Friday, April 21, 2006

"The new J K Rowling"

It began with a copy of Saga magazine falling gratuitously through my letterbox.

When you're 100 you get a telegram from the Queen but when you're 50 you get, through the dubious machinations of database and personal information management, a copy of Saga magazine.

Oh no, I thought. This is it. I really have joined the ranks of the oldies. From here on it's downhill. Pension funds and bus passes here I come. Zimmer frames can't be far behind. It's over.

[Which makes me think, now that more and more people are living longer, perhaps Saga should launch a new mag for Centenarians - called Gaga perhaps. I didn't say that.]

Anyway as I thumbed despondently through the pages of adverts for cut-price cruises and vitamin supplements and creams to fight aging next to pics of Cliff Richards, I came across a competition announcing in big letters "Could you be the next J K Rowling"?

Sure, I thought. Why not.

Actually, no, as I'm male and not particularly good looking.

But anyway I like literary competitions since at least it means someone is going to read what you write. And with entry restricted to over-50s, that would increase the odds.

So I started writing, in the odd hour I could snatch here and there. This work was made possible and speeded up thanks to voice dictation technology.

Yet, one year later, as the pixels coalesced on the final draft, I firmly believed that what I'd written - for myself - not calculated to aim for any market - was too 'old' for the competition's stated target readership - 8-14. But what the hell, the competition had spurred me to write it and I could always send it somewhere else. So I sent it in anyway.

Two months later, I'm phoned by Sally Gritten, MD of the Childrens Books Division of HarperCollins, to say I've won.

'Hybrids' will be published in April 2007.

Thank you to everyone who read and commented on earlier drafts, including my sons Dion and Nemos, and their friends Tudor, his girlfriend (sorry forgotten your name), Izzy Rabey, Malachy Doyle, Richard Collins, Zoe Savvidou, Lucinda Beatty, Cheryl Huntbach, Frank Jackson, Betty Jackson, and anyone else I've forgotten.

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