Tag Archives: writing

Dramaturgs wanted – National Theatre Wales

So what is dramaturgy? What does a dramaturg do? Might you be a dramaturg?National Theatre Wales are setting up a Dramaturgy Project to  explore the role of dramaturgy in theatre and in their own company in particular.

I’m delighted to be invited on the panel to choose this group. Artistic director John McGrath, Executive producer Lisa Maquire, co-playwright Roger Williams and myself will select six people who will lead this fascinating project –  four playwrights and two not.

John McGrath writes:

As a result of last years’ Dirty, Gifted and Welsh event, and a very interesting follow up discussion in the Writers Group on this network, I’m pleased to announce today that NTW is setting up a new Dramaturgy Project, to explore the role of the dramaturg in theatre in general and NTW in particular.

The group will involve six ‘dramaturgs’ – four of them playwrights and two not. The group will meet four times over a one year period, and also keep in touch via the online Writers Group. And if you are asking the question ‘but what’s a dramaturg’ then hopefully by the end of the year our team will have some good answers!

Historically the dramaturg has been a more consistent role in European theatre than British. Often this role involves a lot of research and support for the writer and director, but probably more than anything else a dramaturg is concerned with the shape, rhythms and sense of a play or piece of theatre – helping everyone involved to ensure that the production is the best possible version of itself. Dramaturgs may be theatre directors – and theatre directors often do a lot of dramaturgy on the plays they are directing, particularly with new writing – but perhaps most often they are writers who feel they have some skills and insight they can share.

The dramaturgy group at NTW will provide support to some of the writers NTW has commissioned, and will also explore the differing ways that a script and production can take shape, particularly when the usual conventions are being challenged.

The idea for our group grows out of a conversation about ways in which writers can provide support and advice for each other in the creative process – hence the majority of places on the group being for writers. However, there was also an acknowledgement in the discussion that dramaturgy can be equally important when shaping a theatre piece where words are not central. We felt therefore that it would be helpful to have non-writers in our group too.

There’s a small fee of £500 per dramaturg to cover the costs of attending at least three of the core meetings (virtual attendance is okay), plus an average of £1,000 each to provide support and input to writers on commission to NTW. I hope that the group will have a strong presence on this network, so that everyone can follow its development.

Applications to be part of the Dramaturgy Group are now open. Please send a message explaining why you’d like to be involved, plus a CV and a link to your profile on this network to mawgaine@nationaltheatrewales.org  Four writers and two other theatre makers will be chosen to form the group by a panel consisting of myself, NTW Executive Producer Lisa Maguire, and writers Kaite O’Reilly and Roger Williams.

The closing date for applications is May 31 2014.

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do.”

 

I was in a conversation recently with an essayist, scholar, and poet about ‘the two kinds of writer’: the prevaricating would-be who is always waiting for the perfect time to make the work, and the driven over-achiever who is always working and never really living.

Our conversation boiled down to those who do too much and those who do too little – and both were problematic.

This isn’t one of those posts where I present polar opposites and then ask ‘A or B: Which one are you?’ There is a plethora of ways of working (or not working) and these can differ day to day, if not project to project, with a whole host of challenges, approaches, and excuses in between for the individual writer.

The one thing I can confidently say about my working day is it will be unpredictable. Sometimes I’m up at my desk before I’m fully awake, head full of the next section of the project. Other days are slower, when I need to read and re-read everything I’ve written to sink back into the work through a process of what feels like hypnosis or osmosis. I can hope to make progress and will try to create the best conditions for a satisfying day of writing and thinking, but I’m ultimately not in control of my environment, especially here in Berlin (I usually live in the country). If the car alarm on the street is going to keep screaming at five minute intervals, or the children in the apartment upstairs are going to keep racing drunkenly around the hard floor in spike heels swiping at each other with socks full of heavy change (well, that’s what it sounds like), and the street musicians from the local market are going to play that addictive ‘I want to dance around and pretend to be an imaginary Edith Piaf in Paris’ accordion music in the five minute intervals when the car alarm isn’t screaming, well, there’s not a lot I can do about it, except go somewhere else or block it all out.

Some writers are lazy, some writers are workaholics, but most writers beat themselves up a lot.

So in an attempt to gee-up the slackers and cut slack for the over-achievers, here’s two quotations I came across this week:

The first, from the great writer William Faulkner:

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

 

This is another one of those quotations I want to hang above my desk to keep me focused. I like the fact that although on first reading it appears competitive, on closer reflection it reminds me in my work I am really only in relationship to myself and my own notions of ambition and success.

This next one is from Dinaw Mengestu, Guardian first book award winner and one of The New Yorker‘s ’20 under 40’. This  goes out for all of those disturbed by stiletto-wearing wailing children dancing flamenco on your ceilings:

“The older I get, the fuller and more complex my life becomes with family, friends, students, and above all children. I’ve learned now not to be precious about the conditions I work in. I’ve learned not to wait for the total silence, which on the vast majority of days, will never, ever come. And so forget about hoping to find the proper weather, or the light that pleases you best of all colours (to steal a phrase from William Carlos Williams). Abandon the desire, masked as need for perfectly pressed coffee. Write in crowds, in alleys, in the back seats of crumb-filled cars. Steal time from the crowded world even if it’s only a few minutes, or a blessed hour. Take being tired and emotionally exhausted as an excuse to take excessive liberties with language, with your imagination.”

 I love that – whatever the condition, humour, weather, or situation – take excessive liberties with language and imagination…….

And enjoy!

 

Letting go…

Mandel ja merihobu_kodukassuur

It’s strange when your work goes out into the world and starts finding an existence of its own. I always expected to have a close relationship with productions of my plays were I fortunate enough to have additional productions after the premiere. I anticipated being as involved as I am with the first production – speaking at length with the directors and cast, sitting in on rehearsals, or working closely with the translators if the productions were using languages other than my native English.

At first I thought I’d be deranged and dangerous – ‘The Controlling Author’ – sort of late career Bette Davis, fag in mouth, martini in hand, screeching out from the darkened auditorium during rehearsals: ‘ It’s not said like that! Didn’t you see it was a four dot pause, not three?’ as actors and directors wept copiously and swallowed handfuls of diazes…

Thankfully it didn’t work out like that. I found it more instructive, creative and beneficial for all to have a loose hold on the script and see what the skills, experiences and imaginations of the director, cast and company brought to the material. If there were certain points where I felt my intentions weren’t being presented, I would step in and make my case, but luckily for me, by easing off from being ‘the expert’ on my script (and the only voice), I have learned, grown, made good relationships with my collaborators and had much better productions.

So far so good…. But things are different again when the productions are not in the country where you reside…

I’m currently working in Berlin, and have a show opening tonight in Estonia, and needless to say, I shan’t be at the premiere. It feels distinctly odd, this sense of something so intimately connected to me – which came from me – having its own place and existence in the world without my connection. I don’t know the cast, have no notion of how the director hopes to stage it, and didn’t liaise with the translator. In fact, I didn’t even know this production was happening until earlier this week and I suspect this then is a kind of rites of passage. There reaches a point when our work is published, or out in the world, and totally independent.

Early in the process, I control it. I write it, I decide who gets to see it, who even knows it is in development. When it is completed in early draft stage, I am the conduit through which it goes, selectively, into the world. As the work gets polished and ready to be seen by a wider audience than my selected ‘first readers’, the narrow stream widens, and it is my agent who is placing the script under noses and so the tap root expands from there. What I’m experiencing today is what happens when work is published and readily available to whomever wants to read it, across the world. Gifted translators transform my words into another language and so its pathway into the world grows even more.

I’ve had productions before in other countries where I couldn’t travel and so see the work. I’ve had readings and productions in thirteen countries across the globe and I hope the productions were creative and successful and that the experience was a happy one for all involved. I hope each made the work fresh, and truly theirs – without any sense of a controlling authorial eye, or a ‘thou shalt not’ limiting imaginations.

So this evening, I’m letting go, and raising a glass to ‘The Almond and the Seahorse’ at Theater Endla in Estonia – wishing joy and broken legs, toi toi toi, and all those other superstitions. I will dream of what an Estonian Sarah, Dr Falmer, Gwennan, Tom, and Joe may be like – and hope that sometime over its long run in repertoire, I get there to see it.

Trailer at:  http://www.endla.ee

Talent is not the most important thing… William Faulkner.

“At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that — the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, train himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance. That is, to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is … curiosity to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does. And if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference, whether you’ve got that or not.”

 William Faulkner. University of Virginia, May 1957.

I’m currently deep in revision – not for an exam (or is it?), but reworking a would be novel. In the midst of this process, for solace and encouragement, I’ve been looking over my collection of quotations from the great and the good.

This Faulkner quotation, above, is refreshing, especially in the light of recent debates about talent and whether writing can be taught (and, yes, I’m talking about you, Hanif  Kureishi  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/04/creative-writing-courses-waste-of-time-hanif-kureishi)

Faulkner’s assertion seems both generous and also insightful – we can train and teach ourselves. It spurs me on to edit, to question, to wonder, to mull…to try and to try and to try until it comes out right.

Something to put on the wall above my writing desk, I think…

Finding the plot

“I guarantee you that no modern story scheme, even plotlessness, will give a reader genuine satisfaction unless one of those old-fashioned plots is smuggled in somewhere. I don’t praise plots as accurate representations of life, but as ways to keep readers reading.”
- Kurt Vonnegut

Narrative, character, motivation and action have been my lodestars of late. I’ve been developing a treatment for an independent television production company, and returning to the basics has been both a struggle and a joy. It feels like a very long time since I considered story arcs and chronological throughlines and even consequential action… The past few projects I’ve worked on in live performance have been using either non-western structures (Told by the Wind and Japanese Aesthetics of Quietude) or post-dramatic dramaturgies (Playing the Maids). It always takes time to shift between media and adjust to their different demands when you work, as I do, across genre, style, and form. I feel like I need to acclimatise, or pass through a decompression chamber, so varied are the atmospheres and their related demands.

So after spending months considering Yugen, the untranslatable Japanese aesthetic principle which means something akin to ‘the hint’, or ‘what lies beneath the surface’, I now have to make the components which create the drama visible, tangible, concrete. It goes against every fibre in my body. I’ve spent months invisibly structuring, and denying narrative closure to create what Ota Shogo described as ‘Passivity in art’ (no ‘meaning’ or narrative is foisted upon the audience – rather, they are invited to participate in the creation of it). As a warm-up I attend a Pitch Your Film workshop led by the very excellent Angela Graham. If anyone can shake me from my current aversion to formulaic structure and GOAL MOTIVATION CONFLICT, Angela can.

And she does, with great aplomb. I love her directness, her clear instructions and thorough understanding of shaping material for the particular medium of film. She cuts through my froth and resistance, giving me clear directions in what I need to do to mould this material for the specific medium and for the activity at hand: a Pitch.

I’ve always loathed ‘loglines’ (‘Jaws in space’ – Alien), and I resist the highly codified and formulaic structures required to give the essence of the drama, even whilst understanding the need of these for such an expensive and commercial enterprise. After much struggling the penny drops – a pitch is told in a three act structure – and with some satisfaction I find my own way to supply what’s required without ‘compromising’ on my writing style and storyline too much.

If that sounds snobbish, I certainly don’t mean it to be. It’s simply a description of this particular writer’s struggle across and between media and form and what each demands. After working as a dramaturg with collaborators on a co-created piece of live performance, it takes a while to activate and then strengthen certain creative muscles which haven’t been used for a while. My character-driven naturalistic action/reaction and then and then and then narrative skills had become flabby. It hurt to flex them, and it was immensely difficult to motivate myself into using my imagination in this way after such an absence – especially when I knew it was well-honed and strong from working in other ways. After Angela’s work-out and then some very serious activity alone, the muscle sprang back surprisingly quickly, and I again started to enjoy working this way. It’s all stuff I know and have encountered as a reader, as a student, as a writer, as a maker, it simply takes a while to re-remember it, to re-enter this particular atmosphere, and with all the equipment needed to breathe and prosper there.

 

 

 

Grace, fluency, and facility… Poet Chris Kinsey on writing and re-writing.

Writers are notoriously curious about how everybody else does it. Apart from the endless fascination with other peoples’ process, we also know there are wonderful lessons to be learned, tips to gather, knowledge to be shared. A few weeks ago the poet Chris Kinsey shared a document with me which she had written for her students about writing and re-writing. I’m delighted she gave me permission to reproduce that here.

 

Chris Kinsey: A personal view of writing and re-writing.

 

I write mainly out of excitement with experiences and from a desire to re-enact and re-live them.

I want to record the physicality and sensations of certain experiences. (Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Gerard Manley Hopkins were the first to make me want to pay attention and write.)

I write in order to find out what it is I want to write. Many writers prefer to have a plan but I’ve never liked to fit into the Procrustian bed of a plan. I need to make discoveries to maintain my motivation. Good ideas mostly fail because they’re good and there’s nothing to work out. It can feel like drudgery to record them.

First drafts are like finding a load of fireworks – full of excitement at experimenting with voices and viewpoints and coining words and images with the most exact visual or aural effects. This stage can be intoxicating. I chase a stream of consciousness, memory and sensation as fast as I can and as close as I can to any event which excites me to write.

Re-writing is best done a day or two after the ‘first thoughts, best thoughts’ rush.

Sometimes it’s as painful and humiliating as a hangover – everything grates or clunks or seems hackneyed, clichéd, laborious, repetitive, monotonous, vague, waffling, tongue-twisterly, O.T.T……. Sometimes it only feels this way. Our feelings are not always the best guide to the quality of our work; especially if they’ve just been hurt by discovering that a first draft doesn’t represent total satisfaction or perfection. Usually there are plenty of nuggets to harvest and frequently this leads to the true or vivid aspects of the subject declaring themselves and a theme or shape emerges. Voice or tone stabilises and distillation begins.

Crop peripheral ideas and images, focus the main ones.

Strive for the most exact, apt images and nouns. Tone up verbs. Tweak and play with word orders (save every change – you may want to revert to an earlier form). Try your piece out on the ear. Cut clichés, repetitions, catch phrases, etc. Etc. Rest. Let it lie.

Return later  – this is the hard part – make sure you haven’t cut some crucial part. And this is the really hard part – make sure you haven’t stifled the life of your piece by over determining it.

Hope for grace, fluency, and facility. Try your work out on someone whose feedback you trust and respect. Someone who will tell you where the work made them stumble is valuable.

Good, spontaneous-sounding, ‘natural’, pleasure-to-read work, often takes between 15 and 30 drafts.

 

*

With thanks to Chris.

Copyright of the above remains with Chris Kinsey 16/2/14.

 

Henry Miller’s Writing “Commandments.” Be reckless and joyful. Keep human.

I know I’m not the only one endlessly fascinated with writers’ processes, rituals, ‘rules’ and superstitions. There’s been a whole spate of books lately analysing the daily traits and routines of successful artists and writers and although I haven’t yet succumbed to buying them, it may just be a matter of time…

It’s not that I think these books will give me a formula for success (whether magical or scientific),  it’s because when I’m not writing myself, or reading other people’s writing, I love reading about other people’s process when writing… Every time I do so, I learn something new, or am reminded of something I’ve forgotten.

I’m reminded today of JOY. PLEASURE. BEING RECKLESS IN OUR CREATIVITY. BEING HUMAN!

In 1932, the famous writer and painter, Henry Miller, created a work schedule that listed his “Commandments” to follow as part of his daily routine. This list was published in the book, Henry Miller on Writing and I reproduce a few of my favourites, below:

  1.    Work on one thing at a time until finished.
  2.    Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.
  3.   Work according to Program and not according to mood. Stop at the appointed time!
  4.    When you can’t create you can work.
  5.    Cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.
  6.   Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.
  7.   Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.
  8.   Discard the Program when you feel like it—but go back to it next day. Concentrate. Narrow down. Exclude.
  9.    Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.
  10.    Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.

The “commandments” seem very human, generous, and knowledgeable of process. They are precise and clear, yet not draconian. We all have days when the words refuse to flow, or the ideas feel stilted, and no matter how hard we try, we just can’t kick-start our creativity. What I liked about Miller’s rules were the emphasis on pleasure along with the hard work – and the flexibility allowed in giving up on a day when it’s just not happening… Where this really works for me is the understanding this is a temporary state and for this day only. It’s very easy to feel cursed, or that the mojo has left us – writers are notoriously superstitious and fearful about long periods of non-productivity. Miller’s “commandments” ensure confidence in tomorrow being if not a better day, then another fresh start and the failures of today will not linger into the next.

That’s really worth being reminded of.

On being quiet and humble….

After a week of deadlines, meetings, being in three countries, leading a weekend intensive workshop in Cork with Art/Works and presenting two public lectures, I’ve felt busy and screechy and visible and loud and far too bossy and efficient for my own good as a writer….

To lead a workshop and speak publicly, I need to be highly organised and to have plans a, b, c, d, and e, so I can respond to the natural dynamic of the group and create an experience which works for as many as possible. To speak publicly I need to know my subject inside out and back to front, I need to rehearse, deliver on time, and be ready for left-field questions. In other words, I need to be totalitarian in my organisation and preparation…. In order to write I need to be invisible and quiet and as eccentric in my process as I need to be. I’ve found when I’m starting out on a new project if I try to be efficient creatively, I lose spontaneity; the chaos I allow when initially writing paradoxically saves me time in the long run.

The past week has been superb and I’ve met the most remarkable people, but going from the quiet privacy of my solitary writing life to this hugely stimulating and enjoyable social public life reminds me again of the dichotomy and contradiction at the heart of my working life. To travel between both halves of my life feels like I need a decompression chamber, a sort of air lock between atmospheres I’ve seen in Sci-fi movies.

How necessary then was a calming email from my friend the poet Chris Kinsey this morning, sharing a quotation from Gwyneth Lewis:

Writers have to know when to be quiet and humble enough to let the unexpected come to them. If you conceive of language as an entirely willed cultural construct, then you miss its ‘otherness’.                                            Gwyneth Lewis. On Nature Writing.   www.newwritingpartnership.org.uk/fp/aspen/public/getFile-49.doc‎

My major thanks to both poets for sharing this wisdom with me. I’m off into my snowdrop-scattered garden to breathe and be quiet and humble, and invite the unexpected and otherness of language in…. Hope you can, too.

Finish everything you begin….

There is always something deeply humbling about finishing the first draft…

It doesn’t matter how many plays I have written, the process never becomes hackneyed, or familiar, or any easier.

Some years ago I wrote a letter to myself which I kept on my desktop titled

READ THIS WHEN YOU’RE  IN DESPAIR AND HATING YOURSELF AND THE WORK AND EVERYTHING WHEN TRYING TO WRITE THAT FEKKING DRAFT

It was a reminder of certain phases I invariably seem to go through: the deliciousness of research, the battle to withdraw from this glorious process and actually get down to some work. Then there are the moments of brainlessness and cotton wool mind, when any sense of character, or context, or storyline, or purpose is terrifyingly absent, when I think finally I have been found out as the talentless floozy I fear lurks in the darkest corners of my being. This is the hateful period of doubt, when the heart bangs against the ribs and I regret taking the commission and agreeing to the deadline and whose stupid idea was it to follow this line of creativity, anyway?

And then there are the reminders of the utter joy. The sublime moments I have never experienced in any other context in my life, when everything is porous, where my breath and my flesh and the universe and the keyboard and the imagination and the fluency of thought miraculously meld and five hours have passed and I didn’t even notice and I want to spend my entire life in this kinked position hooked over a book or a laptop and to hell with food and water and fresh air and sunlight and standing up and goodness, what’s this? Other human beings in the house?!

Writing consumes me and sustains me in a way no other activity ever has. This obsession, this practice, has longevity. It has been my familiar through the vast majority of my life – even before I knew the alphabet when I scrawled over my elder brother’s schoolbook and claimed I was writing a story.

And no matter how long I do it, no matter what small success or satisfaction or failure I may have, it never ceases to surprise me, to remain in parts unknowable, for I find each new project brings unique challenges and processes which differ from what I have done, before. And so I am constantly learning, and developing, and honing skills and never resting on laurels or replicating whatever I have done, before.

So it is deeply humbling to finally stagger through to the end of a first draft, as I did with ‘Woman of Flowers’ for Forest Forge theatre company last night. No matter how strong my sense of trajectory and story may be, I never fully know where I am going and where I have been until I complete this first draft.

Finishing work is essential. I make it the golden rule when teaching or mentoring any writer, and the lynchpin of my own work. Completing the draft, following that throughline (which doesn’t have to be linear or chronological), wrestling with the unities, filling in the holes and stapling it all together into some kind of coherent logic is where we really learn as writers and makers. We can all write brilliant fragments. We all have brief moments when an image or allusion seems perfect and captures exactly a thought. The major learning and honing of skills comes with putting that final full stop on a full draft after nursemaiding and bullying and coaxing and bewailing – after fretfully, anxiously, triumphantly harnessing our skills and applying them to our imagination.

Printing ‘End of first draft’ at the bottom of the page (as I did last night) doesn’t mean to say our work is done – far from it – writing is all about rewriting. Completing a first draft may throw up more problems to be solved than seems fair or possible. There will be further crises and conundrums and bewailing and killing of darlings, and the final draft may differ as much from the first as a butterfly does a chrysalis. Or it may be a very close likeness, indeed. That is the joy and the discovery – how this toddling creation will turn out in its fluid, solid maturity.

And this joy and challenge lies ahead for me. But for one day at least, I shall savour the relish of putting down that final full stop, and breathe deeply and with pleasure on a difficult journey completed.

Mslexia short story competition 2014

Here’s information from Mslexia about their forthcoming short story competition

MSLEXIA 2014 WOMEN’S SHORT STORY COMPETITION

A competition for unpublished short stories of up to 2,200 words. We accept work on all subjects, so write about anything and everything you fancy – we love to read it.

1st prize: £2,000

Plus two optional extras: a week’s writing retreat at Chawton House Library, and a day with a Virago editor

2nd prize: £500

3rd prize: £250

Three other finalists each receive £100

Judge: Jane Rogers

Jane Rogers has has published eight novels, including The Voyage Home and Island, and written original television and radio drama. She was shortlisted in the BBC National Short Story Competition in 2009 and has, amongst others, received an award for Writers’ Guild Best Fiction Book and a BAFTA nomination for best drama serial. Jane also works as an editor in new writing anthologies, and is a Professor of Writing on the Sheffield Hallam MA course.

Closing date: 17 March 2014

All winning stories will be published in the Jun/Jul/Aug 2014 edition of Mslexia

To enter the competition, go to: https://mslexia.co.uk/shop/scomp_enter.php

2013 WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

1st Prize: Francesca Armour-Chelu with ‘The Starving Ghost’
2nd Prize: Karen Onojaife with ‘Starling’ ‘
3rd Prize: Josie Turner with ‘Jewels’

Three other finalists: Anne Corlett with ‘The Man on the Platform’, Eve Thomson with ‘Shona and the Bosoms’, Jennie Walmsley with ‘Saturdays Only’

All six winning stories, and the judge’s essay, are published in issue 58 of Mslexia.

On Winning…

Francesca Armour-Chelu“Winning the Mslexia Short Story Competition is wonderful and I still can’t quite believe it. When I got the email asking me to call – so I could be told in person – my immediate reaction was to think I’d done something wrong! I assumed I’d accidentally slandered a real person, plagiarised someone’s work, or done something else that would disqualify my entry. Ever the optimist!” – Francesca Armour-Chelu.

For the 2013 winners and what they say about the experience of winning, please go to: https://www.mslexia.co.uk/whatson/msbusiness/scomp_winning.php

The 2013 Judge

“…a good short story frames not just a credible now, but an implied past – and a stretch after the putative ending into infinite space. I guess that’s what is meant by writing that ‘comes off the page’: 3D is certainly possible on the flat page.

In my opinion, it is also true that what the story is about matters far less than the story’s way of seeing: the thing that makes it uniquely itself, whatever the notional everydayness of its subject matter. ”

Read the full essay by the judge here: https://www.mslexia.co.uk/magazine/writing.php#essay

Janice GallowayJANICE GALLOWAY read Music and English at Glasgow University, then worked as a school teacher for 10 years before turning to writing. She has published three collections of short stories – Blood (Vintage, 1992), Where You Find It (Simon and Schuster, 2007), Collected Stories (Vintage, 2009)) – as well as three novels, a volume of poetry and two memoirs, the most recent of which, All Made Up (Granta), came out in July 2012.
She has written and presented three radio series for BBC Scotland (Life as a Man, Imagined Lives and Chopin’s Scottish Swansong), has written for theatre, opera, museum and other exhibitions, and works extensively with musicians, visual artists.
Her awards include the MIND/Allan Lane Award (for her novel The Trick is to Keep Breathing, 1989), the McVitie’s Prize (for her novelForeign Parts, 1994), the EM Forster Award, a Creative Scotland Award, Saltire Book of the Year (for her novel Clara, 2002, based on the life of Clara Schumann) and the SMIT non-fiction Book of the Year for her memoir This Is Not About Me (2009).

LISTEN TO THE 2012 WINNING STORY

“My baby’s mine, come out of me. I can’t see her face but her hair! There’s so much of it, sticks up like a hedgehog. I see nurse give it a stroke. Feels lovely I bet. They never let me touch her.”

The beautiful and haunting story ‘What goes around’ by Tamsin Cottis is now available to listen to for free at Short Story Radio! The story is narrated by Lisa Armytage. Please see below for the link to short story radio.

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HOW TO WIN A SHORT STORY COMPETITION

We have taken the advice from a range of past judges of short stories and compiled it into a selection of top tips that give you some insider information into what short story judges are looking for when they’re reading through all those submissions – and what to do to stand out: https://www.mslexia.co.uk/whatson/msbusiness/scomp_feature.php

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You can listen to the work of previous winners at: http://mslexia.shortstoryradio.com/