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A Twist of Fate

I began writing in 1999. I was fifty-four and I’d not written a story since primary school days.

Ruth – an American friend – had pulled out of a holiday we’d planned. I was furious with her and, for a reason I shall never understand, I let off steam by writing a story about a selfish, unreliable woman who drives everyone crazy and eventually gets her comeuppance. Within days, I’d become obsessed with writing, rushing home from work to spend each evening in front of my computer. From the age of four, I’d been an avid reader. Why had I never contemplated writing?

Five months later, when I was happy with my first story, I wrote another, and another, until I had half-a-dozen stashed in a drawer. I had no ambition to be published; nevertheless I needed to know whether my stuff was any good. Literary competitions – where authors submit work anonymously – seemed a way of ensuring an impartial assessment and I began sending in stories. As the months went by, several made it on to short lists and a few were published. I was on the right track.

In October 2002, I happened to catch the Richard & Judy show on tea-time telly. (I should have been at work but was laid low with food poisoning.) R&J were making the final call for entries to a short story competition. I’d recently completed a story which fitted the brief, so I posted it off – and forgot all about it.

Several months later, I received a phone call. My story was one of the fifteen shortlisted from over 17,000 entries. Finalists were invited to appear on the show. When I headed to London the following week, I had no thoughts of winning. I was simply thrilled that I’d made the grade. Chatting before the show, I discovered that most of my fellow finalists had been writing since they were youngsters and, although possibly the oldest in the group, I was the novice.

It was fun meeting Judy and Richard; exciting being caught up in the razzamatazz of live T.V. Crunch time came in the form of an Oscar-type ceremony, the winner’s name sealed in a golden envelope. ‘And the winner is…’ – Judy pulled out the card – ‘Rapid Eye Movement by Jo Verity.’ As I made my way to the podium, all I could think was that I mustn’t trip over the cables snaking across the studio floor.

R&J congratulated me and asked me some questions. I have no recollection what they were or how I answered – which is probably just as well!

My prize? A trophy which sits on my desk, a reminder that, fifteen years ago, Martina Cole, Tony Parsons and Suzi Feay rated my story and convinced me that I can write.
Had Ruth not let me down, might something else have prompted me to start putting words on a page? I’ll never know but I thank my lucky stars she did.

All of Jo’s novels are available from all good bookstores and online retailers in both print (RRP £8.99) and ebook editions: Everything in the Garden, Bells, Sweets from Morocco, Left and Leaving, Not Funny Not Clever and her latest, A Different River.

Published by Honno Welsh Women’s Press, publishing the best writing from the women of Wales, contemporary and classic, for over 30 years: www.honno.co.uk / facebook.com/honnopress | twitter.com/honno | Instagram: @gwasghonnopress

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