I’m up for an award!
On Thursday, at the RNA Summer party, the winner of the Joan Hessayon Award will be announced. If you want to know all about the award, you can visit here, but the short version is that the shortlist is made up of books that have been through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and have subsequently been published.
I sent my manuscript of what is now called “Blind-Date Marriage” to the NWS last year. It was my second attempt at a novel and the first one I felt was truly finished to a standard I was happy with. I needed feedback. Before that the only person to have read my work was my husband (I made him check for plot holes and loose ends).
What’s an imagination for, if not to allow you to accept the Oscar for Best Actress or pirouette across the stage of the Royal Opera House? So, I day-dreamed that I would send it off and everyone would swoon over it and insist on sending it to a publisher right away. In reality (I do live there some of the time – think holiday home, rather than permanent residence), I was just hoping for a not-too-awful critique. You know the kind of thing: blah blah blah…bit of potential…blah blah blah…writing doesn’t stink too badly…
When I got an email from the scheme organiser, Nicola Cornick, to tell me the first reader had really liked it and it had gone for a second read, I was gobsmacked. Over the next few days I was known to yell: “I DON’T STINK!” whenever there was an unfilled silence.
Then things really snowballed out of control. The second reader liked it too. (People who knew what they were talking about said nice things about my writing and gave useful criticism!) So the daydream became reality – the NWS sent the manuscript off to Mills & Boon and not long afterwards I got a call from an editor to say they wanted to buy the book.
I was equally overjoyed and terrified. I am the ultimate planner. I don’t just not leap before I look, I measure the size of the obstacle, arrange medical insurance, spend 6 months training, and then I might, just might, consider letting my feet leave the ground. I had planned on getting published (just as every serious writer does), but I hadn’t expect it to happen so soon. Not that I’m complaining! I just had to do a bit of mental rearranging to get my head round it.
And now I’m trying to arrange my head to accommodate the fact that I’m up for an award. Thankfully, I spend so much of my time in la-la land, I have a useful defence mechanism against stressful situations – I never believe they are actually happening, thus the nerves don’t kick in too badly. (I remember the morning of my wedding day, standing in a large white dress thinking, “It’s not really me getting married today, is it?”).
Now, I’m just thrilled to be on the list. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s one of my daydreams that has somehow leaked into the real world. I haven’t read any of the other books on the shortlist yet, but a couple were on the long list for the Romantic Novel of the Year this year, so I will not be adapting my imaginary Oscar acceptance speech for use on Thursday. I don't think I will be needing it.
But then again, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last year, it’s that sometimes the unexpected happens…