Image by Stella Wisdom
With the theatre’s lights back on, I spotted my boyfriend at the back with a brasilian friend: they had arrived just in time to hear me read.
I said goodbye to the poet Fergus Evans – the Awards’ project manager – and decamped to a pub next door.
Five pints in hand, conversation bloomed over literary nights – long gone and in our future – and the impossibility of owning a home in London (that inescapable topic.) I promised them I’d wear contact lenses if I ever did a reading again; I promised myself I’d read all of my work aloud from now on.
We returned to the Free Word Centre’s reception area for a short champagne-flavoured intermission.
Maggie Gee carried envelopes with all finalists names on them, mine on top. Inside, a postcard of a black cat and two men on a canoe carried her impressions of my story.
Friends soon arrived: naturalbornkaos and neenaw – two published authors who had thanked me in their books – and an acquaintance who I jokingly requested represent her workplace, the British Library, at my reading.
The third lucky charm, my boyfriend, wasn’t there by the time we were ushered back inside the theatre for the finalists’ readings.
A week ago I stood alone outside the Free Word Centre in Farringdon. Creative Future’s Literary Awards ceremony was about to take place inside and I was one of 12 finalists.
“Impossible Things” was this year’s theme. Impossible was what I used to think whenever someone asked my feelings on reading my fiction in public.
Glass of champagne in hand, I travelled the reception room reading the winning pieces up on white boards. One finalist, a writer from Northern Ireland, gave me a life-saving tip: “read slowly”.
When they ushered us into the small theatre, I sat beside him.