Friday, 7 June 2013

Sliding Doors - T. M. Alexander

What am I going to write? I thought. My first blog in the company of authors. I flicked through recent posts and there was Miriam Halahmy, talking about how she has always written. Bingo!
I was a sporty kid, most often found either hitting a tennis ball against the back of the house or walking on my hands. I liked to be outside not inside, and I did everything fast. Running was my favourite occupation,
writing my least, because my hand couldn’t keep up with my head. As soon as I could, I dropped all subjects requiring sentences, for those that relied on digits and symbols.
Ten years flew by employed in big companies, followed by another ten working as a freelancer so that I could be around for my three children. Writing was for shopping lists, birthday cards and cheques.
Then came Life-changing Wednesday.
I had rashly left my contracting job, bored with endless meetings of twenty or more suits. The children were all at school and, not used to being home alone, the days were long. On my way back home from the supermarket (oh the domesticity of it), I stopped to look in the bookshop window. There was a flyer for a creative writing course starting that day at Clifton Library, 10.30. I dumped the bags and cycled over.
It was hideous. They all knew one another having been meeting every Wednesday for years. Keen to hear each other’s news after the long summer break, they took turns around the room talking of their writing projects – books, poems, articles, plays. With every declaration of prowess my armpits grew sweatier. Finally, all eyes were on me.
‘I haven’t written anything since I was at school,’ I said, red-faced. ‘But I’ve got lots of ideas.’
Joan, OBE, elbowed me in the ribs.
‘Better write them down, then, dear.’
Ninety minutes later I hopped back on my bike, homework assignment in my pannier. I wore down several pencils that week, working on my first memory of being alone. Arriving at the next class the teacher asked if I felt brave enough to read my piece aloud.
You try and stop me,’ I said.
Wednesday mornings became the highlight of my week.
Months later our assignment was to write the opening paragraph of a short story, setting the scene and casting the narrative hook. The example I jotted down in my black notebook from 2005 was, ‘With hindsight, he realised he had never meant to destroy London.’ And underneath, ‘A short story is a really good day out, rather than a fortnight away.’
Armed with the rules, off I went. I wrote the beginning, then the middle and then the end. After reading my first few lines in class, the teacher exercised her honed sixth sense.
‘Is there any more?’
I read the 2,000 word story. She said I should send it off somewhere.
Receiving first prize at the London Review Bookshop
The email arrived when I was playing tennis in Ilfracombe with my sister. My husband read it to me over the phone.
The winner of the Momaya Short Story Competition is . . .

Muchlove later, to steal from Roger McGough’s The Icingbus, I asked Joan what splendid deed led to her being awarded an OBE.
‘Getting to Over Bloody Eighty,’ she said, slapping my thigh.

The thing is, if the flyer had advertised a pottery class starting Wednesday, 10.30, Clifton Library, I’d have gone there.

T. M. Alexander


Daisy Bumpsa said...

What a wonderful story of serendipity and talent! And such a cheering start to the day - thank you

Heather Dyer said...

Can't believe you have come so far in such a short time! And I like the sound of Joan...

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Welcome Tracy! What a fab debut post.

Lari Don said...

What a great start to your writing career! And it shows how amazingly important support and interest from other people, other writers, can be. And also that who you are at school isn't who you are forever! Lovely first post, look forward to more!

Joan Lennon said...

Welcome to ABBA - and I like the sound of Joan too - especially with that OBE tacked so casually on!

(Er, it wasn't me.)

Sue Purkiss said...

Welcome, Tracy! A lovely post - and you've given me an idea for my next writing class, so thanks for that!

Emma Barnes said...

Lovely post, and thanks for giving us the opportunity to use that fantastic word - serendipity!

Kelly McKain said...

This is great, Tracy! A lesson in just dumping the shopping, getting on your bike and doing it!! Kellyx

Brian Bechut said...

Why is reading your words so much fun? Not sure your pottery would have given so much pleasure. Linds x

Vera said...

A great post!!! That is definitely you!! Wonder what would have happened if there had been a poster in the shop for pole dancing???

Hum n drum Mum x said...

Tracy - you down to a tee! Especially the fetching photo. Well done, keep them coming Joanna x

florelly said...

Somehow Trace, I could hear your speedy, moving-towards-a-punchline voice as I read this! i just loved it, my fave bit being the part where you eschew all subjects needing sentences. Great !! Looking fwd to the next post (no pressure then).
And, Oscar, it's NOT cheating - how else do you think people start with this stuff?????

Farmer's Wife said...

Interesting background to the author(you're not that bad at tennis either). Inspiring stuff to seize the day and not wait to do things when it can become too late. Just off to dust off my bike and look in some windows. Keep blogging.

Anonymous said...

you were born to entertain

Jan-Jan said...

Tracy, I can hear your voice as I read this. You are as enjoyable to read as you are to listen to! Jan-Jan xx