Yesterday, I heard screams and flapping from the garden – an animal in pain – so I rushed out. In a haze of brown downy feathers and dead leaves from the tree where the attack took place, I had a vague sense of a large bird flying away. It was possibly a red kite. A small male blackbird fell at my feet and lay there panting, his displaced milk chocolate coloured feathers followed down and curled up around his body. Their beaks are so bright. I could see no blood and thought it best not to pick him up, as he was already traumatised. I just stood over him and talked softly, until gradually he stopped the panting, ran out through the iron gate, up onto the fence and away.
It made me think though, about the percentage of victim and bully/predator/confident being in all of us, how it differs with life experience, moods and attitude. I have met a lot of supremely confident red kites – soaring through life being admired by all. There have been sparrow hawks too, who bide their time but get what they want eventually…but only the odd gentle blackbird. Ummm…. Maybe we are all blackbirds inside, just hoping that no-one will spot the deception and hurt us.
I wasn’t a victim exactly but neither did I feel entirely in control on the Henry Kelly Radio Show on Radio Berkshire yesterday. Radio is an odd medium and presenters are a little like drug addicts: they become extremely twitchy if there is dead air…they need a fix of the human voice to feed that habit. Nodding my head is not the way to convey ‘yes’ and so I ended up saying ‘Absolutely’ and sounded as if I should have a hockey stick and small pony. It was primarily to publicise the book The Map of Me but also to try and come up with intelligent comments about the experience of being mixed race. But suddenly I felt very exposed, having to take about me. No hiding behind characters and their fictional motivations……I felt naked. Not in a good way. My mother-in-law listened and told me I sound articulated. Now that is a new one.
Brief interviews with The Map of Me authors:
It has been a good week in all though, with a few writerly things such as the radio broadcast and then a few other treats to boost confidence:
I have been shortlisted for The Asham Award this week. I have been shortlisted before, so my excitement is a little tamer this time. It’s still good. Now I send on my story for judging…results of the final twelve in February. It’s a big competition in terms of stature this one and there were 799 entries. To be published alongside Margaret Atwood – that’s something to fantasise about over Christmas.
I wrote six flashes for a wonderfully intense writing session on The Workhouse this week. The quality of all the writing (108 stories in total) was superb and reminded me why it's so life-affirming to hang out there so much. I’m proud to be in that company and am still learning what makes writing literary, resonant, publishable.
I am now visiting a lovely old lady of 86, who was a nurse during World War II and is feisty and fascinating. I love her company, her refusal to be taken for a fool and the stories she has to tell. She also has enormous compassion and insight. She also told me I was very pretty but admittedly her eyesight is very poor.
In early December I get to go to the book launch party at Penguin. I am very interested in meeting the other writers; their stories were impressive, elegiac, emotional.
So I will subdue my inner blackbird for now – that fluttering sense of potential failure and rejection that all writers carry in their hearts – to pursue this funny life of scribbling and making things up, being greedy enough to live several lives in a day.
- Julia Bohanna
- Shortlisted Bath Short Story Award 2013 Runner-up Cinnamon Press Competition 2013 WNNER: Don Louth Writer of the Year (run by Reading Writers) WINNER: Bradt/Independent on Sunday Travel Writing Competition 2012. SHORTLISTED: Scott Prize (Salt Publishing) 2012 for a short story collection. Writer/ Journalist - assistant editor and writer for the art and books pages of Wolfprint. Most recently published in Independent on Sunday and short story anthologies: Sentinel Champions No 9, 100 Stories for Queensland, 50 Stories for Pakistan, 100 Stories for Haiti and From Hell to Eternity. In a recent writing competition, Joanne Harris described my writing as '...compelling (but quite creepy)'
- ► 2009 (13)
Prizes and Writing Awards
- Winner Bradt/Independent on Sunday Travel Writing Competition 2012
- Shortlisted for Salt Publishing's Scott Prize for short story collections 2012
- Finalist in Brit Writers' Award 2011
- 2nd in Sentinel Literary Competition 2011
- Whitechapel Society Anthology to be published 2010
- Shortlisted for the Mslexia Short Story Competition 2009
- Shortlisted for The Asham Award 2009
- Joint winner of the Penguin/Decibel Prize 2008 - Asian Invisible. Published as The Map of Me
- Highly Commended in The National Galleries of Scotland Short Story Competition 2008
- Runner-up in Segora Short Story Prize 2008
- Joint Winner of The Lancet Short Story Competition 2007: The Resurrection Girl.
- Runner-up in Virgin Trains/The Guardian Short Story Competition 2007: A Small Revolution
- Winner of the Woman and Home Short Story Competition 2006: Ghosts of Jamaica.
- Shortlisted for The Asham Award 2005
- Runner-up in the Good Housekeeping Short Story Competition 2003
- Winner of The Sunday Telegraph Tourism for Tomorrow Travel Writing Competition 2002: Wolves of Rumania. Winner
- Winner and also Winner of Most Original Short Story in the Competition in Trowell and District Writers' Competition 2006