Would you Adam and Eve it? I’m the CWIP Prize 2020 Unpublished winner!

It’s been a funny old year.

I’m very happy

Funny haha? Absolutely not. And I reckon everyone could do with a bit of a giggle right about now, because really, otherwise we’ll all go completely cuckoo. Cue Helen Lederer and team CWIP, who have been on hand almost the whole of lockdown, championing female comedy writing and getting the word out there that women are funny, and write books, and that you should absolutely read them!

Not only that, they’re supporting new writers too. And I am delighted to say that I’m the astonished, proud, excited, emotional winner of the Unpublished Comedy Women in Print Award 2020, which is not only an amazing accolade in its own right, it also means a book deal with Harper Collins! I’m going to be a PUBLISHED AUTHOR!

I don’t know any more than that at the moment, except that I’m pretty sure it’s going to be lots of work and a steep learning curve, but I’m thrilled to be getting into print and looking forward to the next part of the journey. It’s a truly incredible feeling, to think that this time next year I will have a book of my own on the shelf behind me.

And now some thank yous… Thank you to Kate at Harper Collins and all the judges for the CWIP Prize for picking me and believing in me and thank you to Davinia for being a super agent and eagle-eye editor because I would not have got this far without you. The best of luck and love to all my fellow writers who were longlisted and shortlisted. And finally, thank you especially to Helen Lederer, for creating this platform for new comedy female writers in the first place. I hope we get to party like it’s absolutely NOT 2020 eventually!

Shortlisted! #CWIP

It’s been a whirlwind of a day. I’ve lurched from the challenging and not entirely voluntary world of homeschooling a Year 5 to luxuriating in the PR frenzy that accompanied today’s amazing news that I’d reached the shortlist for the Comedy Women in Print Prize! I’m so amazed to be here and can’t quite believe I didn’t change my name to something a bit zingier before I entered my manuscript! But here I am – here it is – and now the long wait until September begins to find out if I made it to the winner’s podium. But even without scooping a prize, I’m determined to enjoy every second of the next few months – and even more determined to get the book over the line and into a publisher’s hands at last. I’m so excited and happy! And to have that feeling during day 3,457 of lockdown  is pretty magical, let me tell you.

CWIP Unpublished Shortlist Instagram

Comedy Women in Print

More on this when my feet touch the ground again… but my novel is longlisted for the 2020 Comedy Women in Print Prize and I’m so excited! All (and I mean ALL) those hours, edits, angsty hair-tearing moments are adding up to finally getting some traction and with some super company too.

I have to wait until June to find out if I’ve made it to the shortlist, but even if I haven’t this is such an amazing thing to happen!

https://www.comedywomeninprint.co.uk/2020-unpublished-authors-longlist

Unpublished Longlist (Twitter)

A New Chapter

I don’t normally make resolutions but I’ll admit, 2019 has not been a prolific year and it might be time to start thinking about putting one or two out there. I look back with a certain amount of shame at the lack of new writing I’ve produced this year. I’ve been preoccupied, that’s true: In January I’d attracted an agent but wasn’t sure they were right for me; by March I’d decided to self publish; by May, I had found ‘the one’ and signed with her, but the ink wasn’t dry until July. Then followed another edit over the summer before my manuscript finally went out on submission at the end of September. A couple of (hugely positive) rejections later and suddenly it is Christmas again. In between times, I’ve had a couple of creative spurts and managed to pump out the first quarter fifth of a new novel, but mainly I’ve been focused on my copyediting business and since my brief period of productivity at the start of November, have managed to studiously ignore the first draft sat waiting patiently for me to finish it.

The start of another new year feels like the time to change all that. And I need to change if I want to be successful. I’ve got an editor who wants to see my next book even though this one wasn’t right for them. I’ve got an agent who believes in me and wants to get more of my work out there as quickly as possible. I’ve got the little voice in my head wondering if I really got a Masters degree in writing so I could spot typos in business reports, or whether I got it so I could write books and get published. The answer is obvious, and you’d think I’d be champing at the bit, but procrastination (and not a small amount of fear) surrounds me like a thick, cloying fog. It’s a little bit annoying, if I’m honest. I’ve never been a great completer-finisher but I thought I’d broken the cycle when I finished my first novel. I realise now that finishing the first book wasn’t the end, it was only the end of the beginning. And, if I’m serious about being an author, I have to treat the job seriously, believe that I can do it and, above all other things, make time for it.

I’ve been time-poor this year – or rather, I’ve been extremely poor at managing my time. It’s meant a lot of things have suffered, not just my writing. I’ve found myself increasingly running from pillar to post, always a few beats behind where I should be. It’s taken its toll on my sleeping, my mood, my creativity, my family and my home, and I know (because my self-conscious is screaming at me) that it’s time to put the brakes on and figure out a new strategy.

I cannot do it all. I cannot have it all. That was 2019: working from dawn til dusk and not really accomplishing anything very much. And I’ll admit, it’s not been a memorable or particularly enjoyable year from that perspective. Next year, I need to figure out how to utilise my time best so that I’m not sacrificing things I love for things I have to do, and so that I still have white space too. And in terms of writing, I’m going to have to be stricter and smarter about it than before, and bed down and put the work in without taking the joy away from this wonderful and precious thing I do.

My son is a extraordinarily talented musician but, as I’m fond of reminding him, he got extraordinary through talent, self belief and hard work. You can’t succeed at anything without working harder and smarter. But it needs to feel fun too. 2020 needs to bring about a bit of self discipline and a lot of positivity and change, in order to have a more creative, productive writing year and get out of the bad writing habits I’ve formed in 2019 (the principal one being not writing). But it also needs to be fun.

So that’s my resolution for 2020. Write harder, write smarter and have fun doing it. (And with a bit of luck, land a publishing deal). Happy New Year! Fx

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Sliding Doors

Fuck, fuck fuckitty fuck. I have just made a decision that could be the best or worst thing to ever happen to my writing career. Yes, people: I turned down an agent’s offer to represent.

I know. WHAT THE HELL AM I THINKING?

As a first time author, it’s safe to assume I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. But surely everyone knows, if you get an offer, even if it’s just digital and not quite what you were hoping for, you take it, grab it, hang onto it with both hands and say thank you A LOT. Right?

Wrong, apparently. Although, as you may be able to tell, I have been asking myself why that might be for several minutes now; in fact if I’m being totally honest, I’ve been asking myself the question for the entire five days it took to press ‘send’ on the email. I’m still wondering if I did the right thing and I’ve spent the past five minutes since I sent it writing ‘fuck’ a lot on my blog, so I think you get the gist of my angst/regret/torturous self pity.

But was it the bad decision I make it out to be? Setting aside my affection for dramatic, attention seeking first paragraphs, things are, of course, much better than they appear. The agent I pitched to at the LBF is also interested in the book, says she enjoyed it and it’s right up her street. What a position to be in! I’m liked by two agents! This should be the bit where my ego takes me out to dinner and thanks me for getting stroked so much. I’ve got off the slush pile twice, which is no mean feat. Yay me!

So why the torture? Why the angst? Because as yet, the other agent isn’t offering representation. They want me to make changes – pretty major ones – in order to make the book something they can take to publishers, and to make it something which could go the distance and become a series of books rather than just the one. Which seems like sensible feedback. I’m not scared to take advice from people that know what they are doing, because, let’s face it, I sure as hell don’t. In fact, during our call, I agreed with her 100% about the work that needed to be done; I came away feeing hugely positive about making the changes, and that it could only make the book (and me) better. And as the agent put it, ‘I wouldn’t be spending this time talking to you if I didn’t think it was worth it.’ So how could I possibly be feeling bad after that?

I knew what I had to do. An agent that offered editorial input was the right choice, no matter the end result. Right? Probably. Other people said so. It seemed like something you would read online if you googled it incessantly until you found the answer you were looking for. So, after a mere five days of churning anxiety-riddled thinking on the subject, I turned down the other agent.

Now, of course, I have the fear. Fear that I picked the wrong horse to back. That I should have taken the offer because I might never get another one. But mainly, the utterly paralysing fear that I won’t be able to deliver on what is required to take it to the next level. That I’m not good enough.

Strange fact coming from a writer: I’ve never felt like I’m not good enough. Most writers feel the opposite, but I think I either have a massive ego or I’m completely unaware of my own limitations, or both. However, right now, self doubt is all over me like a rash. And God, it’s horrible. Crippling. I start to think about the changes I need to make and suddenly I’m completely lacking in the confidence that I can. What if my new world building is crap and the agent doesn’t like it? What if I write a load of rubbish in response to their feedback, that isn’t want they wanted at all? I guess the answer is, they won’t offer to represent me. And that’s where that horrid little voice in my head suggests I should have taken the sure-fire offer in the first place and not let the temptation of bigger and better things (or being published in print, as it’s known in the real world) get the better of me.

Of course, once I’ve finished this self-indulgent wallow-blog I just need to get on and write. See what happens. Focus. Use every bit of the toolkit I’ve slowly built up over the past couple of years to make the book better than it was before. Hope that I paid enough attention to the agent’s feedback; that I can do enough to get me over the line. And if I can’t, know that the book will be better anyway, for the extra thought that has gone into it.

I never realised at the time that the hard work and perseverance it took to write 80,000 words was the easy bit. I look forward to when I can start writing the second book and think, gosh, that will be so nice, to just get back to writing again instead of having to think. What a journey this is, what an experience to embrace. Even if it all comes to nothing, it will never be nothing. I do hope I made the right decision. But whether I did or not, it’s time to own it. #amwriting

The one about winning.

Last month, I wrote about failure at some length on my business blog. I’m a big fan of failure. HUGE fan. I’ve done a lot of improv comedy in the past five years and it’s not something you can enjoy or get good at without accepting that you’re going to have some unfeasibly bad moments, usually in front of a lot of people. When I teach, I teach that failure is good, and I believe it. I get itchy when I see stuff like this, especially when it’s attached to a ‘Motivational Monday’ hashtag:Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 09.11.25

because I don’t find it the least bit motivational, and don’t get how anyone else could either. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? Not much, I imagine.

Failure is how we learn. It’s a way for us to understand how we can be better. If you never take a risk, if everything in life is handed to you on a silver platter, wanting, or needing success – striving for it in every possible way – would become unnecessary. Everything we said or did would be ‘safe’, and consequently, we’d probably say or do very little. A world where you couldn’t fail would be a very boring world indeed.

There are days, though, I think that boring might be quite nice. Days like yesterday, where I just seemed to fail over and over again, culminating in the fastest, most cut throat book rejection I’ve had to date. And I’m going to be honest and say that on top of an already shitty day, it hit me really hard.

Let’s get this into perspective: the sort of stuff I’m talking about isn’t the huge crushing blows of a shark body-slamming me. It was more like jack frost nibbling at my toes. I’m super aware there are people with far bigger problems. But yesterday, for whatever reason, my failures got to me. They made me wonder whether I’ll ever achieve anything past the level of mediocre, and getting past that to more familiar ‘fuck ’em’ territory has been unusually difficult. ‘I’m usually much better than this’, I think, and realise I’m failing at failing now, too.

But the life coach in my head (hey there, tough lady) keeps on telling me none of it’s worth getting upset over, that things will be better for finding the right people and paths to tread and these ‘failures’ were just things that weren’t meant to be. And whereas yesterday I was trying not to cry with frustration, today I am busy getting over myself and getting back to business. It’s not nearly the end of the world, and there are plenty more days to fill with successes and failures of all shapes and sizes. And that, in itself, sounds like winning.