What was it?
In a nutshell, Amazon were looking for someone to create a new Christmas story, inspired by ‘Twas a Night Before Christmas. When I stumbled upon the competition page, I immediately knew what story I wanted to tell. And yes, it was about slugs!
Without making my home sound too much like a pigsty (ahem), we’ve got quite a slug issue going on. I have good reason to believe that under our floorboards lies an impressive Slugtropolis, and that they all come up for a good party when we’ve gone to bed. The evidence? Extensive slug trails all over the floors, plus the occasional sighting.
However, one day, I happened to notice that they’d left a rather pretty trail on the living room rug. And I thought perhaps slugs aren’t so bad after all. From that day on, we decided to embrace them (not literally) and that’s where Sol the Slug’s Night Before Christmas came from.
What Happened After Winning?
Amazon told me quite early on that I’d won, and then asked me to keep it hush-hush, which was a real challenge, as I wanted to tell all my friends and family! However, it was important to keep quiet about it, as Aless Baylis needed to do the illustrations first. How she managed to do them in two weeks, I’ll never know – she’s a genius illustrator.
You might imagine that it was quiet until the day that the book got released, but actually, there was so much to do. I was quite amazed at how much planning goes into these sort of things. Amazon came over to do a photoshoot (involving a real slug, which fell into my lap) and I also had to do loads of other things, like set the book up on their KDP programme and be prepared for interviews.
After the Release
When Sol the Slug got released, things got really crazy. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t prepared, and found it all overwhelming, but in a good way. I had to do a radio interview, plus two TV interviews, which was daunting to say the least. For someone who instinctively shies away from the limelight, this was a major challenge, but I feel pleased that I’ve done it. I know it was only local TV, but I was shaking like a leaf – it’s good to know you can get through things that make you frightened.
The After Effects?
One of the things that was most lovely about it all were the kind comments. Not just from friends and family, but from people who just got in touch to say well done. Thank you so much all those people, it meant a lot!
The prize was fantastic, and yes, I did spend some of that voucher money on books. Quite a big pile of books. What was even more amazing was being able to give a big chunk to the local homeless charity. I don’t want to sound like a holier-than-thou type, but it was great to be able to do something tangible, rather than just feeling sorry for them, and unable to help. Fingers crossed it made a difference to a few people this winter.
There was a bit of negativity from a few folks – but I very swiftly learned, this is the nature of the game. I also realised, as soon as you unleash any book into the world, you leave yourself open to scrutiny and criticism. However, in most cases, that’s no bad thing. Criticism, both good and bad, is how we improve, after all!
Competitions – Are They All They’re Cracked Up to be?
It’s been a roller-coaster, and at times, I felt terrified by it all – but I’d still recommend entering your work. After all, it’s a good idea to go for it and just see what happens. I’m proud of how the book turned out, the illustrations were amazing, and my two boys loved seeing it as a physical book – which isn’t surprising, given that they were my helpful beta readers and told me I had to enter it!
Will I keep entering competitions? Probably. But I think that’s more to do with being physically unable to stop writing than anything else. It’s a compulsion, and all those stories have to go somewhere, don’t they?
If you’ve had any similar experiences, do share – I’d love to hear how you found it all.