writing

Proper writer now?

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I’ve always loved to write, I’ve always enjoyed reading and I’ve always loved books.

Clayton Green library was like a second home to me when I was a teenager. The library staff knew me by name as I would be there every single day in the long summer holidays.

I could be found sitting in the corner reading books as my library card only allowed me to take four library books away. I could read four library books in a couple of hours back then. I am talking Sweet Valley High’s Wakefield sisters rather than the Bronte Sisters, so the books were thin rather than War and Peace volume.

I enjoyed being in a fictional world with characters that I would never come across on a Saturday afternoon in Preston.

I also loved to write my own stories using those fictional characters that I read about.

Secretly, I longed to see my name on the front of a book cover like all of those famous authors whose work I enjoyed. I would wonder whether Francine Pascal or Jackie Collins would get excited about seeing their words in print for the public to see. I bet they did.

So I’m delighted to say that tomorrow afternoon I will be spending an hour taking part in a book launch for Write for the Stage Publications (WFTS) and my first play Bleeding with Mother is on sale.
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I still can’t quite believe it. A play written by me, in print, with my name on the front cover. If I never do anything again, at least on my bookshelf which is stacked with printed copies of stageplays and screenwriting bibles; Willie Russell, Lena Dunham, Blake Snyder and Robert McKee is now a Sarah Cassidy. Does that mean I can say that I’m a proper writer now?image

The Write for the Stage Publications launch event is part of Greater Manchester Fringe Festival and is taking place at 4pm at The Kings Arms, Bloom Street, Salford, M3 6AN
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Bleeding with Mother

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There is good reason for the blog sileIMG_2881nce over the past few months. A real creative surge!

I can announce some fantastic news in that the upcoming production of my debut stage
play ‘Bleeding with Mother‘ will be playing in my hometown of Manchester during May 2016. Ticket details here.

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. IMG_2901

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.
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#TalentCampus a life changing experience

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London Screenwriters Festival – First EVER Talent Campus 2015

As I boarded the 6am train from Manchester to Stockport last weekend, I was still in shock after being selected to participate in the 2015 London Screenwriters Festival (LSF) ‘Talent Campus. Having received the phone call confirming my place on the Monday I only had a few days to find myself transport and accommodation for the ‘Ignition’ weekend.

On the train ride to London I was riddled with nerves, not only as it was going to be my first experience using AirBnB, my imagination being rife with serial killers, but also sharing the same space as the incredible talent that awaited me in the form of the other delegates.

Entering Ealing Studios increased the anticipation and nerves. Luckily through the fantastic LSF network that I was active in I recognised a couple of people and felt slightly more at ease. We were rounded up and taken to our base for the next couple of days and typical me headed straight to the back of the room. Chris Jones gave us a number of messages throughout the morning about the structure of the Talent Campus which involves ten days of intense screenwriting experiences plus writing weeks with a mentor.

Discussing fears was a common theme during day one and it was a clear indication of why so many of us writers feel stuck in our writing careers. Positivity and belief was something which Chris kept referring to and ended up with me walking on glass at the end of the day. Crazy I know, given that I was more scared about having to stand up and introduce myself in the afternoon than walking barefoot on glass. But strangely telling everyone that most of the time I feel like a fraud and that one day soon I will be found out was scarier than potentially slitting my feet open. Talent Campus has certainly ignited!

Stephen Follows gave a fascinating insight into the types of movies that receive investment and patterns which have emerged in recent years. The stats are not great for sports movies which is my current project, but for comedy is slightly better. Even so, my project will be more of a calling card. It’s a story I feel passionately about and that I want to write which is something that echoed throughout the weekend – write where your passion is.

12015069_10153497299290091_5261957336951402956_oJohn Yorke’s session on structure was like a breath of fresh air. He took the complicated structures that we read so much about in Robert McKee, Syd Field and Blake Snyder to an extent and explained in such simple terms that I felt like I had a lightbulb moment listening to him. It was also so valuable to hear about the structure of television which is something that is discussed less than the screenplay. I even spoke to him in the break and complimented his approach which is something I rarely climb out of my introvert self to do.

The session on social media was insightful – led by expert Lucy V Hay who holds no punches when delivering her talks. It certainly made me re-think how I use facebook as a tool. Lucy was joined by actress/writer and filmmaker Vanessa Bailey who opened up the world of Instagram to me. Now I thought I was quite an expert at social media without really appreciating how much Instagram is used today. Vanessa opened my eyes up to this visual medium and how I could use it to promote myself as a writer. Gone are the days of just taking photographs of my tea or my cats – thanks to Vanessa I see this area in a whole new light and something to work on in the future.

12052508_10153497621425091_8732243746859876171_oThe amazingly, super-talented and extremely patient Kate Leys delivered an inspiring day where she took us all back to basics with story. She dissected each of the twenty-eight campus members story ideas in front of everyone including the mentors. She treated each of us the same, and every comment or observation was thoroughly appreciated by us. When it came to my project Kate offered advice, research and told me that she would go and see the film if it was ever made which was the biggest compliment ever.

The Talent Campus was a lot of hard work, but we had time for some fun games which really brought out people’s personalities as we had to work as a team to get our hands on an Oscar winning script. Not for the faint-hearted and really did show us all that perhaps collaboration is a way forward when needed.12080249_10153497621415091_6478357696794230199_o

Going forward and with our mentors on board, there is now a three week writing period to put as much preparation into the LSF week as possible. I’ll be having weekly skype meetings with my mentor Karol Griffiths to get my project to the stage where I can pitch it comfortably at the festival. A lot of hard work will be endured between now and festival week but that is what the appeal of Talent Campus is – strict deadlines amongst a sea of supportive peers.

Finally, I left the first campus weekend feeling confident, assertive and privileged to be going through such an incredible journey with my fellow campers. These people really are uber-talented, supportive and hopefully will remain friends at the end of the ten weeks.

Welcome to Station Road

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This week has seen the premiere broadcast of the radio soap that I’ve been co-writing for the past fourteen months.image

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 imageonly 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

Check out our blog which is all about the show and tune in at 17:30 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on ALL FM 96.9 www.allfm.org

Ditching technology for paper

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This month I have gone back in time by three years, as I have purchased a paper moleskin diary in an attempt to get myself more organised.

I’ve been struggling to manage my time and the amount of tasks that I do during the week – and this is not even tasks to do with the day job.

Since beginning high school at the age of twelve I have kept a paper diary. I’ve even still got old diaries hidden away in my cupboards which now and again I’ll have a look at.

Three years ago I decided to embrace technology more, ditch the paper diary and keep everything on my electronic calendar which is on my mobile and on my work Outlook.

It works a treat. Every single appointment for myself, the kids and even the husband are added to the electronic calendar.

I’ve even gone as far as colour coding the various appointments.

It was working a treat until last month I ended up being asked to take on regular online writing, putting together match programmes for my sons sports team, arranging interviews for my weekly radio show and not to mention my own writing deadlines with the radio soap.

A lot of deadlines to remember every week, and I was starting to feel overwhelmed that I couldn’t keep a track on tasks and appointments.

Being organised is one thing that I am really good at in my day job. I can organise as many activities that are thrown my way, multi-task, prioritise and delegate.

Yet in my personal life I always feel like I’m drowning.

So I decided to go back to 2010 and purchase a paper diary so that I could see if it would help me in my aim to organise my private life.

Not that I need much encouraging in purchasing new stationery items. I decided to purchase a small moleskin diary which has the week listed on one side and a lined sheet on the opposite side which I use as a to do list/reminders.

Not to mention the colour-coded stickers.

Amazingly going back to the retro paper based product has worked a treat.
There’s also something really satisfying about crossing off items on a ‘to do list’ as well.

It has also made me realise just how much writing I am actually doing each week.

I may not be making progress on my personal scripts. I am however, writing two scenes per week for my collaborative radio soap, several features for a sports programme per week, online articles and submitting sketches and one-liners for a BBC radio show.

Have you ever ditched paper for paper-less, did it work for you?

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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.