Alan McCormick, winner of the inaugural Ruth Rendell Short Story Competition, talks to InterAct about writing for stroke survivors and his career following the competition.
'I won the inaugural InterAct Stroke Support (then known as InterAct Reading Service) short story competition in 2008. The final stories were judged by Ruth Rendell, who subsequently gave her name to subsequent competitions. The awards ceremony was typically classy, friendly and celebratory, qualities I would consistently find during the following two years collaborating with the charity.
Winning the competition was a great boon to my writing and over the following years I was commissioned to write five further stories to be used for InterAct’s professional actors to read to stroke patients. The need to write stories that could work on the page as well as when read out loud, to be entertaining and accessible, was a great discipline. Years later I’d be running writing workshops for Kingston University students to publish their work in anthologies as well as to perform to live audiences. In 2011, the stories I wrote for InterAct formed the core of my first published collection, ‘Dogsbodies and Scumsters’.
InterAct were extremely professional and welcoming, from their wonderful Chief Executive Nirjay Mahindru, to their founder Caroline Smith and writer and trustee Nell Dunn, the team of gifted readers and volunteers, and the stroke patients themselves. I had the privilege of being invited into stroke clubs and hospital wards to witness at first hand the inspiring therapeutic work the actors do, bringing words alive, to help stroke patients alleviate the frustration, isolation and boredom of long term impairment with the distraction of communication; moments of personal interaction; sublime therapeutic skills offering hope and helping with brain function and long-term recovery. My parents both suffered major strokes and I only wish InterAct were around then, to lighten their experience and offer greater hope.
My relationship with InterAct has always been one of mutual support and co-operation. InterAct actors read at my book launch and at various story nights to promote my work, and I’ve been fortunate to be invited to help with their subsequent competitions, working with Nirjay, Caroline and Nell to produce a shortlist for the final judge to pick their winner. I’d recommend any writer to enter their competition, as not only would it help your writing career but you’d have the opportunity to use your writing in a worthwhile environment, working together with an exciting and inspirational charity.'