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Meet the longlist: Toby Litt, author of 'Impatience'

Between now and the shortlist announcement on Sunday 28th July we will be putting the spotlight on each of 2019's longlisted authors in turn.

Today's author is Toby Litt, author of 'Impatience' a story about one boy's plan for an adventure, no matter how long it might take him to achieve it.

What inspired you to write the story? Is it drawn from personal experience?

When I was a boy, I fell off a high wall in a cemetery. I thought I’d broken my back, paralyzed myself. But I was just winded. This experience really stayed with me. I thought a lot about what it would be like to be completely immobile. The main character in the story, Elliott, has cerebral palsy. He can only move one hand, very slightly.

How does writing short stories differ from writing full-length fiction, and what do you enjoy about writing in the genre?

‘Impatience’ is an unusual story, because it’s based on a novel. I love writing short stories because they have such brilliant, imaginative readers. You can leave huge gaps for them to fill in. Novels are a much more dutiful form.

How do you write? Longhand or typed? Why does your chosen method work for you?

I write first drafts longhand. After that, it’s typed.

Which short story collection by another author would you recommend?

Diane Williams, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine. (CB Editions)

What’s your favourite short story of all time? Who would you cast to read it?

Henry James, ‘The Beast in the Jungle’, Daniel Day Lewis.

Who would you cast to read the story you have entered?

Cillian Murphy

What are you reading now?

Lucy Ellmann, Ducks, Newburyport

Please read on for a preview of 'Impatience':


I looked at the white wall, and then I looked at the white wall, and then I looked some more at the white wall.

Behind me, Lise sobbed away beside her brother Kurt who was banging his head into the Kurt’s-head-shaped dent in the grey filing-cabinet.

Depending on how I had behaved the previous day, the Sisters – usually Sister Cécile – sometimes parked me facing the white wall beside the wooden gate and sometimes at the window overlooking the square courtyard. Which of the two they chose depended on whether I had been excitable (wall) or calm (window).

It had been seven years of alternating white and green, before Jim arrived.

I heard the lift doors open on our floor, the second, beyond the tall wooden gate. It was my life’s ambition to go beyond the tall wooden gate, which I could not open myself, and go past the Sister’s Office and then to take the lift down out of the ward, down to the ground floor, and then be pushed by someone, through reception through the double doors and out into the green world beyond – out and up into a dream of a wheelie, and all of this without a Sister with me to force me to come back and be safe. Outside, so I could see trees and hear birds and feel free air...

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