Shortlisted again: will it be third time lucky for my novel The Chicken Soup Murder?
My exciting news for June is that my novel, The Chicken Soup Murder, has been shortlisted for the Dorchester Literary Festival Local Writing Prize. There are four of us on the all-female shortlist. I’m in good company: there’s Susmita Battacharya with Table Manners: And Other Stories, Emma Timpany with Travelling in the Dark, and Dee La Vardera with The Road to Civitella 1944.
The prize, now in its second year, was set up by Janet Gleeson and Paul Atterbury, Directors of the Dorchester Literary Festival, as a way of showing support for writers from the South West. The subjects and settings of these shortlisted books range far beyond any implied boundaries. My own is set in fictionalised versions of Bridport and Cardiff, drawing on memory of place as well as imagination. Last year we (my publishers and I) didn’t enter the DLF Local Writing Prize because Seren Books are based in Bridgend. But this year we realised it was possible to enter anyway – and here we are.
This will be the third time my novel has made it deep into a competition. There was the Dundee International Book Prize, which was for an unpublished novel. As a finalist that was an exciting time. I didn’t win and that meant starting from scratch looking for a publisher.
It was a lucky thing for me that Seren Books were willing to take a chance, and my novel came out in 2017.
In 2018 The Chicken Soup Murder was shortlisted in the fiction category of the Rubery Book Prize. Amongst stiff competition it was a boost to have come that far.
Since then my novel has been read in the USA, the Netherlands and Australia as well as in the UK. It has a life of its own. The other day I met someone who asked me what I did and when I told her she exclaimed, ‘I’ve got your book!’ Such moments are still a surprise and a thrill. Let’s hope Andrea likes it when she reads it.
While my novel can be ordered online from Seren Books or Amazon, and is stocked in independent bookshops such as The Book Shop Bridport, and branches of Waterstone’s, there’s also something lovely about being available in libraries, which means an even wider readership.
It has taken a while for me to catch up with The Chicken Soup Murder in Bridport Library because it hasn’t often been on the shelf. Alphabet lottery dictates that it’s not at eye height, but I was pleased to see that this copy is already slightly dog-eared.
You can find The Chicken Soup Murder in the Crime section. That still feels a little odd to me: apart from the puzzle to be solved, the mystery itself, it’s an accessible literary novel about grieving and what it means to be a family. It’s also humorous. If only there were a shelf for ‘crossing genres.’
Whether or not I will be a winner this time, I feel happy to be shortlisted again. Maybe it will be third time lucky. Maybe a few more people will read my work. That’s really something. I’ve had the thrill of talking to Fay Weldon and hearing her praise my writing, of a fine review by Fanny Blake in the Daily Mail, support from other writers, friends, family and strangers – and now this.
The winner of the Dorchester Literary Festival Local Writing Prize will be announced at a ceremony in Dorchester on Thursday 18 July 2019. Minette Walters will be presenting the prize of £1000 to the lucky winner.