We had a series of hamsters when my children were small. One Saturday morning I was cleaning out the cage, fitting a new rolled up newspaper to the bottom of the cage before putting in fresh bedding. And of course, I was letting myself get sidetracked by reading the paper. It was our local one and the article that caught my eye as I smoothed the paper over the bottom of the cage was about a short story competition. Hamster on my shoulder, we scanned the details. 1000 words max, legal theme, deadline that Monday.
I knew I wanted to write a novel. I'd known it for years, but somehow I never managed to find the time to actually write anything beyond Chapter 1. A novel was an awful lot of writing. On the other hand, 1000 words sounded easy - surely I could do that over the weekend. The only problem was the legal theme, as I knew nothing about the law.
I put the hamster back in its nice clean cage and went off and wrote a short story. It was about 600 words long, about a will and an inheritance, which was the only legal theme I could think of. I had to drive round to the newspaper offices on Monday to deliver it by lunchtime. For the next couple of weeks I eagerly checked the post, but nothing arrived. I forgot all about it.
Then, months later, the letter came - and a cheque. I'd won second prize and £50. Hooray! I ran around the house squeaking, then sat down and set to writing. This was obviously how I was going to make my fortune. I actually - oh the shame - worked out how much money I was going to win from all the short story comps I entered over the next three weeks.
I won nothing. Not a penny. I was obviously not a genius after all. But I had scraped a mention in a long list and that was enough to encourage me. I signed up for a creative writing course...
Who lives near Birmingham? On 23rd June 6.30 - 8.30 Lucy Diamond, Milly Johnson, Veronica Henry and me will be talking about writing at Birmingham Library. Come and meet us!