Last year, when Jill Doyle invited me to contribute to her Five on Friday, in answer to the question, ‘Tell us 5 things you’d like to do or achieve’, I said, ‘Win a book prize. An unlikely dream, but dreaming is part and parcel of being a writer.’ My tongue was very much in my cheek. The dreaming was what mattered; I carried on, dreaming & being a writer.
And then this happened. My third book, Wild Spinning Girls, has been shortlisted for the Literature Wales Book of the Year/ Rhys Davies Fiction Award.
I didn’t cry or squeal or do much of anything to be honest. I simply stared at the email, read it again, in case I’d missed the bit about it not meaning me & it was just information. It did mean me though – me & my book & my publisher, Honno. Me & eleven other authors in four categories. (We were all sworn to secrecy for what felt like thirty-nine years, until the announcement on the radio.) And then it sank in: the fact that Literature Wales had chosen my book as one of the twelve.
Once I knew I was shortlisted alongside another Honno author, Judith Barrow, it became a double reason for celebration. We are both women of a certain age who are friends. We have been nurtured by our amazing publisher & we are as happy for them as we are for one another.
Honno deserve this. They are the UK’s longest standing independent feminist press. They do amazing things, for their writers penning contemporary literature in a variety of genres; for the lost women’s voices from the past. And for their readers who look for quality books published to the highest standard.
When I was first published, that was the dream come true. I was so much older than most people who secure their first publishing deal & I thought it was enough. Box ticked, job done. Two more books later, to be shortlisted for this prestigious award is another layer of validation. It says, I’m good enough. It means I can, hopefully, finally shoo Imposter Syndrome out of the door & write more stories that count.
Or, perhaps not. Writing is a random business – writers are hostages to all kinds of fortune & there is something to be said for the maxim, we are only as good as our last book. In the moment, we take the brickbats (Oh look, dear reader, a 1* review!) & the bouquets (5*****s!) We write & write some more & hope to be published again.
And sometimes, we get shortlisted for an award.
This is my first time; it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in my five years as a published writer. But ultimately, it’s the recognition that counts – for me, for my sister author & above all, for our wonderful publisher.
As a girl, I quite enjoyed sport. I played hockey, I ran quite well & liked that. But I was never brilliant & I never won anything. My daddy said, don’t worry – it isn’t about winning or being the best; it’s about enjoying yourself & being part of something. My daddy was right – it really is the taking part that counts.