“My writer friends truly get it and have been the main reason why I haven’t given up. WM is a huge part of bringing writers together in a warm, supportive, fun way.”
Being part of the WriteMentor Hub community has given writer Kristina Rahim much-needed support during the highs and lows of publishing
Tell us about your writing journey from the start until now
Like a few people, I started toying with the idea of writing during lockdown. Looking back, I think I was searching for something I could 100% call my own. During a time of stress and navigating the madness of home-schooling a 6 and an 8-year-old, like a lot of people, I struggled to find time or space to myself. My youngest was still loving picture books at the time, which suited me, as I’ve always loved and admired the work that goes into creating these wonderful stories. Whenever I managed to get out for my own daily walk, away from the noise of the house, I found myself daydreaming my own picture book stories, and realised just thinking about these ideas made me smile – and it just spiralled from there.
Picture Book ideas grew into middle grade novels. I wasn’t sure I would be able to write a whole novel, but I read as many writing books as I could, watched webinars and listened to writing podcasts to try and learn. Then, I stumbled across NaNoWriMo, where you join other people in a challenge to write a novel during the month of November. I like a target and a deadline, so I thought I’d give it a go. I was surprised and delighted I was able to do it – and I loved it!
Of course, I thought this story was going to be an instant hit, and hurriedly submitted it to literary agents (I’m assuming most writers have done the same!). Obviously, in hindsight, this story was nowhere near ready, BUT, after a couple of Agent 121s which I treated myself to, I got mainly positive feedback and some full requests. This was enough of an encouragement for me to believe that I can’t be completely terrible at this…so I started work on my next story. Then, four novels later, I’m signed with an agent!
Why did you decide to join WriteMentor’s Hub?
I genuinely can’t remember how I first came across the WriteMentor Hub. But it was interesting to hear from Stuart a little while ago, that I was one of the first group of members back in 2020 – and I’ve never looked back.
When I first joined, I was looking for help in picture book writing, and signed up for the PB writing course with the wonderful Claire Helen Welsh. The whole set up of the course was fantastic as an introduction into learning the writing craft, as well as how the whole publishing process works. It was so easy to use the Slack platform, which is something I hadn’t used before, and the other people on the course were so supportive and welcoming.
One thing I really noticed, after I started looking into other writing courses and options that were available at the time, is the price-point for WM courses and opportunities are so much more accessible. At the time, this writing ‘thing’ I was trying, felt very much like a self-indulgent hobby, but being able to explore this creative itch, without having to break the bank ensured I was able to keep going. I was more than happy to put in the hours of work to try and improve my writing, but I wasn’t able to throw money at it. The team at WM understand this and do what they can to make their offerings accessible, which I will be forever grateful for.
What has your experience of having an agent been so far?
The excitement of being signed with an agent is still with me every day! I feel so lucky to have the support of an agent who feels as passionately about this story as I do, and I know Silvia will fight hard to get this story onto the shelves. Since being signed, we’ve discussed the next steps and areas which could do with some further work. Fortunately, there haven’t been any major changes to the structure itself, but together, we’ve agreed on parts that could be enhanced to get the story in the best shape we can before going out on submission.
Can you tell us a little about the book you signed with and how you came to secure representation.
THE DOUGHNUT CLUB is a middle grade novel about donor-conceived Quinn Parker (12) who recently discovers she has 16 donor siblings and is worried one of them might be her worst enemy.
My wife and I have two daughters who were conceived with the help of a sperm donor, so it’s a topic close to my heart.
At the end of 2022, I entered a short story competition with a piece about the moment an 18-year-old donor conceived girl meets her sperm donor. This was the first time I had written anything about a donor child, or anything for a slightly older readership. During an Agent 121 to discuss another middle grade novel I had written, I met with the fantastic Becky Bagnell. She was very positive about my middle grade story and requested to read the full. When I followed up and sent her the manuscript, I also sent her my donor short story, to give an example of my other work. I was proud of this piece, so I thought why not. When she replied, it was a ‘nearly, but not quite’ response to my middle grade novel, but she absolutely loved my short story. We had a zoom call afterwards to discuss, and she encouraged me to explore more ideas around donor conception. It was fantastic advice, and I will always be grateful to Becky for this.
I ended up with 4 different story ideas around the donor conception topic, and decided to focus on what has now become THE DOUGHNUT CLUB. My first draft was complete by early 2023 and after going through a couple of trusted beta readers (some of which I have met through the WriteMentor Hub) and a developmental edit from the fantastic Lucy Ann Unwin (who has been part of the WM Mentor Programme), I felt ready to begin sharing this story with some agents.
Before I started submitting, I entered a couple of competitions that appeared relevant at the time. There was a pitching competition on Twitter for underrepresented writers; the Queer Prize run by the PFD agency and then WM’s very own PITCHHERO. I was blown away by the amount of interest I received in all these competitions. This was the story that meant the most to me, which could be why it was starting to feel like it could be ‘the one’. I gained representation from being chosen as the winner of the PFD Queer Prize and am absolutely delighted to be working with the incredible Silvia Molteni on this, and hopefully many more stories to come.
What is your best piece of writing advice?
I know it’s been said a lot, but my advice would be: Don’t give up. Find your tribe.
Of course, the first is always easier said than done, but I was literally at the point of giving up, just before the whirlwind of interest came my way. I was disheartened by so many positive conversations leading to nothing and reading about how tough the industry is, I was close to thinking I was completely wasting my time on this dream. But what kept me going was the second part of my advice – my writing tribe.
Why do you think it’s important to be part of a community?
The writing friends I have met (mostly virtually, which doesn’t matter at all!) have made all the difference in keeping my spirits up when I’ve been feeling low. Friends and family offer lots of love and support, of course, but if they’re not writers themselves, they don’t really ‘get it’. The friend of mine who has understood the whole journey the most has been an actor friend, who knows the highs and lows of trying to find an agent, trying to get a deal, recovering from rejection after rejection and still being able to remind me that we do this because we love it and to just keep going.
My writer friends truly get it and have been the main reason why I haven’t given up. WriteMentor Hub is a huge part of bringing writers together in a warm, supportive, fun way and if I get to meet any of the WM team in person, there will be a huge hug in thanks coming their way!
Join the WriteMentor Hub
Develop writing craft, receive critique on your work from peers and kid readers, pitch your manuscript to agents, and learn from and network with industry experts through monthly workshops, webinars, and chats. Most importantly, foster life-long friendships with fellow writers.
Read more success stories
Since 2018, over 100 WriteMentor writers have signed with agents or secured publishing deals like Melissa via our summer mentoring programme, novel awards and membership to the Hub. Could you be our next success story?