Thursday, 3 November 2016

Starter For Ten

It's been a while since my last blog. Apologies - it's a combination of being too busy and, when I do have time, too lazy. But here I am again, and it's been a weird month of ups and downs.

The Ups - several publishers have now read my manuscript, encouraged by my hard-working agent Piers, and all of them have enjoyed it. Just to fill you in, I've written a YA supernatural novel about an Indian teenage girl who discovers her mother belongs to an ancient demon-slaying organisation. The story has its roots in Hindu mythology, which was a big part of my childhood.

One publisher wrote "I thought the concept for this one was brilliant and I'm always keen to bring a broader range of cultural influences to the list". Another wrote "Shiulie is clearly a gifted writer with such a natural YA voice that flows wonderfully and pulled me into the story immediately".

The Downs - the first publisher already had several YA authors on their books and didn't require any more. The second decided they wanted a contemporary story, not a paranormal one. My agent got a 'thanks but no thanks' in each case.
I confess I'm only able to tell you this after spending some time wallowing in self pity. Rejection is hard to take, especially when you've spent the best part of a year honing what you think is a great adventure, only to be told no-one wants to publish it. But now I look at their comments and I realise my style of writing isn't the problem, in fact the publishers like that a lot. They just want a different story. So I can either quit - or start again. Back to the drawing board.

An interesting email in my inbox this week. "I am the assistant producer of the television series 'University Challenge'...... Would you be interested in taking part in the Christmas special?" For those who don't know, University Challenge is a formidable BBC quiz show where teams from universities compete to answer questions like "in cytogenetics, what term describes the entire chromosomal complement of a cell which may be observed during mitotic metaphase?"  (Feel free to have a stab at the answer in the comments section below!)  

At first I thought it might be a hoax. But on closer investigation it turned out to be true - I was being asked to be on a panel of four representing the University of Kent. Now, my first inclination was to refuse. This quiz is hard - I mean, really, really tough. It's a sure-fire way of revealing just how desperately ignorant I am of anything not involving Middle East politics.

Jeremy Paxman, University Challenge host
But then I thought, what the hell. Looking like an idiot on national telly can't possibly feel worse than having your precious manuscript turned down by publishers. So I said yes.

Filming is in a couple of weeks. I am yet to speak to my fellow team mates, and I have no idea how to prepare, other than trying to memorise all the key dates in British history over the past 200 years.

But maybe I'll get lucky - maybe quiz master Jeremy Paxman will ask me all about about the Arab Spring. I'll let you know how it goes in my next update.

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