There were a lot of new signings at AMBA this time - I'm afraid I might forget some of the names if I try to list them all - but I do remember- because she was sitting directly opposite me - Andie Brock who won second place in last years So You Think You Can Write and whose book is coming out in January.
There was one other new author I just couldn't forget because her special day was rather special for me too. This was because Friday was the day I got to introduce Rachael Thomas, one of my former students, to everyone at AMBA as she joined us for her first lunch as a published author. She even got to see her book on the shelves in the shops in London.
Regular visitors to my blog will remember how, at Fishguard for the Advanced Romance Writing course last year, I presented Rachael with her name on a book - in the shape of a cake, iced to look like a HMB romance title. I knew it had always been her dream to see her name on a real book - so I was almost as thrilled as she was when her So You Think You CanWrite 2013 entry made it into the ten ten selected submissions. It didn't get into the top three - but that didn't hold Rachael back - and after working on revisions for her SYTYCW submission, she finally had the call.
But I'll let Rachael tell you her story- welcome Rachael-
From Stalker to Author
To be here, on Kate Walker’s blog is so exciting, not just because my debut Presents will be out in October, but because my writing journey began with a very special book.
Eight years ago, Liz Fielding gave a talk at my local writing group and she had with her a book which rekindled my desire to write, not just anything, but romances for Harlequin Mills and Boon.
You guessed it. That book was the fabulous 12 Point Guide toWriting Romance, by Kate Walker. I read it from cover to cover trying to discover all I needed to learn and in doing so, found out that Kate was doing a weekend course run by Writers’ Holiday at Fishguard, which was only a short drive from my home and even better, just six weeks later. So I immediately booked. The weekend was fantastic. It went far too fast, but I took in all I’d learnt and left having booked for the next year. I continued to attend each year, until I became known as one of Kate’s stalkers.
I submitted to Harlequin Mills and Boon and also joined the New Writers’ Scheme run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association. My aim each time I submitted a manuscript was to get a step closer to my ultimate goal of publication. I wrote and wrote, until my apprenticeship, which is how I’ve always thought of it, consisted of eight complete manuscripts and four false starts. In April last year I had yet another rejection from Harlequin Mills and Boon. At this point I really did wonder if ‘it’ was ever going to happen for me, so focused on writing the story I really wanted to write and not the storyI thought was wanted.
I had entered competitions like New Voices and So You ThinkYou Can Write in previous years, without any success. Then a friend encouraged me to enter So You Think You Can Write last September and from that point everything went a little crazy. I was amazed when my entry made the Top 50, which meant I could put my full manuscript on an editor’s desk. Just to have got that far, was more than I’d hoped for, but I was totally stunned when I learnt I’d made the Top 10.
I didn't make the Top 3, but I did get some really useful feedback from the editors and spent last Christmas revising my story before submitting it again in January. When I did get ‘the call’ I’d dreamed of for years it was totally unexpected and I tried to remain calm and composed, but inside I was jumping for joy.
My competition entry was given a sparkling new title of A Deal Before The Altar and will be out in October.
I still have to pinch myself and I don’t think I really will believe it until I see my book on the shelves. Ihave had an amazing time over the last eight years, attending courses and conferences, but most of all, making some wonderful friends.
If I was to give one bit of advice to aspiring writers, it would be to write and keep writing, but most of all to enjoy it. As for stalking Kate at Fishguard – guess where I’ll be next February!
I'm so happy to be able to share in Rachael's celebrations - and to see her name on a book in reality - not the cake one - we ate that!
If there's one thing about Rachael's story that really matters, it's the way that she never gave up and never stopped working towards her dream. There's that saying that success is getting up one more time than you've been knocked down - and I think that's really true of Rachael's determination and focus. So if you're trying to write or planning to enter this year's So You Think You Can Write contest - hand on in there and keep trying. And good luck!
PS Rachael was the 14th student from one of my courses to have her book published - I'm now hoping for #15 - perhaps someone out there will be the one!