WriteMentor Award winner Lucas Maxwelll

“As someone who in the past has struggled with showing people my work, I’m very glad I chose WriteMentor to send my story to”

Writer Lucas Maxwell describes his experience of winning WriteMentor’s Novel-in-Development Award, a writing prize that celebrates and champions unfinished children’s novels

How did you feel when you read the winner announcement?

I had told myself that I wasn’t going to win in a strange method to prepare myself. Then I saw the email come in even then I didn’t look at it, because I was mentally preparing myself. I was fortunate to be hosting an author visit at school and there was a break in the talk so I told myself to just look at the email. To see my name as the winner was like getting an electric shock, but in a good way. I spent the rest of the day in a complete daze, occasionally double-checking the email to ensure I wasn’t in some sort of dream-state. 

How did you celebrate?

I immediately called my wife and told her the news, I wouldn’t have been able to write the novel without her support. I had to be in London that evening for an event so I celebrated by buying a burrito which was excellent. 

Tell us a bit about your writing journey to date.

When I was eighteen I wrote a short story about baseball at university as part of a creative writing course. I didn’t think anything of it, my professor held it up in front of the class and said, “I’d read this in a book,” and it was like a light came on, I’ve been writing ever since. I have, however, always struggled with showing people what I’ve written, and with the voice in my head telling me my work isn’t any good. I’ve been very lucky to having small writing gigs here and there but none of my fiction has ever been published. Winning this award has completely changed my outlook as to what I might be able to achieve, I’ve also recently met some amazing writers via social media who have been really supportive, so I feel like I have a lot more confidence than I’ve ever had.

Tell us more about the winning book, ‘You Have Selected Power Drive’.

I grew up in a small town in Nova Scotia, Canada and it largely reflects my experiences there as young teen. It is a beautiful, rugged and sometimes violent place in my opinion I feel that I had a somewhat unique experience compared to some of the kids around me. I feel like I struggled a lot with many different things, especially socially, and this is portrayed in the novel through the protagonist’s eyes. All of these things have culminated in what I hope is something that will be something people will both enjoy reading and learn about the challenges that others face.

What was the WriteMentor Novel-in-Development Award experience like for you, as an entrant?

It was extremely easy and stress-free, everyone is so supportive and very friendly. As someone who in the past has struggled with showing people my work, I’m very glad I chose WriteMentor to send my story to.

The Novel-in-Development Award prize is one year of Spark mentoring. Why do you think mentoring is so important for writers who are developing a novel?

I understand now how important it is to allow others to see your work and provide feedback. I am extremely excited to have someone be with me through this process of completing and polishing my novel. I know that by showing my story to someone I’ve never met before, they will have a completely fresh outlook that will be very valuable. 

What advice would you give other writers when entering writing awards in the future?

Read the instructions very carefully! There’s nothing worse than clicking “send” and realising you haven’t completed all of the requirements. Also, be sure that the competition is a right fit for you but at the same time be courageous and send your work out there. I sent my work to WriteMentor thinking it was the best I could do but still wasn’t very good and I was wrong, you might be wrong about your work if you’re feeling the same way.

Any general writing advice for writers of children’s fiction?

Read. Read widely, as a librarian, I have no excuse and it also helps that I love reading but if you want to be a writer you need to be a reader with an insatiable thirst. And don’t let anyone tell you that your writing is just a hobby or a silly project. It is what you want it to be and no one can take that from you.

What’s next for your writing? Any new projects on the horizon?

I’m a librarian in a high school and I run Dungeons and Dragons twice a week for an amazing group of teenagers. I’m writing a D&D novel for them based on their characters’ adventures. It will be funny, weird, and something I hope they enjoy reading. 

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