Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Article of the moment

I stumbled on an old but brilliant article on theatre reviewing versus theatre criticism: http://parabasis.typepad.com/blog/2005/05/part_ii_theater.html

In it, Isaac Butler says:

We are facing a dearth of theater criticism. Theater reviewing, on the other hand, is alive and well. By “reviewing” I mean the simple practice of consuming an art object and reporting back for us all to see whether or not you thought it was good. This is essentially what almost all mainstream theater writing is today.

He also says:

Why can’t theater artists review plays? Authors can do it. John Updike reviews books for the New Yorker, why couldn’t Edward Albee review plays for Harper’s? I’m not sure the answer to this question, but I know that no one really wants to do it. And that’s a pity, because we have a rich tradition of theater artists giving theater criticism as well (Shaw, for example).

It makes me think it may be possible to keep reviewing while writing and submitting plays. But I'm not so sure. Every time I write a review that is negative I can hear a nail being hammered into the coffin that will bury my playwright aspirations if I'm not careful.

It's a tricky one. I feel priveleged to be a theatre reviewer. (And I'm aware that I'm a reviewer and not a critic.) I love going to the theatre. I love reading plays and seeing them. I like thinking about them and writing about them. I hate second guessing myself and wondering what companies will think of my reviews. I try not to let self interest get in the way of the review. (For instance, I reviewed August Moon just before the judging of the Premier's Awards and was very aware that QTC's Artistic Director was on the judging panel. But I couldn't lie. Couldn't pretend the show was anything more than it was.)

And writing reviews helps supplement my income so that I can spend more time doing what I love best - which is writing. But I think I may have to give it up because of the constant conflict of interest. It's a tricky one. I'm in a quandry.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Rosie Future

The new play is well on the way and it's looking rosy. Very rosy.

Time for a little bit of background ...

Danielle Wood published Rosie Little's Cautionary Tales for Girls in 2006. It's a novel about a young woman named Rosie who meets a fair few wolves on her adventures in the woods. It uses fairy stories as metaphors and has beautiful poetic language and I've been commissioned to adapt it into a play.

Yeehah! My first commission.

I read the book before I said yes. I needed to love it. Needed to be able to see ways to make it theatrical. Needed to feel it could be staged. When all those conditions were met, I said a very excited yes to the project.

And now I'm in finding my way through a new land, a land that's been chartered by someone else. I'm following her map and it's clear and the landscape is vivid. But what's most exciting for me is the little detours I can see, the places I can explore that she passed over. Ways for me to travel Danielle's road and make the journey my own.

What I want is for the play to evoke the same feelings the book does, to tell similar stories but to do them in a theatrical way. I want people who see the play to leave amazed that it came from a book because it feels so natural and so right as a play.

It's a big job and an exciting one.

It doesn't have to be the end.

I had been thinking that, now the awards are over and the winner's been announced, I would have to stop posting to this blog. But I've realised this doesn't have to be the end.

I have just finished the first draft of a new play (a very rough first draft but a first draft none the less), and Tinder is being read by all sorts of people, in all sorts of places.

So, I think I'll keep going with this blog and talk about the new play and any developments with Tinder.

I'll probably have to change the introduction and the explanation bar of what I'm doing here, but I can keep blogging about the highs and lows of the writing process.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 4, 2008

And the winner is ...

Richard Jordan with his play 25 Down.

I'm really happy for Richard, this will make the hugest difference to his life and his career. He's 26 - an age where anything is possible and anything can happen.

And of course I'm absolutely miserable for me. But that's what I get for entering competitions. You can't always win, in fact you usually won't.

I've got so much more out of this than I thought possible.

It was the strangest feeling, waiting to hear. We three playwrights stood together with our arms around each other, huddled, shivering. Michael Gow made a gracious speech and then handed it over to Anna Bligh, who was lovely. And they announced Richard as the winner and he went to the podium and Sven and I stood there. We kept our arms around each other, hugging tightly, and we kept the grins on our faces.

Sven and I were in the losers' corner. For a moment we were isolated with only each other to hold on to (thank heavens we had each other) and then people came to give their condolences. I smiled until I thought my cheeks would crack.

I don't understand this competition thing. Winners and losers. How do you choose? What makes a winner? What could I have done differently? What more could I have done?

In the end it doesn't matter.

I'm holding with everything I have to the fact that I love this play and these characters.

I've won because they've grown and changed in the process. It's a better play and I'm a better writer and, honestly, you can't ask for more than that out of a competition.

This is it

Tuesday 5 August. The day the judges make their announcement.

I've been on a roller coaster ride and have made it through to the end. Have managed to put things in perspective.

This is my first play. How incredible that it's got this far. How wonderful to have had all this amazing support.

I know without a shadow of doubt that this current draft (number 26 by my reckoning!) is far better than the play I submitted at the start of the process.

I have made new friends and made connections in the industry.

Regardless of whether I win or lose, I have already gained so much.

I'm going into the announcement feeling happy and grateful.

And ready to keep moving with the play. (In fact, on the weekend when I couldn't sleep, I started rewriting the ending and am ready to rework the first two scenes as well.)

It's all good!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Blue Day Analogy

I've had a realisation - one that makes it easier to understand how blue I am today.

When I had my first child he had to be delivered by Caesarean section and was taken away from me straight after the delivery. I was wheeled into a room and he was placed in an incubator in the nursery. I couldn't walk, couldn't even wiggle my toes after the epidural, and I lay in this room, surrounded by flowers while visitors rushed in and out and told me how beautiful my baby was. How we was wearing a singlet on his head in the crib.

I was bereft. He wasn't in my arms where he should be. I couldn't see him.

And that's how I feel right now. I've delivered this play, loved it and birthed it and it's been taken from me and put into the hands of five judges.

I'm receiving lovely emails and text messages, my house is full of flowers, and still I feel bereft.

I wonder if this is how playwrights always feel? If once the play is finished and taken over by directors and actors it stops being theirs?


Well, that last post was a little bit emotional ... sorry.

Today is Sunday. Two more sleeps (or awakes) until this will be over and I'll know the outcome of the judges' decision.

I hadn't slept for 48 hours and I lay in bed last night not feeling even the tiniest bit tired. I'd had a hot bath, drunk whiskey and then chamomile tea, taken a sleeping pill, and still my eyes were wide open and my heart raced.

It didn't help knowing that the judges were probably deliberating as I lay there. They were meeting after Sven's play to make their choice.

The plays are so different. I don't know how they choose when there's a strawberry, an apple and a banana on the table. It's a matter of taste and hunger. There are too many what ifs for me to handle.

I have one of the judges numbers in my mobile. I could call. I could ask. It's so tempting. But I won't. I hope. I have to wait. Wait and find out at a swanky lunch with no support system around me. We short-listed playwrights aren't allowed to bring a partner. It's the cruelest thing I've ever heard of.

If I lose, I will want Peter with me. I'll want to feel his arm around me, holding me up, keeping me strong, pinning the smile to my face.

If I win, I will want Peter with me. He is the first person I want to look at. His is the first hug I want to feel.

I can't bear it that he has to wait outside in the carpark and that he won't know what's happened until all these other people, these strangers, know.

But I've written and told the organisers this and they're not budging on the 'no partners' rule. So Peter will be in the carpark and I'll be inside, ready to make an ungraceful dash for the car when I hear the news.

It's no wonder sleep is so far away.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The aftermath

Yesterday was D-day.

Yesterday the actors poured their hearts and souls and every drop of blood into the two readings of Tinder.

It was amazing. The matinee was a sell-out show and the crowd literally roared at the end. I've never heard anything like it. My hair stood on end. I started to cry. It was the most emphatic accolation.

By contrast, the evening felt a little flat. And, of course, it was the evening performance the judges attended. And now I have to wait.

I didn't sleep at all last night. I feel as if I was under the side of the house when it fell down (you had to be at the reading to know what I'm talking about). I've never felt so exhausted and drained and yet so alive. My brain is buzzing. Adrenalin is coursing through me.

I lay awake, not sleeping, and all I could hear was the actors. I went through the whole play, time after time. And discovered that I know all the lines by heart. I don't know why this was so surprising.

And I thought of different ways I could do it. Lines I could change. Plot lines to clarify. It's overwhelming. I want to creep into the lantana and cry. I want to party and dance and celebrate. I'm torn a hundred ways.

I can't bear for it to be over. I don't know what I'll do if this is it and it doesn't get a production.

I am overwhelmed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New Ideas

Well, it must have been too many days without working on Tinder.

New ideas are sprouting in a mushroom like fashion. Particularly while I'm sleeping (they must like the dark).

It's far too early to name them in public, they'll sink back into the rich mud and it will be hell to coax them up again, so I'm just quietly brewing and fomenting.

Back to QTC for workshops next week and then it will be rehearsals and then the reading.

And after the reading comes the judging.

And after the judging comes either euphoria or despair. No, scrap that. Euphoria or determination to find another home for this play. Which I will.

Strangely optimistic today!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Long Silence

I haven't written a post here for a long time.

There've been a few reasons; the illness and then death of a much-loved family member; and also a feeling that I'm saying the same things over and over again.

I have been writing, but it's not that heady surge of writing, where you discover new things and feel euphoric as you get to know your characters. This is the painstaking, steady work of rewriting.

I have submitted my 'final' draft to QTC. I've put final in inverted commas because there will be more changes made. We have two weeks of rehearsals and I'm sure I will be tweaking and changing words as we go.

I knew I was ready to send it when I read through the play three times, once for each character. (Thank heavens I don't have more than three characters in my play!) I read the character I was looking at out loud and read the other characters in my head. This helped find repetition and words that didn't fit in people's mouths. It took me all day to do the three reads and, at the end of it, there were probably only ten lines I changed. This is where it starts getting silly and I worry about the placement of a comma.

There are still big changes I could be making. (I've written an alternate ending and sent that in as well - just because I have such troubles with the natural ending for this play. Why can't I write something happy and cheerful?)

I could start again and change everything. I think there are at least three different plays within the situation I've created. But I've reached the end for this version. The play is done. I think!

If you're reading this, I hope you can make it to the public readings on 1 August. Here's a link: https://www.qtix.com.au/show/QTC_tinder_08.aspx

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


What a wonderful day yesterday was. I'm still on a high after the reading... There's nothing like having brilliant actors lift your words from a page and make them dance and shine.

Chris Betts was my new John and he got so involved in the reading that he cried at one stage. I had shivers. And Barbara Lowing is perfect as Martha. She's just delicious in the part. Tim Dashwood is my Ned and he makes Ned so innocent and pure - I just want to protect him!

I am feeling so happy and giddy with the thrill of it.

I've decided that writing is a bit like suffering from a manic-depressive disorder. I get so high I feel invincible and then plunge to the depths where I doubt that the good day ever happened. I'm not like this in normal life.

I think it must be part and parcel of creating something and then fearing that your baby is actually hideous and everyone's just being polite telling you she's cute.

But today is a wonderful day. I'm convinced that my baby is beautiful and that she's going to grow into something splendid.

A big thank you to everyone at QTC for the constructive feedback and the pointers for the next draft. Can't wait to get into it. (This will actually be happening tomorrow as the next workshop is Saturday and I need to do a one-day rewrite.)


Monday, June 2, 2008

Back from Holidays

Well - so much for the grand plan!

I took my laptop and a print out of my play and didn't write a word of it. So, tomorrow I go into the next workshop/reading with the play as is and without a get out of jail free card (alternate draft).

I planned writing and suffered withdrawals from not writing, but the close confines of a campervan with two children were not conducive to creativity! Still, it was a wonderful holiday and I probably needed the break.

I still feel anxious and have mild heart palpitations when I think of tomorrow's reading, but that's too bad. It's just a matter now of waiting to see what happens and then fixing whatever's wrong.

I can do that.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Doubts and other misgivings

It's been a while since I've posted anything to this blog.

Mostly because I finished the next draft and sent it away to QTC and then started having major misgivings.

It felt alright when I finished it and it seemed to read quite well, but now I feel like vomiting just thinking about it. I'm having second thoughts. The sort of cold feet that petrify the rest of your body.

I'm in a state of stasis. Too scared to read the bloody thing again. Wasting my time imagining the worst instead.

What was I thinking sending it in when I did?

How could I think it was ready?

I hate being this pathetic.

I'm holding on to the fact that I'm about to head off for a 10-day holiday in New Zealand. Freezing cold temperatures and the four of us searching for snow. I plan to print out the play and take it with me. Hopefully altitude and distance will allow me to see it in perspective. I'll take my laptop with me too and I imagine that I will be going to the next workshop (3 days after I get back from NZ) with a new ending/new draft, written on holiday.

That's my last ditch plan anyway ...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Second Draft Reworked

This weekend has been the slow and painful process of going through the latest draft and fixing things. One of the big notes I'd had, and that I'd been unable to implement, was that John sounded like a girl. (Not a good thing.)

So, this weekend I enlisted my lovely husband and got him to read the play with me. We stopped at each line of John's that sounded strange and talked about what the line was there for and then Peter reworded it the way he thought he'd say it. It was laborious but worthwhile - John no longer sounds like a girl. He sounds like an Aussie bloke - ie: exactly like Peter!

I noticed, working on this with Peter, that I often felt defensive when he said I'd got things wrong.

'Hmmm,' says Pete, and pauses. then, 'how about this? Blah, blah, blah.'
'Just read what I've written first,' says me - through gritted teeth.
'But I reckon -'
'Read what's there!'
'But -'
'I can change it later - but try it as it is first.'

Then he'd read what was on the page and there'd be a moment's silence.
'Yeah. You're right. it sucks.' Finally I'd be listening.

So it's been an interesting weekend! Lucky that my marriage is strong and that Peter is endlessly patient.

John's lines aren't the only thing I've changed. I've also changed the ending and fiddled with little bits inbetween. I hope it makes the play stronger - at this stage I can't really tell.

I'll leave it for a week before reading it again. I need that time to see it clearly. otherwise I go into overwhelm and all I can see is the flaws.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Second Draft Printed

I finished the rewriting today. It made me late for a meeting with my writing group, but I was on a roll and couldn't stop.

Saying I've finished the rewriting is a bit misleading. Here's what's happening.

I had the workshops with the actors and the directors and the dramaturg and all the various feedback about 10 days ago. I came away from the workshops with 13 pages of notes - and feeling as if my brain was about to explode. I read all the notes and thought about them and then started rewriting. Today I finished this particular rewrite - ie I reached the end of the play.

My intention now is to let it sit for a couple of days and then read it again. And then read the 13 pages of notes again and see if there's anything important that I've missed. Then I'll go back and rewrite.

People sometimes think that rewriting is easy. You've got the words all in place and all you're doing is shuffling or editing. I wish it was so easy. What I find is that when I change something in scene one, it ripples throughout the play and by the time I reach scene six, the effects are seismic.

The next draft is due at QTC on 22 May so I have a few weeks to get it in order.

It's still feeling good and I'm still enjoying being with these characters and in this world. Which means that rewriting isn't a chore or a bore - it's a bit like undressing someone and finding surprises under the layers of clothes. The more that I work at the play, and the more that I write, the more is revealed.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Just a quick post to let you know that I saw the most amazing piece of theatre last night. Hoods by Angela Betzien is on at the Powerhouse and is mindblowing.

I see a lot of theatre and also review it, and this play is extraordinary. The script, the actors, the direction, the lights and sound ... everything is perfect and raw and stunning.

I wanted to weep when I got home. I have such a long way to go to ever achieve something like this. It's like reading a great novel and then re-reading your attempt at a first draft.


If you're in Brisbane or can get to Brisbane in the next week, try and see this show.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Of an evening

Evenings are normally the worst time for writing for me. I'm a morning person and, come sunset, I start to fade ... rapidly. But this play and this process have enough energy and excitement in them to keep me coming back and trying this night time writing thing.

My children are reading in bed, my husband's at work, the cat is lying stretched out on the bed next to me and all is calm. I've been re-reading the new draft of the first act, which I finished on the weekend. There are things I'd forgotten that I'd written, forgotten that I'd thought. They surprise me. In a good way.

I think I'm in the honeymoon phase. I love this world of the play, I love the characters - even when they terrify me, I love the writing of it.

Which is probably why I've been neglecting this blog. Writing time is precious and it's devoted to the play.

The thing I've learnt this week is that writing can be an escape from the world. I always used reading as an escape. When life was too hard or too cruel, I'd escape in a book and lose myself for as long as it took to read from start to finish, and then for the hours or days of reflection afterwards. I didn't know that writing could also afford that sort of escape.

On a personal level, the last week has been unbelievably awful. Many, many tears have been shed. I didn't think I'd be able to write at all. But, when it came down to it, I found that, within three minutes of sitting down with my laptop, I was transported. All the hurt disappeared as this other world materialised. I was lost inside a story and inside other characters for as long as I could spend writing.

What a great discovery! I used to have a terror of being stranded somewhere without books. It's still a ghastly thought and is one of many reasons that I can't understand why anyone would ever want to be on Big Brother! What a relief to know that without a book there can still be flight. This time on the wings of a pen, or a keyboard, or a stick in the sand.

Anyway, it's time to kiss the children good night and step into that other world now.

Good night.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

First Workshop


A day and a half in a room with 8 other people, reading and talking about my play. Wow. And those 8 people were all theatre professionals. Double Wow.

This has been an overwhelming, brain-liquefying (is there such a word and did I spell it right?), AMAZING experience.

I feel so very lucky to be in this position and am raring to start the next draft.

It's hard to come back down to earth and to my real job. I could keep flying for a lot longer.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Not so done and dusted

I'm reading back through the last few posts and had to have a little smile when I read the one called 'First Draft Finished'. That's funny.

I went back and re-read the 'finished' first draft, prior to submitting it, and found a hundred holes. Had a great talk to the mighty Peter Matheson - all hail the insightful dramaturg - and set about the rewrites.

For a little while there I didn't think I'd finish it. Thought I'd be handing in a half-baked work-in-progress today. But a weekend with my derriere nailed to the bench outside and my laptop plugged into the mains, got me there.

The first draft is now finished. hurrah! I've submitted it to QTC and now await the first workshops and their feedback.

It feels good. All loose threads have been tied and the play has a nice circular feel to it. I'm sure that in a couple of weeks I'll be appalled at the state of it as I enter the second draft process. But, right now, right this minute, I feel great.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I woke up in a sweat this morning - from a dream about the play.

I'd arrived at the first workshop, expecting to see a director - Michael or Jon - and the actors. Instead I walked into a crowded room, at least 100 people, and I didn't know any of them. I could see Michael Gow standing under a spotlight, talking to the crowd, opening up discussion about my play. And then they began ...

'I don't get it.'
'Why would Martha say that? It makes no sense.'
'Who wrote this rubbish?'

I was looking from face to face as they loomed over me, shiny and plastic, criticising.

'It's a new draft,' I tried to say. 'I didn't think anyone would see it. I didn't know it was going to be public.'

I thought I was going to vomit. The vulture faces started spinning and ... I woke up.

I know it was just a dream, of the classic anxiety variety, but I also know that I will be in a cold sweat when I do have to walk into the room for the workshop. The thought of being revealed as a charlatan, a wannabe, a hopeless case, a useless writer ... I feel sick thinking about it. It's as bad as going for an audition.

I know I will be able to deal with whatever's said in the room, with whatever feedback I get, once I get it. If it's bad, I'll work through it and try to improve. I can't imagine that it could be as harsh and unconstructive as my mind dreams it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

First Draft Done

Done like a dinner. Like a dog's dinner, perhaps. But I've written 'The End' and am taking a pause.

It's Easter Sunday and the house is quiet, the only sound is the wind in the trees and the hum of traffic. I miss the children and doing the Easter egg hunt. But I've finished this draft. Hurrah!

I've doubled the length of the play, which is what QTC wanted. I haven't re-read it yet. That will be this afternoon's mission. To find the holes and the loose threads. And to see whether these characters have arcs and journeys.

I've been plagued by doubts. Fearing that it's all too melodramatic and huge. That the fairy stories within the stories will be repetitive and boring. But I've kept pushing through. Because this is just the first step in the process. This draft (or the draft that I'll have after a week of working on this one!) will be workshopped at QTC and then I'll go away and write another draft, and that draft will be workshopped, and then there'll be a final draft and that's the one that will be performed and judged. So, if this draft is flawed, which I know it is, and even if it turns out that I've gone in the wrong direction and it's worse than the original, it won't be the end of the world. I still have time and two more drafts to get it right.

I'm a little bit of a perfectionist (ha! understatement of the week), so it's important for me to give myself room to fail.

And now to find a chocolate egg and celebrate ...

Friday, March 21, 2008


A productive day's writing and I feel as if I'm getting out of the woods at last. I think I can see a way through to the end. It's too soon for me to articulate it - it might dissolve if I do - but it's a good feeling.

I've been thinking about titles as well. 'Ned's Story' is way too wishy-washy.

I'm toying with 'Tinder' as a title. I like it because it implies (for me) that the characters are flammable, that they could explode at any moment. And it's not just the characters. Their home is a tinderbox. The air crackles and sparks.

And the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale 'The Tinderbox' has become a key element of the play. I love how surreal it is. The dog with eyes as big as spinning towers. The soldier who gets wealth beyond his dreams thanks to the witch, and then kills her anyway. The morality is completely warped and twisted.

Stories within stories. Kind of like this blog - writing about writing.

This play has its hooks deep inside me. I think about it all the time. Not about writing it, but about the characters. Why they do what they do. what happened to them before this time I'm writing about. What will happen afterwards. I certainly don't have the answers. Not yet anyway.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Perils of Having Children

Well. I now know why yesterday was so bloody hard ...
Remember my post last week about the children and the vomiting bug?
I wasn't immune.
I've been up all night getting intimate with a porcelain bowl. Not pleasant.
(I must admit though that I sat on the toilet floor feeling really relieved as I realised that I had an excuse for writing poorly.)
Unfortunately, despite the party being cancelled and me spending a whole day in bed, I've been unable to write a word today. My brain is mush.
I'm just hoping that the worst of this gastro is over and that there'll be no more hanging over the toilet tonight.
Fingers crossed.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hard Slog

Today has been a long, hard slog.

It's good to remember that writing isn't always easy. That there are times when each word is sweated and laboured over. and they're still not right.

Today has been agony. I was up before 6am to make the most of my writing time and I wrote until 4pm, with barely a break. And I don't know if there's a single usable sentence in there. ARGH! I feel like I've made the play worse instead of better. It sucks. I've sent it to Peter (dramaturg) with a cover note telling him not to expect much. Because that was my pact with him - that I'd email every Friday with whatever i'd managed to do during the day. No matter how little and crappy it is.

So now I'm just trying to stay calm and think positive. QTC asked me to write more. My original play was only 38 pages (single spaced) and would have performed at about 50 minutes. I think. It's now 68 pages and most of them are different (albeit crappy). So I've done what was asked. If only it worked and I was happy with it.

I've got two more Fridays to get this draft finished. I feel like shit but I'll try not to think about it and wait until I reread it in a few days and see if there's anything salvageable then.

In the meantime it's my little girl's birthday and we're having a slumber party this weekend. 9 girls sleeping over tomorrow night. Fun, fun, fun!

I haven't made a cake yet or organised any party things. Can I get away with pizza and icecream?

And then there's the cub scout fundraiser before the party. I'll be working on a sausage sizzle around the time I should be decorating the house and icing the nonexistent cake.

Ever felt like it's all too much?

That's how I feel right now.

Enough whinging for one post. Sorry!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sick kids and writing

News flash: sick children aren't good for your writing.

Both my children came down with a vomiting bug at the same time. The good news is that I get it all over with quickly - rather than having them take it in turn to be sick. The bad news is that I can only hold a vomit bowl under one child at a time. Joy!

Mopping floors and walls and doing loads of stinky laundry is not conducive for writing. But it doesn't stop you thinking about writing.

And thinking about it is half the work. So I have lots of new ideas and am excited about getting the chance to start getting them down.

Roll on Friday, writing day ...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Dreamworld or Fantasy World?

I was supposed to go to Dreamworld (a theme park) with my son for his birthday today. But my lovely family agreed that I should stay at home and write instead. So they've gone off for a celebration, while I sit here at my laptop. And no, I'm not wasting my time blogging when I should be writing a play! (Well only for this second, anyway.) I've written one new scene and am sitting on the deck looking at the rain and thinking.
Thinking about this world that I'm trying to create. The crows are caawing in the gum tree next to the deck and leaves are drifting down with the gusts of wind. It's all a bit surreal, but probably only because I'm in such a surreal world in the play.
The other thing that's bothering me is this tension and friction between being a writer and being a mother. Hmm, no. That's not right. You can be a mother and a writer easily. You give birth to a child and you're a mother. The difficulty is trying to be a good mother and a writer. Not going to Dreamworld feels like a terrible thing to have done. Specially now that it's raining and I'm imagining Peter and the three boys trying to stay dryish and have fun. I don't think Jack will miss me - he'll be having much too much fun with his friends - but Peter could do with my help and some adult conversation. He carries a heavy load when I'm unavailable for parenting because I'm trying to meet a deadline.
And that puts an added burden on me - because if I'm neglecting my family then it had better be for a good reason. I'd better be writing a shit-hot play to justify the time that I'm away from them.
And, on that note, I'd better get back to it.
I have to make every second count.

Friday, March 7, 2008

First day of writing and some history

Yesterday (Friday) was my first full day of writing. What joy! A whole day of writing and enough words not to run out. I wrote three new scenes for my play and spent the afternoon trying to fit them in and seeing what changes they made. The good news is that they seem to belong in the story, the bad news is that I'll need to rewrite the whole last third of the play ... It's good that I like a challenge.
Starting writing this blog now, means that I've skipped over the back story that got me this far. I thought this might be a good chance to give a quick overview of how this play came to be.
In 2006 I started a Masters in Playwriting at QUT. I went into it for all the wrong reasons: it was fee free, which was the only way I could go back to Uni; I didn't have an undergraduate degree and this was one where they'd count my years in theatre as the equivalent of a BA; and I was writing a novel and my dialogue sucked. I thought that writing a play (all dialogue) would force me to get through my block and help me fix the novel. So, I felt like a fraud from day one of the degree. The only things I had going for me were my loves of theatre and literature/writing.
Because I'd never written a play before and felt like such a phony, I chose to start writing the play collaboratively - working with actors. I was fortunate enough to have three talented and generous actors agree to work with me. (Dan Eady, Kaye Stevenson and Peter Cossar) I had an idea for the play and I'd sketched outlines of the characters and the actors helped me to fill them in. Once we'd been through a workshop process, I went on and rewrote and redrafted the play to make it fit better with the idea I had in my head.
I passed the MA and the play I wrote earned me a spot at the most inspiring place I've ever been - Varuna, the Writers House in the Blue Mountains. While there I worked with the lovely dramaturg MaryAnne Gifford and threw away the play I'd been working on and started again on a new version that ventured further into the fairy tale world I'd imagined. During that week I wrote Ned's Story.
And it's Ned's Story that has brought me here.
There you have it, in a nutshell.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

First meeting with dramaturg

I had my first proper meeting with my dramaturg today. Peter Matheson is lovely. Surprising really as the first time I met him - at the awards announcement, when I was on a high and being congratulated by all and sundry - he came up to me, introduced himself, and said 'You've got a lot of work to do'. And that was it. He turned around and vanished back into the crowd! Hardly a reassuring start. But the gruffness must have been all bluster.

So ... today. My head is exploding with ideas. That's the way I think it should be after you've spent time with a dramaturg. He wants me to extend the fairy tale imagery and beef up the symbols. Stop running away from them.

Right now I have a wet man crawling from a pool of water, half drowned, and the letters. Piles of letters. Flying letters. And, of course, the axe. There's a house falling down as a boy learns to stand. And he wants me to find some more symbols for Martha (the mother in this story).

He's given me the challenge of writing two new scenes tomorrow. I can't wait. But first there's 'puberty night' at school. Yup, I have a child in Grade 6 and kids and parents are invited to attend puberty night together at the school. I imagine there'll be a lot of snickering and blushing. And that's just the parents!

Tomorrow (Friday) is my first Friday off. I've gone from a full-time position to four-days a week, so that I can have a dedicated writing day and get this play through it's next three drafts. I can't wait to start. I just have to make sure that the laundry and washing up don't lure me away from my laptop.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Coming down from cloud 9

It's been two weeks now since the finalist announcements. The flowers have wilted, their putrid water tipped into the garden, and life is returning to normal. Well, as normal as it gets.
After the euphoria and the excitement, there's now a growing panic. I need to do a new draft by when? (31 March)
What if they don't like it as much as the original? What if I'm kidding myself and I'm really a crap writer? Argh! (Sound effects of screaming as my brain knocks itself against the bony edges of my skull, trying to escape from the horror.)
Once I start writing again, I'm sure I'll be all right. This is a normal process for me. I panic at the thought of trying to write a new draft but, once I've started writing, I usually come good.
Fingers crossed for this time.