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  • Helen Lederer

Women’s Writing in Waiting

2020 Unpublished Novel longlistee Nancy Peach wrote this wonderful guest post for us this week:

I entered the CWIP competition last year with a combination of trepidation and excitement. CWIP was only in its second year, the brief – to promote and discover emerging writers of funny female fiction – very much appealed to me, and it was spearheaded by the comic legend Helen Lederer. In addition, judges included Marian Keyes, photos from the previous Winners' Event made it look like an absolute blast, and it was free to enter so there was nothing to lose other than the effort invested in pressing send on the computer.

I am a big fan of writing competitions – they make you focus, they give you a deadline and a definitive answer on a specific date (something sadly lacking in much of publishing), and if you’re lucky, as I was, they introduce you to a whole world of jolly clever and hilarious ladies who are keen to big you up wherever possible. Being part of the CWIP family is a little like being at Mallory Towers, but with added books, booze, swearing and innuendo. I have entered other competitions before and been shortlisted for some, but never have I experienced the level of enthusiasm and camaraderie that I have with CWIP. Once you’re in the fold you are in for life (if you want to be, it’s not like a cult or the Hotel California).

I duly submitted my opening chapters of Sandwich, a comic tale of a woman struggling to cope with the combined demands of her three children and her mother who has dementia. The story is not a million miles away from my own life and loosely based on my blog Mum has dementia. A few months later I had an extraordinarily exciting email arrive telling me I’d been longlisted. My name was in the Evening Standard and The Bookseller FFS! It was astonishing. I still have a tweet from The Bookseller pinned to the top of my Twitter-feed, such was the enormous joy.

Long story short; Sandwich didn’t make the cut. Did I mind? A teeny amount. Did I feel left out, discarded, rejected? No. Not one bit of it. I’d made it onto the tour bus even if I wasn’t in the starting line-up. The blow was also softened by the fact that by then I had an agent and exciting things were happening with other books I’d written, but the main reason for not sinking into the doldrums was the very real and tangible feeling of inclusion and involvement that persisted despite not making it through to the next round. Getting longlisted but not shortlisted for CWIP is like being on Strictly Come Dancing and getting as far as the Blackpool Ballroom. Who in their right mind is going to complain about that? I was Russell Grant! I was Michelle Visage!

All longlistees were invited to the Winners’ event to be held at The Groucho Club, but, you know, COVID. Still, I watched it on Zoom and probably enjoyed the spectacle a lot more knowing that I was no longer actively competing. A bit like when your team go out of the football in the knock-out stages and you can just appreciate watching the final without feeling you’re about to have an aneurysm from the stress of it all. Since then I have kept in touch with many of the CWIP family, published authors, unpublished authors, judges and admin. All are equally friendly and supportive, and SO willing to share in any publishing success. And happily, there is a little bit of that on the horizon. My first novel Love Life is coming out later this year with One More Chapter and it’s a Rom-Com set in a hospice. Not a conventional setting for a LOL-fest you might think?

Think again.

Love Life features a hospice doctor, Tess who encounters Edward, a man who is in denial about his mother’s terminal illness. Unsurprisingly Tess and Edward dislike each other in the beginning but as Edward’s mother becomes more unwell, they begin to discover common ground. The story also features a daytime television host battling it out with a Jane Austen character as dual narrators, a blind date with an estate agent, a veterinary emergency, a brush with the General Medical Council and quite a lot of shagging. So basically, it’s right up CWIP’s street. Can you laugh (and fall in love) in the face of death? You betcha.

Nancy Peach writes commercial women’s fiction. She's also a mother of three school-age children and a practicing GP working for both the NHS and a national cancer charity. Nancy blogs at Mum has dementia and Nancy Peach. Longlisted for the CWIP Prize and shortlisted for a Harper Collins/Gransnet competition, she is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and represented by Tanera Simons at Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Her debut novel Love Life will be published by One More Chapter, a Harper Collins imprint, later this year.

Watch this space for more news as we get it on Nancy's debut novel Love Life and a huge THANK YOU to her for writing this wonderful guest post for us. You're a peach, Nancy!



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