Georgia’s novel, The Fifth Girl, was developed directly from an exercise on the Advanced Creative Writing Online course and won the Daily Mail and Penguin Random House First Novel competition.
Before enrolling on the course, I was working, and still am, with my husband in our family business where we supply and install vehicle security systems. Working from home is very intense and you find it very difficult to take time out from the business so studying from home gave me a place to be myself again.
I took my first steps into rediscovering my inner student in 2015 when I signed up for Ritual and Religion in Prehistory. I had a very limited knowledge of archaeology as a subject but knew that I was fascinated by what I did know and, after taking two more courses: Introduction to Anthropology and Who were the Celts, I decided that it made sense to study in a more formal fashion rather than taking courses in an adhoc manner. By then I was also volunteering once a month at Stonehenge in their education department and, although their training is brilliant, I wanted something to complement it. The Certificate of Higher Education seemed the perfect fit for my busy work/home life because I was able to study online.
Getting up at 5.30 every day so that I could study before the rest of the house woke up was initially challenging but I have been doing it now for three years so it has become second nature. I found the support from the tutors and other students to be most rewarding, the time and effort that they put in can’t be stressed enough. My knowledge and confidence grew with each course in a way that I hadn’t really imagined. I also loved the pressure of the formative then final essays. Because of the limited word counts I had to find my passive voice…to borrow a phrase from one of the writing courses, I learned to ‘kill my darlings’ and I think that was one of the best pieces of advice that I have ever had.
I took two creative writing courses back to back with Elizabeth Garner and the idea to write my novel came as part of that writing process. I had been writing fantasy but, as Elizabeth pushed us to try different genres, I realised that I was happier writing crime fiction and the story that began at that time simply took off in my mind.
I have no idea what difference the prize will make to my career. I’m still not sure that I believe it yet. Seeing the success that the first winner from 2016 has had, I feel as though I have to take the opportunity with both hands and give it everything I have because this sort of thing is only likely to happen once in my lifetime!
I do say to people all the time that they should do a course with Continuing Education. It has changed my life already. I would never have won this competition without people like Elizabeth Garner or Wendy Morrison or Jane Harrison or Billy Tweedy - the list is endless (well not endless but there are a few more) and I am so grateful to have benefited from their patience and expertise.