Don't you love it when, with hindsight, you realise that a tiny, and seemingly insignificant, moment in time actually proved to be a pivotal point, a point when everything changed?
My moment happened with a Google search for writing communities. Of all of those that popped up, I clicked on The Word Cloud, run by The Writers' Workshop. It was while exploring the main site I noticed a little green advert for something called The Greenhouse Funny Prize. I clicked the link, I read the rules, I noticed there were about 10 days before the competition deadline.
I pondered it for an evening and asked Dan if my stories – now about an invisible kitten called Squishy McFluff – were funny enough (he said they were, but I couldn't help feeling he may be a little biased). I read and re-read them and thought, well why not? They were all just sitting there, after all. I only had to format the synopses and write the blurbs. It took me an hour, I pinged them all over. And then instantly regretted it. Oh no! How desperate did that look?! Sending six! I should have just picked one. I cringed at myself.
Then having submitted them all I looked in more detail at The Greenhouse's website. It appeared, as a rule, they did not represent picture book authors. Neither did they represent poetry. And one of the judges, Leah Thaxton – who was Publishing Director at Egmont at the time – had discovered Andy Stanton's Mr Gum. Oh, lordy.
I don't know if you have read any Mr Gum books, but they are seriously funny. I mean, there are bits of those books which have literally had me crying with laughter.
McFluff is completely different, of course, but I think I decided right then I shouldn't get my hopes up. I forgot all about the competition. Chalk that up, I thought.
But a few weeks later, I got one of the best calls of my life. I was told Squishy had been shortlisted, but then to discover he had won, well, I couldn't believe it.
The prize was a ticket to the Writers' Workshop Festival of Writing and, best of all, representation by Julia Churchill who would, within two months, secure me a four-book deal with Faber and Faber.
I am VERY lucky, I know how lucky I am. Squishy McFluff needed a little serendipity and although I didn't know it was happening at the time, there was one moment, one perfect moment, when I could have looked at a different website – but didn't.
What happened with Squishy McFluff shows that, whatever you write and however good it is, not everyone will love it. Certainly some people will say it's 'not quite for me'. But you only need one person to love it, the right person at the right time. It can, and does, happen.
The Greenhouse Funny Prize is back in 2013, by the way. Julia will be offering up details some time soon, and I'll share them here too. So if you write funny fiction for children, in whatever guise, consider entering. Hitting 'send' might be your perfect moment!
Next blog post, I'll tell you about how I received the offer from Faber and Faber, and then I can get right up to date and stop talking in the past tense. In the meantime, Happy New Year!