Saving Grace by Grace Kitto
What the judges said
‘Refreshing to read an intelligent person grappling with this issue. It’s gripping, likeable, feminist – with a fantastic prose style’ Julie Myerson, novelist and memoirist
‘So easy to read, a real romp’ Jane Martinson, guardian journalist
‘An authentic voice narrating an intense journey with great self-awareness, incorporating latest research and feminist arguments’ Jenny Brown, literary agent
Excerpt from the winning manuscript
For some reason I can’t now remember I started to think unhappily about how fat I felt. I strode across the car park muttering to myself that I was absolutely definitely going to start a diet that very night.
My route home takes me across the edge of Dartmoor, and on the way I pass Cadover Bridge, where a local ice cream van is parked. Without stopping to consider, I pulled in, bought myself a 99 cone and sat in the car eating it. Five minutes later I came to, as if from sleepwalking – dammit, I was about to start a diet! I really, really didn’t mean to do this. How did I suddenly have an ice cream in my hand? I trembled with frustration and fury at myself. To add to the sense of disbelief, I’m not even very keen on ice cream, or chocolate.
I couldn’t understand how it had happened. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that I blacked out. I can remember buying the ice cream and getting back into my car to eat it. What I have no idea of is how I came to make the decision to buy it, and to override the previous decision. I suddenly saw the complete madness of my situation. No sooner had I decided to diet, than I had done this crazy thing. I realised on that miserable sunny afternoon that there were two parts of my brain just not talking to each other...
How I did it
‘I always turn to writing when my life is particularly intense. I kept a 30,000 word journal when I followed the hippy trail as a teenager; then again just after my son was born. I never showed those journals to anyone; they were for myself really. But this time it was different; I’d discovered something I wanted to communicate to other people, something I’d never seen discussed before. At work I write all the time, but my contribution always ends up in the bin whether the programme gets made or not – so I wanted to produce something less ephemeral, something that would last.
‘I started just by journalling the experience as it happened, but also allowing myself to be taken back in time to events that chimed with events and issues I was thinking about in the present. I liked the structure of Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook, which interleaved several different journals from different times in the narrator’s life.
‘Apart from that decision, I didn’t consciously plan the book at all. But I have spent so much of my life involved with film, the decisions of when to cut from scene to scene were taken almost instinctively. Strangely, the more creative bits about Bridget, which arose totally from my imagination, were by far the easiest to write. In fact Bridget was the creative key that unlocked the whole book for me.
‘I don’t want people to think it’s a diet book; it’s a memoir of someone who has been obese, often morbidly obese, for almost all of her adult life. My mother died a horrible death from Type II diabetes; I seemed powerless to stop myself going the same way. It’s not about vanity or beauty for me. It’s about saving my life. I’m a feminist, so of course I’m aware of the Fat is a Feminist Issue arguments. But there’s nothing feminist about being out of control and heading for an early grave. I found a way of living in harmony with my unconscious desires – that’s what I wanted to write about.’
Grace Kitto has worked for Denham Productions (currently filming with Rick Stein) for ten years and is now its MD. Before that she was a teacher, then a youth worker specialising in media training, which led to a postgraduate degree in Film and Television. She has worked in TV ever since, mainly as a producer/director.
The other finalists
- Elizabeth Bullen, Letters to a Prisoner
- Vera Graaf, Virgin Territories
- Rosie Wilby, How Not to Make it in Britpop
- Lynn Hall, Caged Eyes
- Alison White, You and I
- Rosie Jackson, Sacred Cow
- Ruth Phillips, Cherries from Chavet’s Orchard
- Georgina Deverell, I am a Mole
- Becky Hogge, Barefoot in Cyberspace