Following the conclusion of Writers' Cramp, a six-month Creative Skillset funded programme for ten new writers and script editors with disabilities, Honor Flaherty tells us about her experience:
Before I started the screenwriting course with Writers’ Cramp, my sense of self and faith in my abilities as a writer were gradually fading alongside the progressive nature of my disability, and I, probably more than others, judged myself and my skills more harshly than maybe I should have. When I found myself on the Writers’ Cramp screenwriting course I felt like it was a safe place where I didn't feel like an anomaly, it was in a place of empowerment and acceptance. Over the following six months I spent with them it has given me the confidence and the skills to keep pursuing my goal of becoming a professional screenwriter,
Our very first session was a masterclass on storytelling. We were put through our paces dissecting script, plot and structure before being given the task of writing our own script. I remember on the train home back to Leicester I had already scribbled the outline to what would become my very first short script. After that, each session just kept getting better and better, as we met with industry professionals who gave us sage advice, learning from their experiences and exchanging ideas and thoughts.
But one session in particular will probably remain as one of the best evenings of my life. First, we met with Manpreet Dosanjh from Channel 4’s drama commissioning team and EastEnders’ Story Producer, Alex Lamb, who spent a lot of time asking about us as writers and our previous experiences, which was so refreshing to find someone who was as interested in us as we were in them. In preparation for our meeting we were privileged to be given a couple of EastEnders scripts to read and told to watch the episodes beforehand. Then scene by scene we dissected the storyline, how it revealed character and motive, and how to use effective, yet economical dialogue. It truly was a masterclass in writing for soaps. For someone like me, who is a huge EastEnders geek, I was in seventh heaven. I felt very comfortable with the notion that I could see myself writing for soaps in the future, which was the best feeling of all. A whole new sense of confidence was starting to creep through.
As if that wasn't enough, that same evening we also met with the wonderful Sara Johnson (Vice President for Scripted Drama at Fox Networks, Europe and Africa) and the uber talent that is writer, Jack Thorne (Skins, Shameless, National Treasure). Again, without judgement they listened to our personal stories, told us their stories and how they got into the business. They were so encouraging and positive, and eager to read our work. Jack even graciously signed my book, and left a very poignant message to "Keep pushing those doors". So now when I doubt myself or get a knock back, I just have to open my book and remind myself it's worth it to keep going.
I will always be eternally grateful for the opportunities and resources thinkBIGGER! and Writers’ Cramp has given me, especially with mentors like Sam Tatlow and Kate Leys, who have been our rock throughout the whole process. I feel like I have found my tribe, people who understand that although our disabilities are very much a part of who we are, they don't define us as writers or script editors. If anything, it helps because it brings not only awareness but also a different and possibly new way of viewing the world which only enriches the quality of our work.
If you're interested in Writers' Cramp or getting in touch with Honor Flaherty get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org