1) What made you enter the competition? Talk me through the day you found out about the competition and what your thoughts were?
The Easter holiday was extremely rainy; excellent motivation to do some writing. I entered the competition just to test my nerve. I sent it off, and thought that was an achievement in itself. When I got told I was in the top three, I was sitting marking A Level essays in my staffroom. I was overwhelmed; I couldn’t believe it.
2) Did you ever think at that point…I could win this?
I didn’t predict it at all. On the day of the awards ceremony I was very shocked when I’d won! I met the other contestants and thought they were lovely, talented people.
3) How long have you been writing? Tell me a bit more about how you came into writing and what the journey’s been like?
Since I was a child. Little stories in primary school, feeling a few butterflies in my stomach when a teacher would say it was good. My mother always read to me and used to regulary take us ( my siblings and I) to the local library; I remember sitting there, totally absorbed. When I went on to do English at university, I felt the impetus to write more strongly. Mostly I find the experience of writing quite difficult,traumatic even.There are moments when I really question where the story is going, then I find a paragraph that I’m proud of that spurs me on. I don’t like giving up but equally it is very hard judging your own work!
4) Did you specifically write the winning story to the the theme ambition, or did you have one already which worked around it?
Drafts and paragraphs of mine go on for years. I add, develop, alter everything I write all the time.
5) Tell me more about the awards? Who did you meet and what the highlights of the awards for you? What was going through your mind when they announced the winner of the short story competition?
The awards ceremony was wonderful. I had lunch at Harpercollins with editors during the day, attended a writing class with Greg Mosse and in the evening went to the Orange Prize. It was surreal and amazing to see brilliant writers like Rose Tremain on the stage and listen to writers I really admire like Kate Mosse.
6) You attended a masterclass at Harpers Bazaar, could you you tell our readers what that about? What did come away with, from the day?
Mostly, I learnt about structure and form and how to develop your editorial eye; essential in picking out flaws in your own work. Greg Moss was extremely helpful and had planned a very useful thought provoking session.
7) How often do you write? And what are you working towards next?
Mostly in the holidays, as I am a teacher by profession! I find that if I do it all the time I can’t see the wood for the trees, or whatever that phrase is. short bursts are when I produce my best. I am developing short stories at the moment.
8 ) What’s the best advice you’ve received in pursuing your dreams as a writer?
Keep plugging away; if you want to achieve it, keep practising your writing skill. Writing is a lonely, isolating experience so you really have to believe in yourself to even pick up the pen. So the best advice I’ve received is that: pick up the pen. Also, its really easy I’ve found to let the writing take over every spare minute. Another piece of good advice I’ve received is to remember to relax, have fun, do things to widen my experience. Its very easy to just sit at your computer to write; but remember to get your inspiration from interacting with the world too! So I suppose keep a writing/ work/ social life balance is the best advice I’ve received.
9) And what would be your advice to our readers who think that winning a competition may be out of their reach?
You never know until you try.
10) Finally I’d just like to say congratulations, hope this leads on to bigger and better things for you…what are your hopes for the future?
To keep writing and teaching. In terms of the writing itself, I want to be able to improve; to improve my style.
Sukhraj Randhawa comes from the Midlands, where she live with her big, fun, Indian family. She read her BA in English at Wadham College, Oxford University. Later she trained as a teacher and currently teaches A Level English literature at a sixth form college. She really can’t stand peas. They make her sick. She won the Orange/ Harper’s Bazaar Short Story competition this year. Her winning story will be published in the October edition of Harper’s Bazaar.