In the wee small hours of the second of May, I pondered about whether to submit a middle grade story I was working on to Story Shop. It was the middle of the night but I wasn’t tired, so I sat and listened to the creaks and groans of my sleeping household and considered whether or not to take the plunge.
Run by the City of Literature in conjunction with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, this is an event I have submitted to twice before but without success. I decided, with six hours until the deadline at 9am, that I would go for it. So I pressed send – that prominent key the keyboard manufacturers always make bigger than any of the others.
Woosh. Away it went. No time to check for spelling/grammar/punctuation mistakes for the hundredth time. It was in the hands of the literary gods now.
Would it be third time lucky? Did I really have what it takes to stand up in front of a live audience and read one of my stories out loud? On my own? On a stage at my favourite book festival?
As it just so happens, the gatekeepers to this elusive path saw something in my ramblings and I was one of the lucky seventeen to be given a much coveted slot.
Elated. Ecstatic. Energised. Euphoric. Excited. All the ‘e’ words I can think of right now that can describe the feeling of my work being acknowledged as ‘not too shabby after all’. As far as I was concerned, I had flown past the slushpile and landed into the ‘OK, let’s see what we’ve got here’ pile. A small yet major triumph for a fledgling writer. It was now or never. My chance to shine.
I didn’t have as long as I thought to practice. The school holidays had started so time to familiarise myself with the story was limited. To help me break it down into easy to swallow chunks, I increased the font size of my words and used line spaces for when I was to breathe. No-one wants to watch an author running out of breath or forgetting her lines! Holding the well-thumbed pages in my hand, I bored my cat to sleep as I recited it over and over. I didn’t want anyone else in my family to hear it before the big day so she seemed happy to oblige. Her snores were somewhat distracting and it did cross my mind that perhaps I was way out my depth here and it really just wasn’t that interesting. A small part of me thought it was all a wonderful dream and I would wake up any minute and my world would go back to the way it was. I’m happy to say I’m still in that dream.
Walking into the author’s yurt, the place were only the truly coveted are allowed to dine and chat and use the very nice toilets thank you very much, I had an insane grin. This quickly turned to terror as I spotted my favourite crime author having some soup. Sweaty palm time. This was not the time to introduce myself and I’m sure he is grateful I didn’t come over anyway. I’m not sure I would’ve made much sense anyway. The err’s and um’s and so’s would have been thrilling to discuss I’m sure.
I made myself comfy and waited to be called. My family flanked either side of me, all was well with my world as we stared in disbelief at the Author badge that hung from my neck. Me, a confirmed author?
I didn’t feel nervous, I just wanted to get on stage and read my words. I just wanted to know what everyone thought. Introduced onto the great stage of the Speigletent, I made my way to the mic. I was very glad I was taller than it. There was no need to bring my step from the house. There were no out of reach cupboards to try and open. There was just me and them. Them being a sea of expectant faces grinning in the twinkling stage lights.
I just pretended my cat was asleep at my feet and I was talking to her just like I had been a few hours before. I breathed when I was meant to. I did my best to slow myself down and I just told the world about my character, her love of roller skates and the loss of her mum.
It seemed to work. Because everyone clapped at the end and smiled as I took my final bow and left the stage. Once off the stage a girl of about nine came to speak to me, she asked me if my book was for sale in the shop. My book? In the shop? One day, I told her. I thanked her for chatting to me and walked around the rest of the day with an overwhelmed heart full of pride.
Messages of love, support and genuine interest in my writing haven’t stopped since. I have been flabbergasted and encouraged in equal measure. I have even had my event immortalised by the elusive Edinburgh Sketcher. Fine praise indeed and very humbling to think I captured their imagination in that way.
I just did what I had to do to tell my story. I’m just glad you all liked it.
It was worth every cringing recording I made on my phone, every walk around the garden to time myself and every cold cup of tea I found once I lifted my head from the story pages every once in a while.
If I can do it, so can you. Be brave and tell your story.
If you would like to hear the whole thing – here’s the link. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
If you’re visiting the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year, be sure to head to the Moulin Rouge Speigletent and listen to the latest literary talent at Story Shop – 3pm and it’s free! Fill the seats, listen to their words and clap as loud as you can.