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  • Helen Lederer

More Nosy Parker-ing – we can’t get enough

Helen Lederer here thank you Sarah for sharing your inner’s about writing tips – and in the great words of Stephen ‘The road to hell is paved with adverbs’ (Stephen King not Stephen Fry)

Sarah Scally, on the 2020 Unpublished Novel longlist with New Members Welcome

When did you first hear about the CWIP Prize and was your entry specifically written for it or were you working on it already?

I first heard about the CWIP Prize last year and entered, with a story about an alien invasion!

I’d also been working on another story, based on a radio play I’d written 7 years ago for a local community radio station so, undeterred, I decided to enter both of them this year, as the competition is such a great opportunity.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I’m a married mother of two, I work for the NHS and have lived in Dorset for twenty years. I have been writing on and off since I was a student and have now accumulated a quite lovely collection of notebooks (together with drawers full of ideas at various stages of development… mostly unfinished!)

As I’ve got older I have turned more towards comedy. I like gentle humour about relationships and friendships - stories that make you laugh, but also bring a tear to the eye.

Have you ever started a novel and then abandoned it?

Have I ever? Plenty of times… drawers full! I do like to have a new notebook for each story - maybe that’s why I start so many? So I can have a new notebook (um, that’s certainly one theory!?)

Did you write poetry as an angsty teenager?

I’d never really tried poetry - loud 80’s music was more my thing as a teenager - but lockdown is having a strange effect and last week I actually wrote a couple of verses about a pigeon in my garden – Pete the Hero – but I think the Poet Laureate’s position is, however, safe!

Cows on Eggardon © Sarah Scally

Can you describe what your novel’s about in two sentences?

Depressed and widowed, 65 year old Eddie Maguire loves the great outdoors but she hasn’t left her home in over two weeks.

Forcing herself out to buy milk she sees an advert for a new rambling group and, deciding to give the number a call, over the next two weeks she rediscovers friendships, happiness and her love of being outside.

What made you write your book? Where did the idea or impulse behind it come from?

I’m not sure really but I guess I just enjoy making things up!

The characters had stayed with me since writing the radio play back in 2013 so I thought there must be more to tell. I still don’t think they’re finished either, as I keep thinking up more adventures for them – e.g. fishing trips and glamping.

Did you set out to write a funny book? Where does the humour come from in your book?

Yes I wanted it to be humorous and if it makes someone smile then I have done my job!

It’s situational humour and hopefully it’s the sort of thing where, if it were on TV, you’d be hiding behind fingers shouting “no, don’t do that,” but they do it anyway!

I have tried to take situations that people might recognise for themselves and then exaggerate it, until it becomes a bit silly.

Can you read funny books when you’re writing your own? Who do you enjoy reading?

I can always find time for a funny book! I have a stack beside my bed, which my husband is convinced will one day topple over and cause me an injury!

I loved Melissa Nathan’s The Nanny and had to stop reading it in bed as I was chuckling too much. (I’ve even marked out sections to go back and re-read if I need cheering up)!

I’ve just read Beth O’Leary’s Flatshare, which was fab and my daughter has now pinched to read. Lindsey Kelk makes me chuckle, as does Marian Keyes, Roddy Doyle… oh, there are so many. And I have just received my very own copy of Helen’s Losing It so I’m looking forward to reading that in one sitting at the weekend! (oh lor! - Helen)

Have you ever read anyone else’s bad review and felt slightly chuffed? (Lying is permissible in this answer.)


Writing room while the son's away... © Sarah Scally

Can you tell us about your writing routine?

I like to do a rough plan of the story, maybe a sentence for each chapter, and then I wing it. I normally have a page in a notebook for each of the main characters, with a description, age, family, history etc. and I normally draw a little map of any locations, such as a town or a housing estate. I like to try to visualise it all.

Where do you write?

For the last ten months my son has been studying in Taiwan so I have taken over his bedroom. It’s lovely and quiet… because the room overlooks the garden, I mean, not because my son’s away!

My husband works from home so we need our separate spaces and we have started to discuss getting an office for the garden in case my son decides to come back and reclaim his room (bit selfish, if you ask me!)

You can’t find the right words to make a sentence chime: do you (a) swear? (b) cry? or (c) eat? - if (c), what item of food?

Umm, I’d have to say (a) and (c) - and crisps, definitely some type of beefy crisps would be the preferred item as I stare out the window seeking inspiration!

What difference has being longlisted for the CWIP prize made to you? What would you say to anyone thinking of entering next year?

A huge difference! It’s given me more confidence to talk about my writing… it’s no longer my little secret. It’s also pushed me into getting a Twitter account, which I keep having to ask my daughter about - much to her frustration!

For anyone remotely thinking about entering I’d encourage them to go for it. Brilliant panel of judges, rubbing shoulders (virtually) with big, published names … oh, there are even prizes as well. What is there not to like?

Me again – we love that you love comedy writing – virtual comedy hug being sent accordingly.

Sarah Scally writes light-hearted comedy fiction and short plays. She won a competition in 2013 to have a 45-minute radio play produced and that play was the beginning of New Members Welcome.

She writes short comedy sketches collaboratively with two friends and has seen these performed at arts centres in Dorset, the Shaftesbury Fringe Festival and at a scratch night in Brighton.

Sarah is married with two children and currently works in HR for the NHS.



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