‘Gifts & Gear’ is a new monthly series where a playwright shares their top recommendations for writers.
BONUS: This is a really easy way to support LPB and keep our blog running without any cost to you! If you do your Amazon shopping this month by clicking through our links, a small portion of the sale will benefit LPB, at no extra charge to you. (And you don’t even have to buy what we recommend – it works for anything!) Read on for the details!
For January 2017, our Gifts & Gear recommendations are from A.C. Smith, Director of London Playwrights Workshop and co-founder of this blog. She’s won writing awards from the RSC and Soho Theatre and is currently working on a new piece for the Bush Theatre’s Emerging Writers Group.
Read on to find out what she relies on to keep her writing going:
“If you’re a visual thinker, this can be a lifesaver. I wanted a whiteboard for ages to be able to get ideas out on, but didn’t feel very creatively inspired by the ugly, plasticky look.
This is great because it lets me make notes directly on the surface and post research or inspiration in the same place with magnets. This has been a big help for my current project.
I’d really recommend it for any writer looking for something a bit more dynamic than a computer screen or a blank page.”
“This book is my writing secret weapon. If you attended a workshop or have done script consulting with me, there’s a good chance you’ll have heard me mention it. I know if I’m hitting the beats outlined in a ‘Rags to Riches’ story, for example, that structure is going to work. (And if I’m not able to hit them, I probably haven’t been honest enough with myself yet about what kind of story I’m trying to tell.)
Christopher Booker simplifies the core ingredients that go into a compelling story, while providing painstaking detail about the narrative structure of a wide range of examples. If you liked Into The Woods or other similar Jungian-based books, this should be right up your alley. Booker draws on a similar archetypal framework, but with a bit more creativity and openness to subversive twists, in my opinion.
It’s the size of a doorstop, but he provides a neat, page-long summary at the end of each plot structure, so you really only have to dip in as much as you’d like to. (And if you think it’s too fat for your bookshelf, you can always get the e-book!)”
“Sarah Ruhl is a fantastic American playwright whose work has been produced on Broadway; she won a MacArthur Genius Grant a few years back, but is less well known this side of the pond.
What I love about her plays is the way she combines the mundane details of life with a wild, visual imagination. She’s not afraid to stretch the limits of theatricality. In one play, a man braves a snowstorm to cut down the tree of life; in another, there is a chorus of stones. (That’s right, rocks that come to life and speak.)
Several years ago I received this book as a Christmas gift, and read the entire collection on the plane flight home (instead of sleeping) – all the plays except one, because the experience of reading her work was so beautiful I didn’t want it to end. I waited a year before dipping into the last one, and it provided comfort and inspiration on a really crappy day. This is a great collection, and it has pride of place on my bookshelf.”
“These are the best pens in the world and no one will convince me otherwise. Yes, like many writers I’m a bit of a pen fanatic, and I do like to vary my choice of writing implement on my mood. BUT, this is the pen I find myself returning to over and over again, and use probably 80% of the time.
Why do I love it? Great ink flow, comfortable grip, and a really fine line – which makes it much easier to decipher notes written in a hurry or in the back of a darkened theatre.
Bonus tip: When one of my plays is rehearsing, I devote a different pen colour to each reading or rehearsal – the lines that were great in the first reading may feel clunky by the last rehearsal (or vice versa) and this is a really easy way to keep track of what I was thinking and when. Plus, changing colours is just more fun! They come in a huge range including red, blue, green, orange, violet, and more.”
“If I’m 100% honest, this last pick is aspirational – something I want to get rather than something I already have. Because there is nothing as miserable as writing when your fingers are so cold it hurts (been there, done that).
I was in Budapest this December and I came across a woman weaving in one of the Christmas markets, wearing fingerless gloves. I tried to sympathise with her about how cold it must be, but she said actually the gloves were great and her fingers stayed quite warm. If they’re good enough to survive the Hungarian winter, they must be warm enough for my drafty London flat. So that’s what’s going in my Amazon basket this January!”