Calliope Writing


Interview with Write Out Loud Instructor Kathryn Ash

Today, I have something a little different for you all: an interview! Kathryn Ash is a playwright with years of experience who says she “cannot remember a time when [she] wasn’t in awe of stories.”

kathryn ash playwright

Meet Kathryn Ash

Read on to find out more about Kathryn and the Write Out Loud program, which is ideal for beginning and seasoned writers alike.

Share a little bit about yourself.

I was never read to as a child, rather I grew up in a strong tradition of hearing stories delivered as if by performance, a tradition that most likely established by my yarn-spinning grandfather who regularly held court at family gatherings with his hilariously convoluted and mostly suspect tales of “life as a poor Kentuckian runaway working on the Mississippi steamboats, hanging out in wild New Orleans in the 1900s and stowing away on a boat to Australia, all before the age of sixteen.” So the thrill of telling and seeing stories rather than reading them was implanted in my mind very early.

For the longest time I was content to perform other people’s stories, as an actor. But in 1992, when the theatre company I was setting up with two other women (JUTE Theatre Company) needed an original story quick, I hurriedly put forward the story that had been rattling around in my head all my life—Bag O’ Marbles. The play had a lot of success over the years, including winning me the New York Dramatist Exchange Award, and marks the beginning of my long affair with writing stories for theatre.

I discovered I also like helping people who want to get their stories out as well, and found the vicarious but none the less rewarding thrill of dramaturgy. I helped put together a program for JUTE that encouraged writers to pen their stories as performance pieces. That program, Enter Stage Write, grew enormously over its lifecycle, creating so many beautiful stories and launching the careers of so many talented writers. It was an amazing ride.

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How was the Write Out Loud program born?

The Enter Stage Write program I mentioned had been running for sixteen years, with an award-winning format, and had had so many theatrical successes to its credit. But JUTE Theatre Company’s Artistic Director realized the need to extend the reach of the company by entering into the digital realm to bring these skills to a global audience. Theatre places emphasis on performance of a story and all the elements of creating that story are geared toward a live audience engaging with it. Theatre is a magical art form in that way, and requires specific skills and processes. Theatre is, however, just one of the many ways stories are developed and delivered, and each has its own peculiarities and conventions. But one thing remains largely the same—the basic elements of the story-making. Whether you read a story, hear a story, listen to a story or see a story, the underlying mechanics—for want of a better word—are present.

JUTE engaged me to create an online course of materials that would be used to inspire all kinds of story-makers (not just those stories for theatre) and give them the basic tools to deliver the story they wanted, how they wanted and in the time frame that suited them best.

Is the Write Out Loud program designed more for beginning writers, or is there value in the course for more seasoned writers as well?

The program is very simple. It deals with very basic elements of how stories are put together, what makes them work, what makes them broken, and what makes them powerful. I personally believe that all of us, yes, all of us, know the elements of story intuitively—when we hear a story, we immediately recognize heroes, we automatically follow structure, ideas of metaphor and notions about thematics are ingrained.

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Story-making is sewn with invisible thread into our minds before we even get to first grade. How, I’m not sure. Perhaps because our parents read stories to us, or told us yarns, or perhaps we inherit it genetically. But you’ve only got to watch a child being read a story, to know they are absorbing the elements of story—and when the story goes off the rails somehow, how quickly they switch off or demand a change in how the story is shaping up!

Write Out Loud is pointing out to us what we humans all already understand about story, but articulates it in a way that helps you use the information consciously instead of just intuitively as a child might. If you have a story you want to tell but just cannot for the life of you think of where to start, this program will kickstart that process. If you know some things, but are missing the information to exercise your story-making skills, Write Out Loud will help you fill in the gaps. It’s practical work because nothing beats a blank page more than writing on it.

A seasoned writer can sometimes find the path to their finished story is getting muddied—time to go back and look at the elements of story. Write Out Loud  will help an established writer step back, think and re-apply their skills with the writing exercises designed to make them clearly articulate their story.

The Artistic Director of JUTE also believes this is a great tool for actors and directors to refresh their skills in analyzing a text….so it works for all storytellers.

The program is described as “the ultimate A-Z of creative writing”—can you share a few topics addressed in the program?

Write Out Loud is divided into nine modules of learning and each elaborates on a topic concerning story-making; Finding Ideas, Defining the Big Idea, Creating a Hero, 7 Stages of Story Structure, Dialogue, Metaphors, and Villains and other Characters. Each module contains several videos that the writer watches, followed by a writing exercise. There’s also a unique section for each module called an Inspiration Spark, either a five minute visualization or image provocation, to help explore the full meaning of each module’s topics. Each module also contains tips and tricks to help you push through challenges.

As a playwright, how do you deal with the ever-dreaded writer’s block?

The ever-dreaded writer’s block! There is a whole section in the Write Out Loud program that deals exclusively with writer’s block and how to work around it.

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For myself, one the best pieces of advice I can give is when you feel writer’s block on a certain piece of work you are working on you should remember to acknowledge that the block is there for a reason. Your inability to move forward in the story very well may mean something has gone wrong with the structure of what you are writing, that you’ve somehow gone off track. You would do well to stop, step back and unpack the structure. Interrogate the work so far—is what the hero wants clear? Is there too much talk, not enough action? Is the hero getting distracted from what he or she wants? Are you writing too much background? If you cannot spot the structural error, my advice is just leave it. Write something else for a while, or engage in some other creative pursuit until the mood strikes you to try again.

Want to learn more about Kathryn and the Write Out Loud program? Visit her website here and Write Out Loud’s home on the Web here.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Never heard of her, but really love her no-nonsense and common sense approach. She seems like a nice lady, like one of those people you would have wanted to be one of your teachers yah know? Great work here!

Liked by 1 person

Comment by BreakawayConsciousness

I’d love to take her course at some point. Got to get through the two I’m taking now first 🙂

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Katrina




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