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Tom Harvey, LISP 2022 Short Story Finalist by 'Pride of Rotterdam'

LISP 2022 Short Story Finalist 'Pride of Rotterdam' by Tom Harvey

- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?

I write as much as I can. I chair hip hop dance company BirdGang. I live in London. First part of my day is taken up with kids and dogs. I do an exercise routine when I wake up and then take a healthy cold shower. I’ve been doing it for two weeks and its brilliant – it will last three weeks or so... like all good intentions. The rest of the day I spend trying to earn money and feeling guilty about not writing or writing and feeling guilty about not earning money.

- When and how did you get into writing?

I’ve always worked in the creative industries, a lot in film, tv and theatre so I’ve always been around scripts, smelt them, counted the pages etc. I’ve had some plays produced around London. I got into short stories about a year ago, and found I loved the form, I was able to take a bit of time off, take some courses and try to learn how to write. It’s the first time where I have taken learning seriously and it has helped. I’ve now had stories published in Litro, Mercurious and Wells Street Journal.

- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?

The most important part of my routine is to avoid having a routine. I go for a week or two not even thinking about writing, then the thoughts will begin to flow, then I will write non-stop for two or three weeks, then stop again. It seems to work. I find I will have an idea that I know will be a short story and off I go. Wait...is that a routine? I guess you could say I have a dysfunctional relationship with writing, we love each other really.

- How does it feel to have your work recognised?

It’s always brilliant to have work recognised. Most our lives are spent in the dark unknown so it’s wonderful when we are noticed. It’s why the entertainment industry has so many awards!

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about writing a Story?

I find the first draft can be quite hard. Getting it all down, like a five-year-old with crayons, then reaching a rubbish ending, that you know doesn’t work, none of it’s what you imagined, you don’t know what it’s about and you put it in a drawer then get it out later and still have no idea what it’s about or why you wrote it. You apply to be a bus driver or better still a Deliveroo guy on a pedal bike. Then you tinker with spelling and grammar, try a different font, cut a bit here and there, and suddenly something clicks and you see what it’s meant to be, and the clouds clear and a rainbow comes out...then it happens over again.

- 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?

Pride of Rotterdam is about a boy coming to terms with his dysfunctional parents. They live by a harbour, and he has more affinity with the ships coming and going in the night than he does with his own family. The idea came to me when I was staying with a friend on a shingle peninsula in Dungeness. My friend had a pair of binoculars to watch the ships, and we had an app that told us what they were carrying. I got obsessed about the journeys across the world, to and fro, bringing goods in and out. It was all so active but at the same time, very lonely.

It began five years ago as a short play evening at the White Bear Theatre. On the tube home afterwards my 80-year-old father-in-law said ‘And good God, what was that one with the two men droning on about the sea incessantly? I went to sleep in that one.’ I didn’t own up.

- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Story?

Start. No, start. Come on, start. Forget structure, forget acts, forget inciting incidents and turning points. Know the heart-rending moments of humanity and write towards them. Riff a bit, keep going. There. You’ve done it. Now take time to really understand what it’s about, do this by rewriting at least a dozen times, sometimes tweaking sometimes cutting sometimes pasting sometime writing a little bit more sometimes writing a lot more, keep at it, like sand-papering a table. Eventually you go, ‘there, it’s done.’ Now start the next. Return to every unpublished story and rewrite it once a year until it’s published, only then can you stop.

- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?

The good thing about competitions is being nominated or winning, the rest is just anxiety and frustration.

- Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit their stories/screenplays to LISP?

Yes – I like the laurels. Besides, what else are you gonna do with your life?



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