I spoke to Jo Finney, Assistant Features Editor/Books Editor for Good Housekeeping, who told me I’d won the competition. I remember very little about what we talked about, it went by in a blur of amazement and joy; all I know is my mum overheard the conversation and said I kept saying thank you, a lot.
I’m still stunned by it all, I’m also a tiny bit convinced I’m dreaming this.
I’ve been writing for seven years, working on my debut on and off, entering competitions, submitting to agents, making it to longlists, going on a writing workshop with Penguin Random House, reaching the final four of the Hodderscape open submission. I’ve worked hard, really hard, but never made it to the next step.With every rejection, with every piece of feedback I received, I took what I learnt and put it into my manuscript, writing and rewriting it.
I refused to give up because I knew this was what I wanted, this is what I love and think I’m good at, it's what I want to do with my life. Over the next few weeks I’m going to share my journey with you, the ups and downs, the joys and the frustrations, because there has been a lot of both.
It’s also a journey that’s only just beginning, so stick with me and I’ll share with you everything that’s to come.
You can keep up to date with all my latest news by signing up to my email newsletter.
I won the Good Housekeeping novel competition! It feels so good to finally be able to say that. It’s the biggest and best news I’ve ever received and I haven’t been able to talk about it for months.
I entered the competition on a whim, I didn’t expect anything to come from it, but I wanted to keep putting my novel out into the world, in the hope that something would happen, that my novel, The Box, would find its home.
Now it has!
The prize for winning the competition is representation by Amanda Preston from LBA Books and a publishing contract with Orion. I’m beyond excited and incredibly happy.
There will be lots of news to follow, including how I got to this point - it’s taken seven years, so there’s lots to say!
I can’t wait to keep you in the loop with everything that’s happening.
If you want to be the first to know of all my book news you can sign up to my newsletter here...
I like to hang out online here, here, here and here...
I decided to write about craftivisim and the WI. It's a realtively modern term but women have been using crafting to protest for generations. Just think of the suffragette banners.
Craftivism is a form of activism, typically incorporating elements of anti-capitalism, environmentalism, solidarity, or third-wave feminism, that is centered on practices of craft - or what can traditionally be referred to as "domestic arts".
I learnt a lot about the ways women in the WI are using their crafting skills to raise awareness of some incredibly important issues. In fact, I've been involved with quite a few but never realised they would be considered craftivisim.
I've crocheted green hearts for Show the Love and inscribed messages on white ribbons to support victims of domestic abuse. Recently, I helped celebrate 100 years of some women getting the vote in the UK, by encouraging my WI to include suffragette colours and figures into our craft show entry. I made the sash for the figure in the picture above (and two other Playmobil figures).
I really enjoy crafting and if I can make something beautiful and make a statement about causes I'm passionate about, then I can't think of anything better.
My article was picked up by the national WI blog and you can read it here...
I've been rather quiet on here over the past nine months, I haven't had anything to really say and my words, thoughts and imagination have been turned towards my fiction. I thought it was time to pop back on with an update of everything so far.
I've heard people say that writing is like carving, slowly you cut away the layers and polish the piece until you see the final form, the way it's meant to be. I imagine I've still got a way to go but I love my story more and more every time I work on it. I can't wait until everybody actually gets to read it.
I've also been working on my next novel, it's a loosely related sequel that also combines women's fiction with dystopia, drawing on current events and inspirations. I'd almost finished my first draft when a conversation with a writer friend clarified some missing threads, so I've gone back to the start, working in the new ideas.
Things are definitely moving forward with my writing and I hope to have lots more blog post in the near future. Watch this space...
I was incredibly excited to attend (and equally nervous) but I focused on what an amazing opportunity it was. Mum accompanied me as my PA and wheelchair pusher and as we entered the vast, echoing marble corridors I felt humbled and full of awe. For the past six years I’ve worked on my writing and here I was, not just with a toe in the door (or should that be wheel), but the whole of me and part of my story was inside the building.
I read The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald for my book club and I have to admit I expected it to be chick lit. It shows how little I knew about Fitzgerald, who I now know is an English Booker Prize-winning novelist, poet, essayist and biographer.
There are so many books out at the moment set in book shops, cafes, shops, that I assumed it was one of those and I was quite happy to read something a little lighter after finishing American Gods and Anatomy of a Soldier in previous months.
I didn't know what to expect and I was in for a story with a vastly shifting tone. It started with a little old lady, Florence Green, taking on the world and I really admired her passion and refusal to be cowed by her neighbours and the nasty Lady of the Manor.
The middle of the novel was my favourite, really laugh out loud funny with brilliant insights into life in a small village. I grew up in a village where anyone who hadn't been there for fifty years was an incomer, so this felt very familiar and Fitzgerald's portrayal of the array of characters you meet was cleverly perceived. I particularly enjoyed Florence's unlikely and often comical friendships.
But the rapper/ghost? Where did that come from? I thought it was a ploy to get Florence out of her shop, I did not expect a supernatural element to the story.
Maybe because I have my own dream of success that I felt so deeply for Florence. I wanted her to do well, to beat the odds, to get her happily ever after. Half way through the book I completely believed it was possible.
Things deteriorated rapidly and my heart broke as her life fell apart. The last line is maybe one of the saddest I've ever read. I won't share it as it gives the whole plot away but even now I feel really sad when I remember it.
By the end I was definitely in need of cake. Florence visited an old recluse and he gave her tea and fruit cake, so it was the perfect excuse to try out a recipe for Christmas.
I decided to try a Chocolate Cherry Christmas Cake from Good Housekeeping since I love chocolate, cherries and cake. The recipe makes a very dark, rich fruit cake, moist. I normally prefer lighter Christmas cakes in general, but this made a good change. I couldn't really taste the chocolate as it blended in but the sharp sour cherries provided a really nice tang. There's lots of fruit (cherries, of course!) and it was delicious with a slice of Wensleydale cheese - my Yorkshire roots showing.
Even better, it's a gluten free cake and as with so many recipes now you wouldn't know it. If you're looking for a good gluten free, rich Christmas Cake I'd definitely recommend it.
I won the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition. My novel, The Box, is going to be published on 25th July 2019, by Orion