I was pretty good at German at school (I realised later) but I wasn’t planning to study it at university: I’d applied to study English.
But when I did my ‘A’ level German oral exam, the external examiner asked me whether I was planning to study German at uni and when I answered, Nein he pulled out his bottom lip and said, Schade. That means ‘what a shame, too bad’.
It made an impression on me; I didn’t forget. I changed my course, after the first year (they wouldn’t let me do it before) and did a joint honours degree in German and English instead of single honours. I spent a year in Germany, met different people and had different jobs than I’d have had if that man – whose name I didn’t even know – hadn’t uttered that one word, that schade.
Along the same lines, I was reading about author Craig Thomas (amongst other novels, he wrote Firefox, later made into a Clint Eastwood film and was credited with inventing the ‘techno-thriller’).
He used to live around the corner from me, when I was at school. Every day when I walked home for my lunch – and back again – I’d pass his house and hear the ‘tap tap tap’ of his typewriter (because this was the early ‘80s and people used typewriters then! Or maybe it was a word processor? Anyway, I could hear the tapping!)
Thomas was a teacher who had been trying to write radio scripts for the BBC, for years, without success. Eventually, one of the editors who read his outlines, gave him a piece of advice. He told him he could write but that rather than radio drama, he should try his hand at writing novels instead. As Thomas said, “he provided what was the single most important piece of practical advice I have ever received. It changed my life.”
It’s fascinating, don’t you think? Has anyone ever given you an unprompted piece of advice – or just said a word or two – that changed your life?
Here are a couple of FREE-to-enter writing competitions, that might be of interest:
The Love Reading VERY Short Story Award 2020 – closing date: 31st October 2019
They are looking for stories of between 600-1000 words, in any genre and from writers (published or unpublished) anywhere in the world. Only one entry per person and your story must be previously unpublished. From a short list of 10, the judges will pick one winner (£300 prize) and there will also be a ‘People’s Choice’ prize of £200.
Well done to ‘Love Reading’ because when they ran this competition last year, there were no prizes (just ‘exposure’ – I wrote about it here). It’s good to see that this time there are some nice cash prizes to be won!
Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook Short Story Competition closing date: 13th Feb 2020
There’s no theme and no entry free. They are looking for a short story aimed at adults, of no longer than 2000 words. There is one prize of an Arvon course (worth £1000 apparently. Wow, they’ve got very expensive!). The terms and conditions seem to be those from last year’s competition but assuming that they’re the same, you can enter the competition from outside the UK, if you so wish. Good luck!