GUINNESS

–It’s Welsh.

— It is?

— What is?

— It’s Irish. Obviously.

— Most people think it’s Irish. The man who’s famous for creating it –

— was Irish

— was Irish, right but was actually travelling from Wales to Ireland when he

[SOUND OF A CAMERA SHUTTER]

— Guinness. We’re talking about Guinness?

— he came across a nice little Welsh pub.

— nahh

— it’s a well known fact. Loved the drink so much he asked for the recipe.

Pause. 

bought the recipe and took it with him to Ireland.

— I don’t believe it.

— It’s a well known fact.

— I like real Irish beer. I want to go back to that place that did the free pint. the two pints for the price of one deal

— paddy’s lock

— yeah that one but i want to go with people who don’t like beer so i can get all their free ones. like rich does.

— rich does that?

— yeah he goes around the pub asking people for their spare pints when they don’t drink them

— nutter

— and he just says can i have that pint –

— and they let him/have it

— they let him have it!

Beat 

— what was that place in brighton? they did American shakes kinda thing…

— can’t remember

— it was nice there/wasn’t it?

— really nice

— how long till we’re

— 20 minutes

— home

— no less than that. if we’re…no less than that…10 minutes i’d say

— got your purse?

[SOUND OF A CAMERA SHUTTER]

— reckon the barriers are open

— we could jump the barriers. jump em and see if the police come running after us

— i’ve actually done that before

Beat.

— in paris. with fifty kids. cause we were on the wrong er

— you didnt!

— the wrong er

Laughter. 

— we got the wrong tunnel

— its illegal

— no its not. its ingenuity. resourcefulness.

— listen to her – it’s illegal

— not as illegal as telling fifty kids to jump a barrier so they could see the Louvre

— in paris!

— paris!

— only me

beat.

— we didnt see the Louvre

— anyway, youre the criminal

— me

— yeah

— me

— yeah

— wheres my wallet

— honestly i reckon its…

— yeah but just in case

— …open

— hang on. me? criminal?

— yeah. you. the true criminal.

— what on earth for?!

— for saying its Welsh, duh.

8 Tips for Creating Semi-Autobiographical Work

I’m currently working on my latest play, For a Black Girl. It’s a semi-autobiographical, semi-verbatim play. In non-theatre jargon, this means I have used dialogue from experiences I’ve encountered in my life, and also dialogue collated from discussions with people I have known. This blog post is all about my experiences of writing and performing in a semi-autobiographical play. So whether you’re working on semi-autobiographical work or not –  hello and welcome to the blog post! Here are 8 things you should consider when making semi-autobiographical work…

  1. Check Your Motives 

Listen, we’ve all had people hurt us in the past. And yes, the story you’re trying to tell may very well centre around the hurt and the people that caused it. But check your motives!  Ask yourself if you really need to mention that ex boyfriend or girlfriend by name. Is it imperative to the narrative that your audience can pinpoint exactly who hurt you in real life, or is it simply imperative to your own frustrations? Yes, it can be highly therapeutic to lash out at figures in our own lives, but you’re writing this for a reason other than revenge, right? (Because revenge comes in many forms and I’m not sure a poetry anthology is quite gonna hack it). What are the wider implications here? What is the message of your play/anthology/novel/film?

By all means, use real life experiences to shape your world. If you have a strife-filled relationship with your father and your work is about abusive fathers and therefore negative filial relationships are evident in your work, then that’s fine. But if you just want to one-up someone, I would advise seriously thinking about why and how (if at all!) this is benefiting your audience. Don’t be fuelled by hatred!

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2. It’s okay to have secrets 

Here’s a crazy suggestion. Unless you’re  fine with everybody knowing the ins and outs of your personal life (if you are then that’s awesome, kudos to you), put LIMITS on what you will or will not reveal. You don’t have to tell people which parts of your work are actually based on you and which parts are fiction. I would even go so far as to suggest that even if you think you’re fine with spilling the metaphorical beans, test yourself first. Reveal secrets to your audience  little by little. If you’re battling an addiction to alcohol, drugs and sex, why not try revealing just one of these addictions? If after your first ‘confession’, you feel emotionally exhausted, paranoid, and downright terrible, this will show you that you’re not yet ready to be so honest about your experiences with everyone. Protecting yourself is key. Yes, art is important but if you’re going to be mentally unstable as a result, your art is going to suffer anyway. And let’s remember that our audiences are not delicate. They can deal with your secrecy. Will they be pissed off? Maybe. Does it matter? Probably not. Nobody has a right to know EVERYTHING.

Here’s an example. We played a game in class last week. Everybody had to stand on one side of the room and say a truth about themselves, such as ‘I love the colour blue’ or ‘I believe in true love’ or ‘I love Beyonce.’ If you agreed with the statement, you stayed standing beside the person who articulated it. If you disagreed, you walked to the other side of the room. After a couple of rounds someone said something along the lines of, ‘I wish I could be having sex right now.’ I confidently walked to the other side. I knew it would be an unpopular opinion but not one person joined me and for a split second I felt a little awkward. Some people in my class were visibly shocked and I felt I owed them an explanation. I could’ve explained it away by saying I’d actually had  sex that morning, or by saying I just didn’t feel like it. Maybe I had a naturally low libido? Maybe I was asexual? Maybe I’d been through some sort of experience that put me off it? Maybe I just didn’t want to? Maybe I was just being controversial for the hell of it? But just as I was about to justify my opinion I realised – actually, no. Why should I? Let them suffer 😉 Let your audience be shocked if they want.  Let them suffer if they want. That’s not on you. Curiosity only killed the cat, not humans.

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3.  Protect Yo’self

In a particularly harrowing scene in my new play, I ended up being much more emotionally fraught than I ever thought I would be. When we finished the run through, my fellow actor turned to me and said, “Should we have safe words?” I think understanding, trust and empathy go a long way, particularly when working with topics very close to home. Be ready to revisit emotions. Be ready to face your inner emotions but also be ready to deal with them externally. Putting yourself in the public eye can be daunting and audiences as a whole are varying in their abilities to be sensitive. In fact, sometimes the public have done nothing wrong but their mere reaction creates heightened emotion.

For example, there are some things I have included in my play that I am no longer hurt by. You may be in a similiar position. Let’s say a person  caused you pain or said a particularly horrible comment (that happily also makes a killer line of dialogue. So considerate, right?). You’ve forgiven the person but it’s dramatically relevant so you include it in your work.  Life goes on. BUT, when certain audiences experience the play, they may be shocked, indignant, and angry on your behalf. You begin to realise: woah, that time my girlfriend called me a ****x@!!** was actually NOT normal. Or, wow, I’ve actually had it tougher than I realised. 

If this happens, take a moment breathe. Revisiting situations can be helpful, but reigniting old pain due to OTHERS’ perceptions (also known as reopening long healed wounds) may not be helpful.

So keep yourself safe and decide BEFOREHAND how you’re going to employ this safety (whether physical or emotional). Do you need safe words? Do you need to debrief every now and again? Do you need to step away from the project once a month? Do it.

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4. Not Everyone Will Get It 

You may be stupidly honest about a particular joyful moment in your life or a particular sad moment. But to an audience, it is ultimately just that: a moment. People may niggle with certain details or straight up disbelieve something which BLATANTLY happened in real life. I remember writing a short story during my university years, in which a character with a well regarded profession said something very offensive to the Black British protagonist. Immediately my creative writing class came alive with cries of:

  • Unrealistic!
  • Inauthentic!
  • [Someone like that] would never say [something like that]
  • The part that didn’t ring true for me was…

I found it very difficult not to laugh because of course, this was the ONE and ONLY part of the story that was literally verbatim. It had happened. It does happen. In fact, my lecturer at the time who is also black was the only one to stand up for me! Remember that other peoples’ experiences may blind them to your own. We walk the world in different ways, which may leave some of your audience like…

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Being easily offended will not serve you well. In fact, I would go so far as to say…

5. Be prepared to be offended 

You’re putting your life (or at least a part of it) on display for everybody to see and critique. Bear in mind some people – emphasis on the *some* – may delight in ripping everything apart. It only takes one scroll through the youtube comments section to be reminded of just how much certain people enjoy spreading mockery and pain. People are going to have a problem with your life and with your experiences. I know. Crazy right? They are, after all, your experiences, not theirs. But nonetheless, you’re putting yourself out there, so be prepared for the worst case scenario of (gasp!) disagreement and/or outright mockery.

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6. Artistic License is Your Friend 

There are pros and cons to using artistic license in semi-autobiographical works. Pros? Well firstly, the form wouldn’t exist without artistic license – it would just be a memoir or an autobiography. Secondly, you’re an artist right? This is where you get to have a bit of creative freedom! The con is that you cannot control what other people think about you. Even if you explicitly say that a particular part of your book/play/whatever, is not about you, people may forever wonder if it really is. Again, this shouldn’t be a problem (see point number 2) unless you care what people think. People like to boldly declare ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks about me!’ but realistically, there’s no shame in it. After all, if your semi-autobiographical performance is all about alcoholism, are you okay with people questioning your own recreational activities? (I think this sort of illogical assumption happens to many artists, regardless of whether their work is pure fiction or based on fact. But with semi-autobiographical work, such assumptions aren’t entirely illogical!)

Following the first read-through of my new play, one of the cast members turned to me and her first question was: “Is this autobiographical?” It isn’t. It’s semi. But people naturally jump to conclusions when they sense parallels between you and your work. Especially if you share certain characteristics with your protagonists – age, sexuality, race, etc. So make artistic license your friend.

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7. BE AWARE OF FORM 

This is similar to artistic license. Don’t be so precious about recounting everything that happened in its exact format. Create work that suits the form!  For example, there are a number of conversations in For a Black Girl which, if I’d transcribed word for word, would make a pretty boring visual and auditory experience for the audience. Just because in real life the conversation began ‘hey how’s it going?’ ‘pretty well, you?’ ‘yeah good thanks’ ‘how’s your mum’? doesn’t mean that all of this needs to exist in your text. BORING. A balance between truth and fiction needs to be reached and you can achieve this by a) skipping to the more interesting parts of the conversation or b) abstracting dialogue & relationships. I.e. Perhaps in real life a random passerby made a comment that you want in the play. However, if it doesn’t suit the theme and atmosphere in the play, can you assign this dialogue to someone else? A friend? A lover? Does it have a similiar vibe? Does it achieve the meaning? I think novelists are pretty adept at doing this, simply because a book is so vast there’s bound to be a whole loada dialogue in there that was gleaned from overheard conversations. But other art forms can use this technique too! Get creative.

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8. Be flexible but don’t forget the original intention

Perhaps the most important. Any work of art is a long and emotional journey. Be prepared to edit, revise and listen. But remember your original intention, always. You’ve done so much hard work – you owe it to yourself.

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So that’s it. Nikki’s 8 tips on creating semi-autobiographical content. Hope this helps! Any more you can think of? Let me know!

UNBOXING MY BOOK

So I want to share this with you guys 🙂 When I was going through the earlier drafts of the novel, one of the most motivating things for me was watching other peoples’ unboxing videos on youtube, thinking, ‘Work at this, Nikki! That’ll be you soon.’

THE DAY HAS COME.

I hope you enjoy. Also I thought it might be fun to do an editing series on my channel where we sit and discuss all things editing/writerly. I kinda fancy doing a Q&A on my book or just a chat in general. Stuff about character and plot and so forth. Comment below if you’d be interested in watching! And don’t forget to subscribe to my YT account, which is where my artistic videos go 🙂

2017 Writing Goals

Happy new year everybody! I hope you’ve had fun making/not making your resolutions. I’m a firm believer in setting goals for myself every year and you know what? I tend to accomplish most if not all of them! (It’s possible! You can do this!) These aren’t ALL my goals (I’m also a firm believer in keeping your goals private, if you can). However, these are SOME of my writing/blogging/social media goals, which I thought would be fun to share (seeing as it will be benefitting you guys) Y’all gotta help keep me accountable! Please.

Let’s begin, shall we?

  1. FINISH PROJECT “X.”

So I had a new project in mind that I began working on in 2016. I didn’t get very far into it which is entirely my fault. I worked on other things instead and just didn’t pursue this project hard enough. It’s a book that God’s been prompting me to write, so the goal is to finish it by June! Aaaaand, as camp nanowrimo is in February, I’m feeling hopeful 🙂

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  1. UPDATE MY BLOG ONCE EVERY WEEK

So…according to wordpress stats, I posted the exact same amount of blogposts in 2016, as I did in 2014. Uh-uh. Not good. Especially when I posted almost double that amount in 2015. Mamma didn’t raise no backslider, yo! (Or even equaliser!) Mamma raised a winner. So in order to ensure that I post more regularly onto my blog, I’ve decided to go with a ‘once a week’ rule. There’s absolutely no point in setting myself a vague and un-quantifiable goal 🙂  So yes…do keep me accountable with this one!

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  1. JOIN SPOKEN WORD SOCIETY ON CAMPUS

For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently doing a full-time masters. (Which makes these goals somewhat daunting, although definitely still achievable). Anyhoo, a new spoken word society just opened up and so I want to make sure I attend and continue to write and perform poetry.

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*101 points for getting the gif reference

  1. GET TO KNOW MORE BLOGGERS

I’ve been notoriously terrible at this in the past. Mostly I’ve found actively DISCOVERING other blogs really challenging. But once a week I’m going to make time to go through the ‘Reader’ button and stalk all of you lovely people… *cough* That sounded creepier than intended.

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  1. WRITE ANOTHER PLAY

This is pretty self-explanatory. I want to write at least 1-2 more plays this year. Woo!

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  1. ACHIEVE MY GOODREADS CHALLENGE

A reading goal, yes. But a reading goal is a writing goal, right? I’m not going to aim to high with this one because the Masters is one of my main priorities. Having said that, all the research I’ll have to do definitely counts!

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  1. RUN A WRITING WORKSHOP AT A LIBRARY

This is such a random one and will require me to go a little out of my comfort zone. PERFECT. I love libraries (obviously) and I’ve helped out in libraries before, i.e. with the Summer Reading Challenge. I absolutely loved helping and listening to all those children discussing the books they loved and learning new words and narratives. I used to work with children and we always had so much fun writing stories together or I enjoyed reading to them, etc. So I thought…why not run a writing workshop for kids/teenagers at the library? That’d be super fun. So…yeah, I’ll do that and let you know how it goes 🙂

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image from quickmeme
  1. GO TO A WRITER’S CONFERENCE

I mean…they look fun, so why not?!

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  1. UPLOAD ONE VID TO MY YOUTUBE EVERY WEEK AND HAVE FUN

Again, pretty self explanatory. I’ll try and link the videos to this blog also. I’m done not uploading the things I want to talk about because I’m scared of the reaction of others. So this year…get ready for some fun and exciting videos!

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  1. IMPROVE SETTING AND CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS

All. The. Feels.  Something I’ve recently realised (and by recently, I mean within the past 5 days) is that I could really improve upon my descriptions.  I’m a huge fan of action in literature, which usually (but not always) means I am a fan of fast-paced books/plays/anime, and plot over character. If I don’t like a character but the plot is compelling…that’s okay by me. Very rarely am I character motivated. STILL. I think this has bled into my writing a little; I don’t always take the time to describe in detail what a setting/character looks like – if I’m honest, this is the part I’ll always skip over whilst reading. (The rolling hills and the sunny sky…blah-blah-blah, yaa okay just get to shooting the bad guys already!). Which is fine again, because I know some readers like to conjure up an image of character’s themselves but personally I’d like to work on it. And because we’re being QUANTIFIABLE, I’m going to sit and specifically work on describing the person next to me on the train, or the view out of the window once a month. I predict it will be tough but worth it.

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Phew! That’s my writing/blogging goals!

Let’s keep each other accountable. What are yours? 🙂

xo

ENTITLED: A RESOLUTION TO LIBERATE EMOTION AND MONOPOLISE NOTHING IN FIVE STAGES

It’s been a while since I wrote poetry. So here is a poem with an obnoxiously lengthy title, entitled ‘Entitled’ (for short).** If, like me, you enjoy reading things in PDF format (it just feels nicer) you can read the PDF version here: CLICK HERE FOR OBNOXIOUSLY TITLED POEM

If, unlike me, you’re not a total weirdo and have no preference, you can read the poem below 🙂 Have a good day people xx

*It’s not obnoxious if you acknowledge the obnoxiousness. In other words, the humble-brag never fails.

*’…title, entitled ‘Entitled’ may just about be grammatically correct. I am proud of myself.

 

ENTITLED: A RESOLUTION TO LIBERATE EMOTION AND MONOPOLISE NOTHING IN FIVE STAGES 

 

I.

One of my resolutions was to feel.

Yes. That all. To feel.

This Resolution Game has no rules.

How does one acknowledge and understand their anger?

How do I understand my pain, my sorrow or my joy?

Can I pass go? Can I collect two hundred?

Because after making my resolution,

I still censor my thoughts.

I still do not KNOW my thoughts.

Let me stay in jail, because I can’t bear the freedom.

II.  

There are a series of doors,

Some tried, tested.

Most – if we’re being honest, all – were locked.

You opened every one, peeked in, and poked about.

Doors left ajar have always pissed me off,

but I am not entitled to call you a bastard.

This is laughable.

III.

Let’s make it six days,

Six days to die then be reborn.

It’s all about timing.

IV.

Hope hurts and hope hurts and hope hurts and

Hope kills.

V.

And the “what if’ burns.