I have come to the end of my year as the The Bridge/Moniack Mhor Emerging Writer. It has been amazing. I really feel that winning this prize has propelled my writing forward.
First there was the happy of shock of finding that I had been chosen, that my work had been chosen, that it was worthy. Over the course of this year, I have gradually come to terms with belief in my ability, I have absorbed it into myself and it has become part of how I view myself. Affirmation of this kind is hard to come by as a writer, mostly there’s a lot of rejection. Knowing that my work is good enough to receive this accolade strengthens my sense of entitlement to write. It soothes the days when I doubt myself. It has helped me to keep on writing to the end of my second novel, Uncle Raymond.
Well, nearly the end. I’ve just completed the fourth draft. I need to proof read and polish it all now. Once that’s done, though, I will have a piece of work that I’m proud to submit to agents, a truly complete novel which does what I want it to do. The support of this prize has had a big part in getting me to this point.
Moniack Mhor is so peaceful that it feels like a remote, isolated place, although it’s actually just outside Inverness. It is beautiful, too, and comfortable and well-maintained. It is a perfect writing environment, overall.
It’s also filled with incredibly supportive, committed people. Firstly, there are the staff who have been wonderful, both from a distance by email, and in person when I was up there. Then there are the tutors, and finally there are the fellow writers. It has been nourishing and sustaining to leave the isolation of my windowless basement study and meet so many fellow writers.
In financial terms, the prize consists of £2000-worth of tailor-made writing support, provided by The Bridge Awards and administered by the Moniack Mhor Writing Centre. I attended a writing retreat and a course taught by novelists Tim Pears and Louis de Bernières, and got to be mentored by the agent Jenny Brown. Her feedback has shaped this current draft, and has made it into a far more complete, satisfying novel than it would have been without that. She read the whole of the previous draft and gave me vital feedback on it in a meeting in Edinburgh, and has continued to offer support and very practical advice by email ever since. There are no other circumstances in which I would have been able to benefit from her knowledge, experience, understanding of both novels and the publishing industry and personal warmth at this stage in my career.
Not only has winning this prize been a huge help with finishing this current novel, Uncle Raymond, and making it better than it would have been otherwise, it has taught me a great deal about writing generally, and my writing specifically, which I will carry forward with me into all my future writing projects.