Ray Hewitt may think I changed his life. But actually it’s the other way round.
Here’s what happened.
I wrote a blog called My Friend Kills People sometime before Christmas.
More or less by accident, I found a response to the blog in my spam filter that didn’t….look….quite….like spam. I clicked back to the respondent’s blog, and found this.
Now, that might have been the end of it. But the first time I read Ray Hewitt’s blog, I had a suspicion that I’d discovered something astonishing.
Of course, I had doubts. Ray seemed like a fairly scary character. He was writing about war and post traumatic stress syndrome and drug addiction, the breakdown of his marriage and loss of his child….and after I e-mailed to ask if he could tell a story (pimping, as usual, for True Stories Told Live) I had a sleepless night, wondering whether I’d lost my marbles, befriending some stranger on the internet with an unnatural interest in guns and drugs.
But I phoned Ray the next day, and you know, he just sounded so NICE. And, besides, he wrote like an angel. What sort of scary madman writes like an angel?
Ray came to True Stories and told his own story the following month. It was painful, sad, hilarious…brilliant. The room was rapt. We laughed, we cried. He brought the house down.
I suggested my agent read the blog. She referred him to someone else, who sounded cautious and a bit dubious.
But the agent and Ray met. For two hours. ‘Did he say anything about taking you on?’ I asked. ‘No,’ said Ray, ‘but he wants to keep in touch.’ OK, not perfect, but a start. And besides, there was a publisher in Edinburgh who was interested.
The next day, Ray got an e-mail from the agent with a contract attached. And since then, he’s been writing the way water flows downhill. I know, because he sends me what he writes. Every time he sends a new chapter, it makes me laugh and cry in the space of a couple of pages. Wiping my eyes, I e-mail Ray, convinced he’s got a ghostwriter, or is a pathological liar, because I can’t get my head around a kid who left school at 16 to join the army and writes such beautiful prose, so beautifully structured, so deeply felt, without a single false note.
At one point, I suggested that he might stop seeing himself as a soldier with PTSS and start seeing himself as an extraordinary writer who went to war when he was still a boy. And all of a sudden it occurred to me that THIS was the magic of storytelling. The ability to tell a story about yourself in a way that transforms your life.
Ray Hewitt — soldier, blogger, wireman — is a writer now, with an important and powerful agent. His book is nearly finished. Thanks to Ray, I’ve begun to understand something subtle and important about the relationship between the story you tell about yourself and who you are, what you become.
So. Who changed whose life?