Dave Murphy’s short piece Screech Owl was shortlisted for the 2018 Life Writing Prize. Here he reads an extract from the writing, and tells us a bit more about it.
‘My story is the start of a longer piece of writing about a new parent examining himself, his parents, and the relationships between them now that he has children too. Going back to his earliest memories, he reviews the love he received and the slights and injustices he feels he suffered from his utterly altered perspective. He finds that he was a victim of difficult circumstances, self-centred adults, and challenging poverty, and he realises that he now has a fight inside him over whether he will manage to fix his own relationship with his partner and his children, or whether he will pass on the hurt he received.
The writing starts clearly from the perspective of, and in the voice of, the adult looking back, but as the memories begin to flood in the voice changes to resemble that of the child, in order to create immersion and immediacy in the memories. Despite the circumstances the boy finds himself in being challenging, the writing is supposed to be humorous throughout; life is funny, after all, despite its suffering, and humour is the trick that gets you through the dark days.
Stephen King said ‘Fiction is the truth inside the lie,’ and life writing is important for me because it is that kernel of truth revealed, without the mask of fiction. I also believe that all writing is a form of therapy for the writer, but life writing is the most direct form!’
Read all of the stories longlisted for the prize here.