Writing student wins publishing competition

14 January 2019

Nichola van der Bij - profile image
Nichola van der Bij
Type: Text
Category: Student stories

Winning a publishing deal is a huge, unforgettable life moment. Being offered a publishing contract while still studying is even better. It can propel you into the industry, as Nichola van der Bij, MA in Professional Writing student, recently discovered.

Preparing students for real work and careers is a key focus across all of Falmouth’s courses. There are opportunities for students to get involved in external competitions, collaborative projects and industry work. It was one of these opportunities that led to Nichola’s success: a children’s story writing competition, run by Mabecron Books.

Mabecron Books is a publisher and bookshop based in Falmouth which has worked with illustrators from Falmouth University before, but this is the first time it has created a competition specifically for writers to get involved.

Students from the School of Communication were invited to submit 1500 to 2000 words for a picture book about a Christmas mermaid. The competition coincided with the students’ first deadlines, but, as Nichola said: “It was an opportunity not to be missed.”

Delighted to have won the competition, Nichola told us: “I am so excited. It’s an amazing surprise. I could hardly believe it when I read the email. To get to work on my story with an illustrator and have it published! I feel incredibly privileged.” 

Nichola’s winning story, A Mermaid’s Christmas Wish, is a rhyming tale about a little girl whose Christmas wish is to be a mermaid for a day, but her underwater adventure does not turn out quite as she imagined. She learns an important message about the state of our seas, which shapes the rest of her life. 

Inspired by her two young sons, Nichola told us: “I have spent many hours reading picture books, particularly those by Julia Donaldson. The rhymes, repetition and humour are easy to remember, but they also often carry an important message. Having said that, the wild imaginative stories I hear my children coming up with are always an inspiration to me too.” 

Previous to her studies on our MA in Professional Writing course, Nichola worked as a journalist and editor at the Cornish Guardian and Cornwall Today, before having children. 

Nichola added: “I’m thrilled that Mabecron Books liked my mermaid story enough to select it for publication. I started the MA in Professional Writing in September, partly to rebuild my confidence after a career break to raise my family, and also to explore different forms of writing. In just a few months, I feel my writing has improved so much already.”

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