By Guest Contributor, Ann Kronbergs
When a friend told me late last year about the Good Housekeeping 2012 Novel Competition, I really wondered whether 5000 words of my first chapter and the whole-novel synopsis would be worth the paper they were printed on, let alone the cost of the A4 envelope and postage.
I should explain that, in May 2011, this same friend and I had set each other a challenge to get on and write those novels we still felt we had in us.
Motivated by attending the Charleston Literary Festival in Sussex and hearing talks from a variety of writers including Joanna Troloppe, Esther Freud and Edward St Aubin, we both made a start. On a monthly basis we emailed drafts to each other for comment. Jobs and life frequently sapped energy and resolve, but nevertheless the GH competition helped to impose a professional deadline which had to be met in late March. Maybe the Gods were smiling when I queued in Lymington Post Office to get the envelope weighed and posted off.
That seemed a sort of conclusion to the fitful writing activity which had preoccupied me for several months. At work I had a sort of end of year review which started me thinking about my career (such as it is), living in Belgium, life, love and the universe etc., etc. Maybe now was the right time to start job hunting with attitude: surf those websites, apply for those jobs, claim that you really, really want to become a pillar of that Academy school with funding from three local supermarkets.
Just as I was about to download an application for the said job in late April, I checked my emails and found the following message from the Features Editor at Good Housekeeping:
Thank you so much for entering the Good Housekeeping Novel competition. Our judges met last week and I am happy to tell you that, while you didn’t make the top four, we have singled out Diamond Edelweiss as highly commended…
We received over 7,000 entries so to have reached the top 10 is no mean feat…
My world turned upside down: a story that had started out as a cloud of confused thought and impulses less than a year ago had been read by a panel of literary experts, including the novelist Kate Moss. It had not gone in the slush pile.
I could not believe it.
Who should I tell? My long-suffering husband and children, of course. My wonderful friend who fuelled me with hope in the first place? Certainly. Work colleagues? Some, perhaps. But what did this say about me? Suddenly I’m a struggling writer where before I was a reasonably together fellow teacher. Surely this could be professionally damaging?
I’m back at the word processor now as I sit here in France on a cool day in mid summer, trying to up the daily word count and complete the work. Open in front of me is the double-page spread from Good Housekeeping where in rather small font on the bottom right is the title of my work and my name in print.
To see the extract chosen for the Good Housekeeping website, and to view the other finalists, click here.
A source of hope for me and other struggling wordsmiths maybe? You just have to keep connecting one word to the next. Only about 60,000 more to go.