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In September, when I was at the Historical Novel Society London conference, I met Helen Hart from SilverWood Books, who is a reviewer for HNS Indie Reviews. Helen dropped me a line recently about a competition for unpublished and self-published authors . . . so listen up all you writers!

Helen’s company is working with Kobo Writing Life and Berforts Information Press to offer the Open Day Writing Competition, which is geared towards original, unpublished or self-published, fictional, English language manuscripts. First Prize is a SilverWood-produced ebook and paperback (including a professional copy-edit, cover design and page layout formatting).

Open Day Writing CompetitionThe ebook will be published with Kobo Writing Life and the corresponding print edition will be printed by Berforts Information Press. The Runner Up will receive the new Kobo Aura H2O.

The closing date is 31 December. According to Helen: “The SilverWood team are looking forward to reviewing the entries in detail and choosing a shortlist for the judging panel. We’re delighted to be working with two amazing authors, who are going to choose the winner and runner up from a shortlist of 8.”

Competition judge Shayna Krishnasamy is a writer of literary and young adult fiction, and a Kobo bestseller. She is currently at work on her third novel and lives in Montreal. Find out more at www.shaynakrishnasamy.com. Connect on Twitter: @shaynakrish. Shayna says, “I love reading the work of new writers. I’m really looking forward to discovering a new and original voice.”

Sanjida O'ConnellSanjida O’Connell is also a competition judge, as well as a writer and television presenter. She is the author of eight books, including the historical novels ‘The Naked Name of Love’ and ‘Sugar Island’ (published by John Murray). Her four works of non-fiction include ‘Chimpanzee: The Making of the Film’ (Disney) and ‘Sugar: The Grass that Changed the World’ (Virgin Books). Find out more at sanjida.co.uk. Connect on Twitter: @SanjidaOConnell. Sanjida says, “I’m looking forward to being immersed in someone else’s imaginary world, being absorbed by their use of words and transported by their story.”

I had a chance to ask Sanjida a few questions about her background.

MKTod: You write an interesting blend of fiction and non-fiction. How do these two complement and inform one another?

Sanjida: Thank you, I’ve been lucky enough to have non-fiction books commissioned on topics I’m fascinated by, from chimpanzees to sugar! As a writer, I think everything feeds into your work. For instance, when I was researching my non-fiction book, ‘Sugar: The Grass that Changed the World’, I came across a terribly poignant story about a British actress, Fanny Kemble. She married an American gentleman in the early 1800s and only discovered after the wedding that he was a slave owner. He forced her to live on his slave plantation and she wrote a diary of her experience. As you can imagine, it was a harrowing read, but beautifully written. In the end, I didn’t write about Fanny in ‘Sugar’ although her story stayed with me. I turned it into a fictional account, set at the turn of the American Civil War; it became ‘Sugar Island’ and was published by John Murray.

MKT: Today’s publishing environment is both chaotic and complex. What advice can you offer writers seeking to enter the marketplace?

SANJIDA: It’s a terribly tough market at the moment. I would advice writers to get as much help as you can by reading widely, setting up writing groups, attending short courses, like the ones the Arvon Foundation runs in the UK, or studying for an MA in creative writing. Enter as many competitions as possible and network with writers and agents. Above all, write, write and write some more. Don’t give up! Writing is a craft and it takes practise, just like any other skill.

MKT: What enticed you to participate in this contest sponsored by SilverWood Books and Kobo Writing Life?

SANJIDA: I’ve been fortunate enough to have had eight books published and I have a book deal for another two novels with Corvus. I’d like to help support other writers: it’s quite a thrill to see your novel beautifully bound and on your shelf or in a reader’s hands. Also, I love reading and I hope I’ll find a book that will immerse me in a new and original story!

The Open Day Writing Competition sounds like a great opportunity. Good luck to all those who enter!

You can find out more about the competition by visiting http://kobowritinglife.com/2014/09/20/open-day-writing-competition/