It’s been a very exciting week for me, a weird, amazing, crazy six days since I found out ‘Not Thomas’, my debut novel for adults, is on the long-list for The Guardian’s Not the Booker prize.
I’m very proud to say that ‘Not Thomas’ was nominated for the prize by book reviewer, Anne Williams, whose blog ‘Being Anne’ has so many followers. I’m honoured that from the huge stack of novels Anne’s read this year, she decided to choose mine.
The Not the Booker runs alongside the Man Booker. The Guardian started it nine years ago to see, as they explain on their website, if they could come up with a more interesting shortlist and an alternative winner. The Man Booker has a prize fund of £50,000 – should you win Not the Booker, you’ll be presented with a lovely Guardian mug.
But, as we all know, it’s not about the winning, it’s about the taking part. And I had no idea I’d be involved in the Not the Booker 2017 until I read Anne Williams’ review of my novel.
In it, she surprised me by saying: “Not Thomas is one of the most stunning books I’ve read this year. As I finished reading, I immediately nominated it for the Guardian Not the Booker prize – if there is any justice in this world (and I do hope there will be) this book should be on mainstream prize shortlists everywhere.”
You can imagine how I felt when I read that. I grinned from ear to ear and shed a few happy tears too.
Happy tears feature large in ‘Not Thomas’, as do sad ones. The novel is about five-year-old Tomos and his neglectful mum, who has insisted he’s removed from the home of his lovely foster parents.
The story is told in Tomos’s voice and shown through his eyes. I was very nervous when ‘Not Thomas’ was first published in June this year – I wasn’t sure adults would want to read a novel written from such a young child’s point of view.
Thankfully, Anne’s review put my mind at rest. It continued: “The impact of this book was exceptional. Tomos’ voice is absolutely authentic and compelling: you find yourself smiling at the way he expresses himself, immediately before being in tears.”
It was such a relief. Other reviews have given me positive feedback about ‘Not Thomas’ too. And best of all, readers have told me they’ve taken little Tomos to their hearts.
So how will my book fair on the Not the Booker prize long-list?
Well, there’s not much time until we find out – the short-list is announced on Tuesday 8th August. There are 192 titles on the list, from some very big names like Colm Tóibín and Ali Smith, to unknowns like me – and everyone else in between. Five novels will be chosen by a public vote which ends on Monday evening at midnight.
Those five novels with the most votes will go through to the short-list. They will be read and voted on by a panel made up of Guardian readers, and the books will each take a turn at being discussed.
Anyone can read along at home, join in the discussion on-line and write reviews on the Guardian Books page. The best reviewers even get a chance to sit on next year’s panel.
The winner will be announced in October, just as the actual Booker prize is announced, and will be presented with that coveted mug.
So what’s it like being on the very long long-list of the Not the Booker prize? I often wondered that, as I looked on every year, dreaming that one day it might be me on there.
Well, it’s been fun, it’s been hectic, and it’s been exhausting – I never thought social media could be so important to me, and so draining too! I’ve been run off my feet with people messaging me on Facebook with their congratulations and best wishes. It’s wonderful and very touching that they actually want to vote for my book, too. And it’s been so busy, there’s barely been time to turn around!
With less than 36 hours to go, it’s a tightly fought battle. Will any of the lesser known books make it onto the short-list? Well, I’m holding my breath because – dare I say it? Maybe I’ll just whisper it – my ‘Not Thomas’ is within touching distance of the finishing line. A few more votes today and we might just be on the home straight.
Then all the hours spent blogging, on Facebook and on twitter would have been more than worthwhile. I’d be absolutely over the moon.
And little Tomos might just be playing with the big boys.
If you’ve read ‘Not Thomas’ and enjoyed it, you can vote for it now on the Guardian Not the Booker prize page.
Voting ends at midnight on Monday 7th August so not long to go!
There are a couple of rules to remember for your vote to count: you must vote for two different titles on the long-list, and you must write a short review (around 100 words) for one of the titles you’ve chosen.
You can take a look at what people are saying about the books on the long-list by going to the comment thread on the voting page.
And if you’re curious about ‘Not Thomas’, you can find a sample on Amazon.