This week I celebrated turning 21 again and received lots of lovely gifts from my family and friends (and a joint present of a box of Radox salts from my teenage sons- they really know how to spoil me!) But my best present (sorry boys) was seeing my work in print for the first time! Woo hoo!!
I wrote a short story, ‘Talk of the Toon’ which was inspired by my gran- a real life heroine! When she was a young mum, she saved the life of a drowning boy and received an award from the Royal Humane Society for her bravery. My story is included in the Telling Tales of Heroes Anthology and means that my name is alongside established writers as well as other novice writers. I’m sure my gran would’ve been chuffed to bits to see her namesake in print.
The anthology was launched as the finale of the Lomond Writers’ Gathering which also included the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award for Agnes Owens. The evening included tributes to Agnes by James Kelman, Alasdair Gray and Liz Lochhead. It was really inspirational to hear about Agnes’s writing career. Like me, she was a late starter in taking her writing seriously and like me she comes from a working class background without writers and artists in her circle of influence. Agnes’s writing is about the lives of everyday, working people and the little tragedies within relationships and Liz Lochhead described her work as “genius”.
Alasdair Gray is well-known as being unconventional and his flamboyant speech was certainly entertaining as he ranted that despite Agnes’s work being highly esteemed by her fellow writers, her books have not received the critical attention they deserve, perhaps because Agnes is neither an eccentric or a glamorous celebrity and is simply an 86 year old housewife living in a poor Scottish town. Agnes signed my copy of Agnes Owens- The Complete Short Stories and told me to “stick in with my writing”.
It was a great event to be part of and thanks to the anthology, I’ve achieved my aim of being published but the event generated my next goal- to conquer my fear of giving a public reading. When I arrived, the organiser asked me if I would like to read my story but I completely bottled it! I was star struck by the literary legends in the audience and I was completely unprepared for my first ever public treading. The irony is I’ve got over 20 years of experience in public speaking from my work as a Training Officer. But delivering PowerPoint presentations is not the same as reading out your writing and I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t take the chance to read aloud. My mum was disappointed in my failure to grab the limelight, “But you used to be a Reader at Mass every Sunday!” Yes, but reading out a letter from St Paul to the Corinthians when you are twelve was far easier for me than sharing my own words. But I’ve got Agnes now as inspiration for my apprenticeship in writing.