Magdalena McGuire on winning the Impress Prize for New Writers 2016

With just a couple of weeks to go before I was due to give birth, there was lots I needed to do. Wash and sort the baby clothes, practice my calm breathing (in for the count of four, out for the count of six), stock the freezer with enough meals to last an apocalypse. Oh, and polish the beginning chapters of my novel before entering it into a writing competition.

I’d come across the Impress Prize for New Writers on Twitter (which goes to show that social media isn’t always a waste of time!), and had followed with interest the release of Annabel Abbs’s fabulous book, The Joyce Girl, which won the 2015 competition. As a big fan, and writer, of historical fiction, I was impressed by the diversity and quality of the list put out by Impress. This would be, I thought, the perfect publisher for my work in progress, a novel about a young artist in communist Poland. Of course, there was no way I stood a chance of getting anywhere in the competition, but I figured it didn’t hurt to enter. In between cooking industrial-size batches of lasagne and worrying about the impending labour (How much would it hurt? Really?), I entered the competition and then immediately put it out of my mind. It was a good goal to tick off before having the baby, before I took a break from writing for a while.

The baby arrived (he’s gorgeous!) and life changed, and I didn’t think much about the Impress competition again until I got an email from the lovely Rachel Singleton telling me I’d been shortlisted. This was wonderful news – especially amidst the chaos of caring for a new-born.

Soon after, I read the extracts of the other shortlisted novels that were published online. They were all incredibly evocative and intriguing, and each one of them would have been a worthy winner. It was clear that among all this formidable talent, I was lucky to get shortlisted. Winning doesn’t matter, I told myself, getting shortlisted is a good result – more than you dared hope for. Be happy with that.

On the day that the winner was to be announced, I was in the midst of changing the baby’s nappy when my husband called me from work. ‘Have you checked Twitter today?’ he asked. I told him I hadn’t. ‘Well I think you should.’

No way, no way, no way.

I logged in to Twitter, and there it was. The unbelievable had happened: I had won. I danced around the living room with the baby, and kept checking the internet to make sure I hadn’t imagined the whole thing in my sleep-deprived haze.

This just goes to show that it’s worth entering competitions, even if you think you don’t stand a chance. I still can’t believe that I’m going to have a book published, but apparently it’s true. This wonderful thing that I thought only happened to other people is now, it seems, happening to me.

So do it. Enter the competition and see what happens. Because you never know your luck.

To enter the Impress Prize 2017, visit our website

Magdalena McGuire was born in Poland, grew up in Darwin, and now lives in Melbourne. Her short stories have been published in Australia and internationally by The Big Issue, The Bristol Prize, and Margaret River Press. She has published widely on human rights topics, including women’s rights and the rights of people with disabilities. She is an avid reader and particularly enjoys reading books about girls who like reading books. Her debut novel, set in communist Poland, will be published with Impress Books in 2017


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