A Chat With Edson Burton – writing across genres.
Bristol based poet and playwright Edson Burton, is highly a highly accomplished writer with infectious creative energy. I have followed Edson’s work for over a decade and was entranced by his first collection of poems, ‘Seasoned’. At the time Edson had an enviable dilemma of having two of his plays opening on the same night in different parts of the city. I wrote to Edson to tell him how I’d been inspired by his poetry and he replied with generosity and kindness. Since then he jokingly told me, he’d rather people were not inspired to write after experiencing his work, but instead be struck with an inability to express themselves after listening to such greatness! I can understand that wish, the desire to write something so bright and complete it could silence the stars. A few Bristol people may well have put down their pens after an ambitious complex creative achievement of the interactive play, ‘The Ithaca Axis’. Edson has written and continues to write a variety of radio plays for BBC radio 4 and theatre productions and continues to write compelling stories across genres. More recent works include ‘Icarus In Love’, which appeared at ‘The Bike Shed’ Exeter. He inspires many writers to spill their ink and strengthen their identities on the page.
I met with Edson to discuss script development to help me along with my research, here is a snippet of our conversation:-
What do you write about?
I write about the fragility of humans, being in a place where they are not doing what they want to do. I write best when my characters take on their own life and start talking to me. Sometimes they chat along to me when I’m out shopping, when I last expect it.
How did you start writing?
I had two routes into dramatic writing, the first was via Stages of Sound, which was a search for new writers for Radio. Later on I wrote a short piece for Show of Strength Theatre Company, which led to writing more theatre.
How do you approach radio?
It’s important to know how to pitch your idea, be clear about what you are writing about. Pitching is a different language to writing your play or story. The language you use is straight forward and to the point.
Do you need a finished script?
Actually for Radio you don’t want a script at all. They want to work with you on a new commission not something you’ve already written, the commissioning editor is investing in your treatment.
Is radio a good way to establish yourself as a writer?
There is no golden ticket and you are only as good as your last play or production. Getting to know people is paramount; know who the producers are in radio. Know the opportunities that are out there and don’t be afraid to create your own.
Do you have an agent?
I tried but wasn’t successful partly because I write across genre and many agents are specialist in one, or combination of genres. I’ve been meaning to try again but to be honest I’ve done fine without thus far. My friends who have agents warn against complacency – they still get in 50+ plus percent of their own work through their own efforts.
Thank you for being so generous with your time Edson, I look forward to your next project.