Posted 22 May 2020
Jasmin is a single parent and trustee at Gingerbread. She is passionate about improving the lives of single parents, young people and their families. She is a a former deputy headteacher and also advises on...
Posted 20 November 2017
Emily is the author of My Shitty Twenties, a memoir about her experience of becoming a single mum. She can be found on Twitter @msemilymorris
As the deadline for the ‘One in Four’ new writer competition fast approaches, you might be questioning whether to enter. Perhaps you started out full of ideas but then real life got in the way and now you don’t think you’ll have time. I know what it’s like: family, work, dirty dishes – all of these things leave little time left to write. This is a unique opportunity, though, not just to kickstart your writing career, but to make your voice heard and change lives. Really. Here’s why entering is so important:
It’s an incredible chance
The journey to getting published can be long and arduous and the end can be very difficult to reach. Even then, there is rarely much money to be made. But the prize of this competition is a generous TEN THOUSAND POUNDS advance, as well as priceless mentoring from Tilly Bagshawe. What’s more, you’ll be guided through the publishing process by the staff at Trapeze books. So stop worrying about the finer details of your entry at this stage: the judges are interested in a great story that ultimately paints single parents in a positive light. Get your ideas down and send them in; if you’re successful, you will receive expert support to take your work from the plain old Word document it’s in now to an actual book with a cover and a blurb and readers.
Your voice matters so much
The term ‘single parent’ comes with a lot of negative connotations. Newspaper headlines, politicians, TV shows and more have all said or shown unkind, inaccurate things about single parents. This competition gives you the chance to change all that, to dispel the myths, to shout about just how brilliant single parents are.
It will help you
Writing is incredibly cathartic. Your entry to One in Four has to be fiction, but it can be inspired by real life. Excellent stories have a beginning, a middle and an end and usually see the protagonist come up against obstacles along the way. Sound familiar? You can set your book wherever you want and make your characters whoever you want, but put them in very similar situations to those you’ve known. This is a wonderful freedom to have; my book is a true story, which meant I worried a lot about things like privacy and accuracy when I should have just been writing. If you put all of the emotions you feel about scenarios into your writing, you’ll feel all the better for doing it. So if you can think of something painful or joyful or terrifying or embarrassing, put your character in that moment and see what they do. Think about the best conversation you’ve ever had with your kid(s). Can you use that dialogue in your novel? Don’t hold back: most readers love honesty and believability. Even if you don’t win the competition, pouring words out of the pit of your stomach and on to the page feels amazing.
It will help others
This is my favourite bit. I don’t think I have ever been as frightened or broken as I was when I found myself single and pregnant. All I wanted was to pick up a book that told me I was going to be OK and so was my baby, a book that didn’t end with a man breezing in at the end with a sparkling smile and a bunch of flowers, fixing everything. Once I had got used to being a mum and had a chance to realise I was doing an OK job of it, I decided to write that book myself. There are many wonderful things about having a book published. The first time I held my book and flipped it open and sniffed it felt unreal, my launch party was possibly the best evening of my life and I discovered when reading at events that my writing makes some people laugh. All of those things are ace. My absolute favourite thing about being published, though, and I am not just saying this, is knowing I have helped others. I have had emails from women all over the world thanking me for writing my book, telling me that they are pregnant and alone and terrified and that it has inspired them and given them hope. That is all I set out to do.
So, if you’re faltering over whether to enter this competition, don’t. Just enter. No matter how much washing up you’ve got to do. Actually, a wonderful way to get your creativity going is to tackle the washing up. And I hate the washing up, but it works. Just get out the scourer and the washing up liquid, turn on the hot water, stand at the sink and think.