Tell Me On a Sunday, Please

I don’t often pick up the phone on a Sunday. I prefer to cloister myself at home, with no intrusion from the outside world. If it’s important they’ll leave a message or call my mobile, I reason. I don’t answer my mobile unless the caller ID announces a friend to whom I feel like talking. Often I even let the calls of good friends go to voicemail, making a note to contact them later. Rude? Not necessarily. It’s important to create oases of peace and seclusion for oneself in a world that seems to prize speed and constant contact and being ‘plugged-in 24/7’.

So when the phone rang this morning I looked at my partner and did my “let’s not bother” head shake.

“It might be someone important,” he said, and – uncharacteristically for him – he picked up. After a short “Hang on a minute,” he handed it to me, miming his ignorance as to who it was.

The woman on the end of the line had some good news for me. She told me that I’ve been Highly Commended in a short story competition I entered a few months ago. Not just a little backwater of a competition either.

“Well done,” she said. “I read your story and loved it and I hoped the judge would place you. I’m thrilled she did.”

Turns out the judge, Sarah Quigley (author of The Conductor and other novels, winner of many awards and fellowships, my all-round favourite person today) is in Berlin. Funny to think of her reading my little story on the other side of the world, in a tiny café near the Brandenburg Gate, perhaps, or round the corner from where the wall first crumbled.

The woman on the phone read me the judge’s report, and it made me cry. Everything I want my writing to be, Sarah Quigley said it was. (I can’t believe I just wrote that.) Then the woman said, “Keep writing. You must keep going. Don’t stop.”

I’ve questioned my writing ability many times. Occasionally I question whether I should even go on. Life has been so full and emotionally difficult lately that I have had no emotional energy left for writing. I know I can write quite well, but in quiet moments I’ve wondered if my dreams of writing really well (after oodles of hard work and practice, of course), touching people with my writing and having a book published have been arrogant imaginings of a not-so-young upstart who may be thinking too much of herself.

I needed this morning’s phone call very much.

And for those of you who are interested, here’s the story: The Girl Behind The Bar.

P.S. Brownie points to those who noticed the nod to Andrew Lloyd Webber in the title of this post. I love that song.



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