ITV’s Racy Reads winner Anouska Knight takes us through her experience winning the writing contest which was judge by bonkbuster legend Jackie Collins and new-kid-on-the-block Victoria Fox. You can read a sample of Anouska’s winning piece, “Cake” here (adult content and all that jazz).
Just be cool, do the ‘gracious smile’ thing, and enjoy the morning. You’ve had an awesome time, you are not going win as well! These were the words of wisdom I repeated to myself in the loos of the Ibis Blackfriars as Jim, the hubster, finished his pud in the restaurant beyond.
I had somehow made it to the final three of ITV Lorraine’s ‘Racy Reads’ competition, and there I was in my cubicle, still not quite sure how it had all happened.
On each of the occasions ITV had fetched me down from obscurity, they had very kindly put us up in a hotel with enough of a food allowance to see both the hubster and I through three courses of something I didn’t have to cook myself, and a good few glasses of nerve-water. That was for my nerves, obviously. Big Jim didn’t need anything to settle his; he wasn’t going to have to smile graciously on live TV the next morning when one of the other two, lovely, finalists won.
This competition was a really big deal. Not only would the winner bag themselves a once-in-a-lifetime trip to lunch with Jackie Collins over in LA, but a publishing contract with romance giants Mills and Boon. A bloody publishing contract! An opportunity to work alongside people who know what they’re doing, to suck as much knowledge from them as possible, and produce a manuscript that wouldn’t get lost in the matrix along with those of thousands of other hopeful and talented writers. This would be a done deal. The winning entry would make it to print.
Up until that evening in the hotel loos, I hadn’t really succumbed to the nerves. The whole Racy Reads shebang had been a brilliant experience throughout, a welcome diversion from the fact that my little cake shop, Nouskie Noo’s, had not long closed down, that I probably should’ve stuck out my PGCE and qualified as a primary school teacher instead of opening the shop in the first place, and the growing likelihood that despite being a fairly switched on individual most of the time, I was going to end up with a really naff job, just to be able to earn money around my kids’ schedules.
It was safe to say, I really wanted to win this competition. I reckon we all did, but boy, did I want it bad. So to chill myself out, I told myself that I had no chance…and immediately relaxed. A quick wash of the old hands and a last ditch practice in the mirror and I had my ‘gracious runner-up face’ nailed. Tomorrow would be another lovely morning at ITV, then we’d be on our way home. At the very least, I would be able to have a real stab at writing without feeling foolish about it.
And then the next morning, Valentine’s Day, Lorraine Kelly went and threw me a curveball, announcing to the nation that some bird called Anouska Knight had won.
WOW WOW WOW! I was elated! Gobsmacked! Call it what you will!
By the time I sat next to Victoria Fox on the sofa, I was a rambling mess. I’m sure the production team cut my mic at one stage, because I couldn’t stop thanking Foxy! The rest was a bit of a blur, lots of congratulating and hugging. And then the hubster, who unbeknownst to me had sat in the studio for the whole spectacle, found me out for a triumphant cuddle. I managed to hold it together, he sobbed snottily into my hair while he thought no-one was looking.
I know I shouldn’t say it, not with having two awesome sons and all, but that was definitely one of THE best days ever in my 33 years thus far.
The months since then have been pretty awesome too. Jim and I would never have seen America had ITV not flown us out there business class. Jackie Collins (you know Jackie, right?) was absolutely tip-top – engaging, witty, the perfect hostess to two uncultured dorks such as Jimmy and me.
And then there was the book itself.
I’d made it about 30k words through by the time we flew to LA, giving me about four weeks to submit another 50k words or so. It was mental, and I did wonder at one point if I was going to manage it, but I’ve got a stonking editor and I ended up somehow submitting just under 100k words in the end. Delivering a manuscript is a bit like delivering a baby. It hurts like hell, you briefly hit a stage where you wish you’d never got involved, and then you have something that you love and are proud of alright, but it needs a bit of cleaning up to make it presentable! Then, once the word count has been chopped back and the copy-editor has been through it, proud author that you are, you have to let it out into the world and hope it doesn’t get bullied by bigger, more badass authors than you. And that’s where Since You’ve Been Gone is at. Out there, fending for itself.
Anouska’s first book, “Since You’ve Been Gone” has been climbing the charts since it’s release earlier in July and has had great feedback from readers including Jackie Collins! You can folllow Anouska on Facebook and Twitter where she can be found in between writing and baking lovely treats!