DebsAt the beginning of this year if you’d have told me that my entry in the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition 2012 would make it to the top four and that I’d go on to receive an email from an agent who was one of the judges – Luigi Bonomi, no less - telling me how much he enjoyed my submission and asking if I’d like to send the full manuscript to him - hell, yes! - and then after various changes offering me representation, I would have thought you were being very kind, but also extremely unrealistic. However, all that did happen and earlier this week I was in London where I enjoyed a lovely lunch with my wonderful agent. Do you know how long I’ve dreamt of being able to say the words ‘my agent’?This time last year I was keeping a certain Good Housekeeping magazine very safe because it had the entry form in it for the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition 2012. There were four judges, one of them being Luigi Bonomi – an agent I’d long held in high esteem. I knew it was a long shot, but there was no harm in trying. Earlier in the year I’d submitted an entry of my novel, Broken Faces, to the Harry Bowling Prize, and although my story didn’t have an obvious urban setting, which is the main criteria entrants are asked for, they contacted me and said that they’d really enjoyed it and wanted to give it a ‘Special Commendation’ on their site. Naturally I was delighted. In April, I received a phone call from Good Housekeeping and the girl who phoned began by saying, “It’s not good news, I’m afraid.” I knew that the fact they were calling me at all meant that there was some good news. Then in July, I was able to buy a copy, or three, of the Good Housekeeping magazine and was included with the two other runners-up as, ‘Ones To Watch’, where they said, ‘In Deborah Carr’s Downton-esque tale, Broken Faces, a soldier suffers a life-changing injury in the Great War’.I recently found a notepad where on 1st January this year I'd written three resolutions, #1 being, Get an agent. It felt a little surreal to finally be able to tick it off and realize that dreams can come true.CescaI finished my first novel in 2005 and wondered what to do. "Hmm", I thought, "it's similar to books that the Arrow imprint publish. I shall phone them and offer them my novel!" And so I did. Really. I picked up the phone, dialled the number in the Writers and Artists Yearbook and got an editor on the phone. After pitching her my book she asked to see three chapters, then she asked to see the whole thing. "Pff this is easy!" I thought, "I'll probably be published next year! Now on to becoming a world famous TV presenter."Then the letter arrived. The first of many rejections. She liked the book but thought it was more 'three books in one', so could I just sort that? "Er no", I thought, "That sounds like effort." So the next few years went by and I wrote another novel, and some short stories and a play and I had a little folder called 'The Folder of Rejection' and my sister made me laugh by turning some agencies names into rude words when they replied with another 'No'.In 2009 I had been teaching History at a secondary school for two years. When a colleague of mine told me about a little known event in France in 1944 my interest was piqued. I researched, visited the village in France where it had all happened and then I started to write the book. In the meantime I had also read blogs and books about writing, attended workshops, joined the reviewing team on Novelicious and discovered Twitter. I heard from other authors, learnt a great deal more about the editing process and started to hone the book in a way I had never done previously.At the start of 2012 I sent out the first three chapters and was lucky that a couple of agents requested to see the full MS. There were more rejections but they were nicer and I started recruiting family members and willing friends to give me feedback. Their notes helped refine and improve the MS. Then the email arrived from Clare Wallace at Darley Anderson Literary Agency. She wanted to meet me! She liked the book! I turned up to a cafe in Fulham to be met with an enthusiastic and passionate lady who was giving me notes on my book, and they totally made sense. In fact I drove home thinking about some: sparked by a few ideas. Last week I signed with the agency and now I am working on making this next draft ROCK. The best thing is I have someone who believes in me and my writing. And she is not a blood relation! I know I have a long way to go to get a book deal but I also know that I've never felt so excited about things.Well done to Cesca and Debs!