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The Time Will Come

Jasbinder Bilan, credit Ian Sharp

Jasbinder Bilan is a graduate of the MA Writing for Young People and the author of the Costa Children’s Book Award-winning Asha and the Spirit Bird. Her second middle-grade novel, Tamarind and the Star of Ishta, was published in Autumn 2020.

She tells us how her dream of becoming an author came true

After spending a large part of my life wanting to be a children’s author, it wasn’t until I gave up teaching and enrolled on the MA, that I set the ball rolling. It was the best thing I ever did. For the very first time, I shared my work with other writers, and guess what? The world didn’t come tumbling down. In fact, it was one of the many things I learned on the course and probably one of the most important. Sharing your own writing and seeing other peoples’ is a big step to being self-critical and a huge weapon in your toolkit.

I completed the MA in a year and it went by in the blink of an eye. Even though I had the manuscript for Song Of The Mountain (as it was originally called) under my belt, it took a year of editing before I was happy with it. It was hard – the hardest I’ve ever worked on anything – but being part of a community of writers was the thing that made all the difference.

The game-changer for me came when I entered this story inspired by my grandmother, for The Times/Chicken House Prize. I felt it was a long shot. They always have up to a thousand entries, but taking the step to enter is something I’d encourage all of you to do because, as they say, you have to be in it to win it!

All the tutors on the course are so supportive, and it was Steve Voake who made us believe that our time would come. You just have to be patient, he said! And when I went on to win the Times/Chicken House Prize, I realised that this was my time and I had to be ready.

My debut year was crazy – it was jam-packed right from the start. I made a scary promise to myself: I would say yes to everything I was asked to do. Yes to radio interviews, TV interviews, school visits, national press – anything! The year ended with winning the Costa, and a few more scary, I mean amazing, things: BBC Front Row, and a proper glitzy paparazzi red carpet – eeeek!

And when you think it all started with the spark of an idea. I still have to pinch myself because my childhood dream of being an author actually came true, and it happened one step at a time, one word at a time up the steep slope. My top tip is to keep going, don’t give up, cheer your friends as they all get deals… and your time will come!

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