15 May 2015

David Nobbs - comedy writer speaks to the Hampshire Writers' Society

Comedy Writer - David Nobbs
Speaks to Hampshire Writers' Society
A Lifetime in Comedy
Report by Lisa Nightingale
12th May 2015
‘Write silly!’ is David Nobbs' truth burrowed deep in the underbelly of his work. It is truth that transcends many comedies - Dad’s Army was based in the truth of the war, Reggie Perrin’s life was so boringly ordinary that he could not cope with it. ‘Your writing can have its own truth. As long as it clings to that truth, it will go a long way.’ Recognise the boundaries surrounding your chosen subject and stick within those confines.
Barbara Large and David Nobbs

David began his writing career at age 9 with only W.E Johns’ Biggles for inspiration. After National Service and Cambridge University, with Peter Cook, he had caught the writing bug and wrote for magazines, before moving into journalism where he wrote small articles on local issues. A writer’s first printed professional word never fails to thrill, David’s was a typo.

The world of journalism was just not doing it for him and in his evenings, he wrote his first novel. He almost preens with pride at the memory of its doing fairly well. So he relocated to London and wrote. And wrote and wrote. But nothing sold.

So, it was back to journalism.

‘Persistence can be hard work.’ he admits. It paid off though and a sketch submitted to ‘That Was the Week That Was’ was accepted.

But, David could not stop writing novels, embellishing an unassuming body with a dash of drama e.g. The Cucumber Marketing Board with Pegasus Baines, a Nutritional Scientist, Heston Blumenthal like Chef (The Cucumber Man, 1994). It is a disappointment to David that drama has been lost from satire.

‘Television is made for dialogue.’ he says. Snippets of overheard conversation on a train, in a queue, at a ‘Do’ all make for material. Much of today’s comedy has replaced irony with anger and it is a shame that so many characters are not likeable.

‘The basic principles of Comedy remain the same. It is the details that change.’ And a move to the country provided David with his hit ‘A Bit of a Do.’ People watching at a wealth of village celebrations, from the Dentists' Dinner Dance, to the Angling Society Awards. He used his own experiences combined with the drama created by the ongoing whisperings of the recurring guest list.

As for new writers, David recognises the difficulties of facing a fast moving society that we now live in. Today’s news can be forgotten by next week. And that our current obsession with Political Correctness sweeps the stereotypes that can yield so many laughs under the carpet. Persist! Exploit the Radio Times and the TV Times and current comedy shows credits! The Agent/Producer issue is much of a ‘chicken and egg’ discussion, so keep sending your sketches and ideas to either. Or both. But funny and silly still rise to the top.

Special Guest,  Cllr Eileen Berry, the Mayor of Winchester
Report by Lisa Nightingale

Madam Mayor Eileen Berry is a straight talking woman. It was no real surprise when she confessed to having been a rebellious writer when growing up. ‘Rebel or not – be true to yourself’ she says. ‘My writing life sustained me.’ And it was in writing that she accessed a plethora of emotions. As a little girl, she could not spell and so read a lot and read her own work to others.
Cllr. Eileen Berry, Mayor of Winchester
‘Never apologise for your work.’ Criticise and criticism should be kept to the writers’ work and always remain constructive. In this sense, others can be listened to and learned from.

Over her past year as Mayor, Eileen has accumulated riches beyond her expectations. She has always liked people and has revelled in her Mayor’s capacity to attend groups like the Hampshire Writers’ society and to meet the do-gooders that are never seen. She has not met anyone who has not inspired her.

Madam Mayor is a lifelong poet. She was a member of the Winchester Writers’ circle and Winchester Poets.

Lisa Nightingale

13 May 2015

Comedy Sketch Competition results for 12 May 2015

Competition Report 12th May 2015

Write a comedy script for a sketch in 3 pages.
The winning entry was performed by members of the Chesil Theatre Group.

Cecily O’Neill, a renowned authority in Drama in Education was the adjudicator for the May competition. Cecily has worked with students, teachers, directors, and actors throughout the world; leading drama workshops, speaking at conferences, and carrying out research. She said that the task of writing a comedy script was a particularly difficult one but the Hampshire Writers had risen to the challenge.

Cecily’s Adjudication:

1st Place: Paul King, PTFE
“You have taken a typical comedy format, where one actor is the straight man and the other delivers the funny lines. But within this framework you’ve cleverly subverted the stereotype of the elderly countrywoman and created an amusing sketch.”

2nd Place: David Lea, Taking Stock
“Within the tight three-page limit of the brief you managed to draw us into the concerns of the young couple and you achieved this as much by what was left unsaid as by the dialogue.  You have allowed the comedy to develop gradually and provided an effective and believable denouement.”

3rd Place: Nikki Wakefield, Coming Out
“This sketch is full of lively dialogue and comic misunderstandings. The gradual build up of frustration is very well handled, and the cheerful acceptance by the parents of their son’s unorthodox lifestyle provides an unexpected and pleasing conclusion.”

Highly Commended: Karin Groves, Billy the Banker
“An amusing and topical take on the economy.  A comedy of contrasts as 10 year old Billy demands to be taken seriously.”

Highly Commended: Celia Livesey, Three’s a Crowd
“The relationship of the sisters is clearly displayed in the subtle insults they exchange at their mother’s funeral. They get their come-uppance in a surprise ending.”

Paul King and Nikki Wakefield

Prizes and Awards:
The prizes were signed copies of David Nobbs’s books and a Certificate of Adjudication from Cecily O’Neill. The winning entry was performed by Mary Mitchell and Norma York of the Chesil Theatre Group, much to the delight of the audience.

Chesil Players, Mary Mitchell and Norma York

 1st Place: PTFE - Copyright © Paul King, 2015

On stage - two ‘older women. They speak with slow, west-country accents. Throughout the scene, using a tea set and plates: tea is poured, stirred and drunk: biscuits and cakes are offered, taken and eaten. Music to top and tail the sketch; something English and rural, like the older version of the ‘Archers’ theme for example.

Music to establish the scene then it fades.

Woman 1:     Cup’a’tea?

Woman 2:     Don’t mind if I do.

Woman 1:     Biscuit?

Woman 2:     Don’t mind if I do. (Pause) P.T.F.E!

Woman 1:     They be ginger nuts, baked ‘em myself.

Woman 2:     No! ... P.T.F.E!!!

Woman 1:     What?

Woman 2:     It’s the black stuff on the bottom of your frying pan.

Woman 1:     There b’aint be no black stuff on the bottom of my frying pan thank you very much! I use they Brillo pads.

Woman 2:     No, it’s s’posed to be there.

Woman 1:     Well it might be s’posed to be on the bottom of yourn but it’s not s’posed to be on the bottom of mine.

Woman 2:     No, it’s the non-sticky stuff.

Woman 1:     Definitely not my pans!

Woman 2:     No... it’s on all of ‘em!

Woman 1:     I bet the Vim gets it off; that’ll shift anything.

Woman 2:     It’s compulsory: if you got a frying pan you’ve got to have the PTFE. They do call it a ‘non ... stick ... coating’.

Woman 1:     They do?

Woman 2:     Listen to this ... poly ... tetra ... fluoro ... ethylene.

Woman 1:     What’s that then?

Woman 2:     Polytetrafluoroethylene.
Woman 1:     You’ve been practicing that.

Woman 2:     That’s what they do call the black stuff on your frying pan.

Woman 1:     How’d you know that then?

Woman 2:     I googled it!

Woman 1:     You googled it?!

Woman 2:     I did!

Woman 1:     What made you do a thing like that then?

Woman 2:     Well, thing is, I be downsizing ...  getting a smaller frying pan like.

Woman 1:     Your Peggy could do wi’ some ‘o’ that downsizing ‘n’all.


                    Low fat fairy cake?

 (After a pause Woman 2 takes a cake. There is another pause.)

Woman 2:     So ... I goes on-line and I finds a frying pan that suits my purposes.

Woman 1:     Couldn’t you a just popped down Lakelands?

Woman 2:     No; I wanted to exercise my rights as a consumer ... make a choice like, from the best available.

Woman 1:     Why’d you do that, then?

Woman 2:     I be a fan of that programme off the telly, that ‘Watchdog’. You watch it?

Woman 1:     No.

Woman 2:     Oh you should. I learnt all about exercising my rights as a consumer and making a choice from the best available off that ‘Watchdog’.

Woman 1:     I always thought it were about pet training.

Woman 2:     So ... after due deliberation and intensive comparison, I saw this one frying pan that do seem to fit all the criteria; one that were the best value for size, weight and the durability. I read all the reviews, you’m have to do that these days. Everyone does it.

Woman 1:     Do they indeed? Fancy that.

Woman 2:     So anyway, I read that it had a ... ‘non-stick coating’!  Well I was curious I don’t mind telling you. What’s a non-stick coating, I says to myself? And is it something I wants to be party to? So that’s when I did the googling; I looked it up on that there Wikipedia. ‘Non-stick is often used to refer to surfaces coated with polytetrafluoroethylene ... P.T.F.E.

Woman 1:     You learnt that off by heart as well didn’t you?

Woman 2:     I likes to expand the horizons of my knowledge and add to my vocabulary whenever possible.

Woman 1:     Right.

Woman 2:     Have you got one of they computers, then?

Woman 1:     Oh yes, I got a computer.

Woman 2:     What you got then?

Woman 1:     I got a Macbook pro with fourth-generation dual-core and quad-core Intel processors! It’s got that Wi-Fi and Thunderbolt 2.

Woman 2:     That that sounds very nice.

Woman 1:     They do say it be ... ‘state of the art’!

Woman 2:     Do they indeed?!

Woman 1:     They do.

Woman 2:     What’s that mean then?

Woman 1:     Don’t rightly know ... but I do finds it very good for the porn.

Woman 2:    Oh ... you use that porn then?!

Woman 1:     Well I gotta do somethin’  ent I ... what with my Albert passing over and that ... thing is  ... my imagination’s not what it used to be. (Pause. She offers another plate of biscuits.) Ladyfinger?

In Conclusion:
The competition secretary, Jim Livesey, thanked everyone who had entered the competition. It had been a good turnout with 16 entries.

Next month’s competition is to write the ‘First Page of a Memoir’ fact of fiction. The adjudicator will be John Miller, one of Britain’s most versatile and respected authors.  

Please email your entries to the Competition Secretary, Jim Livesey competitions.hwsAThotmail.com by noon (BST) 1st June 2015. (Please replace AT with @)

Please read HWS Competition rules

20 April 2015

Catherine King speaks to Hampshire Writers' Society - 14th April 2015

Catherine King speaks to Hampshire Writers' Society 
14th April 2015
Report by Lisa Nightingale

Not a Romance Novelist. Catherine King is a Professional Yorkshire Lass and Career Novelist.

Catherine writes (and is contracted to do so) a book a year. ‘It is achievable’, she says, ‘if you are writing full-time.’ Which as this is her career, she does.

Choose your genre and be prepared to stick to it. Eg. Historical Saga for Women.
She researched and learned the genre’s rules. Her heroines meet its criteria – vulnerable and strong. They need to be strong, as she adds with a wicked grin, ‘because I (the writer) am going to make it worse’. But Catherine does relent – she always gives the heroine a happy or at least promising ending.
‘Whatever your genre. Use what you know.’

The North is in Catherine’s blood. So, why go anywhere else? And this is where the Saga comes in. Each of Catherine’s novels is regional.

Having settled on her genre, she needed a period. Victorian times were thrilling and industrial. But, for women times were challenging. This gave Catherine’s characters an important, enticing trait – they had to be resourceful.
Not a Romantic Novelist – Catherine is a scientist!
Being a novelist is more fun.’

Catherine’s education taught her the rudiments of research and what to do with it. Local libraries and museums are teeming with tit-bits. At least three times during her talk she mused; ‘I must revisit that….’ But, she does admit to evidential espionage, a Hampshire health farm which had a beautiful setting was moved up north.
Always be nice. To everybody.’

Catherine King
Network! Catherine cannot stress enough the Importance of Networking. There is luck in publishing, but by Networking, you may increase your chances of netting it. Through a group of novelist friends Catherine was introduced to an agent.

Being a Career Novelist, Catherine endures much input from her publisher. The decision of the title and cover has been relinquished to the marketing department. And the publishers have even, once or twice weaseled the plot line and period to suit what they know will sell. The up-side of this though, is that when a drop in sales does happen – it is not Catherine’s fault. And she can and does play them at their own game. A new slant on a story poo-pooed by the publishers persuades them and her plot is agreed.

All this may sound a little stifling but it is these peoples’ business to know how to get a success and Catherine is successful. Plus being a writer is what Catherine has always wanted and she loves it.

 Special Guest, Judith Heneghan, 
Director of the Winchester Writers’ Festival

Judith Heneghan
Writers! Come and Play said Judith Heneghan, Director of Winchester Writers’ Festival. The Festival is a safe environment - a workshop with an experienced lecturer.

Even for those not embroiled in their ‘big work in progress’ the one-to-one meetings are the brazen opportunity to pick the brains of knowledgeable writing doyens. Ask your questions. Gain inspired feedback.

But, there is also Hard Graft. The Festival is somewhere where the writer can find their audience. Perhaps even their agent. Connections have been forged here and will continue to do so. Networking formal or informal at the Festival surrounds the writer with people interested in ‘what we do’.

And after that crazy day’s workshopping and playing, join us for dinner and let the professionals do the work.
Come to see the Keynote Speaker, award-winning, best-selling  author Sebastian Faulks. Take away new friends to sustain you through the rest of the year until you can come to the festival again in 2016.

The festival dates 19th - 21st June 2015. More information about the workshops, talks, competitions, 750 one-to-one appointments can be found on the website. http://writersfestival.co.uk/