50 Word Fiction Competition: My surprise win
I have a big confession – I am not a writer. The 50 Word Fiction Competition entry I submitted a few months ago is the only piece of fiction I have ever created (if you discount a rather fine strand of adventure stories I wrote about a fox and a diamond when I was 8 years old).
Two months ago, whilst my 3-year-old daughter was watching The Jungle Book for the 40th time, I stumbled across the 50 Word Fiction Competition and it made me wonder – am I subconsciously denying my desire to write? I’ll give it a crack, I thought. But where to start? Write about what you know – OK, babies, I’ll write about babies (I’ve got a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old). And so, the scene rolled off my fingers onto my iPhone screen. Whoosh. Send.
I’m actually a publicist for a children’s book publisher. Forget the stereotype of the PR who flounces around with posh handbags, drinking skinny lattes and is surgically attached to at least four different devices for communication at any one time: the fact couldn’t be much further from the truth. The publicists I’ve worked with and become friends with over 13 years in the industry are some of the most passionate people I know, dedicated to the cause of promoting books. Working in children’s books means there is a palpable sense amongst publicists that we are contributing to society; we are putting the best books we can into young people’s hands and helping them become lifelong readers. I know how hard publicists work, the extra hours they give to attend events, travel around the country and work late in the office on a campaign they feel excited about. And I’ve seen the difference a well-run publicity campaign can make – it can pull a small book from the C list of a publisher’s programme into the limelight, to critical acclaim, award shortlistings and hopefully to some sales success.
I’m often asked in my job if I’ve got a book in me. Isn’t everyone working in children’s publishing hiding a secret desire to write themselves? My answer is quite clear – no. I’ve seen enough authors in action and read enough amazing kids books to know that I don’t have ‘it’. I don’t want it enough and even if I did, I don’t have that extra something, the 'X factor'. I possess neither the skill nor imagination to create a gripping read which will spark young people’s minds. And that’s not modesty, its honesty.
So, I was utterly shocked and thrilled to hear I’d won that month’s 50 Word Fiction competition. Has it made me reconsider my literary aspirations? No, but it was a nice surprise. I am still not a writer, and I don’t think I’ll ever be. However I can now say that the only work of fiction I have ever written won a literary competition – and that’s a nice PR line.