LISP Short Story FINALIST, CONSTANCE BY David Haworth
- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
My daily life is fairly chaotic! But I have periods of calm when I can write. I find making a living, to keep a roof over my head, often gets in the way. Because I work in the theatre and leisure industry, the pandemic took away ALL my paid work. Although this was terrifying, it was also a blessing in a way, as it freed up almost a year in which I wrote my first novel, something I have been thinking about for many years but never had time to commit to. I wrote short stories too, and several short pieces of drama, for performance on-line. I found this a HUGELY creative time; it became quite feverish.
Now real-life is coming back with a vengeance; because I was deeply worried about the future, I committed to any chance of work that came along. I quickly found myself over-committed and less able to write for myself. This is a constant juggling act between Art and Survival. In a perfect world, the two come together and all is good!
So on a day to day, I’m a husband, parent, a dog walker, a home maker, a performer (I work in a museum as an in-role educational facilitator, it is an amazing museum, actually underground world war two air raid shelters and I take school groups of ‘evacuees’ round, dressed as an air raid warden), a theatre designer, director, writer, a marathon runner and a music lover.
- When and how did you get into writing?
I remember writing stories when I was a kid, they were rubbish and often revolved around football matches, described in great detail. I was basically dreaming of my favourite team winning everything. I wish I could say these stories had substance and hints of a literary career to follow, but they didn’t; they were just crap!
In my teens I took a creative writing AS level, wrote a lot of angsty poetry and became a lead singer in a band, as nobody else would sing my angsty songs!
Things got interesting when I was working as a resident designer for a small scale theatre company in my late 20’s. The company devised two shows a year and I would be in the rehearsal room throughout. It kind of accidentally became my job to sit on the computer and write down all the lines that came out of the improvisation, and to formulate scenes. I found I really enjoyed this part of the work. I managed to persuade the company to send me on an Arvon residential course in scriptwriting with the promise I would repay their faith in me with a script for our schools Christmas tour that year. I loved the course, wrote the show, then didn’t stop! I was very lucky to be in a position where everything I wrote got professionally produced, over the next 15 years I wrote maybe 20 plays.
I entered a few competitions and ran a couple of writers’ groups. One of my pieces won a competition organised by the South-West Writers Network, the prize was to become the Writer on Attachment at Salisbury Playhouse, while there I wrote a couple of plays.
More recently I have moved up to Manchester and continue to make theatre. One of my plays, ‘Winter Came’ was shortlisted for the Bruntwood Prize in 2019. I still write commissions for theatre but have recently found my passion moving towards novels and short stories. Having finished several drafts of my first novel, ‘Beautiful Absence’, I am currently seeking representation in the hope that I can become published.
I also do a lot of work in the Art and Health field; I am currently working as a writing mentor to a young woman with learning difficulties who is writing her first play.
- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?
I find myself writing every day, but it can be a different piece each day too! When I am working on just one thing I can be quite strict with myself and write for a good few hours a day. I prefer working when the house is quiet or preferably empty! I like to listen to quite loud music when I’m writing, either with headphones if I’m writing into the night or early in the morning. I walk the dog for at least two hours a day, so I often write notes on my phone as I walk. I also find running a really great way to work around a problem if I’m a bit stuck on something, so I often come back from a run and have to get things written down quickly, otherwise, there’s a danger I’ve forgotten the thought in the shower!
I’m inspired by the world around me, by news stories, by people I know. Constance was inspired by a recent trip when I spent three weeks living with my mother. My mother has always been an inspiration to me but for Constance I was particularly touched by the relationship she had with the birds in her back garden, I started writing it as soon as I got on the train home. I like writing on trains, in libraries, on buses. I can put my headphones in and shut everything out, but there is so much to be gained from people watching, I love inventing stories for strangers I observe around me.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
It means the world to have my work recognised. Although it is great to get favourable responses from family or friends, the idea of a judging panel ‘getting’ what I am trying to do with a piece is particularly heartening. As a playwright I hope the director will recognise what I am trying to achieve with a new script, I then ask the same from the performers and fellow artists, finally, I pray that the audience will get it and be moved by it.
With Constance I have been developing a style of writing which I think sits somewhere between a long poem and a short story. I know this isn’t a style of writing that’s for everyone. I try to write in a way that I would enjoy reading if it were someone else’s work, but I have insecurities (like many writers I’m sure!) that tell me nobody will like it. So to have recognition is a huge boost to confidence. It gives me hope that my work could be worth publishing!
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Story?
The best thing is to be able to live in another world, to invent a reality that is completely believable with characters people will care about, using language in a new and inventive way. I love the fact that language is so rich and infinitely variable, I love that anyone is capable of coming up with something truly unique, but not everyone can do it very well!
The most challenging thing I guess is to make sense of the feeling in my head or my heart, when I only have the sometimes blunt instruments of words on a page to get it across.
Best thing, I can fall in love with something I’ve written, worst thing, trying to persuade someone else to fall in love with it too!
- 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?
In June this year, I spent 3 weeks helping my mother move house. She is not as young as she used to be and needed to move into more comfortable accommodation. As her body becomes more frail, her heart and her spirit remain strong. She has lived alone in that house for many years. Her beloved husband, my father, died over 45 years ago. As she packed up memories into boxes, the dust was unsettled, and memories floated in the air around us. Into this mix add the birds that would visit Mum for food in her back garden. She had a special relationship with them, an absolute mutual trust. Often they would hop in through the back door (that was always open) and even take food from her hand. For me, that trip became filled with thoughts of mortality, of an enduring love, and of the magic of nature, this is what I have tried to capture in my story.
My mind was so full of that story that I started writing it the moment I left the house to return home, it took me days to write the first draft and weeks to hone.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Story?
Have enough knowledge of what you write about for it to have plausibility, but don’t be afraid to learn on the job and always leave room for a little magic.
- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?
The best thing about competitions is the chance to get your work in front of people who would otherwise be out of reach. I particularly like the competitions where you submit anonymously because you stand or fall by the words and the words alone. The most challenging thing is either limited word count or limited funds to pay the entrance fees!
- Lastly, do you recommend the writers give a go on LISP?
ABSOLUTELY!! Go for it, but then, I would say that wouldn’t I?!