An Unexpected Triumph

Hiya, people who read this! Today I’m blogging about general things in my life, because a lot has happened lately and because my exams begin on Tuesday (make what you will of that as a ‘reason’).

Firstly, last month I participated in CampNaNoWriMo. I took to Camp the novel I blogged about at Christmas, and haven’t had time to write as I’d hoped. Well, I certainly made time, because I wrote 42,000 words in April, a personal record. If I hadn’t gone away for a week (see flat bit on the graph below) I might’ve even got the 50k.


Can I take this paragraph to say how much I love my Camp novel? I’m totally shameless–sometimes I doubt I even wrote the plot. It’s so much fun to write! MC installs toads in water tank. Bakery gets sued. MC sent to my homeland (yay!), where she discovers all the quirks of being a Guern (hedge-veg, bombed tomato lorries, the fairy ring). Her uncle once wrote a sonnet comparing a pretty girl to a cabbage field, and in the now another boy imitates it, replacing cabbage field with toads. The only romance is between Flavie’s middle-aged uncle and his neighbour, and it’s very, very cute. See what I mean by fun?

And my cabin was awesome, so supportive and funny, and filled with Disney references. Why couldn’t even one of them have Twitter? *bemoans loneliness*

Here I come onto Pitch Slam. Some of you may know it. In short, it’s an online contest hosted by LL McKinney where you pitch your novel and, if you’re chosen, your 35-word pitch and the first 250 words of your MS are posted on the host blogs, where real life agents bid on them for queries and partials. But it’s the best kind of contest, because you get feedback and the chance to edit and resubmit prior to the agent round.

I’m not going to lie when I say I entered out of curiosity. The feedback on my 250 did not disappoint:

“If we were to divide the votes, there would be more of us who didn’t get the voice than those who did, but what we did agree upon was it was unique. Possibly so unique that it overshot the mark. … All of that said, we understood what was happening, the actions were clear, the writing was concise, we just had some trouble placing the voice.”

Unique, eh? That’s possibly the best compliment I’ve ever received, and it’s enough for me that some people ‘got’ it. And the second best compliment: ‘the writing was concise’. After the whole wordcount fiasco (plus I know I’m naturally verbose) that makes me so happy. (Update: after cutting countless scenes and characters, and totally wiping the religious theme, Drina’s wordcount is down to a smacking 89,863. I honestly don’t believe I’ll make it to 88k (two thirds of the original 132k).)

On the day of the Great Reveal of who got into the agent round, I logged onto a school computer, blog-skipped, sifted through titles. And then I saw: WHEN THE CLOCK BROKE. No, silly, that’s not my title. It’s Alex’s. I feel quite personally involved in WTCB’s fate by this time (oh my gosh, did I never post my review of it?!) so I logged straight off and phoned her in case she hadn’t seen (and interrupted some important revision in the process).

Later that evening I was traversing the Pitch Slam blogs reading entries, noting awesome things they did that must’ve got them in. And wow, I was thinking, these titles are so good. I came last to Team Electric hosted by Renee Ahdieh, and skimmed down the ‘band’ poster. SINGULARITY. Wha-? I read it again. SINGULARITY is the title under which I’ve entered Captain’s Paper in contests. Were there really two entries of that title? I’d have to go alias-title-hunting again.


I clicked on the link, and to my tremendous surprise, saw not only my title, but my wordcount (the highest in my Team, I believe), my pitch, and then my crazy first 250. I can’t remember the last time I felt so surprised and gratified and invigorated.

Plus, I got an agent bid! Query and first ten pages. I did my research, polished the ten, wrote a query FROM SCRATCH, and sent. I’m not holding my breath over it, but it’s a massive step.

Someone got my ‘unique’ tone! Someone liked my conservative British concept!

That excitement pretty much destroyed my last days of CampNaNo, but I got my target and smashed my PR somehow.

Whew! I’m only halfway through the list of life-things (that you probably don’t care about) that I was going to talk about. The others being exams and universities (and a maths lecture at Cambridge last Saturday involving permutation cycles which got me VERY excited), I’ll leave them for another post.

Meantime, all the best for you in your navigating of this unmapped (figuratively, but peradventure oxymoronically) world.






A Victory and A New Venture

I tried to blog, but other writing got in the way.

I tried to do NaNo, but life got in the way.

So it seems I must attend to life for the present, since it demands such.


I’ve had another pitch idea. ‘She’d rather sabotage the family restaurant than tell her parents she doesn’t like food.’ How’s that sound? YA Contemporary, I suppose. Any preconceptions of such a story to help me craft the plot?

Life? I arrived home to an empty house one evening to discover that my parents were in hospital eighty miles away. (They were okay, I just missed a memo.)



On Tuesday my school won a team maths challenge—the regional final, so we beat all our local rivals, to the immense satisfaction of the head teacher team, and got in the local paper (misquoted, of course. Watching the reporters write in shorthand, despite appealing to my inner linguist, rather explained why). I’d post the picture were it not so horrendously fish-eyed.

The first round, the group round, consists of ten questions to be answered in forty minutes. We work together well; we got full marks.

The second round is the crossnumber, basically a crossword with numbers instead of letters. Two of each team take the across clues and two the down, and we’re not permitted to communicate for the forty-minute duration of the round. A killer pair of simultaneous equations rather messed it up, but fortunately no one else did that well either.

Finally the relay, whereby the first question answered by one pair produces an answer T which is then passed on to the other pair in order to answer the second, then third, then fourth. There are four of these relays, and bonuses are attained by answering right first time or within a certain time. The other pair in my team missed ‘T is the sum of the digits of (a+b)‘ and read only ‘(a+b)‘, which cost us nine marks, but since we still won, and bought cake afterwards, it made no difference.

We get to go to the capital next year for the national final (we being myself and three boys superior to me in all appropriate respects, but oh well). When we won the junior version in Year 8 we got several days off school, watched a somewhat gruesome film in a decent-sized cinema (our local one has six screens, and the smallest only thirty seats), and stayed in a four-star hotel.

Besides the maths, of course. Which is obviously the best part. We’ve been practicing in all our maths lessons and free periods. No more practice till New Year now, so I Have Time.



I am learning bridge. I’ve wanted to learn since I was twelve, when I read Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner. A game of pure logic, maths, cunning, impassivity—in short, skill. It exactly appealed to me. After many failed attempts to join clubs, my old Chemistry teacher started one at school. I found it completely by accident.

Bid hearts?

Bid hearts?

Let’s just say I was having a ‘bored’ day. I balanced a pile of folders on my head in the corridor, which put the Geography staff in fits of laughter (and made me blush scarlet for the first time in a while), had a disgusting cold, et cetera et cetera, till it got to my free period and I lost control…smashed a plastic water bottle against a wall. Someone tried to restrain me, I slapped him, then completely zoned out for the next half hour, and ended up in the place called ‘games club’ by nerdy social pariahs in the lower forms. And there my old Chemistry teacher was teaching a bunch of boys in Year 9 and 10 the game of contract bridge. I thank God.

So on Thursdays these boys are my friends—surprisingly mature, most of the time, all very bright and banterous, and fun to observe.


I’ve been mooting. To those of you who’ve never seen that word before (I hadn’t), it’s basically presenting a legal argument to a judge on behalf of a client, competing against an opposition.

And since it’s December, carol services and concerts are at the forefront of my mind. My brother’s bass trombone, ‘Mr Rusty’, features predominantly—at my command! 🙂

I don’t think I’ve talked about my Sixth Form subject choices before. And I ought. In-depth post to follow.