Notes on the Past Imperfect

I’ve worked and lived in communications all my life: journalist, subeditor, editor, actor, director, producer, preacher – here in Ireland and abroad.

I fell in love with Hiberno-English a long time ago – English as it is spoken and written in my country – and have been in love with it ever since.

My scripts have been broadcast on RTE, Radio One, BBC 4 and, in translation, on European networks;
televised on RTE One, BBC One and Channel 4;
staged at the Peacock by the Abbey National Theatre,
at the Project, the Eblana, the Liverpool Playhouse and on the London Fringe…

So yes, I am a dramatist, not a novelist. There is a difference – indeed, betimes, a big difference. (But that’s for another day…)

My favourite format? Radio Drama. By far. At its very best the listener is a fly-on-the-wall: eavesdropping, over-hearing, listening in, privy to the most intimate, soul-searching monologue, revealing dialogue…

I worked in RTE’s Drama Department for some 16 years in the ’70’s,’80’s – directing, producing, scripting, editing. During that period I wrote and produced some of my own plays – well received and reviewed for the most part, they were subsequently broadcast by the BBC and, in translation, on European networks.

Later… some years into my (early) retirement… it began to occur to me: six of my scripts were inter-related, in the same mould/vein, out of the same stable, so to speak… The same voice/voices… similar, complementary story-lines…

So, Sean, re-work them as chapters/sections/modules in print format and hey, you have yourself a book!

In sequence:

CENTRE CIRCLE
FAR SIDE OF THE MOON
DEAD MAN TALKING
PENNY FOR YOUR TRAVELS
PLAYBACK
JENNY ONE, TWO, THREE…

Moves forward and backwards – sometimes sideways! Disjointed narrative – rather than neatly strung together…

At times I knew where I was going – or so I thought. At other times I was drawing a chain out of muddy water – a link at a time.

Moves from Alcoholism to Marriage Breakdown to the Generation Gap… Yes, I know, well ploughed earth; but this ploughman has a different furrow – style, flair?..

The text: sometimes prose… other times, poetic prose… ever so often, poetry – in free style…

Kept putting it aside, it kept re-surfacing, demanding an audience, readership.
This to give you an idea of what I’m at, where I’m coming from…

Hard to define, my book – literary fiction, a kind of memoir, more than somewhat autobiographical… A mosaic of sorts. Spiced with a wry sense of humour.

Writing “within myself” – for sure…
‘Will make you forget you are reading a book..? Again, for sure.
I avoid the traditional narrative format for the most part; I prefer direct speech – monologue, dialogue. (I’ve left out the bits the readers would skip, anyway!)

To begin to read… then find yourself listening… to a voice, voices… from another place, another time… Voices from Ireland of the 80’s… (Before Civil Divorce became law in the Irish Republic.) Phone calls, recalls, spilt milk… The pain and the laughter, sorrow and joy, of a Yesterday world.

So… at the beginning of last year I went to work: re-working, editing, shaping six play scripts as a Word doc. Not easy, but at least I had a foundation on which to build. I toyed with various titles… finally settled for the one that is now on the cover.

Ah, the cover! Let me explain: I had come across Catherine of the Many Coffees in my search for publishing know-how. From her I have learned much: her WordPress blog is always entertaining, heavy with links, nods, nudges and hints. A goldmine, in fact.

Thanks to this young woman I found Andrew Brown, Cover Designer Extraordinary – and reasonable, into the bargain! When he first sent me his idea for my book’s cover, I was somewhat taken aback. But then, it began to grow on me and I came to see wisdom in his madness… (Do I hear someone saying it’s the best part of the book?!!)

Other things followed: Smashwords… Create Space… Amazon Books… Kindle… CreateSpace was for me a dream come through. In this way I was able to download the text of my magnum opus… together with Andrew’s cover – and they did the rest…

If your need is to be spoon-fed, if you have little desire to be challenged, mentally stimulated, if you wish to be left untouched in your comfort zone, if you have no stomach for the fray… then NOTES ON THE PAST IMPERFECT is not the book for you!

That said, there remains the bottom-line question: why did I write it?.. Oh-hh. Honestly, I don’t think I can answer that one, not in so many words, not at all adequately… I had learned some basic rules of thumb as I explored the Art of Writing: write within yourself; look in your heart and write; to thine own self be true…

 It is ME talking/confessing to my fellow man. And if my words strike a note in the heart of Everyman, that is reward enough – to know that, deep down, I have made contact with Mankind…

Some time ago I gave a workshop on Creative Writing in the College of Arts and Communication. Dun Laoghaire. I spoke without notes for over an hour, as is my wont, engaging the participants from time to time in open discussion. Towards the end of the workshop I was asked what I myself was writing, what  my ambition was for the future..?

I thought a while, then said – “I’d like to write a book consisting of monologue and dialogue, only. With little or no narrative. I don’t think it’s ever been done. I may not succeed – but it won’t be for the want of giving it my best shot!..”

A former colleague of mine in RTE, John Quinn, an educationalist, public speaker and himself a writer of no small stature wrote me on reading my book:

I have been reading “Notes on the Past Imperfect.” Heart-wrenching to read, assuredly difficult to write, but you fashioned an extraordinary story from that imperfect past with great courage and honesty.  An amazing achievement to forge a unity from the six stories and to do it while remaining true to the monologue/dialogue format with such consistency. Well done!

“Penny for Your Travels” particularly moving and beautifully told.

 Brilliant title!

 So thank you and congratulations. Be proud.

 

I rest my case…

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About walshachill

I've worked and lived in communications all my life: journalist, subeditor, editor, actor, director, producer - here in Ireland and abroad. I fell in love with Hiberno-English a long time ago - English as it is spoken and written in my country - and have been in love with it ever since. I love the challenge of pen and blank paper: creating characters, storylines, drama. I love the wind and the sea and the mountains, fresh air and green grass and the sun on my back (I play a mean game of golf) - all of which I have around me... Not to mention the warm humour that wells up from a big heart. If I may share with you some of the gems that have influenced me down the years; I've tried to abide by them but didn't always succeed! "You make your way by taking it... "It does not just happen, you have to make it happen... "Sometimes in stooping down to pick up two pennies one can lose a fortune..." Interests Friendship - when it is not possessive, controlling... Quiet. Silence - a positive value completely overlooked by many today... Reading - carefully judged. If I'm not hooked by the first sequence - the first paragraph - I won't read any further... Trying, day in day out, not to spill any more milk... and to stop crying over milk already spilt. Not suffering fools gladly... Analysing Casablanca, frame for frame, line by line... Publications My scripts have been broadcast on RTE, Radio One, BBC 4 and, in translation, on European networks; televised on RTE One, BBC One and Channel 4; staged at the Peacock by the Abbey National Theatre, at the Project, the Eblana, the Liverpool Playhouse and on the London Fringe… Credits include The Night of the Rouser. Earwig. The Dreamers. Fugitive. Veil. Penny for Your Travels. Far Side of the Moon. Three for Calvary. Jenny One, Two, Three… The Circus. Centre Circle. Where Do We Go from Here, My Lovely? At The Praetorium. Conclave. Assault on a Citadel. I have facilitated many workshops on Creative/Script Writing in Dublin and at various centres around Ireland. Favourite authors A D Sertillanges. John Henry Newman. Waugh. Greene. Hemmingway. Hans Kung. Likes: Good conversation. The company of my fellow searchers... Con pane... meaning, with bread... hence company... Dislikes: Arrogant, self-opinionated prigs... Controlling, bullying clerics... Favourite Quote: "I passionately hate the idea of being with it. I think an artist has always to be out of step with his time." (Orson Welles (1915 - 1985))
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