Client news

KiCatherine Webb (as Claire North)’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was published yesterday in paperback and has been selected for Richard and Judy’s current reads: http://www.richardandjudy.co.uk/books/The-First-Fifteen-Lives-of-Harry-August/451

Anne Perry’s Blind Justice has reportedly won a Silver Falchion for Best Novel (waiting for confirmation on this on the Killer Nashville website) but we have this on good authority.

Mike Carey’s The Girl With all the Gifts has been No. 1 on the SFF bestseller list for 3 weeks.

Film First have picked up the option on Catherine Bruton’s wonderful novel I Predict a Riot (via Rupert Crew Ltd).

Simon Scarrow’s computer game featuring Cato and Macro is developing nicely https://www.facebook.com/officialsimonscarrow?fref=ts

Emma Adams’ play HOME SWEET HOME opens at the Albany Theatre in Deptford on 23rd September. Here are reviews of the premier run earlier this year:

“**** You can never be less than impressed with the ambition and scale of what [Adams] is attempting… Adams has no respect for the conventions of theatre – in the very best way possible… [She is] more compelling with every new piece of work.” Yorkshire Post

‘Highly engaging… audiences will see a different side of life at “the home” which they wouldn’t have dreamt of seeing before… Quite spellbinding.” Yorkshire Times

What’s On Stage
WOS Rating: ****

Home Sweet Home is a remarkable piece of work, as difficult to define as it is easy to warm to. A friend asked if I would call it agit-prop, to which the only answer is, “No … and yes.” It certainly makes hard-hitting points about the ways in which the system lets down old people (and the staff in care homes), but mainly it is celebratory of the achievements, aspirations and humanity of the old.

Home Sweet Home by Freedom Studios and Entelechy Arts being performed at the Ukrainian Club in Bradford.
© Tim Smith

Emma Adams’ play for Freedom Studios and Entelechy Arts contains a distinct storyline acted out very capably by seven professional actors, but the community project surrounding the central drama is at least as important. Hannah Sibai’s designs are crucial. A large space at the Ukrainian Centre is surrounded by small blocks of seating, with delightfully homely living rooms in each: wall-lights, framed photographs, old-fashioned wallpaper and curtains. The open acting area – with furniture wheeled on as needed – is finally transformed into a sort of Big Top with streams of lights.

The eight members of the Community Chorus each look after an area of seating: welcoming audience members, giving them cups of tea, passing round photo albums and scent bottles with appropriate care home smells. In the course of the evening they do simple magic tricks (some rather well), comment on the action, dance and sing a bit and generally affirm the positive side of old age.

The chorus members also represent the many older people whose stories have fed into Adams’ script over the two-year gestation of the play. These have been refined down to the experiences of three representative old people. Rosa (Judy Norman) is a Ukrainian who bitterly resents being admitted to the home and is confident that her daughter will secure her release. Moses (Kevin Golding) is a West Indian confined to a wheelchair who needs help on an illicit mission to visit another part of the home. Norman and Golding are a fine double-act, sparring verbally, finding a spirit of adventure and sharing each other’s back-stories.

Ron (a tortured Stephen Schreiber) is an occasionally disruptive dementia sufferer whose wife Barbra (Jean Rogers, determined and sympathetic) tries with the utmost difficulty to get staff to reconsider the decision – officially, not yet made – to put him on anti-psychotic drugs and thus destroy his sense of himself.

Phillipa Peak realises Jo, the manager with her hands tied (literally – she is chained to her filing cabinet), effectively, and Mani Dosanjh’s struggles with principle and loyalty as the care-worker Iffty are aided enormously by the comic extravagance of the appearances of his ghostly grandma and irritatingly ever-present conscience (Balvinder Sopal).

Under Tom Wright’s direction the whole thing becomes an immersive experience and the evening runs pretty smoothly given the disparate elements to be integrated.

Why are TV execs so rude?

photo (2)

This survey amongst independent TV producers about their relationships with broadcasters was published yesterday in Broadcast:

http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/5076417.article?WT.tsrc=email&WT.mc_id=Newsletter11

To be fair, the headline is one of those controversial ones and it looks as if most broadcasters (except for the BBC) are generally reasonable to deal with. There are, however, many comments about meetings recklessly postponed or cancelled, a damaging lack of clear editorial direction, a rash of arrogance, and an expectation that independents fund the (expensive) development process themselves with little commitment that the broadcaster will buy the programme under discussion.

It’s oh so tempting to react with a homily about the importance of good manners in business as well as in personal life. Here are some actual quotes as reported by my clients:

Producer to writer: ‘We’d commission you if you brought us HBO as a co-producer.’ (Writer thinks: ‘If I had HBO, mate, I wouldn’t be working with you.’)

Producer to writer: ‘Oh, you’re here for notes on your script? Shit! Can you wait outside for 10 minutes while I read it?’

Producer to writer: ‘But where’s the naked woman in your script?’

And worse. Scripts changed from half an hour to an hour’s length, then back, a series then a mini-series; imbecilic changes imposed on the storyline; and so on. So what’s going on here?

Some of the answer must be that power goes to some people’s heads. But I think this is a symptom of another problem: no one really knows what’s going to work. There’s loads of audience research, but work has to be launched into an unpredictable context. We can only support what we think is good enough that people will want it, and then hope for an auspicious climate for it.

But it takes guts to back something just because it’s good and you think enough other people will also like it. If you’ve got a boss breathing down your neck wanting guarantees about audience figures, it must be bad for your mental health. Heaven knows, being an agent is sometimes like that experiment where a bird presses a lever to get food. Sometimes food is supplied, sometimes not. All they can do is keep pressing the lever that sometimes works.

We’re probably all barking mad here and haven’t quite noticed.

(Meg)

The Fetish of Bookishness

Recently I was looking at the Twitter timeline of a local author. The tweeter described themselves as a ‘crime writer’ although I could find no evidence of either published works or, in fact, any attempt to get published. Such was this writer’s personal confidence and dominance of their local writer’s group that publication seemed a secondary aim. Forceful airing of views on writing craft, plot and the industry of publishing seemed to be enough. The writer had fetishized being part of a trade they could, at best, be deemed to exist on the periphery of. Curious at this self assured timeline I continued to find literary agents recommended to other potential authors by this unagented tweeter, rallies to other writers to ‘just write!!’, ‘edit edit edit’ and ‘research!!’. I was struck by this rock solid self-belief and wondered whether bookishness has become a fetish. One that perhaps eschews the entire publishing process?

With bookishness in mind I continued to examine the competition element in local writing groups and found that number of books read and owned appears to be a key factor in setting oneself apart from other unpublished writers. As someone who recently took a year out of publishing one of the most rewarding things I found was reading for pleasure and without pressure- what a joy! I would urge any writer wishing to be published to read less but increase quality and relevance. Yet writing groups appear to pressure their members to read at a volume I’d expect on an MA course list. A writer belonging to an amateur writing group setting themselves a public reading challenge seems intimidating in its one-upmanship. One could wonder whether it’s really a form of very vocal protest from someone who reads very little- in other words a fetish for writing and for books and all that entails. The process of submitting work becomes secondary because that involves, at some stage or another, rejection.

Form of writing; longhand or Macbook- (it’s always a Macbook), purchase of notepads and pens, hours worked, tweeting and favouriting latest Kindle deals., bellowing about every open submission deadline, vigorously agreeing, disagreeing and befriending agents on social media appear as a feature of this ungraceful trend. The book fetishist is aggressive and defensive in equal measure.

This is why I am skeptical about Bookaday a recent book blog appeal to ‘Read one book a day for each day of the summer vacation’. Bookaday’has been successfully running for six years and my doubts will not halt its popularity. For myself I’d rather hear about one affecting book in a lifetime than the seven someone read competitively this week. The idea of averaging out at one book a day for six weeks (sometimes three a day, sometimes none) is appallingly reductive to me. Read lots, if that’s what you enjoy, but do not feel a commitment to do so. Of what value is the skim reading of one book per day?

I thought of one of my very favourite books: JL Carr’s A Month In The Country. It is a decade since I last read Carr’s immersive story of the renewal and healing of soldier Tom Birkin in the peaceful summer of 1920. Yet it remains vivid to me. Imagine if I had read it in a day- slim though it is. Would I have noticed its beautiful rhythmic (slow) pace or the beauty of Carr’s writing? I loved it so much I didn’t want it to end. Even so, I’ve never felt the need to read it again.

I therefore announce the Ki Agency book lovers appeal. Here are the tenets:

Readers:

Strive over the next year not to listen to recommendations about the volume or regularity of your reading.

Don’t be pressured by a voluminous stack by your bed.

Don’t, in fact, allow a stack to develop at all.

Limit yourself to one book on the go at any time.

Try to find a book every six months that you will remember for years.

Writers:

Write less but write better.

Read the market segment you are aiming for and read the best books in that segment.

Spend less time reading and more time thinking of your potential reader.

Pass on books you’ve read and declutter- keeping only the finest writing to adorn your home.

Don’t enter into any debates about Kindle vs hard copy.

Understand that the materials you use to write with are not important. It’s the writing that counts.

Daniel