A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Nearly ten years ago, I joined a two hour a week adult education class in creative writing, because writing was something I could do lying down in bed.
That probably sounds a little strange. I should explain that I was recovering from a long illness at the time. It had kept me virtually housebound for what felt like several centuries, but was probably more like a couple of years, and I needed to spend a lot of time lying down.
Admittedly that wasn’t my sole reason for choosing creative writing. I’d always had a huge amount of pleasure from reading books, so it was a natural progression to try writing something myself, though I didn’t have any great expectations of success.
In fact, I didn’t have any expectations at all when I started the class in September 2007. I had three vague goals in mind. The first goal was to get to some of the classes despite the illness issues. The second goal was to take my turn at reading aloud despite the fact that I was terrified of speaking in public. The third goal was to write a short story despite a complete lack of confidence in my own writing abilities.
Rather to my surprise, I did achieve all three goals. I’m not sure now whether I wrote my first short story by the end of 2007 or early in 2008. I do remember the particular class where I started writing it. I believe our teacher had based the session on a short story competition, which had a rule that you had to include one of each of a list of words. That list included the word castle, so most people in the class dragged a real castle into their story plot, but for some reason the word made me think of chess.
So I started writing a story that involved chess. I finished it at home, and ended up calling it Checkmate. It was 2000 words of light-hearted nonsense. Once I’d finished it, I entered it in the short story section of the Yeovil Literary Prize, and forgot all about it.
After Easter, the weather got warmer, and for some reason that made my illness problems worse. I was struggling to get to the creative writing classes, and wondering whether I should give up the whole idea.
Then I heard back from the Yeovil Literary Prize. My story had come second in the 2008 Short Story category, and I had actually won some money! More startling still, on the 30th January 2009, Checkmate was broadcast on BBC Radio Somerset. (Yes, I made a note of the historic date! I’ve also still got an envelope with BBC on it.)
Cover art for my new book that’s out this week.
I was stunned by this, and encouraged enough to write some more short stories to enter in competitions. Those did well enough for me to try writing something longer. At the end of January 2010, I finished writing a science fiction book called Earth Girl, which was published in 2012 by Harper Voyager. The first advance review copies were being sent out at Easter five years ago.
It’s almost ten years since I wrote Checkmate. I’m a full time science fiction author now. My sixth full length book, Scavenger Alliance, has just been published this week. There’s also a short story collection, two novellas, and a novelette. Ten years. Ten publications. I still do most of my writing in bed.
If you’d like to read Checkmate, you can see it on my website at https://janetedwards.com/free-stories/checkmate/. It’s a very short story, only 2000 words of light-hearted nonsense, but writing it totally changed my life.
Janet Edwards is the author of the Earth Girl science fiction trilogy (Earth Girl, Earth Star, and Earth Flight), as well as Telepath, Reaper and Scavenger Alliance. Earth Girl was an American Library Association Teens’ Top Ten Title. Find out more about Janet and her books at www.janetedwards.com