I was asked to be part of the Writing Process Blog Tour, that seems to be happening all over the blogosphere at the moment, by Keir Thomas.
Keir is a novelist and fiction writer, publisher and editor at Puppywolf (who publish the brilliant Best of Manchester Poets anthologies and the poetry collection of the lovely Angela Smith amongst other things) and he is also a journalist and writer of computing books. You can find his blog here: http://www.keirthomas.com/KeirThomas/Home.html
He asked me to answer some questions about my writing and nominate a couple of other writers to carry on the blog tour.
I’ve been really busy with poetry, performing at events and working on my latest play/show commission this week so this is also my excuse for not typing up and sharing my NaPoWriMo poems too.
1) What am I working on?
I’m currently working on creating a new show for the Belinda Grantham Dance Company based on Stories from St Helens. This has involved going into the community and encouraging people to share memories and stories with me, using stories from a website specially designed for the project and wandering around experiencing the place.
I’ve spent time at the ‘Saints’ rugby ground, World of Glass museum, libraries and with community groups and will use the stories and reminiscences as the starting point for a script. My script will then be taken by the professional dancers and choreographer and they will find a way of responding to and using my text and structure with movement and new choreography. The piece, that incorporates both my text and the new dance, will then be performed in libraries in and around St Helens.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
A lot of my work is devised or comes from collaborations. It often uses elements from different art forms or responds to things I find whilst making the work. For example, I did a session with a group of singers based at the rugby ground who sing songs about the rugby and St Helens with original lyrics set to classic tunes. I loved what they were doing and felt it would be brilliant to have them and their songs incorporated into the performance somehow. They’ve agreed to be part of the show so I will build them into the structure of whatever I make.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I’m interested in stories, narrative and performance and love commissions where I interact and respond to either the community or other artists and actors. I like the process of finding something and working out how to put it together or following the source material and finding out where that leads you before making creative decisions about what you edit, include and present as the finished piece.
My poetry and the plays I write without devising or community briefs tend to be things I’m passionate about, stories I want to tell, characters whose voices I want to use. This work often has the ordinary juxtaposed with the fantastical, naturalism woven with magic realism.
I write about my family, my history, an imagined and often twisted fictional history. I write about the place I’m from, I write about the world I know and I love the mythology and fairy-tales that have been imbedded in my imagination since I was a child.
4) How does your writing process work?
My writing process often involves notebooks and post-it notes and hoarding ideas and scrawled free-writing on bits of paper. It sometimes includes talking to people and getting huge amounts of information I may not use.
If I’m creating characters and there is dialogue, I may start with that…find their voice…put them in situations…ask “What happens if..? “
I may wander around a place and listen to the sounds, get a feel of a place, start with a visual image or a movement sequence that I can see in my head as a vehicle for showing a story.
Sometimes it will be a story I hear and I’ll wonder what the other angles and possibilities are for it. If it makes me ask a question, I’ll look at how I answer that question.
For example, my play Ice Baby came from hearing a news story about a woman who’d left her baby in a car and gone clubbing. The story led me to ask the question “Could this outcome be something beyond her control or something that didn’t make me have that instant knee jerk reaction and judgement of her as an “unfit mother”? It also led me to think about the folk tale where goblins steal a baby who they think is not being looked after and replace it with an ice baby. So with these two core things I made a play about a teenage girl who ends up being tricked and date raped and convinced to take her baby out….a storybook that she reads to her baby at bedtime and the hallucinogenic effect of the drugs made the goblins narrative work as they slid in and out of the walls as she slept, became all the agencies that make judgements about teenage mothers and represented the real image of a frozen baby left wrapped up in the back of a stolen car in winter.
So that’s probably more than enough of the chaotic workings of my head. Next week, fantastic poet and award winning playwright Melanie Rees and another writer friend (yet to be coerced) will be continuing the tour but I’ll be posting links to their blogs when they’ve written about their process.