Saturday, 20 March 2010

SCBWI Undiscovered Voices Winner: JUDE ENSAFF


Jude's winning novel 

by Jude Ensaff

Hi Jude and welcome to tall tales & short stories. 
Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself and your experiences since finding out you were one of the winners?

An extract from my teen novel One of a Kind features in the Undiscovered Voices 2010 anthology. This is a novel that I have been working on for some time. In 2006 an extract from it was regionally shortlisted in the Waterstones WOW factor competition and Adventures in Fiction Apprenticeships but I'm really pleased that it's finally been publicly recognised and published. It's undergone numerous changes and redrafts but its current form came about as a result of my studies at Winchester University where I'm completing my MA in Writing for Children.

The novel follows Raheema's journey. She is a 16 year old caught up in war torn Iraq. Her parents have inexplicably left the country and she is left to battle her way out of the chaos around her, helping her three siblings in the process.
Where did I get the inspiration for my novel? Well, it's a pretty topical one. You can't really go a day without hearing something on the news about the conflict in Iraq, but in addition to this I have very personal reasons for writing this book.

I grew up in Kuwait and my father is from Northern Iraq,so I based much of my writing on events that have affected my extended family. Childhood memories of visiting Iraq inspired many of the passages in the book and I'm really lucky to be able to speak some Arabic so I used this, my experience of life in the region and an enormous amount of research to write the book.

As far as how I got started in writing- that's a long story, dating back to my early years! At the age of seven, probably like many kids, I decided that I wanted to be a writer. I can still remember the excitement and pleasure I got out of using my Mum's typewriter to write my poems. I'd carefully stow them away in my desk drawer and even though my mum encouraged me to send my poetry to a publisher, I never did. She was my number one fan and it was really my Mum who first encouraged me to write for children.

However, it wasn't until my early twenties that I started to send material out and then it was very piecemeal. I'd say it was really when I got into my thirties that I started to write seriously. People's attitudes along the way have varied from the most supportive and encouraging to the most cynical and disbelieving. However, in 2004 I was published in educational writing and my work in this area has definitely helped me to hone my skill. That and keeping my blog going! Writing is something I really enjoy and because of this I've invested in it by attending courses such as SCBWI's retreat in 2006, an Arvon Foundation course in 2004 and my current MA studies.

It was in late August 2009 that I got the call announcing my place in Undiscovered Voices 2010. I didn't recognise the American voice on the message but I rather excitedly and nervously returned Sara Grant's call to be told that I was to feature as an undiscovered voice. I was ecstatic. There are no other words for it. All my hard work had finally paid off. I was going to be published in fiction!

Trying to fit in time for my writing is not always easy as I have a pretty busy job. As an English teacher and writer, I have little free time but when I do- I enjoy going to the theatre, reading, writing and walking. I live in sunny Berkshire in a little house with an overgrown garden and a list of too many things to do.

I'd have difficulty recommending just one children's writer. There are so many great writers out there but if I was to recommend some children's fiction I'd probably say that Meg Rosoff's What I was and Patrick Ness' The Knife of never Letting go are worth reading simply because of the unique voices that permeate the books. Beverley Naidioo and Elizabeth Laird certainly inspire me in terms of their ability to tackle issues as does Anna Perera's Guantanamo Boy.

I'm currently unsigned - so I don't have an agent although I have quite a lot of interest in the novel so I'm busy redrafting a few chapters so that I can send it out soon.

Jude's Blog can be found at Jude's Writing Corner


1 comment:

Nick Cross said...

Hi Jude,

Well done with your book. What I really liked about it was it felt first an foremost like a human story that happened to have a topical setting, rather than being about "issues". It seems like Iraq is a subject that will roll on and on (the Chilcot enquiry, The Hurt Locker, Green Zone etc.) so I think your chances in the market are very good.


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