Unbelievable things

Prose writer Stephanie Gray on writing her short story 73 Seconds, commissioned Almanac as part of the RISE artistic programme. 

When I was approached about taking part in RISE, I elected to write about ‘Women in Science and Technology’, as I had originally come from such a background. However, as I started my research, little did I realise just broad sweeping and comprehensive has the contribution of women been to the betterment of humankind.

Working with my RISE Mentor, Lizzie Nunnery, it took me a few attempts to find the ‘voice’ I felt was right for this piece. Originally, I had looked at it from a purely ‘technical’ point-of-view focussing on the achievements that had been made. But I was never entirely happy with this approach; I felt it needed something more, something that told us about the person, not just the deed.

The latter part of ’73 Seconds’ was one of the several, but brief, elements I had put in my original ‘montage of stories’. But as I started stripping it back, trying to find the heart of it, it always remained.

Eventually, I came to realise that Christa was the ‘voice’ I had been looking for; not just from the fact she had been selected to be an astronaut, but that she had done so from quite an everyday background. And she represented that, within each and every woman, there is a talent and courage to do unbelievable things.

And as to the style of the piece? I wanted the reader to go on that journey with her, stand in her shoes, feel the highs and lows that she went through and, particularly for women, share a ‘sister’ bond with her. There is a part of Christa in each of us and we unknowingly express it every day!

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