|The Prize Artwork by Billy Mathers|
I had the idea for The Dryer Monkey while sitting in the Washeteria one Sunday morning a few months back. I saw the whole story in images in my mind and wrote it that afternoon. This is unheard-of-quick for me. I entered it in the Flash Mob Comp because someone I follow tweeted a link to it and I’m always sending stuff out here and there. Then I find I'm shortlisted and planning atrip to read at the event in Chorlton on 26th May.
I only get a few minutes of wow-that’s-great-ing before the I’m-only-in-to-make-up-the-numbers-ing and then the everyone-is-better-than-me-and-everyone-will-hate-me and, above all, I’m-going-to-be-found-out. I thought this all the way through getting a place at Uni and the whole time I was there. I’m sure no one else was thinking like that. I do hope they weren’t …
The only time I’d read before was a couple of times at Uni and many times in a friend’s living room. Not the same at all. After all my worrying about the journey (and girl scout contingency plans) it was absolutely fine. I did text my friend when I arrived in Manchester, 'Big City ... Little Sal'. The centre of Manchester was full of people who knew where they were going … unlike me.
I thought I was fine about it the actual reading because the words would be right there in front of me. No making it up as I went along, like conversations. Then suddenly I realised I was up there, in the spot light and going against my usual try-to-be-invisible way. I had to climb onto the stage, which was almost too high a step for me, and climbing down was even harder as I was literally shaking. I always say falling over is fine as long as no one sees. Not an option in front of an audience. I read the first couple of sentences and someone moved the microphone nearer my face, as I was obviously not close enough. All those years singing Squeeze songs into a hairbrush had not helped at all.
I think I read just-ok for a first time. My best friend & my parents were listening to Chorlton FM, online in Coventry (a. Surreal, b. Ain’t technology wonderful?) My friend, bless her, said she felt like she was there with me.
In two hours the twelve shortlistees and the five judges read, as well as special guest Nik Perring. He read ‘The Mechanical Woman’ and ‘The Two Old Women Birdwatching in my Garden’ from the surely ironically titled. Not So Perfect. There was an interval with time for everyone to play their part in what I thought was consequences but they called it 'exquisite corpses'. Showing my age there, probably. Everyone was really friendly and there was a nice atmosphere. I talked to some people I'd already met on twitter; shortlistees and judges. I got asked to join Chorlton writer's group twice but it's too far to travel. Shame …
Then it was time for the finalé. When one of the judges referred to the third prize winner and the line about the Chinese wedged between the block of flats and the bungalow I knew straight away that was mine and actually felt relief that I'd got a place so didn't have to sit through the announcements of second and first with hope still springing, as it always seems to do, despite thinking your story is rubbish.
After hearing the standard of writing I had thought I had no chance with my silly little story. There was lots of good original stuff. They were all so different – just like people. Don’t know why that always surprises me. I particularly liked Lynsey May’s ‘Milk and Honey’ and Matthew Hull’s ‘Citric’.
The Dryer Monkey was praised for being 'funny, sweet and sinister', 'simple but effective story telling' and for 'slight unusualness.' Taking the prize picture and holding it up and everyone clapping was really weird. I doubt I need to get used to such things. Yes, very soon I will be found out.
I’ve since heard a recording of the reading and was shocked at how it sounds like someone else completely and at how strong my Midlands accent is. (For years I thought that people from Coventry were the only ones in the country without an accent until my Grandmother told me I had as much of an accent as my Oldham cousins) The prize artwork is now on my living room wall. By Billy Mathers, it’s a bit creepy but then so is the story so I can’t complain … its definitely growing on me.