Well, it wasn't me! The winner of the Joan Hessayon Award for new writers was a lovely lady, called Katy Turner, for her novel "Let's Just Be Friends". I couldn't possibly be disappointed, because I know what an achievement it was to have been a contender at all. The award ceremony took place in Imperial College, London, on Saturday evening, and it was a fantastic occasion. I finally got to meet my publisher, who came to support me, and there was a substantial contingent of the Cariad Chapter, enjoying the conference too. Your support, ladies, meant so much to me.
In the run-up to the ceremony, all contenders were advised to prepare an acceptance speech, which I did, more in hope than expectation. However, having written (& memorised) it, I thought I'd share it with you anyway, as I really felt like a winner that evening, just by being in the running. So, until I reach proper award-winning status (one can dream!), here is the speech that I would have given on Saturday night.
Firstly, I'd like to congratulate my fellow contenders for this award. To reach this stage is no mean feat, and we should be very proud of our achievements. Well done, ladies!
When I was 18, I recorded my very first ECG. What followed was a wonderful career of almost 30 years in cardiology. I never thought I'd leave the NHS, but at the age of 47, I did just that and started working as a University lecturer, another career which has given me much joy and satisfaction - and continues to do so.
But it seems that I was destined to return to matters of the heart, because at the age of 59, my first book, an historical romance, was published. However, would it have happened without the RNA New Writers' Scheme? I think...possibly not.
I was in danger of drowning in research books, never to be seen again. The Rose of Florence may never have seen the light of day, but with the help of my wonderful NWS reviewer, Katherine Mezzacappa, my story was whipped into shape, and now I can hold my book in my hand...and every one of you here knows how special that feeling is.
You also know how much support is needed in bringing a book to publication, so in true Oscars style, I have thanks to give.
Firstly, to the ladies of the Cariad Chapter of the RNA. If you have a local chapter, cherish them They are a constant source of support and inspiration. I should, in particular, mention Sue McDonagh who, over a curry with a local bikers' group (I kid you not) first pointed me in the direction of the RNA and NWS.
I have already mentioned Katherine, my NWS reviewer. The NWS is anonymous, but we connected quite by accident, and I now consider her a good friend. No thanks will ever be enough for the guidance she has given me.
Toni, from Romaunce Books. You took a chance on this new writer, and despite my constant emails full of questions, you continue to work hard to get The Rose out there. I will always be grateful to you for giving me that chance. Thank you so much, and thank you for being here today to support me.
The biggest thank you has to go to my husband, Keith. He has been my biggest supporter from the very beginning. We started just as tourists in a very pretty city called Florence, but very soon, he was as invested as I was in the art, the history, the culture...the food! When I'm looking for a particular research book, he's the one who will scour the internet for a copy that doesn't cost the earth. He makes constant cups of tea, while I am writing, and of course, he always travels to Florence with me. He's a tough cookie! Even today, he has driven me here from Cardiff and is currently outside, dodging traffic wardens before we drive back later this evening.
I'm sure you'll agree that everyone needs a Keith in their lives!
And thank you to the RNA for supporting new writers like me and my fellow contenders. We would not be here without you.
As they say in Florence... Grazie di cuore!
And at home in Wales... Diolch yn fawr iawn!