Success stories

Winning one of our writing competitions or being featured in Mslexia‘s new writing showcase can lead to great opportunities, and is often only the start for many of our writers. And there’s nothing we love more than hearing about the new-found confidence, agent offers, publishing deals and self-belief that follow an appearance in our pages. Scroll down to read some of the wonderful achievements we’ve heard about (or click the links below to jump straight to the area of writing that most interests you) – and if you’ve won one of our competitions or been featured in the magazine and have good news for us, please get in touch at postbag@mslexia.co.uk and share your success!


 

NOVEL WRITING

IMOGEN HERMES GOWAR: finalist, Novel Competition 2015

When I entered the Mslexia Novel Competition I was working in a café and renting a box-room which fitted a Freecycled single bed and nothing else. I borrowed the entry fee from my mum. Things took a serendipitous upturn when the café was sold, and I was given paid leave while the legal stuff creaked through: on my first day off, I learnt I’d made the Mslexia longlist.
Waged writing time at just the opportune moment is definitely a gift from the universe, and I closeted myself away to revise the crap out of my novel before submitting it for the shortlist. I didn’t expect to go any further (any sane writer hopes for ‘yes’ and prepares for ‘no’), but I wanted to be certain I’d given it my best shot.

The Mslexia competition was my first big ‘yes’ as a writer… It showed me my book could really be worth something, and this summer my agent sold it in a 10-house auction.

I made the shortlist! Wow! Then the final. Each progression showed me I was capable of a little more than I’d thought, and then an agent offered me representation. During my Creative Writing MA a few agents had asked to see more of my work, but until now I hadn’t found the confidence to show them anything. I sent out my manuscript as I’d revised it for Mslexia, and it found my perfect agent.
The Mslexia competition was my first big ‘yes’ as a writer: a balm when rejection is so par for the course. It showed me my book could really be worth something, and this summer my agent sold it in a 10-house auction. A year on from making the longlist, I have left the café and the box-room to become a full-time writer. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock will be published by Harvill Secker in February 2018. I am very, very grateful.


LU HERSHEY: winner, Children’s Novel Competition 2012

deep-water

@LuWrites

From the day I found out I’d won the Mslexia children’s novel writing award, my life changed. Three highly respected judges (children’s literary agent Julia Churchill, YA writer Malorie Blackman and Guardian critic Julia Eccleshare) had unanimously chosen my book to win – which really took my breath away. It was the best possible affirmation for a writer lacking in confidence (and a lot of writers are) that I could actually write!
The next step was finding an agent. Winning the Mslexia competition was like being handed a golden ticket. A lot of agents were interested to read Deep Water, and quite a few wanted to take me on, so I actually had a choice. (I have to say here that also a lot of agents didn’t want to take me on – but that happens with any writer. Your agent has to totally love your work so they can feel confident selling it to publishers – and agents, like everyone else, have personal preferences.)
Once I’d chosen my agent, he managed to secure me a publishing deal with Usborne for Deep Water, the book that won the Mslexia competition. From Usborne’s point of view, being able to put ‘Mslexia award winner’ on the cover of the book was a strong selling point – not to mention the Malorie Blackman quote on the front cover, which was taken directly from what she said about the book when she judged the competition.

From Usborne’s point of view, being able to put ‘Mslexia award winner’ on the cover of the book was a strong selling point – not to mention the Malorie Blackman quote on the front cover, which was taken directly from what she said about the book when she judged the competition.

(I asked her first by the way – didn’t just assume she’d let me use the quote!)
Basically, I’ve found that there’s a huge amount of respect out there for Mslexia, and being a Mslexia competition winner really means something.
So where am I at now? My second novel, Broken Ground (working title) is about to go to Usborne, and hopefully that will be out later in the year or early next year. I call myself a writer these days. I haven’t given up the day job yet, but I’m getting there. I get invited to literary events and festivals, as well as schools and bookshops. There’s a film option on Deep Water, which may well get the funding to start production this year. Gradually I’m building the career I always dreamt of having (a bit late maybe, but better late than never!) Realistically, I owe much of my success to Mslexia, for recognising my ability to write in the first place and giving me such an amazing start in the industry.


LAURA McVEIGH: longlisted, Novel Competition 2015

It has been an absolute pleasure to be involved in the Mslexia Novel competition and I am most grateful to all the readers.
On making the longlist I contacted four fantastic literary agents. Within the week three had made offers of representation and I signed with the wonderful Jonny Geller, CEO of Curtis Brown.
Without the competition I am not sure I would have felt so confident in reaching out and sharing my work with others – so deepest thanks.

On making the longlist I contacted four fantastic literary agents. Within the week three had made offers of representation

Since originally submitting my novel it has been through two further redrafts and I look forward to sharing it now with publishers in the new year.
My thanks again to you and the team. These awards are so important in supporting new writers and you all make it a fantastic, positive experience. Well done on running such a professional award and for all the great work of Mslexia in encouraging writers to find their voice.


KATIE TALLO: winner, Novel Competition 2013

‪@katie_tallo ; katietallo.com‬
Winning the Mslexia novel contest in 2014 was an amazing experience that I will never forget. It buoyed my belief in my writing. So often writers work alone, in a void, and that void fell away the moment I heard the news. I knew everything would be okay. I knew I was meant to be writing — that I could write.

I knew everything would be okay. I knew I was meant to be writing — that I could write.

My style is unusual, my novel isn’t easy to market, and so my ‘success story’ doesn’t play out the way it has for many of the other winners. I did not find a publisher for my winning novel, but I did acquire an amazing agent. Two years later, I continue to feel buoyed. I am deep into the writing of a second novel (a murder mystery) and my “success story” is still being written. Mslexia is a wonderful part of that story and I’m forever grateful.


LIZ MONUMENT: shortlisted, Novel Competition 2013

@lizmonument ; www.lizmonument.com

I entered Mslexia’s unpublished novel competition in 2013, just as I was finishing my MA novel. I was over the moon to make the shortlist of six that December, and subsequently found an agent in early 2014. I’m sure that having ‘shortlisted by Mslexia’ on my covering letter helped me to be taken seriously when The Eternity Fund showed up in the slush pile.
The Eternity Fund became an audio book in 2015, but sadly my agent failed to acquire a print deal. After writing a second novel (Iteration), I found my own publisher via Mslexia’s Indie Presses Guide, which I bought as soon as it came out. My publisher loves what I write and deals directly with authors – so, after nearly three years with an agency, I resigned.

[I] found an agent in early 2014. I’m sure that having ‘shortlisted by Mslexia’ on my covering letter helped me to be taken seriously…

Now, I’m back at Lancaster on a part-time Creative Writing PhD, happily writing away. I’ve one paperback novel already out (with Fahrenheit Press); my second (Iteration) comes out in 2017… and I couldn’t have done it without Mslexia!


STACEY SAMPSON: shortlisted, Novel Competition 2013

‪@OurStace
Since being placed in the Mslexia Novel Competition my writing life has evolved considerably. I attended the brilliant Agents’ Salon event in London and met with lots of industry professionals. Some of the agents I had previously had rejections from but being there under Mslexia’s wing helped me make invaluable personal connections. Soon after, I signed with Hardman and Swainson after receiving several offers of representation. Mslexia has been very supportive at every stage and I felt bolstered to continue, not only with the novel in question, but to apply for various other schemes and projects.

Some of the agents I had previously had rejections from but being there under Mslexia’s wing helped me make invaluable personal connections. Soon after, I signed with Hardman and Swainson

Throughout 2015 I was a Fellow of the BBC and this year I will be an ASSITEJ Next Generation Artist, both supporting my continuing development as a writer for young audiences. There are other exciting things in the pipeline and I now feel able to talk about myself as a professional writer. Having Mslexia’s continued guidance, and the kudos of their competition on my CV, has made a huge difference to me and my career.


FRANCESCA ARMOUR-CHELU: Shortlisted, Children’s Novel Competition 2012; winner of the Short Story Competition 2013 (‘The Starving Ghost’)

fen_halflin‪@fkarmourchelu‬ ‬
Since being short-listed for the 2012 Children’s novel competition and then winning the Short story competition the following year with ‘The Starving Ghost’, lots of things have happened.
Mslexia offered all the short-listed writers in the Children’s novel comp a chance to learn how to pitch their novel at a wonderful workshop. This was excellent practice and was followed by an event at Foyles, where all the writers got a chance to meet editors and agents. It was here that I met Ariella Feiner (United Agents) who became my agent. Walker Books bought my book the December before last, as part of a two-book deal and I’m currently writing book two.

The first book, originally called ‘The Hunted’, was published 2nd June this year, under the new title of Fenn Halflin and the Fearzero.
I still have my day job working in a library which I love because I want to meet the consumers of books!.. and libraries are fantastic – and essential – places.

Walker Books bought my book the December before last, as part of a two-book deal and I’m currently writing book two.

Plus it’s early days and I don’t entirely earn my living from writing. But the the best thing about the Mslexia competitions was that even as a runner up, I was taught how to get someone interested in my novel in under two minutes… and was then given a chance to pitch it!
Seeing my work in Mslexia magazine was exciting, having prize money incredibly useful… but the really great thing Mslexia did for me was give me confidence in my work and treat me as they would a professional writer, which is what I’ve since become. Mslexia opened a door for me for which I’ll always be grateful.


SONJA PRICE: longlisted, First Novel Competition 2011 (as Sonja Bruendi)

giants
I was longlisted for the Mslexia First Novel competition in 2011, which initially opened quite a few doors for me. I eventually managed to secure an agent for THE GIANTS LOOK DOWN (entered under the title ‘The Shatush Shawl’), now published by Robert Hale.


 

POETRY

ILSE PEDLER: winner, Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2015

Adobe Photoshop PDF

It’s been a real privilege to win the Mslexia Pamphlet competition. Writing is a solitary occupation and to have won the competition feels like an affirmation that all those hours of creativity, searching for the right words and often frustration have been worthwhile! I am looking forward to seeing the finished pamphlet and actually holding it in my hand. I have been invited to read by CB1 poetry group in Cambridge and also at The Writers Centre in Norwich.


AILEEN BALLANTYNE: winner, Poetry Competition 2015

In terms of what I’ve been doing since the excitement of winning the Mslexia competition last summer, I really enjoyed reading a set of poems at the inaugural Mslexia event in September and meeting so many great poets there. I was in Orta san Giulio in Italy in October 2015 reading at Poetry on the Lake, where I won the short poem category in the annual Poetry on the Lake competition. I won second prize in the Short Fiction Category of the Bridport Prize in October and read my winning entry at the Bridport Book Festival. I’ve also read at the London launch of the Anthology of Age, published by the Emma Press. The poem selected the Emma Press for their anthology was ‘In the Garden’, which first appeared in Mslexia in 2014, (chosen by judge Wendy Cope for a commendation in the 2014 Mslexia competition).

I’m presently editing and honing a first poetry collection and have been busy devising and teaching a new second year course on Contemporary Poetry for second year joint English and Scottish Literature students at the University of Edinburgh.

Later this year I’m looking forward to spending a week with the sheer luxury of ‘just writing’ at Cove Park – an important part of the Mslexia prize, and also thanks to the Mslexia prize, to discussing a selection of my poems with Maurice Riordan, editor of The Poetry Review. Thank you again for this terrific award which has helped in so many ways to inspire me further with my writing.


MIRANDA PEAKE: winner, Poetry Competition 2014

… what an amazing impact winning the poetry competition in 2014 has had on my writing life. When I won the competition I’d never published anything at all, so it really was incredible for me. The competition gave me the confidence to start submitting my poems to magazines and in the year or so since then I’ve had poems published in The Rialto, Magma and in Banshee. I’ve also read my poems at lots of events, despite total and utter terror! I’ve also decided to this year apply for Creative Writing MA Courses which I’m really excited about. I know that this progress is all directly linked to winning the competition and i’m so grateful to Mslexia for giving me such a leg up.
As well as the obvious boost to my confidence, the prize money, which is incredibly generous, meant that I had the chance to do several brilliant courses which I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do.


MEL PRYOR: second place, Poetry Competition 2013

@blossom352

drawn_on_water small_nuclear family
Since the competition I’ve had a pamphlet (Drawn on Water) and first collection (Small Nuclear Family) published by Eyewear Publishing. You could say something like ‘the competition gave me a real boost’! I’ve since entered more competitions and came first in the Philip Larkin Poetry Competition in 2015.


STEPHANIE CONN: highly commended, Poetry Pamphlet Competition 2012

The Woman on the other Side@stephanieconn2
I was delighted to be Highly Commended in the 2012 Poetry Pamphlet Competition and still have a copy of Amy Wack’s comments. Since then I’ve completed my MA in Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre. I have been writing and submitting ever since, publishing in a wide range of magazines and journals.

I’ve been thrilled to be shortlisted and highly commented in a number of poetry competitions including the Gregory O’Donoghue Competition, and in 2015 I won the Funeral Services NI Poetry Prize, the Yeovil Poetry Prize and the inaugural Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing.

My first full collection was launched in March 2016! The Woman on the Other Side is published by Doire Press and was launched with an introduction by poet Moyra Donaldson.

My first full collection was launched in March 2016. The Woman on the Other Side is published by Doire Press and was launched with an introduction by poet Moyra Donaldson.
I am currently working on my second collection.


 

SHORT STORIES

TAMSIN COTTIS: winner, Short Story Competition 2013

Winning the short story competition was fantastic. And given my writing confidence a terrific boost. Even now, more than three years on, I will hear from someone who has read my story and liked it.

Even now, more than three years on, I will hear from someone who has read my story and liked it.

It made me realise how widely the magazine is read is and how well/ regarded it is.
Since winning I have continued to write short stories and am working on a collection. I am proud to have my win on my writing CV.


ANNA SAYBURN: second place in the Short Story Competition 2015

Becoming a winner in the 2015 short story competition boosted my confidence as a writer. The judge’s comments showed that someone had really understood what I’d been trying to do with my story, which is a lovely feeling. I’m currently seeking publication for my first novel, and while I’ve yet to land a deal, the validation of my win gives me hope that I am a ‘proper’ writer. I’m very proud of the prize and of being published in Mslexia.


JOSIE TURNER: third place, Short Story Competition 2013

I guess everyone will say that being placed provides a massive confidence boost, but it’s true. Listing Mslexia as a publishing credit always gives me a bit of an electric shock.

Listing Mslexia as a publishing credit always gives me a bit of an electric shock.

Since the competition, I’ve been a joint winner of the 2015 Plough short story competition, and have had over a dozen short stories published in journals including Red Line Magazine, The Frogmore Papers and Crack the Spine.
Thank you Mslexia!


 

THEMED WRITING

JULIE MELLOR: ‘Birds’ and ‘Troubled Minds’

I have been lucky enough to have had quite a few poems in Mslexia over the years. I don’t think this has changed the course of my writing life, but what it has done, on so many occasions, is validate the work. It’s also a magazine that people actually read! This may sound silly, but when I have been published in it (I’m a poet, by the way) I’ve had other poets email me to say they’ve read the poem and enjoyed it. I’ve also had comments like ‘Well done for getting in Mslexia‘. This may, of course, be because Mslexia isn’t exclusively devoted to poetry, but I’ve a feeling that people perhaps subscribe to other, more ‘literary’, magazines for the kudos, rather than for the enjoyment of reading it.


JULIE WILLIAMS: ‘Birds’

I’m a lifelong journalist so getting stuff published wasn’t a novelty – but the email announcing that my story ‘Birdwatching’ would appear in December’s Mslexia set me whooping around the house (aged 65 and in hard-earned retirement though I am). My husband was quite alarmed.

To turn Groucho Marx’s resignation quote on its head: I’m truly proud that this club has accepted me as a member.

I’m thrilled my work was judged worthy of publication because the sheer quality and diversity of stories I’ve enjoyed in the magazine since I first subscribed in 2014 has raised my aspirations. To turn Groucho Marx’s resignation quote on its head: I’m truly proud that this club has accepted me as a member.
Where next? Having finally learned that a first draft is as far from good enough as you can get (a tough lesson for a former news reporter) and encouraged by one Mslexia success, I’m looking for a wider readership and furiously building up a portfolio of short stories for submission. Thank you, Mslexia.


RACHEL BURNS: ‘Birds’

@RachelLBurnsme
Being published in Mslexia is amazing- I feel so much more positive about my writing, seeing your work in print and knowing it will have a wide readership is very exciting. I feel confident about sending my YA manuscript out to agents now that I have a short story published in Mslexia.


LANI O’HANLON: ‘Earth Songs’

I gained in confidence after my poem was published in Mslexia and Penelope Shuttle gave it a good, strong review. I love Penelope Shuttle’s work so this review meant a lot to me. I think that this review brought my work to the attention of other poetry magazines and may have affected my poetry being selected for national radio. It also encouraged me to keep working on my first poetry collection which I am about to submit to publishers. Many thanks and keep up the good work!


MANDY SUTTER: ‘Earth Songs’

@mandy_sutter
I think agents regard Mslexia as having high editorial standards so I am hoping that publication with you will weigh in my favour when I begin sending round my current short-story-collection-in-progress, which is where the story came from.
Also, on three occasions, when I’ve been introduced to people at literary events, they have said ‘oh, didn’t you have a story in Mslexia?’ And one said she had used it when teaching a creative writing class, as an example of ‘the perfect short story.’ I was very chuffed by that!

when I’ve been introduced to people at literary events, they have said ‘oh, didn’t you have a story in Mslexia?’ And one said she had used it when teaching a creative writing class, as an example of ‘the perfect short story.’

Most importantly though it has given me confidence to continue working on the other stories in the collection. I sent one to the Ambit short story competition and it won second prize. As a white woman writing about Nigeria I have felt uncertain at times about whether my voice would be welcomed and have feared I could be accused of appropriating a story that isn’t mine to tell. So I have been more than usually prone to doubts about the whole project! Having an element of it endorsed has been especially meaningful to me.


LESLEY TAYLOR: ‘Earth Songs’

@LesleyTaylor_fl
I would have been delighted to have a short story published almost anywhere, but having my publishing debut in Mslexia was amazing. My writing and non-writing friends were both pleased for me and envious. …I haven’t had any other writing published since, but I’m currently waiting to hear about a novel and two short stories I submitted last year. The waiting is hard, although as a published author I feel more confident than I did before. While waiting I am working on another novel and several other writing projects. I prefer to keep busy and the confidence boost is a great spur!


Excited to have my flash selected for this month's Little Ms Flashcard. Thanks Mslexia.
Kerrin Leeb