My publisher, Myriad Editions, has just announced its third First Graphic Novel Competition. I entered their inaugural FGNC in 2011/12 with work-in-progress from my graphic memoir The Facts of Life. Incredibly, I reached the shortlist, and eventually the book was published by Myriad in March, earlier this year. If you have a graphic novel in progress, it’s a veritable no-brainer to enter this competition! Here’s a page from my original entry: The style is slightly different, and this one didn’t make it through the edit. It’s about a little dare that happened at school. One can feel trepidatious about exposing oneself (and one’s work), but, believe me when I say it won’t be as bad as what happened in this incident… Do read on to find out what led me to enter the competition…
I started my book idea over ten years ago. However, I stalled on starting it properly for a few years for various good reasons but also for a bad reason. The bad reason was that I’d been to a large comics convention in the mid-00s and had felt somewhat out of place – too old and too female. I left feeling despondent – would there be much of an audience for my subject matter (childlessness and the circumstances that led to that)? It was a case of not seeing similar creators to myself represented in that environment, and feeling that myself and my work did not belong there as a result. A paucity of diversity, perhaps, especially in terms of gender, that I still see replicated to this day. This situation can be disabling for people’s enthusiasm, confidence, and ultimately their careers.
Enter Laydeez do Comics! Laydeez do Comics have also announced a fabulous women-only graphic novel competition for work in progress. They are currently crowdfunding for it here, so do consider supporting this important new writing prize for women, for reasons set out here.
I discovered Laydeez do Comics in 2009 and eventually plucked up courage to attend in 2010. That night, Nicola Streeten invited me to come along at a later date to talk about my work in progress. No way, I thought, but nevertheless I found myself in front of a lovely supportive Laydeez audience a few months later. It was when I spoke about my work there in 2011 that I first heard of Myriad Editions and the FGNC. Myriad is run by women and they publish many graphic novels by women. Going to Laydeez do Comics was a revelation in that I’d found plenty of other women making comics about all manner of autobiographical things, so I realised there might actually be a readership for what I wanted to write about. I was thus stricken by an overwhelming urgent imperative to write my book, so I entered Myriad’s FGNC with 15 pages of my WIP. Doing so gave me a deadline and thus a reason to focus intently on the project. It was also a horrifying reality check about what a huge undertaking this would be – but it felt very good to finally start properly. Starting is often the hardest part.
Being shortlisted in the competition contributed immensely to my self-confidence and feeling that I was creating work that people would be interested in reading. Entering the competition was the single most important thing I did towards getting this book published, not only because Myriad eventually became my publisher, but also because it was the catalyst that gave me momentum to keep turning up at the page. I daren’t even think about where I’d be now if I hadn’t done so. Although this is not the first book I’ve had published as an author, it was my first graphic novel, and having my book published has led to career opportunities I would not otherwise have had.
My advice is to turn up at the page a lot sooner than I did, and you have nothing to lose by entering. Potentially you could have much to gain, even if you don’t reach any lists. Make sure you’re not one those who didn’t go through with it: Go on – I dare you!
Both Laydeez and Myriad Editions have been very supportive in my comics career.