The Crime Writers’ Association

Winning the Debut Dagger by C J Carver

I entered the Debut Dagger on a complete whim. Despite feeling buoyant having finished my novel Blood Junction, I was hesitating over the entry fee, convinced I’d never win, let alone get shortlisted. It was only because a friend of mine said they’d never talk to me again if I didn’t ‘go for it’ – yes, they were Australian – that I sent in my entry. On returning from the post box (this was in the day before everything was done by email), I threw the details away wondering why I’d bothered wasting my money. I then forgot all about it.

You can guess my response when I opened the CWA letter (yes, a letter with a real stamp on the envelope!) months later, telling me I’d won. It was one of those fantastic, unbelievable moments that come once in a lifetime, and I became a walking cliché for the rest of the day, pinching myself and re-reading the letter to make sure I hadn’t imagined it. The boost to my confidence was extraordinary. Having written two manuscripts before Blood Junction and received countless – albeit encouraging – rejections, I was beginning to lose hope of ever getting published.

Within days of my win being announced I had an agent and a publisher, and was firmly on a new career path. You could say the Debut Dagger changed my life. I was no longer a project manager at the local hospital but a writer. A real, grown up, living, breathing writer. People took me seriously now I was published, and the pitying looks and remarks about little writing hobbies became a thing of the past. I was at last regarded with respect.

More importantly, my ability had been affirmed by professionals, publishers as well as well established authors, and I launched into my second book filled with a real sense of belief in myself, which I had lacked before.

The best thing for me, however, about the Debut Dagger, is that when you enter, you are anonymous. Nobody knows how old you are, what sex you are, if you have a hunchback or a wooden leg, or if you’re bald or a redhead. You are judged purely on your writing and your writing alone. A little story here: I was coming out of the Ladies after having won the award when I overhead a man say, ‘She only won because she’s blond and got tits.’ Shocking, I know, that such misogyny still exists, but it was more power to my elbow to know that I won the award fair and square on my talent, and my talent alone. As I write this, pride is making me puff my chest out, including my tits.

So if there are any budding authors out there who are dithering about whether to enter the competition or not, I say ‘go for it.’ Because you never know what might happen.

Good luck!

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