National Novel Writing Month

The month of November is known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), it is an opportunity for anyone with an interest in writing novels to take the plunge and see if they can write fifty thousand (50,000) words (the length of a stardard novel) in 30 days.

Now any writer will tell you that the hardest part of writing, it writing. As a blog writer and someone who trying to right their first novel I can vouch for this. So let’s just be clear on a few things when writing a novel in a month. This is not about you writing a polished novel ready for sale to the world in 30 days. This is about encouraging as many people to write as possible, old and young. However if you are someone who would like a manuscript to be published, and you have been saying for too long ‘I’m going to write a book’ then this is the perfect opportunity to get your first draft of that story down on paper. The thirty day challenge should give you the motivation to get it done as you can record your word count on the NaNoWriMo website (see below) and measure your own success against others.

NaNoWriMo is a really great way helps with work ethics as you have a word target each day of about 1,667 and then the deadline to finish by the end of the month and with prizes up for grabs there’s an incentive (as if you don’t need any more of one along side wanting to be published). Can you hit your target by the end of the month and still have a manuscript that makes some sort of sense?

Whether a story is classed as a novel is determined by the word count. For works under 7500 words this is a short story, between 7500 and 17499 is a Novelette, works that are between 17500 and 39999 are classified as Novella’s and a Novel is 40000 upwards. So the target for NaNoWriMo pushes writers to achieve above the minimum word count for a novel, there are writers who set their word count to over 100,000; but the choice is your own.

National Novel Writing Month is not only a great way to bring out the writer in you, but it is also a great opportunity to spent time writing with other people. The writer’s career can be very isolated at times when you are sat at the computer all day wrapped in the world of characters and the wolrd you have created.

Writing a story of any length needs some level of planning and those who participate in NaNoWriMo usually take the month of October to prepare. This way writing becomes a lot easier and getting the 50000 words is like a breeze (they wish).

But preparing for this month long challenge involves things like getting a title, an outline of the plot, character profiles, a chapter and scene break down and anything else which could be classed as essential to the writing. If you are writing fantasy then maybe a map of the world you plan to create, and any rules or laws that that readers would need to know about.

There are many variations of the event with camp NaNoWriMo earlier in the year, which is a chance to camp with other writers as you complete the writing marathon. These all happen in April and in June.

So if you are planning to take part this year’s NaNoWriMo then let us know, we would love to know what you are writing and how you get on.

Did They Get It Or Not???

For those of you who are regular readers of this blog will know that I usually come on here, pick a topic, complain bitterly give an idea to a solution. But today I want to praise our industry especially organisations like the National Theatre and the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company).

It doesn’t matter what business or industry you work, from retail to the arts, if you go for an interview or an audition you then have to wait 2 or 3 weeks to get an outcome and if you’re not successful you just have to assume as the chances of receiving a ‘physical’ rejection in the form of letter or email is rare, not to mention rude, but most can be discouraging and stressful.

It also goes for writers for magazines, papers, publishers and theatres, a lot of work has been put into the effort and then not only do you not hear any feedback, or even a rejection, sometimes you don’t even get an acknowledgment that it has been received.

The most common reason employers give for this behavior is that ‘the response was over whelming, it’s too costly and timely to write to everyone, both successful and unsuccessful’. About 25 to 30 years ago this would have been true, when emails were just coming into wider use and even then the only costings would have been someone adding names and addresses to the top of a letter as most, if not all businesses use some form of templates for letters and with the new data protection laws they will have a specific databases for interviewee personal data.

For any business to succeed a need for individuals to believe in them and most businesses usually start with good intentions but somehow turn arrogant as success materialises and a search of cutting costs in to seek profit. Can you imagine how well businesses would do if every person who failed to get a job and didn’t receive a formal rejection letter was legally allowed to give the company a bad name, there would be some quick changes to policies.

The #yesorno campaign is about encouraging employers of all industries to let candidates know either way after an interview or audition. The whole interview or audition itself is a complete terrifying experience as individuals put so much of themselves into their work in front of the panel. Not to mention the expense of getting there, the babysitter, the time sat in traffic, that really early start after busy night at work the night before. Then the waiting experience afterward is even worse, it’s a whole mix of feelings and can lead to anxiety and if experienced enough can lead to depression and more mental health problems.

Just having the common courtesy to drop someone a note, no matter how short or simple, it doesn’t have to give specific feedback it just needs to confirm they were not successful. The gesture can make all the difference to someone’s life. It can be uplifting, empowering, but most importantly it helps them to put closure to the experience making it easier to move on the next. But above all this the organisation’s reputation and the reasons why individuals apply to work with them remains in tacked in the interviewees mind.

To Adapt or Not to Adapt

‘Adaptations’ of current or new works is like a Tribute Band, it is a good way to keep the work the alive and reach a wider audience but it is a terrible waste of someone’s talent. But unlike the tribute bands adaptations can just be ways for the creator to cash in on their work.

But really, do we need something to be adapted from book onto the stage and film? (It’s a question, not a statement). Is this not just conforming to Burger Kings slogan of ‘Have it your way’? In an age where we are supposed to be encouraging children to read and campaigning to keep local libraries and theatres open, is this really helping the cause? Surely it would be time better use of creative time to make something new rather than keep copying what the consumer already knows.

I understand that creators want their work to be seen by the biggest audience possible, but surely by creating something just for theatre or writing a book that is authentically good, then reviews and conversations it brings would  bring an audience in, if people want to view the work then they need to get out and purchase the book or buy the tickets. It seems that we are just making it easier and easier to access the hard work that our creators by making their projects cheaper so that people can just pick them up at the price which can so often make the creative industry a cheap charity, which it should never become.

I am not talking about this because of the adaptation concept is new, the whole idea came from the ancient Greeks when they would act out stories from manuscripts to encourage understanding in time before reading and writing was compulsory. It’s the sear amount of works being adapted today, it seems to be more popular to adapt than risking new works, especially when the adapting is often work that has only just hit the market, I often ask myself would some works stand the test of time? Will it still be that popular in 100 years from now or would most people have forgotten about it?

Some of the oldest works that still inspire us today like Shakespeare, his work has been adapted into every form of the arts over the years and sometimes it’s to help interpretation where the language was very different 400 years ago in England. But people seem to continue to find new things within it and that is what I wonder about some of the newer works that are adapted today, its only then that you know you have work that is it truly special.

Another example of the best form of adaptations used to inspire is that of PT Barnum, known as the Greatest Showman that America ever produced. There are films that portray his life, but there are also stage and screen productions which take snippets of this work or just one aspect of what he stood for. The latest production on screen The Greatest Showman centred on inspiring and encouraged people to chase their dreams regardless of their backgrounds, those who wouldn’t normally get the chance to enjoy society.

Remember that adaptation can be hard when bringing a book to life on stage or screen, because writers are given so much freedom in creating the world, so getting an exact replication of someone’s (or even readers) imagination is hard to recreate on stage, if bits are missed out or not quite up to expectation then disappoint for the overall work can come and that then can puts a down on the creator’s future hard work. This is not to say that there are some amazing adaptations but like the work inspiring the desire to adapt, the end result needs to be pretty spectacular too.

Access to Theatre for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Access to theatre for those with physical and mental needs seems to be on a positive increase. Recently we heard that The Prince Edward Theatre in London, currently home to Disney’s Aladdin has just received an award from being An Autism Friendly Theatre. This is wonderful news considering that for some who work in the industry there are issues surrounding pay and working condition.

But there’s another group of people beginning to benefit both on and off stage and that is deaf or people that are heard of hearing. With a population that sees 1 in 6 people having some sort of hearing issue with it expected to be around 15.6 million by 2035 I think this can be seen as good news.

As a hearing aid wearer myself I wrote my own experiences of living in a deaf world which you can check out by clicking here.

One of the best bits of technology ever invented to work in conjunction with hearing aids in a universal environment is known as the induction loop system. For those of you who don’t know what this is, if you go into most public buildings you may see a sign like this:

It basically means that the hearing aid wearers can change the program on their hearing aids, usually by just pressing a button and then I suppose the best way to describe is, that it works in the same way as Bluetooth. All hearing aids tune into this frequency and it cuts all the background noise to concentrates the user’s hearing on the voice(s) in front of them. So in theatre’s this means the noise of people commenting and the crumpling of packets are all cut out and wearers can only her  what’s on the stage and sounds of the performance.

The technology of these systems are improving all the time, with new systems coming out where users can tailor their experience to their own needs just by using their smart phone.

Also for theatre there has been a development in installed screens, projectors and tablets for members of the audience that are hard of hearing to read captions of what’s being said onstage, very much like the television’s subtitles. You can see more about this project by clicking here.

And of course there’s the ‘old fashion’ signing being employed at many performances these days. Personally I am not a sign user but I think it’s an incredible skill and even some of the biggest events in the world use it, for example the Olympics and not just for Paralympics use signing for the duration of the events. Do you remember back in 2000 at Sydney’s opening ceremony? As they sang the Olympic song for that year ‘Under the Southern Skies’ the chorus of that song saw the entire cast use sign language, you can check it out here on YouTube.

But now access to on stage and behind the scenes for those with hearing related problems are being developed by Deafinitely Theatre who have set up a new programme called The Hub, which is aimed to encourage training for deaf and hard of hearing talent to help them into mainstream theatre.

Currently the only place that offers any kind of specific course for deaf people in the arts is Scotland’s Royal Conservatoire. The Hub has been designed with a variety of workshops that cover many aspects of theatre including acting, writing and even stage management.

The courses are twelve months long with an additional two year one-on-one mentorship for participants. Long term The Hub hopes to establish full time courses for deaf people across the UK. The Hub is currently funded by Arts Council of England and partners with City Lit, RADA and London’s Royal Court Theatre.

You can find out more about The Hub by clicking here.

Dancing in the Street

Street theatre is one of the oldest forms of theatre and yet we don’t seem to see much of it these days unless there’s a special occasion or festival, but this it seems is down to councils having decided to cash in the on what was a success of street theatre by enforcing a permit policy for outdoor public performances and these permits are not always cheap for individuals, so hence why you only see them at festivals and special occasions.

When you think about street theatre the first place that may come to mind is probably Covent Garden in London which is the most common place to enjoy it these days. But street theatre as a whole reflects that of ancient world. Back then it was about mocking a serious character through comedy and from this format came the idea of Harlequin was born, a comic who had a dark side deliberately seeking to make fun of others. Today though, its more about an individual just clowning about and getting audience participation.

There are many different types of street theatre from carnival to flash mobs mostly for entertainment purposes. But back in medieval it was all an important part of the teaching communities about issues surrounding social morals and health education as well as religious teaching as the reformation took hold.

Using the streets for entertaining a crowd even today gives a very unique feel and atmosphere to a setting that a traditional theatre or town hall gives, but at the same time, it is a not a lesser version of theatre that that of conventional building known as theatre.

Busking is also something that comes to mind when someone mentions street theatre. It’s one of the oldest forms of street theatre, dating back to well before medieval times, it was the most common workplace for musicians before there was recordings. Busking has been a tradition for travellers and gypsies music, dancing and fortune telling. Today we still carry some of the traditions with the seasonal carol singing and Morris Men dancing in some parts of England.

Carnivals at best are a celebration of community, bringing everyone together in what is sometimes a very competitive event for those who part take in creating floats costumes. For most these are big colourful and loud events like in Brazil. Then at the other end of the spectrum there are the night carnivals, like in the South West of the UK made famous through the Guy Fawkes events of the 1600s and just to think that now there are people who spend the whole year planning and making the floats and costumes for these events.

The latest crazy for street theatre are flash mobs, essentially this isn’t the first time the term has been used. Interestingly it was first used in the 19th century to describe a subculture in Australia of females. The variation of ‘Mob Crowd’ was then used in 1973 to describe what happens in riots as people would just appear from nowhere and intensify the situation.

But flash mobs today in the 21st century has become one of the most respected forms of street theatre as they continually come up with new and exciting ways to excite an unsuspecting crowd. But even this is under threat from councils and governments as they insist that permits are applied for, which completely defeat the point of a flash mob.

Do entertainers really need a permit to do their job when the price the entertainer charges is the price of some a smile?