Featured Writer – Olga Wojtas

I am delighted to welcome Olga Wojtas, who has (as reported in a previous newsmail) won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award for 2015 and her short story Wedding Photos appears in the new issue of Gutter. See under Members’ News below. I hope you enjoy the extract from Queen B, an unpublished story, as much as I did! It’s a masterclass in how to create character and situation through dialogue alone.

Olga Wojtas was born and brought up in Edinburgh where she attended the school which inspired Muriel Spark’s “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”. She was encouraged to write by an inspirational English teacher there, Iona M. Cameron. She has lived and worked in Aberdeen, Grenoble and Washington DC, but is now back in Edinburgh where her day job is higher education journalism. Her short stories have appeared in a number of publications including New Writing Scotland, New Writing Dundee, The Mayo Review and Gutter.  She is thrilled to have won a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award for 2015.

Queen B (extract)

I was known as the Queen B of Fleet Street by my colleagues. That’s the letter B, not the insect. Emma Lewis, Queen Bastard, that’s what they meant.

Actually, I never had that many tantrums, but you know what newspaper gossip is like. I dare say you’ve heard the story about me throwing the typewriter out of the window? Don’t look so shifty. Of course you have – everybody has. Except there’s not a shred of truth in it.  First of all, those Imperial typewriters were massive. I was five foot three and seven stone. I couldn’t have lifted one, let alone got it as far as the window. And second, they were chained to the desks. But never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

That’s irony, incidentally. ‘Facts are sacred.’ C.P. Scott. You haven’t the faintest idea who he was, have you? Editor of The Manchester Guardian. ‘It is well to be frank; it is even better to be fair.’ He didn’t half talk crap. You don’t sell newspapers by being fair.

You’re worried, aren’t you? You see me in here surrounded by all these dribbling geriatrics. Scared you’re going to go back with nothing and get a bollocking. I’ve lost my leg, not my marbles.

So how long have you been with the paper? Don’t tell me, you’ve just graduated. Utterly preposterous, degrees in journalism. You can’t learn to be a hack by sitting in a lecture theatre. The only way to learn is by doing. I started out – no, don’t interrupt me. You don’t ever speak when an interviewee’s speaking. At best, you’ll irritate them; at worst, you’ll miss the quote that would make the whole piece. I know far better than anyone what makes a good story.

No one directs Emma Lewis.

© Olga Wojtas 2015

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