Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Monkey Puzzle Tree... and a chocolate gobbling dog

I finally allowed myself to print out the script, running at 118 scenes and 87 pages. And yes, it's short which is great because I've realised the fun to be had out of re-writing comes when there is space to flesh scenes or characters out in tiny little ways as you polish. Though that only works when the script works as a whole... so I haven't started reading it yet!

Meanwhile my dog, Roxy trotted into the babysitter and my daughter with a large bar of dark chocolate - 70% proof - clamped proudly between her hairy jaws. Even when tempted away with chorizo, she managed to get the sausage and still guard the chocolate under her hot little belly but yes, it was finally rescued or she was rescued from it. Or so we thought...

Cue the back bedroom next morning. Very hungover friend called Jane. Snoring softly. Softly enough to make the blind flutter like an escaped convict.

What I hadn't known was that when we'd gone out was that Jane had left a handbag by the bed. Inside were various things of international importance... and four bars of same chocolate. Only now there was no chocolate in the bag and the floor was littered with infinitely small pieces of paper and foil. Absolutely NO trace of chocolate ever having been near either. It was as if the chocolate itself must have thought it dreamed it existed and now knew it was untrue.

Judging by the quantity of debris, my guess is that the bar Roxy brought downstairs was the fourth of these, and maybe she just got tired of binging on her own and wanted to continue her binge in company. BIG mistake. I'm sure there's a lesson for us all here... hoard your chocolate at a height? learn to enjoy your guilty pleasures away from babysitters and children?

But it's better than the time she managed to lock herself into the bathroom and ate most of the contents of the bin. And at least she doesn't eat poo like the last dog. (Yeah, it's amazing what you can become grateful for over the years!)

Why is it soooo much easier to write about a dog than to read a script or a novel you've just finished? Is it fear?

I think it's fear.

Monday, 6 December 2010

On Rewriting...

First proper full draft of the children's novel is now done, and waiting to be dusted - ie read through, tidied, threads of thought and story securely fastened in the right places. I've put it aside until New Year; my theory being that then I can come at it fresh, read it as I would a fresh novel and then I'll see if it works and test it out on a couple of readers.

Which is why rewriting sucks! It just expands to fit whatever time is available, not helped by four projects not getting funded - only one put in by myself, the others by a production company who are still burrowing out through the recession and sending stuff of mine out into potential markets for funding. I had hoped the rule of three would work and the third would get the money but that's the world we're in at the moment.

Two weeks ago, I dived back into a script called Monkey Puzzle Tree. (Yeah, it's one of the few titles I've come up with that I absolutely love; which makes me fear that it will have to be dumped at some point.)

The first draft made its producer laugh out loud all the way from here to LA; the second, well suffice to say she said she smiled for the first time on p 27. And she was right. It had become over earnest, solidly fed with stuff that made sense and set up the world but added nothing to the story or characters or the atmosphere. Scenes with purpose but with no real predicament. Dead weight. The very fault I warn my students about.

But I know I can make it work, hence the splicing open of its heart and all its characters and brainstorming the most erratic ideas and images and words just to see where they lead.

Which leaves the plot - my personal bete noir - looking almost healthy except for one or two absolutely crucial decisions that will affect just about everything and without which I can't pull all the pieces back into a fresh draft: my goal for this week!

Which is why I've spent the morning writing Christmas cards for Australia and the UK. Hmmm.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Stroke of Insight...

This was recorded in 2008 as one of the TED lectures. It was the first TED lecture I was shown, as part of a course run by Screen Training Ireland and it is pretty amazing. If you feel like taking a coffee break, it might be worth a look !

Essentially, it's the story, from the inside, of the experience - and, believe or not, wonder - of having a massive stroke. But with a difference. Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist - and yes, she recovered. So she had studied these awful things clinically but was both fascinated to observe what it actually felt like. As her brain functions slipped away one by one - speech, movement, understanding — she studied and remembered every moment. As her blurb says: "This is a powerful story of recovery and awareness — of how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another."

The link is:

Monday, 15 November 2010

Slowly does it...

I'm seriously hoping this is the 'tortoise wins the race' period of the year. Work is slow. The intention to work gets muffled by cups of coffee, walking the dog, staying in the warmest room of the house where the tv and family are... and then the guilt for not working hard enough, fast enough or just plain enough.

My neighbour keeps hanging plastic bags on her washing line. The last time I saw this was in 1990 when I was on a work exchange as a journo to Sverdlovsk in Russia. (It reverted to Ekaterinberg later, the town in which the Tsar and his family were killed under the orders of Josef Sverdlov; hence the name).

But back then I also saw people collecting beer in plastic bags there too and fishing for two and a half hours on a freezing lake to produce a few handfuls of carp, the goldfish-sized ones for lunch.

I don't think we're there yet but I have to say I donot like the idea of handing over sovereignty in return for an EU bailout which seems to have been sprung to the Press last night. The way Fianna Fail, greedy developers, corrupt bankers and greed reduced this country to its knees, wasted all its money and given us the scariest health system despite the wonderful medical personnel we have makes me so angry...

So it's either bake a chocolate cake with whiskey in it or get back to my novel. Ho hum... Which would you do?

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Free scripts....

Prompted by my fellow screenwriter's call to look again at competitions - Caroline Farrell, see - I went foraging in some spare moments - yes, those 'moments' that last half an hour and when I was MEANT to be honing a script. There is some interesting stuff out there but these are not competitions for first drafts. I imagine, given most of them have a fee, that there is fierce competition and that you only send your strongest work ever.

But some of them have interesting newsletters, even if you're not at that stage yet. The BlueCat Fellini Awards, for example, just launched their 2011 competition today but they also have a newsletter that looks interesting. From today's version, I was able to download The Big Lebowski, Jerry Maguire and Forrest Gump. The excuse for letting us access these is the search for good one liners.

I'm always telling my students to read, read, read scripts... It is the best way to learn, to absorb the craft, to challenge yourself to come up with something as fresh/ different/ visually and narratively compelling...but it's hard to find time and I hate reading them off screen but now I'm inspired. (ie: My computer is now filling up with scripts I want to read!)

I will set aside time to read the first ten pages of at least three scripts today and to read at least one full script each week. I'll use it as a way to break up the writing day. Might even allow myself a coffee while I do it and I'll try to learn to enjoy reading off screen. It's too expensive to print out every script.

Anyway the BlueCat Fellini Awards are for screenplays, features and shorts. it costs $60 and you upload your script in pdf, which saves the hassle of printing and the cost of postage. Sometimes I love computers!!

For 8 and 1/2 days in January 2011, leading up to Fellini's birthday, January 20th, they will be accepting material. This is the part I like: "Each script will receive TWO ANALYSES, plus the numerical scores we use to judge your screenplay."

Five winners will be chosen and each winner will receive a MacBook Pro plus Final Draft software, or the cash equivalent. Each winner has the option to select cash for either or both prizes.

Finalists will be announced on April 15th, and the five winners will be awarded on May 15th. All analyses will be returned by April 1st.

Submissions will start to be accepted on Tuesday, January 11th at Noon.

I have no idea how hard it is to be noticed in a competition like this but there's always a chance. And a deadline is a wonderfully strong motivating force!

Might be worth a look at the website? And definitely at the newsletter!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Waiting for the call...

In twenty minutes, I'm due to be interviewed by Skype by a New York based network called Family network about the origins of my series PUNKY.

I'm as nervous as a kitten and it's ridiculous! It's not as if I don't know the answers - I only spent three years developing Punky and her world!

Fortunately, I don't even have a webcam - I barely have Skype! - , so I don't have to worry about what I look like. And I am so happy to have an opportunity to talk about this idea that I lived with and sweated over and fought for and which is finally in production.

So where did it come from? There were germs sown when my sister Karen, an occupational therapist in the Central Remedial Clinic would bring children home that had special needs. One autistic boy smashed my little red kettle. I couldn't understand why the rules were different for him than for me.

Then there was the fact that my mother made no secret of the fact that she worried all through the pregnancy that there might be something wrong with me. She had seven other children. She was 46 and a quarter when I was born. She was told I'd be a fool or a genius. She always said she hadn't made up her mind yet!

In more recent years a friend of mine told me stories about her younger brother, David, who had Down's syndrome. I loved them. I loved his perspective of the world. The way he interpreted it and could make the mundane, make things we take for granted, fresh and new.

My partner has a son who is severely autistic. My daughter was six when they met and she really didn't know what to expect. She tried to make him notice her, to talk to him, but she was a child and under his radar. It's only in the last ten months that he has registered her and she has been so thrilled every time - when he stopped after she called him, when he almost-sort-of 'hugged' her! -, when he pointed out that we were leaving her behind. He knew she was one of the family.

But the relationship he and his sister have is really special. I've never seen anyone so loved as he is and he is mad about her. It's probably because of her that he hugs and loves to be cuddled - on his terms.

But it's not easy being the sibling of a child with special needs and I decided I wanted to explore that relationship. Honestly, with humour and in a way that would make children more accepting of difference. They begin that way. It's only as they get older that they become judgemental.

But I also wanted to tell stories, to create a world, from her perspective. I wanted her to be the lead, I wanted her to decide how we interpreted the world and what was happening in it.

And so Punky, albeit in a slightly different incarnation, began. She emerged in a very funny animated short that hasn't been made yet. Then she dived into a live action/ cgi film script but there were too many stories in it for it to work fully. When I started toying with the TV series element, I knew I wanted it to be funny, to be honest, to be imaginative and to fell real, albeit as a cartoon. As children enjoyed the entertainment, they would be learning to accept difference.

The Irish Film Board weighed in with their support in the form of a Development Loan in 2007. I worked with Barbara Slade (Rugrats, Angelina Ballerina) as script consultant and then worked with Aidan Hickey for a while. But it was a hard one to get right - to work as a commercially attractive series a producer would feel able to make, and yet live up to everything I wanted from it.

Gerard O'Rourke of Monster liked the sound of it and the talks began. He supported it long after another producer would have turned tail and run because he really, really believed in it. Jason Tammemagi liked it too and came on as Director and so the saga began to roll towards the full scale production that is taking place now.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Writing treatments...oh what joy!

Found this quote today, scanning the internet for procrastination tools that might also help me write the story outline I'm wrestling with.

"I'm tempted to say, 'Writing treatments is like designing a film by hiring six million monkeys to tear out pages of an encyclopedia, then you put the pages through a paper-shredder, randomly grab whatever intact lines are left, sing them in Italian to a Spanish deaf-mute, and then make story decisions with the guy via conference call.' But no... compared to writing treatments, that makes sense, too." ~ Terry Rossio ~ (

Friday, 22 October 2010

Aim for a minor miracle... or walk the dog?

I'm turning a new leaf. There was an article by screenwriter Caroline Farrell on the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild website ( She's done really well with her scripts, getting them short-listed, long-listed, chosen, made and her attitude is inspiring.

Basically what she was saying is that there are tons of competitions out there. Any one of them might bring us recognition and even dosh. Which despite being selfless writers, we would all really like. Especially if it's in recognition of our work!

And we all have scripts that might have been shelved for a while. Is it time to dust them down, polish them up, make another pass at and send them out? What use are they sitting on the shelf? Maybe the right person or panel is out there that might love it as much as the last one didn't!

From reading scripts for competitions over the years, I have few illusions. No matter how objective you are, it is still a subjective process. There is taste, experience, mood, level of exhaustion and number of scripts in the pile to read all to be taken account of.

The first script of mine that ever got picked for European recognition - for Moonstone Writers Labs - I wrote in ten days. It was optioned quickly and nearly got into production. I still adore it and have hopes to work with a director on it next year, even though I know it will change quite radically. Which is the point of screen-writing - we need to get our material made. It's soul-destroying having them languish unrequited on the shelves!

I've laboured years over others and had some luck in competitions but I got disheartened and stopped years ago. Now I'm thinking, it's time to try again. I'll rewrite - I'm a different person now, I have different insights, skills to bring to a script/ story/ characters - but a deadline can be a wonderful incentive and who knows, some of us have to be lucky!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

This noble profession...

For forty odd years in this noble profession
I’ve harboured a guilt and my conscience is smitten
So here is my slightly embarrassed confession –
I don’t like to write, but I love to have written...

Without doubt, this is one of my favourite bits of doggerel by a writer called Michael Kanin. Doesn't it just sum up how impossibly difficult writing occasionally is, and how frustrating.

At the moment, I seem to be bogged down by all the material I want to finish or start. There's a competition being run by Shine Pictures called The Big Idea. Look it up. (
It's a really interesting competition and you're allowed up to one entry in each genre... only the storyline has to be 700 words and for some reason this seems to have stumped me. The pieces I would love to develop have either short two page outlines or storylines that range above the 3,000 mark.

And I want it to be a really strong piece - there's no point otherwise - and yet, every time I think I have space in my head to thrash it out, 'something' happens. An enquiry arrives from the outside world looking for me to develop a proposal for a body of work, or to see if I have something to match a certain brief -- which means developing on spec, yet again, but sometimes it pays and if you're not in, I don't see how you can win.

It's a greedy business. It gobbles up time.

Then there's the script-editing work, which always seems to take far more time than I ever allow for. And I'll be teaching again from Thursday eve in Filmbase so I managed to spend hours today reorganising my handouts, my notes, choosing different clips... Which led me to realise I have to see heaps of films and fast because I want to find even better clips.

And then there's the children's book I was rewriting. (I managed to narrow the focus down to just one for rewriting). My life - which seems large and enjoyable now that the tooth/ sinus/ jaw demon has been mostly expunged - tugged me me away from it a fortnight ago, at the tail end of Chapter 7...

I've realised in the interim that there there is sooo much more I can do with it and I'm wondering why I got an idea that all the chapters should be the same length? It's so arbitrary and it really isn't necessary. I'm hungry to get back to it but I haven't had time.

Mind you, sometimes that 'something' is me, allowing distraction to lure me in just about any direction. And hell knows, there are enough genuine distractions in life without procrastination jumping in. Self discipline is something that comes like a miraculous gift and then you get tons done, amazing mountains of work sift away into manageable dunes... but then, sometimes, it vanishes again.

And this is one of the reasons I haven't been looking at Facebook or writing the blog or watching those fantastic TED lectures. I WANT to be writing. I want to create something new and original and bloody compelling... and I want to finish everything else so that it feels new and original and bloody compelling, with bells on.

So I'm considering buying a self-zapping collar. I could rig it up so that if I strayed too far from the desk, it would remind me with a gentle (?) electric zap to sit back down... Only it might kill more brain cells than I successfully murdered with wine last night and might be self-defeating.

Besides, sometimes the procrastination, the long walks and the ruminating and the picking out of odd books from a bookshelf, or even the making of a pot of coffee are all necessary to the art of creation.

I think.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

A Writer's Life...

‘A writer’s life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don’t have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter or protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.’

Pinter, at the end of his Nobel acceptance speech, quoted in Writers' Guild of Britain website. It has a rake of interesting articles based on interviews with writers in every field and is well work a look.

Unless, like me, you're using it as a procrastination tool. Sob.

Anyway, the address is: and the sections I've found most useful have been features and on rates/ fees.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Sadistic Abscesses And The Site That Will Tell You You’re A Genius

Radio silence due to an overwhelmingly greedy tooth abscess that has sucked life and joy out of more than enough days and evenings. First dentist didn’t spy it but drilled out an old filling and replaced it instead. The drilling raised the heat level on the abscess that was lurking aggressively under the tooth next door to volcanic level over two weeks ago and it hasn’t settled down since.

Returned to the dentist I trust. He found the abscess, they said hello, shook hands, put on boxing gloves and hey presto, I was on a super strong antibiotic that would solve all my problems. Only it didn’t work.

As for painkillers, well, the abscess spat in the face of them and scorned to polish their shoes. So the dentist, puzzled, took out the filling above the abscess, to relieve the pressure. The pressure – being contrary and much attached to pain – rocketed again.

Suffice to say, it rendered me too often speechless, which was a bit of a culture shock for those who know me.

I’ve never had so much pain for so long. But now they think it might be my jaw joint – yup, sounds fun – but could also be sinuses – the sinuses (sinusi?) stretch their loving arms down around the roots of your upper teeth.

This would explain why five teeth the dentist assures me are fine had me leaping out of the chair when he whispered their names. (Albeit with a tap of a metal implement.) And if it’s the jaw joint, then that could be connected with an old shoulder injury which could date back to a fall over 18 months ago. Hmm. Hope it’s the sinuses cos everything else feels pretty good at the moment. Surprisingly enough!

So now on high grade painkillers – hence the blog - and super nifty antibiotics. Apparently these antibiotics are so tough, they can sit on the rowing machine for hours and never cry or turn purple. Mind you, these painkillers, like all the rest, merely take the edge off for about two hours and then the whole thing flares up and I’m speechless again.

At moments like these, I would gladly let the dentist – or even a very strong tooth-magnet-fairy yank all the teeth out of the gum on my right side.

I’m only allowed 6 of these painkillers in 24 hours. I’ve had four already since 11 because I’m just sick to the back (right hand side) teeth of putting up with the pain. I always wait as long as I can, always have cos I don’t like taking heaps of medication, but it hasn’t paid off. And the pain is coming back.

But then a friend rang offering to get me cheap Jameson whiskey on her travels and this fun website. paste up a section of your writing – it doesn’t keep them, don’t worry – and it tells you what writer you write most like.

My latest play - A FRESH GALE... - comes up as James Joyce – yup, bit chuffed about that. My last novel was Stephen King, but then so was the first chapter of the first children’s novel, JESSIE. Which is a worry! The second, PIA – I still haven’t had time to get back to revising either of them – came up as Ernest Hemingway. Another piece threw up the name Chuck Palahnuik, whose work I haven't come across.

Still quite good company to keep. Cheered me up immensely.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A momentous meeting...

Yesterday afternoon. 2.30 pm. The sun is shining outside but I am sitting at a table in a dim theatre with two of Dublin's impresarios as we hammer out how we are going to collaborate to get my play on stage in this space.

The walls around us date back to the 17th Century in parts. There are tables behind littered with books that feature this space in its heyday, that mention the subject of my play, George Farquhar, as he trod the boards - escaping from his very deadly Divinity degree in Trinity College, Dublin - back in 1696/7.

There are weary stretches of boards from the original stage, bits of plasterwork, the alcove above us - filled in at a later stage - is where the sets were pulled from for the vast repertoire of plays the theatre staged. There are oyster shells - apparently the snack of choice in restoration theatre. And there are the open plans for how it will look when it has been made ready for an audience of 240+ next Spring - and it will look magnificent. This is Smock Alley Theatre, the oldest and most historic theatre in the city, and it is coming to life.

There is a fantastic array of skills being brought to the table to ensure that my play is staged and staged phenomenally and imaginatively. It's the most exciting time, when so much energy is spilling in the right direction. A photo is taken to mark the occasion.

And to think, I almost didn't write it.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

An Interesting and Fruitful Week...

I have agreed a director and production company for my play, A Fresh Gale and Cold Chicken. He is as passionate about it as I am, very experienced as an imaginative director and determined to make it happen.

We're talking next Spring. For the launch of Smock Alley theatre. Fingers crossed, toes too... all we need now is money!

My daughter and I saw the first episode of Punky too, last Tuesday. It's lovely, really beautiful and sweet and will be a fantastic series. They were finishing voice recordings on the first six this week, and the pre-publicity will begin to roll soon. The publicity that says, "yes, it is happening. Watch this space!". Exciting.

Unfortunately, this week we also buried the last of my father's sisters, and the most colourful of all that generation in our family. I didn't know her well, being at the tail end of my family, but I grew up hearing stories about her. A party animal,who lived life to the full, she could jitterbug in a way that emptied dance floors - y'know, the over the head, spun around her partner's body, flung under the legs and up again... it sounds tiring just writing it! She also had, and this is a phrase her son used, "a voice that could cut hedges"... which I thought was wonderful!

But I also discovered my father's other sister, who died a month ago, was a doyenne of high society and something of a fashion icon in Ireland in the late 40s and fifties, written about in society columns here and abroad. She was one of Ireland's first real businesswomen, running the travel information bureau in Brown Thomas'.

I knew her as a talented artist whose nail varnish always matched her shoes, who grew smaller and smaller like a little delicate bird over recent years.

As I said, an interesting week!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Interesting Times...

From feeling quite flat after that period of major productivity, things are looking up again. Next Tuesday, I see the rough cut of the first episode of my animation series, PUNKY, animated by Monster Animation under the directorial hand of Jason Tammemagi.

How many series are being made, in reality, in Ireland this year? To have one doing just that, thanks for the tenacity of the producer Gerard O'Rourke, is phenomenal and I can't wait.

On Wednesday, I get to see my latest great-nephew - my tenth great niece or nephew! (Scary, but true!) And on Thursday, I meet the director/ producer interested in putting my play - A Fresh Gale and Cold Chicken - into production next year. I had been told he required chasing; he himself told me to "hound him" and yet he was the one who made first contact looking for an early opportunity to meet. Which feels fantastic.

So I'm all spurred on again, juggling the different projects in my head that I want to get my teeth back into and thinking about my next play. There are a few I had to put on the back burner but are any of them the right one now? Would I be better coming up with something utterly new that captures the energy of this latest one? Or a children's play? Or a comedy?

I want to write so many things! Where is the time, and what should I really focus on?!

I can list at least five projects I really, really want to get back to.

Meanwhile, my daughter only wants me to play Littlest Pet Shop. We have worlds laid out in the sitting room with doll's house furniture, even if upside-down tables are doubling as beds, and each of us has a business. Mine is a book-store, hers is a magical park that covers a table, a shelf and a stool.

I've sneaked out to the office on the premise of collecting a new range of books for my characters - one hamster, one bird, two cats - to sell to hers. So long as I keep creating little books, I get to write a little more...

Nope, the idyll is over. She has informed me that my book-store is too full of books and it's time to take up the reins again. Sob!

School's back on September 1st.

Monday, 16 August 2010

An Inspiring Clip

... from the writer Markus Zusak. He wrote The Book Thief, which I still feel is one of the best books of all time.

It's not long but he explains how he came to write the book and how he feels about writing. Definitely worth watching, but his reasons for writing, the passion that we all feel for this madness that overtakes us when we start developing a new idea, the reason we couldn't stop, no matter how disillusioned we become, is worth holding on to.

Here's the link:


Saturday, 7 August 2010

Pettigrew the snail

Pettigrew the Snail has absconded, taking all my creativity with him. Or maybe we have swopped lives. I have become the snail and he is out there churning out great works of wisdom and passion. Hmmmmmm...

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

PUNKY, the new animated series

The first episode of my TV series, PUNKY is now being animated by Monster Animation. There should be rushes to see - though I'm sure they're not called rushes in animation - by the middle of August.

I left the series as writer a few months ago. Hence the radio silence on the subject. The target market for the series had switched from the 9-11 year age group to pre-school (3-6 years). Try as I could, the pre-school market is one area of writing for which I don't seem to have the knack. The scripts I wrote and rewrote were being honed from larger stories, from a larger canvas, from a more complex series and I wasn't sure at the end what it was that I was meant to write. It wasn't a pleasant experience, despite the wonderful relationships I had with Monster, and was quite heart-breaking.

The writer they brought on board after this is Andrew Brenner, who created and wrote HUMF (78 episodes), which is also pre-school. He makes it look easy and maybe it is easier, if that's an age group for whom you want to write. I hadn't, but I fought that and came a cropper. Learning curves, don't you just love 'em!!

Once I'd come to terms with it, the pressure came off. Once I'd seen the first script, which is sweet and lovely and has the spirit I was trying to capture in my proposal, I knew it would be a fantastic series.

Now, I can't wait now to see my adorable Punky come to life. I invented her back in 2007 and yes, the project changed and some aspects that I loved, were lost en route to a series that would work and would sell.

And now she is finally being 'born'. How cool is that!?

Sunday, 25 July 2010

40,000 Words in 15 Days...

I think it's a record... at least for me!

So far, this means I've written 80,000 words since the 6th of June, ie rough drafts of two new children's books, which are loosely based on scripts that have not been made. It's such a buzz!

Realised last night, however, that I am totally whacked so taking a break this week, if I can. But it is very comforting knowing I have that material to play with and that I will have two (hopefully polished) books to offer someone by the end of the year.

It was actually quite a relief to write books after so many years on screenplays and in development, but it has meant that everything else that wasn't necessary got sidelined. The work went with me into bed, dragged me out of bed in the middle of the night and trotted along everywhere I went. When I wasn't writing something, I felt slightly adrift. I even managed to write while my family were watching TV, which shows how much it gripped me/ took over my life!

My daughter went to camp for six glorious hours a day and I buried myself in the office, only coming up for air - reluctantly! - when my daughter needed to be collected and fed. The poor child was very understanding and quite excited but she did puzzle why I had "suddenly turned into a workaholic?"

Now she has started her own book now, about a dragon keeper. Her last one (it ran to one third of a copy book) was about the Holocaust and yes, she is only 11 but I refuse to fear or squash the competition just yet. And she knows that she will be my first reader, when I've polished them up, so it's in her interest to encourage me or, at least, put up with my absences in the evenings. (7-10 are two very productive hours, for some reason.)

I can't wait for her feedback. I'm not sure whether I should let her read them herself or to read her a chapter a night. One will test the book from a reader's perspective but the other way, I'll hear what's wrong and know what needs to be fixed. I suspect it will a bit of both.

And I can't wait for these books to be done so I can get on to the next one and the next! There are several exciting projects that might stem the flow a bit - which is why these two months are precious - but that's cool too.

Hope everyone else's work is going well too?

Sunday, 18 July 2010

On Worms and Writing

My daughter and her friend were worms last night, desirous of being dragged from room to room in their sleeping bags. it was fun. Squeals and sniggles coming from red and blue worms are fun!

This is how the sleepover operated. They were in their pyjamas and sleeping bags at 5pm, four hours before even regular bedtime. They had a picnic of pizza, rocky road and ginger ale on a table cloth between their sleeping bags at 6.30. Then there was the infinitely discursive and difficult task of working out which position to lie. Followed by pillow fights, sliding down the stairs in same sleeping bags, watching a film - we forgot the popcorn - becoming worms, telling stories, and deciding where to put the clock and the solar lamp.

By nine, they wanted to be officially 'going asleep'.

I crept out to my office again. I managed the guts of an hour. It was one of those rare and wonderful times when you could go on for ever, only to realise you have to stop because to stay working would mean stumbling over two children to get to bed. It wasn't on. They were meant to sleep.

So, at ten, we had hot chocolate and made up stories about a girl called Rebecca, imploding brains that came from bums and a gazebo who wore a light-bulb on her head.
(And yes, I know a gazebo is a garden structure, probably the size of my entire back garden but, having said it, I claimed it was half-giraffe, half-zebra. I think we even gave it a name.)

By eleven, they had decided the floor was too hard and came upstairs to sleep. And now I'm in my office again, to leave room for some very complicated treasure hunts.

And guess what, I can't write a word!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Buried Blog

Yup, underneath all the work I'm doing is a blog, glaring at me balefully, making me feel his neglect - don't ask, today it just feels like a 'he' blog.

So, guilt aside, I can honestly say that it's because I've been writing too much. Which is a good complaint, if not an entertaining one. I've been working on a new TV series proposal that could/ should/ may just get funding and it has nudged much else off the table. Can't say more but it will be entertaining when it happens. (See, that positive' when' creeping in!? That's the Blog talking, grateful for being roused.)

In every other moment that's free I'm trying to finish a first draft of a new novel. It's for pre-teens - the main character, Jessie, is eleven - and it's such fun to write. Some parts just write themselves; others skulk around waiting to be yanked into plain sight and then quite enjoy themselves. I did 29,000 words last month, as well as the rewrite of the play and working on the early treatment for the TV series. I've a feeling this month will be slower. The aim is to have a rough draft by the end of the month.

Why go in this direction after 13 years writing screenplays? Because there seemed to be an increasing waft of hints and comments from so many disparate sources suggesting I should write books for children. And I've always wanted to. There's a shelf of files to prove I always wanted to, but any idea I've had the time or confidence to finish became animation series. The others sat in the 'to do' file, winking at me.

The pleasure of this book is that I can play with words, as many words as I like. I can dive inside Jessie's head and dance with her. If she'd dance, but she's a bit grumpy at the moment.

I have no idea if it works as a whole yet. I have to finish it first. That's where faith comes in. And then the rewrite. And then the test audience - my daughter. Who told me she didn't want me to read it to her until I had two chapters finished. Then, if I read a chapter a night, it would force me to keep writing until the end.

Naturally, every other moment is creatively spent... traumatising younger neighbourhood kids with their first experience of Cleudo - "It's about death? I might have murdered someone?! How do you kill someone with a rope!?" -, playing a live Cleudo game - where you have to interview my daughter as each character -; walking the dog, playing with the snail and drinking coffee.

And trying to get back to the book.

Monday, 28 June 2010

George Farquhar is In The Building...

"... Up, all of you. I want to see the whites of your eyes and sense the swell and heave of your bosums as the play dances around you. Smell the underarm sweat. Inhale the odour of horse dung walked in through the muddy cobbles, mixed with the lethargy of bare arms and the whore-making scent of excitement and desire..."

And so George Farquhar returned to Smock Alley Theatre in the flesh (of actor Stephen Bradley) for the first time in 305 years.

A wonderful audience, exceptionally positive - yup, I was floating, just a little; how often do writers hear their work commended by their peers?! - and insightful feedback and, in the end, that wonderful electricity only theatre can create.

Next stop? A full production! From what happened yesterday, just at a reading, I know it will happen. It has to!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Countdown to Resurrection...

... of George Farquhar, playwright, lover and actor. Words by me, performance by Stephen Bradley, the Derry-born actor.

The reading of A Fresh Gale and Cold Chicken happens this Sunday at 5pm sharp in Smock Alley - The Boy's School for those of you who want to come.

I'm getting nervous now, but the excited sort, which is good. It's a return to my first love as a writer and it seems the stage and I have been apart far too long, by virtue of me getting lured into the sinewy world of TV/ film scriptwriting.

In 1997, Trade Me A Dream ran for two weeks in the Focus Theatre, which has just reopened. In addition, a reading of Fur Doesn't Hurt took place with Andrew Bennett in the lead role in The Abbey before winning at the Cork Arts Theatre festival later that year - as had Trade Me... in '96. 13 years is a long time. We will make it an evening to remember!

For those of you coming along, we'll see you there. If you're early, there's a lovely coffee shop just opposite the entrance called Piccolo's. Great coffee.


Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Best Laid Plans

Last Summer, in a flurry of anticipation, I built a shed in the back yard; my dream of a self-contained office. There is a wall of shelves exactly the right height for box files and two desks and some drawers and everything I need to write... but in the winter, it's too cold and in the summer, on a day like today, it's like an oven.

Worse, the fact that the computer is here, lording it over the space, makes procrastination far too easy. Emails, Facebook, Linked In, this blog... there are just too many excuses to write and read material unrelated to work. (And to convince yourself it is research/ networking/ keeping up-to-date!)

Fortunately, Pettigrew took the problem to heart. (He's the snail my daughter forced me to adopt. He has attitude and a purple/ pink shell, but squishily believes he should have a red bouffant and a cigar on a holder, if not a PA who makes him coffee with frothy milk.)

My problems are his, he says; if I'm not writing, I'm far more likely to squish him. (He's right.)

So he came up with a solution: "don't turn on the computer until you have written your quota of words or scenes for the morning/ day".

It's good advice. Excellent advice and it worked for a week. Until my new phone arrived - touch screen, so many apps to discover and play with, and it tells me when I have emails.

"Turn it to silent," says Pettigrew, quick as you like - well, it took him about five days 'cos it's hard work leaving a legible slime trail on a computer desk. Which was just enough time for me and my new phone to become inseparable; I've named it George.

But when a snail called Pettigrew 'speaks', you have to take heed and I am dutifully putting my phone on silent each morning until I have my labours complete.

I'll let you know if it works.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

For the wet day that's in it

"If you have a burning, restless urge to write or paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass" - Fran Lebowitz. Maybe that's what I've been doing wrong - eating too much chocolate! Keep scribbling everyone!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A Fresh Gale and Cold Chicken: The reading

We have a date, tied down, for the rehearsed reading of my new stage play about George Farquhar: Sunday 27th June, 5pm in Smock Alley/The Boy's Theatre.

There’s a fantastic atmosphere in the space but what adds to the magic of the event is that we are bring Farquhar to life again a few steps away from the main theatre in Smock Alley, where he himself performed in 1696/7 and 1705.

The Boys' School is a really interesting space, for those of you who haven't seen it yet. For the reading, there will be just 45 seats, plus standing room at the surrounding balcony – you’ll understand when you get there - so if you want to come, and it's free, can you let me know? It should be an evening of pure theatre, dramatic, powerful, emotional and entertaining!

The reading will run about 75 minutes – which means I managed to cut out about 8,000 words - with a chance for feedback and a glass of wine afterwards.

We hung out in the space yesterday, to see how the script would work. We blocked out some of the scenes – not too much, it is a rehearsed reading – but it’s a shame to waste the very unique space.

Best of all, when everyone had gone, I sounded out some of the scenes myself standing on a church pew, on a table, on the stage and it was pretty powerful stuff. Possibly one of the very few times I’ve ever wished I was a man, so that I could perform it.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Playing Devil's Advocate

"The novelist, afraid his ideas may be foolish, slyly puts them in the mouth of some other fool and reserves the right to disavow them." - Diane Johnson, NY Times Book Review, 1979.

I realised many years ago, when someone suggested that writers 'play God' with their characters, that's it's actually nothing like that. As screenwriters, certainly, we play Devil's Advocate, which is far more mischievous.

We think of the worst things we can do to a character and then we turn the screw and watch them wriggle free, in as interesting and entertaining a way as possible all through Act Two. Thus, through adversity, overcoming obstacles and poor choices, and chained to a bad mistake from way back (or a poor decision/ character flaw/ fear about which they are in denial etc), they develop their characters and we get catharsis when they finally succeed.

It reminds me of a friend's friend who went into a church in New York, flung his arms in the air and shouted, "I've grown enough". He was tired of being told that every bad experience was a chance to 'grow.' Battered and bruised by life, he had decided he was certainly tall enough for some good things to start happening in his life. Now, his life, in the hands of a kind screenwriter, deserved a happy ending.

And that's why people love happy endings in films, or endings where everything is resolved. It's completion, one of the four psychological reasons people go to films. We never get to 'complete' our lives; we're dead by then, but in films we can enjoy the illusion.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Getting work done: the nine-day technique

Writers are always being asked how many hours they work, if they sit at the desk from nine to five or allow themselves to skive off from time to time. (We do, it's what keeps us slightly sane. Sometimes.)

Every writer has to find the technique that works for him or her. One writer I've heard of straps himself to his seat. That way, if tempted to move, the belt restrains him and he decides to do a little bit more work first.

The playwright Bernard Farrell once told me he wrote for the same 9-5 hours he'd got used to when he worked for a ferry company. But he added that yes, he was still working when he walked the dog for hours on the beach or gazed out the window.

Creativity is an unpredictable master and sometimes it is a matter of making yourself write, even if you don't like the material you write because it's a craft and you learn by doing.

Which brings me to my technique for getting work done. I don't work 9-5, I don't have any set routine; I often works nights, weekends, sneak into the office when everyone's quiet or occupied; I frequently burn food because I've snatched a few minutes... but the main thing that has helped me get work done in the last year is my nine day writing cycle.

I was always told that a little knowledge was a dangerous thing... it's not true. it is a very useful thing, even if not useful in the way the knowledge itself was intended, and especially if dipped in dark chocolate and marshmallows and left in the fridge for half an hour. (Or maybe I'm thinking of strawberries?)

I have a friend who is studying to be a Shamen but when we shared a house, she introduced me to a smattering of numerology. The one part that stuck is the idea that you can reduce every day to a number between 1-9 - today being the 25th of May, 2010 = 2 + 5 + 5 + 2 + 1, ie a '6'.

Now 6 days are great for family, for meetings, for interaction of any kind. But that's all I remember about 6. I'm sure there are whole websites devoted to '6'. I've a huge number of them in my date of birth and my mobile number so I feel a certain affection for '6', regardless of the Devil trying to hog them all.

And here's the gist that I remember about the value of the days. 1 - good for starting things/ ideas/ adventures/ travel etc; 2 - good for finding the person/ partner/ mentor/ producer/ director that can help you achieve your idea; 3 - communication and creativity; 4 - hard work and graft, not always easy but if you knuckle down, you get a huge amount done on a '4' day.

5 - conflict and confrontation; a bit like the second act of a feature script. Doesn't mean you will fight with someone or fall out over a contract but it means you could, so be on guard, be calm, be prepared. 6, you know. 7 is for wisdom, learning, gaining knowledge; 8 for chasing what's owed to you/ business stuff; and 9 for completion.

And that's the important bit. I give myself cycles of nine days, always ending whatever work I've set myself on that '9' days. It's better than giving yourself a week because you can still, mostly, take weekends off.

And it's a realistic span of days, given commitments and urgent work that leaps onto your lap making mewling sounds. It's not too long and it's not too short.

And, of course, it's a deadline, even if it's self imposed. Especially if the cash incentive isn't there. When it's done, you can tackles something else, or a different part of the same project so you're not tying yourself down to an endless avenue of work on any particular project/ phase of a project, so you keep your mind fresh and motivated.

And sometimes, when a month turns into the next, you get a really long 'nine' days because the last days of one month can go all the way from 1 to 8 and the first date of the new month, because the month has changed, may be 1. So you get to continue that cycle until you hit a 9.

I've found it works anyway.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Dealing with Meetings

I was given great advice years ago. Always write down your notes after a meeting with producers and directors saying what was agreed and email it back to them so they can verify that this is what they want or tell you it isn't.

I've discovered to my cost that when you forget to do this, there's no-one to blame when misinterpretations, misunderstandings and frustration ensue.

But even worse than this is when you're the last to know there's a problem. When you, the writer, believe everything is going smoothly. When you believe a project is progressing well only to be told, unexpectedly, that it isn't. It can destroy your confidence, hamper your ability to do the job and leave you reeling for days. Nobody likes to get it wrong.

Yet another issue, that perhaps the first par's advice would fix, is working with people who 'sort of' know what they want but will only recognise it when it's in front of them.

It makes rewriting tortuous as the writer attempts over and over to interpret what is needed and satisfy everyone. Sometimes it's just not possible and you have to pull your tail between your legs and run for the hills, blaspheming or weeping loudly.

Why are we writers again?

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Why creativity should be nurtured

From the TED lectures - they can be really fascinating and moving and stirring sometimes! Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

Monday, 17 May 2010


Roger Moore is returning to the screen in a film called Connemara Days to be made in the west of Ireland this Autumn. It’s a love story running parallel with the making of The Quiet Man, apparently his favourite film of all time. It's being produced by Causeway Pictures.

All being well, I’m lined up to script edit it. The added bonus is that when the producers receive cash to make Connemara Days, they can then pay me to write another feature for them which will be made up North next year.

So far, for the latter project, there’s an exciting director tied in and I believe Hubbard have signed up to do the casting. As a result, there were some interesting names mentioned for the cast when we were developing it last year.

No role yet mentioned for Pettigrew the snail, despite her extensive list of hits such as Honey, I Found a Kid in the Long Grass and Snailspray the Musical.

Connemara Days is the first project to be funded by the the Luxembourg-managed / UK-administered Red Carpet Film Fund, which Sir Roger Moore has joined as Chairman. The Board also includes visual effects maestro Ilyas Kaduji (Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia), producer Richard Holmes (Waking Ned, Shooting Fish), production executive Terry Bamber (Quantum of Solace, Gullivers Travels), and respected film lawyer Richard Moxon.

Principle photography is due to begin - ash cloud willing - in late August, followed by studio work in Belfast, with the support of Failte Ireland, Section 481 and Irish equity. Kevin Connor will direct and the cast includes Sarah Bolger, Stacy Keach, Geraldine Chaplin, Judy Cornwell and Roger Moore himself.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A Fresh Gale and Cold Chicken: on cuts and motivational deadlines

Met with Patrick Sutton of Smock Alley Theatre today and we’ve settled, provisionally, on the week of June 21st to hold the rehearsed reading of my play on Farquhar in The Boy’s School, Smock Alley. It’s a fantastic and unusual venue; a version of theatre in the round where the viewing area is a ramp that ascends around the space several times. It almost feels as if you’re observing a play from the terraces of a tenement building in the 17th century.

Smock Alley is where Farquhar performed before he went on to become the most popular Restoration playwright based in London. It’s also where he nearly stabbed a fellow actor to death on stage but more of that on the night!

Since arranging last week to meet Patrick, I’ve re-written the first act, based on our at-home reading in March. It’s fantastic to be back under its 17th century skin, to be bawdy and bold as well as poignant and witty! Oh and keep the narrative and all the threads flowing freely.

Of course, when I type it all into the computer, some of it will work and some of it will be far less exciting than it appeared when I was scribbling in the margins, but it’s good to have something tangible to put in. Deadlines are fantastic, if occasionally vicious, motivators.

I have agreed to cut the play down from a full length one-man show (we were aiming to follow Simon Callow’s footsteps with his Dickens show) to one hour 15 max. A tall order, but then haven’t I spent the last month crafting seven minutes scripts?!

In some ways, it feels really refreshing. I have been given the freedom to cut everything that isn’t essential, gripping and entertaining... But then I haven’t sat down to try and do this yet, so the pain threshold hasn’t yet been breached.

Since I have a gut feeling the script currently runs close to 100 mins... this means cutting at least 25%. I put the expected pain on a par with the extraction of one, possibly two wisdom teeth and the squashing of seven particularly healthy and shiny cockroaches with my bare feet on a tiled floor in the dark.

It may be a case of keeping two drafts so I don’t feel I’m abandoning favourite sections or speeches. I’m just putting them aside.

But I can’t wait to start. I’ve had a chat with Pettigrew, the Creature of Small Stature, Minimal Dialogue and Varicoloured Shell. She has agreed to assist. The idea is I place her on the script and she’ll mark what needs to go with a gentle slime trail.

Friday, 7 May 2010

PUNKY, Pettigrew the snail and the challenge of writing for pre-schoolers

The snail Pettigrew, is behaving herself. She now has a nice shimmer of purple (nail varnish) and sunset kiss (lip gloss) on her shell and seems to be adapting well to life in a flowerpot.

That the selfsame flowerpot got flooded at the weekend while my daughter was at cub camp and despite my being given strict instructions on The Care of Snail Farm While I’m Away this doesn’t seem to have fazed either it or my daughter. She just shook it out, touched up its shell and put it in another pot. Makes me wonder what these poor snails did in a previous life.

Meanwhile, I’m adapting to Punky. Writing for 3-6 year-olds is a challenge. Yes, we are aiming at the top of that age range but I’m not an animator and this, I’m learning, is a big disadvantage when writing for this target group.

For a start, stories have to be simple, which is good. (Forgetting for now the great stories that worked when Punky was a longer form for an older age group. Muffled sob stage left). In addition, this age group tend to listen more than watch, so everything important has to be said as well as shown, in case they miss it. So I’m writing lines that in any other form would be redundant and ‘on the nose’. But they work.

Events have to be perfectly linear. If Punky decides to do something – aloud – then she does it and then we have to see the result in the next scene. There’s no opportunity to let several events build up and bring everything together in a climax. It has to be cause and effect every step of the way or they’ll miss it and it won’t make sense.

Transitions are another one. Time passing, location hops that an older audience would comprehend, just don’t work. For example, if a character is upstairs, they can’t then be downstairs in the next scene. Either we see them leave the room and head down or, if there is a significant change in time, we have a transition. This means, we show time passing.

Only we can’t have anything written because this is for children aged 3-6. So we have the classics of a sun moving across a sky, a clock's hands spinning or, ideally, someone going to bed and waking up but that takes longer.

Oh and scenes are more static, of course. At its simplest, every angle is a different drawing. You can’t turn the camera around and look upstairs so the less of this that is needed, the better.

Scene set-ups need a visual clarity too. You can’t simply have


The alarm goes off, startling Punky. Her hand reaches out to turn it off.

You have to say at the top of the scene that Punky is in bed, not assume they will know. This comes down to not being an animator. If I was, I’d think in terms of the visual set up and what we need to see drawn, and then create the flow of the scene from this. One suggestion has been to make a little set and move the characters around to give myself a sense of what the animators need to see on the page. Everything they need to draw for the scene to work has to be spelt out at the very top of the written scene.

So the word now is that we really only have story room for Punky and her dog; yes, there are other characters but the focus has to be her point of view. Insistently so. Because this is what makes it original. It is also what I always intended for the series. It’s the old adage – let your main character drive the story.

So, at its most basic, I am being driven by Punky back to the root and core of all storytelling and all screenwriting.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

On Feedback; Part 2: Making it work for you

When someone takes the time to read a script, their feedback is a gift and greatly appreciated. That they go to the trouble to try to help you see where, for them, the problems lie, is generous and immensely useful, even when you don’t agree with all the points. That these points have been raised may be a clue to other problematic issues that lie underneath the story.

But it is their perspective and if they are not a professional script reader or consultant – and sometimes even if they are and have become a little jaded – they may not find your type of story compelling and then find it hard to give you constructive feedback. If you're really unlucky they could just be in a bad mood or alternatively see a way of telling the

My mother’s only comment, over 20 years of reading my output, was always along the lines of well, you certainly can write dialogue and you write great characters, but couldn’t you write something cheerful?

I did, eventually. It was a rom-com built out of cream cakes called Tasty Morsels and was produced as an afternoon play by BBC4 in 2001. The research was fun.

But you have put a huge amount of time into your script; you’re so close even the trees look edible and the squirrels have started talking back in Japanese. So you need all the constructive feedback you can get and you really, really want to make it work this time. This is the point when you can blindly accept other people's feedback and end up with a script you neither like nor ever intended to write and that sort of script pleases no-one.

So, before you re-write, type up all the notes your readers have made and let them sit. Ponder the points raised. Ponder what you wanted your story to say, to be about, to feel like for an audience. Think about who your audience is and why the questions were raised.

Only then, when you’ve been away long enough from your script for it to feel fresh again, read it through. Find the time and space to do it without interruption. Don’t rewrite individual scenes at this stage. If compelling lines/ scenes/ fixes come to you during this process, write them down somewhere separately but for this first read-through, you need to try to feel the emotional flow of the entire story.

Then sit back and work out what isn’t working for you.

Make note of when you left the desk to make a cup of tea. Is that where the problem lies? Where you lost interest? Do all the questions come back to a story starting too late or too soon, a character or characters that aren’t fully formed or aren’t fully realised on the page? A plot twist that is pulling you away from your original intention as a storyteller of this tale?

Compare your own notes with your feedback notes and brainstorm what might solve the issues raised.

By the time you return to the script to rewrite, you should know what you want to achieve and how to go about it.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

On Feedback

Getting and giving feedback can be, at its best, exhilarating; at its worst, deeply depressing.

I heard a suggestion once that the best way to give feedback on a script is to pass comment in the form of questions. “Do you think he would do this?” is infinitely easier to take than the judgemental, “He wouldn't do this..."

And it immediately forces you to find solutions.

If you still want your character to behave in this way, then you may need to add or subtract some information/ scenes/ dialogue earlier, on character or story, that will allow this action to feel credible. Maybe we need to know your character a bit better, feel what is driving them, what is making them irrational for us to believe their action at this point.

Or have you forced your character to do something because the plot wants it, in which case, you have cheated your character. And this requires more serious thought. In the best films, character drives story, not plot; also then, if there are holes, the audience is more forgiving because they are too busy enjoying the world you have created.

So, feedback as questions, a more gentle way of directing a writer to where problems lie for you, the reader, in their story.

Mind you, there are times when you really, really want someone just to tell you straight what’s wrong and then it feels as clear as a frozen lake. You’ve known it all along, subconsciously. All you have to do is dive back in again and pull your story free.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Punky, an update, and snails

The first batch of scripts are gone despite a birthday party for my daughter which lasted 24 hours. Did we ever have them?

Overheard were snatches of "truth or dare" and "it's okay, we can watch Glee here and your parents will never know" and something about setting the alarm for a midnight feast. Fortunately the dog snored through it all, my daughter believes her alarm clock broken and so they slept through and the worst 'truth's that seemed to emerge were to do with fancying a boy years ago and "once I wore yellow lipstick but I don't know why". They're eleven.

The struggle to write when you have kids, and I have only one, is sometimes exhausting. Just rewriting one seven minutes script - I thought they'd take about 20 minutes to rewrite; they took about 70; I'd swear it's harder than writing a feature! - involved seven interruptions.

My daughter wanted me to adopt a snail. I kept fobbing her off, thinking that the work would, as I said, take 20 minutes max. Initially, I was gentle but firm. Then I explained that the more she interrupted the longer it would take me to finish. She finally drew her horns in when my response to the repeated question - are you ready yet? - became an anguished and angry roar reminding her how she hates to be interrupted when she's doing something and THIS IS WORK!!!!!

And then felt immensely guilty. It was Sunday afternoon and she only wanted company. But I still finished the work. A deadline's a deadline. I'd hosted her friends for the guts of 24 hours, making sure they had a fantastic party, sleepover, excursion to the Science Museum - go, it's brilliant! - and this was why at least some of the work needed to be done on Sunday.

My daughter has decided to keep pet snails in various containers in the front garden. She varnishes their backs so you can tell them apart and takes them for walks on a string. I had to go through a similar procedure to the one we recently took when we got our rescue dog.

I named my snail - Pettigrew, just to be awkward, got the adoption form officially signed (looking suspiciously like the dog licence), purchased the habitat (a blue flower pot), the cover (a broken tile) and the food - a bag of dry rosemary needles - but postponed the varnishing, vet visit and decision on insurance.

I have a feeling men are better at separating work and family. Either they draw the boundaries more clearly and demand that separation. Or we keep the kids away, maybe that's it? As my mother put it, she was protecting us from him, not the other way round.

But if I could maintain that division, I wouldn't now be the proud but somewhat bemused owner of an embarrassed snail name Pettigrew.

Friday, 16 April 2010

On Second Drafts...

I’ve just had feedback in the last fortnight on two different feature projects, both at second draft stage. Both meetings, while pleasant, were the sort that you came away from feeling flat but knowing deep down that the drafts were not your best work. Which is disheartening and shouldn’t happen. Working for no money has some effect on this, I suspect, and other commitments, although they shouldn’t.

But second drafts are almost always problematic. Any writer will tell you they are probably the hardest to write and turn out least well. I put it down to trying too hard to get it right this time. You have all the feedback from the first draft, time has passed and the project has been hovering on your shoulders like an ancient wisp. You know it has to be done.

You want to get back into it but also you dread it because you know exactly how much work is involved. And even then you know you’ve underestimated it.

Sometimes the babies go out with the bathwater and they turn out to be the parts that worked. Or different parts of the story need to be drawn out, at the expense perhaps of the parts you liked originally and you’re left with a story that doesn’t quite do or say what you wanted it to do. Or the characters get a bit lost because they should be fully formed but you know, deep down, that in this draft they aren’t because you’ve tried too hard.

For me, it’s often that I am wrestling with structure in the second draft. Trying to simplify the story and yet live up to the promise the first draft held.

Of my two meetings, with one script, I instinctively knew I could do better the minute the producer rang me to arrange to meet and said nothing about the script she had been anticipating with delight.

By the time we met, I reckoned, pessimistically, that I might need to take a whole different direction, toss out half the characters and be more experimental. Now, it seems, I have to go back to the first draft and see what I lost before I decide what I need.

In the other, I’m trying out a plot change that I don’t entirely believe in yet. If I’m not convinced, how on earth can I make it work?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Just received an MP3 demo of some music that has been written specifically for my three minute short, MANDY which is being produced by Causeway Films and directed by Paddy McCarney. It has been written by Graeme Stewart and it is wonderful. As the composer puts it: "basically fairytale-like with a tinge of melancholy and slightly sinister, but with a kind of Tim Burton twist".
The script itself is a bit dark and twisted, but I’ve always loved it and I can't wait to see it made. Hopefully, I won't have to wait too long either. Filming should happen in the next month or so, all being well.

Monday, 29 March 2010

PUNKY, the new animated series

Started work on what is to be the template script for the series last week. It's a challenge. When conceived, pitched and sold, PUNKY was for 4-7 year-olds and there were going to be 13 x 11 minute episodes. Now it's for age 3-6 and there will be twenty episodes of 7 minutes.

This means I actually only have 6 minutes and 20 seconds, after credits and opening sequence, in which to tell my stories. Locations have been reduced from school and home to home and surrounds. Stories have to be far simpler and told at a more gentle pace. Everything is in the air, most of the stories I developed no longer work - too complicated - and I have to find a way to achieve what I set out to do on an entirely different canvas.

The wisdom now is that kids over six don't watch cartoons, hence the age change although we will not dumb it down and are aiming at the top end ie the 6 year-olds. Despite the fact that my child, nearly 11, adores them, as do a large portion of her friends. As do I. I suspect this opinion has come from America, from the policy and money-making machines that are the big corporations. In the UK there are 21 children's channels available now, mostly American.

But the first script is done now and I'm awaiting feedback. I suspect that while fun, it is still too busy for the new age group. Once it works, we should know what we want the show to look and sound like now. Trouble is that every book I can find on writing for animation talk about the longer versions of scripts and older age ranges. So, apart from watching too many cartoons in the early morning as research, it's guesswork and instinct. Wish me luck!!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Go Ahead, Dream

"Writing, like all creative expression, for all its struggle, represents in the end a kind of structured, organised, orchestrated dreaming. The writer’s most basic task – before tale, before character and dialogue – is to learn how to let himself dream in a free yet orderly fashion." - Richard Walter, screenwriter, prof screenwriting, UCLA.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Pinter on Writing

"When I cannot write, I feel alienated from myself".

Isn't it true? When you want to write, you need to write and yet you can't because you know the task is too big or the day is too sunny or there isn't enough time to get really into it.

Sometimes remembering this quote is enough to remind you that it will be worth it, that you will feel better, even if it feels like pulling teeth. And even if the words don't work this time, at least you will have written and you may have cleared out the rubbish to let the gems wriggle through the next time.

Mind you, he also said, when asked what was his work 'about', "The weasel under the drinking cabinet". Mainly because he was tired of being asked. And then had the joy/ frustration of seeing other writers and journalists and students trying to analyse exactly what he meant. He said, of making this comment, that it "... was a great mistake. It has now seemingly acquired a profound significance, and is seen to be a highly relevant and meaningful observation about my own work. But for me the remark meant precisely nothing."

Monday, 8 March 2010

The Writer’s (Secret) Dilemma

One of the aspects of being a writer that I used to find very disconcerting was the way I could detach just enough of myself to write about experiences I was having, even while suffering.

One instance is particularly vivid and I felt guilty about it for years. It was after my sister had died and I was in my house, alone and utterly distraught. She was the person with whom I had grown up and her death had been sudden and unexpected. Yet I found myself writing down what it felt like to be inside my grief, inside my body and my head, at that moment; it was such an overwhelming emotion and I couldn’t handle it and yet I tried to describe it on paper. I thought I must be the coldest fish in the sea, and yet the suffering was utterly, gut wrenchingly real.

But I’ve come to realise that this is what writers do. We capture and try to translate every experience, not always at the time or even near to the time they happen – sometimes it’s not possible for many reasons - but at some point we will write about it, if only for ourselves. It’s our way of understanding the world and of fulfilling our role as writers and living up to the demands of that gift. We didn’t ask for it. It’s part of who we are.

Today I found this quote that explains this all better than I can.

"Powers of observation beyond the normal imply extraordinary disinvolvement: or rather the double process, excessive preoccupation and identification with the lives of others, and at the same time a monstrous detachment... The tensions between standing apart and being fully involved: that is what makes a writer." – Nadine Gordimer, Introduction, Selected Stories.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Cold Chicken etc, The Farquhar Play part two

We read through the second act of Cold Chicken and a Fresh Gale this afternoon. Lovely experience, far more fun, the momentum really beginning to build up under the script as we moved towards finishing what is the first full read through of the script.

It felt pretty emotional, because the character, George Farquhar, does live and breathe and suffer and laugh and it feels like I've always known this man, even though he died in 1707. I can see it coming together and dancing about the stage. I can feel that hunger to bring it alive, as does Stephen who talks of 'when' we stage it, rather than 'if'.

I've started to be more hands on in suggesting how I imagine sections or speeches or scenes might run and really enjoying it. It's more than 20 years since I directed a play and there's a little itch in the palm of my hands to start moving and blocking this out, to play with various ways of using the audience and the character and the props...

I won't be the director when it heads onto stage but for this reading, it's just Stephen and myself so I can bring whatever I can to the table. Some of it will work and some won't but at this stage, he is still a character I have created. I must know him better than anyone else!

But what is great about working like this with Stephen is that he brings a huge amount of emotion and understanding of the character to the lines I've written. And if there are parts I comment upon, by the time I have clarified or elaborated on some part of it, and sometimes as much for myself as for the interpretation of the script, I can see what's missing on the page. It might be as simple as a bit of clarification, a single stage direction, the addition of a 'beat' that adds weight to what come next or what came before or some way to bring out what lies buried under the words.

I think it was Scott Fitzgerald who said 90% of writing is swimming underwater.

But isn't it fantastic when you come up for air and discover how far you've gone - and see how interesting the scenery has become!

But what also becomes clear, from reading it like this, scene by scene, is whether the momentum and the pace work; if the character progresses in the way I want him to for maximum emotional and dramatic effect. Sometimes characters run before they should be walking or forget how to walk when I want them to be able to run in two scenes time.

Now I have the opportunity to digest the lessons of the read through and, having tested the script, to take the play apart in safety, experiment, brainstorm, love it a little more, try not to throw out stuff that will work with the stuff that just isn't good enough, and then put the limbs back in place.

So I'm putting the script aside to let it all germinate. Just for a little bit. Like I'm giving George a chance to drink a few flagons of wine and slumber. He worked hard this afternoon!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Tough Love for writers

Not sure who passed this gem on but it’s like a shock treatment in quote form to warn us writers to avoid dallying with thinking about writing, writing lists of writing tasks and research for writing projects, and - my latest sin - reading books about writing!

The American novelist Harry Sinclair Lewis was supposed to deliver an hour-long lecture to a group of college students who planned to be writers. He apparently opened his talk with a question: "How many of you really intend to be writers?"

All hands went up. "In that case," said Lewis, "my advice to you is to go home and write." With that, he left. (Bits & Pieces - March 1997; Economics Press)

80 years ago, Sinclair lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters." According to Wikepedia, his writing is known for insightful and critical views of American society and capitalist values, as well as their strong characterizations of modern working women.

Friday, 5 March 2010


For those of you who don't know, PUNKY is an animation series I developed in 2007/8 with help from the Irish Film Board. A great idea, with a feisty world of characters and some challenging storylines, it proved a contentious and difficult task to pull it into what the industry would regard as an animation series.

But I got there. Initially, I leant on the assistance of Barbara Slade (ex head writer of Rugrats) but briefly since development funding doesn't allow you to do that for very long if you actually want to live while you create your masterpiece.

That was an interesting process. Coming from a completely different perspective of working on series that were highly successful, highly American and highly saleable, Barbara's approach was a fantastic learning curve. However, I ended up with a treatment for a series that was professional, possibly commercial and for which I no longer felt I could write a single story.

Introduce Aidan Hickey, one of Ireland's longest serving animator and animation writer. Invaluable advice, freely given and full of encouragement and Punky raised her head above the parapet again.

This time Monster Animation were interested and by last October, we had, at the second attempt, received funding from the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (now the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland) and by late last year, the contracts were signed.

Meanwhile, being a spirited creation, Punky went to various animation and kids' tv markets, gathering "curious interest". and has just returned from Kidscreen in NY with what hopes to be more concrete interest in showing the series. Eventually.

So the process is about to begin. Only now the series is for 3-6 year olds because broadcasters don't believe any child over 6 watches cartoons. Which is palpable madness. Hell, I love cartoons; it was the only thing I watched with my father right after the six o'clock news. (Or was it before?) My daughter and her friends watch cartoons on telly and on the computer and they're all around the 11 year mark. Some of them are fantastic and fun and, if you're let, you can do things with a cast of animated characters that is impossible in the real world. That's the fun and delight of it!

But that's how it goes. And since an 11 minute episode (they will probably now have to be 7 minutes) takes a full animation team two weeks to animate, you can't really stand on your high horse of arrogance and say you're wrong. Nor do you want to step away from characters and a world you've poured so much heart, soul, imagination and sheer graft into getting, step by painful and sometimes exhilarating step, closer to becoming a reality.

Because that's the thing with screenwriting.

It's nothing on the page, no matter how good or original or brave. It has to be made.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Oscar nominated scripts

Just got this link from the Irish Playwrights and Screenwriters Guild e-newsletter. You can read scripts for A Serious Man, Up and others... on the Raindance site.

Here's the link:

It seems an interesting site, though I haven't had a chance to explore it yet.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Cold Chicken and a Fresh Gale

We had the first read through on Monday afternoon of the first draft of my new play, Cold Chicken and A fresh Gale. It's a one man piece, full-length, and the actor is Stephen Bradley from Derry, whose currently acting in Hamlet in the Helix. The idea is to run a Rehearsed Reading in Smock Alley in late April/ early May.

It's a strange experience hearing a play read aloud for the first time. Sometimes, as the writer, you feel an itch to grab it from the actors and read it yourself. You know the voice, the nuances, the tone. Sometimes the actors just do not sound as you imagined. They don't catch the meaning you intended in certain lines, they read too fast or too slow, they make funny bits sound onerous and fly through the thoughtful bits with a levity they don't deserve.

But you re-tune your expectations, appreciate the knowledge they are bringing to it as performers and the knowledge you gain from hearing it read. Sometimes, when they hear what you intended, a piece that wasn't working suddenly does.

So, if nuances are missed, if the tone or the language is misinterpreted, if parts feel slow and faded, maybe it's the writing that's at fault because, at this point, that's all you are in charge of. And if the actors are not ultimately going to perform the piece, they are doing it so you can hear the words and find the parts that work and the parts that don't. It's a huge honour.

Fortunately, this was one of the good experiences. Stephen hails from Derry, as did my subject, the restoration playwright George Farquhar (The Recruiting Officer). He has always felt a deep affinity for him and therefore brings genuine passion to the script. He wants to inhabit this man's skin and bones, if only for a couple of hours a night.

I sit at the head of the table - oh, such authority! - and read the directions. We stop after every scene and talk it through. To run through one act of the play takes nearly 2 hours. We end up shattered but exhilarated because we feel it works, mostly.

I know things are going well when I sit waiting for the play to continue and forget that I'm meant to be reading the directions; I forget I'm in my kitchen and the heaters have just gone off.

It was fascinating to hear the dialogue read in the accent that Farquhar would have had. I actually have no recollection of writing some of this play - this draft goes back over a year - but whoever wrote it, at certain moments, was a hell of a writer!

But there were parts that lacked energy, scenes that seemed overlong, blocks of dialogue that gave information too easily or simply weren't entertaining enough. The opening scene worked fine in my head, but read now, it feels too slow to start the play with. Some scenes make me want to sing because they sound and feel glorious; others need fine tuning, or to have a bit of fun injected into them although possibly not if we were to use the audience actively.

So there is work to be done.

Some of the parts that didn't work can be put down to the fact that we were sitting at a table and it was the first complete read through. Once you stand a play up and move it around, once you can direct the actor and really work with a script, you can explore the underbelly of each scene, each fragment of speech; you find the nuances and humour and colour that will make the script leap into life.

The great thing is that now I have a voice to work with, and a provisional date by which we need to have it prepared for an audience of our theatrical peers.

So I want it all to leap off the page. No matter who reads it.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The new novel - a difficult and trying birth!

Since nobody ever said this, I wonder how we come by the notion that writing should get easier with practice! Maybe it's a throwback to primary school when we were actually learning to write. Or was it an idea planted by Barbara Cartland, resplendent in pink chiffon lying on her chaise longue dictating to her secretary.

I've three completed books (two fiction, one non-) - unpublished, there's the rub - and yet this new one is mewling and wriggling and kicking its little heels. I'm wondering if this is the difficulty

a) of trying to write another book when you know the others are glaring down from a top shelf; I'd only send one of them out ever again)

b) trying to write an amusing/ witty/ entertaining book or

c) because it is based on some things I cannot hide that actually happened, ie my child. (Who is masquerading a bug and curled up on the sofa writing her own novel. She's only 10; she doesn't 'get' writer's block yet.)

I'm desperately moving it further and further from any resemblance to people I knew and trying to make everything hold together far more than it did in real life. (That was messy. Fun, but messy. The book, instead is simply messy. Which means my house is now supremely tidy and well cleaned and there remain only about 12 of the hundred (very) odd cobwebs that were there before I started rewriting the first draft.)

And given the whole wood/ trees analogy (being too close to the trees, being chased by crazed woodcutters wearing the heads of wolves and playing for days with cute furry little meercats that have set up home at the base of the oldest Oak; yes, it is an unusual forest), I have to plough on to get to another draft.

This means ferreting through all the handwritten edits and scraps of plot and story and dialogue that have come since the first draft was finished and without which, I will never know if the whole thing actually works. On any level.

Next time it will be PURE fiction.

Or impure. All in all, I think that would be far more fun!

Sunday, 28 February 2010

An Inspiring Quote

Sometimes, a good quote can help nudge you out of a writer's procrastination - the sort that threatens to become a block and all through which you actually know that you really, truly want to write but just can't seem to do it. Yet.

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who calls today his own,
He who, secure within, can say
Tomorrow do thay worst,
For I have lived today.
- John Drydon

Please add your own; like a miniature writing exercise!

Animation scripts in search of a home

Out of a ream of animation scripts I've written, there are two that are free ans demanding to be aired.

It may be that they would make lovely animated children's books if anyone is interested?


Five minute animation about skydiving octogenarians.

When a new doctor advises an elderly patient to try bungee jumping for her arthritis, he begins a new phase in the life of a run down, grey town.

His elderly patients are soon sky jumping, paragliding, gliding, bungee jumping from the town bridge. It becomes contagious. What have they got to lose? When injured, his patients find friends and lovers; young people are forced to return to the town to care for their parents and breathe new life onto the streets and the town comes alive again.


Three minute animation about life inside a beard.

A new girlfriend is keen for the beard's owner to be cleanshaven, forcing two arch enemies have to combine their skills and their loot to convince their hirsute and vain owner that his girlfriend is wrong

My Working Life, part 2: Stage and Radio

There is nothing like the energy you feel when a play you've written, characters you have created, comes alive on stage. Sometimes you can feel the electricity and when the audience explodes to its feet, there is no feeling on earth quite as satisfying and exciting!

But the production won't always encapsulate exactly what you hoped for. The actors might not look the way you expect or may even misinterpret the tone you thought was obvious and to you, as the writer, it feels like a travesty but most of the time, no-one else will notice and only your writer friends will understand!

Here then are some of the pieces I've had produced on stage. What I am working on now is a newfull length play provisionally called 'A Fresh Gale and Cold Chicken' about George Farquhar, the best loved restoration playwright who hailed from Derry. We start preparing for a rehearsed reading (April, Smock Alley Theatre) this week. At first draft stage, hovering in the wings, are a first draft rom-com called 'PO Box 123' and a one-act called 'Salt on Our Skin' which I wrote for a fantastic and gifted producer and writer friend called Tanvir Bushe. (See her very humorous and vivid blog at

I'll be putting up sample pages of all the plays in th near future.


'Tasty Morsels'
Afternoon Play, BBC4. Broadcast 21.12.01.

'Salt on our Skin'
Rehearsed Reading, London; currently looking at Dublin production.

'Fur Doesn’t Hurt'.
1. Still Players, Cork and south-west tour, 1997; Cork Arts Theatre.
“Brilliantly written play...Fascinating… language which is rich and full of powerful imagery.” (The Examiner, 2.10.97)

2. “Magnetic...a masterpiece of unusual, highly dramatic yet entertaining theatre that will live long in our memories.” (East Cork newspaper, 27.11.97)

3. Winner of Best Writer and Best Production awards, Cork Arts Theatre National Competition, 1997

4. Rehearsed Reading with Andrew Bennett, Abbey Theatre, Dublin.
“While I found the material extremely uncomfortable, to the point where the audience may be cast as voyeur, I also found a serious, committed and original style and voice at work.” - Judy Friel, Literary Manager, Abbey Theatre.

'Trade Me A Dream'.
Focus Theatre, Dublin, 1997.
“Gripping psychological drama… a startlingly good piece of writing.” (Sun. Independent)

1997 'On Your Behalf'.
Rehearsed Reading, Bradford Theatre on the Mill.

1996 'Trade Me A Dream'.
Winner of Best Writer and Best Production awards in Cork Art’s Theatre’s national competition. First time in 10 years that one play won both top awards. - “A terrifying piece of theatre which deserves to be done again and again.” (Competition Judge Don McMullin)

Honourable Mention, Society of Irish Playwrights/ PEN Play Competition

Pre 1990
'House of the Rising Sun'
FTC Theatre Company, International Bar, Dublin 2 (1989)

'Remember Me'
FTC Theatre Company, International Bar, Dublin 2 (1989)

'Go In Peace'
Writer/ Director –, Dublin City University (1986).

'The Jewel Thief', play commissioned by Betty Anne Norton for Summer Drama School (1985);

'Wine, Women and Song', local radio broadcast out of DCU 1986.

My Screenwriting Life, so far; a brief CV

Monkey Puzzle Tree, coming of age feature.
Sleep Tight Snow White, romantic comedy adapting for TV.
Punky, animation series with Monster Animation, supported by IFB and BCI;
Wulfie, children’s animation series, with A Man and Ink Productions, Galway.

Touch & Go, thriller for Abú Media.
ONE, sci-fi feature for One Productions.

Angelica Touch, romantic comedy; a teenager decides to fix her mother’s love life by creating a dating website.

Kristina, love story, one hour feature filmed in the Philippines; Best Film Award at Swansea-on-Sea International Film Festival, 2008.

Fancy That, quirky family feature about a father and his daughter. Optioned Gemini Productions, Germany.
Lilly the Witch, storyline, Magma, Galway.
Archangel, detective series, short-listed in Tony Doyle Writer’s Award, BBC NI.
Script Reader BBC Belfast (1999-04).
Script Consultant, Chasing Dragons, Praxis Pictures.

2003 Pigpen. Two-part TV thriller short-listed Tony Doyle Writers Award. (Series originally optioned 2000, Talisman, London) Graduate, Writing Animation Course/ Screen Training Ireland.

Moonstone Screenwriters Labs, Wales, November 2002 with Jessie Jones is Nearly 10, a comedy drama feature.
Script Consultant,‘Chasing Dragons’. Praxis Pictures.
Storyline writer, Foreign Exchange. (MAGMA, Galway).

East Wall: treatment for late night comedy series, also set in Dublin. Optioned by Talisman, 2001. Also Pigpen, two part Tv thriller and Archangel (see above)

Pre 2000
Forever. Supernatural psychological thriller.(1999)
A is for Angela. 10-min drama about a child who sees blue-rinse granny angels. (1999) Casanova. (Award winner, Kodak Commercial Film Competition, London, 1998).
Touched. Short film. Premiered Leeds International Film Festival, October 1998. Internship as Assistant Script Editor, Granada Television, Children’s Drama Department (Oct/ Nov 1998).
PA various short films, Yorkshire. 1997/9.
Cross Your Heart and Hope To Die. Hammer Horror feature, Midnight Movies. (1997)
Toni C. 30-min pilot for teenage television series. (1997)

Fair City: Writer, 4th series, 1991-2; Storyline researcher 5th series,1992; Updated Bible 6th series, 1993;
Scratch Saturday: Tall Tales (RTE).Writer: 5 x 15 min films transmitted 1991/2.

Freelance script analyst and story consultant for independent producers. I’ve also run drama workshops, directed and acted in amateur productions.

A poem to inspire

When life, and writing, love and and chocolate get you down, this is a lovely poem to consider. But you HAVE to read it aloud. Trust me!. It's Leisure by WH Davies, not Auden. (Thanks to Freddie the Amazing Anthromorphic Dog for the correction!)

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Friday, 26 February 2010

First blog ever: all about me

Having threatened to set up a blog for so long, now I'm really not sure where to start. I want to put up advice on writing - hell, I've been writing all my life and in most mediums - but also just to talk about what it's like to live as a writer .

Before I became a full time screenwriter, I was a freelance journalsit for ten years. I've had nine stage plays produced, garnering four (and a half!) awards. I've had a radio play on BBC4, after developing a score that never got that far. I've written ten features, most of which have been optioned or been in development at some stage. (Yes, it's a heartbreaking business - you need a big and confident heart, capable of putting the disappointments aside and fighting on! But Jameson helps too.)

I've written TV series that were cossetted for different periods of time by C4, 5 and ITV.

Currently I have two animation series in development, the first of which should go into production in the next few months. Thrillers, family films, animation, sci-fi rom com, comedy drama, rom com; I have written in every genre, much to the concern of my agent who doesn't always know how to market me. I've written high concept and low budget and written for hire (storylines, scripts and series development and bibles). I've had two short films made and another two are due to be produced before Summer with some really interesting people attached.

I've also written two books of fiction, one of which is still out and about hunting for a happy home, while a new ones is at first draft stage. One book of non fiction was commissioned about the history of the Olympia Theatre but the publishers went bankrupt the day after delivered it!

As a script editor I've worked on some great projects for various companies around Ireland north and south. One interesting project is due to go into production the tail end of this Summer but, since my work hasn't really begun on it yet, I won't name it yet!

I also teach one day seminars, two day sessions and evening courses on the craft of screenwriting. Over the years I've taught in South Africa, at arts festivals around Ireland and
in UCD, People's College, FilmBase and Liberties College in Dublin.

Okay, that's probably enough for the first one!