Notebooks

notebooks

All my used notebooks. 2006-2014

My favourite to use was the Leuchtturm1917 (dotted paper). They were the most writer-friendly – having page numbers, an indexing system, a good pocket at the back, and the last few pages are perforated for occasions where a small child is having a hissy fit in a crowded cafe because they have crayons but no paper (yes this has happened to me)

 

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Writing to White Noise

A little over a week ago a few members of our illustrious group of Storyslingers met up at the local public house with the intention of hammering out some words on our respective stories in a relaxed atmosphere, surrounded by like-minded and creatively inspiring support.

I’ve never been one to write on command, it’s always had to be when the mood and inspiration have taken hold of me, but I didn’t go there with a lack of ideas. I had things I knew I could write, that I had to write, and yet nothing was happening. It was frustrating to be sat there, nursing my orange juice and lemonade and staring at the open Word document on my laptop all the while my fellow ‘slingers tapping away at their keyboards and talking of a 1000 words noted.

So what was happening that was preventing me from writing? I believe it was the pub itself, and the distraction it was providing. For me, it was the wrong type of background noise.

When I write, as infrequent as that may sometimes be, and I am producing a serious volume of output there is always some background noise. Some people make playlists of particularly inspiring pieces of music, or songs that are acting as a soundtrack to the stories they are writing.

I remember reading an interview with the late and great Iain M. Banks where he said he had once written with a James Bond movie on in the background because he was so familiar with it he didn’t have to pay it such attention. It became like a white noise that filled the air as he wrote but didn’t distract him.  While I would never dream of comparing myself to him, I feel very much the same way – only for me it’s not James Bond movies (as much as I am accustomed to them as well) but television. Most comedies, American sitcoms, either on DVD where there are up to 8 episodes on a disc or whatever is on Comedy Central during the day. Heavily edited episodes of Two and a Half Men usually.

For me it’s not about getting inspiration from these shows as I write, but about the ease and familiarity they provide that allow me to write without the feeling of frustration that I had felt at the pub.

So what is your white noise when you are writing, or do you like to be distracted and tested when you do?

Author Interview: Tony Benge

Tony Benge has been writing plays on and off for twenty years. He has had plays commissioned by the Library Theatre Manchester, Contact Youth Theatre, Salford Metropolitan Borough, Radio 4 Drama, Oldham Coliseum, and Lifeline Manchester, plus four short audio plays for Manchester Open Learning. He is also a trained Drama therapist. And he was kind enough to answer some questions about writing for Storyslingers.

Hi, Tony. Thank you for talking to us. First, please tell us about what you write, and what you’re working on at the moment.

I write plays for performance. I’ve just complete a first draft of THE COLOUR OF GRIEF a play about combat veterans in an art therapy session in which the Combat Veterans Theatre in London have expressed an interest.

Do you plot your stories, or are you more of a seat-of-the-pants writer? Can you tell us about the process of beginning a story?

Ideas come mostly from what I know, feel and see. For the COLOUR OF GRIEF I used my training as a drama therapist and much earlier as a painter.  I was also inspired by seeing the Lee Hall play THE PITMAN PAINTERS.

Is there anything you particularly find challenging when working on a new piece?

Trying to make sense during that early oceanic state when loads of images, hunches, possible characters, scene fragments, snatches of dialogue/monologue often bizarre which plague me while I’m trying to sleep.

How do you manage your creative time alongside your work/daily life?

Writing is predominantly my daily life.

Criticism is virtually impossible to avoid when you’re putting things out for public consumption. What are some of the toughest criticisms you’ve dealt with, and how have they helped (or hindered) you in the long-run?

Many years ago having just had my first play professionally performed in Manchester and receiving an enthusiastic response, I sent an extended version of it to the Royal Court in London. Their verdict: It will take you a long time to write a proper drama. Yes of course it hurt but I still wrote what I thought were plays and they still got professionally performed. But I also now know exactly what the Court meant and I’m still trying to write a really proper drama.

A lot of new authors go into writing and publishing wearing rose-tinted glasses, but the industry is rarely as smooth sailing as it seems from the outside. What are some of your biggest disillusionments with writing and/or publishing?

The certain knowledge that there are so many far more intelligent, skilled, talented AND MUCH YOUNGER writers than me out there … damn it!

Tell us about some of your biggest influences? Which writers have inspired you throughout your career, and what lessons have you taken from their work?

Changes all the time depending on what I’m reading. Currently it’s PIAF by Pam Gems which I’ve only just started as research preparation for a play I’m planning.

And finally, what’s on the creative horizon for you? Are there any projects you’re working on right now that you’d like to talk about?

Currently very enthusiastic about a Wiltshire artist whose short but exotic life might just make a play. But it’s very early days and may come to absolutely nothing.

Thank you so much for your time!

Author Interview: Sue Ashby

Sue Ashby is a writer, playwright, script writer and also co-directs the Dorset Writers’ Network which aims to support and encourage writers from across Dorset. She was recently kind enough to answer some questions for us at Storyslingers.

Welcome, Sue! First, can you tell us about what you write, and what you’re working on at the moment?

I have written poetry, short stories (children’s story published by Scholastic in WOW 366 anthology), and a teenage novel unpublished because there’s too much sex in it! My first love was playwriting and I had 4 Afternoon Theatres BBC Radio 4 transmitted, episodes of Families and Coronation Street, was a story liner on Families, and had 10+ plays produced for professional theatre in and around Manchester.

Currently I am writing Bride Ship, a full-length play about the forced emigration of young women to British Columbia during the 1862 recession to provide wives for prospecting gold miners.

Do you plot your stories, or are you more of a seat-of-the-pants writer? Can you tell us about the process of beginning a story?

As a former TV storyliner I do plot my dramas and also plotted my novel although it was very much visually/location-led. Often with a short story I know I have a limited word count so a tight structure is important. I love it when characters in a drama start to take control and take me somewhere I hadn’t dreamt of going…

Is there anything you particularly find challenging when working on a new piece?

Giving myself enough time for total immersion. Finding characters’ voices. Writing for theatre requires big bold images and working towards those moments is always a challenge.

How do you manage your creative time alongside your work/daily life?

I work hard raising funding for various organisations like DWN and Juno Theatre. so sometimes I’m up against a deadline which takes my eye off the ball.

Criticism is virtually impossible to avoid when you’re putting things out for public consumption. What are some of the toughest criticisms you’ve dealt with, and how have they helped (or hindered) you in the long-run?

I prefer to use the word ”feedback”. Having belonged to many writers’ groups over the years I have greatly benefited from being part of a reading and writing community. I have experienced nothing but creative growth from working with producers, directors, dramaturgs and my MA group at Bath Spa. Of course it is important to give fair feedback from a position of goodwill and wanting to support other writers – e.g. saying what works in the piece before what doesn’t.

A lot of new authors go into writing and publishing wearing rose-tinted glasses, but the industry is rarely as smooth sailing as it seems from the outside. What are some of your biggest disillusionments with writing and/or publishing?

It has got harder over the years to sell plays or get commissions – as the business became more and more producer-led. (I had a lot of success in the 1980’s through to 2000 mainly in Manchester, the North West and Northern Ireland.) That was very much to do with a writer-led community that was well-resourced by North West Arts. Now I’m finding a resurgence of that energy in writing for theatre in Salisbury and surrounding districts, supported by theatre practitioners in the south west. I’m very committed to theatre because it gives that opportunity to write, get a group of actors together and just do it either at the developmental or completed stages. Somehow writers can be more in control. Just as we can through self-publishing e-books.

Tell us about some of your biggest influences? Which writers have inspired you throughout your career, and what lessons have you taken from their work?

I’m a great fan of YA fiction – David Almond, Julia Green, Linda Newbury (YA writers). I recently saw amazing plays by prize-winning women playwrights Lolita Chakrabarti, Lucy Kirkwood, Lynn Nottage & Jessica Swale. Juno Theatre is an all women’s theatre company redressing the imbalance of women in the theatre (writers, designers, directors); only 17% of plays produced in London are by women (even less in the provinces).

You are one of the founders of the Dorset Writers’ Network, an invaluable project to writers from all walks of life in the Dorset area. Care to talk a little bit about it? How did it come about, and what have been some of the highlights in running the DWN?

I ran a project called Making Connections: writing for health & well-being where I set up three workshop sessions in 15 different venues across Dorset – many in rural communities. And out of this came a core of writing groups who wanted to carry on running their sessions after receiving some training. Then we got £10K from the lottery and spent a year running networking sessions to find out what members wanted, three training days and lots of author events always with the emphasis being experiential.

Highlights: A Publishing Day in Dorchester, workshops with Nell Leyshon & Sarah Duncan which were so well attended, working with two groups of young adults with learning disabilities for the first time and loving it, and seeing so many groups take off (often for different reasons – friendship, therapy, developing writing skills to the point of publication) and still together today.

And finally, what’s on the creative horizon for you? Are there any projects you’re working on right now that you’d like to talk about?

I’m getting my play Bride Ships out there soon and if no-one takes it up I’m planning to go to Edinburgh with it next year. I’m completing a two-hander and sending that out and writing short plays for various theatre and fringe events.
Plus getting the next DWN development – Dorset’s Digital Stories – on the road.

Thank you so much for chatting to us today!

If you’d like to find out more about the Dorset Writers’ Network’s upcoming events, check out their blog.