To Be Undone

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I talked about writing a play in a previous post, forgive me, I can’t find which one of my rambles it was in, but you might remember I’d applied for funding for it and hadn’t got it and was gutted. Following this I decided to get up at five am everyday and carve time out to write the play, because I’m a great believer in making time, rather than finding time. Only, when I sat down to write the bloody thing, the thing that I had literally spent months planning, an entirely new, unplanned play came out. I’d had an idea for the new play months previously but had thought no more about it, because I had other projects on including the other play which was the one I’d already put so much work into.

The new play is called To Be Undone. I’m very proud of it. Writing it was an incredible experience because it felt entirely fluid and natural, in the way that writing poetry is for me. Previously when play writing, I’d not experienced that feeling of confidence and knowing how to make it work and knowing my characters inside out. But like with any skill, doing it and making mistakes and finding out why something didn’t work is the only way in which you improve.  I loved writing this play, and it felt like a real turning point in how I was developing as a playwright. While I was writing it, every time I stopped writing it, it would sort of continue in my head, I could see the characters and hear them and imagine them on the set, going about their business. My brain was obviously just getting on with it, even when I wasn’t physically writing it.

Play writing is something that I’ve wanted to do for a few years, in fact I have been working on it for years, honing my skills, but this is the first play I’ve submitted to actual theatres. I don’t know why this felt like the right time, but when I finished the script I was so happy with it that I decided to start submitting it.  Submitting the play was exhilarating and exciting, the sort of exhilarating feeling that submitting a collection to a publisher feels like. And to my utter delight, my local theatre, my favourite theatre, got back to me. Although they couldn’t commission it, they wanted to use it as part of an event called Second Stage, in which they showcase emerging and established writers by having an in hand script reading by professional actors. I wanted to just share with you how wonderful this feels, that my play, my five am, hard won writing is being taken seriously, is being performed on a stage. I’ve become quite afraid that I’ll jinx it somehow so I’m not going to say too much about it, except that if you are a theatre company and you’d like to know more, and would like an invitation to the reading, please get in touch! I’ll be talking more about it in the future, and hoping there will be more news on it. Here’s the link to the event:

Stephen Joseph Second Stage


Just to see my name on that list gives me goosebumps, it’s one of those small-big breaks that happen when you’re breaking into an industry and it’s my first with script writing, so it just feels very special. I’m waffling because I’m just so excited. I expect it will be a bit strange to go along to the theatre where I often review plays for Northern Soul and for The Stage to see my own work performed. I can’t wait!

One of the reasons that I’m so happy about it is because after finishing (still to finish the final version actually) the last collection which is so very very personal, I’d started to feel that I had fallen into a bit of a sink hole in which I would only have my work treated seriously if it was challenging and personal, which as you can imagine is quite emotionally draining. This play isn’t about me, it’s not about my life experiences and though all writing has a bit of yourself in it because writing is life depicted through your own filter, it isn’t my heart being opened up and examined. I don’t have to present my trauma to anyone with this, it’s just my writing, and me just being a writer. It feels like moving forward. Also, it’s a drama comedy. Yes, comedy. Me, writing comedy. I mean, the play is quite dark in places too, because that’s how I write and there’s no getting around that, but it has comedy in it. It’s a relief to know that I am a good writer, or at least a writer who can be taken seriously, outside of my own personal experiences, outside my own darkness. I’m extremely happy about it all and cannot wait to see what the actor reading the part will bring to it.

Apologies for the enormous waffle, but I am just so EXCITED.

I’ve been swamped with work, recently, lots of things are happening at the minute which means I’ve had to make some big changes too. I’ve done a variety of unpaid roles for quite a long time, and this week I felt I was starting to let people down because, obviously, I have to prioritise paid work over unpaid work. The brilliant thing is that I am getting enough paid work now, I feel I have a sustainable living, but this means I can’t give what I need to to some of the unpaid roles. I took the decision to drop my role as poetry correspondent for Northern Soul, though I will still be doing some reviews and bits and pieces and I’ll be writing the Christmas poem for them. Helen Nugent, the editor at Northern Soul has done an amazing thing with it, it’s acted as a spring board for so many northern writers, so I owe her a huge debt of thanks for using my work, and I have loved my time with the team.  Celebrating Northern culture is very important to me, and writing for Helen has been a brilliant opportunity, but I think it’s time for someone else to have that opportunity now, and I’m going to help Helen find my replacement. If you’re interested in writing articles, reviews, getting involved in the poetry scene of the north, especially around manchester way, drop me a line.

For the last few weeks I’ve been working on a client’s manuscript which needed significant changes made to it before it is submitted for publication. This was quite a difficult job, and I’m always a bit nervous sending something with big changes back to the client, but she absolutely loves what I’ve done and it feels very collaborative. I’m excited to see where this goes next.  It’s children’s historical fiction so slightly out of my comfort zone, but it’s been a genuinely pleasant experience to work in another genre. I’ve also been reading submissions for Dream Catcher too and have had my first real experience of sending rejections out as well as acceptances. It’s been quite challenging to get to grips with the process as I took over from another editor, but I feel I’m finding my feet now and we’ve updated some of the system too, so hopefully this will get things moving quicker. The next issue is going to be absolutely cracking with a strong voice and robust work right through. I’m hoping to organise a Scarborough launch as well as a York launch for that one, something with guest readers and an open mic and possibly some local music in the intermission.

And finally, the thing that I’m working on right now is…..sigh…..another Arts Council England funding bid. I have to say, it’s going really well and I haven’t cried over it yet, though I have drunk more gin this week while I’ve been working out budgets, contacting people and venues, getting advice and making phone calls. It’s shaping up well and my plan this time round is, unless I’m told there is something terribly flawed with it, to keep submitting it when it’s turned down.  I had a brilliantly helpful chat with the northern rep. for ACE this week, who gave me some very practical advice. But you just never really know what will appeal with ACE. At some point I’m hoping to crack what feels like a mysterious code to unlock the opportunities available. One of the worst things about the project application is the amount of time it takes to physically do, it will take at least a week of full time work on it to get it written and everything worked out, and then there will be alterations while I pencil in confirmed partners and that sort of thing. It’s a weird situation because you have to have the project ready to go if they say yes, but then that all just dies when they say no, so you can’t have anything definitely confirmed, but they do like you to have confirmed partners and venues etc. This makes it a sort of strange and nerve wracking hinterland of a project. This time round I am submitting the application a full year before I intend the project to start, so that I have plenty of time to change anything and resubmit. I’ve said so many times that I find this whole process painful and stressful, but in all honesty it’s so difficult to launch an arts based project these days as councils and local sources just don’t have any budget to pay artists anymore, if you want to push forward in a new direction and you need to be able to fund that, this is really the only way. Keep everything crossed, please, thank you!

The next week will be taken up with the funding application, followed by two weeks of making the final changes to the new poetry manuscript, which I’m expecting to be a bit emotionally draining, but it needs doing so we can get it out and on the shelves and I can start the promotion for it for real.

I feel like my life is opening up to all sorts of possibilities right now, it’s a good, good feeling.


take care


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