On Saturday 22nd April, I competed in the Pulp Idol heats in Liverpool. Six trains and out of the flat for ten hours to read for three minutes. Madness!?
Pulp Idol is part of Writing on the Wall Festival. In the heats you read the first three minutes of your first chapter and answer a couple of questions. There were thirteen people in my heat and only two were chosen. Despite not making it into the final I, as usual, really enjoyed reading and think I did well. I answered the judges questions, trying not to waffle.
Then I went back to my seat wishing I HAD waffled. There is so much to say about the story within this novel. It is a comedy so unlikely to be taken seriously. One of the judges said the dialogue was good and she could see it as a stage play. I gave up on writing plays a few years back! Oh well ... onwards and upwards.
Priscilla Parker Reluctant Celebrity Chef
Fifty Word Synopsis
(Fifty words? That's what they wanted for the application. SO. HARD.)
Priscilla Parker’s accidently become a celebrity chef thanks to her TV producer husband. Her story’s interspersed with 'price of fame’ rants, as Priscilla tells of filming shows about UK food producers, searching for her missing daughter, cooking on camera, meeting a stalker, having 2.7 million Twitter followers & nearly drowning.
First Three Minutes of My First Chapter
The Cake that Wasn’t a Cake
‘Five stunning wedding cakes. Traditional, quirky, themed, naked and – last but by no means least - savoury. Looking forward that one, I can tell you.’
No, I don’t know why I added ‘I can tell you.’ Completely pointless. In the script.
I had to walk along the row of wedding cakes, set up on an elaborate stands in the bunting strewn, flower entwined tent. Each cake was covered with a length of fabric. This first piece to camera was just a taster of what was to come. We had to keep the viewers interested, Aaron always said. This meant endless recapping, pauses and reveals. We were constantly covering the same ground from slightly different angles. Tedious. It meant the programmes were slower than I’d have liked. ‘We have to think about Joe Public’, Aaron would say. Personally I thought Joe Public could cope with something a bit faster, and less repetitive.
It was never my intention to become one of Britain’s most popular TV chefs. Or to be on television at all. I always said I didn’t want to be on it because I liked watching it. And I was right, having since experienced the horror of falling asleep in front of a nice comedy show only to wake to see a Priscilla from fifteen years ago banging on about dumplings while wearing a weird scarf and with a hairstyle I have no memory of ever having.
It was gorgeous summer day in the grounds of a country house in Hampshire. Intensely blue sky. Lime green lawns. Immaculate flower beds. We were filming the final show of the eight part Priscilla’s Parties. I’d quite enjoyed the others. Halloween was loads of fun and the informal dinner party would no doubt be a huge hit with the viewers. Affordable and achievable for all.
‘Here’s the first one. The traditional.’
I pulled the pink silk cover off with a flourish. The thin fabric flew up in the air and fell, wrapping itself round my arm as it landed. Couldn’t have done it again if I tried.
‘We’ll take that again, Priscilla.’
‘But I could’ve unwound it as I talked about the cake.’
‘No. We’ll go again. This time try and make it land away from you. If you can sort of fling it behind you so it’s out of the way of the reveal. Okay?’
The second time it behaved itself and landed delicately on the floor behind me and the cake.
‘Ta-dah!’ I held my arms around the cake, trying to look awed by its beauty.
Yes, ‘Ta-dah!’ is a stupid thing to say. It was in the script. I knew if I left it out I’d have to retake.
‘Very traditional. Snow white. Five tiers. Rich fruit cake soaked in brandy, layer of marzipan, two layers royal icing. Immaculate piping around the edges. Someone must have an extremely steady hand. Tiny impossibly neat sugar flowers in varying shades of pink with such delicate leaves. And finally …’
The word hideous was bouncing around my brain desperately trying to get out.
‘ … the bride and groom in all their glory beneath a white bower. How lovely!’
Such a smug faced bride and groom. I hated them and I hated the cake. There were pictures in my head of my own wedding cake and indeed my own wedding day. I couldn’t look at Aaron. I glanced across at the little crowd that had gathered. Various people from the house had come out to watch. I’d spotted the gardener weeding a border as soon as I arrived but now I treated him to a little smile. He blushed and bobbed his head down. Late twenties. Maybe a decade or so younger than me; at that time I was thirty-nine. Shy smile. Tall and thin. Nice. Fit, if you like.
I moved on to reveal the second cake. Pulling off the cover went smoothly. What can I say? I’m a professional. Or at least I was doing a bloody good job of pretending, while inwardly seething about my husband’s affair. I deserved an Oscar for my performance that day, up to the part where I flipped.
***In the event I only got as far as treating the gardener to a little smile before my three minutes were up. Some people carried on but I just stopped. I must have read slightly slower than in my many rehearsals, which pleases me in a way as I means I wasn't babbling fast to get it over with. After hours on tenterhooks your reading opportunity is over in a flash.
Then you think 'never again' and 'why do I DO these things?' and, after a good night's sleep you think 'I might enter again next year' and ...
... 'I think I'll put my name down for that open mic in May.'