What I Did Last Summer

2019 came in with a bang, thanks to a few kidney stones that announced themselves in mid-November on the closing night of my play in Sydney. No matter what age you are, it’s easy to take your body for granted until it doesn’t work properly. And mine didn’t for over three months. Three loooong months. I tried to keep busy during this unexpected hiatus, mainly to get my mind off how lousy I was feeling, mainly revisiting my earlier work, fleshing out a few picture book ideas and applying for a few artistic opportunities. Here’s a summary for everyone asking what I’ve been up to …

My young adult fiction novel, Freefalling, has preoccupied a fair chunk of my grey matter for the past few years. I’m thrilled with the interest it has attracted and the recognition it has received. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated that it hasn’t yet been published. Many publishers are telling me love the story, the humour, the complex issues tackled and the quirky characters. However, in a tight commercial market their lists are restrictive and specific and, alas, it’s not a good fit. Sigh.

The good news: I recently picked up the manuscript again and tweaked it further, with a view to maximising its commercial potential and therefore its appeal to publishers. This isn’t easy. The beauty and strength of Freefalling, in my view, is its unique, offbeat take on self, identity, love, life. It’s laugh-out-loud funny but will make you cry. It’s tragic but ultimately hopeful. It weaves between perception and reality, blending philosophical elements not typically seen in YA fiction. And I didn’t want to water it down into YA-lite, the typically formulaic story that skims the surface of issues and wraps up all the messy ends. Life is messy, especially for teenagers. And hope doesn’t necessarily translate into answers on the page for readers. I’ve concentrated on pace, fleshing out some secondary (but important) characters, and finessing a subplot or two, without losing the heart of the story. The manuscript is now stronger than it’s ever been and I’m about to submit. Stay tuned!

My monologue project on youth mental health, Fragments, is going from strength to strength. I was thrilled to recently be awarded an Artist-in-Residency position Bundanon in Illaroo, NSW, where I’ll soon spend two weeks progressing the play. I’m looking forward to the dedicated time and space to finalise the script before production and publication. Further development will take place at the Street Theatre through its First Seen program. The focus of the two days with actors and a director will be to explore how best to present the eight interrelated stories as a holistic work. I’m excited!

I was pleased to hear that ‘Roller Coaster’, one of the monologues from Fragments, has been picked up for the 2019 Newcastle Micro Theatre Festival Newcastle’s Micro Theatre Festival (23 May to 1 June). This unique event features short dramatic works in coffee shops throughout Newcastle, an innovative way to increase exposure and accessibility to the theatre, similar to Lisa Inman’s ‘A Play, A Pie and A Pot’ program in Victoria. I owe a lot to Lisa because it was the Play, Pie and Pot program that picked up my first play, Leaving, for production, which ignited my passion for dramatic writing.

So, for the first quarter of 2019 – a few setbacks, a few challenges and now, a few wonderful opportunities. Bring on the deadlines!

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