Photo: Joshua Niedermayer for Fictive Dream
I am delighted that my short story The Bicycle Orchestra is published here by Fictive Dream. I wrote the first (much longer) draft three years ago, when I’d just stopped teaching and was completing my MA. The story, loosely titled Bicycle Race, marked a break, a change in my circumstances, and also the first piece of more independent writing for some time. I’d spotted a small summary in the paper about an unnamed fifty-something woman in West Yorkshire who’d headed out for a short bike ride and ended tangled up in a race.
I wondered how this could possibly happen – it seemed unlikely. But news it was, big enough to merit a snippet in a national newspaper. Dreaming about her situation, I gave her a name and a rather unsupportive and traditional family background, and mentally set my story around Huddersfield’s Jubilee Tower (which I could see from my flat window when I lived nearby for a year in the late 1980s).
My first draft was long and unwieldy, written in the past tense and the third person. I did as advised – put it in a drawer and forgot about it. When I came back to it, I knew at once I wanted a stronger narrator’s voice, so I switched to the first person. After sharing it with my writing group (Wivenhoe Writers) I streamlined it by cutting out extraneous conversations with other cyclists, which didn’t add to the story. Life intervened and my bicycle race story got sidelined.
More recently, having spent some time re-reading past stories, I unearthed it and chose a new title. Switching to the present tense added immediacy, and I felt confident enough to search for a home for it. I was thrilled to place it with Fictive Dream, and I’m very grateful to the unnamed Yorkshire woman who inspired it in the first place, and I hope the experience wrought a positive change in her life, too!