Monday, January 23, 2017

Vivien Hampshire: A successful route to publication

It is such a pleasure to invite Vivien Hampshire to the RNA blog. Viv is known to many of us due to the years she’s spent as a successful published writer. Viv, tells us about her journey to becoming an author and how she wrote for her living along the way.

Thank you for inviting me onto the blog today.

Although ‘How to Win Back Your Husband’, published by Harlequin HQ on 18 January, is my first
commercially published novel, I have actually been writing for a very long time. I won the annual ‘Best Opening to a Novel’ competition run by the Mail on Sunday way back in 1994 and then came second two years later. Both of those were just short 150-word pieces written to draw readers in and make them want to read on. Having beaten around 5000 other entrants to make it to the winners list, I had clearly got that bit right, but sadly the full length novels that grew out of them never made it to publication.

With young children at home and limited time to myself, I turned my hand to short stories. They were quicker to write and far more likely to bring some more immediate financial reward. I sold my first – an emotional family story based at Christmas - to Woman’s Weekly in 1997, and have continued to write and sell stories to all the usual UK women’s magazines on a pretty regular basis ever since. I have stories in issues of both Woman’s Weekly and The People’s Friend Special this month, and usually manage to get one into the People’s Friend Annual every year too!

As my confidence as a writer grew, I also ventured into poetry and non-fiction. Several funny poems for young children found their way into school anthologies published by Macmillan, and I won a few minor poetry competition prizes, including an all-inclusive weekend hotel break, only spoilt by the fact that they misspelled my name and had me living in the wrong home town in hundreds of printed copies of the love poetry booklet they gave away free to all their hotel and wedding guests! 

By day, I was working with young children in libraries and children’s centres. So I started pitching article ideas to nursery and childcare magazines, got myself regular commissions, joined the editorial board of one of them, and have now had over 250 articles and children’s book reviews published in that field. I also drew on my hobby of tackling cryptic crosswords and wrote my first book, ‘How To Crack Cryptic Crosswords’ (How To Books), and started a small business compiling my own personalised crosswords as gifts, with all clues individually tailored to the recipient. 

Joining a creative writing evening class and then a local writers’ group early in my career was probably the best move I ever made. I came across like-minded people, learnt a lot about technique, found out about markets, and began to share my work and receive criticism. Within a few years, I ended up both teaching the evening classes and running the local group! Writers’ holidays at Caerleon followed (I went eleven times!) bringing me into contact with some lovely writers who have remained good friends, and I joined the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, where I now serve on Council and administer the Society’s competition programme.

With the children grown up and gone, I made the decision at the end of 2013 to quit my job and write full-time. I had self-published an e-book novel which had some very good reviews, but I lacked the marketing expertise to make it a sales success, and the urge to get a novel accepted and published by a ‘real’ publisher had started to rear its head. I had a feeling it was now or never… so that’s when I turned to the experts, the RNA. 

I spent four years in the New Writers Scheme and, despite briefly having an agent who didn’t manage to get me a deal, two of the novels I submitted to the NWS have now found publishing contracts. The first, ‘How to Win Back Your Husband’, is out now as an e-book, with the second to be published by Harper Impulse under my married name of Vivien Brown in the summer, and another contracted for 2018. The original contacts with both my editors were made as a result of short but very successful one-to-one meetings at last year’s conference in Lancaster. No agent. Just me chatting to the right people, and showing them the right manuscript at the right time. What a result!

Vivien Hampshire xx

Links:

Thank you, Vivien, and good luck with your very busy 2017.

If you would like to write for the RNA blog please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com




4 comments:

Natalie Kleinman said...

I really enjoyed this, Viv. Your professionalism in trying so many different aspects of being a writer is an example and an inspiration to us all. Congratulations on your well-deserved success.

Rosie Dean said...

Well done, Viv. You kept a lot of plates spinning to achieve all that.

Viv said...

Thank you, Natalie and Rosie. It's been a long journey and it's not over yet!

Blogger said...

You might be qualified to get a $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.