A Rainy Day Kickstarted Mamie Lang’s Amazing Career
A chance meeting in a library changed my life forever. The strands reached far and wide, into my past and my future.
I love walking in the rain, but one day it was very heavy, and I started heading for home. As I passed the local library, a sign at the entrance read 'Des Dillon, writer in residence, Tuesdays 2pm till 4pm'. It was 1.45pm. I decided to shelter from the rain. I went in and followed the arrow pointing to the creative writing class.
A handsome guy asked if he could help me. I said I’d like to learn to write. He invited me to sit down and tell him what I’d written. Nothing, I said. Well tell me a story, he said. Something interesting must have happened to you.
He invited me to sit down and tell him what I’d written. Nothing, I said. Well tell me a story, he said.
I hesitated… There’s my Pappy’s funeral. I always played my guitar and sang him Lord of the Dance. It was his favourite song, and I asked for it to be played at his funeral. They got it wrong, and as Pappy was being carried down the aisle to the altar, the raucous sound of Terry Wogan singing The Floral Dance filled the chapel.
The congregation tried hard not to laugh, thinking I was shaking with sorrow… I wasn’t. I nearly burst out laughing. Des did. That’s okay Des, I’m sure my Pappy would have laughed an' all. When the lesson ended Des took me aside. Write your story and bring it next week, he said. I did.
I was nervous as he read it. He finally closed the papers and slid them over to me. Mamie, he said, this is bland… dull… a compilation of words, well written, but that’s all it is. Go home and write it the way you told me. But that’s what I told you, I said. No, he said. You told me a story about humanity and humour. Tell it into a tape and sing the song an' all.
I did. Two weeks later we recorded it, and it went out on the Cutting Teeth magazine CD supported by The Scottish Arts Council. I was so excited. I went to Des’s classes every Monday and Tuesday, made copious notes, and studied every spare minute. After a month, Des took me to my first reading in Edinburgh.
When I’d finished, a man came up to me. Hello, he said, I’m Gavin Wallace, Literature Officer for The Scottish Arts Council. I enjoyed your story; you must keep writing. I can’t, I said. I work full time cleaning. He smiled. I will send you some forms and you apply for a grant.
They arrived the next week, and I phoned Gavin. The part that asks how much are you applying for… I put down--anything would be a help. He laughed and said, Mamie, put down £10,000. A month later the cheque arrived. I rushed out and bought a computer, a printer, and an organic chicken.
A month later I was writing for the show, another month and I was storylining
Des was writing for High Road but didn’t know too much about the characters. As I knew everything about them, Des asked me to check his scripts and edit them. When he saw what I’d done, he phoned the producer and told him he had a pupil in his class that should be writing for the soap.
The producer sent me a storyline and told me to send in a script. A month later I was writing for the show, another month and I was storylining, and two months later I was the editor for Scotland’s longest running soap. A year later I was awarded a funded writing fellowship from The Scottish Arts Council, and Glasgow City Council. I now had Des’s job as Writer in Residence.
The sign on Langside Library then read 'Mamie Lang, Writer in Residence, Tuesdays 2 pm till 4 pm'.
Creating writers, readers and life-lobe lovers of books: we think libraries are the bees' knees. So does writer Millie Gray; read her blog about the Importance of Libraries to find out why.