Today was the day I was going to hear I’d won the short story competition. I’d planned how to persuade my manager that I needed time off to fly to the UK to attend the awards ceremony. I’d thought about the contents of my acceptance speech and decided what I would wear. I’d been looking forward to signing with one of the many literary agents who would approach me at the awards ceremony and I’d been debating which of my three unpublished novels I should show her first. I’d imagined humbly announcing the good news to my friends, some of whom would be jealous, although they’d try to hide it and I’d try not to notice. I’d pondered, while watching television interviews with medal-winning athletes at the London Olympics, how anyone could possibly claim to be happy with silver or bronze and how disappointed I’d be if I came second or third or—God forbid—was one of the ten runners-up.
When I saw on the competition website an announcement that the winners had been notified, I thought maybe there was something wrong with my Internet connection. Or with my email account. Or my telephone. I live in Borneo after all. Or, more than likely, they thought they’d let me know I’d won, but there had been an administrative oversight. But after a few days I’d resigned myself to the fact that the apologetic email or telephone call—Oops! Congratulations!—was never going to come.
Do I sound arrogant? Normally I lack confidence in my writing. I’ve been toiling away for ten years and apart from my former agent, William (who died), and the various publishers he managed to get to look at my manuscripts, I’ve never been brave enough to show my work to anyone. But of everything I’ve written, the short story I entered for this competition is the piece I feel most satisfied with. I even dared to show it to a writer friend who liked it too. After my long ten-year apprenticeship, surely it was time?
With hindsight, I can see that I was naïve about the world of literary competitions. It was the friend of a friend of a friend—a published author—who suggested I start entering them as a way of attracting the attention of a new agent to replace William. It sounded easy. Surely I had just as good a chance as all the other amateur writers out there? What I’ve realised now, after a week of research in the wake of my disappointment, is that the other amateurs are likely to be members of writers’ groups, they’re likely to have had pieces published in magazines, they’re likely to have entered loads of competitions quite a few of which they will have won, and the pieces they are entering for these competitions will have been redrafted and polished in the light of critiques from lots of other people.
So. Maybe I am arrogant. To have thought for so long that I can go it alone, that I can slave away at my desk with no support from anyone thinking that one day I will be plucked from obscurity and flung into the literary limelight. Ain’t gonna happen. So that’s why I’m starting this blog. Not as a platform for publishing my fiction writing. God, no. But to connect with other people with an interest in writing, to build up some kind of support system for myself (there’s not much else I can do while I’m living in the Borneo jungle), and most importantly, to out myself as a writer.