As a writer, like many, who does not have the luxury of being able to write full-time, I try to enter as many competitions as I can on a regular basis. Over the years, some publishers/ competitions have become well-known to me and I enter them regularly. One such publisher who I have come to know well and have encouraged me to keep writing and entering my work, is Cinnamon Press. Based in Gwynedd, Cinnamon Press is one of many small and very independent publishers. They regularly run competitions for short stories, poetry and novel/novella entries. But most importantly, they encourage new writers. I have had several pieces of work longlisted with Cinnamon Press and the encouragement is invaluable. In 2007 Cinnamon Press longlisted my short story The Last Goodbye, a tale of a mother’s fight to recover from the loss of her child to cancer. To see my name on the list of the final 20 writers, was an overwhelming feeling as it made me feel like I am a good enough writer to be considered for publication and that my work was finally getting recognised outside of the comfort of my degree course. From here, I continued to write, but began to develop an idea for a novella. Not my first I might add, but the first that I was really proud of. This was longlisted in 2009 with Cinnamon Press and I was consequently invited to attend one of the courses that the publisher runs for developing writers. Unfortunately I was unable to go at the time. But this second act of encouragement drove me on to continue with my writing and in 2010 I was once again longlisted with Cinnamon Press for my new Novel, which is as yet untitled but now in the final editing stages.
Despite my not reaching the short list or even better, getting a publication deal, this slight success has allowed me to believe I can achieve publication and has made me work harder to produce a good manuscript and reach what I ultimately want to achieve. I hope one day to get further than the final 20 and make it to the final 1! But for now, I keep the letters on the wall above my desk to keep me inspired and driven.
Good things come to those who wait.
In late September 2012 I had an email from Cinnamon Press, inviting me, as someone who they felt showed promise in their previous competitions, to apply for a mentoring scheme which involved working with them to get my book up to publishing standard. After consideration of the cost both financially and time wise, I decided to apply. Quite honestly, I did not expect to hear anymore. I put the idea far from my mind and focused on other things. Not wanting to allow myself to even dream of getting anywhere near a real publisher!
I was away with some friends, at a beautiful log cabin in the hills when I heard the news. It was Dec 2012 and I read the email with trepidation. It spoke of the vast competition and hard decisions to be made… I understood perfectly. My work just wasn’t quite there yet. Rejection was expected. But then, words that I hadn’t quite expected or prepared for. We would be delighted to offer you a place…
I can honestly say it was the best day ever. That feeling of acceptance and progress, after years of the hard slog. It was more than welcome. I dashed into the communal kitchen and searched for someone who was awake. Anyone would do.. I just had to share it! Cinnamon Press.. It appeared our relationship was to continue. And as of the end of this month.. it takes on quite a new meaning… I am very excited! Who knows what this year may hold!
I spent last year working with Cinnamon Press, editing and changing sections of my novel, emailing it back and forward between the publisher and myself. Then in January 2014 I attended a 3 day writing event for those taking part in the Mentoring scheme. I was extremely nervous when I started out on my journey to a village not far from Conwy in North Wales. I had a new car, I didn’t really know the roads up there and I certainly didn’t know anyone, except the publishers and that was via email. I got lost, the weather was poor and I had to ring to confirm directions as one road was closed! But when I arrived, Jan, the lady in charge of the publishers was lovely and as I gradually met the others on the course, everyone was really nice. We all had one thing in common, love of writing and a desire to be published. But there was no feeling of competition or unfriendliness between us. We were each sharing a small renovated farm building with 2 other people and the ladies I was sharing with where lovely. The days consisted of a series of workshops, breaks for lunch and walks, then feedback on a few of the groups work with one on one sessions with the publisher in the later afternoon. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshops and feedback sessions, grateful for the positive comments on my work and to be able to read others work too. My one to one meeting was on the first day and I was very nervous. I had made notes of what I wanted to ask and also on what they had suggested I work on during the mentoring year and how I had approached that. Sitting in the kitchen of Jan’s accommodation I felt more relaxed as I listened to them talk about my work and I answered their questions and comments with passion. As the darkness fell outside, I realised the meeting would be short, and sensed they were coming to a conclusion. What would happen to my work now the mentoring was over?
Jan was telling me that my novel was good. That the characters and plot were strong and the story relatable. She paused. This was where she would tell me it’s the end of the road. Back to square one.
‘Your novel is commercial’ She said. ‘It would attract agents.’ Huh? ‘I want to offer you another year of mentoring with us. If you continue working on the novel this year, on what we’ve already been doing. We’ll keep the place open for you, free of charge. Then we want to help try and get you an agent’.
My world was spinning! They thought my novel would sell? They were giving me a further opportunity! I can’t really remember much else about this. I walked out into the January night in a daze. Back at the accommodation I excitedly told the ladies who I was staying with, who I trusted and knew would be happy for me and supportive. We had been told there were 2 places for a publishing contract per group and I knew one hadn’t gone to me just yet. Later, one of the ladies had her meeting and was told her poems were being published in 2015! I was delighted! It was a double celebration! I dashed out into the cold to try and get a signal on my phone to call home, my friends, anyone who would listen really!
So I went home with a big smile on my face and a dream still burning. This year (2014) I have been working on further editing and rewriting for sections of my novel as well as new material. In January a new journey with Cinnamon press will begin and I can’t wait! 🙂