There is good reason for the blog silence over the past few months. A real creative surge!
This play has seen a very long, yet incredible journey from concept to the rehearsal room in just under three years. I am currently scribing a separate blog about the birth of this play. It holds very dear in my heart as I feel that ‘Bleeding with Mother‘ has grown in character as much as I’ve grown as a writer over the past three years.
The community radio soap which I co-write Station Road is also back on the airwaves this week after a long break. It is wonderful to hear it again, and reminds me of how much I have developed throughout that incredible experience of being part of a writing team for the past two years. You can listen live on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5.30pm on ALL FM 96.9
And finally I’ve been undertaking an intensive block of script development sessions with Scriptwriting North which resulted in a first draft of a brand new radio drama which was table-red by professional actors last week.
To say 2016 has been a productive year is an understatement. It’s been fuelled by coffee, a new laptop and a great deal of support.
Station Road is a continuing radio drama about life in a fictitious and gritty Manchester street. Not only do the characters work and live on Station Road but there is also a public house, café, urban farm and a corner shop.
Hearing the scripts come alive for the first time on Saturday was quite simply marvellous. A couple of the writers, myself included were interviewed live in the studio at ALL FM prior to the episode being aired.
The episode was played mid-interview, and it was pretty special not only hearing our scripts come to life but we also have a theme tune. An actual catchy theme tune that we’ve since been humming in our script meetings.
A surreal moment yesterday as I left work to drive to the weekly Station Road writers meeting, the pilot was played out again during ALL FM’s Drivetime show and as I sat in traffic, I felt such pride listening to the scene that I wrote
It’s been a while since I wrote about how I am finding being part of the writers group for the radio soap.
Twelve months on and we are a core of six writers, meeting weekly and we have currently written 168 scenes on our brand new community radio soap opera.
It has been an organic process to get to where we are. Twelve months ago there were fifteen writers at the very first session and to be honest it would have been chaos if it had continued to be that number, and I’m not sure that I would have been in it for the long haul either.
As the initial weeks passed by a writer would stop coming to the meetings until we found it to be the same six writers that would turn up each week.
This was a good number of people to have involved in the process. It meant that we were able to really get to grips with the characters that we created, the world that the soap is set in and without a large number of people to get their point across meant that storylining is more of less a discussion rather than a battle.
Within the team there are various expert areas. A stand-up comedian, a short story professional, an actor, a novice and a radio writer/presenter. With our diverse backgrounds I think we get the best from our characters and we all more or less write our scenes with the same tone, and voice.
Our weekly meetings consist of reading through the previous weeks scenes. This is my favourite part as it’s enjoyable hearing the characters come to life and from something that we’d discussed briefly during story lining to actually having full scenes which feed into the overall soap feels like an accomplishment.
The writer of the scene to be read aloud has to talk briefly about the scene, where the conflict is and what is the change from the beginning to the end of the scene. Some scenes are harder than others to do this.
After the read throughs, we then look into the stories for the next week. Where our characters are up to in terms of their story lines and which characters are needed to assist in developing the story further.
We’ve been a writing group for a year now and it has passed really quickly. The actors were cast before Christmas and recordings are made each week. It’ll be really good to finally hear it on air though, something that I am looking forward to.
A number of things that I have learned from my experience of being part of a collaborative group of writers.
• Discussions amongst more than one person can generate a raft of ideas.
• If a character hasn’t got a solid back-story and biog then writers can really struggle when it comes to putting that character under conflict. It’s important that this is nailed down at the very start of introducing this character otherwise it never seems believable.
• Drop-box is a valuable tool for sharing ideas and scripts.
• Being part of a writing team keeps you motivated. We meet on a Monday night and on several occasions when I’ve had a really tough day at work, what I’ve really wanted to do is go home to rest. Knowing that there are five people relying on you means that you have to attend. I’ve never been to a meeting and not come away feeling motivated again.
• Being taught to listen to others and let go of your own great ideas if the group decide that something else works better.
• Learning to compromise and not feel precious about an idea.
I’m sure there will be more to blog about as the year progresses.
Once I get the official airtime date I will ensure I update this site.
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.
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.
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!