From Ireland, Sue Healy is Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre, London, a full-time Lecturer in Creative Writing and Publishing at the University of Lincoln, a Creative Writing tutor at City Lit and the Irish Editor at TheTheatreTimes.com.
She is an award-winning writer and playwright. Her most recent play, Imaginationship (2018), enjoyed a sold out, extended run at the Finborough and later showed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Her previous stage productions include Cow (Etcetera Theatre, 2017) and Brazen (King’s Head Theatre, 2016), funded by Arts Council England. Her short plays have been performed at the Criterion (Criterion New Writing Showcase), Arcola (The Miniaturists) and Hackney Attic (Fizzy Sherbet Shorts).
Her radio work includes nine plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm.
Sue’s prose has won The Molly Keane Award, HISSAC Prize, Escalator Award, Meridian Prize and has been published in nine literary journals and anthologies including: The Moth, Flight, Tainted Innocence, New Writer, Duality, HISSAC, New European Writers. She has been writer-in-residence on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands, and at the Heinrich Boll Cottage on Achill Island. She has also benefitted from annual artist residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, and at Ginestrelle, Assisi in Italy.
An academic with a PhD in modern theatre history, specifically the Royal Court Theatre, Sue has presented her research internationally. She spent eleven years in Budapest, editing Hungary A.M. She has a PhD in modern theatre history (Royal Court Theatre) and is a UEA Creative Writing MA alumnus.
The monthly speakers event, the Finborough Forum was launched three years ago by Carmen Nasr and myself with the generous support of the Donald Howarth and George Goetschius Society of Friends charitable trust. Since then it’s grown in impact and reach and the list of speakers who’ve addressed our monthly gathering is a who’s who of London theatre. Covid has moved us online of course, but this has had its advantages – indeed it permits speaks to zoom in virtually from all over the world. Although we do miss the opportunity to mingle in the bar afterwards!
Here’s a recording of a recent forum with the playwright Anders Lustgarten.
We look forward to welcoming the BBC Writersroom’s Simon Nelson on January 13th at 7.30pm.
The Queen of Irish Holidays is here, but we’ll have to update the tradition and zoom it this year!Its the day when women own Christmas.In Ireland, Jan. 6th is “Nollaig na mBan” (literally “Women’s Christmas”). On this day, women gather to feast and drink -and the men take over the housework, and serve them food and beverages (an extraordinary reversal back in the day…). These days, its a great excuse to celebrate all the female friendships in your life. I love this holiday and think we should export it like we did St. Patrick’s Day and Hallowe’en. It’s too good to keep to ourselves.
When undertaking my PhD, for five years I shared an apartment with a wonderful elderly man who owned an astounding post-impressionist art collection. This painting was one of the jewels. By the Polish Jewish artist, Henri Hayden, it celebrates the multi-culturalism of Montparnasse. It’s a very appealing image, but it has a strong message at its core – as art must, otherwise it’s just decoration. Writers worth their ink need to making a point with their story. Art must contain some comment on life, on human existence. Therefore, beneath your storyline, there should be something else going on, a deeper message, your take on how humanity works, or doesn’t… Consider Aesop’s Fables, each one is a tale that could be enjoyed on a superficial level by a child, yet there is a deeper meaning, or moral, which endeavors to teach the child some universal truth about life, ie being slow yet determined is often better than being hasty and easily distracted (Tortoise and the Hare).
A good place to seek inspiration for a comment on universal truths is a list of proverbs. A proverb is usually a metaphor and encapsulates in simple terms, a lesson from the common experience of humanity. Here’s an exercise that might get you going: sit down and have a think about the specific meaning of the following and then go freewrite a story illustrating (Or disproving) this philosophy.
You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.
The belly has no ears.
Trees don’t grow to the sky.
A dumb priest never got a parish.
The only free cheese is in the mousetrap.
Eaten bread is soon forgotten.
The squeaky door gets the oil.
If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve never spent a night with a mosquito.
Graveyards are full of indispensable people.
The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
There is a theory that the brain is more creative in the morning, especially in your waking moments. For this reason, many writers keep their notepad by their beds and make sure that the very first thing they do when they open their eyes each morning, is write. The resultant notes are called “morning pages”.
Morning pages might contain what a writer remembers of their dreams or perhaps the writer will jot down the very first words that come to mind – however nonsensical. Some writers say that this exercise helps them ‘slip’ more easily into what writers’ call the “writing rapture” when a writer feels ideas are pouring into their mind. When writers write in the morning, so the theory goes, they are closer to their sleeping state and the mind is more imaginative and/or receptive to ideas.
Nontheless, there are plenty of writers who write late at night – for the same reason that they say the closer to sleep they are, the more creative their ideas. Then there are other writers who find their most productive hours are in the middle of the day (the Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling is a good example. She wrote her first book in a busy Edinburgh café).
Therefore, it is clear that different times of the day work for different people and it is really of no consequence whether you are a morning, day or night writer. What is important is that you write and that you find your ideal writing time. Experiment and find what works for you and then set an hour aside each day at that time and write, but do write.
This summer I had a significant birthday. I’m middle aged. I’m no longer a product of the world in which I reside. The environment of my youth is gone, a distant age symbolised by long dead VCRs, Pac-Mans and Walkmans, smoking in pubs, rotary-dial landline telephones, typewriters, cassettes – and crowds of people socialising sans virus threats.
Me as a 17-year-old art student.
I was the first ever journalist in my home town (Waterford, Ireland) to report on a new phenomenon called the ‘Internet’ – way back in 1994. I’d even travelled to New York and interviewed people who used it regularly. All of that would be impossible now, even the travel.
Technology and younger, hipper and more energetic get it in an instant – and draw upon a slew of apps to fuel and give shape to their creations, their art. And this new world is alien to me. I’ve written a new play exploring this alienation. And, ironically, provided it with a Zoom reading.
How much the world has changed. And how much it will change in the coming years.
I hosted the #FinboroughForum online this month, in conversation w/ Philip Shelley, the script consultant/ editor associated with the Channel 4 screenwriting course. Marvellous insight. Thanks to all who attended this zoom event – catch the recording here:
Art begets art. Great inspiration can be found in complementary art forms. A poet can conjure new ideas from a dance; a musician can be moved to compose by a script.
My second love is visual art. I enjoy painting. I spent a year at art college many moons ago, and although I ultimately pursued writing rather than painting, I often hide out in painting when I’m struggling to find writing inspiration.
This period lends itself very well to re-discovering art forms you haven’t visited in a while. Part of the fun of painting for me is that I’m not a professional. No one expects much of me, so I’m able to approach it as a child would, carefree with no pressure – and that is very liberating and allows for flow.
Here are some of my lockdown efforts. Have you been experimenting with other art forms?
The playwright and director Donald Howarth (1931-2020) and myself at the Nick Darke Award, National Theatre, 2016.
These are strange days indeed. My own circumstances have been heightened by the loss of a very dear friend to cancer in late March. Donald Howarth was an extraordinary spirit, a true one off. Of course, in the face of a global health crisis unseen in our lifetimes, one death feels like a footnote. But Donald was very dear to me, and I’ll miss him beyond measure. Our friend Harriet Devine penned this lovely tribute to him in TheTheatreTimes.com. Do read, and appreciate how special this man was.