LISP 2022 Short Story Winner, 'Ghosted' by Gavin Hayes
Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?
I am a primary school teacher, actor and writer from Wrexham, Wales. I’ve been teaching for eight years and working in education for ten. Working with children means there’s always an opportunity to use my imagination and I’m not short of comedy anecdotes! When I’m not teaching, I’m usually at a theatre. I love all forms of theatre and performance, and I make sure I visit the West End a few times each year. My ‘home theatre’ though is Theatr Clwyd in Mold which produces some incredible pieces of theatre. I like to take part too and I’ve appeared in several productions at Theatr Clwyd over the last few years. I’m part of one of their community groups and we meet every Monday night. I’m also a keen reader and was once told I had too many books – which, of course, we all know, is not possible!
When and how did you get into writing?
I was always scribbling down stories and sketches as a child! In college, my friend and I created these bizarre characters and we used to write letters to each other as those characters, and then I started turning them into scripts with sub-plots and twists. She’s the only person who I’d ever let read those as I don’t think anyone else would find them funny, just weird. My writing really took off for me when I went to university and started sharing my work with tutors and peers. It’s a scary feeling to have your work read by others but the feedback is always invaluable. I wrote my first novel, a sci-fi thriller called Reset (think Torchwood meets Lost meets EastEnders!) at university and though it will probably always remain tucked away on my hard drive, I’ll always be proud that I actually completed that story. I didn’t write for a long time after uni, aside from the odd script for a theatre production or a school concert, and in lockdown I found my old copies of Writer’s Forum magazine. I’d sent a story off to their monthly competition years ago and had been quite disheartened by the feedback. (It was absolutely the right feedback but, at the time I gave up far too easily.) I decided to write something and try submitting again and have since had eight stories shortlisted and two place first. And now this!
How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?
I try not to put too much pressure on myself to stick to a routine – I just write when I can. Ideally,I’d have more time to write, but life doesn’t work like that. I try my best to go with it when inspiration strikes, though. I started to write one of my winning stories during a staff meeting once. I knew if I didn’t get it down, the idea would get away from me. It’s a cliché, but I do have a notebook at the side of my bed and in my rucksack at all times so I can jot any ideas, phrases or character notes down when they strike. I sometimes do it on my phone but it’snot the same as a nice notebook, is it? Inspiration can come from anywhere. I have drawn on things from my own history, or family history, for some stories, and sometimes a comment from a child in work can spark off all sorts of ideas! I’ve got a few children’s stories on the back burner that have sprung from some bonkers incidents at work.....
How does it feel to have your work recognised?
I’m always a little bit embarassed! It’s quite surreal. We all write because we want to share stories and make people feel something. When it actually happens and the feedback is positive - whether it's from placing in a competition or sharing the story with friends – it's really heartening and moving... and exciting! I feel very proud. It makes you feel like the hard work was worth it.
How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?
I started to write Ghosted in the summer of 2021 and I didn’t finish it until the November. I like to give my writing room to breathe for a few weeks and then revisit it to carry out any re-writes or editing. There were a mix of inspirations for this story, I suppose. I’d wanted to write about loneliness and that horrible feeling of being invisible, which I have felt myself, as I’m sure many others have. When life just becomes too chaotic that you feel lost in it. I’m at that age where my friends are getting married, settling down, having children etc and there was a very brief time where I felt like an outsider. Thankfully, I don’t feel like that anymore, but it is a very lonely, isolated feeling, and one that Luke experiences in the story. It also came from some conversations I’d had with friends about the dating scene – in particular, a friend who lives in London. It’s all so convenient for us – all you have to do is tap an app or swipe right – but people usually end up looking for something better to come along, especially in a city as densely populated as London. I love London and I visit regularly. I’d wanted to set a story there for a while and this seemed like the perfect fit. For all its hustle and bustle and beauty, and that vast spectrum of people, it can be easy to feel invisible in London. I can also identify with Luke’s obsession with his phone. Again, it is so convenient nowadays, we can interact with strangers at the tap of a few buttons, it is easy to get carried away with that. I’ve had to put a daily timer on my twitter app! For Luke, he’s become reliant on those apps to help ease his loneliness, but it ends up having the adverse effect when the notifications stop coming.
Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Story?
Just do it. If you’ve got an idea, just get it written down. It doesn’t matter how rough around the edges it is, it can be refined later, but getting that initial idea down is a huge first step.
What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?
Obviously, rejection is hard and you have to build up a resilience to that, but to get any kind of recognition for your work feels wonderful. You have to develop a thick skin, unlike me when I first sent that story off to Writer’s Forum! I’ve had years to refine my writing now and I’m much better at accepting criticism and just moving on when a story isn’t successful. You’ve got to keep going, keep writing, keep submitting.
Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit to LISP?
Absolutely! Honestly, I submitted this story in April so I’d forgotten all about it until I got the email to say I’d won. It's definitely added some cheer to a miserable December. I'm so pleased to have had my story chosen!