Thursday, 6 November 2014

A QUICK UPDATE TO WHAT’S HAPPENING!



CREATIVE WRITING FELLOW TO TYNE & ESK WRITERS.

It’s going to be a busy few months!’  The Reader In Residence post might have completed at the end of September but crossing over with it was my starting as Creative Writing Fellow to Tyne & Esk writers across Midlothian and East Lothian for the next seven months.

You can find out more about them here:http://tyne-esk-writers.com/#gsc.tab=0

I’ve had the great please of working with the eight writers groups that make up Tyne & Esk more or less for the last three years.  Some absolutely fantastic writing produced and friendly welcoming groups whether you’ve been writing for years or have only just started.

One of the new things I’ll be involved this time is in the organizing of the second annual Write On Writing Festival.  This will be over three days at the John Gray Centre in Haddington in early June 2015 alongside the Haddington Festival. 

This is a partnership project between Tyne & Esk Writers,  Haddington Library and the John Gray centre.  It is to promote writing and writers in Haddington and across East Lothian. 

I’ll be working with the committee to develop a whole series of events activities including workshops; author visits; open mics and family events. 

We’ve already started to put thoughts together and very much looking forward to working with everyone involved.


YES FESTIVAL:  A FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS ACROSS YARROW, ETTRICK AND SELKIRK.

I’ve been working over the last few months on the board of the YES Festival charged with putting together a programme for next year’s festival in September 2015.

At the heart of it we aim to have drama which I have been and plan to be heavily involved in. 

There’s also plans for so much more: music, song, film, feasting and…well lots!!

Exciting times to living and working in the Scottish Borders with the region buzzing with creative energy.


AND…

I’ve just finished a play and about to start another.

SOME DREAMY POEMS!!



I DREAMED I WROTE A POEM

I dreamed I wrote a poem
on dreams
But it seems
I was only dreaming.

I DREAMED I TOLD THEM...

I dreamed I told them I loved them one more time.
That we laughed till
memories burst our sides.
I dreamed the sun rose
with them for one more day.
I dreamed they never went away.

I dreamed I told them I loved them one more time.

I  DREAM OF SILLY THINGS.

I dream of silly things.
Of holding a tune.
Dancing with two left feet.
Rolling my tongue. Spelling
supercalli......
Backwards.

I dream of silly things.
A Government healthy
eating scheme of five chocolate bars a day
The only way to a healthy lifestyle.
Official.

I dream of silly things.
Of eating ice cream in the snow.
Of wearing shorts and tee shirt in the rain.

I dream of silly things.
Saying to my sons, exams don't matter,
yes, get a tattoo, or two,
dream your world, stand still, listen.

I dream of silly things.
Not world peace
Or a cure for the common cold.
What can I say?
But I like to keep it real.


BY ITS NATURE UNCERTAIN--A SHORT PLAY.


A short time ago, just before the referendum, even though it does seem an age ago,  I was involved in the National Theatre of Scotland's  Five Minute Theatre project.

You had to write a drama piece around the decision to vote Yes, No or Maybe.  You had to film it and not edit afterwards.  There were contributions from all over the world and not just Scotland.

I loved the whole process.

I wrote a monologue entitled  'By Its Nature Uncertain.'  Its sad!

You can watch it wonderfully performed by Janet Coulson of Firebrand Theatre co here: http://vimeo.com/98533961

You can watch other contributions here:  http://fiveminutetheatre.com/watch_again/



BY ITS NATURE UNCERTAIN

(The text is slightly different from the final performance.)


Mhairi has lost her husband a few months earlier. She sits alone in her house on referendum night. She and her husband always discussed matters both personal and political and decided things together. Now she is alone with the decision and she wonders if it matters at all now that she is on her own. She has to decide not only yes or no on the referendum, but either yes into an unknown personal future and the chance that she might emerge emotionally alive or no and stay wrapped in the emotional numbness of the present.

Performed by Janet Coulson

Written by Tom Murray


CHARACTER:  Mhairi: Early thirties

 Mhairi sits coat by her side.  

MHAIRI-- And she says Yes.  Tell me why mum.
‘Well Mhairi my darling it’s like this.  When I left your father it wasn’t because I didn’t love him. Or I had found someone else with a better sense of humor. Or I had a yearn for when I was young free and single.  Now have you seen me partying since?’
No mum.
‘  Or doing that speed dating thing? Well okay there was that once. But that was your Aunt Mary thinking I needed a life.  She didn’t understand that I had one. At last.  I told her. ‘ Mary.  I’ve made my choice.  And there’s good and bad things about it but…’ I was me Mhairi. She never understood.’
And who are you mum?
‘ Not the wife.’ 

And he says No.  Tell me why dad.
‘ You know why Mhairi.  I have no intention of jumping off a cliff at my age.  Maybe if I was a bit younger.  If fact not even then.’
But dad you’re surviving aren’t you?
‘ Maybe.’
And you and mum are okay?
‘ Maybe.’
Who was she dad?
‘ Who?’
Mum.
‘ Don’t be daft.  Who was she?  She was…is your mother.  She was my wife. I gave her the best years of my life.  And she ups and leaves.  I worked all the hours God sent me to make things comfortable for her.  For you. Your brother.’
Maybe she didn’t want that dad.
‘ All she had to do was say.’
 Maybe she did dad.
 ‘I wanted her to stay you know.  I said to her we’re a team.  A partnership. We work well together.  I told her.  I’ll change I said.  If you’re bored there’s clubs.  Things to do.  Night classes! I said.   She didn’t want to listen.  We had a nice house didn’t we?  She had the garden. I was happy.  And now you want me to think about the future! I’ll tell you what the future is. No.’


What about you Johnny?
‘Doesn’t matter Mhairi. I don’t get a vote.  I’m dead.’
What do I do Johnny? I need to know.  You remember this? (Her coat.) Christmas present last year.  Your usual Christmas Eve thing.  But I loved it.  Love it.  Do I lock it away in the cupboard?  Or do I walk down that road to the polling station?  Johnny?
‘ Can’t help you Mhairi.’
But we always talked Johnny.  Lying in bed till we fell asleep with the words floating around the room.  Plans for this and that.  For us.  Tell me it still matters Johnny.  Tell me all those words haven’t crumbled into dust.
‘Like me Mhairi.’
Yes.   Do I walk down that hill Johnny?  Alone. Johnny?!
‘You’ve got to talk to the living and then decide Mhairi.’
Talk to the living Johnny.  You make more sense inside my head dead than…
‘Talk to the living Mhairi.’

And he said….
‘ Not interested.’
Come on wee brother.  This is your future.
‘ I’m not voting.  What does it matter? Nothing’ll change. Can you guarantee me things will be tickety boo big sister.’
By its nature uncertain Robbie.
‘That’s Johnny talking.’ 

And Rose at the bus stop says…Yes or is it No or Maybe a maybe.
‘ Thing is Mhairi.  When I get on this bus I know more or less where its going.  You know what I mean?!’

And the man on the TV says…
And the charity woman at the door says…
And the woman at the garage says…
And the man on the moon says…

 ‘And what does Mhairi say?’
Why did you leave me Johnny?

And Mhairi says she wants to lie in bed a future only words inside my head. 
And Mhairi says she scared of putting on her coat and walking down that hill alone.
And Mhairi says she loves you Johnny.
‘Lie together Mhairi you and me and let the words float.  What do they make?’
I can’t see Johnny. 
‘Yes you can.’
I don’t want to see without you.
‘I’m gone Mhairi. What do you see?’
(She puts on her coat and exits.)

  






    





STORYTELLING


Some of the most enjoyable events over the last year or so have been the storytelling events.  I've absolutely loved them and I think the families that have come along have to.  

They made me think even more about the difference between performing your work and reading it!  It also made me think of the structure of stories that are made to be read and performed.  

I wrote a number of performance stories over the last year  the below is one of them.  I hope you enjoy.


THE POST BOX

His mum got as far as starting the ignition, and putting the car in gear, when she remembered.
‘ The letter!’ She said.   ‘ Where did I put the..?’
She was half way out the door ready to run back in the house when Mark said.
‘You put it in your bag.’

 His mother scrambled to get her bag from the back seat.  She searched through it.  Mark stared straight ahead.  There they were.  Waiting for him like they knew his mother would forget.  As usual it would be up to him to save the day. Of course he could have ‘forgotten’ that he had seen his mum put the letter in her bag half way through scooping up her porridge.
But maybe he didn’t really mind what he knew was coming next.
And here it came.
His mother had found the letter and looking at him with that look on her face.
‘Be a wee pet.’ She said.
If only she wouldn’t call him pet. And he wasn’t wee.  He was ten and a half, and two weeks, and three days, and seven hours, and forty two minutes.

A growl shivered up the street towards them, shaking the car from side to side. As usual his mum never noticed.
They were waiting for him right enough.  It wasn’t going to be easy this morning.  Maybe he should have just forgotten about the letter after all.
‘  We’ll be late mum.’ He pleaded.
‘We’ve got plenty of time.’ She said.
‘ But you always moan about the traffic first thing in the morning.’
‘ I think you’re getting me mixed up with your dad.’ She said.  ‘Come on Mark you could have done it by now.’

Mark took the letter and pushed open the car door.  He stared at the post box at the end of their street.  It was one of those that were fixed into a wall.
 He started to walk, slowly, the letter gripped tight, his eyes scanning the gardens on either side of the road.  He could hear them slithering through along the well cut lawns, he caught glimpses of them disappearing around corners. 
He walked on.
He knew they would wait till it was too late to go back. 

He past number 42, Mrs Bridges house, the point of no return and up it reared from behind the neatly trimmed hedges---a huge yellow eyed three headed  GORGON snake  hissed and twisted towards him.  He mustn’t look into his eyes he knew that or he would turn to stone.  It darted its head in his direction, but he rolled on the ground and it missed him by inches.

 As he jumped to his feet a huge TROLL stamped and squashed the bushes at number 44 and thundered towards him.
He waited till it was almost on him its huge raised to squash him before leaping onto Mrs Jones wall.  The street shook and shivered as the huge foot hit the pavement but Mark had already jumped off the wall and dodged  past the massive MINOTAUR that roared his way.

The post box was metres away but he knew the worse was yet to come.  It rose high above the post box spreading his wings wide.  Mark looked up into the huge black eyes of a DRAGON that stared down at him.  He could smell the fire in the dragon’s breath.  He knew what was coming next.
He looked at the post box. 

‘NOW.’ He shouted and swooping down out of the sky came the winged horse PEGASUS and just in time he leap on board as the hot fire burned the pavement.
The dragon wasn’t pleased and up it flew flapping its huge wings chasing them up and down the street and in between the houses.

They flew over his mother sitting in the car adjusting the radio to radio two.  They swept down between the gap between number 46 and 48 and twisted towards the post box the dragon shooting fire at them all the way. 

‘NOW.’ He shouted again and Pegasus pulled in its wings and dropped quickly towards the ground.  The dragon too big to stop and turn roared its fire in anger as Pegasus extended its wings as far as they would go so that glided to the pavement.

‘ Thank you. ‘ Said Mark. ‘Same time tomorrow no doubt.’
Pegasus nodded and flew off into the day.

The three headed gorgon snake, the troll, the minotaur lumbered towards him but things were going to be fine. The dragon swooped down but they all stopped and retreated as he posted the letter.

Mark jumped in the car and slammed the car door shut.
‘School mum. Quick we’re going to be late.’  He said.
She took an age to put the car in first gear.  She shook her head at him.
‘ Can’t you just walk anywhere Mark?’ She said.

He heard the creatures but couldn’t see them now.
 The car moved off.  ‘ Glad to see you’re so keen on school.’

As the car moved slowly, too slowly along the street, the dragon rose up and blew flame at them as they passed.  Mark felt the heat come through the door but he knew it could never follow him.  Its job was to guard the post box.
Mark smiled.   Another day another victory.  School would be a doddle after this.

  


TREASURE TRAIN


My Scottish Book Trust Reader In Residence post came to a conclusion at the end of September.  A fantastic year working with Scottish Borders Libraries promoting the library service and reading across the Scottish Borders.

Thanks to all the staff and all who participated in the many and varied events held during the last year.

I've mentioned the Treasure Train before but below is a guide to how it worked.  If you wish to use it or adapt it for your own library event please do.

I've also uploaded an example of a  'carriage' on the Treasure Train.


SCOTTISH BORDERS LIBRARIES READER IN RESIDENCE. TOM MURRAY

TREASURE TRAIN: AN INTERGENERATIONAL PROJECT

AIMS:

--Through a love of books read as children various generations of a family brought together to share memories of their favourite childhood reading through discussion, writing and drawing.

--For the children to witness their mother/father/grandparents enthusiasm for reading and to see them not just as adults but as fellow readers.

--To encourage adults to re visit childhood books to re kindle a love of reading if needed by connecting with their individual reader’s memories.

--For adults to see reading not as an obligation or something from their distant past but as an activity that creates family memories.  For both adults and children to see the library as a place where those family memories are created.

--Building partnerships across agencies.

--Inclusive and encourages discussion of all types of reading ie: novels; comics.

FORMAT    

Duration:   60 minutes

PART ONE

--Intro:  All families together in one group.

             : Publicity for event to encourage both adults and children to bring their
               favourite childhood book.

      :Reader In Residence to explain format including show example of   
       a Treasure Train.  

      :to share his/her own childhood reading. 

      :to read from his/her favourite book. 

      :to encourage families to do the same to the wider group.
        

PART TWO

Discussing/drawing/writing:  families find their own space.

Each family work together to write down and/or draw their own individual and family
experiences/memories of reading.


Some questions to ask themselves to get started.

--favourite character(s) and why.
--what age when first read.
--how did they get the book—library/present.
--what was the cover like.


Idea:   See example.

Each A4 sheet of paper represents a carriage on a family Treasure Train.

One carriage for each memory of a childhood book.

Each member of the family works on their own carriage. 

Each member of the family can have as many carriages as they wish.

At the conclusion they join all the carriages together for one whole family
Treasure Train with a front page of the family name.

Optional they can draw as a family a train engine on a separate A4 sheet to lead the
carriages.

The length of the train is endless.  It can be added to later at home or other
members of the family not at event can add their memories.


PART THREE

Bring families together again in one space.

Encourage to discuss and share with wider group.

Families take Treasure Train home with them encourage to continue and add to.

Encourage to take books out of the library. Adults could borrow other books from same author of favourite book or other books remembered during event.       


MATERIALS

Reader In Residence favourite book.
Libraries display of childhood books from stock.
A4 paper.
Coloured pens/pencils/erasers/staplers.



Example of a 'carriage.'

Saturday, 21 June 2014

HOME IS...


A POEM BY TOM MURRAY

HOME IS…

running wild with a football
wind whispering ‘shoot shoot.’
Rain ragged against my ten year old face
I pause.
Gather in the high chimney a finger pointing
To the cloud folded sky.
This is my youthful marker.
Amongst the self same rough skinned houses
this gives direction home.

After I flick the ball high
with new bought boots 
score
Roy of the Rovers style.

Home is…

another place.
Time carved hills.
A phone call father to father.
‘It’s a boy.’ I say.
Memories surface.
Footprints in ancient earth revealed.

Home is…

Memory birthed
moment by moment. 



Friday, 20 June 2014

SOME THOUGHTS ON STORY STRUCTURE


A few years ago I was lucky to be one of the winners in Fish Publishing One Page Story competition.  One page being a maximum of 250 words.
It was challenge I very much enjoyed as it got me thinking deeper about structure and working out what crucial detail was needed to tell the story.  Also what question to ask myself about the character.

250 words doesn't give you much room for manoeuvre but that isn't always a bad thing.   The story I ended up writing was called 'Postcard From New York.'   I was pleased with the way it turned out and not just because it was a competition winner.  I was pleased with it as a piece of work.

The first draft came in at 423 words.  At first cutting unneeded words was quite easy but grew more difficult with each draft.  It forced me to think and think and be ruthless with my editing.  One of the most interesting things about the process was that the first couple of lines in the finished story where there in the first draft only further down in paragraph 3.

Finding those first couple of lines amongst the mass of words helped me focus on what was needed in the rest of the story.  It helped me find a structure.

Below is the story.  Below that is a breakdown of the structure.

'Postcard From New York’ published Fish Anthology 2005



POSTCARD FROM NEW YORK 

Woke up this morning to something you never get in this city.
Silence.
Not a car horn, siren, or murmur of voices reaching up to the 14th floor.
The street below was empty or so I thought. In the flats opposite the hotel folk were also looking down from windows to the street below.
Then I saw what they saw.
A road block of police cars and then a figure like an extra out of a B Movie moving slowly up the street. He or she was dressed in what looked like a deep sea diving suit. He or she walked slowly, very slowly.
I followed his, or hers every slow step until they stopped and I saw it. Directly across from my hotel was a briefcase, an everyday briefcase, sitting upright, and so alone looking, on the sidewalk.
And I was on the 14th floor with a lift I had already found out never arrived when you wanted it.
I watched.
The deep sea diver with what looked like a metal rod ever so slowly edged open the case (I don’t know how that suit would have protected him) and out flew…paper.  Paper that drifted higher and higher down the street, to God knows where else. 
Minutes later the car horns, sirens, murmur of voices returned and folk streamed, almost bored looking, out of flats and hotels like water released from a dam. 
And I walked down the fourteen flights of stairs and joined them.
Love to the boys.


 STRUCTURE. Begin/Middle/End or in the case of example story Close up/Wide Lens/ Close Up.

QUESTION:  What is the main character’s biggest hope and fear in the situation they find themselves in?  Very often as is the case with example story two sides of the same coin.  .

OPENING

‘Woke up this morning to something you never get in this city.
Silence.’

Objective:  Start with action/get reader asking question--why the silence?

Close up:  Starts.  ‘Woke up…’     Ends.  ‘….reaching up to the 14th floor.’

As if all you can see is the character’s eyes, wondering what is going on. 
State of mind--Curiosity.

Wide lens:   Starts.  ‘The street below was empty…’  Ends.  …released from a dam.’

You gradually see more and more outside the room as the character sees it.  Gradual introduction of crucial detail. Tension built with the increase in detail.  The character is trapped.   State of mind-- Fear.

Move to Close up.  Starts.  And I walked…  Ends. ‘Love to the boys.’

We move back to the character.  State of mind--relief. 
With ‘Love to the boys’  you find out what character had to lose.  His greatest hope that he sees his sons again/greatest fear that he would not.



Tuesday, 6 May 2014

DISCOVERING KELSO THROUGH POETRY





 Kelso Abbey

The clock with four faces!


Poetry is a wonderful thing.  In only a few concentrated lines the essence of a particular observation can be caught.  That observation may be anchored in a moment in time but through rhythm and image can reverberate back through history as well as capture the present.  It can even build a word picture of an imagined future.
In the process you can discover or in many cases re discover a subject, a person or place. 

For me this happened recently when I was asked to work with two classes one from Yetholm Primary and one from Morebattle Primaries on the project ‘Discover Kelso.’ 

I have been to Kelso many times over the years and maybe it had become too familiar as many things and places do but through working with the young poets I felt I had re discovered Kelso all over again.

Kelso is going through a lot of changes at the moment.  The historic town centre being regenerated as part of the Kelso Townscape Heritage Initiative.  (THI)  ‘Discover Kelso’ is part of that initiative.  Its contribution to this regeneration is through observation, thought and emotion distilled into the concentrated lines and stanzas of the young poets. 

My remit in working with the schools was to look at those changes through the theme of ‘Kelso Town Centre, Past and Present.’  

We began to engage with that environment and to build our poems by visiting the town centre and noting down what we saw and what we heard. 

We noted these down under four headings:   SHOPS ETC;   CARS ETC;   PEOPLE;   OTHER.

Not worrying at that stage of how it would fit together, or not, into a poem.  The aim was to be like an artist sketching only in words observations both with the eye and the ear. 

This is where I began to re discover Kelso myself.  I looked again at the familiar sights.  In quite a few instances I felt I saw them really for the first time.  For instance the four faces of the town clock high above the town centre. I had never truly looked at it and how intricate and ornate the face and hands are. 

Like the pupils I also closed my eyes and listened to the multitude of sounds for instance cars rattling over cobbles, birds squawking, JCB rumblings, drills drilling and many more.

After this and in sessions back at the schools we worked our notes up into possible stanzas.  This was the first stage in choosing the most powerful images and sounds the ones remembered and clear long after the visit to the town centre.  If the image and sounds stick with the poet they are more likely to connect with the reader and listener of the poem. 

We started each stanza with the phrase ‘Let Me Tell You’ and in subsequent lines built up the poem.   
I produced examples as guides to form but only as a guide each young poet free to bring their own observations and feelings about their environment to fruition in their own form and in their own poem.

MY STRUCTURE EXAMPLE

Two different ways to write the stanza—you can use both but if using both try to use different images in each.  

1— one image and write about that only to develop thoughts.     

2— A series of images—one per line. 

Try to write no more than 4 lines per stanza

SHOPS ETC  (inc all buildings)

1-  Let me tell you about                 
     A clock with four faces
     Hands pointing
     North, south, east and west.

2---Let me tell you about
      A clock with four faces.
      Hotel keys crossed but lost.


OTHER

1--Let me tell you about
     Cobbled streets
     Like a range of tiny mountains
     Crossed by Gulliver feet.

2--Let me tell you about
     Cobbled streets.
     A song of voices.

FINAL STANZA

Let me tell you about
A place
Where past and present and future meet.

Back in the classroom we discussed how to finish your poem by bringing your observations and feelings together in a final summoning up stanza.  The above again was only an example.  The pupils didn’t have to sum up if they felt it didn’t suit their poem.

I had a final session visiting the schools and listening to works in progress and offering feedback where I could.  It was just a joy to listen to the poems.  They read their poems exceptionally well with a real feel for the words and for what they had captured in those words.

The resulting poems are an incredible variety of observations as said anchored in a moment in time but through rhythm and image reverberating back through history as well capturing the present. 

Those poems are now published in a magnificent looking booklet.  I’m very privileged to be included.   

This is my poem.     

DISCOVER KELSO     TOM MURRAY

      Let me tell you about                 
     A clock with four faces
     Hands pointing
     North, south, east and west.

    Let me tell you about
    Yellow coated workmen
    Shaping the present
    From the past.

   Let me tell you about
    A car park of cars
    Resting between journeys.

    Let me tell you about
     Cobbled streets
     Like a range of tiny mountains
     Crossed by Gulliver feet.

    Let me tell you about
    A place
    Where past and present and future meet.




‘Discover Kelso’ not only involved primary schools but Kelso High School as well. 
In part two of being involved in the project I visited the High School to work with first year pupils and teachers in the English department on their poems.
 
This involved a session with one class at a time on poems they had already started in class where I offered feedback and suggestions on how they could develop their ideas further.  Again the imagination and feel for image and words was evident throughout.  
It is hoped that some of these poems might be exhibited during the summer in Kelso.

A huge thanks to all the young poets, the teachers and the staff of all the schools involved.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and felt I got so much out of it by working with the young poets, teachers and schools.

Also big thanks to SBC Creative Learning Team within Arts Development in particular Kelsey Jubin for her fantastic work on the booklet and for asking me to participate.

‘Discover Kelso’ is a partnership project between Historic Scotland, SBC Environment and Infrastructure and SBC Creative Learning Team within Arts Development. The project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and the Scottish Borders Council.

More information regarding Kelso THI can be found on the Scottish Borders Council website www.scotborders.gov.uk


Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Reader In Residence: Is it that time already?!


I can't believe we're on the edge of May.  Only two more months, the end of June, and the part of the residency devoted to working with libraries across the Scottish Borders will be  drawing to a close.  The residency continues to the end of September those final three months focussing on my own writing--in this case finishing a play.

I'll be blogging more shortly about what's been happening lately in the residency soon.  In the meantine please have a look at the blog I wrote recently on the Scottish Book Trust website. 

http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/blog/reading/2014/02/readers-in-residence-travels-along-the-story-line

Also available are blogs about the other Readers In Residence posts.

Below a couple of photos from storytelling events! The first one was all about reading stories but also creating them on the spot.  This is the moment the much misunderstood monster The Selkirk Squid emerged from the sea!



Monday, 28 April 2014

WRITING PROCESS



A while back I was asked to write about my writing process by Dorothy Bruce as part of a blog tour.  It’s been a long time coming but here it is.
 Dorothy is a fellow member of the Borders Writers Forum. You can find out more about Dorothy and her writing at  http://www.jingsandthings.wordpress.com
 
1.What am I working on?

I don’t normally like writing or talking too much about what I’m currently working on as it tends to shift and change shape as I write.  Also usually what I’m working on is a number of things.   That is currently the case.  I’ll concentrate on one main project.

This main project is bucking the trend of shifting and changing as I write. More of that later.

I mainly write plays though also poems and short stories.
My main project is a play.

In the recent past my plays both long and short have tended to be monologues. No idea why to tell you the truth except I enjoy the concentration of the story in one person.

After saying that of course my current play, working title Besieged, isn’t a monologue.
It is my attempt at writing a modern classical tragedy in three acts.  In a nutshell it is the story of a man, a modern King (businessman) besieged in his castle (office), by forces both internal and external. I’m currently half way through Act Two. 

It is very unusual that I have such a clear idea of the character and the whole story. I never plan and normally I have some indication of what the story might be about and try to dig away at that by the act of thinking and writing.
I’m aiming to finish the first draft by the end of May.  Fingers crossed!

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is a difficult one as I don’t think of plays as genre or what I write about fits into any particular genre.  I feel my work changes and develops as I write more and more plays.
For instance I have never written a classical three act play before.  A few months ago I wouldn’t even have thought of considering it.  In fact my current and future work I hope will always differ and develop from work I have already done.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I love it.  I love imagining people on stage and the story developing in front of a live audience.  Feeling the electricity of that instant reaction from the audience.  It is nerve wracking no doubt about it.  I don’t know if I really enjoy going to my own plays in that I’m always looking at the play and imagining other ways of doing things!  That speaks I hope to the fact that once a play is completed and by the time it has reached the stage you have moved on as a writer.

 4. How does my writing process work?

Two ways.

--Staring out of windows, watching the TV but not noticing what is on while thinking about the characters and the story.  Working out what happens next inside my head then sitting down when I have a start point for a play or the next piece of dialogue or action.

--If I am stuck either in the middle of a play or have no clear idea of how a new play might start or what it is about I decide to start somewhere and see where that leads. I might have a phrase or an image or a character in mind.  Whatever the case might be I sit down and write and see what happens.  I usually put my character in a particular place and get them moving and see where they go, or get them talking and listen to what they say or who they are talking to.  I might get them to answer the phone, or the door, and see who it is on the line or at the door.

When a clearer picture of the story emerges I start again and go for it!

As part if the blog tour I was to ask three folk to post about their writing process. That as they say is a work in progress!


Thursday, 6 March 2014

World Book Day Ray Bradbury and me!

It's World Book Day today this 6th March and I thought I'd bring you up to date if you don't mind on a busy couple of weeks in Reader In Residence land.

Book groups are flourishing in libraries across the Scottish Borders and in those two weeks I’ve visited a fair number of them. My little car rocking and rolling down this road and up that road to the Rolling Stones Jumping Jack Flash and always my favourite It’s Only Rock and Roll but I like It. 
I’ve stopped off in the libraries in Innerleithen, Peebles and Kelso.  Also at
the book groups taking root in Berwickshire High School and Hawick High School.
Books books and more books discussed and debated over. 
In that short space of time I’ve learned about books totally unknown to me which are now on my reading list. 
That is the thing about book groups with every meeting and visit your world expands.
Most of the books read are new, recently new, or a book like The Talented Mr Ripley which I had never read seemed recent to me.
The effect of the film which I had seen maybe? 
Looking it up I was shocked to discover the film was made in 1999 (never!!) and the book published in 1955. (Get away with you!)

Funny how the mind works shifting some memories forward and others back in time.

Which brings me neatly I hope onto the title of this blog World Book Day Ray Bradbury and me!
In the run up to and in my role as Reader In Residence I’ve been working with the librarian, teachers and pupils from Kelso High School in their build up to their celebrations on the day.   Together we’ve worked on an improvised drama around favourite characters from favourite books.    I’ve also read to the gathered assemblies of first to sixth year excerpts from one of my favourite authors and books.
Yep you’ve guessed it—Ray Bradbury. 
In thinking about what I was going to read I tried this book and that author on for size. Like many things the first instinctive thought that comes into your head tends to be the true thing. 
For me that was Ray Bradbury and his book of short stories The Illustrated Man.  A book published in 1952 but when read feels like it was written today.
I’ve loved this book since I first read it in my teens.  It has remained a lifelong favourite. I've lost count of the number of times I’ve taken it down from my shelves over the years and settled down for hugely imaginative  well told tale. 
In fact when I was looking for it this time for the reading I discovered I had three copies! 
At the assemblies as well as reading an excerpt I explained why I so admired this book and this author. 
For one thing as a writer its the cleverness of the premise of the Illustrated Man himself as a device for linking the stories.  Almost like a modern ‘Once Upon A Time’ with pictures that come to life and after that particular tale is told you turn the page and another image is alive with story.
The imagery vibrantly visual through Bradbury’s language.  Above all was the fact that all this cleverness and rich language never overshadowed the story itself.  They served it.  They were never tricks.  They were never showing off. 
It was writing with a pure imaginative emotionally charge.
That is why it has truly stayed with me all these years.  Like many of his novels and stories do.  That is why it was the first book that popped into my mind when I was asked to read something in the run up and in celebration of World Book Day.
As I said to the assembled pupils and teachers he’s well worth hunting out to rediscover or if you’ve never read him.  
 Give him a go and see what you think.

Did I enjoy myself?  Goes without saying.  They were a brilliant audience.  Thanks to them for listening and for the librarian and staff for asking me to participate.

Today on World Book Day itself  I’ll be back doing something I always fancied doing--acting as a quiz master. This will in the school’s special World Book Day literary quiz.
What a responsibility!  Should be fun. 
It’ll be interesting to see how many of the questions I would have got right without the answers in front of me of course!

That was going to be me for now but as I write I’ve just spotted another Ray Bradbury book above my desk.
Zen in the Art of Writing.
A book you’ve gathered I keep close.
It’s a book of essays.  As it says on the blurb on the back.   eleven exuberant essays on the pleasures of writing…’       
It’s a gem of a book wise and practical as well as entertaining.
I’m away to dip into it one more time starting with Investing Dimes: Fahrenheit 451.’  Now there’s another interesting book that seems like it was written today!

Like visiting or being a member of a book group one book leads to another.