‘Defining Moments’ & a Writing Competition

The American writer, Paul Auster, has got a new book coming out, 4321 (it’s 900 pages long!).

I must admit, although I’ve heard of him, I’ve not (yet!) read anything by Mr Auster but I was fascinated by an interview with him on the BBC, in which he talked about the inspiration for the book (his first for 7 years).

When he was 14, he experienced the ‘single most important moment of his life’ (no, it’s not that). Something very tragic, actually, something that he thinks about every day of his life; something that made him realise, that ‘anything can happen to anybody, at any time’.

When he was 14 and at summer camp, a boy just inches away from him was struck by lightning and killed.

It made me think about something that happened when I was a first year student and that I often reflect on. It wasn’t as immediate, or as personal as Paul Auster’s experience but a fellow first year, in the same hall of residence as me (but in the next door ‘house’, home to around 100 students), was killed when a tree fell onto the car in which he was a passenger, just as they were parking, to go into lectures.

I didn’t know him. Apart from seeing him once in the Students’ Union, when he greeted my friend, I hadn’t even crossed paths with him but, thirty years on, I can still see his face, still remember that shy way he said ‘Hello’ and whenever I hear ‘Loughborough’ mentioned, I think of him because that’s where he came from.

Paul Auster has used that ‘defining moment’ in his life as the basis for a 900 page novel. Is there anything like that in your life – something perhaps you think about every day – that you could write about?

Stylist Writing Competition

Hmm, on a more cheery note (because it is the weekend, after all!), Stylist magazine is running a free-to-enter writing competition and you’ve got until 2nd April to get your entry in! (They want the first 3000 words, a 300 synopsis AND it must feature a strong, female protagonist). Easy peasy!

There are prizes for the top 10 – the overall winner gets a ‘three month agency mentoring programme’ (this doesn’t mean they’ll publish your novel but they’ll help you get it into a publishable state – or at least, that’s how I read it), plus an Arvon course (worth over £600) and publication of your extract on the Stylist website.

The 9 runners-up ‘will be provided with short, personal feedback from Janklow & Nesbit UK (the literary agency that’s partnering Stylist in the competition), to help them develop their book idea’.

More details here.

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3 Responses to ‘Defining Moments’ & a Writing Competition

  1. Wendy Clarke says:

    A defining moment? I’d just come back from a sixth form biology field trip with our great teacher. I came home and had my photos developed. There we all were, standing as a group with our teacher laughing in the middle. That Monday, we returned to school to hear he’d been killed in a motorcycle accident. We were all devastated but It was a sobering lesson in how short life can be.

    • Yes, I agree, Wendy. Very sad. I read somewhere that if someone you know dies when you’re young (I mean apart from parents and relations, obviously), you never really forget it. It’s often our first, shocking, experience of how life can be snatched away in a moment. Thanks for sharing that.

  2. Rosemary Reader and Writer says:

    My daughter was in her first year at Sussex University when a friend of her boyfriends, returning, drunk, from a night out, tumbled on to the electric ‘third rail’ and died instantly. My daughter didn’t actually see it happen but it disturbed her for about a year. Her asthma, which had laid dormant for years, came back and she had to have counselling.

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