About a year ago I wrote a post about winning second-prize in a short story romance competition. I never read or write romance and so I had just cracked this story - "Doreen and the National Trust Terrorist" - out in a couple of days for a bit of light relief between novel drafts. Therefore, I was tickled pink to have won a prize. My reward was a professional critique. It was very helpful, but I was confused as one of the critique points was that the NT probably wouldn't like it and so I shouldn't set it in their properties. I wasn't so sure.
After a year of ignoring the issue, last week I bit the bullet and decided to contact the National Trust and just ask them whether they minded a story about pensioners pulling pranks in their properties. (Oooh, nice alliteration!). To my surprise and delight, the Publishing Manager of the National Trust, read the story and got back to me in just a few days. Not only was this very generous of him, considering I'm a nobody and he's busy, but he also said that he liked it, praised my writing and offered a few valuable bits of editorial advice - including which properties might make the best setting. What a nice man! He also said that if the NT published fiction (they don't) he might have been interested in talking to me about further opportunities. He could have just been being nice, but I choose to take that comment at face value!
Now I haven't sold this story (yet), won a competition, got an agent, wowed a publisher or been shorlisted for the Booker, but it was still a tiny event in my writing life that made me feel chipper. It was a great blessing which, for a day or two, stopped me lurching from blind optimism to despondancy about writing, as has been my habit recently.
While thinking about things that make me chipper, I also want to congratulate my friend and colleague Andy Stewart, who has just been signed to an agent in New York with his latest novel. It's a cracking book and his news put the biggest smile on my face. He's worked so hard, continued to write new novels while searching for an agent for his previous novels, and generally been a jolly good sport about it all (there's a British phrase for you, Andy!). Even with that tiny heart-sinking "that'll never be me" feeling you get when you hear such great news, I am so delighted for him. He's a top guy and in the space of a few months has made his first two professional short story sales to magazines and got an agent - so things can turnaround very quickly in a writing career. If that isn't something to keep me going, I don't know what is! Congratulations Andy!