Perito Prize 2020: Transcript of Our Podcast Interview With Perito Prize 2020 Runner Up – Lucy Grace
You can find the audio version of this excellent interview with Keshe on our podcast host https://www.buzzsprout.com/507109/6577582 and its available on all podcast sites like Apple and Spotify.
Perito: Welcome to Episode 2 of the Perito Prize Podcast 2020. A special Podcast series all about celebrating the writing and creativity for this year’s Perito prize and anthology. Now in this episode we are pleased to be joined by Lucy Grace, the writer of the second place story for the Perito Prize 2020. Lucy wrote the short story “Mary Poppins was Wrong about Pie Crust” which can be found in the journal section of the Perito website and was selected by the Judges as the runner-up story for this year. Hi Lucy and welcome to the Podcast now before we kick off let’s get a warmup question on the grill for you. Lucy what is more important, and I guess from a teaching perspective you’ll probably be more familiar with this than most, ambition, talent or opportunity, kind of luck in there as well.
Lucy: Well I once heard somebody say that hard work is never accidental and I thought yes you’re so right on that so while people must have a little bit of talent, some basic skills, I think if you work hard enough I do believe that you make your own luck into opportunity and while I think people have more obstacles and another I think optimism and persistence and just kind of getting your head down and getting on with it will help people get wherever they want to be.
Perito: (1.16) What made you enter the prize and how did you find out about it in the first place?
Lucy: Well I love writing stories, I write lots of short stories and flash fiction and I like writing stories in different people’s voices because it’s too easy to fall into writing the same story over and over again, so I decided to have a little experiment and tried to write in a man’s voice, who was 40 and have a little, and try that and then on Twitter, I’m on Twitter and that is the only social media I do I don’t do any Facebook or anything else there’s a really supportive writing community it’s really inclusive and I’ve made some really good friends on there, I’ve never met them, made some really good friends, somebody posted on there, “look at this, this is a great competition for a good cause won’t don’t you have a try” so I looked it up followed the link and found it and thought, yeah that’s right up my street, so I can trial my story out, write a story with this competition in mind.
Perito: (2.13) That’s brilliant I’m really glad you did because I think it’s a really interesting story, well we’ll come to the kind of like the general tone and feel about it but some people may not have read your story yet so tell us about what it’s about and why Mary Poppins was wrong about pie crust?
Lucy: Okay well the title came to me near the end of the story and it does fit really well when you’ve heard the story or read the story I think, it’s about Martin, the main character whose a quirky 40 year old man, he lives alone, he lives in the house that he use to share with his granddad and you don’t really know much about his background other than it has a flavour of perhaps not being a very happy background but Martin doesn’t realise that, his quirks are I think that he’s got a few traits of what we could say are ASC and he’s probably on the Autistic Continuum but I don’t think he’s realised, he’s really happy with his general life but he is non-plussed about a lot of things that happened to him so the things about his granddad, I wanted to, I didn’t want to, I don’t want a depressing story I want Martin to be the hero of the story but the story’s got a bit of pathos because he says things like, you know some days he didn’t speak to anybody because he got a free bus pass and a free school dinner pass and free milk coupons so nobody needs to speak to him and that’s better that nobody has to speak to you cos he can just have a pass and now he has a job and he has a work place around his middle so that gets him into the building and he doesn’t have to speak to anybody even now. So I wanted to write about that but I wanted to think about what the good things that he’s had in his life and how he can recreate them in a world which he doesn’t necessarily understand or is at one with, the world’s a bit of a mystery to him particularly social relationships, emotional relationships. The one thing he remembers from his granddad was how to make pie crust, his granddad use to make pies and he remembers that and his granddad use to give him bits of advice, he’s remembered that and in the end it’s that that’s his way that becomes his communication, and it’s the way eventually he communicates enough with somebody lovely to find his eventual partner.
Perito: (4.11) Now there’s a lot about people nicking things from fridges, food from fridges.
Perito: (4.15) Is this something that happens at work, have you got experience of this?
Lucy: Well no I haven’t, I mean everybody if you work in a communal place with a communal kitchen there is always about the communal kitchen, everybody has an opinion and in a workplace, in a group of colleagues there is usually somebody who will clean it up, somebody who leaves it in a mess, somebody whose food rots at the end of the fridge for weeks until somebody throw it out, lots of miscellaneous Tupperware, you know there is always a thing about the kitchen because I think the kitchen is usually a private space for your house, your home and when you go to work you’re forced to share with people that you wouldn’t normally share with, I suppose it’s like the same as a house share or a flat share the kitchen is always a bone of contention and I think for Martin who lives his routines very orderly, with a very orderly life in his kitchen at home this is a point, a place where he finds a lot of stress in the workplaces in the kitchen.
Perito: (5.11) Yeah and I think he might be not alone certainly in the corporate environments I’ve worked in.
Perito: (5.16) (laughter) I kind of formed the character in my head when I was reading it a bit of a Steve Carrell type guy going on with this one and as I worked it through I kind of see his narration in the background and you saw he’s got a very comic and methodical tone to it which is an excellent reflection of the character they deliberately constructed here and what made you think about writing it in the first place?
Lucy: I think I enjoyed the character of Eleanor Oliphant when she was written particularly in the opening of the book and I wanted to write a male character who might have Autistic traits and to look at how that would work, I live and work with people on the Continuum and there’s lots of moments where you just have to laugh at their response to a regular situation or you’d just cry, so you just think, yeah how did you get to that point from what I’ve just said or what’s just happened, I think all of us have got traits in us we just don’t want to admit it and I wanted to write a warm, funny story and Martin was the star of it and you were on his team right from the start even though he’s probably quite a unusual colleague, I wouldn’t say difficult he’s probably unusual and I imagine that everybody he comes into contact with whether it’s the bus driver, the person in the paper shop, his colleagues, they know him and ??6.39 oh yes Martin but I wanted to him write him as the hero I think as a star and he is very funny without really realising it I think yeah.
Perito: (6.45) Now as you know the Perito prize is about inclusion access, inclusive environments, did you find the topic difficult to write about even though you’re amongst people from a work and social point of view?
Lucy: No I didn’t at all really, it didn’t, it was never a thing, it didn’t make it the competition, the theme wasn’t different to me I think I have, like I say I’ve got some quirky family members older than me, younger than me as a primary teacher you’re surrounded by unusual thinking and I’ve been a SENCO teacher for about 10 years and so I understand that really well, I choose that in my life, I think it adds to my life and I understand completely how, you know toilets can smell purple so children will choose not to use them or people speaking riddles because nobody understands what each other mean, how you don’t understand people’s non-verbal q’s?? or the words they say make no sense so why would you even bother listening to them. So I think, yeah I understand that and I think it’s really interesting, why is it wrong that you want to drink out of the same glass every day or sit in the same seat every day or cut your sandwiches exactly the same size every day I think that’s okay there’s room in the world for that, so I think that’s just interesting to talk about and like I say I think everybody, when you really get down to it and people start to talk about it everyone has particular fixed behaviours and traits they just don’t always share them.
Perito: (8.01) Absolutely and this is exactly what this prize is all about, kind of bringing to light the fact that we’re all very, very similar in our differences.
Perito: (8.11) And it’s a celebration of that but what is the most valuable thing for you specifically about going through this writing process?
Lucy: I think I didn’t have to work very hard but I was very conscious of writing the story where the difference in Martin, I wanted him to have a difference but I didn’t want the difference to be the point of the story to be the thing that carried the story, it was important to make him lovely enough so that the lovely Jo would choose him and so the other characters around them I want them to be the unkind, unthinking idiots, so the people who are kind of neuro typical that surround him in the workplace I want them to kind of be the baddies in the story and for him to be the person that’s speaking sense, which doesn’t seem to happen enough I think in the real world.
Perito: (8.55) So has this prize made you think differently about how inclusive and accessible the world we live in actually is? and I think I know the answer to that questions from your previous answers but it would be good to hear you draw that our a little.
Lucy: Yeah sure I think it’s too easy to forget when we’re faced with a roomful of friends or colleagues or students, each of them is bringing something with them, so everybody comes from a different background and I think people are too quick to judge particularly in the world of social media, it’s too easy to be unkind I think, to fix your opinion really early on, on one thing and I think that I would like the world to be more inclusive and accessible and I think we should all allow people some more room really to forgive them and anxieties and their fixed behaviour and work with them as they are and I think the reason that I wrote about kind of an invisible difference is because I think it’s particularly difficult with people with an invisible difference to be treated you know accordingly and think you know I wouldn’t ask a person with physical difficulties to suddenly perform a physical task in front of a room of strangers, if it was something they were unable to do but asking someone with ASC differences to act outside their comfort zone or their capabilities it’s exactly the same and I think people don’t acknowledge that enough because people don’t want to wear the label that says, I act differently, I think differently, I behave differently, my brain puts things in a different order in my head and I think because people don’t know that sometimes then I think it’s, the world can be hard I think if you’ve got an invisible different.
Perito: (10.22) What always strikes me when I go around doing my work is I tend to ask people about how many people within their immediate circle are or have had either an impairment or a disability and generally the response comes either themselves as an individual or a very close parent family member within the immediate circle and then there’s normally a couple of people in like maybe the friendship or the wider family group, everybody can relate to something with a lived experience.
Perito: (10.50) Which has either generated some sort of sense of exclusion or simply failure to appreciate the individual’s differences and neuro diversity, I’m always kind of surprised at how coming back to Martin about even the baddy characters in the story will be probably going home and looking after a child with a disability perhaps, maybe a grandparent or a parent with Dementia and it seems to be for me kind of the failure to understand that what’s also affecting you is also going on in other people’s lives.
Perito: (11.23) Tends to be the thing I’m most surprised by and having to constantly remind people actually you know what you’re not so different it’s time to celebrate the uniqueness but also appreciate everybody else is most likely going through something similar.
Lucy: Yeah I think that certainly would lead to a happier workplace and a happier learning environment I think.
Perito: (11.42) So what happened to Martin next, that’s what I was kind of interested to know, where did you see his career going and what happened to him, have you written any more masked stories?
Lucy: I haven’t no, I’m not sure, I wanted to, I hadn’t considered writing anymore because I think I wanted him to be together with kind of the mysterious lovely Jo from the paper shop who he ends up with and she is clearly accommodating to him, I haven’t really written her as a big character other than that she just accepts him how he is I think, it’s the simplicity of her character I really like that she just says, he goes in a paper shop and he’ll pay with one coin and it’s 20p his newspapers or 50p and when it goes up he’s going to have to buy another newspaper that he doesn’t like with too many parts to it.
Lucy: He doesn’t have to read them all just so he can pay with one coin because he can’t bear the thought of having to hang around and get change it would just mess up his system so he just has to pay with a coin and I think that she just understands that and that’s fine and so she doesn’t use too many words, she doesn’t complicate him, she just answers what he says, it’s a very simple but profound connection that they’ve made and I almost don’t want to explore that in case it spoils it, I like the fact that they’re just out there now living it alongside each other and one day he’s gonna be brave enough to tell him, one day he’ll think, he’s not brave, one day he’s gonna tell her about his granddad and the pie crusts and secrets and things but nothing really important but just so she knows and that’s such a massive statement for somebody whose lived such a solitary life, I just, I love the ending, I had the ending about half way through and I thought that’s where I need them to get to this point so they can end at this point.
Perito: (13.13) I did find some sort of similarities to, do you remember the television show Monk, it’s about a neuro diversion detective in San Francisco.
Lucy: Right I don’t think I do, no.
Perito: (13.23) And he kind of had the same kind of everything had to be perfectly clean, everything, and actually his neuro divergence actually added up to him to be able to do the job as well as he did do, he was a private kind of detective consultant.
Lucy: Yes, yes, yes absolutely.
Perito: (13.37) So I could see that with Martin how actually he can, he could, he’s got so much value there hasn’t he in terms of his attention to detail and his, again his methodical approach to life everything was quite relaxing reading what he was saying.
Lucy: Yeah absolutely I think that if you look in a lot of trades and kind of areas of employment there is a particular type of neuro divergence cos everybody’s different, there are lots of different styles of non-neuro typical people and I think that they do find often a home and clustered together in a profession that really suits them and whose to say that that’s not okay, so it’s unkind that scientists often are boffins, scientist, a boffin is somebody who’s got a very methodical, structured way of thinking and of reporting without kind of going off plan but they also have a kind of a weird opening side to their brains sometimes people who are not neuro typical where their creativity where anything is possible and I love that, that’s just like being a 5 year old all over again, so you can just open your brain sideways??14.31 and say, “well why haven’t we tried this”, and people that perhaps are neuro typical who think in straight lines all the time don’t have that kind of capacity and don’t, and I think that’s something to be valued, I think I’m all for thinking sideways and thinking why not rather than why do we have to.
Perito: (14.50) Well I was going to say while you were talking there I was thinking about creativity and how neuro divergence can allow the innovation and creativities to flourish because you’re producing something that other people are just quite thinking the same way and I think as we go forward, I think business and certainly the economy needs to start celebrating that neuro divergence so that we can bring new products to market for people who might be excluded communities who are maybe thinking differently about stuff, cos if we do the same things all the time we know certainly from a teaching perspective it gets boring and ends up not working.
Lucy: Yes, yeah I really do I think it’s just important to give people a voice and I think that there’s been a change, I’m not sure how yet but I think the whole, the shifts to working from home for a lot of people has actually been a really good thing, I think whilst there is a lot of worry about people’s mental health often I think it’s more neuro typical people’s mental health who are missing the workplace, I think people who struggle leaving the house to go to work have suddenly been given a new lease of life and they can do their job just as well at home and without the added stress and strain and the exhaustion and the mental toil of actually leaving the house, going on public transport, getting to a workplace, being with people, trying to focus on the job with the noise and the colour and the smells and the things that aren’t okay and then coming home again and then coming again and then closing the front door and thinking thank goodness I’m back and that will happen again to them tomorrow, and the next day and the next day, you know, that level of anxiety is exhausting and I think that while people yes are saying it’s difficult for people’s mental health because they can’t go to work there is a whole other slice of the population who is just thriving on being at home.
Perito: (16.30) Yeah not having to put up with the complexities of the workplace definitely.
Lucy: Yes I think so.
Perito: (16.36) Finally any recommendations or tips for people entering next year’s competition?
Lucy: Oh, I think right opening, right openly, cheerfully, maybe, good stories will often have a character so if you could think of a character a person you know or you’ve known why did you admire them, what did they overcome, what did they live with and write about, you know start with the people first I think and don’t put people into predictable little boxes, let them live the fullest life they possibly can and write about that.
Perito: (17.05) That’s good advice, great, thank you Lucy, so it’s been brilliant to find more about you and your story but now it’s time to sign off and tell listens about the upcoming anthology which will be available from Amazon around the world and an audio book which will feature Lucy’s work alongside a variety of other entries from the 2020 competition, it will be available on Audible and other audio book sites. Thanks again to our special guest Lucy Grace, thanks Lucy.
Lucy: Thank you, thank you very much.
Perito: Our runner up and creator of the brilliant short story “Mary Poppins was Wrong about Pie Crust”. You’ve been tuning into the Perito Prize 2020 Podcast Special Edition, thanks for listening everyone, everywhere.