteers provided meals, beds and general care for these workers.

Inside the Chapel you can view the impromptu memorials that the Americans brought to this site. Photographs, teddy bears, posters, letters and prayers which were all displayed on the railings outside, are now on display for the general public.

I was particularly choked by a pair of boots that one of the firefighters left. He had taken another pair to wear while rescuing people, and never returned for them.IMG_4828

A beautiful tribute to everybody who was affected by the events of 9/11.

There also rests the remains of tree roots outside of the chapel which also survived the trauma.

Walking around the site, seeing all of these memorials still made it feel surreal to me.

It didn’t quite sink in that I was standing at the site where thirteen years ago those images that I watched on television actually happened.

Even as I stood next to the foundations of the twin towers, trying to imagine what it must have been like to be part of that day was difficult. Luckily I won’t be haunted by those images like hundreds of New Yorkers are.

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V is for Voices

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I’ve fallen behind by two days in this blog challenge.

It’s not that I’ve given up on this or anything. At the very last minute I decided to accompany my better half to London for the weekend and completely abandoned this A-Z challenge.

My V post is for the voices in my head, and possibly publicly outs me as a prospective crazy.

You know when you are in a certain place or situation and a voice in your head tells you to do something that would be sooooo bad.

Or is that just me?

An example where my voice tries to get me into trouble is anywhere where there is a one or two minute silence. I swear, it tells me that I have tourettes and that I should shout the word “Wanker” really loud, or I’m sitting in front of my kids’ teachers in a parents evening and it tells me to “Laugh” or jump up in a theatre and heckle the performance.

It very nearly got me in a pickle last summer on entering John F.Kennedy Airport.

Prior to me visiting this wonderful city last summer I heard various stories about how Americans hate the British. I’m sure that is pure fictional, but anyway I was pre-warned that the worst of them are the people who work at the airports. Story has it that they will think of anything obscure to now allow you to enter their country and they like nothing better than to turn British citizens away and back to where they came from.

I took this fable with a pinch of salt, but I must admit entering the USA and especially going through the airport I may just have been a teensy weensy bit apprehensive.

I looked for the yellow line and made sure I didn’t dare cross it. Nervously waiting for the queue to subside I kept my eye on those guards who had guns strapped to them and tried to remain calm.

We were up next, passports in hand, visas at the ready and we tried to appear really friendly that there was no way they wouldn’t let us enter their country. The voice was quiet, I’m sure it was tired from the long journey.

We were called up by an American lady who looked as mean as I do when I’m not happy about something. First up she wanted to check our passports, asked us why we were coming to the USA and how long for.

I let husband do the talking and then my trusting naughty voice starts trying to get me into trouble, “Go on” it was saying “Say the word bomb, say it, say it, say it”.

Smiling through this I handed over my passport. “Tell them you have a gun” the voice was saying. For gods sake, why on earth do I think ridiculous things like that? Luckily I’m in charge of that naughty voice and can tone it down.

I smiled, told the voice to take a hike and allowed this lady to take a scan of my thumb. She wasn’t mean at all, she chatted to my son and got us on our way pretty quickly.

I was hoping the voice was going to be held at customs, no such luck.