Saturday, September 08, 2007

It's been a busy month. I've been to an Arvon writing course, sold plays, directed the play (ongoing) torn my hair out at things going wrong, son had major surgery, grandson started school, wrote a one act play that I didn't mean to write, and now it's carnival day.

Let's take those one at a time. Arvon is a writing course. You go for a week, stay at one of their centres, taught by successful writers and industry insiders, and get to make lots of new friends. I went to Yorkshire to learn about plays. Timothy Sheader was supposed to teach us but had a minor heart attack and couldn't come. Get better soon, Tim.
The other teacher was Rebecca Lenkiewics, and she was joined by Chris Thorpe. They were wonderful, very generous and I learned a lot. Can't wait till the chance to go on another course. Thoroughly recommended.

When I got back, I had a message from Limelight Scripts. I'd sent him five of my plays before I went away. He is going to publish four of them. That's not a bad average, is it? And it isn't every day you can say I sold four plays in one go. I was on air.

The summer has been a nightmare for directing. What with actors on holiday, and others with personal crises having to pull out - I've torn out my hair in clumps. But I think we now have the cast we need and the cast we should have. Please God. I'm down to the roots. Please pray for this project.

My son, aged 20, had his shoulder reconstructed. I know he is going to be off work for about three months, and deep down he knows it too, but he plays this little game where he says he's only off for a couple of weeks. At 20, they think they're indestructible. He sends me grey.

My four year old grandson informs me he's a big boy now, because he started big school. So far, he loves it. (It's only been three days.) He plays in the playground and looks at books, apparently. He has school dinners and wears his uniform proudly... long may it continue. I got a bit choked, seeing him in his uniform. It only seems five minutes since he was born. Now he's nearly five and out in the big wide world.

One act play: I had an idea to write a series of sketches to put together for an evening's entertainment as part of our Church evangelical mission in November 2008. The idea was to write a piece about Jesus told from a witness point of view. A fun evening, with a message.
The first two sketches seemed to be something else. So I went with it. Within a week, I had the first draft of a one act play tentatively entitled "Beyond Redemption?" It's the story of Jacob, a temple guard whose life is made difficult by the antics of one maverick preacher from Galilee. Jacob's home is destroyed, his family compromised, his promotion prospects damaged. Then he is detailed to arrest the preacher. His frustration boils over and for the first time in his life, he abuses a prisoner. Does that put him beyond redemption?
I showed it to Chris Thorpe and got some very positive feedback on the writing. A lady in Australia who read and critted it for me asked about her church group staging it. And I am hoping our Vicar will like it enough to put it into the Mission.

And now it's Carnival day. Carnivals in Sussex are something else. There is the day time stuff for the kiddies, of course, but the real procession starts at 7.15pm when we set off to march round Crowborough. Marching bands, floats on lorries, carnival princesses - walking tableaux and carnival societies from all the towns around about will go through the town carrying flaming torches which will be thrown on the huge bonfire about 10.30pm when we get to the end of the march. Then there's a firework display and those who are really up for it can stay to the fun fair. Lot of sore heads tomorrow.
Our drama group is walking round, advertising the play which comes up in October. Wish us luck.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This fantasy novel of mine is sucking me dry. I have a completed draft and I'm rewriting. The rewrites make it better, but I have no enthusiasm for it, which is strange, as I have enthusiasm for most rewrites. So I've put it to one side for the time being and am going to work on something else.So, I thought, what? It hit me like a flash of lightning. I'm not kidding. Doesn't usually come at me like that. In fact, I don't know how and why I normally get my ideas, but I can pinpoint the exact moment this one was pushed into my head.I'm going to write a one act play for my Church. Every other year in November, we have a big Mission, when we have a visiting preacher who sometimes brings a team, sometimes comes alone. They stay for a week, and we have lots of events and activities for Church members to bring interested non Christians to. They have a good time, listen to a message from our sponsor, and then either go home unmoved or, the hierarchy hope, go home interested and asking questions that will lead them to Christ. Anyway, next one is November 2008, and today my bolt from the blue idea was for a one act play which could go with a simple meal (Ploughman's perhaps) and the sponsor message, to make an evening. The play is about a family of three (Mother, father, daughter) who encounter Jesus at six key moments of his life and death and life. Their reactions will (hopefully) reflect reactions of people today, and highlight facets of the Lord.I know that's not going to make me rich, or even sell. But it hit my brain, synopsis formed and ready, characters three -D before we start - what's a girl to do? Besides, I learned a very long time ago, when God makes obvious what he wants me to do, might as well go and do it. He's bigger than me. I'll write this, and call it part of my giving, and then come back to my more commercial projects. As it's only three actors, I shouldn't have too much trouble finding a cast for it, even amongst the mostly non Christian drama actors I know. (Most non Christians seem happy to act in religious plays, as long as they don't think anyone is trying to convert them, I find. And I never NEVER try to convert anyone. I leave that to God. Oh, I'll happily talk about my faith, share it, answer questions. But if someone's not interested, I accept that. Never do to others what you wouldn't want done to you. I was a non Christian long enough to understand that.)It may be just what I need as well, apart from doing as I am told. I am directing this play, which is quite complex. (When I wrote it, I don't think I realised how many layers there are to it. The actors bring out more each rehearsal.) Trying to direct that, AND write a complex novel might be a bit much. Onwards and upwards.

Good luck, Harrison, as you return to Kenya. Keep in touch!

Monday, August 13, 2007

So here we are, beginning of another week. I have two weeks before I go off on an Arvon course, so two weeks to do as much as I can before projects galore come bouncing at me. With my youngest son off work following an operation, and bored out of his mind, as much as I can may not be as much as I'd like.
Today, a letter to a friend, then a rewrite chapter to my fantasy novel. I haven't actually lost interest in this novel, but I have lost enthusiasm for the rewrite, not because it is a rewrite, but because the world and his wife seem to write fantasy and the chances of it getting anywhere are remote. But if I don't finish it, I will fail, so I plod on. I also have an idea for a thriller, some short stories, a pantomime and a screenplay, so I have lots to keep me going.
And then there are rehearsals tonight...
A friend goes to do his military service in the Norwegian Army as of today. Good luck, Snorre, aka Spookyfish! I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It's a darned sight easier to write a play than to direct one! If characters are awkward, you can shoot 'em.
As a writer, you don't have to deal with egos: "I think I need to stand there" which translates to "I want to do my action on the front of the stage so the world will see me, not half way back where it suits the story better."
You don't have to deal with people who argue with your vision: "But I don't like the way this scene makes me look."
Characters don't hold up rehearsals for twenty minutes at a time, with the whole of the rest of the cast bored and angry, while the argumentative one tries to get things done their way. (Hint: it ain't gonna happen. As director, I can see the whole picture and I have a reason for wanting it done the way I say.)
If I am concentrating on one part of the story and one set of characters, the other characters sit quietly and wait for their turn. Actors begin to chat, mess about - I'm not talking children here, but adults, some in main roles, who make comments they think are witty (they're not), mess around, push and shove at each other. The words Grow Up, come to mind.
And if a character is supposed to know some information, they know it and act accordingly. I am amazed at the number of actors who don't know the full story, don't know the parts that don't involve their character (and what's more couldn't care less about them). Then they are surprised when the action calls for them to react. And that's AFTER a quick read through at the audition stage. Erm, tip: read the play, people. Make sure you know it inside out. It wil help your performance.
The one thing where characters and actors do seem to be the same is their tendency to try and blame someone else. "This scene could have been better but so and so was in the wrong place and I couldn't do my piece properly." On the night, you're going to have to. "He delivered the line wrong, so I got confused." Know your part and be in character enough that you can compensate.
Yesterday, my son (not in the play but sometimes acts) told me something. He is severely dyslexic and has a lot of trouble reading, but always knows all his lines, and all everyone else's lines as well. He told me, he struggles through the whole play, and learns it ALL off by heart. That way, no-one can phase him, he knows what to expect and can roll with it, he never misses a cue. It was a very professional attitude, and I was impressed. If only other actors were willing to put so much in. *sighs*

Monday, July 02, 2007

Overnight, one of the two actresses I had lined up for the main female role has had to pull out. Which makes life easier in that the other girl now gets the part without having to go through the motions, but leaves me one more person short.
I've got another actress, semi professional, that I can ask. This lady is a member of the rainbow, but would act every day if it came to it. She's not on email. I'll pop a note through her door and see if she is interested. Only think is, she is scatty (as she would eb first to admit) and although she always knows her lines by the dress rehearsal, it is frustrating when you say books down and she still doesn't know word one. It isn't easy to make all the less experienced put down their books when an experienced actress is getting away with it.
Our producer has friends in TWODS (Tunbridge Wells Operatic and Dramatic Society.) Used to be Amateur ODS but so many of them are semi professional, they dropped the A. So obviously, I would be thrilled to get them. I might just do so as well. Apparently, the hierarchy there is so competitive, you have to be with them so many years before you're even allowed to audition for a speaking role. You have to do back stage work and Front of House, and then you'll be let into the chorus, and then after that apprenticeship, you audition before the whole company and they vote on whether to let you in. Which probably keeps the dross out but must be very frustrating for those who want to act. And that might work in our favour. If you've got two more years back row of the chorus, not a single line, and we offer you a part with a few lines, you might be interested.
It will be all right. It has to be.
Meanwhile, I have to get to Eastbourne and back today, and my car is in dry dock. My daughter can get me there, but she can't wait for me as her husband has an appointment too. Youngest son WILL pick me up "if he can". What about all these favours I do for them?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

It's one thing to write a play. It's quite another to direct and cast it, as I am finding out. When I wrote Ashdown Lee, I was still part of Rainbow Drama and there were forty actors all wanting parts of varying sizes. Everything was rosy. Then the old leader of the group retired, the new leader paid me a visit and told me that they would not be using my plays again (he wanted to change direction completely, apparently). I didn't mind. A new drama group had started by this time, Mark One, and they were very keen to use my work. BUT, being a new group, we are not overrun with actors. This didn't matter for the first two plays as they were small cast. For our panto, many Rainbow members joined us and all was well. We set up to do Ashdown Lee.This play needs a minimum of twenty actors, preferably more. Things started to get a little worrying when the Rainbow members all dropped out. No explanations, just they couldn't do it. They are supposed to be doing a production of their own in January (Ours is in October) and maybe they didn't feel able to do both. Most am-dram actors go from one production to another, but these are people who have been used to doing just one large production every two years. (They have not even chosen a play yet, but I'm sure they will.) Never mind, I thought. Things would be fine. There are 26,000 people in our town. The ten or so that belong to Rainbow can't be the only thespians out there.Twelve people have expressed a definite interest in being in the cast. I have spent the weekend talking to others, and have got interest from one more, with possible interest from three others. I have spoken to people in other drama groups in neighbouring towns, one wished us luck but had trouble with his own casting, one said yes but not for two weeks (after his own auditions - fair enough), and one is going to see what he can do. It's been on radio, and posters are up. I've asked the WI if they'd like parts (they have a group that does revues.) Hopefully some people will come.Yuor good vibes/prayers/thoughts would be appreciated now.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I am on a roll! Pantomime production was a great success. The audience loved it, the cast had a great time, we made a profit, what more could we ask?
And now, on top of all of that, a publishing firm have said they want to publish the script. Yaay!
Now I need tow rite three world war 2 sketches, (funny ones) a tweny minute play for schools, and then get back to that screenplay. But I feel more like doing it all this morning.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Life is hectic! We're producing the pantomime Hansel and Gretel (written by yours truly) and with one week to go, it's beginning to come together. Monday night's rehearsal was dreadful. I tell myself, it can only get better.
Then I wrote five short plays to add to the World In Need fighting poverty pack. You can read them at where they, and the whole pack is available for free download.
I'm working on Price of Firewood, a screenplay about a place similar to Darfur, and on Volunteers, a comedy stage play, and letting the trilogy ferment a little.
Plus keeping my crit rate on and living every day life, my daughter and mother both moving home, selling tickets and panicking because I still have so many left ....
Fingers crossed for the panto. If you pray, please do so. If you don't, please wish us the best.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year! And may 2007 bring all of us everything we could ever hope or dream of.
I have a number of writing goals for 2007. If I set them out here, maybe I'll be shamed into achieving them.
Firstly, I have a trilogy of fantasy novels to write and complete at least the first draft of each. Shouldn't be beyond me. At just 1000 words a day, a first draft of each novel would only take three months. I have already done a first draft of the first one, so my second goal is to get that ready to think about publication.
My second goal is to complete my screenplay about war torn Africa, and to write another screenplay as part of Nano's script frenzy event in June. I'd like to get the African screenplay especially, up to speed and ready to submit.
My third goal is to get my libretto set to music. Not completely in my own hands, that one, but I will press ahead with it anyway.
My fourth goal is really the most important. I am going to actually submit work on a regular basis. Whether it be a novel, a screenplay, short story, magazine article, poem into a competition, children's story, stage play... I am very good at writing things and then putting them to one side, meaning to send them off and never getting around to it. Well, they won't post themselves. I thought I'd aim for one piece a month sent out.
Watch this space. Maybe starving writer will be well fed by the end of the year.