Single parent Jemma Wallace has secured a £10,000 publishing contract after winning Trapeze Books, Gingerbread and The Pool's "One in Four" competition.
The competition is designed to reflect statistics that one in every four families in England and Wales are headed by a single parent and sought to find an aspiring writer "with experience of single parent family life" who would be able to celebrate such families in their work.
Partners Trapeze Books, Gingerbread - the charity supporting single parent families in the UK - and The Pool chose Wallace's submission for her novel Butterflies from over 250 entries. A multi-generational novel, the judges said it "eloquently expresses the perspectives of single parents over the years" as well as being able to celebrate single parents' everyday "strength and resilience".
The story follows two women from the same family as they each embark on their own journeys through single parenthood in 1953 and 2012 respectively. It explores the varying perception of single parenthood and was inspired by Wallace's family as her grandmother raised her mother alone in the 1950s.
Eight shortlisted entrants were invited to a creative writing session run by author Katherine May, and received a set of books from Trapeze. The competition judges - Rosie Ferguson, chief executive at Gingerbread, Emma Yorke, campaigns officer at Gingerbread, Sam Eades, editorial director at Trapeze, Mireille Harper, editorial assistant at Trapeze, novelist Tilly Bagshawe and Marisa Bates, journalist at The Pool - then selected the winner based on the synopsis and first 5,000 words of their novel.
Bagshawe said, despite the quality of the submissions, Wallace's entry was the "runaway winner". Rosie Ferguson, chief executive of Gingerbread, said the "unique" novel had the power to explore just how diverse the experiences of single parents can be, to which agent Rowan Lawton added her "deft handling" of the multi-generational story was "evident from the start".
The book will now be published in paperback and e-book in summer 2019 by Trapeze Books, an imprint of Orion. As part of Wallace's win, she will also receive a £10,000 advance, representation from Lawton at Furniss Lawton and mentoring from novelist Tilly Bagshawe.
Wallace commented: “Being shortlisted for the ‘One in Four’ new writer competition was amazing in itself. To find out that I’ve been chosen as the winner…well, that’s just the stuff an aspiring writer’s dreams are made of.
"I can’t thank Gingerbread, Trapeze Books and The Pool enough for the opportunity to write a story I’m truly passionate about and to be able to do this from such a significant platform, with all of the guidance and support that has been offered as part of the competition. The whole experience has been incredible so far. I’m now looking forward with a ridiculous amount of excitement to the next part of this fantastic writing journey."
Harper, one of the judges for Trapeze Books, said the panel had been drawn to "the complexity of the family relationships explored, its ambitious split timeline and the thread between those two central characters".
She continued: "What is so brilliant about Jemma’s entry is seeing the experience of single parenthood through the ages. Despite the social and cultural changes over the past fifty years, the stigma of single parenthood still remains and Jemma makes this issue such a prevalent topic of conversation in her entry. Working with Gingerbread and their members has been so inspiring, and we are proud to have joined them in raising awareness of the brilliant work single parents do.”
Marisa Bates, journalist at The Pool, added: “What I loved so much about Jemma’s entry was how it ambitiously told the story of women; from issues of infidelity to domestic violence, and of course, single parenthood.
"Jemma’s entry acknowledged the systematic and societal tides women have found themselves swimming against over the last three generations, and how, one way or another, they are always left holding the baby. Yet even within these difficult situations, Jemma also celebrates the strength and resilience that single mothers exhibit every single day. I can't wait for Jemma's novel to be out in the world.”
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