Tag Archives: theatre

Don’t Quit the Day Job: Miranda Kate

Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.

Recently, I gave a call out on social media for people who wanted to share how their day job(s) have influenced their writing. Miranda Kate was one of the people to respond. Here she is to tell us about how work and writing have fed one another. My thanks to Miranda for being part of this feature. And remember: it’s open to everyone. If you’d like to get involved, drop me an email

Vic x

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I didn’t really think that writing would be something I would take seriously. I started out life wanting to be a film director, I even studied drama at college, but I did write snippets of stories (which would now be called flash fiction) – and one day a friend said they wanted more – a whole novel more, so I thought, how do I make this more?

By this time, after leaving my first job of working back stage in a West End theatre, I had moved into clerical work and it was at my first permanent job working in the office of a shoe factory, processing sales orders that I started to debate how I could turn one particular piece into a bigger story. And then one day the Office Manager, who sat opposite me, laughed at something someone had said. It came out as an effeminate cackle, and with his aged, balding, liver spotted head thrown back the antagonist for my novel was born!

I started that novel in 1991 and it has gone through many incarnations and rewrites, but it is now finally about to be released as a novella in my new science-fiction collection: Slipping Through.

I have gone on to write other novels, some only beginnings and others in half completed stages, but one that made it to completion and I hope to release early next year, began in that same job. I wrote the opening, which is now the prologue, for a competition to win a copy of James Herbert’s book Portent (yes, that many years ago), and it still exists pretty much intact, just tightened up and made to flow better. I still remember one of the company directors proofreading it for me. They seemed to have no issue with the fact that I had written it during working hours.

In fact some of my best writing has been done while at work. Moving up from clerical work to Secretary and eventually a Personal Assistant, I always filled the quiet times with my own writing disguised as actual work. I always made sure my work was done on time and efficiently, but I also made sure not to ask for more so I could keep writing.

And now as a stay at home mum for the last twelve years, it is probably why I do most of my writing during the day and not in the evenings. But even though I had no issue with the noise of an office around me when I was working, I struggle to write with children round me. And I need silence to write in, no music, nothing.

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Don’t Quit the Day Job: Lucy Cameron

Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.

Today, my friend Lucy Cameron is sharing her thoughts with us. Her experiences may not be what you might expect…

Vic x

When I shouted ‘Pick me, Pick me’ to be included in this blog series I hadn’t really thought it through. I am a crime/horror writer, but my day job in no way connects to what I write, or ever has.

I am not a solicitor or barrister, I have only ever been in a police station to ask if they rent out uniforms to film makers (they don’t) and I have never been in a court house, if that’s even what they are called outside of films. As for ever committing a crime…? Okay, I once had a parking ticket. In short, I have never worked within, or outside of, the law.

What about medicine? Were I ever to see heavy blood flow I have little doubt I would faint, my uncle works in the local funeral parlour, but I’m not sure that counts.

Other avenues into the field of crime writing? I have never been a journalist, or an editor, or even written for a student magazine. I have never taught creative writing, nor have any qualifications in the above.

For a long time I believed you had to have done one of the aforementioned to even consider writing a crime novel. I was wrong.

What did I do to while away the hours before becoming a writer, and by this I mean pay the bills and mortgage, was work as a Convenience Store Manager for a food retailer. For anyone that’s ever worked in a public-facing job, if that doesn’t put you in situations where you want to kill people, or indeed meet people on a daily basis that could easily commit a crime, I don’t know what will.

I loved every minute. Okay I loved half of the minutes I worked in food retail, it was fast, it was busy, it was a minimum of sixty hours a week. The teams I worked with over the years were like family and we shared plenty of laughs and tears, and it’s this people experience I draw on when writing.

Writing I can do now that I have left my glittering career in food retail far behind me. Days were full of little interactions with customers, throwaway comments overheard. Once you have the characters in a story, once you have the idea, you can go and find out about the procedures and any and every job allows you to do this.

Now I am a writer, what do I do to while away the hours that I should be writing, and by this still I mean pay the bills and mortgage? I work as a Business Administrator for a local theatre, this time a job I do love every minute of, and that allows me the time to write. If you want to be a writer, you can be, whatever your background and this sounds like great news to me, and a future full of varied and interesting books.

Write because you love it, not for the money, and don’t worry if your job doesn’t seem to fit with ‘write what you know’, fiction is after all, exactly that.

You can catch up with Lucy on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Review of 2015: Becci Sharrock

Today sees the wonderful Becci Sharrock reviewing her 2015. Becci is a writer, blogger and creative producer, she currently produces for Precious Cargo and Leo Burtin. Becci blogs  mainly about food but with the odd political rant. 

Thanks to Becci for taking part in the 2015 reviews. 

Vic x

Becci Sharrock

Favourite memory professionally:
It has been a massive year professionally.  On 6th January 2015 I handed in my notice to become a freelance producer.  It seemed like a very scary decision when I started thinking about it in December of the previous year but actually, once I made my mind up, it was like a huge relief and I haven’t looked back. So it’s hard to pick a favourite memory as everything has felt really exciting and new but I’d say it would be very difficult to top having a rehearsed reading of my debut play Yes Chef! at ARC, Stockton.  I was really lucky to have an exceptional cast and director (Cast; Chris Foley, Shane Headlam, Lauren Pattison and Phil Corbitt, Director; Ali Pritchard) and I was really pleased with the result.  It surpassed all of my expectations.  That’s not to say the writing was perfect by any stretch of the imagination but there is nothing that compares to having the words you’ve written, worried about and rewritten, finally read aloud in front of an audience of people you love and to have them laugh or cry or just get caught up in the action, caring about the characters you’ve created.  I’m not sure I would ever have got the play written if it wasn’t for my brilliant mentor Ali Taylor (Fault Lines, Cotton Wool, Overspill) and the wonderful warm fuzzy support and encouragement of the other members of Writers ARCADE.  There was something very special about eight playwrights all going through this process together, learning and making mistakes along the way that I’ll never forget.  It’s also given me the confidence to realise that writing is not just something I enjoy but something I’m good at.  Again, that’s not to say it’s not going to take a lot of development and hard work but I’m now ending the year having made the decision to cut down on my producing to allow time for me to focus on writing and my own creative projects.

Favourite moment from 2015 generally?
I’m not sure I could pick a favourite moment from the year but I’ve definitely been working hard to get a better work life balance, a perk of having control of your own workload and not commuting every day.  So it’s been a year of seeing old friends, making new friends, spending more time with my family and in particular my beautiful cheeky nephew and weekends away in the Lake District.  I’m very lucky to have a partner who supports the slightly chaotic lifestyle that comes with being freelance and working in the arts and it’s been brilliant to be able to spend more time with him this year.  Something else I’ve done more of this year is to have more dinner parties.  Food is a big love of mine and there is something so heart-warming about bringing some of your favourite people together and sharing nice food and conversation around the table.  I’m constantly surprised that people might not all know each other when they arrive but leave feeling like they’re old friends having had lots of laughter along the way.

Favourite book in 2015?
As part of my research for Yes Chef! I read lots of books about life in the kitchen.  The best one was Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.  It was a really gritty, no-holds barred telling of a chef’s life and so vividly described all the kitchens he worked in and the characters he met along the way.  It gave me lots of really useful terminology and helped me think about the setting for the play and what my central character might have to deal with.

In terms of fiction I’ve discovered a couple of chick-lit authors who I now always look out for in my local charity shops; Jenny Colgan and Jane Fallon.  I love Jenny Colgan as there’s more often than not a strong food element in her books (sweet shops, cafes and chocolate shops) and Jane Fallon because though still chick-lit, the stories are less predictable and the characters more ‘real life’.  These are complicated love stories simultaneously exploring complex family relationships, modern moral dilemmas or hidden secrets.

Top song of 2015?

Whenever I’m working from home I always listen to 1xtra, not least because I’m in love with Trevor Nelson.  One of my favourite songs of the year has to be Lady Leshurr’s Queen’s Speech 4.  The song includes the lyrics, ‘I can’t believe it, I can’t believe the cheek, some girls wake up and don’t even brush their teeth.  That’s a dead ting, that’s a bad breath ting’.  It’s a song that always makes me smile and I’d recommend a listen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyodeHtVvkA).  I heard a great interview with Lady Leshurr where she said she was trying to bring back the fun into hip hop.  She referenced Missy Elliott who I’m a big fan of and it made me think of the likes of Ludacris and the Beastie Boys, who I used to love growing up.  I remember watching the music videos on MTV and these guys always made them a piece of entertainment in their own right.  And of course, when you’re working from home and barely remember to get dressed it’s always good to be reminded of the importance of dental hygiene…

Any downsides?
The biggest downside of the year for me was seeing a Tory government re-elected in May.  I won’t get too political (if you want the full rant I wrote an immediate response blog on the morning of the results here) but it really felt like I was witnessing something important, and not necessarily positive, take place.  Nothing since the election has changed my mind that this is not a good thing for our country.  The plus side of it is that it has made me much more politically aware.  I’m more sure than ever that the arts and theatre in particular has a role to play in encouraging political debate and providing a voice for people from different backgrounds and communities.

Resolutions for 2016?
My main resolution for 2016 is to find more time to write.  As a creative producer, I find it immensely satisfying to play a role in helping artists to get their projects of the ground, particularly working with new and emerging artists.  I don’t think that will ever change and next year I’ll be mentoring recent graduates as part of Northern Stage’s NORTH scheme.  However, I think I also owe it to myself to give some of that same time and energy to my own practice and finding out what kind of writer I could be if I put my mind to it.

What are you hoping for in 2016?
I’ll be kicking 2016 off by embarking on a new participatory arts project called Letters to Myself and an exciting new project funded by the Leverhulme Trust. For Letters to Myself, I’m thrilled to have been awarded seed funding from Cultural Spring which will allow us to spend time in communities in South Shields and Sunderland working on the project.  The main focus of the first 6 months will be asking people to consider writing a letter to their past, present or future selves.  I’m really interested in what we would say to ourselves when given the time and space to reflect and within this looking at shared knowledge and experience and how we become better at being our own best friend.  Later in the year, I’ll be creating a new theatre piece, using some of the text from some of the letters (where permission has been granted).  In a world where tragedy and war is common and the news a sometimes constant stream of horror, I hope this piece will be a gentle revolution helping us to take a step back, reflect and learn to love ourselves and those around us.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and wishing you many brilliant things for 2016.

For anyone interested in taking part in Letters to Myself, please email Becci at rjsharrock@hotmail.co.uk

 

Review of 2015: Mhairi Ledgerwood

OK, so due to the blog being on lockdown at the end of 2014, we didn’t get the opportunity to hear how 2014 had treated some of our favourite folks. Well, we’re back with a bang this year!

Mhairi Ledgerwood, a wonderful playwright and all-round lovely lady, is here to open the series with her review of 2015 and by all accounts, it’s been a cracking year for her. Oh, and today just happens to be her ninth wedding anniversary – congratulations to Mhairi and her husband, David!

Thanks for being involved Mhairi!

Vic x

Mhairi Ledgerwood

2015 was an incredible year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

Stepping onto the film set of “Hummingbird”. “Hummingbird” was a short play that I wrote which had a reading at the ARC and The Traverse in 2014. At the start of this year, I decided to be brave and send it to Dan Perry –a film-maker and fellow writer that I met on the Creative Writing MA at Teesside University in 2010. I’ve loved films since I was a teenager, but never thought I’d be in the position to have one made. Dan said yes and it was filmed in June of this year. I went to have a peak at the set just before we started filming and seeing the green screen set up, the set, the film-making equipment… to go from being a teenager in my bedroom reading films scripts bought from Waterstones to seeing something that I’d written about to get made… Yeah, I won’t forget that in a hurry. Dan’s a great guy, it was fantastic being able to get the chance to work with him professionally. It’s being edited just now so looking forward to seeing the finished film!

Hummingbird set

And how about a favourite moment from 2015 generally?

Man, so many! Non-professionally, my husband David took part in the London Marathon and that was an amazing experience. Even as a non-runner, I got swept up in the atmosphere of the whole weekend. There was also 8 weeks spent at the ARC over May/June where each member of the Writers ARCADE group had a rehearsed reading of a play they’d written. To be part of that was incredible, getting to see everyone’s plays, what they’d been working on… I’ve been a part of that group since it was founded and I’m so proud of how far we’ve come as a group. Yes, I had to write one of the plays, but as a theatre fan, getting to see 7 other readings every week over the course of two months – I loved it!

ARCADE rehearsed reading

Favourite book in 2015?

The Paying Guests” – Sarah Waters. I don’t often get the time to read books (too busy reading plays) but I love her work, so made sure I kept an eye out for this. She also writes stories either before, during, or after WW2, with really strong female characters.

Favourite film of 2015?

I try and see all the Oscar nominees (time dependent!) and loved “Whiplash”. Incredible performances from the two leads.

Favourite song of the year?

Again, so hard to choose! I’ve been keeping a Spotify list all year called “2015” where I save songs that come up at certain times; there’s the ones on there that I played a lot while writing my ARC play, or ones I heard from West End shows I’ve seen this year. If we’re looking for something that was released this year then “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon, I really like that.

Any downsides for you in 2015?

Terrible time management! I could be a lot better at this.

Are you making resolutions for 2016?

Less faffing. More writing/cleaning.

What are you hoping for from 2016?

I’ve been really lucky the past couple of years to have had several rehearsed readings of plays on in venues around the north-east. 2015 saw my first 60 minute play being presented. I would love for 2016 to be the year that I have a full production of a full length play that I’ve written. I would love a play on at the Edinburgh Fringe. To see “Hummingbird” accepted to a short film festival. I’m co-writing a play called “Signal Change” with a friend of mine that had ten minutes previewed at Northern Stage in October – we’ve already written more, so am really looking forward to what’s going to happen with that in 2016.

Allison Davies reviews her 2013.

Allison Davies is one of the best friends a gal can have. I met her – like Michelle – when we did our Masters together and I am so happy to see how her writing career has progressed since we graduated. Now it’s over to Alli to review her 2013.

Vic x

Allison Davies

2013 has been a great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

2013’s been pretty good so it’s hard to pin down a single favourite, though seeing my debut play Weather to Fly get the full production treatment is definitely up there. OddManOut https://www.facebook.com/oddmanouttheatre?fref=ts and our actors did a brilliant job, we got some lovely reviews and it spurred me on to complete another theatre script which may well get an airing in 2014. There are rustlings in the undergrowth so watch this space. And Weather to Fly is touring again in 2014, in the north east and beyond.

And how about a favourite moment from 2013 generally? 

Can I have 20? No? OK. 19 then. Over the course of the year I met some wonderful people and enjoyed a shedload of special moments, but one in particular stands out. It’s got nothing to do with celebrity twerkers or royal shoe sizes mind.  I travel to Nepal occasionally with Danusha, the ethical jewellery project that I help run along with a couple of friends. Back in April we were in Kathmandu when one of our jewellery makers brought her disabled son to the workshop – 6 year old Hitesh. He was a shy kid with huge brown eyes, and all I really wanted to do was get him to crack a smile. He had a battered old toy car and I started playing with it. It didn’t take long before Hitesh and I were legging it up and down the balcony, doing our best Ferrari engine noises, and giggling like, well, 6 year olds. It was pretty special.

As adults I think we often discount the power of play, of letting go and just being, and of seeing what comes. Hitesh is my 2013 hero for reminding me about the things that really matter – relationship, humanity, connection, finding joy in the moment.

I do need to give a special mention to Meerkat TC too. Kats, you are outstanding! Your creative company has been a source of energy and laughter throughout the year and I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings.

Weather

Favourite book in 2013?

It wasn’t published in 2013, but on my birthday a family member took the trouble to send me a copy of When Marnie Was There by Joan G Robinson, which has been on my wish list for years. It was a childhood favourite for reasons I won’t bore you with here. Suffice to say I have very few keepsakes from the first 20 years of my life, so when this arrived in the post I was bowled over, especially as it was the edition my Dad gave me on my 7th birthday.

Favourite film of 2013?

Hmmmm. If you’re talking about films released this year it’s a toss-up between The Invisible Lighthouse http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_vGHqIvoHg  and Silver Linings Playbook. I loved the cinematography in Life of Pi too. But the best film I saw in 2013 was Lee Chang-Dong’s Poetry. A moving, powerful, thoughtful story and 100% superb!

Favourite song of the year?

If you’d asked me a couple of months ago I’d have said Take These Bones http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8bJu5HEnH0   by Fran Smith. I love belting it out at full bore when I drive the Military Road to Cumbria to visit my Mum. But then November came and Pharrell Williams released this understated groove http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM which makes me grin every time I hear it. And then there’s Arcade Fire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E0fVfectDo and Alt-J and Nick Cave and London Grammar and Daughter and Thundercat and… Well, you get the picture.

Any downsides for you in 2013?

Nothing major. A few health niggles, and a few people behaving like knackas at times. Grrrrr!  (knacka: Geordie term of mild abuse, meaning idiot, dipstick, plonker. Also testicle. Make of that what you will.)

Are you making resolutions for 2014?

In common with many of your reviewers I don’t really do resolutions, though I’ve come up with a few simple rules for living. Eat more cake. Don’t forget to play. Learn something new. Try not to be a knacka. When, inevitably, you behave like a knacka, apologise. Forgive other people when they behave like knackas, even if it costs you to do it, or alternatively, bop ‘em on the nose with a frozen kipper.

What are you hoping for from 2014?

It would be wonderful if people took a bit more responsibility for their consumption of resources, cared for each other and the planet and lobbied for fair working conditions for those who manufacture the stuff we wear, eat etc. (I’m looking in the mirror here.) We could all do with being more open, and less mean spirited, and I get really angry at some of the things I hear people say about their fellow human beings. Oh, don’t get me started or we’ll be hear all day.

Oh yeah, this is meant to be about writing, isn’t it? Well then, I’d like to get better at it as there’s always something new to learn. I’m interested in working collaboratively so am open to opportunities for that. The magic gets turned all the way up to 11 when there’s more than one person in the room. Otherwise it’s just me at my desk, talking to the people in my head. Cue chicken noises.

I often find it hard to concentrate on one thing at a time, so in 2014 I’d like to be a bit more focussed about life in general. I’ve been practicing meditation (mindfulness, breath) for a while now and I find it incredibly helpful.


If Santa was to bring you any one thing you wanted on Xmas morning, what would it be?

I’m spending Christmas and New Year in India which is fab, but I do miss my friends back home, not to mention long walks on bright, cold beaches. So if you’re reading this Mr Santa and if your tuk tuk does late deliveries, please deliver the sound of the North Sea at Druridge Bay when the wind’s blowing easterly and the waves tear up the beach, along with a massive hug from my friends.

I guess what I’m really asking for is a little soul warmth to end the year.