It is International Women’s Day, Mslexia’s birthday, and the day on which the longlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction was announced.
You might wonder why on Earth I’m talking about the Orange Prize when I haven’t even had my little novel published yet, but it makes perfect sense to me. You’ve got to have a goal, and you’ve got to have ambition. My first goal was to complete a novel. Tick. My second is to get an agent, which I’m working on. The third will be to have my first novel published. Once I’ve reached my third goal, I plan to set more of them, but I suspect, at that point, ambition will be more of a driving force for me.
Somewhere between achieving the first goal and embarking seriously on working towards the second, I entered the Mslexia Novel Competition. I was pleased to be longlisted, but didn’t expect to be shortlisted; however, once I was shortlisted, I wanted to to win... Of course I wanted to win. I might not have expected to win, but that didn’t stop me being ambitious. Ambitions are different from goals; goals are always achievable, given enough rope and a following wind; ambitions are less concrete. One of mine is to be interviewed on Woman’s Hour (I’m a big fan of Jenni Murray) and it was that ambition that tipped the balance for me when it came to entering a competition. I’m very happy that I did.
So, back to the Orange Prize. There are twenty very happy women writers this morning, longlisted for the seventeenth annual award. All of their stock will rise, all of them will earn more because they are included on the list, all will have reached another milestone, fulfilled another ambition... And all because they sat down and wrote a good book.
Now, here’s the thing. Five of the books on the list are first novels! That’s right, a quarter of the books on the list are by first-time novelists! One-in-Four! You’ve got to love those odds, but even if it takes me another decade, or even longer, I shall keep working on the writing, I shall keep achieving goals, and hopefully, along the way, an ambition or two will also be realised.
Congratulations to the longlisted writers, and may the best woman win.