Each year we wait with bated breath to hear who will be the recipient of the Katie Fforde Bursary. Here Marie Macneill tells us of her excitement at being Katie’s choice for 2016.
When Katie Fforde warned me that the Bursary trophy was heavy I did not imagine that it would be that heavy. A bronze Celtic style sculpture with a hefty wooden base, it is wonderfully cumbersome and sits on my narrow mantelpiece like a lighthouse warning me to get on and write or risk being dashed on the rocks of procrastination. 2015 recipient, Catherine Miller ‘Waiting For You’ warned me to clutch it carefully as it was potentially an award of two halves and last year she nearly dropped it at the ceremony. Now armed with this larger than life good luck charm (I bought a rucksack in Church Street Market en route to Paddington for a very reasonable £15 to carry it back to Cornwall) all I have to do is enjoy Katie’s company, cherish, applaud and revel with the wonderful RNA members at a variety of conferences, meetings and parties and - ah yes - finish my novel.
Coming from a theatre, television and film background my first foray into novel writing was a sliver of truth novel about a young girl finding inappropriate love to compensate for a violent father. It wasn’t the right time. Events in the news cast a shadow on my Lolitaesque main character and her age confused the pigeon–hole placement system of selling books. Was it Young Adult or Fiction? Was this Misery-Lit or Romance? I gave it to the then Chairman of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain who loved it and my former agent waxed lyrically about it being his favourite Easter read, so, who knows, maybe sometime soon it will escape the bottom drawer and fly.
‘Being Velvet’ (w/t) is altogether a different take. This universal magical realism tale is a laugh out loud comedy about coming of age and mid life crisis; not judging books by their covers and two women who through mishaps, mistakes and misunderstanding learn to feel comfortable in their own skin and live without the one thing they both thought they needed the most. The story is a visual feast and the screenplay version is running closely behind my manuscript.
I first met Katie Fforde at Chez Castillon, a wonderful writers’ retreat in Bordeaux’s wine region, on a particularly fine vintage retreat and workshop, the company included Jane Wenham-Jones, Judy Astley, Catherine Jones, Clare Mackintosh and Rosie Dene. These powerhouse women write 3,000 words before lunch and it was a privilege to make their acquaintance. One evening we sat in the garden at a long convivial table overlooking the pool, rust-red and lush-green creepers climbing the yellow sandstone walls, a hint of rosemary riding the cooling breeze and read a passage from our daily pages. Katie was complimentary but I could not have imagined that a couple of years later she would want me to be her 2016 recipient. When she told me at the RNA conference last year I literally weakened at the knees. I knew previous winners Jo Thomas, The Oyster Catcher, and Janie Millman, Life’s A Drag, and had read their fantastic debut novels. Am I really next in line? I was told by Sue Mackender that ‘Katie’s never wrong’. So no pressure then. Thank you Katie – see you in a couple of thousand words!
Marie Macneill is a lecturer at SoFT – the School of Film and Television, Falmouth University and lives in Cornwall with her husband, actor John Macneill.
Thank you, Marie and good luck with your current work in progress.
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