From Madonna to Publication – a writer’s journey

A guest post from Julie-Ann Corrigan, describing her journey from the Festival of Writing to publication. More details about Julie-Ann at the bottom of this post.

After years of saying (if only to myself) that I wanted to write, finally in 2009 I signed up for an Open University ‘Start Writing Fiction’ course. The short story I wrote for the final exam was dire, but I knew I had something: something to say, and a style of saying it. You could call that arrogance; although I like to think I was at last finding something for which I had a smidgen of talent. My tutor agreed and told me in his final email, ‘to carry on writing.’

And that was all I needed.

One of the first post-course pieces I wrote was a humorous article about me, concomitantly, growing-up with Madonna. I submitted ‘Growing-up with Madonna’ to a local online Arts and Culture magazine, and it was published. At the same time I also had a similar light-hearted piece about being a Mum at Christmas time published in a local weekly magazine.

I really thought I’d arrived. I thought, ‘this is easy’ – snort! I went on to write short stories and miraculously my first story was included in an anthology that was subsequently published by a small press.

At the beginning of 2010, and near my birthday, my husband, who was waxing lyrical about my short pieces (I suppose he would though), found out about a Festival of Writing to be held at York University – run by Writers’ Workshop.

I had no idea what to expect and so – unlike me, I never look at the instructions – I read the blurb and rules and found out about agents and one-to-ones, and discovered there were a lot of people like me wanting to write.

The price tag for the festival wasn’t cheap, and the ticket became my birthday present. The package included one-to-ones with literary agents. Apparently, you could submit the first chapters of your novel with a synopsis. You could also enter an extract of your writing into the ‘Friday Night Live’ competition, and if it was chosen, you got to read it in front of all the other delegates … and the agents. I had one problem. I hadn’t yet started a novel.

JA-corriganI decided this small detail would not stop me and truly feel this was the beginning of the emergence of the part of my personality that had been up until now hidden: of determination, grit, bloody-mindedness, and a sheer overwhelming need to write well.

I honed the Madonna piece and submitted to the Friday Night Live. At the same time, being a northerner and slightly parsimonious, and not wanting to waste the one-to-one opportunity with the literary agents, during the run up to the festival I wrote the opening of my first novel. Around this time I also received an email saying that my piece on Madonna had been chosen for the substitute list for the Friday Night Live.

I couldn’t believe it.

I went to the festival and never did get to read my piece as unfortunately (for me) the real winners had all turned up. But the atmosphere was fabulous, and I did have a laugh with Harry Bingham, founder of The Writers’ Workshop and the Festival of Writing.

And to my first attempt at writing a novel – I have to admit this now – it was very bad. Very. However, the agents I met were lovely, as were the other delegates who attended.

I was hooked and by the end of the weekend I knew I wanted to write a novel – properly. As I drove the two hundred miles home I realised that my initial luck with publication was a little bit of a red herring – that I had much work to do. It was a Good Thing I recognised this fact because otherwise I don’t think I would have stayed the course. Years of writing and editing, of redrafting, of heartache, were ahead of me. But I was fiercely determined.

Fast forward to the July of 2015. I found an agent, and a publisher, for my second book, because yes, like all real writers, I have a manuscript in the drawer.

Despite my many lows, but also numerous highs I have managed to achieve my dream. My debut novel, Falling Suns, a psychological thriller, will be published on the14th July 2016 by Accent Press.

And you can achieve your dream too. Work hard, don’t give up, enjoy the ride. Hone your writing style. Listen to those who know about writing. Read. Listen and write. Read. Listen and write. Read, listen and write.

Where there is determination there is always a path towards your goal.

Always. Trust me on this. I know.

JA Corrigan was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. She trained as a physiotherapist, but in 2010 decided she wanted to write fiction. She has only recently put her profession on hold to concentrate on writing. She is married with one teenage daughter, and a very cute dog called Harley. When she’s not writing or reading JA enjoys running, eating, and drinking good wine, but not necessarily in that order. You can view her website here, or buy her book here.

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  • I loved reading this, Julie-Ann – especially the idea of starting your first novel just so as not to waste what you’d paid for a one-to-one with an agent! Wishing you every success with ‘Falling Suns’.

  • Thank you, Rosy.
    It’s so true, though!
    And I remember who the agent was too …
    JA x