Gold Dust and me
When I look back on my journey to novel publication choosing to embark on the Gold Dust mentoring scheme was an important milestone.
Up to that point I’d had several ideas for novels, some of which I had started but abandoned (I have drawers and boxes full of opening chapters, character profiles, passages of dialogue, roughly sketched plots). When I heard about Gold Dust I was intrigued, but wasn’t sure if it was for me, as although I had a new idea and a couple of chapters written, I didn’t yet have a novel to be mentored through. But then I realised that having someone to send my work-in-progress to on a regular basis for feedback was actually exactly what I needed, otherwise another year would go by and my prospective novel would remain just another collection of scribbled notes in a drawer.
So I embarked on Gold Dust with Jill Dawson as my mentor, and each month or so wrote 10,000 words and sent them to her. It was exactly what I needed, to get the words down on paper. But the experience was about much more than just deadlines and word counts. Jill was so lovely to work with – supportive and constructively critical. With her help I learned to fully develop my characters, use dialogue more effectively and work on the structure and pace of my novel. I wrote my first draft in seven months and then continued to work with Jill through the editing stage. She also gave me some excellent tips when it came to writing my synopsis and pitching my novel to agents.
The novel that I wrote in my Gold Dust year has not been published, however the experience made me realise that I could do it: I could write and edit a full-length novel. And I was able to put everything I had learned with Jill into practice again when I sat down to write another novel, The Companion, which is to be published this year by Orion.
We are delighted that Guinevere Glasfurd, mentored by Louise Doughty for Gold Dust with her novel The Words in my Hand, is on the Costa Prize Debut Novelist’s shortlist. We’ve all got our fingers crossed for her!
Sarah Dunnakey, mentored by Jill Dawson, will have her first novel published in 2017. The Companion will be published by Orion in May 2017. Although this is not the novel that she worked on with Jill Dawson, Sarah writes: ‘Thank you for your faith in me during the mentoring process and helping me to learn how to develop my ideas into a structured novel. It really was an invaluable experience.’ We are thrilled for Sarah and wish her many congratulations.
More congratulations are due to another Gold Dust graduate, Miranda Doyle. Taught by Jill Dawson and mentored by Kathryn Heyman, Miranda will have A Book of Untruths – a family story told through a series of lies – published by Faber in February 2017. Miranda writes: ‘Jill Dawson’s generosity in supporting new writers led to the escalator talent development scheme. Making it onto the programme in its first year made me feel like a writer, although I was still overwhelmed by nappies, poster paint and meh. Kathryn Heyman became an incredible mentor and gave me the key to understanding story, pace, and conflict, the most fundamental ingredients to story telling that there are. It’s such a relief that more than a decade on, I can reassure them both that they were not wasting their time.’
Lastly, we have much to celebrate in another Gold Dust graduate, Charlotte Mcleod. Charlotte was mentored by Louise Doughty and went on to win The Arvon Jerwood Playwright Award. She was then selected for The Criterion New Writers Programme, for The Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly. An extract from her latest play: Girl-dem was performed at The Criterion Piccadilly and she has been selected to go onto their Development Programme to develop a new play in 2017. Charlotte writes: ‘All this is a result of Louise’s help, advice and encouragement!’ Bravo to that, and here’s to many more in 2017.