Thursday, 3 October 2013

Stonewall Writer of the Year - Shortlisting...

That is possibly the most unimaginative title for a blogpost ever, but I am feeling excited to the point of incoherence.

I have been shortlisted for Stonewall Writer of the Year!

No, really, I have.

This means that someone at Stonewall knows who I am. That is pretty cool in itself. Also, I think (I hope) I get to go to the party, which is at the V&A and actually costs real money to go to if you buy a ticket. ('Do they know you're not gay?' my mother asked me. 'Should you pretend you are?' To which I replied, 'Mum, if Stonewall don't think you should be allowed to love who you want, the world is a sad and hopeless place.' Or would have done, if I'd thought of it. I think actually I burbled something about, 'Er... no, does it matter?')

The news came yesterday, totally out of the blue. As far as I'm concerned, the symptoms of being a Proper Writer include your heart sinking when you see your publishers' or agent's number coming up on your phone, so it came as a complete shock that my agent wasn't just ringing to ask me where the new book is.* I was so taken aback that it was good news that I didn't hear the word 'Stonewall' and thought he was talking about an in-house Bloomsbury Writer of the Year or something... (Luckily I think just having been shortlisted for something means you can be a bit more of an idiot than usual without your agents frowning and idly crossing you off the list of writers on their desks. Hopefully.)

Then: the V&A, he said.

Oh, I thought. That sounds... posh.

Sarah Waters won it a few times, he said.

Oh, I thought again. She's... well, a proper writer.

Stonewall, he said.

Stonewall? I thought. Stonewall?! What, like the - like really, Stonewall?!

I must have sounded utterly punchdrunk. Maybe he did absent-mindedly black out the letters of my name, after all.

But seriously, as well as being honoured and excited and all that (also, did I mention that my agent said he didn't think any other YA writers had ever been shortlisted? That was cool), I feel really proud. Because - as those of you who follow this blog might remember - Love in Revolution had a bit of a rough ride. Could I, my editor asked me - after the book had been accepted - change the love affair to, well, a "passionate friendship"? Because, you know, it's difficult, teenage fiction is really bought by the gatekeepers, the parents and librarians, and, well, we don't want to put anyone off... No one actually said, AND SOME PEOPLE WHO MIGHT OTHERWISE BUY THIS BOOK DON'T LIKE LESBIANS, but really they might as well have done.

I said no. I just said no. (I have said no on other occasions to my editor, but I'm not sure it's ever stayed no.) Bollocks to sales, I thought.** I mean, imagine calling a book Best Friends in Revolution.

And kudos to my editor, who respected that decision entirely - and indeed foregrounded the love story in the blurb, with no fudging or blurring of pronouns so that people might not notice the characters were both girls. Kudos to the cover designer, for making it look romantic. Kudos to my publishers for going with it and not putting pressure on me.

Right now I feel really proud of them, too.

* Still being buggered about with, and probably will be for some time, but that's another story.
** No change there, then. :)