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Spring 2018

Greetings and I can’t believe that we’re half-way through the year already. Time certainly flies. And what glorious seasonal weather that we’ve been having in dear old Blighty.

I’m the first to admit that I love the heat-wave that has graced us recently. There is something very European about being able to read and eat breakfast whilst sitting in the garden. So I took exception to all the moaners on social media who were praying for some rain.

Come and live in Manchester if you want rain. This city usually never stops. Anyway they got what they wanted as I’m writing this post with the weather having turned and Manchester being back to its familiar, drizzly self.

April

I was excited to attend a three-day scriptwriting workshop at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Writing school led by playwright Simon Stephens.

Being taught by Simon was the main reason that I booked onto the workshop in the first place, and he didn’t disappoint. A wealth of knowledge and experience oozed from his very being.  I learnt several new approaches to writing from Simon, and I particularly enjoyed his writing prompts which he’d start the day off with.

Creative juices flowed and I adopted a similar method when I taught a masterclass in creating characters during May.

May

The opportunity to teach the masterclass in creating characters was given to me by Alty Word Fest, a brand new writing festival in Altrincham. Each of the delegates left the session having created brand new characters and hopefully a new enthusiasm for writing.

Most people who know me know about my lifelong love affair with Coronation Street, so I was delighted to be asked to co-present a talk at Salford Museum and Art Gallery as part of their Tony Warren exhibition.

Myself and a colleague discussed the role of villains of Coronation Street and listed the top eight. We couldn’t have planned it better if we had tried as it was the same week that Corrie was running its demise of Pat Phelan week long episodes. It was pure fluke that the timing was perfect as we were booked back in October 2017.

June was a very busy writing month as I frantically wrote a second draft of my new theatre play that I’m writing as part of the Liverpool Everyman Playwright Programme.

img_1937I decided to hold a read-through with three professional actresses to hear it read out loud and make copious amounts of notes to help with the editing. There is never a short cut when it comes to writing. Getting to the end of a first draft is an accomplishment in itself but then beginning re-writes is a whole other ballgame.

I also began to develop a brand new radio play which I took to my online script development workshops in June. Beginning new writing projects is always exciting and this piece will certainly be challenging for me.

img_2052Finally, some life writing that I submitted as part of Manchester Womens Words project was displayed in Central Library Manchester at the end of June. I felt absolutely privileged to have my work included with other outstanding pieces of writing by incredible women across the city.

On top of all of that I started running again which is instrumental in maintaining a good mental health state for me. Parkrun 5k races have been incredibly motivating for me and I’ve just completed my fifteenth as I write this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter 2017

Big news: I completed my #100daysofwriting challenge which I started just before New Years Eve and I’ve written a separate blog https://sarahcassidy.net/2018/04/18/challenge-100daysofwriting/

January – and what better way to start 2018 than joining a new writing group called Writers Support Group. I love many things about this group; it caters for writers at all levels, it is flexible so you can just turn up, the group is a mix of actors/writers which is incredibly beneficial for script reads and each week there are different writing exercises to do. In fact, the new play that I have just started working on was sparked from one of those exercises.

Speaking of writers groups.  I attended a weekend writers retreat at Whalley Abbey with another writing group that I’ve been part of since I finished my MA and that is the outstanding Scriptwriting North. Spending three days in a relaxing, tranquil Abbey in Lancashire was a perfect setting to write with no interruptions or distractions (photo @scriptsnorth) .

I began teaching a beginners playwriting course at my local library in January. A six-week absolute beginners programme that I’d written for people who live in Wythenshawe. What a wonderfully, fulfilling six-weeks it was. A perfect introduction to teaching for me, and one which I would like to develop further later in the year.

February – and I attended a magnificent celebratory evening at Manchester’s Central Library for the Suffragette Tea Party organised by Manchester Women’s Words. Cucumber sandwiches, cake and tea hosted in a room fit to burst with incredible females. Spoken word artists, singers, actors and musicians all came together to celebrate 100 years since the vote for women was rolled out to a few. I felt incredibly privileged to even be there, let alone sip tea with novelists, poets, teachers and even the the Mayor of Manchester.

Speaking of tea. I met with one of organisers of Altrincham Word Fest in a Didsbury tea shop to discuss becoming involved in this years festival. One of the most enjoyable parts of scriptwriting for me is the creation of characters. I use a number of processes when developing characters which I’ll be displaying in my workshop at the festival.

March – and it was a busy month for me as my Everyman deadline whooshed by. Slight relief to let it breathe for a couple of months until it has a read through. Read about how that went in my Spring blog post.

I also attended a storylining workshop for a well known continuing drama show. A brilliant experience at how stories are created and developed. And even more thrilling was that I got to see inside the new studios. Pulling a pint in the Rovers to selling a copy of the Weatherfield Gazette at The Kabin. As a lifelong  fan it was a magnificent treat to tour the studios and see where it all happens.

The last bit of news is that I’m now reading scripts for two Manchester theatre companies which I am thrilled about as I enjoy reading new writing.

I’ve been reading a lot of play texts too. My top three winter reads are:

1) Girls and Boys by Dennis Kelly

2) And No More Shall We Part by Tom Holloway

3) Pomona by Alistair McDowall

Coming up in Spring 2018

Character Workshop at Altrincham Word Fest on Sunday 13 May 2018

Coronation Street Villains at Salford Art Gallery on Wednesday 23 May 2018

Challenge #100daysofwriting

As 2017 drew to an end, an important deadline for me was rapidly approaching.

By the beginning of March 2018 I had to hand in the first draft of a new play which I was writing as part of the Liverpool Everyman Theatre’s Playwright Programme.

What was terrifying me as I was tucking into my Christmas dinner, was that I had no story, no characters, no theme and no bloody idea what the hell I was going to write.

And anything that I do write has to planned meticulously.

I’m not one of those writers that can just let their keyboard run wild. I need to know who my characters are, what is their story, what are their flaws, how their flaws drive the story, what happens at the mid-point blah blah structure blah.

A lot of writers hate structure. I don’t. I love it. Which is why I was panicking whilst chewing on a sprout. I had nothing. And in nine weeks time I had to hand in a first draft.

Shit! I needed to find some motivation and inspiration. And quickly.

I’d stumbled across Jenn Ashworth’s novels as we are both originally from Preston. Last year Jenn publically talked about fear and her writers block on social media. She set herself a #100daysofwriting challenge which I’d discovered when she was mid-way through.

I liked the sound of it though. A simple and gentle approach to falling back in love with writing.

No obligation on word count, time or anything else. Just turn up. I could try that.

Actually, more than that. Knowing myself and how I hate failing. I knew that I would do more than try. I would totally get on board with it through to day 100, or I would never have started it.

So, I began my own #100daysofwriting with the prime goal to be to turn up everyday and work on the new stageplay. 

Some days I managed a line of dialogue, other days I would write pages. Often I would encounter difficulties as balancing writing with a full-time job is always a challenge.

But however large or small the words were. It didn’t matter. As long as I was present – every day.

And documenting the achievement by photographs on social media was also something to consider. I do most of my writing in my loft, but I didn’t want each photo to be the same.

It was always a bonus when I wrote away from the house.

Whether it be a café, library, lunch break in work or the wonderful Writers Room at the Everyman. I kept my instafeed posts full of colour, even if it was just me. Or a keyboard. Or a cup of tea and and a keyboard. Or one of the cats. Or one of the cats sitting on the keyboard with a cup of tea. Or both of the cats.

#100daysofwriting gave me the focus to write the first draft of my new play ‘Chums’, but it’s also given me more than that.

It’s made me invigorated by the process of writing and especially writing with a pen again. #so1980s

Why not have a go yourself and see what you can do in 100 days?

Farewell 2017

A belated happy new year if you are reading this.

One of my goals for 2018 is to blog every quarter.

I’ve been checking out other writers websites to see what content they generally post.

Firstly, because I’m dead nosy and secondly that I’ve become quite militant with my writing time. I’ll divulge more about that when I post about my current regime of #100daysofwriting.

I enjoy reading what my fellow writers have been up to each two to three months of the year. So, I’ll be trying hard to do that too.

First update will be posted during the early few days of April.

Now I need to get off my ass and do stuff that I can write about. Plus I need to emerge with a bang from the post-Christmas hibernation that seems to be calling me during these cold, wintery nights.

But in the meantime, I thought that I would write about 2017 as it proved to be filled with a few highs and a lot of lows.

January 2017 began with a meeting with a television production company as a result of a script that I sent to a producer there. It was a good experience for me, but at the time I had nothing to pitch for the telly. I’ve been concentrating my writing on radio and stage. But, every meeting is a valuable contact who when the time is right I will go back to.

In February I was invited to a second storylining workshop for a well known northern continuing drama series. It was a joy to sit in a room for a whole day and talk about the soap, the characters and then write a story document. I received excellent feedback on the back of it and found the whole experience to be super-productive for me.

I also spent a week in Spain with three other female writer friends which was one of the best things I’ve done. There was something truly magical about being with amazing women and I came away from it a much better person.

At the beginning of April I received one of those rejections which completely floored me. The writing life is one hundred rejections to one yes, okay that might be slightly exaggerated but you get the idea. I can’t even remember what this one was as I submit my work to so many outlets.  But the blow was tough and I remember taking a couple of weeks away from writing and wondering whether to keep going.

Then I received a wonderful email from a radio producer which changed my mind and thrust me back into my creative world. Someone liked my work and invited me in for a chat. The discussions are still ongoing as I write so I won’t divulge too much on here, but the rarity of a yes to something does give a writer a sense of validation.

July was a huge month for me. My stageplay Bleeding with Mother was in the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival and it was a bloody brilliant production. I retained the original cast members and brought in Emma Bird as director who is talented, friendly and absolutely delivered the story that was in my head when I wrote the play several years ago. It was my debut as a producer which was challenging at times. However, it was great to be in charge of production as I wanted it to be as professional as possible. We even got nominated for Best Drama at the Greater Manchester Fringe Awards, and I got runner-up for Best New Writing.

Three days after the curtain went down on Bleeding with Mother, I went on a three week road trip to USA. From rehearsal rooms in Manchester to driving down the Pacific West Coast Highway. Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, LA and Vegas were some of the stops. Highlight was visiting Santa Cruz (aka Santa Carla in The Lost Boys) and even better for me that my boys were equally as geeky about visiting it.

I loved the outdoor camping in Washington state. Picturesque lakes, trees and little towns. I wasn’t so keen on LA and Vegas where I felt there was something missing. A soul perhaps.

In September I was shortlisted, interviewed and given a place on the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Playwright’s Programme. A 12 month development with this fabulous theatre which was co-incidently the first time I’d gone to a theatre as a 17 year old A’level English Literature student.

I also participated in Hyde Festival Theatre‘s 24 Hour Plays. On a cold, dark Friday night I drove to Hyde at 10pm to meet four actors and four props. I then went home and wrote through the night to produce a 15 minute play. The script was delivered at 8am and the actors rehearsed through the day and performed to a packed out audience that night. What a rollercoaster that was. I was having nightmares for the week before the event. I kept dreaming that I would fall asleep at the keyboard and have nothing to present in the morning. Luckily, it was all good on the night thanks to strong coffee and haribo starmix.

October saw me back in London and observing a real-life writers room experience which was superb. It’s made me even more determined to keep doing what I love to do.

The remainder of the year was mostly reading and being all consumed by a busy day job. Thankfully a rested Christmas brought with it some much needed down-time to start writing a new play. Watch this space.

Countdown to the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival

Hello world.

The first blog post carries with it so much pressure.

Be witty, say something outstanding, be different, make a bold statement.

Here’s the ‘bold statement’ then.

I have exciting news.

My fantastic, funereal farce Bleeding with Mother is part of this years Greater Manchester Fringe Festival.

BWM revised May 2017 poster

We open on the 4th July at 7pm at Theatre 53Two. The hottest new theatre space in the city of Manchester, and the perfect location to resurrect ‘Mother’

Following on from the success of the previous production last year, I am delighted to have obtained the original cast.

Excitingly, director Emma Bird is a welcome recruit to the Bleeding team fresh from directing our very own Randall (Pete Gibson) in his monologue performed in North West Wonders.

Rehearsals began this weekend so please come back to my website as I’ll ensure that I keep you up to date. This year I have the added pressure of producer so if it all goes wrong……well that’ll be the plot for the next play that I write.

It would be wonderful to see as many people as possible for our Bleeding fantastic show.

Performances are on Tuesday 4th July, Wednesday 5th July and Thursday 6th July at 7pm. To buy them click here.

There will also be limited copies of the playtext available to purchase on the night.

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