Posts Tagged ‘drama’

You should read this! Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism anthology

Monday, April 6th, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to Glasgow Women’s Library’s brilliant Mixing The Colours Conference 2015. Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism is a groundbreaking project, which has been running for about two years now, funded by the Scottish Government and designed to get women talking about one of Scotland’s most taboo subjects. The conference was an amazing day of discussion, performance and ideas, but importantly, it was also the launch-day of the project’s amazing anthology of women’s writing.

I’ve also been working on a project designed to tackle sectarianism: until just a few days ago, when the project reached completion, I was the Project Co-Ordinator for Scottish Book Trust’s graphic novel project Walk The Walk. I worked reasonably closely with staff from Mixing The Colours throughout that project, and so came to see clearly the various ways in which women’s voices have traditionally been erased from discussions about sectarianism.

Think about it for a second. When you read a newspaper article about a story relating to sectarianism, what is the accompanying photo usually of? Chances are, a stand full of male football fans. Perhaps a line of police personnel in their yellow jackets. There might be the odd female face or two if you squint closely, but traditionally, sectarianism in Scotland is considered a “men’s issue,” and all too often, seen as synonymous with football. I’m sure you’ll agree that this hurts men as well as women.

Thankfully, we now have the truly amazing Mixing The Colours: Women Speaking About Sectarianism anthology to add to the conversation. It features poetry, memoir, fiction and drama, all exploring individual women’s responses to their experiences of sectarianism. My favourite story is ‘Paddy,’ written by Ethyl Smith — a bittersweet tale of a young girl who is unwittingly caught up in the sectarianism that exists between two of her adult neighbours, all because she wants to be friends with a wee dog. But every piece in the book is brilliant, and important, and merits reading, re-reading and sharing.

You can get a look at the book by heading over to Glasgow Women’s Library’s stunning new(ish) home in Bridgeton, Glasgow. GWL is located in what was once the Bridgeton Men’s Reading Room, which I find rather delicious. The Mixing The Colours team have also been steadily gathering a collection of other resources that examine women’s reactions to sectarianism, so while you’re there, you can browse the whole lot.

Finally, the Mixing The Colours film gives a taster of what’s inside the book, and as you can see from my conference notes above, gives plenty of food for thought! Here’s a trailer:

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More words of wisdom: Douglas Maxwell on the writing process

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Stage mic

Roughly two years ago I posted here about my first ever encounter with the incredible Scottish playwright Douglas Maxwell. He gave a great masterclass on theatre writing — and just on writing in general — for the Scottish Universities International Summerschool, and I was blown away. Since then, I’ve got to know Douglas’ work much better — most recently, I’ve bought his new book, Plays for Young People (psst, it’s awesome), and this Festival I went to see his Dream Play at the Traverse (it was called A Respectable Widow Takes To Vulgarity. Needless to say, it was excellent). But best of all, he was back at SUISS again this year with more words of wisdom for our young writers. Here are just a few I wanted to share with you…

“[Writing] isn’t craft. This is art. There is no rule you must always follow, no matter what all those books say… and you will learn more from just doing your own work than from anything beardy fools like myself say.”

“The temptation for a writer to give up is probably the most constant temptation you’ll face — and you’ll never really break through to a time when everything you write is classic. But you must not give up.”

“You’re writing for a small audience of people like you, not Lord and Lady Such-and-Such. It all works better when you think of the audience as us. Not them — not, I’m going to shock them, or, I’m going to educate them. That’s not the way to go.”

“It’s subterranean autobiography. We’re writing about us. You can write about a world event, but what does it mean to you? Start with real life, and then drop a storybomb in there.”

“There’s nothing wrong with writing as a hobby, but if you really want to really do it you have to finish. You have to write ‘The End’, and send it out there. Otherwise it doesn’t count.”

“Who wants to read a writer who’s got a thick skin? Who says, ‘I love his writing — he’s completely oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of others’? Writers have to have thin skins, they have to be sensitive people.”

“Emotional writing is where it’s at. But when it goes badly, the blood gets everywhere.”

“You’ve got to remove guesswork — either by writing about your own life, or through research. But never guess.”

“It’s hard, because how do you find a voice? It’s a bad phrase, it’s the wrong way around. You’re not trying to find your voice, you’re trying to find a song to sing that suits your voice.”

“If you’re doing it for the money, don’t do it. It’ll kill you… you write it first and then you try to find a home for it. That’s how it really works.”

You can read more of Douglas’ tips for writers in his Playwright’s Guide To Being A Playwright.

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(Photo credit)

Writing for theatre masterclass with Douglas Maxwell

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Hello there, ONS-ers… long time no speak. You may have noticed that the scenery hasn’t changed much lately here, or perhaps you’ve spotted some of the heaps of spam comments beginning to clog up some of the posts. Sorry, and sorry… I’ve been insanely busy these past couple of months. Right now, I am teaching creative writing at the Scottish Universities International Summer School, based at the University of Edinburgh. I’m loving every second, but it doesn’t leave much time for updating ONS… or indeed, anything else. However, last week my students and I were treated to a brilliant masterclass on ‘writing for theatre’, given by Scottish playwright Douglas Maxwell. I know, I know, this is a poetry blog — but he came out with so much brilliant stuff that I felt I had to share just a few of his pearls of wisdom with you…

“Being a playwright is a bit like being in The Who. We’re wild, we’re messy, we’re all over the shop… but we’re great live.”

“Everyone in the world has an unfinished novel or screenplay under the bed. But they’re not in the game. That’s not doing it; that’s pretending.”

“You need two personalities to be a good writer — you need the sensitive artist who’s a satellite to the rest of the world… but you also need a kind of ‘fuck you’ attitude — you’ve got to have the steel and not let this destroy you.”

“Day One writing is always good — everyone likes the first day. day Two: not so good. You get up in the morning and go ‘what the fuck? Someone’s messed with this! This was great yesterday!’”

“You’ve got to remember what it’s like when you’ve paid to see the thing… audiences really want it to be good, at the beginning. They want to help you.”

“You must, must protect yourself from bitterness. It’s a talent-eater. It’s like cocaine, it destroys lives. You’ve got to keep your enthusiasm and your openness, or you’ll never get anywhere.”

“Your main character must make a big decision — the ‘to be or not to be’ moment where they can go one way or the other. And the way they go will take them, and you, to the end. And they either get or don’t get what they always wanted.”

“Even on the very worst day, just get to the place where you write, and wait.”

Douglas Maxwell’s Decky Does A Bronco is currently showing in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

(Photo by Eric Lafforgue)

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