Many thanks to Grace, last year’s prose winner, for taking the time to answer my questions – I don’t often get to hear what happens with the winner’s prize money, so this lovely story is very welcome! Hopefully this inspiring Q&A willl give those still considering whether to enter the Writing Prize or not further incentive to get those submissions in. The deadline is midnight on 31st January, just 2 and a bit days away… do consider entering. Guidelines can be found here.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m 32 and I live in Manchester, where I’m a city councillor.
2. How, when and why did you first start writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember… I think my first story was about a snowman. I got my first rejection letter from a publisher when I was 9! My mom (who was the inspiration for Kat in ‘Shush’) was my first reader: as soon as I could hold a pen she bought me a diary and encouraged me to write every day.
3. How often do you write?
Sadly, despite the diary I never really got into the daily writing habit! I’m very inconsistent: I can go for months feeling as though I’ve forgotten how to write at all, then spend a week writing for hours at a time.
4. What made you decide to enter the Mother’s Milk Books Writing Prize?
I spotted the prize in Mslexia magazine’s excellent listings section! I’m a big fan of any competition where instead of cash, the entry fee is an excuse to buy a book or some stationery…
5. How did it feel when you’d heard that you’d won?
I can remember exactly where I was – checking my emails as I walked up the stairs! I’d been feeling a little down on myself as a writer because it was a while since I’d been published or placed in a competition: winning the prize made me feel as though I wasn’t completely wasting my time. Plus the very kind words from your judge helped me to identify some of the strengths in my writing. It’s really helped me towards finding my voice.
6. Can you tell us a little about your winning piece of writing?
‘Shush’ was originally written for a different competition, for which the theme was ‘Discovery’. I brainstormed that word and thought about how sometimes life’s most exciting discoveries – twenty quid when you’re broke, or anything at all when you’re six and digging in the back garden with a spoon – are things that might seem quite small to other people.
The library in ‘Shush’ is inspired by my wonderful local community library, The Place At Platt Lane in Fallowfield, so I split the prize money with them and it went towards their 85th anniversary celebration – we had a great day.
7. Any future writing plans?
At the end of last year I was lucky enough to have a novel longlisted in the Mslexia Novel Competition. I didn’t get any further in the competition, but now I have a novel draft to work with – so I’m going to spend some time hammering it into shape.
8. Any tips for writers?
If you’re like me – inconsistent, and only capable of working when a deadline looms – then enter loads of competitions! Some of them are free to enter; some of them give you great feedback; some of them you might even win – but all of them will prompt you to get something written.
You can read Grace’s winning story, ‘Shush’ here. And if you feel inspired to take part in this year’s Writing Prize (and I’d really love it if you would!) please read the full guidelines here.