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Jessica Dromgoole (BBC New Writing Co-Ordinator) Interview

Writewords talks to Jessica Dromgoole, New Writing Co-ordinator at the BBC

Tell us about your background- how did you get involved with new writing?

I started as a theatre director, and had to take on a wide portfolio of little jobs, teaching, producing and reading, for example, to earn money. Out of this came the Paines Plough Literary Manager job, which I did part time alongside being lead reader for BBC New Writing, which led to this job. Iíve always been interested in stories and making and telling them definitively, so there wasnít really any attraction for me in old work.

Who are your favourite writers/work and why?

My favourite writers change all the time, and many of them havenít had much exposure. Of those in the public eye, this year, Iíve loved Nick Darkeís Power, Angie Clarkeís Eyes Down, Mark Ravenhillís The Cut, most of The Canterbury Tales, Paul Abbottís State of Play, Henry Adamís People Next Door, Katie Himsí Man with Travel Hairdryer, Lin Coghlanís episodes of EastEnders, Eric Schlosserís Americans, loads really. I like work that moves me, literally, makes me laugh or cry or shudder or sit up.

How do you look for new writers?

A lot of writers come to us, and send us their work. The writers we go out looking for are usually writers that the BBC needs to better represent the whole of the population, or writers for projects that demand a particular voice or experience.

What mistakes do you think new writers tend to make?

They try to second guess what we are looking for, and they donít feel they are interesting enough as resources for their stories and characters.

What excites you about a piece of writing?

When I havenít read it, or something like it, before. And when it is impossible to stop reading. And when it moves me.

Any specific advice for new writers who want to have a go at comedy writing?

Be very, very funny. Seriously, you can be weak at all other aspects of your writing, but if you make the reader laugh, over and over, people will be happy to help you with the rest. Remember, thereís no such thing as gentle comedy.

Whatís the submission process?

Writers send us a full script, with a covering letter, cv and s.a.e. We acknowledge it within about two weeks, and respond within three months. It may be returned without any notes, in which case it didnít impress the readers enough in the first ten pages to warrant a full reading. It may be returned with notes. It may be returned with notes and an invitation to send the next work (note, the next not the previous). Or the writer may be invited in for a meeting.

Do you actively seek out new writing- ie. fringe theatre, websites, etc, or does it always come to you?

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