Small Wonder Festival - Naomi Alderman

On the morning of September 11th 2001, Naomi Alderman was sitting in an office in Manhattan making a phone call to England on behalf of the international law firm she was working for, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. “Somebody came in and said a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Centre buildings,” she remembers, five years to the day after the event. You can hear the emotion in her voice as she recalls the moment. “I thought, ‘oh it must be a little bi-plane or something’, and went to the window of the board room to have a look. Then I watched the second plane crash into the second building.” It was one of the defining moments of her life. “I thought ‘I could have died’ and I realised working for a law firm wasn’t worth dying for. That I needed to do something more meaningful.” She moved back to England, and enrolled in a creative writing Masters at UEA.

Another day, another office, another moment of destiny. “I was doing some photocopying for my MA, and when I looked at my papers afterwards somehow I’d accidentally picked up an entry form for the Asham Award women’s short story competition. It was one of those serendipitous things. I thought ‘wow, this looks interesting.’ She submitted a short story, ‘Gravity’. “They did it in a Countdown sort of way,” she recalls. “First I was long-listed, then I was short-listed, then, at a ceremony in London, I found out that I had won.” continued overleaf...


Naomi Alderman: 9/11 changed her life