'First Person Singular' describes the progress of a radio script I submitted to the BBC some years ago. The article below was published by Mslexia Magazine.
first person singular...in which Diane G Paul tracks the progress of her radio play through the BBC system.
5 FEB: I finish the fourth draft of a radio script I have slaved over for six months and send it off to Kathy, a producer at the Beeb.
15 FEB: Usually you get a card but I haven't, so I phone Kathy and leave a message asking if she has received my script.
18 MAR: I phone Kathy's office and her mobile and leave more messages.
MAR-MAY: I make numerous attempts to contact Kathy. The BBC switchboard is adamant that no-one of that name works there. I phone again nervously, hoping I don't get the same woman, and a less waspish operator finds two people of that name. Which one do I want? 'I don't know,' I whimper. She puts me through to the wardrobe department then cuts me off. Ringing Kathy has now become part of my daily routine after meditation, cleaning out the cat litter and Eva Fraser's facial exercises. One day she answers her phone and I am so surprised I have forgotten why I am ringing her. Script? What script? She has been working in Wales and her London office is occupied. But her secretary is there and should have received it. Then again, the BBC has already lost some tapes in transit so perhaps the script suffered the same fate. Would I send another?
21 MAY: I run off another 60 pages and send them to Kathy. I do a bit of tweaking first, delete some unnecessary dialogue and tighten up a few scenes.
28 JUN: All quiet. Would she think me pushy if I checked if she received the second script? I dither. Then dither some more. My writer's unblocking course guru, Julia Cameron says 'Leap, and the net will appear', so I leap and drop straight onto Kathy's message taker.
1 JUL: I leap again. The net appears. I am so obsequious I make myself cringe. Kathy has not received the second script, nor has she played her messages yet. She says sometimes the Programme Development Department keep scripts and don't pass them on. She asks for another copy and gives me her room number. I run off another 60 pages which go direct to her room number marked 'Personal'. I do some more tweaking first, knock out a few characters and alter the plot a bit.
12 JUL: I phone three times, leave messages and turn to Chapter 4 of Happiness Now.
20 JUL: I write Kathy a letter with a return slip and a stamped, addressed envelope asking her to kindly acknowledge receipt of the third script.
23 JUL: Kathy phones. She is ill at home, has received the script and is reading it now. Then suddenly, in
SEPT: She phones again. She likes it. She is putting it forward for piloting. There is a meeting on 22 September but she will be away then and will let me know the outcome on her return on 20 October. Not sure if she is taking the piss...
1 NOV: I ring Kathy and leave a message.
3 NOV: I ring again and leave messages on Kathy's phone and mobile.
4 NOV: Kathy's message taker is still on. I am in despair. The Guardian has just lost four hundred words of a feature and I have to re-fax six pages. I toss a coin - heads Deepak Chopra, tails phone the BBC Drama Department. I phone the Drama Department and get Rebecca's message taker. I phone the Drama Department again. Liz says there is no-one of Kathy's name working at the BBC. She promises to investigate and call back. I am sure Lee Hall never had this problem. Liz calls back and says, 'Phone Sarah. She will know Kathy's whereabouts.' I phone Sarah and get her message taker. Demented, I phone the Light Entertainment Department. Lucy promises to check the minutes of the last monthly meeting to see what was shortlisted. She rings back. Kathy has submitted seven plays, none of them mine. Kathy is in today, she will Email her. Kathy phones. She has been on a course. The play has gone to Radio 4 for shortlisting. She will know by 24 November and will call me then. I go and stand in the corner and do yoga breathing exercises.
24 NOV: No word from Kathy. By now I have lost interest and am engrossed in re-faxing a feature idea sent two months ago to the Guardian which they say has gone astray. I pitch an idea to someone at the Sunday Times who is so nasty I have to sit down and have a brandy.
2 DEC: Kathy phones. My play has been rejected.
And no, the BBC never returned my script!