Next Chapter Award 2018: Ryan O’Connor
Next Chapter Award
An aspiring author from the Southside of Glasgow has been announced as the recipient of Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award 2018. The prize supports a talented yet unpublished writer over the age of 40, for whom finding time and space to write has proved especially challenging.
The 2018 awardee is Ryan O’Connor, 45, from Glasgow. Born in Falkirk, Ryan left when he was 15 years old, to go travelling on his own through Europe and the USA and never returned home.
His first book, The Speed of Falling, was written when he was aged 20. It was praised by several publishers and accepted by Polygon, however Ryan subsequently turned down the offer of publication and moved to Toulouse, France.
More recently he came close to having his novel, Blip, accepted for publication, however personal circumstances prevented him from seeing the work through to the level required for publication.
Ryan’s first love is poetry, which he continues to write. He is currently working on completing his second novel.
Having already completed several pieces of writing, receiving the Next Chapter Award has convinced Ryan that it’s time to give up his work as a waiter and concentrate full-time on writing.
The Next Chapter Award, run by Scottish Book Trust, the national charity transforming lives through reading and writing, is aimed at writers aged over 40 who wish to develop a specific piece of work to publication standard, and applicants must demonstrate genuine potential for publication.
The Next Chapter Award will provide Ryan with a £2000 bursary, nine months of mentoring and two weeks on retreat at creative writing centre Moniack Mhor, with the aim of developing his novel to publication standard.
I was living on the fourteenth floor of a condemned high-rise. I was on my own up there. The only other people still living in the high-rise, a few pensioners who hadn’t walked on terra-firma for years and an eccentric who shared his flat with a flock of pigeons, lived many floors below me. I rarely saw them. The only people I saw on a regular basis were the heroin addicts, though they never made it anywhere near the fourteenth floor. Desperate for their fix, they’d shoot up as soon as they entered the building and were usually too strung out to make it up more than a few flights of stairs. I’d pass them gouching on a landing or dragging themselves up the stairwell, emaciated, dying of a thirst that would never be quenched, like pilgrims lost in the desert. One of them did make it to the seventh floor once. He was nodding off as I came down the stairs towards him. Hearing my footsteps, he looked up and asked, ‘Am I there? Have I made it?’
‘Made it where?’
‘The top of the world,’ he replied.
I didn’t want to lie to a dying man. At the same time, I didn’t have the heart to break his high and what was left of his spirit by explaining he’d only managed to crawl a third of the way up a condemned high-rise, ‘Nearly, you’re headed in the right direction, just keep going,’ I told him. The fire in him had almost been extinguished, I half expected to see it flicker and burn out right there and then. Instead, a beautiful smile lit up his ravaged face and illuminated the entire high-rise. I’d seen him a few times before, but after that day I never saw him again.
"At some point we all need a little acknowledgement, a shot in the arm. Receiving the Next Chapter award from the Scottish Book Trust is that and much more. It is an incredible honour and fantastic opportunity."