Where it all began – Sophie Duffy

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By Sophie Duffy

Back in 2010, after ten years of writing, I was on the verge of giving up the dream of being a published novelist when I came across the Legend Press website and an advert for the Luke Bitmead Award. The prize was a generous cash bursary and publication. It was worth a try. One last shot. ♥

So I sent the first three chapters of The Generation Game plus a statement on what the award would mean to me. Writing this statement was cathartic, outlining my writing journey to date: the evening classes, the MA, winning the Yeovil Literary Prize, the agent, the near misses, the no-agent, the self-doubt, the rejection, the depression. But there was something deeper than this yearning; it was a connection I felt with Luke himself.

Luke was the first novelist to be published by Legend Press with his witty, fast-paced, thoughtful book, White Summer. Tragically, Luke took his own life a few months later in October 2006. His mother and sister set up the bursary to honour his memory, to encourage emerging novelists struggling to get published, and to challenge the stigma of mental health issues. As my dad had committed suicide when I was ten, I felt huge empathy with Luke’s family.

9781785079849A few months later, I heard that I had made the shortlist of ten. I was so excited but in bad health, waiting for a hysterectomy. Two weeks after the operation, I went to the awards ceremony in London, with various family members. Then the moment came. A prolonged moment with a countdown: tenth position…. ninth… eighth… When we got to three, my name had still not been called out. My uncle was glugging back the Bloody Marys, tension rippled round the room, I thought I might just faint. When I heard I had won, it was such a rush of relief and joy. Such a memory.

The Generation Game was published by Legend Press in 2011. It tells the story of Philippa Smith and her unusual family set against a backdrop of Torquay in the 70s and 80s. This Holey Life followed in 2012, the diary of a reluctant curate’s wife set between Boxing Day and Easter. Bright Stars, my third novel, is the story of a reunion, four students whose friendship was ripped apart following a tragic accident in 1985. It’s published by Legend Press today.

Thank you, Luke.

Sophie Duffy is the winner of the 2010 Luke Bitmead Bursary and the Yeovil Literary Prize. She lives in Teignmouth, Devon with her husband and three children. Bright Stars is her third novel and is published today.


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