A Picture of Spam and a PP7 Ever Ready Battery? Puh-Lease

How I fell in love with radio

When we went to relatives on Sunday afternoons for tea, I used to ask, ‘What’s for tea, Uncle Jim?’ He always replied, ‘Bread and dripping.’

It never was. It was always bread and butter, a slice of spam, a lettuce leaf and a tomato.spam2 I don’t know how my six year old self and Uncle Jim struck up that repartee. Nor can I remember how it came to be that my grandfather always said when I left him, ‘See you later, alligator,’ which elicited the shout, ‘In a while, crocodile,’ from me.

There was little humour in my nuclear family. One of the cover ups of meal time silence was Radio 4. Weekend lunches coincided with comedy – Round the Horn and The Navy Lark. There was repartee within those shows, and my affection for the back and forth chat with my  uncle and grandfather began to spread to radio.

On his death, Uncle Jim’s wireless, as he called it, was given to me. I’d have been about nine years old. In the turbulence of my upbringing, radio became the comforter to which I fell asleep.

As I grew, radio became a surrogate friend. We sat together in my room for hours. It talked to me, I talked to it, and nothing I said was ever wrong. It took me to places, ideas and images that beckoned me to leave home and move into a richer world. Radio was my story teller, guru, comedian, tempter and hope-giver.

Getting geeky

7760981470_b0d108e884_zSadly, I’ve not been able to trace a picture of the actual radio I inherited, and I can’t remember it’s make. It was an amalgam of parts of these.

mus0603_00_AkkordRadio_Pingui_fkThere was a grey plastic/fabric outer, with a snakeskin pattern, a handle to carry it by, and a dial low on the front for tuning.

The battery was huge and heavy, not sure whether it was a PP7 or a PP9, and it didn’t last long enough. Radio silence power_pack_pp7_1356731was frequent until a replacement was found or saved up for.

Pictures of spam and batteries? It’s all in the cause of art, don’t you know.


To boldly go…

We were given copies of two exemplar final year projects at last week’s teaching session. Each contains a sample of creative work and a 7000 word reflective/analytical essay. Exemplar 1 is from someone who wrote a large chunk of a novel; Exemplar 2 is a concept album.

All the songs of the album were based on a short story written by the student. That was unusual, and particularly interesting for me, because the student  wrote in one medium and made it a spring board into another. He also did something he had never done before.

This applies to me, too. I’ve never written anything for radio. I have a story – or at least, some creative non-fiction – which I’m going to fictionalize and add to for the plot of the radio drama. The non-fiction piece is creative, and in some parts fictionalized, in that it is written as a sequence of letters. The letters draw on the facts from my field of expertise regarding the process of reporting historic sexual abuse, but are not ‘true’. They convey truth.

This writing from life that is neither strictly biographical or autobiographical, rather ‘of the kind of thing that happens and some people know a lot about it and write about it as fiction’, is the next strand of the project I need to research. The next strand for which I need a reading list.

enterpriseWho has (or should that be *hasn’t*) written novels like that, or poetry? Where might I come across information about the process involved in what I’m about to do? Who has gone wherever ‘there’ is?

‘Write what you know’ is a maxim that divides writers. Can real people be disguised heavily enough? Does the writing lack interest because it’s harder for writers to be objective? They have more in their mind about the people they know, who they’re using, than ends up on the page, and fictionalizing someone sucks the life out of the character.

Writing for Radio – a reading list

Third Year Project : Reading List Part 1 (as at 12 May 2013)

There are two mains strands to my project: the radio drama itself, and reflecting on the writer’s process. The latter focusses on writing as self-therapy and consideration of what and how it is to write truth from life into a fictional form that expresses a truth shared with the writer and others. Will it make for art, a type of life-writing, or something as yet unknown?

by Craig Smithson

As the writer’s process element is more abstract and potentially massive, I’ve tackled the easier reading list first. There are more books about radio writing than these, but they don’t offer anything significantly  different.  I’ve therefore selected the most recent publications, with some guidance from amazon and other reviews. Online resources yet to be fully investigated.


Any further suggestions, anyone?

Pt 1: Radio related

Ashton, P. (2011 ) The Calling Card Script: A Writer’s Toolbox for Stage, Screen and Radio. [kindle eBook] London. A & C Black.

Boardman-Jacobs, S. (ed.) (2004) Radio Scriptwriting. Bridgend: Seren.

Caulfield. A. (2009) Writing for Radio: A Practical Guide. [KOBO eBook] Marlborough: The Crowood Press Ltd.

Crisell, A. (1994) Understanding Radio. 2nd ed. [apple iBook] London: Routledge.

Crook, T. (1999) Radio Drama: Theory and Practice. [apple iBook] London: Routledge.

Davis. R. (2001) Developing Characters for Script Writing. London: A & C Black.

Davis, R. (ed.) (2008) Writing Dialogue for Scripts: effective dialogue for film, TV, radio and stage. 3rd ed. London: Methuen Drama.

Drakakis, J. (1981) British Radio Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Elmes, S. (2007) And Now on Radio 4. [apple iBook] London: Random House Books.

Hand, R. J. and Traynor, M. (2011) Drama Handbook : Audio Drama in Context and Practice. [kindle eBook] London: Continuum.

Hendy, D. (2007) Life on Air, a History of Radio Four. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lewis, P. M. Referable Words in Radio Drama. in Scannell, P. ed. (1991) Broadcast Talk. London: Sage Publications.

MacLoughlin, S. (2008) Writing and Acting for Radio. 2nd ed. [kindle eBook] Bristol: Soundplay.

Neale, D. (2009) Writing Radio Drama. In: Neale, D. ed. A Creative Writing Handbook. pp.93–112. London: A & C Black.

Shingler, M. and Wieringa, C. (1998) On Air, Methods and Meanings of Radio. London: Arnold.

Weinman, I. (2012) Write Great Dialogue. [apple iBook] London: Hodder Education.

“Aside from velcro, time is the most mysterious substance in the universe.

You can’t see it or touch it, yet a plumber can charge you upwards of seventy-five dollars per hour for it, without necessarily fixing anything.”  Dave Barry

We considered planning and time management in yesterday’s project preparation session.

How long does it take to:

  • write a project proposal
  • draw up a reading list of enough, but not too many, books on the right topics
  • research and write a radio drama
  • talk to people who’ve been there and done that
  • get a few actors together in a recording studio to record the play
  • track down production companies or BBC producers
  • pitch to them
  • give two presentations (November and March) about the project
  • undertake research to write a 7000 word reflective and academic essay that contains
    – reflection on the process of writing the drama
    – the experience, success or failure of pitching it to producers
    – discussion of ‘Why radio?’ and the challenge of the medium
    – consideration of writing experience into art
    – the wisdom gained from meeting other writers of radio drama, and writers who make art from personal stories
    – reflection on my development, artistically and personally throughout the course, with consideration of writing as self therapy
    – plans for the next five year of my writing life
  • compile a reference list (start early, very early)
  • add appendices of accounts of activities undertaken that led to  some of the points discussed in the essay, e.g. A Writing for Radio day with Michael Eaton at Nottingham Writers’ Studio. An evening with Jeremy Howe (Commissioning editor, Drama, Radio 4) at Derby Theatre. A trip to the BBC to sit in on the recording of Trevor Preston’s play Second Body (broadcast 9 Jan 2013), the conversation I had with him and the production team. And other things as yet unknown?

How much can, should and shouldn’t I do each week?
How will I keep life balanced, and what other writing or writing related activities shall I undertake alongside the project?
How much cake/chocolate/wine will be consumed?
How much weight will be gained?


How shall I order it all?

Jeff Buckley’s Book List

A writer friend of mine recently wrote a fantastic short story about Jeff Buckley, who I admit to not having heard of before reading Robbie’s story. Robbie is one of the members of my writing group – a group which gives me great feedback and motivates me to up my writing game. By way of a small tribute to the group, here’s the first page of the list of titles Jeff Buckley owned.

Visit the website to read a touching correspondence between his mother, Mary, and Sandra Rosenbaum, whose idea it was to publish the list.

What an intimate insight into his too-short life.



The Beautiful Game Between the Covers

Today’s reading list contains titles about the politics, history, sociology, rules, criminology, gender issues, fans etc. of the beautiful game.

Sports Pages, the shop mentioned at the bottom of the list has, like so many small, niche bookshops, closed. But it appears to be open for business online.

As an Owls fan, I’ll add another book to the list: Sheffield Wednesday 1867-1967 (Archive Photographs: Images of Sport) [Paperback] Nick Johnson