Tuesday, 23 March 2010

SCBWI Undiscovered Voices Winner: PAULA RAWSTHORNE


Paula's winning novel 

by Paula Rawsthorne

Celia Frost is a friendless, freaky kid because of a disorder that leaves her in constant fear of bleeding to death.
However, when she’s the victim of a knife attack, Celia realises that her life has been based on a lie.  Convinced that her mother is mad, she seeks freedom and finds friendship, but shocking secrets are uncovered and danger closes in as The Truth About Celia Frost begins to unravel with devastating effects.

Hi Paula 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?

In answer to Tracy’s question about my favourite books I’d have to say that ‘Millions’ by Frank Cotterell Boyce is a wonderful story. He’s a writer who conveys such humanity without ever toppling over into mawkish cliché. As for books from my childhood, once a month, when I was little, my Mum would buy a Ladybird Book for me and my brothers and sisters to share. I was absolutely enthralled by the vivid pictures and fantastic, often quite disturbing, fairytales. Now, at the age of 42, I still love to go back to my Mum’s and pick through those wonderful ,tatty books.

I’m married with three kids and live in Nottingham. I was a hospital social worker but for a number of years I’ve been at home full time with my kids. I hadn’t written at all until a few years ago when, bizarrely, being surrounded by three screaming infants seemed to unleash a bit of a writer in me. I wrote a comic short story for a BBC competition and was lucky enough to be one of the winners. Even luckier was the fact that the wonderful Bill Nighy read it on Radio 4. I’ve had a couple of stories for adults published in anthologies of contemporary fiction and I’ve done community plays which have been fun, rewarding and completely exhausting.

Apart from a community play for primary school kids, the rest of my writing had been for adults but when I decided it was time to have a go at writing a novel, there was never any doubt in my mind that I wanted my first novel to be for Young Adults. I figured that it would be the highest compliment my writing could ever be paid if I managed to write something that was gripping and entertaining enough to entice teenagers away from their Play Stations for a while. My thriller ‘The Truth About Celia Frost’ is the result of my endeavours but whether it succeeds in my ambition remains to be seen.

Unfortunately for my long suffering family I haven’t calmed down since Sara first phoned to inform me that I was one of the winners of Undiscovered Voices 2010. Within a couple of days of that mind boggling news I started to receive calls and emails from agents and publishers about my book. For a while I became convinced that none of this could be real and I was, in fact, having a psychotic episode brought on by obsessive day dreaming about agents and publishers phoning me about my book.

Then I received an email from Jo Unwin at Conville and Walsh who was one of the judges. She’d just finished reading my ms and wanted to meet me!! So I bought a new top, washed my hair and went to London. Turns out that she’s a great woman and a fantastic agent who has now ‘taken me on’.

Before I entered my extract into Undiscovered Voices, no one but my poor husband had read my book. I was scared of what other people would think of it, worried that they’d politely hint that I shouldn’t be wasting my time with it. Now that I’ve had another pair of eyes on it (Jo’s) I see that feedback can be invaluable in pointing out things that you have been too close to notice. Far from terrifying, I’ve found dissecting my novel with someone to be exciting, stimulating and motivating.

The Saras had told us that there may be more people contacting us once the Anthology was distributed to agents and publishers in the U.K. They weren’t kidding. The Anthology is incredibly successful in doing its job i.e. generating interest in our novels.

My excitement reached fever pitch with the launch of the anthology at Foyles on the 24th Feb. Both David (A.K.A my +1) and I had a fantastic evening meeting all the other lovely winners (we’d all been getting to know and support each other on a Yahoo site since the results were announced). The evening was one of celebration and schmoozing. The Saras, SCBWI and Working Partners did a fantastic job and were so supportive. The room was packed with agents and publishers and, with Jo at my side, I discovered that schmoozing could be a lot of fun (the flowing wine probably contributed to this). The speeches were inspiring and not even too long and at the end of the evening we all found out that our +1s, far from being wall flowers, had had to spend the event pitching our novels to industry people who’d approached them. It seems like they all did us proud!

So now, here I am, still unsettling people by having a permanent grin on my face, still not able to believe my luck. I know that I’ve got rewrites and loads of work ahead of me and I certainly can’t take anything for granted about getting published but without Undiscovered Voices and SCBWI I wouldn’t be in a position that I only ever dared to daydream about.

Thank you, thank you, thank you and Good Luck to all the other fantastic winners.

Paula is represented by Jo Unwin at Conville & Walsh


Nick Cross said...

He he, first comment again!

I really loved your extract and thought it was the best in the anthology (sorry to everyone else, including me, here). The brilliantly slow and subtle way you did the reveal about Celia's condition was just astonishing. I'm an inveterate guesser of twist endings, but I didn't suspect yours for a second!

Good luck working with Jo and I look forward to a glorious book on the shelves in the near future!


Paula Rawsthorne said...

Nick you devil!
I'd be lying if I said that your extremely kind comments didn't absolutely make my day.
The diplomatic service definitely isn't for you but that's part of the reason why Who Ate My Brain is so damn good.
Everyone of us will have their different favourites but from the moment I read all the fantastic extracts, I felt genuinely honoured to be amongst them.

Thanks so much Nick


Anne M Leone said...

Best wishes to you, Paula. I'm so excited for you and can't wait to read the finished book

Jane McLoughlin said...

A lovely post, with a fairytale feel to it! You and your story deserve this happy ending, Paula. I hope your next stage of drafting and submitting is positive, too. good luck! XX JANE

Abbie Todd said...

Paula...NO WAY are you 42!!!

I'm with you on rewrite hell. So much to do, so little time. Good luck with it though, and keep us posted with updates. I wonder who will be the first of us to get offered a contract :-)

Abbie x

Paula Rawsthorne said...

Hi Guys,
Thanks so much for your lovely comments and kind wishes.
Abbie, you should see me right now, working to a deadline- dark rings under my eyes, furrowed brow and twitching eyelid due to sleep deprivation and caffeine overload- Dorian Gray I ain't!!


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