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How to be a Girl!

on Jan8 2016

Is going to be on at the New Theatre Royal.

I am well excited.


More about Girl in the Hood (for you Holy Trinity!)

on Mar24 2015

I wrote Girl in the Hood (GITH) because I had set-up a story-telling festival. The theme the festival was updated fairy tales, and I’d asked all the acts to write new pieces. Thus, I had to write something myself.  The play was originally a monologue which I performed, seated. My wonderful friend and dance teacher worked with me on pace, and gesture so that I could portray all the characters in a manner suitable for the audience (which, aside from 100 or so strangers, included my children, husband and parents. Nerve wracking or what?).

I’ve always been taken with the idea of Red. It’s the cloak. There’s something very gallant about Red, dashing, risqué. And who would wear their fine coat through the forest?  Only someone with rebellion on their mind. But I have never liked the multiple endings where Red is always saved by a man.

Girls kick-ass

It’s a constant given that women are rescued by men, isn’t it? That was the background to my childhood. It took me into my teens to realise that women can – and mostly do – look after themselves. (I worked in Greece in my late teens. One night a friend, a tiny, Swedish girl who looked like she belonged in Middle Earth with the Elves, walked home drunk. She was an easy target. Petit, off her head, alone. A man attacked her, he ended up in hospital. Not because she was rescued by a handsome stranger who just happened by at that moment, no, the attacker ended up in hospital because the petit Swede was also a martial arts champion. Girls: learn to defend yourselves. Boys: don’t rape.)

When I set about writing Red I wanted to keep the traditional structure – ignoring mother’s advice, being alone in a dangerous place, the consequences of choice, but dealing with the situation on her own terms.  I also really liked the challenge of representing three generations of females in a family. The grandmother, in a gated community / care home yet expecting her bottle of sherry, the mum sitting on the sofa watching telly (albeit we meet her very briefly), and Red  . . . sent out on her nightly errand.

Make them squirm

More than this, I challenged myself to build a well-known plot, in its traditional sequence, but keep people on the edge of their seats. I wanted the audience to be there, on the streets, panicking at the buzzer, in the darkened room. To know what was coming (mostly), but still to care. And then to show them that Red could do what she does, that her Grandmother wished her to do the final deed. So women – whatever their age – are forgiving, and violent, and brave, and clever, and stupid and every other word that you can think of because we are amazing individuals and should never be constrained by characters in a fairy story – into old, ugly, evil hags, or beautiful, innocent, good princesses.

Break a leg all you wonderful GCSE-ers.

To get back to my website, all you need to do is click on I’m a feminist because I believe in equal opportunities for men and women. Mind you, the front page is rather out of date, so maybe you’d be better off reading through other posts instead.

Girl in the Hood

on Feb2 2015

I spent a lovely hour today working with a group of GCSE girls on GITH. They were challenged by some of the language – sounds like Shakespeare *yay!* – and some of the concepts. It turns out that my writing isn’t quite as clear as I like to think that it is!

The role of the narrator in both my fairy tale plays is the same – I hadn’t realised until I wrote about Brotherly Love yesterday, and GITH today. I see the narrator as being totally there in the action, describing the scene, getting to grips with the sights, smells, feel of the piece, stepping into and out of the action. Stepping through it. Really closely watching and experiencing every lie and truth, the all seeing, all knowing power.

We used boxes today, to talk about the power in a line, in a relationship, and how that can be visually represented. Lots of fun.

And now I am going to go and edit some more of my latest work in progress which made me laugh out loud last night. A good sign? I am not too sure. My confidence really dips at this stage of the process. So here are my top tips to myself:

  • get on with it
  • stop fuffing around on your website
  • don’t have a glass of wine until you have read at least two pages

All good advice, even if I say so myself. To get back to my homepage, click on my name, Zella Compton. To read about Brotherly Love and details on that, scroll back to my last post.

Brotherly Love – what’s that all about then?

on Feb1 2015

Happy endings are for wimps.

Brotherly Love is a play that I wrote, an updated loose version of Hansel and Gretel. A GCSE student has asked me a few questions about it as he is using it for his final piece. Instead of answering on twitter as that’d be a lot of tweets – it’s easier for me to answer here.

The story

Basically, Hansel needs to pay off his debts with his dealer. He takes Gretel through the mean streets and then uses her as payment, racking up more costs as he sits delving into his dealer’s treats while she skivvies in whatever ways that can be imagined (if the dealer is male there will be a deal of sexual nuance with physicality during the negotiations). Gretel imagines that she can save Hansel, that her love for him is strong enough to bring him back to her. She is mistaken.

The set

I imagine the play’s staging to be very simple. If needed, the only set I envision would be cardboard boxes that the actors could use to build the areas that they walk through – how terrified Gretel is – and then build-up as a the hovel. A black box could be used as a chair for Hansel to lounge upon in his stupor.

The characters

The narrator needs to be in the thick of the action, stepping between brother and sister (H & G could freeze every time the narrator speaks), getting right into the middle of all that’s happening. The narrator is a high energy role, played at a variety of heights, squatting, leaping, stooping in the middle of it all. Getting right to the centre of everything, invisible to the others, talking directly to the audience with a hint of taking the piss. He / she should use slo-motion to beckon them on, look bored and fed up when Gretel’s moaning, react to Hansel’s lies. The narrator knows the truth and his / her reactions to the audience can show us this (tapping foot, nodding head, folding arms in disbelief etc). The change in physicality to the dealer must be very very apparent – which is why so much energy is needed in the first scenes.

Poor little Gretel – the girl who is told one thing, believes it, but it then becomes quite another. And her brother forcing her to take drugs – what’s that about then? The scene where Gretel finds herself hallucinating could use lighting wonderfully to illustrate what she is going through. At the start she is weak, a bland follower to her brother’s whims but it is when he is so vile to her, day after day, she finally finds the strength in herself to fight back. The treatment given to her by the dealer and her brother must reflect the fact that when she reacts she will do so in a spectacular manner. I would imagine that the actions which accompany all moments in the hovel will clearly demonstrate the levels of power between the three, and the levels of brutality. Don’t forget she is going from weak wimp to deliberate killer – that’s a journey of physicality if ever there was. The challenge with playing Gretel is to get the audience to like her – will sympathy be enough, or will she have to present a growing courage in herself?

Hansel hides his drug addiction from Gretel at the outset, he lies to her in order that she will run away from the family home with him. But his intentions are always grim – she is the payment for his debts. So, he presents a kind face to her while showing the audience his darker side. He is determined in the opening, he needs to get her to his dealer, he cajoles her and gives her false protection. But once in the hovel his true side is revealed. His addiction is shown as his master, crawling to a needle that his dealer taunts him with and then turning his own embarrassment onto Gretel – berating her for her pathetic aspirations, for the love she has for him. He despises everything that she represents – but it is he who has made her that representation of either housewife or whore (however this is played against dealer’s gender).

Other stuff

The play’s written in constrained rhyming verse, I would play with that as much as I could – allowing some rhymes to be very easy and adding pause and lots of thought about how to present others, stilting the delivery, so that the audience has to work for their pay-off, pull them right into the engagement.

Final thought (for now)

I once wrote a play that was covered in stage directions, every movement, every emotion was documented. The director laughed, he told me that there was no room for him in the script. I realised then how marvelous it is to hand a project over to someone else with little guidance, to see how they interpret the characters and what it all means. Although I have set out what I think for brotherly love, it’s not to say that I am right, or that it’s the best way to play the play.

I work in a department with two amazing dance teachers. Their movements and expressions are a world away from anything I could ever come up with in my heffalump form. If you’re ever stuck, at any time, read a script really slowly and ask a dancer to interpret it as you do – in whatever style they want. It’s genius. I promise.

Any questions?

If not, you can make your way back to my very out of date homepage by clicking on my name: zella the heffalump compton

If you want to buy the play, you can do so from resources4drama.

Havant Literary Festival – writer in residence?

on Sep23 2014

Oh yes, that’s me!

I am super excited to be the writer in residence at a literary festival – even though I do struggle to spell literary (and to say it!).

As well as meeting some interesting people at my one-to-ones, I will be hosting a session on writing yourself out of a rut. Then there are school visits a plenty. But what I am really really looking forward to is meeting / attending other events.

I was involved in the festival last year and had a marvellous time learning about other writers, and watching plays in pub gardens (I particularly enjoyed that!).

If you’re in the area and fancy seeing what’s on, there’s loads of information to be had by sneaking a peak at facebook and searching for Havant Literary Festival.

If you do make it, please come and say ‘hello’.


shocking lack of posting on my part

on Nov24 2013

It turns out that I am not much of a blogger – as I keep forgetting to blog!

That’s such a shame as I am having such a wonderful time, visiting lots of different schools on behalf of the Able Writers programme.

Here I am below with some super creative children that I met in Winchelsea, which is near Hastings. The drive home was a long one – it took me three hours – but that gave me plenty of time to reflect on how amazing children are when it comes to writing. They know no fear. Everyone should take a leaf out of their books, and go for it!

To get back to my site, click on zella compton should use caps on her name!

Now that's a story!

Now that’s a story!

Thinking time - only for one second though!

Thinking time – only for one second though!

Busy, busy, busy

Busy, busy, busy

Cheeky grins from the host school - they were so helpful!

Cheeky grins from the host school – they were so helpful!

Me checking we were all okay - and we were!

Me checking we were all okay – and we were!


Nayu’s Reading Corner reviews TTRoS

on Nov19 2012

To read the full review, click on the words you are reading now . . . .

But here’s the gist of it:

Themes: psychic stuff, a mentally sick man, family ties, being hunted, getting stuck between a rock and a hard place, freaky mind boggling concepts, loads of major peril and general weirdness
Nayuleska’s thoughts
I nearly stopped reading at page 95. The enemy is really sick, reminding me of killers and paedophiles who are free in the world. I’m a visual person. I react more strongly to what I see than what I hear. This is good when I need cheering up, but not so great if I’m getting freaked out.
What happens to Adam is strange. The scary part is that it’s so easy to take the leap of faith and see his story come alive in my head. The waves of evil coming off the enemy made me want to take a shower. That’s something his victims can’t do for themselves, and something that is disturbing if I think of all the sickos in the world.
Zella captures the reader’s emotions and even when the book ends doesn’t let them go. This 9/10 read will make you think hard about the minds of psychos, as well as what makes us us. As for me, I’m heading off to watch a cute anime to level out my head.
To get back to my website, click back back back.

Mr Dampier – literacy guru – said this about me!

on Nov19 2012
As Literacy manager for our school (amongst other hats I wear) I am responsible for inspring and motivating our children to read for enjoyment as well as gaining a greater and more sophisticated comprehension of various texts. There is no better way to achieve this than getting ‘real life’ authors in to school. This term we were fortunate enough to have Zella Compton visit our school. She has just had her first children’s book published and she came to our school to talk about reading and writing and her own personal experiences in literacy.
The children (and staff) were thoroughly captivated! Zella was humorous, engaging and presented an extremely educational workshop for our children. They were inspired! They were also motivated as many went back and started writing stories in class that very day!
All the staff and children would like to thank Zella for her time and for sharing some valuable experiences that will maybe, enable a Droxford Junior School child to become a famous author!
Mr Dampier
The Story Generator gets into action

The Story Generator in Droxford

To get back to my website, click on: Zella Compton needs to cut down on cheese judging by this picture!

My book is out!

on Sep14 2012

But I haven’t seen it yet! My copy is in the post – and has been lost I think!

My friend Claire has hers though . . . and kindly sent me a picture:

I should have bought one from Amazon!

The Ten Rules of Skimming

It’s real . . . . . I can’t wait to get my hands on one and sniff it.


To get back to my website, click on my name: Zella

Racing up the bestsellers rank on Amazon . . ..

on Sep5 2012

But will fall again tomorrow. It changes so quickly – I dropped 30,000 places in one afternoon last week! But had to record this moment today, as it is the highest I have ever been . . . . Glorious moment. Thank you all!

Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Mogzilla (12 Sep 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 1906132267
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906132262
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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