Saturday, 20 August 2016

London Calling


Another quick interruption to the #AtoZofWriting series. Don't worry, I haven't abandoned it, but for the minute I have some proper news to share...

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know that I was lucky enough to be shortlisted in a competition held by Writing Magazine and Just Write. I'm assuming you already know about Writing Magazine,  but you might not have heard of Just Write before. They're a team of editors and publishers working within the John Murray imprint that's part of Hodder & Stoughton, and they're responsible for the 20 or so creative writing books published in the "Teach Yourself" series.

I saw the competition via a full-page ad in Writing Magazine. It caught my attention straightaway because although the overall winner's prize was  pretty impressive (feedback on your work from the editorial team at Hodder), the reward for reaching the shortlist was almost as valuable - the chance to meet editors, publishers, and published authors at the reception evening where the winner would be announced. I sent a off a story and, not really expecting to get anywhere, more or less forgot about it immediately afterwards.

I did, in fact, manage to forget about it so comprehensively that when I received an email from Jonathan Telfer, editor of Writing Magazine, telling me I'd reached the shortlist, I genuinely had no idea which story I'd sent until I checked my competition tracker spreadsheet. So it was definitely a nice surprise!

The next bit was the tricky part - keeping quiet about it for a couple of weeks until the shortlist was announced in the next issue of the magazine. But soon enough the magazine hit the newsstands and I could let people know, and also get my first look at my fellow shortlistees. I recognised Sally Jenkins from her blog and from the Talkback website, but the other four were new names to me.

The shortlist

So that was a few weeks ago. Fast-forward to Thursday afternoon, and I was travelling down to London to find out what this reception party was all about - and, of course, discover which one of us had won. The Hodder building is slap bang in the middle of the city, on the north bank of the Thames. I arrived uncharacteristically early, and on my way to the Hodder building I bumped into Emma Myatt, another shortlisted writer. Soon we were joined by the other four and whisked up to the Hodder and Stoughton offices, presented with some very fine goody bags, and subjected to a mercifully brief interview about our writing. This was on camera, and I discovered I really need to work on my technique - unsure whether to look directly at the camera, at the interviewer, or just, y'know, elsewhere, I opted for a mix of all three and will probably look like I'm watching a moth flying around the room. Ah, well.

Strong contender for the goodiest of goody bags...

Once our interrogations interviews were out of the way, we headed up to the stunning rooftop café and garden terrace for some fizz and photos while we chatted to editors, publishers, people from Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, and several published authors. For me, this was the part that seemed the most surreal - standing there sipping sparkling wine on a sunny London rooftop, talking to people with actual proper jobs in the publishing industry who'd read our work and had very encouraging things to say about it. I'm sure I speak for all six of us when I say this was an unforgettable experience and one that'll keep our levels of inspiration topped up for a long time to come.


The wonderful rooftop garden

Six very happy writers

Meanwhile, back in the café, the decorations were out and the tables were groaning beneath the weight of yet more goody bags, books, drinks, snacks...

...and cakes!

After a couple of brief speeches by two Jonathans - chief editors at Just Write and Writing Magazine respectively - it was time for the moment of truth. The envelope was opened and the name of the winner was read out. And it was... Emma Myatt! I know it's the done thing to say that one doesn't mind losing out to somebody else in these circumstances,  but in this instance it's genuinely true. After spending the afternoon with the other five shortlisters, I'd have been truly happy to see any one of them bag that prize.

As something of a consolation, the organisers had arranged for all six stories to be printed in a limited-edition book. Emma was given a genuinely unique hardback edition, and the rest of us collected a few paperback versions each. It was a added thrill in an already amazing day, as naturally the six of us had discussed our stories and we were all itching to find out what everybody else had written. I'm really looking forward to reading them all.

The anthology

If you're a writer reading this and wishing you'd entered the competition,  or you did enter but didn't reach the final six, the good news is that Writing Magazine will be running it again in the future. Keep an eye on the magazine for details and, who knows, next time it could be you sipping champagne on that rooftop terrace!


10 comments:

sally-jenkins.com said...

It was a great occasion wasn't it, Dan? I'm still buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm. And I totally agree about your sentiment of not minding losing the winner's spot to someone else - I felt like I was a winner just being there and signing all those autographs in copies of the anthology!

Susan A Eames said...

I really enjoyed reading this post, Dan. Of course, I already knew about you and Sally being short-listers, but it was great to read the details of your day. Congratulations and I'll definitely keep an eye out for the comp next year! :)

Susan at
Travel, Fiction and Photos

Paul said...

Congratulations, Dan! It's inspiring to read about how well you're doing! I love that you provide these windows into the process as well! Keep them coming (ie keep achieving!) :)

Lindsay said...

It sounds a lovely day - after all cakes and sunny rooftop gardens is a winner. Sounds as if you were all winners to me, so once again , congratulations.

Dan Purdue said...

Thanks, everybody. I think I've finally managed to get my feet back onto solid ground after all the fun of Thursday evening!

The whole event has further convinced me of the value of entering competitions. Sure, sometimes it can be a disheartening, demoralising process where your favourite stories sink without trace. But, every once in a while, something truly wonderful can happen...

Chloe said...

Ah, sounds amazing! Playing at being a real writer can make you realise that you are one! Very well-deserved, Dan - you know I think you're a great writer. Glad you had such a good time.

Teresa Stenson said...

So happy for you, Dan. What a wonderful occasion. Thanks for sharing the behind the scenes account here, I can almost feel the fizz. Champagne rooftop hey? As long as it's not a champagne table :-)

Dan Purdue said...

Many thanks, Chloe and Teresa. I'm hoping it won't be too long before I bump into one or both of you at one of these literary shindigs!

Teresa Stenson said...

I just can't believe it hasn't happened already.

logicus.tracticus said...

well done..