Summer/Autumn/Winter 2021

Well, if my earlier post Winter 2020/Spring 2021 was all about writing my episode of Tales from Malory Towers, then Summer 2021 was when I got to hear it for the first time. 

Hearing your words out loud for the first time is always wonderful.  

Whether that be in a rehearsal room for stage, or through my headphones on the BBC Sounds app. Both glorious, both nerve-wracking, but also bloody marvellous. Writing is such a lonely beast, but the exciting part is when the script is handed over for collaborators to do their jobs. 

I was at work when I received the email that informed me that Malory Towers was now live. I grabbed my phone and headphones and found an empty classroom so I could listen to it all on my own. I didn’t want any distractions spoiling my first listen. 

To say that I was over the moon with the production is an understatement. I was incredibly proud and still am satisfied with The Bomb. If only I could time-travel and visit Clayton Green library, where nine-year-old me used to sit and read the Malory Towers books. I would tell her that one day she’ll write her own story for Irene, Jean and Gwendoline. It would be played out on the BBC and lots of youngsters would also love that school and those girls like she did. 

Younger me would never believe it. Writing was something that only posh people could do. Not people who live on Clayton Brook estate. It should never have been like that. 

Straight from delivering my Malory Towers script, I sought what I hoped would be another writing commission. I was invited to pitch for an audio story. After months of finessing my treatment, I was given the go-ahead late in the year to go to script. Watch this space. 

In November, I took part in a 48 Hour Filmmaking challenge at 53 Two in Manchester. Six directors, six writers, many actors, a prop and a line of dialogue were the key ingredients for cooking up a short film. We met at 7pm on a Friday night, and by 7pm on Sunday night, we watched the screening of the six films made. It was a hoot. My film is called Through the Keyhole, which can be viewed here. Ours was a small team, two actresses. My personal goal was to ensure that these actresses had a fun script to perform and that I wanted to hear laughter in the screening. Covid was a tough time, and I hadn’t heard collective live laughter in years. Mission accomplished.

A huge personal upheaval for me came in June 2021 when I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I wrote about it here on Medium, but this has been a big upheaval emotionally and mentally. It took a number of months to fully process the diagnosis, followed by an intense grieving period.  

Having the diagnosis has meant that I now understand why many things are difficult for me to do. From a creative point of view, one of those things is my inability to write during my lunch break. Many of my friends can do this. I would love to be able to do this, but it’s always been a struggle. Now I know why. My job has evolved, but it’s pretty much a data processing job now, and that sort of work exhausts a neurodivergent brain. So, instead of being frustrated with me, I now understand that it is nothing to do with ambition or drive. I just cannot switch tasks as easy as neurotypical brains. And that is okay. 

The same with writing projects. The amount of conversations that I have where writers are able to juggle multiple projects astounds me. I can focus on one at a time.  

I’ve berated myself for the past 14 years, constantly comparing myself with others. What a waste of energy that was. Whilst the diagnosis has been tough in a number of ways, one thing that is positive is I’m kinder to myself and stop pushing myself to exhaustion in order to keep up with everyone else. 

Winter 2020/Spring 2021

It’s always wonderful to reflect, and that is one skill that I am good at – reflecting on little wins which I might not have sung about at the time. It’s important to take stock of accomplishments as well as rejections. Fact is, that writing generally comes with more rejections.

In the Winter of 2020 I received one of those joyful emails that only come around once in a blue moon.

I’d been invited to apply for a BBC Writersrom call-out. I was made up to be offered the opportunity to apply to be honest, but it was a short turnaround to send a script plus all the accompanying materials to support the application which are answers to a number of questions etc. I find those question and answer things tough. I never know what to say with them. You don’t want to appear too confident but also don’t want to sound like an amateur. I overthink every single one of those call-outs.

Turns out if you contract the delta variant of Covid and are very poorly, you don’t overthink anything as your brain is as foggy as mornings in San Francisco Bay.

I was delighted to receive the email notifying me that I was being offered a place on the BBC CBBC New Voices Festival in the November of 2020.

Two whole days of back to back industry panels, workshops and the opportunity to pitch for a number of CBBC commissions. It was a fantastic festival, and I was thankful for it being online as I was still suffering from covid. In fact that first infection took 5 months to fully recover from.

I applied for a couple of commissions on kids TV shows, and a new podcast for Malory Towers to accompany the television series.

It was the Malory Towers one that I wanted more than anything. I was a huge fan of the books as I grew up. Spending Saturdays in Clayton Green library reading all about Darryl, Gwen and Mary-Lou. And audio is a medium I feel so comfortable writing for. The many episodes I’d written for ALL FM’s soap ‘Station Road a number of years earlier had made their mark on me as I found visualising storytelling in sound rather than pictures something those weekly read-throughs of Station Road had ingrained in me.

So I set to work and watched series one of Malory Towers on CBBC. I took notes of all the characters, their flaws, how they spoke, their relationships and I re-visited the original books by Enid Blyton. I sent two pitches for that show and crossed my fingers over Christmas that I might get one of them.

I could not believe it when the acceptance email came back from BBC Writersroom to say that my pitch for ‘The Bomb’ had been chosen as one of the twelve. Like I said, writing is mostly being rejected unless you’re a big name like Sally Wainwright or Danny Brocklehurst (although they probably still receive the odd rejection to a pitch). The idea for The Bomb came from our opening episode of Station Road where an unexploded bomb is found in the local park. We used it as a tool to introduce characters quickly. I had this concept of Irene finding a bomb in the school grounds and I also had a strong image of Gwendoline’s brush being thrown out of a bedroom window with a lacrosse stick. All I needed now was a story.

This leads onto Spring 2021 where I found myself writing a treatment and three drafts of The Bomb for King Bert Productions. I enjoyed every second of the process. Audio is a dream for me. I’ve been a huge fan of radio drama since listening to it whilst doing my MA. Then I discovered podcasts in 2014 on a train heading down to London Screenwriters Festival and listened to this new show that people were starting to talk about called Serial. I was hooked. This medium of storytelling felt fresh, exciting and full of possibilities.

At the same time as writing The Bomb, I was also working full-time and in the last months of my two-year PGCE. So many deadlines and pressures around that time which is when I discovered London Writers Salon‘s Writers Hour. It was simple, turn up on zoom and write for 50 minutes alongside writers from all over the world. It was and still is a fantastic accountability partner. I turned up for their 8am and 1pm Writers Hour over two months whilst I got my draft 2 and final draft written for Malory Towers.

We were also still suffering with covid lockdowns over this period too. Thank goodness that I could lose myself at Malory Towers for a couple of hours a day. It was way more fun hanging out with Irene and Jean than it was watching Boris’ daily covid briefings.