I have some unbelievable news: my novel has been longlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition!!
(Can you believe it?! Nope, me neither.)
Here’s what happened…
I was at home last Tuesday, when the phone rang. ‘Another blooming sales call,’ I thought to myself. I sniffed dismissively and ignored the message the caller left, until I heard two strangely familiar words; “Chicken House.”
I sat bolt upright. Hold a sec. Did they just say ‘Chicken House’?
I raced to the phone and replayed the message. Yup, it was someone from Chicken House publishing, asking me to phone them back.
I sprinted to my computer and checked the phone number they left against the one listed on the Chicken House website. Yes, definitely the same number.
‘OK, OK, don’t get excited,’ I told myself. ‘There’s a simple explanation for this. Something must have gone wrong with the competition I entered last year and they’re phoning to let me know.’ (Yup, like they’d phone everyone individually.)
‘No, stupid idea. OK, maybe they’re phoning to say I haven’t made the longlist but they think my novel has potential. Ah, that’s nice of them.’ (Seriously, this is the logic of my brain.)
‘OK, get a grip. Just phone them back and find out.’
I dialled the number and was put straight through to a lady who uttered a single, wondrous sentence, “Congratulations, I have wonderful news; your novel has been longlisted!”
[Silence whilst my brain digested this information and did a double backflip.]
Me: “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.”
After a while, I thought I ought to say something vaguely intelligble. So I managed, “Are you sure you’ve got the right person?”
They had. They were definite. I had been longlisted, along with 15 other people. FIFTEEN!
I thanked the lady profusely and put the phone down.
I sat on the stairs and stared into space.
“I don’t believe it!” I said out loud to the empty room.
Then I burst into tears.
After bawling my eyes out for 30 minutes, I pulled myself together and made a plan:
1) Drive round to mum’s to tell her the good news
2) Buy a bottle of champagne to crack open the second J gets home
Here is the champagne:
It cost £26.50, which made my eyes water (again). But then again, how often do you get told your very first novel has been longlisted by Chicken House publishing (which, by the way, is directed by Barry Cunningham, who famously discovered JK Rowling)?
I handed over the cashola.
Two hours later, I was clinking glasses with J and fretting that it was all some sort of elaborate hoax or, worse, they had got the novels mixed up and phoned the wrong person.
J told me I was stark raving mad.
Fair point. Still, it was only when the official longlist was published on Friday morning, that I finally relaxed. Here it is: Times/Chicken House Longlist 2017
The shortlist will be announced at the end of April and the winner will be announced in May/June. Whatever happens, I am utterly gobsmacked to have got this far.
I have a quote hanging on my bathroom wall:
Every morning, when I step out of the shower, I read this quote and wonder when the amazing thing will happen, and what it will be.
It seems I have my answer!