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Updated: Sep 30, 2018

Joan Hessayon Award contenders (Photo credit: Marte Lundby Rekaa)

This time last year, I had a manuscript on my laptop that I hoped might one day get published. It was about a 28-year-old copywriter/aspiring novelist called Sophia and her trials and tribulations in the London dating scene. It would be fair to say that there was quite a lot of me in Sophia and the novel had been my escape – a place where I could write about all the weird and wonderful people I’d met and the strange dating experiences I’d had, and edit them into a funny fictional story-line.

I was part of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writer’s Scheme, which supports aspiring authors by providing them with an affordable manuscript report written by a published novelist, as well as networking events and writing groups.

I submitted my manuscript in April and received my report six weeks later. It was encouraging but suggested quite a few edits. I got to work, getting my novel into a state that I felt was good enough to send out to agents and publishers. Fast forward a few months and I was offered a book deal with HQ Digital. A dream-come-true moment.

I then worked with my fantastic editor Charlotte Mursell to edit my manuscript further and it was released in January 2018 as Perfect Match. I was offered a second book deal with HQ for a novel called How (Not) To Date A Prince, which was published to coincide with the Royal Wedding. It’s been an incredibly busy, productive and fulfilling year!

I can barely believe that less than twelve months ago, I was an aspiring novelist wondering if I’d ever get published and now I have two books out. Sometimes, I just have to pinch myself!

Thursday night was the RNA’s Summer Party, which included the presentation of the Joan Hessayon Award, for which I was a contender. Sponsored by Dr David Hessayon OBE in honour of his late wife Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme, the award is presented to a writer who took part in the scheme and went on to get published.

When I first enrolled in the scheme last January, it didn't occur to me that I might be up for the Joan Hessayon Award the following year. The RNA is an incredibly prestigious organisation and I will always feel proud and grateful for having been a Joan Hessayon Award contender.

Receiving my Joan Hessayon Award certificate from judge Alison May (Photo credit: Marte Lundby Rekaa)

The party, held at The Ashmolean Museum (Photo credit: Marte Lundby Rekaa)

At an excellent party held at the stunning venue, Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, the award was presented to Hannah Begbie for her novel, Mother, which is being published by HarperCollins in August. It sounds incredible and I can’t wait to read it. Congratulations to Hannah!

I had a fantastic night. Everyone was so friendly and I absolutely loved chatting about writing and books with such like-minded people. Thank you so much to the organiser, Imogen Howson, and judges Alison May, Nicola Cornick and Emma Milne-White for putting on such a fantastic event.

What a difference a year can make!

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John Jackson
John Jackson
May 22, 2018

It was a cracking night - and it's always good to put names to faces. We can both rejoice in the fact that we came second! (along with the other 14)

I had a 1-to-1 session with Charlotte Murcel a couple of years ago at Conference - and it was Charlotte who actually told me exactly what I needed to do to sort out my MS, and WHY!

Oh, and the RNA ALWAYS throw a good party!

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