BPA First Novel Award, PitchWars, and More

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

Hello! It’s past time for another horribly belated blog post. Sense a theme on this blog? But I actually do have various updates to share. Spoiler: I’m not even going to share all of the updates in one blog post, because this is overly long as is. Please visit again for more news.

Right, so onto the promised updates. Let’s start with the freshest news – the BPA First Novel Award 2020, which is an international competition for unpublished novels through the Blue Pencil Agency based out of London, UK. On a lark, I entered two manuscripts and I was thrilled to see that my most recent novel, ‘The Curation of Eamon O’Reilly’, made the longlist in July, one of twenty novels from nearly a thousand entries. I remember waking up in the middle of the night (benefits of being a natural insomniac) and checking the announcement. I had to read it twice to make sure it was real. I was excited to come so far with my latest manuscript.

I figured that was it, and I was lucky to get onto the longlist, but to my ongoing shock, it made the shortlist too, which definitely exceeded expectations. And then came the most exciting news of all — the novel came in as the Runner-Up in the BPA First Novel Award! Even though it’s been just over two weeks since that announcement, I can’t believe it. I’m thrilled to have this work recognised as one of the winners in the competition.

I feel very encouraged to keep going with this manuscript. It’s a contemporary literary novel about a seventeen-year-old genderfluid main character, Eamon O’Reilly, who runs away from home so he can live away from his alcoholic da, and be free to wear the beautiful dresses the he dreams of. As a trans person myself, interested in gender and its expression, it’s important to me to see more trans representation in adult fiction. It’s meant a lot to me to write this story. I’m still going down research rabbit holes, and I would love to be able to travel again after the pandemic to revisit places in the story, where I’ve visited or lived in the past.

Photo by Eugenio Mazzone on Unsplash

And a PitchWars update!

Well, as you’ve probably figured out, I’ve survived the angst of the PitchWars showcase last February, and the months that followed querying that novel. As it is so often in publishing, I send things out into the world. And wait. Unfortunately, much as I love this story, I haven’t received any representation for it so far. That said, I’ve gained a lot of other important things in the process.

Again, a shout-out to my amazing mentor Gwynne Jackson, who went above and beyond in mentoring me through two editing rounds in PitchWars and read and re-read additional scenes, and provided no end of support during the querying. I also gained a fabulous community in my PitchWars 2019 class, who are a great group of talented and engaging people. For anyone considering a mentorship program, I recommend it (others include Write Team Mentorship Program, WriteNow, Author Mentor Match, Madeleine Milburn Mentorship, and more) to gain insights into editing and the publishing industry. There’s also various novel writing courses available through Curtis Brown Creative and Faber Academy, etc.

I came in totally green without any creative writing courses. Some others were savvy to publishing already, or had MFAs. I think even the process of applying to a mentorship scheme is a valuable practice for querying, pulling together a tight submission package, polishing pages, and a query/cover letter, and most of all, finding a way to keep calm during the wait.

Another spoiler: publishing is a hurry-up-and-wait for 99% of us. Plus, there’s no guarantees.

There’s a lot of hard work and some luck too. Of the hundred-plus mentees from my group, some have found agents, and some are still seeking representation. Some are on submission to publishers, and are once again waiting. There’s people who have been agented before, and people who are looking for an agent for the first time on their first manuscript. Previous writing experience ranged a lot in our class, with the majority of people having written at least a couple of novel-length manuscripts. For me, the manuscript that made it into PitchWars (and on the 2019 Bath Novel Award longlist), is my fourth novel. Two are in a drawer, and one is in-progress. And the fifth is Eamon’s story, and I’m still writing.

If you’re still reading this blog post, I’m very impressed. Things I’ve learned out of all of this is that it’s important to have some kind of self-care during PitchWars and in publishing generally. It’s best to make a plan early — a plan that works for you.

There’s so many things that are out of your control in publishing: getting into a mentorship programme, placing in a contest, finding an agent, finding a publisher. The only bottom line is to keep on trying, keep on going. Sure, you need some ability, but more than anything, you need perseverance to keep going. And the discipline to learn, edit, and keep trying. That’s it. Sometimes, it’s fine to step out for a bit, take a breather. In fact, I need to do other creative things to fill the well, so to speak. Once, travel would be a way do do that too, and hopefully one day again before too long I can do that again.

For me, my big confession is that I write first for myself. I don’t do it for the external recognition of an agent or publisher (though great), because that’s outside of my control, and it’s a fiercely competitive industry.

I write because I love it, anything from poems to novel-length works and others in-between. I will always continue to write, because that’s how I relax, and how I feel most myself. I do want readers… but I also wrote fiction in secret for over twenty years, till a health challenge made me rethink things a few years ago, and I started workshopping my fiction. Yes, there’s hard days. Yes, there’s really, really hard days. But I love disappearing into fictional worlds, meeting new characters, and I hope one day I can share them with you.

Thanks for stopping by — happy writing!

Published by Hugh Blackthorne

Writer.

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