” … what a way to make a livin”

Some of my ideas go the distance. Some of them flounder and fall at the first hurdle. But some flounder and fall only to be dragged back up again and hauled over the finish line due to sheer determination and bloody mindedness. I say ‘some’. I mean one.

Back in 2006 I took part in New Writing North’s Emerge scheme, during which we had to pitch three ideas for a one-act play. My first was Mam, Dad, Monkey and Me about a girl who comes home from Uni to find she has been replaced in the family by a stuffed monkey toy. The second was Parton of the Ways, a comedy about a former Dolly Parton impersonator whose boyfriend reappears after ditching her some time earlier. The third I can’t remember – maybe something about women’s football (clearly I was clutching at straws by number 3). A glance up in to the top right hand corner of the screen will give you a fairly fat clue about which idea went into development! I had a great time writing Monkey, it is (in my opinion) one of my best works and I got to work with the fantastic Deborah Bruce and a great team.


Parton of the Ways stayed with me. And not just cos of the FANTASTIC title (admit it, it’s genius!) … the idea just wouldn’t go away.

Fast forward a year to late 2007 and I had written PotW in to a one act play and the opening scenes were shown at Northern Stage’s showcase night for work-in-progress.

Fast forward to early 2009. I approached Deborah and asked her to mentor me writing the one act play into a full length piece. We changed the title to Playing Dolly to reflect a more serious tone and got to work.

Fast forward to 2010 … you get the idea.

The play had become a millstone around my neck. Nothing worked. There was always *something* lacking. That bloomin’ elusive *something*. Over the years since I’d first had the idea I had done plenty of other work, but ‘The Dolly Play’ was hanging over me – a reminder of the one I just couldn’t manage. I nearly jacked in this playwriting lark altogether because of it. It tormented me but I couldn’t let it lie – somewhere inside me I knew that this story, these characters, had potential.

Somewhere inside me, however, I was also familiar with the phrase ‘flogging a dead horse’.

So. Last gasp. 

After going on the BBC Sparks programme last year I was invited to pitch an idea for a radio drama. I hummed and harred. Dare I? Last chance saloon and Jolene was playing on the jukebox. I dared, I pitched, it got commissioned. (Which is a very brief summary of a long, difficult and stressful process, but let’s not dwell!)

Dolly Would was born. Not a rehash of the stage version(s) but a brand spanking new start for a brand new medium. Which is what it (and I) desperately needed.

I have just handed in draft 4. It hasn’t been without its difficulties but it’s heading in the right direction (touch wood). We record in November. I can’t quite believe that Denize and Martin are actually going to come in to existence after all this time, and that their story is going to be heard on BBC Radio 4. When I got notification that the play had been commissioned, I burst in to tears. Loser.

With a broadcast date of January 2012, it will be just over five years since that first A4 pitch. And the cherry on the cake of my tale – a couple of weeks ago I got to see the legend that is Dolly Parton herself when her Better Day tour hit Newcastle! As I sang along to 9 to 5 (I know all the words having accumulated 7 Parton albums over the years, you know, for research) I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad that my time with ‘The Dolly Play’ is coming to an end. Then I remembered all the years of tears and swearing at the computer …!

  • In other news … the Rascally Scoundrels were at large last month at ARC Stockton … you can read about our exploits [here]
  • In other other news … congrats to Hazel Osmond who has recently signed with Quercus for another two books, following the success of her debut novel Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe? I am under strict instructions not to call her a bitch again. So I won’t.