UP-and-coming novelist Melissa Grindon hailed LJMU’s writing community after being crowned ‘Pulp Idol’ - by Liverpool literary organisation, Writing on the Wall.
Her novel, Cabbage Babies, will now be read by a host of agents and publishers working in collaboration with Writing on the Wall, aka ‘WoW’.
The first chapter of the book will also be included in WowFest's book of 'Firsts', set to publish this year. It will also be available as an eBook on all major online outlets, with a copy sent out to agents and publishers across the country.
The MA Writing graduate, who likens to book to ‘Derry Girls … but darker’ says the work confronts some of the controversial issues surrounding teenage pregnancy and abortion.
She explains: “The narrative focuses on the lives of two schoolgirls in a small-town community in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. It addresses themes of underage and teenage pregnancy, sexual assault, and postpartum psychosis, all taking place during the height of the Troubles."
It follows Martine, a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl. She goes to a strict, Catholic high school, frequently bickering with her best friend Mary-Anne.
Martine falls pregnant, only a few weeks after dating one of the boys from the other high school in the town. She confides in Mary-Anne, who only belittles her, comparing her to Louise O’Neill, a mentally challenged girl in their school who fell pregnant the year before, and carries round a baby made of cabbages. Louise’s baby’s whereabouts is unknown, and the father a mystery.
Martine forms an unlikely connection with Louise, as she tries desperately to figure out what to do.
Describing the Pulp Idol win, Melissa adds: “Winning the competition essentially means that you get your work sent out to publishers, with the potential of a book deal a tantalising reality.
“It’s terrifying stuff, but also very exciting!”
“A lot of my writing is based on personal experience of my own life - There are certain pieces of dialogue I have taken straight from genuine and real conversations I have had - some hilarious, others verging on the darker humour.
“I aim for my work to reflect the mistreatment of young women during and post-conflict, linking to the intersectionality of cultural, political, religious, and gender expectations of teenage girls in Northern Ireland.
“Although my novel begins very much as a “Derry Girls” style comedic story, it gradually grows darker, exploring how young teenage mothers experienced abandonment and estrangement.”
A recent graduate of the LJMU MA Creative Writing, she affirms she only entered the competition with the encouragement from her tutors - Professor Catherine Cole, Sarah Maclennan, Dr Helen Tookey and Dr Robert Graham
“I always felt so encouraged in my writing, and even post MA, the community is so motivating, which I hope is reassuring to anyone considering the MA this year.”
Professor Catherine Cole was thrilled with Melissa’s news. "Melissa is a talented writer who really deserves this award. Her novel took shape during the MA and Melissa’s confidence as a writer grew too. I predict a great writing future for her. The MA sees these creative journeys as such an important part of a writer’s life - doing the degree is like passing through a door way into a more creative sense of who you are and what you want to write."
Louise Rimmer, a student on the same course, won a runner-up prize.
-The judging panel for Pulp Idol consisted of Kevin Duffy, Co-Founder of the award-winning Blue Moose Books, Yvonne Battle-Felton, Award winning author, Laura Jones, Interim Publisher of Dead Ink Books and Genevieve Pegg, Publishing Director of Harper North.