Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Times and Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition

I am blowing a trumpet today, and it is my very own. Not the easiest instrument to play, and it probably sounds pretty repulsive, but sometimes the occasion warrants a bit of a parp.

Today I found out that my novel The Tarney Scalp has been longlisted for The Times & ChickenHouse Children’s Fiction Competition. (There’s a short excerpt available under the ‘novel’ tab at the top of this blog.)

The longlist of 16 novels is whittled down from 2,000 or more apparently, so I feel I’ve already won a great prize. The fact that a Chicken House editor now has no choice but to read the manuscript is an added bonus!

Excerpts from all the longlisted novels will be appearing in The Times Online sometime soon, which is an exciting opportunity in itself. I’ve no idea how many people read The Times’ books section, but it’s got to be good exposure.

I’ve tried to look back and evaluate how I got to this point, having been scribbling away for years without any real belief that anyone would take any notice.

  • Being a regular member of the Brick Lane Writers’ Group has definitely been a factor, and I’d recommend writers’ groups to anyone who wants to gain momentum as well as oodles of feedback.
  • Going on residential writing courses or retreats (with Ty Newydd and Arvon) has also helped, providing motivation, a sense of a community of writers, and of course more invaluable feedback from professionals.
  • I have only just begun sending my work out to journals and competitions, beginning in September this year, and a series of small successes in that regard has made me feel that I am on the right track and writing is not futile. It’s reassuring to know that even if not everything you write is great, sometimes you hit the spot and that is enough. Sending something off with a view to publication really helps to crystallise your own view of the work, especially when you have to pay to enter a competition. After all, you only want your best words to be read by editors and potential audiences.

Having said all that, I have found it a strange experience having stories published. Perhaps it is the control freak in me, panicking at the idea that I cannot influence who reads them and what they might think about my writing. Suddenly something you have nurtured is cut loose, and has a life outside of your own domain. It brings self-doubt to the surface as much as it does any sense of pride or achievement. Perhaps that is just the curse of creativity though, and I am always suspicious of people who reveal no self-doubt at all. How else do we improve except by believing we could do better?

So, back to that draft of my next novel then...


  1. Huge congratulations - go have a big fizzy drink.

    And I like the new pages on the blog - keep meaning to do that on mine, now you've spurred me on.