It’s such a thrill when the universe knows what you need and creates opportunities for you to have it. With my first novel out there, I’m constantly trying to find ways to get it noticed without making an arse of myself.
Bridgwater Homestart began running a short story competition a few years ago and I was involved as a performance reader of one of the winning stories. I really enjoy delivering the story to the writer in another voice: it makes it so alive for them. It becomes a thing out there, not just words in your head.
Each year, Homestart engage an author of repute as the judge. I like to be there to gather pearls of authorial wisdom that they may toss my way as they make their adjudicator’s address.
This year the judge was Rose Tremain. I wasn’t involved in the event as last year they’d made the decision to have the winning writers read their own work, so I offered to assist with refreshments.
The day before the event, I got a phone call followed by an e-mail. One of the winners (she didn’t know which place) called Homestart in a panic. Her story was set in Ireland and despite much practice she finally had to concede defeat. She was not going to serve her story with an accent that ‘started in Ireland, soared off to Scotland, wandered to Yorkshire and ended up in Cornwall. Might you know anyone who could manage better?’ Cue Sinéad and her native voice.
With 24 hours to go, and another main character French (!!!) of course I said yes. Why? A) I wanted to serve the author – she’d earned it. B) it was a really funny story C) I love a stage but most importantly D) Rose Tremain would have to listen to me for 15mins. If I plucked up the courage to approach her afterwards, she’d know who I was. (Thank you, universe).
Dennis, the organiser, stopped to greet me as he arrived with our eminent judge. As I turned to shake hands with Ms Tremain she said, ‘Ah, you’ll be reading the Irish story.’ And Dennis swiftly added, ‘Sinéad’s just been published, too.’ (Thank you, again).
I have a mantra when performing that shoos ego and nerves; serve the words, serve the intention, serve the emotion. I delivered the story with all the humour it deserved, giving the audience, Rose Tremain (whose pearl was – remember that humour is a powerful tool) and the writer a fun-filled reading.
Afterwards we were milling around with tea and cake. I had brought a copy of my novel to possibly give to Ms Tremain, but my courage was failing me. Maybe that was naff. Maybe people did that all the time and she hated it. Maybe I could just summon the nerve to talk to her…
Then the lovely story writer intervened (Thank you!) by drawing me into the conversation she was having with Rose on the topic of transgender in her novel Sacred Country, leading neatly onto same sex relationships in mine. We had a great conversation about research and prejudice and I was able to offer her a copy of …but I love you.
“Have you signed it for me?” she asked.
“No,” I hadn’t dared be so presumptuous.
“Please do. I look forward to reading it”
Swoon! Thank you universe.