By Cressida McLaughlin
Last year Belinda Jones ran a fantastic competition as part of her Sunlounger anthology launch. Three writers would have their short story published alongside some of the most amazing women’s fiction authors. I wanted to be part of it so badly. I wrote a story, I honed it, I was proud of it. I didn’t win, but I congratulated Holly Martin and I devoured the Sunlounger anthology, reading heart-melting and hilarious stories, all of them sun-soaked.
This year, Belinda announced the launch of Sunlounger 2, another amazing anthology and another competition to be a part of it. I wrote a new story, I worked extra hard on it, I drank loads of coffee and ate about a million chocolate biscuits. I sent it off.
And then I was invited, on behalf of Novelicious, to the glamorous Sunlounger launch at Trader Vic’s at The Hilton in London. I put on something colourful and summery, ran through pelting rain from the tube (thanks, weather!) and was welcomed into the exotic bar area, complete with Mai Tais and beautifully decorated cupcakes.
I got to meet some of my favourite authors, including Lucy Robinson, Victoria Fox and Lisa Dickenson, and had a wonderful chat with Belinda, who was launching her new book The Travelling Tea Shop as well as Sunlounger 2.
Belinda is a real inspiration, and so passionate about encouraging new writers. I also got to talk to the very lovely Holly Martin, and hear about how winning last year’s competition raised her writing profile and gave her the opportunity to meet Madeleine Milburn, who’s now her agent. It was an amazing, glamorous, friendly launch event, and definitely worth the mad dash to London.
Fast forward a week, and I discovered that I had made it into the top four of the competition, along with Katie Stephens and the two joint winners, Ella Fairlie and Emma Heard. My story was going to be published in the Sunlounger 2 anthology! I’m still pinching myself. It comes out on Saturday 21 June, and if you love your stories sun-kissed, and though I may be ever so slightly biased, I’d definitely recommend it.
A lovely evening and a pretty lovely outcome, too.