MA

Graduation

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Although I received my official MA results back in June, last week was the graduation ceremony to officially celebrate my achievement.

The ceremony was held at The Lowry, Salford Quays on a glorious, hot Thursday afternoon.

I was thrilled to arrive in the robing queue at the same time as members of my graduating cohort so the lengthy queue went by without incident as we caught up with each other from the previous summer.

What made this day extra special for me was the attendance of my loved ones. Sons, husband, parents and father-in-law all braved the blistering heat to watch me walk across the red carpet at The Lowry.

The ceremony began with a band and a singer all associated with the School of Arts and Media at the University.

Speeches were made and thankfully I wasn’t waiting long before we were gathered to begin our queuing to the stage. I’d forgot that they award the highest to lowest educational attainment.

Those receiving their PhD’s were first up, followed by my group of Postgraduates.

I recall being extremely nervous when receiving my undergraduate degree in 2009, but this time I had my family on the front row and I could only see my youngest son’s huge smile when I walked up to the stage steps. How could I be nervous when that beautiful smile was beaming proudly at me?

The ceremony lasted an hour and it was superb from start to finish. I savoured every minute of it, being with my classmates and family under one roof.

Once the ceremony closed I marched my family upstairs to more queues. I wanted a professional portrait with all of them before we finished the day with a lovely meal.

It was the perfect day to mark the end of one of the biggest journeys of my life so far.

From that very first lesson back in September 2011 when I nearly didn’t go back to class after the break because I thought I was in way over my head. The course not only educated me in terms of learning the craft of scriptwriting, it has sparked a real passion in radio drama which I didn’t know was there and has given me the confidence to rise to any challenges that come my way in future.

Thank you University of Salford. Here’s to the next journey.

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Farewell 30s

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This week I passed my Masters Degree in Television and Radio Scriptwriting.

It has taken two years and eight months of hard work, tight deadlines but to be totally honest I enjoyed every minute of it so much that it never felt like I was studying at that level.

Having a passion for storytelling and writing, it meant that I had a reason to sit at my laptop for hours on end, buy different coloured writing books to make notes on and spend a ridiculous amount of money on text books.

It is also a good excuse to binge watch fabulous television shows where I’m merely analysing how the storyline runs, how characters conflict etc.

The MA is also a fitting way to say farewell to what has been the best decade of my life so far.

I turn the big 4-0 in September and I’m already trying to think of things I need to plan on completing in my forties. How on earth can I match the past decade in terms of developing as a person?

I don’t recognise me as a thirty year old. Back then my life was all about getting through every day and not suffering with another panic attack, or a bout of depression. Anxiety and low self-esteem were part of my character back in 2004.

I was in an unfulfilling job and seemed to be afraid a lot of the time. Don’t ask me what I was afraid of – perhaps just living? One things for sure I felt stuck in a rut and the only focus in my life were my young children and husband.

Family is of course important but I also felt like I needed more in my life.

Then I had one of those life changing conversations with a work colleague.

I’d always wanted to study for a degree. My colleague had studied for her degree with the Open University when she was a single mother. She was then an Early Years Advisory Teacher, who ended up getting a job in the Grand Cayman islands training their teachers. She encouraged me to study with the Open University too.

“I’ll be 35 by the time I get a degree” I’d wailed to her, to which her response was just the response I needed. “You’ll be 35 anyway – you can either be 35 and with a degree or 35 and without one”.

That moment right there changed my life forever. The person I am sitting on my sofa typing this blog post is not the same person contemplating her future on her 30th birthday.

I graduated as an undergraduate in BA (Hons) Humanities with Media Studies in July 2009, age 34 (combining credits).

I will graduate in July 2014, age 39 with a Masters in Television and Radio Scriptwriting.

I learnt to swim age 33 years old. I can still remember my boys faces when I dived in the swimming pool in Spain and swam under the water with them (instead of my usual clinging to the side).20130821_140843

I went on a Fear of Flying course age 34, my first flight as an adult and since then have travelled to USA, Canada, Spain, Portugal, France, Menorca, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Amsterdam and Ireland.

From being paralysed in fear at talking to groups of people, I now present a weekly entertainment show on my local community radio station.

I have a fulfilling job working for a university in Media City where I get to help students on a daily basis. A complete career change for me leaving local government finance to move into Higher Education (wouldn’t have been possible without the degree).

It really has been a metamorphosis of character for me in the past decade and it both worries and excites me at the prospect of the next decade.

Will it be as exciting? Is there anything else I should do to improve my life? Or is this the decade where I should just chill out and appreciate life in general, enjoy the extra time now the children are getting bigger and swim in as many oceans as I can?

One thing is for sure. I’m a firm believer that there are key moments in your life and you can either choose to ignore them, or embrace them and make those changes.

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!

Mid-life crisis or Self-Destruction?

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Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night crippled in terror that there are just not enough hours in the day, or days in the week?

I’ve been feeling like this for a few weeks now. Just wishing there were more hours in the day, and also wishing the things that I’m doing now in my life which are really giving me a lot of fulfillment – well I wish I had done them ten years ago when I was younger, in better health and had more energy,

This feeling co-incides with deadlines that are looming. And I mean really important deadlines to me.

I’m interested to know how other writers who also hold down full-time jobs manage their time.

Any hints of tips would be gratefully received, because I have to tell you that I don’t like the feeling of being overwhelmed all the time.

It manifests itself with the knowledge that I have deadlines looming. If I have a particularly stressful day in the day job and I come home feeling exhausted, then I end up doing nothing except feeling guilty.

If I decide to sit on the sofa and unwind, or listen to a radio show then I then have a feeling of guilt that I should be writing.
I’ll be functioning normally for a couple of weeks but will then start to feel so exhausted mentally that by the time I get home in the evening I can barely string two sentences together, never mind write a script.

How do other writers manage their time between working, writing and general life. Please tell me!

The last time this happened was three weeks ago. I’d been feeling increasingly annoyed at myself that my evening writing had become practically none existent due to feeling tired every night. This then sent me on a downer as the realisation that I’d wasted four nights of valuable writing time hit home.

My current writing schedule is that I have two 45 minute episodes to write to second draft by the end of March (approx. 15,000 words). These pieces are for my final major project for my Masters degree. They are passed to my supervisor for notes at the end of the month and the clock is indeed ticking.

On top of that though I am conscious that I really want to try and write for the blog at least once a week, even if its utter nonsense from my head like this post is.

I’m still reviewing theatre shows and did I mention that I have my own weekly radio show now which I am trying to get off the ground?

This is what I seem to do. I take on way too much than I should, and then have a hissy-fit when I run myself down to the last drop of energy.

I’m sure there is some psychological reason why I constantly push myself with challenges. Who knows? Mid-life crisis or just pure self-destruction?

Last night when I got home from work, I sat and had my dinner with my family. We talked, we laughed and then we watched some television together. Perfect. It actually was perfect, I can’t remember the last time I led on the sofa cuddling my son.

I was really enjoying the evening, until the demon in my head told me that I was wasting valuable hours enjoying myself when I should have been on the laptop editing draft two because that deadline is creeping towards me.

Busy bee

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Again it’s been a while since I last wrote a post on this blog.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a long list of ideas to blog about and of course here comes the excuses.

There haven’t been enough hours in the day recently. Working on a 90 page script for my final project in my MA has taken every ounce of energy out of me since Christmas.

It’s not over, not by a longshot it merely means that I’ve handed in my first draft and I’m currently awaiting my supervisor to send me her notes. Once I receive her notes, I then have to work on draft number two which has a deadline of the 12 March. The same process happens that she’ll send me her notes and the third draft is submitted in May alongside a 3000 word report.

As if that wasn’t enough, I’ve been writing my first stage play since October. I say first, it’s not really my first stage play, but it’s the first one that I’ve finished. I’m going to write a separate blog about this, because I really am quite excited about this piece of writing. They say that you’re only as good as your last project, I hope this project gets good feedback at its rehearsed reading next week.

Finally, did I mention that I’ve also been volunteering at my local community radio station?

What started out as me just going along to a session to try and find out about writing scripts for them has turned into me being trained as a presenter, presenting on three live shows and I also wrote them a 60 minute radio play which was broadcast over the festive period.

Having written all that down in this entry, add to that that I work 40+ hours per sat
week in my day job, match report for an ice hockey team at weekends and try and find time to be a mother and wife……well no wonder the blog has been abandoned somewhat.

I only have one regret about all of the above. Why didn’t I do all these exciting things that make me feel inspired and proud of myself ten/fifteen years ago when I was much younger.

In my case youth was definitely wasted on the young.

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Happy New Year

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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged on here, and to be honest I feel a bit bad about that.

A couple of reasons really, I’ve been busy writing two plays and continueing with all the other writing commitments that I have. I’m struggling with an ongoing back problem which has made it just bareable to carry on working, but leaving me exhausted in the evening and just being damn right lazy.

I’m still to blog about my trip to NYC, the saga with my ailing back and my Christmas radio play.

For the person who read a review I did about a certain play that I endured at The Lowry who went on to say that I was a frustrated writer and hadn’t finished anything. Well I have and I had a radio play broadcast four times over Christmas. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Eve. I’m also well on my way to writing two out of six episodes of my comedy drama “The Starr GIrls” – yes you read it here first. Determined to get those finished and hopefully graduate this year with my MA in Television and Radio Scriptwriting, unless my back gets in the way. It would be a fabulous achievement to have completed my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in my thirties.

With the new year comes those awful new years resolutions. What is it that a different day, brings with it a time of reflection and the need to change things about oneself.

I don’t like new years resolutions – I much prefer to set myself targets. That way if I fail miserably I won’t feel like such a failure which I think with resolutions you do. I know, it’s the same thing really isn’t it?

What are yours? I love finding out from people.

I’m going to be joining weightwatchers again on Thursday – along with half of the population I suspect. I don’t know what’s happened to me in the past 18 months but my will power got up and left me, and with it it’s left some extra flab and a horrendous sweet tooth. I managed to lose a couple of stones before I started the job where I am now. But overtime it’s slowly crept back on. Not helped with having to decrease my exercise when my back started giving me hell shortly after returning from holiday in September. So back to fat club I will go, back to counting points, being hungry and if I am a grumpy cow at the moment it will get worse when my belly is screaming out for snickers and custard creams.

Facebook. Oh yes indeed this one rears it’s ugly head as I realise how much time I spend reading posts every day. I have eased myself off posting things on there other than posters, captions etc but I do need to stop reading it before I get up in the morning. It winds me up – full of attention seekers, show offs, baby bores or moaners. I much prefer twitter and have a fondness for a number of my followers, but just love the way I can watch TV and find out the opinion of others who are watching the same show as me. Powerful stuff.

I’ve already mentioned trying to pass my degree this year. I’m also going to try and not be a doormat that certain people in my life only contact when they want something. In future I am going to put myself first, and to stop tieing myself in knots to try and please folk.

Every payday I am going to treat myself to an item of clothing. Over Christmas I have looked through my wardrobe which is full of clothes which I never wear anymore, clothes that are faded and tattered. I have a couple of pairs of shoes and that is all. I realise that I really need to invest in making myself feel better about myself and it starts with clothes. A woman of my age should not live in converse, and work shoes – have no clothes to go shopping in other than jeans and a hoodie. No more, I wouldn’t think twice about spending money on my kids so it’s time to spend a little on myself.

And that’s it. There’s enough there to keep me going in 2014. We’ll see how many I actually achieve by the time I reach the end of this year. But, no matter what I do or don’t achieve this year one thing I did do was finally go to New York City. If I never do anything more with my life at least I have the fabulous memories of that wonderful city.

14 July : Writing mascot #wpad

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A mascot is : A person or thing that is supposed to bring good luck or that is used to symbolize a particular event or organization.

One thing I enjoy about taking part in the #wpad challenge is that some of the prompts make me start to think about things in a different manner.

I’ve never contemplated having a writing mascot before; does a bottle of wine count as one? Because when that bottle is by the side of my laptop and I’ve consumed a glass or two then for some bizarre reason my fingers and brain come alive. I guess the alcohol from the bottle symbolizes a sudden rush of creativity – therefore would be classed as a mascot?

Maybe not then.

It’s something I will definitely consider for the future. It’ll also be a good excuse to trawl through the writer websites which I adore but never purchase from such as

http://www.theliterarygiftcompany.com/
http://www.somethingliterary.co.uk/gifts-for-writers

As I embark on my final masters project in September which will hopefully produce not only two exciting episodes of television, a calling card script and some confidence in my ability. Perhaps it would be a worthwhile investment in purchasing a writing mascot that accompany me to my graduation ceremony if I pass the script-writing degree.

This is a post for http://www.writesofluid.com blog writing challenge. One blog post a day for all of July.