Showcase and Yeovil Literary Prize short-listing

It’s been a busy couple of months since I last posted any news on this blog. Two recent pleasures for me were being involved with the New Writing Showcase by Novel Studio students at City University London, and making the shortlist for the Yeovil Literary Prize, judged this year by Tracy Chevalier.

Whilst I’m used to reading my own work in public, I’d never compered a readings event before the Novel Studio showcase, but I was helped by the fact that the students’ work was of such a good standard. The audience of family, friends and industry professionals all seemed to really enjoy the evening.

As for the short-listing – in the novel category, with my first book A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing – I’m obviously thrilled. I look forward to finding out the final results when they are announced.

Long-listed for SI Leeds Literary Prize

Although I had an idea that an announcement would be coming up, the phone call from Soroptimist International took me completely by surprise. I was delighted to learn that my novel A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing had made it into the final twelve manuscripts for the 2012 SI Leeds Prize.

The prize is a new award for unpublished fiction by Black and Asian women resident in the UK, and an initiative of Soroptimist International of Leeds working in partnership with Ilkley Literature Festival and Peepal Tree Press.

I’m so pleased to have been selected along with the other eleven writers, and I look forward to seeing who goes through to the shortlist.

A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing, set in the Japanese city of Ōsaka, draws on my experience of living and working in that country, as well as my own mixed heritage. The stories my late mother used to tell me have been a particular inspiration. If you are interested, you can find out more about my novel by visiting the Writing page of this website.

At Circle of Missé

I am now almost at the end of a two-week stay at Circle of Missé. Situated in a vine-fronted, stone farmhouse in the Loire region of France, and surrounded by fields and a vast open sky, it’s the ideal setting for getting stuck into a creative project.

Taking a break from writing in the Circle of Missé garden

In my case, this is a novel. In my first week here, my main focus was the Writer Progresses course, which I thoroughly enjoyed teaching. I still managed to fit in about an hour’s writing on most days, though, and since the participants went home, I’ve been able to give my chapters-in-progress a lot more attention.

I’ve been rising early every morning, during that misty-blue cusp between dark and light. With fewer distractions than I’d usually have back at home, I’ve really been able to get on with things. I’ve ironed out several structural problems, tightened up key scenes and discovered new things about my characters.

Coming away on retreat always makes me realise how much of my time is usually taken up with housework and errands, administration, lesson planning and marking deadlines. And although these tasks aren’t even all that bad, it’s a pleasure to have a little break from reality.

The spring sky through the blossom branches

I’ve loved being able to wander out into the garden in the evening, to take in the last sunshine of the day and listen to the thrum of the bees in the wisteria, or to just have the time to sit and think.

Thank you to Aaron, Wayne and Alison for your hospitality, and the usual fine food and company.