The deadline for the 2019 Scottish Book Trust New Writers Awards is looming.
Here’s your friendly reminder to throw your hat in the ring…
I wrote this post during my Award year, but it’s still just as relevant, not least of all because the book I was working on, Shadowscent, has this year been published by Scholastic!
In darkest December, an e-mail popped into my inbox. It was from the Scottish Book Trust, explaining they had been trying to get in touch but couldn’t get through on my mobile number—could I give them a quick call?
One thing I’m not the best at? Picking up the phone. Or even knowing where it is at any particular time. Was it in my bag? Nope. Under the couch? Nope. Had I left it at work? Yep.
So, if I wanted to talk to the SBT without slogging through slush and sleet to my office (on my day off, to boot), I’d have to work out some kind of web call. Skype it was.
The next thing I knew, I had dial tone purring in my ear. As soon as they picked up, I explained who I was, apology on the tip of my tongue, ready to tumble out at the next breath.
‘Great to hear from you. You’ve been selected for a New Writers Award. Congratulations!’
‘Are you serious?!’ Ah crud, I’d said that out loud, hadn’t I? Inner monologue going external again. Gets me into all sorts of trouble.
There was a laugh on the other end of the line—a warm, knowing laugh that completely normalised the situation. ‘Yes. I’m serious.’
Me? Incredulity. Then a couple of shocked tears.
‘Are you alright?’
‘Yes, yes, I’m fine. Thank you. Thank you so much.’
When the call was done, I sat on the couch, numb.
You see, my application had been brutally honest. I didn’t try to convince them I was awesomer (yes, that’s totally a word) than anyone who had ever been the teensiest bit awesome. Instead, I wrote about how challenging I was finding it to transition from a short story writer to working on novel length projects. That’s why the Award meant so much. Not only had a panel of judges seen something promising in my writing, but an organisation known for making real, meaningful difference to writers’ careers had decided to invest in my development.
Why do I tell you all this? Because if my friend Cassie hadn’t hassled me to apply, not taking no for an answer, I wouldn’t be telling you this.
If you don’t have a friend like Cassie egging you on, let me take that role, right here, right now. If I could throw my hat in the ring a year ago, so can you this year. You’ve got two weeks until deadline. Totally doable. Don’t tell me it isn’t. Yeah I know you’re busy and there’s that other thing that’s really important and… hang on… I see what you did there… nice try but no cigar.
Hop to it!
Now, with that pep talk behind us, here’s some quick tips. These are written from my perspective as someone working in young adult literature, which has its own judging category, so keep that in mind. Even if that’s your area, feel free to take my thoughts with a hefty grain of salt (just watch your blood pressure, ok?):
- Read – everything you can get your hands on about the Awards, starting with the guidelines (and stick to them like those really annoying jar labels that leave half of themselves on the glass when you try to peel them off and won’t budge until you soak them in boiling water and… ahem). The SBT has published a bunch of blogs, reflections from past Award recipients, and a set of FAQs. Plus, you can write to them to ask a question if you’re still not clear. Make sure you know what’s expected, and then meet those expectations.
- Show ’em your shiniest words – submit the best thing you’ve ever written, even if it isn’t what you want to work on during the next year. Sure, I wanted to transition to novels in 2016, but none of them were in a state where they could best represent my craft. Instead I included my most recent short story (if you’re curious, you can read an extract on the SBT website, and it’s now also available in an anthology from Penguin Books). In other words, submit the work you’re most proud of, the piece that you know reflects your style and skills as they stand now—idiosyncrasies and all.
- Who are you? – Be yourself. Be excited, enthusiastic, even earnest—just make it your style of earnest. Imagine you’re a judge reading hundreds of applications. Even though the focus is primarily on the writing sample, I bet you’d appreciate an authentic story and voice in the personal statement section, yeah? There’s something in the title of that piece, after all: personal statement. How personal can you go? Stay shy of TMI, but otherwise it’s fine to show who you are. I mean, here’s the first lines of my statement…
I was 11 when I wrote my first novel—a transparent rip-off homage to David Eddings’s The Diamond Throne. It was four glorious chapters and quickly found a reputable publisher—mum even used the dot-matrix printer. Dad said he thought the substitution of Roman centurions for sword-and-sorcery knights was a stroke of budding genius…
For the record, I am not a genius. I am, as you can tell, a complete and utter nerd. I’m also someone who is incredibly grateful to be a 2016 New Writer Awardee.
And, dear reader, whether you count yourself genius or nerd or neither or both, there’s only one way to become a Scottish Book Trust New Writer in 2017.
It starts with submitting an application.
Go on, throw your hat in the ring.Tags: being brave, New Writers Awards, Scottish Book Trust, writing careers, writing life
Categorised in: On Writing
This post was written by pmfreestone