Conor O'Sullivan, LISP Short Story WINNER
LISP Short Story WINNER, Conor O'Sullivan
- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I work for The Independent as a sub-editor and was at The Times and The Sunday Times before that as a sports writer/sub-editor. I grew up in Dublin and moved to London in 2016 and was a freelance sports journalist for the first few years I lived here. I live with my girlfriend in north London and outside of work I enjoy playing golf and going out (particularly to Italian restaurants). And writing, of course!
- When and how did you get into writing?
I first began writing in 2011 during my final year of university. I'd always loved reading fiction and had thought about writing but never made the time to start. I was finding university tough at the time and writing was a release for me. I realised very quickly that it was a true passion. But I only began writing consistently in 2014 during my master's in New York which is when I began submitting stories to journals and competitions. I had my first short story published in 2017 and have had 14 stories published since (not including this one). I also have hundreds of rejection letters so it's been a case of submitting as much as possible! This story – No Brother Left Behind – is from my second collection of short fiction with all the pieces set in different London boroughs.
- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?
I try to write every day – mostly based on advice given by famous writers, particularly in Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – but that can depend on work. I would generally write before starting work as sub-editors are on a shift pattern and the hours can be anti-social. I spent the previous year writing my first novel so I had a regimented routine as I was determined to finish it while I was between jobs. The main thing that inspires me to write is trying to recapture the sense of hope I first got when I began writing short stories along with the aspiration to shape the characters and plot into a cohesive piece.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised (a recognition can be winning a competition and/or getting your work published/produced)?
It's very flattering and exciting. Writing can be a lonely activity and you have to accept there is a lot of rejection (often for reasons outside one's control) so to win a competition with such a high standard of entries is the best achievement I've had in writing. It means a great deal to me as I just finished writing my first novel and winning this competition will give me motivation to keep submitting to agents.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Screenplay/Story?
Having this tangible thing – the story – that goes from being an idea in your head to something you created through time and effort. If someone reads it, even a single person, and likes it that's always a humbling feeling. The best short fiction generally follows a similar arc – the "change" a protagonist experiences at the climax of the story – and that can be a rigid structure to follow if you have certain ideas for a piece.
- How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?
It was part of this collection I'd written set in different London boroughs. I aimed to cover the main age groups so this one was told from the point of view of a young child. I got the idea for this story from remembering attending birthday parties as a kid, usually in a leisure centre. I remembered that feeling of being upset if things on the day weren't going your way and sometimes family dynamics with the adults could reveal themselves in front of everyone.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Screenplay/Story?
Plan a story and have some idea about how you want to end it even if this may change while you're writing it. And be brutal when editing, the best short stories have the tightest and clearest prose.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?
When you win or even make a shortlist it can give you the motivation to keep working on pieces you may be struggling with. And to keep submitting even if you haven't been successful with having a piece published. The most challenging aspect is accepting that it's likely you won't win the vast majority of the time. It's a subjective process, generally with a very high standard of work with no feedback offered. But not getting selected just means the judges on that occasion decided on a different piece. I took it harder when I was younger but have tried to follow sound advice I was given: most people don't even try to write something let alone finish a story. That's a big achievement in itself, the rest is beyond your control. Just keep writing and submitting as much as you can.
- Lastly, do you recommend the writers give a go on LISP?
Absolutely! It's a great resource and offers a way to get your work potentially published.