Chapter 2: And the winner is…

I’ve won few competitions in my life. So few that I can still remember winning St Michael’s School’s Christmas raffle when I was in kindergarten (and my prize: a plastic nativity scene, silver glitter snow shining on the stable’s roof). As for writing competitions, my story Dominic finds a way scored me first prize in Year 6 (I took home a hardback copy of Anne of Green Gables) and Jude topped Salient’s short story competition in the late 90s. But that’s about it. So when I heard about NZ Book Month’s Six Pack competition, I didn’t race out and buy a bottle of Moët in anticipation of my success.

Entries could be either a short story or an extract from a novel, and the six winners would be published in the Six Pack book. I combined two chapters of a novel I’d started writing, turned them into a story (Scout’s Honour) and sent my entry in, feeling satisfied that I’d accomplished something more than helping my baby get a greater amount of pumpkin in her mouth than on my face, though not expecting to hear back.

I wrote the following blog post about what happened next (for the NZ Book Month website):

For me, it all began when an email with the subject NZ BOOK MONTH/SIX PACK COMPETITION/SHORTLIST magically appeared in my inbox. I clicked on it, and as I waited, waited, waited (we had dial-up back then), two possibilities wrestled in my head:

  1. It was an email to all entrants announcing the shortlist (none of the names bearing even a close resemblance to mine), praising the high standard of entries, congratulating the rest of us and urging us to try again next year. 
  2. It was an email informing me that I’d made the cut.

I can’t describe how I felt when I discovered the latter was true. Had I not been a responsible (and breastfeeding) mother, I would’ve headed straight to the nearest bar (some distance away since I’m a responsible mother who now lives in the burbs) and celebrated in a way DBC Pierre would’ve been proud of.

That was back in May and as the months dragged by, the possibility of being a Six Pack winner was always on my mind. On hearing I was a winner, I once again had to limit my celebrating, this time to just an extra cup of green tea, having just discovered I was soon to be a responsible mother of two.

Unlike the dreams I’d had leading up to the launch of the Six Pack book, I didn’t turn up at the wrong place, my name was on the winners’ list, and the $5000 cheque was of a standard size, not a really big one like in TV game shows. It was a day of surreal experiences: reading an extract from my story on a marae, introducing my mum to Elizabeth Smither, and of course, seeing my story in a book, alongside some of the best writers in NZ. All this was a week ago now and I’m still buzzing…

At that moment anything seemed possible. I was practically a novelist. It didn’t matter that I’d only written four chapters (and actually had no idea of how the story was going to end). 5000 words of it had already won a prize; I assumed publication would be a given. It was only after I’d finished one, two, three, four drafts, under the guidance of first a mentor, and then an agent, that I understood that writing is the easy part. Getting published is a completely different story.

The Six Pack

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