Emma Adams’ play was one of three comprising Mauve New World at the Oval House last week. It was part of their Outlaws series and commissioned to be shown at an early stage in development. Emma’s tale was one of forbidden love, and in her usual absurdist way of looking at something serious, it was about a young girl with a growing passion for the robot-hoover. She captured, in particular, that moment of ‘If this is who I love, what does that make me?’ as the girl discovers a plug socket behind her right knee: she may look normal but under the skin she’s the same as the robot-hoover.
Emma worked with director Sarah Applewhite, but due to the budget had to perform it herself. While she was really nervous, Emma said she also got the chance to really examine her style. She’s got a unique blend of deadpan absurdism while saying something serious. Her take on a subject is always original – for instance, when she was commissioned to write a play about climate change, and looked at this through the lens of how people treat each other when resources are scarce.
The audience could see Emma was nervous, but she came up with a reason in the story as to why she would be, and they went with her. Her funny lines and delivery got big laughs – but there was a shocked silence when she was brave enough to shout about how, if you don’t follow your dreams, it will kill your soul. Big applause afterwards.
I’ll keep you posted as to how this play develops. Personally I can’t wait.
A number of people are emailing to ask what my submission guidelines are. Since I’m still finding that a one-page website and a blog are easiest and most informative, I haven’t posted this information yet.
At simplest, I’m always happy to read a full script (film, TV, theatre or radio) or a synopsis and three chapters of a novel. I’m not very good at representing non-fiction, so avoid it as much as possible so as not to cause any damage to anyone. Other blind spots are commercial women’s fiction and literary fiction. Submissions can be emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org A covering email with as much information about the writer as possible (in a professional sense) is also very helpful. Email is easier for me than written submissions but I still remember how to read stuff on paper. I aim to respond within 6 weeks.
I prefer free-range, organic, non-GM writers for maximum flavour, character and quality. I like scripts of all varieties of drama. With fiction, I do a lot of genre fiction. None of this, though, is to be taken too seriously; like most agents, if something comes out of left field but I love it and think I can sell it, I’ll go for it.
I’ve been in Sheffield Hallam today, as external examiner for their MA course in Scriptwriting. I get to read the scripts of the students, and the comments from the two markers. Each student also writes a précis of how they’ve improved this draft over the previous one and what work they think it still needs. I’m impressed with the level of teaching here. Even though the scripts still have a long way to go, the students clearly know what the craft requires, but are also encouraged to be as original as possible while still being aware of the context in which they’re working – where the industry is. More importantly, the feedback they get from the faculty is very professional and accurate. It’s great that the university maintains a close dialogue with publishing and producing – at the moment in the form of us two agents but previously with publishers and producers. Some other universities I’ve had contact with have been out of touch, and it shows: they’ve been behind with their information, too angled towards the academic, sometimes just wrong in what they’re saying to students. To be fair, universities have to ride two horses: some graduates intend to go on to academic jobs, so feel the academic approach is closer to their needs. Some will expect to become professional writers, so the marks they get aren’t as relevant as the experience and information they acquire. In the explosion of creative writing courses here in the last ten years or so, too often it’s been seen as easy money: easy to get students who don’t worry whether the tutor has any relevant qualifications or real expertise, whether the course will actually teach them what they need to know. Perhaps these faculties believe that creative writing can’t be taught, but if there’s a new fashion for a certain subject they might as well take the course fees. Craft can be taught but originality can’t –but it can be nurtured. But you wouldn’t pay to have your baby delivered by someone who only thinks they know what they’re doing. This connection with creative writing courses is good for the industry as well as the writers. We couldn’t cope with an influx of writers who have been taught wrong, and don’t understand where they’re heading. Students would be wasting their money, wasting our time, and word would get round that it’s not worth taking these courses. The industry would bear the brunt of spending time we haven’t got training raw talent; we benefit greatly from the exciting new writers emerging as fledglings rather than bald, hungry chicks.