Successes at the Word Factory
The Word Factory team and our apprentices have enjoyed some exceptional writing success this year. We believe in celebrating all achievements and encouraging those around us to start writing, continue writing (even when it gets tough) and hopefully be published. Please let us know your triumphs (big and small) this year, too on Twitter, Facebook or email.
I’ve had an astonishing 2018, which I very much credit to the Word Factory apprenticeship. Work that I started with Zoe opened up a wellspring of writing that I’m hoping becomes my first novel. Earlier this spring, I signed with Clare Alexander of Aitken Alexander Associates, and this summer I was delighted to be awarded the 2018/2019 David TK Wong Fellowship at the University of East Anglia, as well as a 2018/2019 Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice Grant. I am so thrilled and up to my ears in writing, writing, and writing.
One of my most exciting writing success of 2018 was being awarded a Writers’ Bursary by Literature Wales to allow me to take time off to write. The bursary felt like a contract like the rest of my work, giving me the permission to put writing first at different intervals throughout the year. Knowing that people believe in my writing enough to support it financially also eased the self-doubt and imposter syndrome. When I applied for the bursary, I was struggling with what I wanted my short story collection to be about and it felt very fragmented. Yet, now I see it more as a cohesive body of work, maybe a form of autofiction. This year, I’ve also contributed to a graphic novel anthology by 404 Ink, titled We Shall Fight Until We Win, which celebrated 100 years of pioneering political women. I’ve also been part of a writer development scheme at Hay Festival, and speak at different panels about working class identities and global feminism at Bradford Literature Festival. I’m excited to see what more the future holds.
CURRENT APPRENTICES 2018
I was stunned when I got the email saying I had been awarded a Word Factory Apprenticeship. I chanced upon the information about the apprenticeship on Twitter about a week before the deadline, and knew it was an amazing opportunity, but a long shot. I submitted my best writing sample and an application letter that used the word “exciting” about a dozen times, because that was how I felt, excited at all its possibilities. Being an apprentice has already boosted my self-esteem and provided me with practical support and encouragement as a writer. I’m excited to be part of the Word Factory Community and to push my creative practice further.
Recently, something entirely unexpected happened: My novelette, The Birding: a Fairy Tale, published in Strange Horizons last year, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. I’m stunned. Writing is such a personal and intimate process and to find that something I wrote resonated with other people is truly humbling.
I’m delighted to say I’ve had two pieces published recently. The first is a short story, Pink and Blue, which is in the debut issue of The Good Journal, edited by Nikesh Shukla. The second, is a piece of non-fiction/ personal writing that I submitted to a magazine called sister-hood, which publishes the diverse stories of women of Muslim heritage. The piece is about how I became an announcer for Channel 4.
The most exciting success for me this year has definitely been winning the Word Factory/New Writing North apprenticeship award. Then, the week that was announced, I won the Reflex Flash Fiction competition (spring 2018), with my story, My Father Comforts Me in the Form of Birds. This was bittersweet: the 360-word flash is about grieving for my dad, who died last December. But the response from readers has been so moving and uplifting. It’s the most personal piece I’ve written so far, and it’s taught me something about taking the risk and digging more deeply in my writing. Dad would have been very proud – and delighted about the £1,000 prize.
My news for 2018 is that finally, after many years of work, I sent my novel out on submission to agents and publishers. I’m delighted to say that The Sentence sold for six figures and will be published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson in June 2019 (UK & Commonwealth) and by Doubleday in spring 2020 (USA & Canada). Writing is definitely a labour of love and it requires such dedication and investment. For me, sending my book out into the world was absolutely terrifying! However, I couldn’t be more elated and grateful to be where I am now.
WORD FACTORY TEAM
This year, my poetry pamphlet Black and Blue (Melos Press) sold out and has gone into a reprint this month; I had a short prose-poem published in Cornish Short Stories (History Press). I will have a new long poem published by the Guillemot Press in 2019. In terms of short stories: in 2019, I have a story appearing in High Spirits: A Round of Drinking Stories (Valley Press). I also plan to start a creative writing PhD focussing on poetry at Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2019.
I have short stories commissioned by Faber for Being Various: New Irish Short Stories, for Common People the Kit de Waal working class voices anthology, by BBC Radio for 14-18 project and Sky Arts TV for Postcards from the Future. I’ve judged the International Dylan Thomas Prize, Sean O’Faolain Prize and currently the Edge Hill Prize. I’m current fiction editor for Southward Journal and started reviewing and interview for The Irish Times.
I’ve been working on my first novel for over a year and was delighted when, earlier this year, the opening page and synopsis earned me a place as a top-five finalist in the Adventures in Fiction Spotlight First Novel competition. This was a wonderful boost. The opening chapters of the same novel were also longlisted for the Retreat West First Chapter competition; and most recently, shortlisted for the 2018 PENfro Book Festival’s First Chapter Competition and shortlisted for the 2018 Impress Prize for New Writers.
Before a deluge of rejections, I was fortunate to be long-listed for the Reflex Flash Fiction competition, as well as the Bath Short Story Award. Earlier in the year, I had a flash fiction piece picked up by the wonderful Ellipsis Zine and won the FWS Vernal Equinox Flash Fiction Award, which is my first winning piece of writing, so a special moment. Little injections of good news like this really help when a flood of pieces come back unloved. The occasional validation does a lot to soothe the disappointment of work that doesn’t find a home.