I was bound to speculate.
The Mslexia competition was all about unpublished work, and I wouldn’t have been able to enter otherwise, but it did mean I speculated about who was writing what, and about what the judging panel might like. I couldn’t know.
I wanted to be able to put my book, “Naming Names” in some sort of context. Was it one of a kind? Was it up against eleven similar books or were they all very different? Was it the content that appealed or the writing? Or both? Was the standard of the competition high enough for me to believe that I really had written a good book?
All of these questions crossed my mind. Then there was the other stuff. Who were these women? Did they have families? Jobs? How educated were they? How old? Did I have anything in common with them on a personal level? And, would I like them?
In pursuit of the answers to some of these questions, I asked the nice people at Mslexia to send out an e-mail inviting the other eleven women to join me in a little group, partly to celebrate our successes, but also to support and encourage, and to get to know one another. To my delight, eight of those eleven women e-mailed me, and it looks like we might do something together.
It is early days, of course, but, so far, all the women who have contacted me are funny, bright, modest and hardworking. They are all serious about their work, but also surprised by their success. They also all seem to have good prospects.
I have always believed that the best way for us to succeed is to make the Mslexia prize a success; the more shortlisted novels are eventually published the more prestigious the prize will become, and the better the chances of future shortlisted novelists finding homes for their books.
As I suspected, being shortlisted for a prize isn’t the end of the process, it is only the beginning.