Thursday, 18 February 2016
It's All About The Story at Choc Lit
I've been known to hang around Choc Lit's hot-pink stand at the London Book Fair in the past, trying hard not to look like a crazed fan. What I love about their submission process, is that submitted manuscripts are read by genuine readers and they only publish books their readers want to see in print. What better recommendation is there than that?
Choc Lit was established in 2009 and I've seen them grown into a highly respected independent publisher of quality women’s romantic fiction. They've won eleven awards, including the 2012 and 2013 Publisher of the Year and the 2012 Romantic Novel of the Year. Their books are available as ebooks and paperbacks and are distributed world-wide.
Last Monday I was sitting in bed at the end of a busy day, scrolling through my twitter notifications. I was confused to see lots of tweets congratulating me along with several other writers. After a little investigating, I discovered that I'd been shortlisted for Choc Lit's Search for a Star competition. Who'd have thought it? I shrieked for my husband to come out of the bathroom. My brave hero came out clutching a fist of scrunched up tissue thinking I'd seen a spider, because I tend to shriek when I see one. Who doesn't? Okay, lots of people, but I do.
My writing story began eight years ago when my three children became more independent and I discovered that I had more time to devote to my passion of storytelling. I soon realised that an imagination wasn't quite enough. I needed to learn the craft of novel writing.
I joined Nottingham Writers' Studio and an off-shoot fiction group attached to the studio. Here a small group of writers critique each other's work every month. I know my writing and my editing has benefitted hugely from these meetings. Slowly my first novel began to develop. I would urge new writers to join a group in their area. As well as a great social scene with like-minded people, there's also so much to learn from speakers and workshops. I also took the opportunity of attending writing masterclasses in Nottingham, London and at local libraries. I read constantly, entered competitions, visited both local and London book fairs and began this blog. However, nothing beats shutting myself in my writing room in the garden (a present for a special anniversary from my husband) and having imaginary conversations with my characters. It's a sanctuary of peace and quiet.
My writing room.
My writing gradually improved over the years and to my delight and surprise, I began to win local competitions. I joined the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme and had my manuscript professionally critiqued. With revisions made, I entered another competition, this time a national one where writers were asked to submit the first chapter of an unpublished novel. To coin a phrase, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I discovered I'd won with the first chapter of Lies and Linguine, my first novel. Since then I've written another contemporary novel set in London and also one telling the story of a farmer's daughter living in a small village in France, during World War 2. (Of course there is a love interest threaded throughout the story despite the subject matter.) At the moment I'm writing my fourth book, also during in World War 2 but this time in occupied Paris.
In November 2015 my third book, All Is Fair, was shortlisted for the Love Stories 2015 New Talent Award held in London, by the Festival Of Romance. I didn't win, but wow, what a wonderful day out I had at Jewell, Piccadilly, with prosecco flowing and cup cakes laid out on the tables. I met several authors I'd spoken to on twitter and what a lovely bunch of ladies they were.
There's no doubt that rejections are hard to take and like many writers, I sometimes wonder if I'm good enough. Doubt has a habit of creeping up unexpectedly before I remind myself that I love the actual process of writing books. Whether or not I'm ever published, I know I'll continue telling stories because it's my favourite thing in the world to do.
A speaker once said at Earl's Court, that every writer must take a turn in the cold shower of rejection. I'd like to thank all the team at Choc Lit and their readers for turning the thermostat up a notch for me.