In the next instalment of the series of Writers’ Rooms, we visit the home of Rachel Trezise, novelist, short story writer and inaugural winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006.
Next to the clocks set to New York and Treorchy time, (I pay attention to neither) are my festival and appearance passes, tied up and hung from the curtain rail; everything from my entry card to the Melbourne Writers Festival and Edinburgh Book Festival to my Parc Prison and Porth County Comprehensive passes and every pass for every long drawn-out editorial meeting at the BBC. I’m sentimental about mementoes. In my previous office I kept a postcard from every country literature had taken me but my heavy smoking ruined them. Most of the passes are covered in plastic although I’ve given up smoking since.
From the blur of readings and cities that was the first five or six years of publication the one memory that sticks out is going to Festivaletteratura in Mantua, Italy, with the Hay Festival’s Scritture Giovani project. I was twenty-two years old and so badly travelled and finicky about vegetables I remember ordering a dish that translated to ‘Two small hens’ because I’d seen someone else order it and saw that it came with chips. When the dish came to me however the cook had replaced the chips with spinach and left the hen’s heads on. There’d been an all day party in the piazza with free wine and by the time I got to my event to be interviewed by David Lodge I was pissed out of my tiny skull. There were at least 2000 people in the open air auditorium and somehow I managed to sell my first novel to an Italian editor sat in the crowd.
Currently the office is the smallest room in the house, one of two spare bedrooms at the front. I moved in here when the study in the attic got too hot a few summers’ ago. I write most of my prose, or at least the first drafts, in bed. I did write my first stage play Tonypandemonium from scratch on the PC because it didn’t feel quite like prose but by the end of it my handwritten notes had spilled out across the landing and down the stairs. Otherwise the office is just a place to type, correspond and keep paperwork. The window overlooks a long winding terraced street that leads to the entrance of the local comprehensive school. The street is usually full of pupils talking a language I don’t understand anymore. I’ve never caught anyone reading one of my books on the train but I once heard a group of drama students talking about going to an audition for my play right outside my open window.
My house is for sale at the moment and sooner or later I’ll pack my office and my mementos up and take them to the cottage my grandparents left me, (the first place I ever wrote anything creative when, bored on a rainy day, my grandmother handed me a sheaf of writing paper she’d stolen from the local pub she cleaned). Neighbours often joke with me about the possibility of a blue plaque on the fascia of this house after my days but I think that honour is reserved for H from Steps from whom we bought the house fifteen years ago.
Rachel Trezise’s Writers’ Room piece is a part of a Wales Arts Review series.