I’ve had a lot going on over the past 18 months, both good and bad and it’s culminated in a huge swathe of doubt, bigger than I’ve had before. I’ve been getting this strike of fear that sits between my head and my chest and in the back of my throat. It creeps up on me at the most mundane of moments and swells until I don’t know what to do except embrace it and wallow for a few moments. Then it’s back to normal, back to emptying the dishwasher, cleaning my whiteboard, parking the car.
My fear is that I’ll get a few years down the line and wonder why the fuck I’m still attempting to do what I’m doing now. My future self will ridicule my present self and tell me I’ve been stupid chasing this dream and I should concentrate on other more important things.
I’m being honest. I pride myself on being honest because if I’m not honest with myself who else is going to be.
Here’s an insight into my life: it’s all writing. Scoff all you want, I do very little else. So when I get another rejection, get pipped to the post for another scheme, don’t place in an award it’s a large cavernous dent in my thinning armour. I do not know how to switch off and stop working, I have a fear that I’ll miss an opportunity. It hurts. It hurts a lot to know that my mountains of work, my paper children I’ve birthed, will sit and stack in the corner of my overcrowded room.
I’m running on the spot and I’m not sure if I’m learning anything new apart from years of experience of not being heard. I want to share my work, I do not have money to mount my own productions, I do not have a sponsor to kindly do it for me, I can’t even afford to move out of home. I sit here writing knowing that more people have probably read this blog than seen my stage work and that’s fairly minimal. Why do I do it? Why do I insist on carrying on knowing it’s a waste of time and that there’ll always be someone else who reaches that destination before me? Why the fuck do I think I’m different? And why the frilly heck do I feel the necessity to compare myself to others?
I don’t know. I simply don’t know. I’m tired. My heart aches at the thought of not writing, although I’m suffocated at the prospect of carrying on. I’ve lost the spark that I used to run towards, now I’m frantically searching around for it. Actually, I’ve passed that and I can’t be bothered to look around. This may seem bombastic, but all I do is write because I want to, it’s the only thing I’m good at. Maybe you’ll read this and think, “maybe no one’s paying you attention because you’re a shit writer?” And maybe you’d be right. Maybe that’s the thing, maybe I’m not being honest enough with myself to say that I cannot write well. I don’t know. That’s the worst thing, I do not know how to find this out.
I’m going to be quiet for a while (writing wise) because I’m a bit lost. And when you’re lost you don’t really make a lot of sense. This isn’t a cry for help or the cue for you to send me reassuring words, it’s an attempt at an explanation as to what’s going on, why I haven’t done anything, and to maybe quash the questions for a bit. I know people are only trying to be kind, and I love them for it, you are the people I’m writing for. Real life has meant that I’m putting writing on the back burner for a bit. I’ve lost the passion and I don’t want to force it. I’m pretty sure in a few months this post will be redundant, I would like to think so.
No doubt you’ll see me in real life or on the usual social platforms soon. If you do, let’s talk about anything but me writing. And bring gin.
Riddled With Niggles August 20, 2013
DROPPED SEQUINS for #FUTURESPARK is cast! July 2, 2013
I’m thrilled to say that my short play DROPPED SEQUINS for How It Ended Productions’ FUTURESPARK has been cast! Let me introduce the superb ladies…
First up (above) we have the delightful Stephanie Overington, a fresh young actress based in Luton. I recently worked with Stephanie on a charity video to raise awareness of self-harm. She has the right spark of naturalism and plays that vulnerability to suit the part of Natasha brilliantly. I’m really looking forward to working with her more directly and on some new writing.
Then we have Rachel Jackson who I’m really excited to be working with. I saw Rachel in a Coming Up (Channel 4) episode from a few years back, then saw her in a short play as part of RedFest last year, and both times she’s stuck out for me. She’s got the feistiness in her for sure and the boldness that completes the part of Gemma.
Two actresses who will bring my work to life under the direction from the lovely Madelaine Smith. Niceness.
REMINDER TO BOOK TICKETS! —> here
LONDON PRIDE is imminent! April 25, 2013
Crikey mikey pudding and pie!
LONDON PRIDE is impending, like a loveable rogue over that yonder hill. I’ve stopped by quickly to tell you a few things…
- You can buy tickets here – clicky clicky, buysy buysy
- On Sunday 5th May from 4-6pm there will be a New Writing Surgery where both of us, myself and MJ Starling (author of Audience With Ghostfinder), will be present to help or just chat about your work. More info can be found here – click for WAFF info
- There’s a post show Q&A with both of us too on the 9th May
- I’m quite excited about everything.
See you there!
LONDON PRIDE is cast… AND ON SALE! March 16, 2013
Yup, it’s all auditioned out and we have our stellar cast. It was great sitting in on the auditions and meeting some of the talent out there. And as always you want to use everyone and have an interchangeable cast because you don’t want to send anyone away… But we whittled it down to a cast that I’m very excited to be working with. The most thrilling aspect of auditions for me, is when it’s the character talking in front of you and not the actor. They make me forget what I’ve written and make it seem like I’m snatching snippets of other people’s conversation. Definitely.
So without further ado, here be the cast:
Details of where and when and how much (including the rest of the programme for the Wandsworth Arts Festival & Fringe) can be found here: clicky linky (we’re on page 15, just so you know)
Tickets can be grabbed here: clicky-clicky-booky-booky
See you there? Mine’s a pint of gin.
LONDON PRIDE – fancy a pint? February 17, 2013
I’ve got a play on soon… The lovely people who are Blackshaw Theatre Company are to produce LONDON PRIDE this coming May as part of the Wandsworth Arts Festival and Fringe. I’m thrilled that the play will get a proper production (it received a reading at RADA back in 2011) and also overjoyed that it’s to be paired as a double bill with writer M.J. Starling. LONDON PRIDE and Audience With Ghost Finder will be performed at The Selkirk Upstairs in Tooting. I’m also really really chuffed that it’s in a pub as that’s where my play is set.
They’re also casting for both plays so if you’re of the Acting variety then have a ganders at the breakdowns and get applying. And there are also some Designer/Crew opportunities too. More details: here
And here’s a bit more info about the two plays…
LONDON PRIDE by Katie McCullough
In Shelly’s rundown pub dreams are revived, hope falters and someone’s looking for a fight.
A new arrival sends ripples through Shelly’s humdrum life and riles Joe, a regular determined to defend his territory.
Audience with the Ghost Finder by M. J. Starling
1912. To lift a cruel curse, ab-natural investigator Carnacki must tread the border between enlightenment and madness.
Sherlock Holmes meets Ghostbusters in this original tale of William Hope Hodgson’s classic character, Carnacki the ghost finder.
So times and dates are as follows:
May 8th, 9th, 10th, 15th and 17th all kicking off at 7:30pm
Tickets are £10 and that gets you in to see BOTH plays – what a bargain! Tickets will be available soon so keep an eye on the Blackshaw Twitter or Facebook or their website. Niceness.
London Threeway For New Work (@uglysisterprod & #SP4TT2012) November 1, 2012
I’ve got a short piece on as part of Ugly Sister‘s The Story Project 4 which means I’ll have my work performed as part of their curated line-up at three different venues on three different nights. It’s my first time working with this theatre company and they seem like Lovely lassies which is always a bonus.
Dates and places are as follows:
Sunday 18th November – The Arcola
Sunday 25th November – Southwark Playhouse
I’m extremely thrilled that I’m going to have some work performed at the Southwark Playhouse because out of the three, I’ve yet to be performed there. The brief was nice and open taking the title, ‘Tears, Terror and TwentyTwelve’ and a ten minute mark with basic props/set. As I’ve mentioned before I like having restrictions and this was a great task.
I’m chuffed with how my idea, ‘Lifetime Subscription‘ came together. I’ve written for two female voices which, for me, is a rarity but is fast becoming a good habit. The conceit is bold and quite expressive of how I feel as a person reacting to our current climate regarding tragic events reported in the media and the collective response. I’d like to think it holds a mirror up to a lot of folks and makes them think about their human response and the emotive responsibility we have to each other. It’s dark. And I enjoyed writing it. I don’t want to give too much away because it hinges on you being there in the moment. As far as I’m aware it’s the last thing I’ll have on this year that’s been asked of me so do come along to support all us writers and the company and if you want to buy me a gin you’re more than welcome. But do come up and say hallo because it’s nice when humans do that to each other.
Doing Things Theatrically Differently With @Soup_ToNuts August 21, 2012
One of the scripts I’ve been trundling along with nicely is a commission for new theatre company, Soup To Nuts, which now has a name after being a heart symbol quickly followed by the word ‘play’ for an extended period of time. The play has now been christened, ‘The Thump You Feel When You Fall‘ and has been through many incarnations from the start including a completely new narrative. Soup To Nuts is a new writing company formed by Jayne Edwards and Laura Atherton, who met whilst studying at Bretton Hall College. Their mission is to develop work in an open forum similar to devising where the creative process is shared and discussed. As part of their ethos I’m allowing them to be parry to the writing process of the script so they can both see the decisions/changes as the script progresses from being a nub of an idea to a fully grown finished version through the different drafts. This is really interesting because where my role of a scriptwriter has normally taken me before is handing over the finished product at the end ready for rehearsals. So it’s a nice working relationship where the respect is noticed from the beginning and we’re all learning how we develop ideas in our own creative roles. What they’ve learned from me is that I write stern notes chastising my stupid ideas and demands to rectify them.
The writing process is a lonely one. You spend an undisclosed amount of time trying to fling your story onto pages and hoping that it will stick. Then you have to make it interesting. And then you have to find some actors to read it. And of course find someone to stage it. Soup To Nuts’ ethos of opening up the development process to all those involved is not only informative but incredibly useful. After talking to many actors it’s clear that they have many questions about the simple task of writing but never have the real opportunity to act on them. Having the opportunity to open up the development at such an early stage in the writing experience was slightly daunting but extremely helpful. It’s rare for a playwright to still have the script in an undeveloped state to produce before actors. And it’s even rarer for actors who it’s written for, to read it and give feedback. The initial anxiety of handing over a script knowing it’s not finished soon vanished after the readthrough started. It was actually quite thrilling having an open discussion about the themes, narratives and characters with the actors as if we were further down the development path. The feedback was being explored knowing that the script was in a state of flux and sometimes it’s good for an outside eye at such an early stage to point out slithers of plot that have been forgotten or not tied up. Being so close to a script can blinker your ability to see what’s going on. By having actors who are invested in these characters that you’re still forming, it gives you the incentive to carry on. But more importantly it allows the writer to have an explorative relationship with the actors without the constraints of a rehearsal period and the end goal of a production. In no way was this new method restricting or hindering on the overall genesis of the script, if anything it’s added depth to the writing process.
Soup To Nuts can be found on Twitter: @Soup_ToNuts and Facebook here.
My First Restaging Of Work With @WeAreOryx August 18, 2012
**PLEASE NOTE THE DATE HAS NOW CHANGED TO TUESDAY 4TH SEPTEMBER**
Oryx Productions, some lovely folks who run a new writing pop up night at 93 Feet East, have selected one of the first short pieces I ever had performed in London to be included in their next night. The piece is called, “Love-Aged-28” and is part of the Interrobang Trilogy I had put on at The Book Club back in 2010. I’m really intrigued to see how it will differ from the original staging… It’s an odd piece to begin with, abstract with direct addressing to the audience, and in terms of theme it’s a little bizarre. A bit like “Brimstone And Treacle*” but with menthol fags and no forced sex.
If you’re free to come along to the FREE event, then please do. I’ll be there so come along and say howdy if you can make it. It’s Tuesday September 4th starting at 7ish and it’s in the bar. Which means gin, right? Right!
[the gin is not free]
*If you have not read this play, do. It’s the play that got me into being a playwright and that. At least the first ten things I wrote were a rip-off of it.
Interview With A Playwright (Part One) August 9, 2012
I recently received a request from a lovely French lady called Vanessa Jaunet. She asked if she could interview me for an article as part of her studies which would include translating my English into French. Vanessa’s questions were interesting and she’s allowed me to post the first part of our exchange here for you to read if you fancy it…
For how long have you been writing plays ?
I’ve been writing since I can remember to be honest. I have a peculiar memory where I remember smells, moments and feelings rather than huge swathes of my childhood. So I can remember very clearly the moment I spelled the word, ‘holiday’ all by myself. When I was at primary school we were very oversubscribed with students so our teachers didn’t have enough time to spend with us on the subjects we found difficult. They would tell us to go and do something we enjoyed so I always ended up writing or painting. I would end up writing the stories that the teacher would read to us in the afternoons. So I’ve been writing since I was very young, but I suppose I’ve been writing theatre seriously since 2008.
What inspired you to write plays?
For me the idea of a story being performed in front of you live is thrilling. My university degree was three years of Scriptwriting For Film and Television and to be honest I was fed up with writing screen. It felt very limited and I wanted to have a more freeing experience of bringing it to an audience. I wanted to be in the rehearsal room to see what was working and what wasn’t and to help untangle the story and shape it with others.
Also I wanted, and still do, to bring in a different audience to the theatre. It still has the ‘middle-class’ stigma attached to it and it’s something that I want to dispel. We can learn a lot from theatre like we can from any media. But the power of theatre is that it is in front of you, anything can go wrong. There are no multiple attempts to get the scene right, no pause button – it’s all there for you to experience and I think that is admirable. I also think it can have more of an effect because it is immediate and as an audience member you can see another human being portraying a story with all the guts and glory that you cannot hide from.
I saw on your website that you use boards. I would like to know how you use them. For example do you use them just when you have got an idea or do you develop you plays?
Ah, my whiteboards! I love them. I’m a firm believer in writing down and talking about ideas. Our brains are very clever in quashing an idea before it’s fully formed so by writing it down (even if it doesn’t work) we’re narrowing the chances of figuring out what does work. It’s a simple case of elimination. With whiteboards you can erase things quickly so it doesn’t hang heavy on you if you’re struggling with an idea. Also the physical act of writing does wake up the brain even if you write absolute rubbish. It’s a bit like breaking down the barrier, brushing off the cobwebs, before you then hit your stride and before you know it you’re writing your idea and you wonder why it took so long to get on with it.
I have four large whiteboards hanging on my walls. I usually have at least one with fragments of ideas or snippets of dialogue that I’ve either heard or thought. I’m writing a play at the moment which needed a lot of research so I used all the whiteboards including a fifth one that I have resting against my desk. I think it helps to be able to see everything at the same time so you can tell if you’ve missed something or if a part of the plot doesn’t work, or maybe doesn’t resurface again.
How would you describe your method of working? Are you a ‘‘junkie writer’’ or an organized writer? For example are you someone who sticks to 9-5 routine or do you write when an idea comes to you even if it’s a middle of the night?
I used to write in the middle of the night when it was quiet and no one would disturb me. I would write from 12am till about 5am. But then that would ruin me for the next day. I also needed to be awake for work so I had to stop doing that when I got a full time job. Finding time to write can be hard, but essential. Some writers work from 9-5 but I find it depends on what you’re working on. If I’m writing a commission for someone else then I schedule time because someone is expecting a draft for a particular date. If I’m writing my own ideas then I tend to be more relaxed about it and organise it around my work. I work freelance as a Film Festival Distributor so every week is different. Some weeks I’ll be working on a script for a few hours in the evening and sometimes just a weekend. The important thing for me is that I’m enjoying what I’m writing. If I’m really enjoying a script and I have a busy week then I will wake up at 5am to do some writing before work. If you enforce a strict writing method it can sometimes backfire and you don’t get any work done.
I’m definitely more level-headed than I used to be. I’d start several projects in one go and spend weeks getting very little sleep. But now I have to consider my sleep for my work which earns me my living. I’m much happier now than when I was writing at university and I think that’s because I’m allowing ideas to formulate rather than forcing them.
What do you feel when you write?
I feel knackered from having all these new, and sometimes not particularly nice, people in my head. But I also feel like I’m a problem solver and that rejuvenates me. Because you’re using your brain to separate different characters and travelling through time, in a literary sense obviously, it can be quite disorientating. You can get so engaged with what you’re writing that hours can fly by and you don’t realise. That’s when you know you’re on to something good. When you’re counting the minutes until you can do something else, that’s when you have to worry.
Which kind of emotions do you experience?
It can be quite emotional finishing a play, and sometimes even a draft. You do become very aware that these people you’ve pinned to the page would not have existed if it hadn’t been for all your hard work. As a writer you’re conjuring people from thin air and adding layers to their life so they are real, so the world they exist in is as real as you can make it. So of course it’s tiring always having to think and second guess what they’re going to do and how to get them through the story. You often hear writers say, “I’ve become too close to the story” and it’s easy to see why. You’re having to drop yourself in the middle of lives and explore and mine for the story. It can play on your mind when you’re out shopping or talking on the telephone and sometimes cloud your judgement. All the thinking you do away from the page is just as important as the words you order on the page.
What do you need to write? Which kind of atmosphere?
I can drown out any noise by being focused. I come from a very noisy house so have become good at tuning it all out. But what can cause my attention to waver is if the television is on or if someone is talking to me. I think it’s a visual thing. I think if I’m staring at the computer screen then I still acknowledge I’m doing work. The moment I start watching a film or television then it completely takes my attention off what I’m trying to do. Which is probably why I don’t watch television and for me, to watch a film is a treat. I don’t always use my laptop. At the beginning of my writing career I wrote everything by hand and typed it up. If it’s a sunny day or I need a change of scenery I’ll resort back to my trusty pen and paper. I listen to music sometimes – I like putting on an album that I know like the back of my hand because if it gets to the end and I’ve noticed I’ve hardly listened to it, I know I’ve been working hard. It’s a good gauge of how invested in the project I am.
As much as I would love to be more focused on my work I also need stimulus in other areas to get me motivated. Twitter is a good one for me because I can dip in and catch up with folks and also moan about having to write. It’s a typical writer thing to do, moan about having to write. I know a lot of other playwrights and authors on there so it’s good to have a chat and a laugh. Making tea is always a good stimulus for me too, I use it as a goal. ‘If I can just finish this scene then I can have a cup of tea…’ that kind of thing. And most of the time it’s a good excuse to step away from a play and sit with my dog for a bit or bake. I do a lot of baking because it’s something I can do on autopilot and allow my mind to wander. You’ll find that just as you think you’re relaxing and taking your mind of your play, the answer you’ve been searching for tumbles into view.
The Whisper Tree… We Found It! July 25, 2012
It’s been a week or so since I’ve been back from Wales where ‘The Whisper Tree’ was premiered. It was a great project and one that is hopefully (fingers crossed) not finished for good just yet. The week was such a brilliant experience from not only seeing some of my own work be put on in front of an eager audience, but a lot of behind the scenes. The idea of a handful of creative folks living in each other’s pockets in the middle of nowhere could have been nightmarish. But it was such a pleasure and I learned a lot from the actors and director about elements of their craft that I’d never been able to ask anyone before and the same in return. If felt nothing like work and that was a real treat. I think we can safely say that it felt like a holiday.
The interesting thing for me was having a different audience. I’ve written children’s theatre before but it’s been on a small scale and adaptations. This was my first foray into a pure (full length) piece of children’s theatre and I was anxious about how the children were going to react to it. For the first performance I hung back and set up the drawing activities. But there’s a section at the beginning of the play before they’ve even set off into the wood which relies on the children responding. As soon as they all chimed in with their responses I was happy that something was working and it was working right. When they all returned having found ‘The Whisper Tree’ they were keen to draw what they had seen and what they would tell it. Success!
When I finally went on the journey with the children it was such a joy to see them all enraptured by Rory and Tilly and even better to see them ask questions. What struck me was that they felt comfortable being able to talk to the characters, they were never disruptive, they were inquisitive. The adults that came along were also listening intently and I suppose it’s hard to fully let your imagination run wild as a parent when you’re busy juggling the real life alongside a child. One parent said that he was going to have to come back with his son because he really identified with our main character. This really touched me because that’s what we set out to do. Our aim was to make people stop and look and listen to an area where they may not visit that often or at all and to see a lot of the children’s drawing saying they wanted to come back was the best feedback.
To be near a child who is fully accepting everything around them no matter how fantastical or bizarre was, for want of a better word, magical. It wasn’t about worrying what people would say about your work, how many stars people would apply to your work, what fragment of a review you could select, what your peers would go home thinking about… I completely handed over everything to the kids and it was brilliant. The actors were superb and the children became their allies and that’s all I hoped for and it’s definitely what I got. It’s hard to describe but it’s almost as if ‘The Whisper Tree’ wasn’t really written by me, it was the audience that really made it and I happened to be parry to their journeys and enjoyed it as much as them.
I’ve updated my website recently which has photographs from ‘The Whisper Tree’ on there so do feel free to have a look at what I’ve tried to pin to the page here. I think you’ll agree that the production was an all round success and that was down to everyone involved and especially the audience.