Three Months On: Winning the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition

Posted by Jazz on Wednesday July 1st, 2015

Laurel Remington, winner of the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2015, tells us her experience of winning ...

'And the winner is ...'

Four little words. Words that could change a life. When I went inside the Savile Club in London that day in March, I didn’t dare to hope that it could be my life.

Becoming a writer is a wonderful thing. I began writing because I had stories to tell; characters to bring to life; books that weren’t written that I wanted to read. It allowed me to be creative in a way that my day job as a lawyer did not. In short, writing was something that I had to do. At the time, I didn’t realise how hard it would be – the hours of work that would never see the outside of my hard drive; the thousands of words that would be rewritten many times, and then rewritten again. Most of all, I underestimated the inner strength required to weather criticism, rejections, and crises of confidence. But somehow, I kept going. And there I was – shortlisted for The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition.

The announcement of the winner took place after an inspiring morning of meeting the judges and the other shortlistees, followed by a fantastic lunch. As Barry Cunningham moved around the table describing each of the other books that had been shortlisted, I felt like I was sinking into a hole. Each book sounded so engaging and creative – and publishable. How could mine possibly measure up?

My book, The Secret Cooking Club, was inspired by my daughters and their love of food (especially sweets!) and their interest in ‘helping’ whenever I cooked or baked something. I wanted to write a book that would inspire and empower children to do the things they love, even if the adults around them don’t always ‘get it’.  It was a fun story to write, and one, I hoped, that would be fun for children to read. The voice of the main character, Scarlett, just flowed onto the page as if she had been there all along waiting to emerge. I sent it in to the competition knowing that given the number of entries, chances were low that it would come to anything. Still, it was worth a shot ...

When I got the call that I’d made the longlist, I was overjoyed. It was the best thing that had ever happened to me as a writer. It revitalised me and made me dare to believe that I could be published. I didn’t expect to get any further in the competition, but even so, it felt like all the years of hard work were finally starting to pay off. When I made the shortlist, I was quite literally in a state of shock. This thing that I wanted above all others – could it possibly be happening?

Finally, the big moment. The announcement. Those four little words.

And the winner is ...

The Secret Cooking Club by Laurel Remington.

I’d like to say I reacted like a calm and detached professional. But the truth is I broke down with tears of joy and disbelief and the sheer weight of emotion of all the years that had gone into that moment. I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me.

But it did happen. And now, I feel like anything is possible. I am entering an exciting new phase as a writer – one that will no doubt lead to interesting new experiences and challenges. And even though at home there are still noses to wipe, nappies to change, PE kits to wash, and dishes to clear, somehow I find myself going about it all with a lighter step and a wider smile. Those four little words have changed my life. I am going to be a published author!

Follow Laurel Remington on Twitter: @laurelremington

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