This is the WASTED BLOG. For my main author website, click this link.

Awards: WASTED won the Read it or Else category in the Coventry Award and was runner-up in the North East Book Award. It is longlisted for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Manchester, Grampian, Angus, and RED Awards.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Yesterday I told you about Tommy Allsup. But there's another man alive today who has been so lucky that it's hard to believe. There's a part of me thinks this simply can't be true, but it seems to be, so I'm going to tell you.

He's called John Woods.

(Actually, after the post yesterday, several of you came up with some others stories of amazingly lucky people. Check out Franko Selek and Maryanne Bruce. No one guessed the correct answer so I get to keep the prize - hehe! On the other hand, lucky blog-follower Vanessa O'Loughlin won yesterday's free draw, so she will receive a signed copy very soon. Well done, Vanessa! Everyone else - next draw Sat May 1st.)

Back to John Woods. In 1988, he was booked on the Pan-Am flight which exploded over Lockerbie, killing everyone on board. But he cancelled at the last minute because someone had persuaded him to go to a party in his office.

In 1993, he was on the 39th floor of the World Trade Centre when it was bombed, but he survived, uninjured.

On September 11th, 2001, he left his office in one of the Twin Towers. Seconds later, one of the two planes involved hit the building in the appalling tragedy which shook America and changed the world. John Woods was safe again.

I wonder how many days go by when he doesn't say to himself, "What if?" But you could go crazy thinking like that - so I hope he locks it away in a small place in his mind and focuses on the fact that he simply is a very, very lucky man.

What has this to do with Wasted? Well, one of the two main characters, Jack, is obsessed by stories like this. Jack has lost two mothers. The first one died giving birth to him - a blood clot, terribly bad luck, quite unpredicted and very rare. The second time was rather horrible, and Jack was there too, aged five - he'd just come home from his first day at school and an incredibly unlucky accident in the kitchen, "caused" by Jack, killed her. I'd rather not tell you about it here - it really is rather shocking...

Anyway, although he moves forward and grows up strong and seemingly undamaged, he does have this obsession about luck, good and bad. He covers his wall with stories of people who have horribly bad luck because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like Aeschylus, who is supposed to have died when a tortoise fell on his head! Jack believes that if he throws himself at the mercy of luck, by letting a coin rule his actions, luck will look out for him.

John Woods made a decision which saved him from being on the Pan-Am flight and another that saved him from dying in the Twin Towers. He didn't know he was making an important decision, but it was a decision all the same.

Jack thinks if he makes the right decisions, he will be lucky. But how will he know what the right decisions are? He thinks he knows. He thinks that the only important decision is to spin the coin and follow the answer. But he's going to discover that he's wrong...

I'll be asking for YOUR stories of lucky escapes or chance events on May 4th. So, get thinking. I'm going to collect them all and I might tell them when I do school events and other talks. I want examples of how a tiny chance event affected your life - lucky escapes or unlucky actions, being in the wrong or right place at the right time, how your parents met etc, anything where you believe important results came from a tiny chance happening or decision. Don't tell me now - wait till I post the piece on May 4th. (For soome examples, see the page at the top of this blog, titled Your Chance Events.

Thing is, sometimes we have lucky escapes and don't even know - like Lorenzo in Wasted. Whether he dies in a car crash or not depends on whether he's driving a red car or not, which affects whether a pigeon crashes through a window when he's drinking coffee ... Sounds unlikely? Well, the pigeon scene actually happened to me. I'll tell you about it on Thursday. 

See you tomorrow, when I will have a writing competition for you - a chance for adult writers and school-age writers. If you're at school, tell your English teacher today - this is going to be a great chance for you to demonstrate your creativity and have a chance to be published here.

Meanwhile, comment below! And may you have a very lucky life.


JJ Beattie said...

Good grief to John Woods. I already find it difficult to make decisions, so I can believe someone obsessing and carrying the 'what ifs' throughout their life.

Glynis said...

My word, John Woods must be thankful he gets through each day alive. It must be a case of wondering when, with him.
It must be hard for him, knowing so many didn't make it as he did.

Fate or Luck? I wonder.

catdownunder said... what is 'luck' then - the decisions one makes, the genes one inherits or...?

Nicola Morgan said...

Cat - well, that's a good question and one I'll be talking about a lot of the next few weeks. But, to quote Jack in Wasted, "Luck is just what we call it."

Glynis - hmm, and fate is another thing I'll be discussing!

JJ B - indeed - and it does us no good at all to obsess about it. Wasted might make you obsess for a while, but I hope people then just move on and put the what ifs to the back of their minds.

Sarah said...

Oh my word! Fortunate doesn't begin to describe John Woods.

I think of how many tiny decisions are made each day- and then of all the even tinier decisions we don't notice that we make. If we obsessed about each one, we'd go crazy.

And I agree, Glynis, I'd feel guilty if I'd lived when so many other hadn't. I'd know it was irrational, but I'd feel it all the same.

maryom said...

I wonder if being so 'lucky' could influence how you behave. Would a person really come to feel they were invulnerable? It reminds me of a film in which Tom Conti plays a man who is convinced luck is permanently on his side and that nothing can kill him - at one point he drives his car at speed through a series of traffic lights which all miraculously change as he passes.

Nicola Morgan said...

Maryom - yes, I certainly think so. If you think you're lucky you will act differently from if you think you're unlucky. So, if you think you're lucky, you will be more likely to enter the game/raffle/context/chance of promotion and generally aim high - so it can be a good thing. But the film you mention shows the downside and the extreme, which films and books do really well. Thing about John Woods though, and most of us in those situations, we don't KNOW that the action we're about to take will have any effect at all. In Wasted, Jack DOES think that everything has an effect, and that's what motivates him. The obsession has good and bad effects, too. Just one of the issues raised in Wasted!

Becky Wilson aka Valkyrie1008 said...

What a fascinating story Nicola and I do look forward to hearing more about this writing competition.

Once I know more about it I will pass it on to my writing students at the college I work at.


Nicola Morgan said...

Thanks, Becky - I think your students will be interested. Hope so!

Milton said...

What a fab, informative blog. Those miracle survivors must think they're invincible...and ALL must write their life stories. Inspiring stuff.

Milt x