It’s been a while…

JoRFLSo where’ve I been? I’ve been busy. Sorry blog!

First up, I’ve got deeply into ‘brand story’, I think Coca Cola content 2020 marketing is exciting stuff. (And at the same time I can’t wait to see the spoof versions.) Strangely all my recent deep marketing-thinking has had little impact on my work.

I wrote a screenplay in April and entered it in 4 competitions. It was a little rough around the edges, and I’m not sure it was as ready as it should be for those comps. Hmm, ho hum, I think the idea and structure was good. What the heck!

I’m still kind of interested in that transmedia story/game stuff, but I suppose I think story comes first, and if it suits an unusual way to tell it, well go for it. I’ve written treatments for 2 new films, so I guess I’m veering to traditional old school scripts again.

My writing group is going well, and I’m on the committee for Whit Lit, which is a nice new venture.  Although I need to read some clever books before the literary festival comes to town.

What else? Hmm. I did a course in gamification. It was just brilliant. I learned loads. My mind grew, I discovered stuff – that never happened with lessons in school! I am frankly flabbergasted that you can get yourself a university level course in something for free online. It had challenging exams and homework, and reading and everything. Get yourself a MOOC now. Highly recommended. Though no professor can be as good as Professor Wherbach. (Small crush admitted, it must be because it reminded me of being 15)

Moving on…

I’m doing Race for Life, despite being the most unlikely racer in pink. Somehow it happened. It’s a very good cause, I know far too many people effected by cancer. I don’t like to get dreary on you, but you or I, or your dearest person in life, is highly likely to get it too. So yes, research works (I like the science stuff) and I hope my race can do some small good.

I think that’s it. Aside from a social game/business idea that’s kind of big and interesting in my head. We shall see what happens there. I’d love to play it, so I hope I don’t let it slip away, I often do that with these things.

So yeah, I’m busy, happy mostly. Though my husband is away on an 11 day stint and the the usual lonely mum blues have been tricky.

I think that’s it for my update.

Don’t forget to donate! Me + running = some point, surely? Plus I made photos! There are more on the fundraising page, DONATE NOW. 

That’s a call to action, see, told you I knew this marketing lark.



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Finding my buzz (goals versus purpose)

beeWhen I think about writing goals I dream of reaching a happy-ever-after like this:

1. Marketing person mum finds time to complete screenplay.

2. Script gets attention from a production company.

3. Screenplay is developed, it improves through several drafts.

4. Jo finds agent and gets TV work, possibly even… Jo beats the odds and her film is made. Jo is a full time screenwriter!

5. A feel-good scene sums up her happy life. Jo picks up her boy from school, and on a sunny walk home she chats about a fun day of story invention.

So looking at this simply.

My goal here is: Write script.

My goal fulfilled is: A satisfying creative career and family friendly self-employment.

Only this screenwriting goal is just surface stuff. I’ve been thinking about how ‘goals’ are different from  ‘purpose’. If my goal is ‘sell script’ what’s my purpose in pursuing that? This has led to a more meaningful consideration of why I’m doing this at all.

There are clues in the way I describe my writing dream. If I look deeper at what I ‘really’ hope to achieve then maybe I’ll find screenwriting isn’t the only way to get there? Maybe I’ll find new opportunities that satisfy the same purpose? Maybe it will give me a more achievable route to the happy-ever-after scene I describe?

In a movie the character always has a goal. In James Bond the goal is usually a quest to defeat the bad guy. While in Toy Story 3 the toys goal is to escape Sunnyside Day Care and get home to Andy.

Movie’s always have a theme lurking beneath the goal. The real purpose of James Bond’s quest is to ensure justice is done. In Toy story 3 Woody hopes to find love and friendship. Film characters have clear goals – but also a fulfilling purpose. James Bond needs justice, so he defeats bad guys. Woody needs friendship, so he fights to get home to Andy. More often than not I have clear goals without even thinking about the  ‘theme’  hiding behind my ambitions.

When I’m trying to sell a screenplay what’s my real purpose? It’s not fame, I get no buzz from thinking about crowds seeing my name on a big screen. It’s not money, I work on scripts after work – but my job pays well so I don’t need to do that. What satisfies me about creating scripts? I know the feeling of inspiration gives me a buzz. I love ideas, especially ideas that are new – that’s exciting. It’s quite satisfying working on ideas at home on my laptop… but that’s not the best bit. Sharing ideas matters too. The ultimate satisfaction is creating something new that serves a purpose.

So perhaps my real purpose could be described as, ‘creating something original that matters to other people.’

I feel embarrassed writing that. It’s such a big ambition – but it feels right. I think that is why I do what I do. I suppose it reveals why I write a blog and never a diary, I also see it show itself in my everyday work.

My favourite times at work involve coming up with ideas, then making them happen. This might be a poker promotion or a new way to do something. It’s not a story on the screen, but it feels just as good. I’ve known this for a long time, and it changes the way I work.

I’m now far less creative in my day job.

I know I enjoy creating new stuff, so I’m wary of going to work and having a good time! Work isn’t about me having fun, it’s a serious business. So I hold back. It would be great if my job was about making exciting new stuff happen (just occasionally it is) but more often than not it’s about repeating successful formulas,  taking an idea that’s worked elsewhere then applying it to my business unit, or everyday management of projects that work just fine as they are. This is a drag, but it’s work. Who said work was supposed to be fun?

If I’m getting closer to defining my ‘life purpose’, does it help me achieve more or feel more fulfilled? I’m not sure.

I’m taking a broader, bigger picture look at where my life is headed. It means a few tough decisions. I’ve decided to put screenwriting on hold while I work on a project that might be a more practical way to reach point 5 above. It even involves my day job (could work become fun after all?)

Save the Cat is my favourite screenwriting book. In Blake Snyder’s system the ‘A story’ is the character’s goal, while the ‘B story’ is about theme and purpose. Characters in films don’t think much about the B stuff, but it always comes into play to create a story’s satisfying conclusion. So yeah. I’m working on my B story.

I always come back to bees and Bs… Why is that?

I think I know, it’s how I get my buzz.

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I love bees

ImageI’ve recently become obsessed with online story/games, not  playing them as much as learning about them, and planning how to create one of my own.

My favourite Christmas present was, ‘A Creator’s Guide To Transmedia Storytelling.’ Not a great book as it’s rather general, but I discovered  ‘transmedia story’ towards the end of last year and this book fuelled my passion.

Unfortunately I refuse to use the word ‘transmedia’ even though I can’t find a decent replacement. There isn’t a logical reason to dislike the word, it just sounds showoffy and stresses the things the story is made of. To me it’s not about the fact it’s lots of different media, that’s not the key thing – or even strictly necessary. Unfortunately I don’t like the term ARG either (Alternate Reality Gaming.) ‘Alternate Reality’ implies the story has to be some made-up sci-fi world. Most ARG are futuristic, but there’s no reason they have to be.

I think about story more than game, and I think ordinary more than extraordinary – words like ARG and Transmedia don’t describe exactly what I want to do. I get into more  trouble because I don’t like  ‘interactive story’ either… Oh dear. I’ll clumsily call this online story/game for now.

Why do these kind of stories excite me? I suppose I live a bit of a plugged in life. When I read news about someone finding a message in a bottle after 30 years at sea I think, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to send a message in a bottle on the internet? It could land on a random web page for someone to find!’

When I read my boy a bedtime story about a magic carpet I think, ‘ I wish a magic carpet could fly me and my friends on a tour of the internet – we could look at web pages and chat about them as we flew around!’

When an online digital ad chases me with a message about a Boden cardigan I think, ‘I wish I could browse the web and see a message that involved a story, why does it always have to be hard sell?’

I organised a treasure hunt in the Caribbean recently (more glamorous than it sounds.) People enjoyed it, it was satisfying to entertain people that way. I’ve explored ways to bring treasure hunts online, and there are a few things like this around –  Geocaching is the best use of technology to reinvent treasure hunts.

In the late nineties I set up, ‘Wuzzle the WWW puzzle.’ This involved buried clues on websites, I blagged prizes from online  web shops – not that there were many around back then. It was a half-hearted effort and I soon lost interest and went back to scripts. I remember a bizarre conversation with a gay couple in Portland as I tried to buy their domain Yes ‘World Wide Wed puzzle’ was the name I used. This was so long ago that the phrase ‘World Wide Web’ was in regular use.

I’m not sure where I’ll go with my online story/game plans, but I have a few ideas that excite me. Mainly I’m enjoying playing with the concept, and enjoying that it combines my marketing experience with my writing hobby. These story/games are hard to find because they rarely pay for themselves, it would be good to fix that little issue!

I haven’t given up on scriptwriting either, I hope to complete a new draft of a script for a competition at the end of March. Although it feels like it might get done through sheer stubbornness rather than inspiration or enjoyment.

But story is just story, I don’t think I should get bogged down with one particular form. I want to tell stories online that involve people, I can plan this just the same way as any screen story. Maybe I’m more in control of making it happen?

‘I love Bees‘ is widely accepted as the first successful ARG… I’m not going to read too much into it, but I do love cats and I love bees.

I watched Bear71 today, and this is well worth watching if you have a spare 20 minutes. It’s  more filmic than the ideas I’ve come up with so far, but an excellent example of story and game in mixed up media. Okay you got me, it’s a great Transmedia Story. What’s in a name?

Maybe it’ll be like WWW and in a few years people will say, ‘Remember when we used to call these ARGs?’

Google has recently got in on the act, Niantic Project is currently in closed beta. It looks a bit too code based for my taste, but it hasn’t stopped me applying to play it.

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Minors and Minecraft


My kids like playing Minecraft. It’s some blocky game where you build stuff. You put logs plus gravel, plus cobblestone, and um… glass? You put all these things together and you construct a building in this random world. A world where square blocky feral pigs roam.

I get this game. I understand the fun of creating something from not much, the pleasure of showing this to the whole world of server X. The preople of server X might not be much impressed but that’s okay.

Some of my happiest moments are when I’m lost in writing, words on a page, published to the web, and maybe someone else sees that and likes that. Well maybe? It’s a happy process whether or not the words are read.

When my husband goes away to work I get a lot of talk about Minecraft. It’s just me and the minors talking about Minecraft.

The conversation goes like this.

Me: At work I’ve been thinking about an Omaha tournament for women.

Kid 1: What’s for tea mum?

Me: My boss isn’t convinced about women only games, but he thinks they have a place.

Kid 2: I want to watch the Yogscast after tea.

Me: Is that the one with the swearing?

Kid 1: Totallytoby doesn’t swear. Well not much.

Me: Do they make Minecraft videos every day?

I like LikeTotallyToby. I’m an admirer of the Yogscast YouTube channel. I’ve developed a fondness for square pigs.

I miss my husband, I dream of conversations where someone actually listens. Only minors talking Minecraft is a big part of my life when he’s away.

I have a weakness for puns, if my husband was here I’d say…

Me: Minors and Minecraft… Do you play Minorscraft? I’m only five I play Minorscraft! I’m a minor I like Minecraft..!

Then five minutes later I’d repeat it, and he’d grown at by bad joke repeat habit. I’d laugh. Did you see that joke I just did?

But when he’s away I say…


Kid 2: So can I watch then?

Me: Ok.

Then when the kids are in bed I’d write about it on my blog.

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Well I went and started a writing group. I remember writing about this years ago. Well June 2011 apparently… Thank you WordPress for neatly storing that date.

I said I might set up WOW (Writers Of Whitstable)  which would obviously be a better writer’s group than WOC (Writers of Canterbury) or WOF (Writers of Folkestone.)

So now I have.

The first group was just as I hoped, not too many writers, a serious bunch with a lot of talent. WOW indeed! One of the writers had a thing about orange and used to live on the same road as me in a small town faraway in Yorkshire. There was also a feminist writer who didn’t mind if men didn’t read her book. Plus a clever chap who had a great hook for his completed novel. Completing a novel (any novel) was quite enough to impress me, but his was interesting and a long way from just a big pile of words.

As for my contribution… I suppose I’m a bit in a dither with my writing at the moment. I’m enjoying working on an older script that means something to me, but I’m also working on a low budget more saleable project.

I suppose I’m thinking ‘what’s the point’ to it all. There are plenty of talented writers out there who either make a small living doing something approximating what they love, or else fall short of making any money – while enjoying dreaming and putting words together anyway. Good writers are easy to find, that might be the sad truth for someone like me. I’m one of many average writers, and we all hope to find something worth saying.

I sometimes feel cursed with making good money in my job, when I put my’realism’ head on there is no motivation for working hard to make less income as a semi-successful writer. So if it’s not about the money, then what? Maybe self expression..? I guess a blog has that covered.

The problem might be that I spent my youth writing every day and dreaming non-stop, happily convinced that I’d win myself the creative life I  loved. Instead I work in poker marketing. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Wow, I should really just grow up and get happy with life.

I noticed a sticker outside the venue of my first writer’s meet. I laughed when I saw it because I hadn’t seen one like this for a very long time. It felt so apt as I approached this bunch of writers I’d never met, I had been wondering if I was mad to set up this group…


I guess the sticker was right.

 I spent a moment wondering if it was some creepy stalker thing, then I decided that life was about choosing to perceive things the right way.

I’ll be fine.

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How to make 5 out of 2013

I bet a whole load of blogs get updated on New Years Day. I’d like to commit to 2013 as a year of daily blogging, personal improvement, and some life changing resolutions.

It won’t happen.

Life right now is an imperfect mix of flu, work stress, not enough time to write…. Or looking at the positives in the mix, there’s my happy family, my great husband, a work promotion, and a couple of writing ideas to try to make time for.

I suppose I wish I felt less swept along by things. I have no right to complain at all, but like most people I tamely deal with day to day circumstances, while secretly thinking I’d like to paddle upstream, climb a tree, or fly. Oh yes, fly.

I want the impossible. I want another way.

I don’t know what I want.

Oh, and I’m happy, it’s not that life’s bad in any way… it’s just peculiarly unsatisfying. Maybe just today, a day I let slip somehow with nothing good achieved, nothing special enjoyed.

I’m just an average flu-riddled New Year blogger, thinking too much. I’ll pour a glass of wine, check the food in the oven, muddle on with the day to day stuff, just like we all must.

But who’s with me, who wouldn’t rather fly?

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Happily ever afters are hard work

It serves me right for being smug.

My last post was full of decisions made, futures plotted and happy endings in the making. I thought I could have it all, a lovely wedding, a screenwriting education, plus a work-life balanced career and family perfect combo.

Nothing ever works to plan, does it? Nothing bad has happened, it’s just a compromise here, a compromise there, a discussion or three, an expensive bill or six, and it turns out the family cash didn’t quite stretch to a vanity project middle-age university return.

The thing is, much as I would love to formally study screenwriting and push for a career as a writer, the £2,500 a year further education isn’t strictly necessary for that.

I visited Bournemouth and the interview was good, I was offered one of the twelve places on the course, and when I log into and decline that place I will be sadder than I’ve been for years. But still I can’t see how I can accept it.

I stood in a friends kitchen a couple of months ago, I told her about my plans for a wedding, I told her about screenwriting too. I told her how much I loved writing scripts and wanted to push it as a happy priority, but that I couldn’t afford a screenwriting course and a decent wedding and had chosen a great wedding day. She was shocked as only a feminist could be. She suggested I was ditching my dreams for one big pretty day.

She was right.

So I tried my hardest to reign in on the big day, to go for 3 hours of photography not 8, to go for 6 hours at the wedding venue not the whole day. We went for a buffet not a sit down meal, a hired juke box not a DJ, we cut the guest list ruthlessly, we agreed to DIY table flowers, the invitations were special offer, the dress was second hand. I was the most creative wedding budgeter I could be – but still a wedding is a big thing to buy. And life has a way of throwing unexpected bills at you when you can least afford them.

So I want to tell my feminist friend that I understand her disappointment, but the bottom line is I am choosing a celebration of love over two years of education. It still sort of hurts to say it. Yes, I’m spending as much on one day of saying ‘I do’ as I could on two years of study. But I know it’s the right choice.

I won’t stop writing, I will find ways to study and network without the formal help of the course. And it already feels like the stress of that one silly, girly, un-feminist rites of passage wedding day will provide vast amounts of life experience which could fit in a script sometime.

There’s also the fact that I’m a romantic, that I love the man who proposed to me 364 days ago to this day in Las Vegas. He’s there now, and we managed to have our first row of the trip today, which veered towards a discussion of writing courses.

The make-up process has involved me reassuring him that I’m okay with my decision to blow our budget on one big day with him and not a Masters degree. I’m an old fashioned girl, who most likely won’t ever make anything of her writing, but if I can write a wedding vow that expresses just how much I love him I will be fulfilled.

So, decision made, and I’d better get back to looking for bargain flower girl dresses.

As for the goals and work-life balance? Well I managed to win an Inspiration of the Year award for my poker website work in the very same week I won ‘commended’ in a script competition.

I’m somewhat confused about where my priorities should lie.

I’ll aim to win the script contest next year.

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