It’s a year today that I found out I won the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition. I wasn't allowed to announce it then and keeping the secret was painful, but I'm delighted to be able to look back on the day that changed my life.
It couldn't have come at a better time, I needed something good to happen.
I'd been having a horrible month: my grandad had died, I’d had a virus and then travelling to the funeral and all the extra stress had set my ME/CFS back.
I was also struggling to keep the faith that I could fulfil my dream of being a published author. It had been a long process - six years - and although I believed in my story, I was starting to worry it might never happen.
I kept getting tantalisingly close. I'd been long listed for several competition, almost reached the short list of another and had couple of agents who were interested. Each new step was exciting and it kept me hopeful, but then, ultimately, I ended up feeling disappointed and frustrated. That's the life of an aspiring writer. It doesn't make it any easier to live through.
I wasn’t ready to give up on my story, but I wasn’t sure what else I could do.
Then came “The Call” from Good Housekeeping and I knew nothing would be the same. Not only had I won a writing competition, but I was getting my dream all packaged up in one prize - an agent and a publishing deal. It made all the hard work and perseverance worth it.
The hard work didn't end there. It wasn't a fairy tale happily ever after, if anything the past year has been harder than the six years before. Both professionally and personally.
It's also been more amazing and exciting than I could ever have imagined.
I’ve had a steep learning curve. There's been so much work, so many edits, so many times when I doubted my own ability to do what I needed to do, what I wanted to do.
It's pushed me, strengthened me and shown me how much I'm capable of.
It's also taught me my limits, physically because of the ME and emotionally. I've learnt when to push myself and when to take a break. When to go with the flow and when to stand my ground and ask for what I need.
I'm lucky, I’ve been supported by some amazing people, agent/editor/publisher and some incredible friends and family.
I don’t know what the next year will have in store but if the past twelve months is anything to go by, it’s going to be one to remember.
Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition and author of The Choice. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn't do what she wanted. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she's deeply familiar with.