Being shortlisted for her brilliant story ‘Wine at Breakfast’ in the 2010 Bristol Short Story Prize wasn’t the only piece of exciting news Claire King received last year; Bloomsbury will publish her debut novel ‘The Night Rainbow’ in the spring of 2013. Here she recounts her writing journey from school to debut novel. Big congratulations to Claire and we look forward to seeing ‘The Night Rainbow’ on bookshelves everywhere.
A Writer’s Road, Paved with Encouragement
Thank you for inviting me to the Bristol Prize website. I have such admiration for the way you encourage writers of all ages. Is there anything a writer feeds off more hungrily than encouragement?
When I was ten, my wonderfully enthusiastic teacher sent a poem of mine to Sir John Betjeman, the Poet Laureate. He replied promptly, saying what a promising writer I was and how bright my future could be. As someone growing up in a depressed part of the country, this small act of kindness completely broke my paradigm. Really? Me? And I wrote and I wrote until the day I left home.
At university, life was so overwhelmingly rich that all I wanted to do was live it. Although my love of language never faded – I sharpened my words in essays and dissertations – I stopped writing fiction for three years. When I graduated (in Economics) my father bought me a fountain pen – “in case I’d forgotten who I was at heart”.
Sure enough, the itch to tell stories swiftly returned and eventually I wrote a novel. I submitted to a few agents and the feedback was promising, but the process was long and slow and in the middle of it I had a baby. Some people say that if you’re serious about writing you will find time for it no matter what. Honestly, for me in early motherhood, holding it together was as good as it got. I didn’t have it in me to write or even to submit.
I used to be very impatient and I still obsess over my in-box regularly, but recently I’ve found more patience. I’ve been writing for long enough that a year or two years doesn’t make a big difference in the grand scheme of things. We do have time to make room for life along the way. Having said that, I felt a shift after my second daughter grew into a toddler. Writing became more than a love, it became a priority.
In 2009 I began work on a new novel ‘The Night Rainbow’. I also ‘came out’ on Twitter as a writer, and joined online groups such as fictionaut. I found other writers who were willing to criticise my work. This was a huge step for me and really helped me keep momentum.
I also started writing more short stories and entering competitions. One of the first of these was the 2010 Bristol Prize and I was over the moon to be shortlisted and see my writing published in the BSSP3 anthology. The ceremony in July at the Arnolfini was amazing – being surrounded by people so passionate about literature and literacy and having judges come over to me to tell me how much they loved my story – encouragement that gave me the confidence I needed to submit my novel manuscript to literary agents.
I found my agent, Annette Green, remarkably quickly and the email she sent me proposing we work together was one of the most encouraging things I have ever read. Annette then moved very fast…2010 was a stellar year for me and it ended on a high that I can finally talk about! In December I met with the lovely people at Bloomsbury and we have now officially joined forces for a spring 2013 launch of The Night Rainbow.
These are some of the moments of encouragement that have energised me as a writer. I love the challenge and the process of writing, but it’s not enough for me. I write because I want someone else to love my stories. I write for readers. I am very thankful to everyone who has encouraged me on this journey so far. I hope I can do my part to encourage others in my turn.
Claire’s website can be found here: http://www.claire-king.com/about/