Monthly Archives: March 2013

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Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. It’s a World Heritage site and one of the most beautiful places on earth…..The size of Wales, with flowing rivers, wildlife and fabulous rock art carved centuries ago by indigenous people, yet the tourists who head for Uluru and the Sydney Opera House have likely never even heard of the place.  But Kakadu hides a dirty little secret….. Perhaps not so secret?  It’s one that many Australians who are anti nuke would rather forget……

Writing for Stage Part 2 The Audience

The highlight of last weekend’s page-to-stage workshop at The Berry & The Point was the staged performance in front of a paying audience on Tuesday night.  The team putting together the production had just two days rehearsal and in that time they had to find props, costumes, sound recordings and in my case, even a recreated archive recording.  As well as that, the two actors playing the part even did the accents and bearing in mind that they were playing characters from the 1940s, they even managed to get it about right for the time period.  David Pearce’s West Yorkshire accent and Anna Carr’s South Australian performing voices sent chills down my spine for one particular moment as I imagined myself back in the world of the characters.

Each writer had selected one or two scenes to be performed and while the majority of the writers had quite sensibly chosen the first couple of scenes, I had opted for the final scene.  Brave or foolhardy, I’m not sure which, in hindsight, probably the latter but given that a play is only ever a blueprint, like a screenplay and doesn’t come to life until it’s staged, I figured that this might be my only shot at this and I really wanted to see if there was enough here yet to engage an audience.

The three questions I posed to the audience were:

What stood out for you?

Is there anything here that engages you, so that you might want to find out how Vivian and Kingsley got to this point in the story?

How relevant is this dramatic story, set 70 years ago, to a modern audience?

It is the third question that is the most crucial at this point because period drama is a hard sell and it’s crucial to bring something new to a story in order to make it work today.  Our tutor on the course, Simon Eden said I still had some way to go on this aspect, which is a fair comment.  The audience, though, were terrifically supportive and if I do take this project further I shall have their comments sitting on my desktop, reminding me that for one night at least, it was thanks to their support that one part of this story came to life on stage.

The Beach

1. What stood out for you?

  • •          The arrival or the jeep and getting on the jeep and potentially final journey together.
  • •          The sound really took you there.
  • •          The relationship between the two
  • •          The fear / uncertainceny
  • •          Fear, pain and how friendship can be formed in dreadful circumstances
  • •          The underlying tension and their friendship
  • •          The touching script and inspiring relationship between Patrick & Vivian
  • •          The extreme situation the characters found themselves in.  2 different accents – why were they together…?
  • •          The relationship between the two characters was really lovely.
  • •          Very sad story.  Their journey thus far had obviously connected them
  • •          A charming relationship developing into a romance
  • •          Vivian’s devotion and obvious niceness
  • •          Their resolve and fortitude in dire circumstances; their mutual support and caring
  • •          The story of their arrival
  • •          Support for each other
  • •          Curry – a short[?] symbol of a missed opportunity.
  • •          The bravery / friendship of the characters in a hopeless situation
  • •          Turn / development and arrival of the patrol- became quite dark
  • •          Kingsley assuming he’d die – telling V. to speak to Elsie but then backtracking and implying he’d like to speak to Elsie
  • 2.              Is there anything here that engages you, so that you might want to find out how Vivian and Kingsley got to this point in the story?
  • •          Some back story – which we have in the synopsis. Flash backs on stage?
  • •          Oh yes! They are quite different character & class
  • •          The situation that they were in made me interested
  • •          How they bond in horrific situation
  • •          Yes, I’d like to see what had happened and what happens next
  • •          Yes.  I would like to know how they come to be here
  • •          I would like to see the back stories of both characters
  • •          I would have liked to have seen more dialogue in the car and more context to allow me to understand who they are and what’s happened to them
  • •          Kingsley’s war wound and Vivian’s story makes us want to find out how they got there
  • •          I’m more interested now in where they end up
  • •          Yes, I (the audience) care a lot about each character. I would like to know more about the future than the past.  Where do they go from here?
  • •          Their relationship
  • •          The “budding” relationship
  • •          The dialogue hints at interest in events earlier
  • •          The light /house – perhaps to obvious – a symbol though?
  • •          I would like to find out more.  Several things engaged me.
  • •          Yes – I would like to see the development of their relationship from past meeting
  • •          Didn’t K & V explain how they got here? Or did I misunderstand?
  • 3.              How relevant is this dramatic story, set 70 years ago, to a modern audience?
  • •          It’s a timeless story about strength of character. Surviving together.  Human endevour
  • •          Very.  These things / stories are still happening
  • •          It was good to show what situations were like in places during war time
  • •          We are all still at the whim of others – for mercy / life
  • •          These feelings and emotions will always be relevant it’s just the circumstances that vary
  • •          Still relevant and engaging
  • •          I think that people can connect to the relationship between the two characters and the struggles that they face
  • •          People will always have something to fight for, challenges to face – and we’ll always need someone else to lean on.
  • •          I think very, especially considering that although a very different one, we are in a war at the moment
  • •          Loss and friendship is always relevant, the story was more human – the historical background is a good stage for that but history is not interesting
  • •          It’s the themes that are relevant, so the setting doesn’t alienate a modern audience.  A story of how / why people connect is timeless. The setting works as it intensifies the stakes.
  • •          Relevant – particularly to anyone who has at least some knowledge of history.
  • •          This story is timeless.  We can learn from peoples’ way of coping in such a situation
  • •          Very relevant – relationships, history..
  • •          I think the core, survival, is always relevant
  • •          NHS came out of this kind of experience
  • •          Very relevant – relationships are always relevant
  • •          It’s still about human relationships and fears – so still relevant

•          I’m not sure – maybe too short a clip to decide relevance

Finally a big thank you to all my fellow writers – Tom Pinnock, Caitlin Sanderson, Anna Haines, Steven Allen, Jonathan Edgington and Matt Beames.  And of course to Director Daniel Hill, Writers’ Workshop Leader Simon David Eden, Page to Stage Assistants, Sean Tyler and Rob Iliffe. And of course to the Theatre Technicians – Ashton Patridge and Marie Castleman.  But the biggest thank you of all must go to Anna Carr as Vivian and David Pearce as Kingsley who have a fine acting future ahead of them.

Lousy Publishing Contracts

As I’ve been discussing copyright issues over the past couple of days I’ve decided to re-blog this post as a public information bulletin for indie writers. Thanks David Gaughran for keeping us up to date on these lousy publishing contracts. And I am looking forward to reading a download of David’s book, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, available free on Amazon today.

David Gaughran

blogpicThere seems to be a view in certain self-congratulatory circles that publishers have finally got to grips with the digital revolution, that they have weathered the fiercest part of the storm, and that they are well-placed now not just to survive, but to thrive.

There are innumerable problems with that view, of course, but today I’d like to focus on one core truth of this brave new world that publishers have failed to grasp.

Namely, there are only two essential components to publishing in the digital era: the writer and the reader.

All of the old middlemen – agents, publishers, distributors, retailers – have to justify their cut, as the writer can now bypass them and go direct to readers. The only middlemen (IMO) currently making a compelling case for their cut are retailers. Self-publishers are more than happy to fork over 30% to Amazon to access their ever-expanding customer base.

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Writing for Performance

I’ve spent the weekend at a page-to-stage workshop at The Point & The Berry Theatre, led by professional playwright, TV and film screenwriter, Simon Eden. Seven writers (including two under 18s) had to come prepared to write and share their work with the group.  Sharing your work in a group situation can be challenging for writers new to writing for performance.  All that is so personal to you, namely your writing, suddenly has to be put out there for others to comment upon.  It’s nerve-wracking enough if you’re used to working in this way, which I am, fortunately so that I can’t imagine what it must be like for the younger writers.  But to their credit, both Anna and Caitlin seemed to take the process very much in their stride.

We were very lucky with our team members and facilitators, which included Rob Iliffe, Drama Development Officer at The Point & The Berry Theatre and Sean Tyler (Writers’ Hub Co-ordinator).  On the Saturday of the workshop we writers gave a brief introduction to the script that we’d pitched for the workshop that got us selected.  But after that we were sent away for the rest of the day to write.  And I can tell you, that the time just flew by! Although we had the rest of the evening to write when we got home, we had to submit our scripts by 9am on the Sunday morning.

While some of the group were working into the small hours, polishing and refining their scripts, I, for once, had decided to wait until the next day for the input of the director, Daniel Hill (Drama Development Manager at The Point and Berry Theatre) and the actors, who were going to be playing the parts of Vivian and Kingsley in my play, The Beach.

Although I studied drama at university and go to the theatre on a regular basis, this is the first time I have ever written for the stage.  Even when writing screenplays I do have a tendency to struggle with the geography of a scene.  And it was very apparent to me that the geography of a scene on stage is even more important.  I am still working at writing clearer stage directions, as at one point I have my characters in a clearing in a jungle and the next minute they’re walking down a road.  The only problem, as Simon quite rightly pointed out was that I hadn’t added in any stage directions to get the two characters from one place to another.  Of course, if this was a screenplay, I would simply cut to a new scene.  You can do that in a play, for sure, by the use of house lights fading down and coming up again, but as there’d been no emotional change in the scene I decided to stick with just the once scene.

Whether this was a wise decision or not will be evident at the Tuesday night, 12th March performance in front of the audience at The Berry Theatre.

Another headache I’d created for Daniel, who is having to direct this piece, and for Anna and David who are playing the roles, is that I have my actors walking along a road – which on stage, for this particular performance with minimal technical facilities, is a bit of a challenge! And then there’s another part of the same scene, where Vivian and Kingsley have to climb into a vehicle and be driven along a road.

I had one last opportunity this morning, prior to the actors going into rehearsal, to tweak the script a bit. But after that, my part of the process is over and in a process of true collaboration, I hand my work over to the director and performers.  If my instructions weren’t clear enough that will be my fault and my fault alone.  And this will be abundantly clear on Tuesday night as I watch the performance with the best critics of all, a paying audience.

Why do indie authors have to pay a multi-national for an ISBN?

I don’t know about you, but having to pay for a bar code (ISBN) for an ebook ranks up there with making a special a trip to the shops to buy kitchen roll.  One of the reasons for leaving Amazon’s KDP Select in the first place was that as an indie author, I resented having to be exclusive to a big multi-national.  I suspect that Cara, our feisty champion of the underdog in Revolution Earth would have had something not very complimentary to say about that!

But to give Amazon credit, they have got round the ISBN problem, for ebooks at least, with their own digital version of ISBN – called an ASIN, that they issue you for free when you publish an ebook.  And when you publish a print book through CreateSpace (an Amazon company) they also issue you with a free ISBN.

You don’t need a ISBN to publish on the Kobo Writing Life digital platform either but you really should get one, as this will enable better international distribution. Now in Canada, where Kobo Writing Life is based, ISBNs are free for authors but if you live in the US, Australia or the UK you have to pay for them.

In the UK and Ireland,  ‘Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSENLSN) , an American global information and measurement company with headquarters in New York (USA) and Diemen (Netherlands)‘ (source: Wikipedia) have the exclusive contract (or, to put it another way, monopoly on issuing ISBNs to publishers in these countries).

Given that Cara would, no doubt also have had something to say about indie publishers living where I live, having no choice but to pay another multi-national for a bar code when authors based in Canada, New Zealand and South Africa can get theirs free from their respective governments, I thought I would write to this stock exchange listed company (active in over 100 countries and employing approximately 34,000 people worldwide with total revenues at $5.6 billion in 2012[1].) (Wikipedia) whether or not they would consider giving indie authors publishing ebooks a discount.

Lambert Nagle: I wonder though, now that the ebook
revolution is here to stay and so many of us authors who have to
purchase ISBNs are very small outfits who, (in my case only need at
most 5 ISBN numbers as I am only publishing one ebook) that you might
consider reducing the price for people like us?

Nielsen have the monopoly on IBSN numbers in the UK – we have no
alternative but to go through you – when Canadian and New Zealand
authors can get theirs for free through government agencies.

As you can imagine, Nielsen were thrilled to hear from me and did in fact write back – completely ignoring my argument – that they really hadn’t got to grips with the ebook revolution and that the ISBN system might need tweaking for ebooks.  And instead, gave me the company spiel, how a company listed on the stock exchange justified squeezing money out of us indie authors.

Nielsen: Countries whose ISBN Agencies issue ISBNs for free are issuing them through government agencies, and the cost is covered by the government.  Where the ISBN Agencies are run commercially, the organisation running that Agency needs to cover the cost of not only the fee payable to the International ISBN Agency (which is based on the amount of publishing done in that country, and comes to 40 thousand+ euros annually) but carrying out the mandated tasks that the International Agency requires.

Each year the UK ISBN Agency registers approximately 3,000 new publishers, providing these and many other previously-registered publishers with ISBN prefixes. Creating and maintaining unique and unambiguous publisher records is the key responsibility of the Agency. In addition, the Agency provides advice by telephone and email to a much greater number of enquirers about the ISBN system and the book supply chain for which it is used. The rules of the ISBN system, requirements of Legal Deposit, advice on bar-coding, sources of industry training and statistics and many other queries are all dealt with by the Agency.

However, an even greater mandated responsibility of each national ISBN Agency is to operate (or delegate the operation of) a bibliographic database. The charge made for assigning an ISBN prefix reflects not only the cost of recording the publisher name, address and contact details (and reflecting any changes made thereafter) and issuing a set of globally-unique product identifiers, but it also contributes towards the further task of maintaining comprehensive and timely bibliographic information about the several million different products within the English Language book trade.

I hope this explains the reasons why Nielsen has to charge for ISBNs.

Hmm, all it explains to me is that the explosion in the number of ebooks being published must be filling Nielsen’s coffers nicely and that there must be many other authors out there who are being forced to pay for more ISBN numbers than they need.

I think it’s about time the whole ISBN system was shaken up and replaced with a more equitable system. What do you think?