Sunday 30 October 2016

You Dancin? #playwriting

Dance  - it's something that everyone does in one form or another.  There are traditional, cultural, even religious dances.  There are spectacular showy competitive dance competitions.  There are discos and nightclubs pulsing and heaving all around the world.  There are mums boogieing whilst washing up in the kitchen, dads toe tapping and head banging, teenagers secretly wishing they could let loose.  Best of all there are children whirling, twirling, jumping, leaping, spinning, twisting, krumping their little hearts out to every single piece of music under the sun.  Dance brings joy and laughter.  You just have to look at prime time Saturday night TV - the ever popular Strictly Come Dancing, now in its 13th season, was born out of the much beloved 1949 Come Dancing show and I'm fairly certain we were throwing shapes a long time before then.

This month's playwriting challenge was to write a short, ten-minute (ish) play on the theme of Dancing.  Time frame - five days.  Challengers - seven.  Who would step up?  Well, they all did and it was fascinating at the different aspects of the topic each writer decided on, for example:

  • The dance macabre with monologues from three different types of dancer
  • A well established married couple going for their first ballroom dance lesson
  • An end of the world party with dancing
  • Competitive dance and a reluctant participant dancing for all the wrong reasons
  • Two women in a nightclub, trying to avoid the cheesy chat ups
  • Interwoven commentary from a trio of women who'd been to see Fosse
  • A monologue about the thinly veiled sex & horror behind Strictly

It becomes very difficult to gauge your own work against such a varied collection and doubts set in that your style is less convoluted, your dialogue without long monologues, in fact your entire piece without an inner wisdom revealed - just characters experiencing an event.  And yet feedback was encouraging.  Despite being a window into the ordinary and everyday it wasn't boring, the dialogue flowed naturally and there were moments of comedy.  

Fast forward a few days to writers workshop and we are challenged on free writing for twenty minutes and then - just like marking tests at school - swapping with a partner to edit freely in red pen. The purpose behind this was eventually revealed.  Did we discover the emotional intent behind the prose?  It wasn't about just editing the words and the grammar.  It was about feeding back what we discovered from the piece and finding out whether our inner meaning matched the author's.  This is my biggest fear - that I have no inner meaning and my work is just words collected together in a somewhat pleasing arrangement.  Time will tell.  

Sunday 16 October 2016

PT123 Transference From Nappy to Pant

This module is designed to take you through the fundamentals of potty training your child.  It will help you integrate the differing methods and ideas you've discovered through Google and speaking to other parents whilst being spoken to by the older generation and build your confidence for future training.  You'll cover spills, misses, hidden puddles, multiple outfit changes and the development of talking about wee-wee and poo-poos in public in great detail.  Formal qualifications are not necessary and you are not expected to have any previous knowledge as each subject ranges in ability.  The skills introduced in this module will be ideal for when your subject has children of their own and you can advise them on what they're doing wrong.

What you will study

In order to complete this module successfully you should expect to actively participate for at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week for the foreseeable future.  Please note: we advise all students that this course must be completed if started, there are no deferrals or points transfer available.  This course is for male subjects, you will have to retrain should you gain a female subject.

You will learn

  • to identify the different 'I need a wee-wee/poo-poo' dances
  • to carry round with you at all times four sets of clothing, nappy bags, toilet roll, baby wipes, a potty, a toddler toilet seat and congratulatory stickers
  • that one good day does not necessarily mean course completion has been achieved
  • neither does two
  • that little winkles don't always fit into potty's
  • that little winkles don't always point the right way
  • that your subject will wet themselves outside unexpectedly even if they've just been to the toilet
  • that when outside and asked 'Do you need a wee-wee?' the subject will invariably lie
  • to take your subject to the toilet when you arrive and leave all places of travel, including supermarkets, libraries, train stations and anywhere else that has a public convenience
  • to ignore the stares when your subject demands a wee-wee in an unlikely place and you whip the potty out for use
  • to just accept the fact that you are handling more wee-wee and poo-poo than ever before
  • to suddenly devour toilet roll - kitchen roll - flash wipes and other articles of clean up
  • to avoid long journeys
  • to heavily restrict previous abundantly available sources of refreshment
  • to immediately discard soiled underwear - Primark exists for a reason
  • to understand that dry days do not necessarily lead into dry nights
  • to learn how to clap enthusiastically for the 27th wee-wee that day
  • to brief all non-subject supplied friends that they too will have to comment enthusiastically and may even be shown subject efforts
You will need
  • An abundance of patience
  • Excellent washer/dryer capabilities
  • At least 14 sets of trousers and 28 sets of pants
  • Supreme patience
  • Quick reaction skills
  • A calm demeanor
  • Excellent motivational skills
  • The ability to execute repetitive actions with the exact high level of enthusiasm
  • Endless sheets of congratulatory stickers
  • A potty, toddler toilet seat & step
  • Baby wipes, toilet training wipes, flash wipes, toilet roll, kitchen roll and in severe cases absorbant sheets
  • Several books, games, songs and other motivational user tool, ideally tailored towards the subject's current preference e.g. Thomas the Tank Engine et al
  • No fondness for any furniture as accidents will happen
  • An extra supply of patience

Teaching and Assessment

This course is distance learning, to be completed at home with the chosen subject.  We recommend reduced travel for the first two weeks in order to establish excellent study habits.  There is no online tutor or support group for this course however you may find learners with similar subjects at your local Mother & Toddler Groups.  Don't forget to visit your parental resources as well as the multiple books and websites available for extra credit study.

We wish you the very best with your studies and look forward to welcoming you back with new subjects in the future.  

Monday 3 October 2016

Projects Update - October 16

Apologies for the negligence but I have been busy.  Well.. I think I have.  I cannot quite believe that we are sitting at the beginning of October.  I have smelt that delicious crisp Autumnal smell first thing in the morning.  I have my invitation to a Halloween party and already pumpkins fill every second spare thought I have.  I even wore a jumper today.  The nights are drawing in and with them, hopefully, a bit more time for the blog and for flexing those writing muscles.

One of the things I have learnt this year is how easy it is for writers to distract themselves and how very long it can take for a book to be published.  The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham, as part of the Pen to Print 2015 competition prize have now paid for the winning books to be published through New Generation Publishing.  The deal is done so as soon as I finish editing The Gaia Effect I can send it over for publishing.  The reality of all of this is that in the new year, you will be able to buy my book.  I will have a published book.  I will be an author.  Naysayers can poo poo self publishing and bandy around words such as vanity publishing all they like.  This has been a fantastic journey and learning experience and I am so very grateful to have this opportunity.  Even if my book is only bought by family and friends I hope they get as much enjoyment out of reading it as I did from writing it.  

Now you know why I have been so quiet - I have been working through that final draft, combing through one more time, attempting to perfect my words as much as I can.  I'm about half-way - I have two dedicated and (hopefully) eager readers ready and waiting.  The idea being that I send the manuscript through to the publishers by the end of October.  That's my timeline.  Without one I will procrastinate and distract myself with a myriad of other exciting projects I have lined up.

As part of the playwriting course I attended, I wrote a deeply personal monologue, Burying my Baby, which was read out superbly by Lily-Anne Coleman and recorded for Pen to Print 2016 Real People Real Stories.  

I have also written two ten-minute plays this summer, Bodies in the Graveyard can be found on my website and Airport was performed, script in hand, for the first time at ReadFest at the end of September in front of an audience of my peers.  I had butterflies.  The play was meant to be amusing, my main fear was that no-one would laugh at all.  One person's humour is not necessarily anothers.  I brought the house down.  I don't think I truly realised how funny the play was or how alive the actors would bring my words on the page.  To have such a sincere reaction from the audience was one of the best feelings I've ever had.  All writers face that crippling desire to have their work heard and yet not wanting to know what people think.  Be brave, it is so worth it.  Actors, writers, members of my writers workshop and fellow budding playwrights made a point of telling me what they thought.  And it was all positive.  I hope to share a live recording with you soon.

There will be more playwriting in my future.  

I began a great habit of writing 1000 words a day.  Then I went away on a mini-break and all excellent habits were broken.  That is one I shall endeavour to re-establish, after all I have 24,000 words of a new story marinating.

I also conducted my first interview, today in fact, for another new project which is so hush hush I cannot possibly divulge any information.  Needless to say there will be at least four more interviews in the near future I hope and then my attempts to combine that with 14,000 words about a shared love of books.  What could possibly go wrong?

In summary - more blogging - more reading - more writing - more sharing.