New Rose Prize – Our 2011 Winner’s Story

The judging for this year’s NEW ROSE PRIZE is underway and our judges are hard at work. But what is it like to win? I asked the first year’s winner, NAOMI FRISBY, to share her experience of winning New Rose Prize 2011…

My big, pink suitcase was sitting in the hallway, packed in three layers – shoes, summer clothes, books – ready for a week in Spain. I was sitting on the sofa, laptop open, ready to press send.

Earlier in the week, I’d noticed The New Rose Prize listed on an arts e-newsletter I subscribed to. I only had one story short enough to qualify for entry; it’d already gathered a number of rejections from literary magazines but the competition was free and another failure to place wasn’t going to make a lot of difference. I didn’t think I had a hope of getting anywhere – Miranda Dickinson was a romantic fiction writer, why would she be interested in my bleak literary fiction?

A few weeks later, I was standing in our department office, phone in hand, when it vibrated. A new email. ‘Congratulations, you’ve been shortlisted for the New Rose Prize for fiction’. I read the email to the others in the office, rang a friend, emailed the writer who’d been my university tutor, walked the length of the school telling friends in other departments and posted the news on Facebook.

On the day the winner was to be announced, I was also at work. Miranda had scheduled her post for 12pm, at which time 28 Y9s would be sitting in front of me studying a short story themselves. I timed the lesson so they were doing a task at the crucial moment and positioned myself in front of the classroom computer. Refresh. Nothing. Refresh. Nothing. Refresh. Argh! It was me! And right that moment, I couldn’t tell anyone.

As soon as the lesson was over, I ran down the corridor to my then head of department’s classroom and shouted the news at her. I spent my lunch break texting, emailing and updating Facebook. The feedback from friends and family was lovely. But the feedback from people I’d never met was even better.

People who didn’t know me, who were published writers themselves, liked my story. Miranda Dickinson liked my story. Jamie Guiney said he looked forward to reading more of my work in the future. Maybe I really could be a writer.

The main part of the prize was a weekend at one of Ruth Saberton’s writing retreats in gorgeous Polperro, Cornwall. Ruth was enormously generous with both her time and her resources. After writing a number of short stories, I was attempting (and still am!) to write a novel. My plotting wasn’t sharp enough – Ruth talked me through a number of tools she used and gave me copies of them. She also copied a huge folder of documents to help with submitting to agents, including her own letters, synopses and CV. Ruth’s still the only person outside of my university writing workshop to have read my work in progress and her feedback on that was enormously helpful.

What did winning The New Rose Prize mean for me? It meant that other writers believed in me and in turn that meant I believed in myself. I’m still unpublished but it’s given me the confidence to keep going until the day I can remove the ‘un’.

Thanks to Naomi for sharing her story! We will be announcing the winners of this year’s New Rose Prize soon – keep watching for the latest news…

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