The third annual Screenwriters' Festival in Cheltenham will be announcing its programme soon. Launched in 2006, this event is growing into a key fixture for aspiring scribes and those who've already got on the industry ladder. I fancied going the first year, but wasn't sure where I'd fit into the mix. Last year I couldn't justify the costs, not while struggling to make ends meet on my screenwriting MA course. Better to stay home, say the money and concentrate on my final project instead.
But this year I'll definitely be going. You want to know how I'm so sure? I'm one of the guest speakers. The festival has already announced an impressive line of commissioners, writers, directors, producers and others. There's Jane Tranter, head of fiction at the BBC, and ITV director of drama Laura Mackie. How about writer-directors like Guillermo Del Toro, Julian Fellowes and Peter Kosminsky? Not to mention acclaimed writers like Peter Morgan, Lucy Prebble and Deborah Moggach.
And then there's me. Wondering how I came to be listed alongside such distinguished company? Ten years editing graphic novels and comics, plus another seven [and change] writing them. A them of this year's festival is the relationship between screenwriting, and writing for graphic novels and comics. Seeing this online, I got in touch with the festival organisers. Before I knew it, my name was added to the list of guest speakers. Nice work if you can get, get it if you try.
But there's a serious point to be gleaned from this anecdote. [I heart the word glean. I want to visit Jamaica - or Fredericton, New Brunswick - just so I can buy a copy of the Daily Gleaner.] It never hurts to have a field of expertise outside screenwriting. Trained as a doctor or nurse? Then you've first-hand experience that could inform a medical script. Pounded the beat as a policeman? You can turn that into gold, because you'll write about it with authority.
Having been an editor at iconic British comic 2000 AD gets me meetings and enquiries I'd never have otherwise. Just last week a recruiting agency called about whether I was interested in a computer games gig, thanks to my science fiction and comics background. That same expertise has gotten me on the guest speaker list for Cheltenham. Your life and your perspective upon it is unique, just like your voice as a writer. It could stand you in good stead.