Hazel Compton on nine months of Escalator
‘I applied to Escalator feeling pretty confident that I wouldn’t get in.’

Hazel Compton has always been an avid reader and an active writer. In 2010, she was a young adult judge for the Orange Prize for Fiction (now the Bailey’s Woman’s Prize for Fiction), and her short stories have won a few prizes across the internet. While working in magazine publishing, she applied for the Escalator Talent Development Scheme 2016. In her own words, below, she describes how the experience has given her strength and taught her to give more time to writing.

It is the day after I have had my final chat to my mentor, Shelley Harris, and I feel strong.

I applied to Escalator feeling pretty confident that I wouldn’t get in. I wouldn’t have applied at all had one of my friends not encouraged me to have a go at it after hearing me read out what would become the first chapter of my novel. When I looked it up; I had four days to send in my application. So, after a few days of combing over a scribbled synopsis and biography, I sent them in alongside my ‘first chapter’ and thought nothing else about it.

When I found out I had been long listed, I was surprised. I mean, I have grown up knowing about Writers’ Centre Norwich. But I never considered myself worthy of the Escalator Scheme; I was too young, too amateur. Only real writers won things like that, and I was not a real writer.

When I was shortlisted, I was even more confused. I had been continuing to write the novel I would end up working on throughout the competition year, not expecting to have any chance to write it under guidance. It had emerged from the dregs of my English Literature Masters and played on the notion of writing a story about a woman experiencing her life through video games. I had written 20,000 words before I scrapped it and, using the aforementioned first chapter (which had originally been the third or fourth), started again. When I was shortlisted, it was re-growing to a healthy 40,000.

When I found out I had won Escalator, it didn’t make sense. But I went to the welcome meeting, where I was surrounded by the wonderful, and continually supportive, other winners. But I felt like an imposter. Then I met Shelley, who immediately made me feel like I belonged; I had won my place here.

I never considered myself worthy of the Escalator Scheme; I was too young, too amateur.

Escalator forced me to focus on the fact that I am a writer, and it helped me to develop a new positive attitude to my writing. I used to fit it around seeing friends and family; if someone wanted to hang out, I would drop my writing to see them, no matter what. But throughout Escalator, I have learned how important it is to me to make time for my writing, and how much the sentence “I am writing a novel” covers.

Escalator focussed me to dedicate two/three evenings a week and most weekends to writing; I have finished a first draft, struggled through a redraft and two very serious edits, and I am at the final stages of proofreading before I send my work off to the agents who expressed an interest in me after the showcase.

Writing is a part of my life; a staple that I give time to. That would never have happened before Escalator, but now, I’m never letting that go, and with the knowledge of what I need to do to produce a novel, I already have the next one brewing.

Read an extract from Hazel’s novel, Re-start.

About Hazel

Hazel works in magazine publishing, with a keen eye on future innovations and a penchant for tech gadgetry. Always an avid reader, she was picked to be a young adult judge for the Orange Prize for Fiction (now the Baileys Woman’s Prize for Fiction) in 2010. Her short stories have won a few prizes across the internet, including being published by Glasgow University and Freight Books in their 2016 Science Fiction and Medical Humanities writing competition.

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