So, as I said in the last post: I was done with writing, I was moving to Exeter, I was gonna be a teacher.
I applied – too late as it turns out – for a PGCE that August, so I could start at uni the moment I got to Exeter in September. It didn’t work out; they were full, though they said I could start September after. Brilliant: I had a whole year to fill. Being a single Mum though meant I had plenty to occupy my time; I had to find my kid a school, for one. I saw a bunch of them and ending up sending the boy to a school, though deprived, did fantastic projects for creative children. He thrived there and actually, it was the best thing for us at that moment; I had spent so long rushing here, there and everywhere when I was at uni, it was good for both of us to live a little more of a sedate pace for a while.
With that all in hand then, I needed a job. We’d relocated to an old factory town and I was offered a job as a supervisor in a seatbelt and parachute factory. I considered it for about three minutes (it was well paid) until I realised that every time I read about a fatal collision or a skydiver’s parachute not opening, I would be wondering if it had originated on my watch in my factory. In short, I hadn’t the stomach for that kind of responsibility. I declined.
I started work in a bargain store but the owners were insane so I only lasted a week before I got fired for dropping three hundred million boxes of kids’ raincoats off the mezzanine (it was totally their fault). Luckily for me I’d forgotten to ask the Job Centre to take me out of the system and a supermarket phoned up and offered me a job in their cafe the same day I got fired. I accepted and everyone was fine with me – at first, because all the women in the cafe thought I was a single mother *like them*. When I let slip that I had gone to university just in the course of an ordinary conversation, attitudes distinctly cooled. Suddenly cakes got burnt – and it was blamed on me. I got shut in the walk-in freezer. I got washing up duty for four in every five rotations. Mops “accidentally” tripped me up. I obviously got sick of this very quickly and complained to my Boss. To my amazement, he accepted my side of events and moved me to the cash office. There I got to chill out on my own and bag up all the money. I also got better hours and slightly more pay. Bliss.
I did however get extremely bored in the cash office: there’s only so many times you can count up the same bag of money or credit card receipts. I was still script reading for my *one* big contact and he started introducing me to other people, but at this stage it was all favours, no real money involved – though I did get to see some interesting pieces from what I thought of as “real” writers. The notebook I had created when my boy was very small surfaced again and I started to write, really without even thinking about it. They were just streams of consciousness really, character profiles, bits of dialogue – but crucially, this time they were fictional, instead of stuff I had overheard.
I created a bunch of characters who had no story, but would later become protagonists in Eclipse and Thy Will Be Done. I revisited what would become Grace, but again chucked it. I spent a lot of time on Friends Reunited – remember that site? – not because I wanted to revisit any of my old school chums, but because I wanted inspiration of what “real” people were up to. Surprisingly, a couple were into stuff like animation and filmmaking. I emailed them and managed to wangle a tour of where they worked. Result. Also, whilst I was at it, I did a certificate in teaching English as a foreign language. Why the hell not? I could be the most overqualified cash office assistant in the land, then surely. Arf.
I revisited the very bad, angsty novel I had written as a teen. Man, it was bad. It didn’t make much sense and screamed “teenager!” all over it. I revised it, sent it to a few literary agents. A couple wrote back with some positive comments about my arena, prose, one even my “effervesent anatgonist” (!), though one lambasted me with this gold nugget:
“I suggest you ask some REAL single mothers what life is like for them, since this doesn’t ring true at all.”
Gotta laugh, really.
I decided I didn’t *do* dark anymore, so went to the other side of the scale and wrote a Chick Lit. I had decided getting an agent mattered above all else at this point and sent it to every email address I knew. Two replied. One thought it was awful. The other thought it was brilliant. Did I have anymore? I got mega-confused about this and never replied to the one who thought it was brilliant. Shame. Later, my computer would blow up again and it would be three years and seven months before I found a floppy disk with it on there. For a laugh, I sent it to my current agent about eighteen months ago. He thought it was “vibrant and amusing but overwritten.” My time had passed. Sigh.
I was halfway through the PGCE when someone contacted me about the script I had written on deferred payment the previous summer (which I mentioned in the last post). He had been working with said independent producer too and asked to see some of my stuff. I only had a treatment called Wish, but I sent it to him anyway. He called me, wanted to meet me. I took a trip to London – I wanted to see some friends anyway – and turned up at this studio and chatted with this guy. He seemed really into Wish, reckoned it would be really cool. He said he had a client looking to make a film and he needed a writer: was I interested? I said, sure – why not? I was so wet behind the ears I thought I was saying yes to a collaboration. Turns out the guy in question was Schuman Hoque and the client in question was a record label who wanted to make a short for the festivals and a feature with a “music-related theme”. The short became The Design and the feature never got made due to various stuff, but it led to lots of other stuff and we both got paid. Always a bonus. And of course the rest is history.
Back *then* I had other stuff to do like complete the PGCE and somehow end up married (still trying to figure that one out) and it was the following April I suddenly realised there was a very good chance I would leave the PGCE without a job AGAIN. Devon is a great place for jobs in supermarkets, factories and bargain basement stores it seems; not so great for professional jobs. I hunted high and low for one, even got down to the final three for about seven of them, but each time I was blown out the water at the last minute. Double sigh.
Anyway.Then I made *that* post on shooting people about script reading. I got talking to some people and Bang2write was born. I figured I could do it on the side until I got a real teaching job – and got another teaching job for the summer at a TEFL school which ended up very suddenly going into administration and being closed down and boarded up when us teachers arrived for work one morning! Omigod I was a jinx, surely!!!! Peeved and sure the universe was out to get me – this HAD to be a sign I wasn’t *supposed* to be a teacher?? – so I started writing again.
I sent what would become GRACE to the BBC Writersroom. I heard nothing for eight months, so got frustrated and sent it to a script reader which happened to be JK Amalou. He told me I wasn’t realising my full potential as a writer and I could be *so much better*. As far as I was concerned I was wick by this point – I’d written a movie!! – but I was intrigued by this guy and went to meet him in London. He spent three hours totally dissecting my script and gave me the most food for thought I had well, ever had. This was compounded by the fact I had some feedback waiting for me from the Writersroom when I got back: they liked it, they wanted to see another script! I took the script away and sat on it for about two years, though I did do a partial rewrite which later got panned. During this time, I wrote an early version of Eclipse, called – you guessed it – Wish. I can’t even remember why I thought this was a good title at the time; it wasn’t.
Anyway, time moved on; I wrote Thy Will Be Done and I started the old AOL blog. I had no idea anyone was reading as I didn’t have a stat counter, so imagine my surprise when I started getting emails from random people about other screenwriters who blog. I had no idea. I couldn’t get the hang of Blogspot however and it took another writer actually sorting it out for me virtually. I was pregnant by this point with Lilirose and spent most of the nine months either script reading or writing and rewriting Thy Will Be Done, the biggest WTF? draft that possibly ever walked the earth. People told me it was brilliant AND awful, all the way through and I finished the very last draft just three hours before going into labour. Two weeks after giving birth I sent it all over the place: UK liked it, US hated it. C’est la vie. It was enough however, with another script called KINGS OF THE CASTLE, to land me an agent and get me a bunch of meetings at various places.
Anyway, the rest you know, more or less: I’ve chronicled on here my exploits with various prodcos, corporates and insane weirdoes. I’ve written college prospectuses; website copy; articles in magazines online and in print; games and toys; virals and whatnot. I fell into some of them; I actively pursued others. I’ve always felt privileged though to earn a crust for the last few years doing what I enjoy – script reading, editing and writing, with the occasional bout of TEFL. Can’t complain. Plans for the future include making another short and finally breaking into TV, particularly my beloved continuing drama.
I’d love to say there’s some *big* insight here, but in all truth everyone’s writing journey is so different and heaven knows I’m not done yet!!! Who knows what will happen next…
What about you, then? How are you faring?
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