Bad poetry and love letters led to the big win for CWIP winner 2022 Rebecca Rogers
What have you been up to since WINNING the CWIP unpublished prize 2022? Well, I found a lovely agent, Julia Silk, who is putting up with me brilliantly. And I’ve been working with the fabulous Martha Ashby at HarperCollins, who has been helping me to smooth out the creases in The Purgatory Poisoning, ready for its launch in March next year. I’ve also done a handful of radio interviews (including one with the amazing Joanne Harris). I haven’t given up my job at the DWP. But I have gone part time so that I can fit my editing in, and I start a new job in May. What made you want to write a novel in the first place? You know when stuff happens in life and it makes you think – hold on, what are my priorities here? And you realise that life is short and you’ve always been banging on about writing a book but haven’t actually done anything about it? Well, I just decided one day that I was going to take a sabbatical from work and have a go. Goodbye savings, hello 90,000 words. When did you start writing – did you like writing essays at school/ keep a diary? Yes, I loved English at school, wrote terrible poetry, kept a diary full of teenage angst, read a lot. I came across my old diary recently and it was a sharp reminder of my fourteen year old hormonal journey; spots, boys, periods, parents. Now I’m at the stage of life when I’m waving goodbye to those hormones and I can’t wait to be free of the little gits. I also wrote a lot of love letters in my teens. Why doesn’t anyone write letters anymore? Is it because the delivery isn’t instant? Or is it because a first class stamp costs 95p, and an email is free? Perhaps we should start a letter-writing campaign and instead of calling it ‘snail mail’, call it ‘Better Letters’. Or ‘Peng and Ink’. Or something. You can tell I don’t work in marketing. Can you tell us about your prize? It’s a publishing contract with HarperCollins with a £5000 advance. I have never worked with an editor before – in fact, I’d only shown the book to two family members before I submitted it to CWIP - and Martha from HC has been brilliant at coaching me how to hone the book so it shines like a flipping diamond. The Purgatory Poisoning is out in March 2023. It’s available for pre-order now! Please indulge us: where do you keep your trophy? And have you given it a nickname? She lives on the mantlepiece between the weird Christmas reindeer that holds a candle in its butt, and some sort of ceramic thing - my first attempt at throwing a pot. She has no name but everyone who sees her points at her and says “ooo, that’s rude.” And then stares at her for a few minutes in silence. And then they say, “Is that a…?” And I say, “Yes, I think so.” And then they nod and say, “Well then.” What’s changed for you since winning the prize? Internally, I’m a whole new woman. Thanks to CWIP, my confidence as a writer has shot through the roof. I feel like I can tell people that I am a writer. I am a writer. An actual writer. I recognise now that I have my own writing style, and I’m slowly getting to grips with the publishing process. Sometimes, people actually come and ask me for advice! I know! Day-to-day, I’m still going to work, avoiding the ironing, trying unsuccessfully to grow things in my garden. My face continues to droop. But inside, I’m a ball of excitement, optimistic for the future. Can you sum up the CWIP experience in three words? Can I do it in two? life-changing.
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