In October 2020, we announced the winner of our tenth annual Women’s Prize x Grazia First Chapter Competition with a virtual award ceremony: Abigail Moss’s entry was selected from over 500 entries by judges Rosamund Dean, Grazia deputy editor; Rhiannon Evans, Grazia features and special projects editor and Women’s Prize-shortlisted author Diana Evans, who wrote the opening paragraph for the competition.

Diana told Abigail, “I was so blown away by how you made it your own. I don’t quite know how you did that, because I wrote this strange time-travel opener that could be about time travel – but maybe not – and I thought you did a really good job of constructing it into something that was yours.”

Diana will now mentor Abigail, who said, ‘My biggest ambition is to make a career out of writing fiction. I’m so excited to have such a talented and inspiring writer as Diana Evans as a mentor.’

Now that the news has sunk in, we spoke to Abigail about her writing processes, and how winning the competition will impact her

When did you first start writing?

I’ve been interested in writing since I was really young, and I’ve always been a big reader too. My parents were extremely encouraging of my writing from a young age and I was lucky to have some really inspiring English teachers too. I knew I wanted to write for a living when I was in my early teens. I started writing a novel when I was about 13 and inflicted it on my friends. It was called Snap, and it was about a pair of identical twins, one of them was a serial killer. It really wasn’t very good. I sent it out to publishers and got a lot of rejection letters in the post (this was before email was widely used). I was a massive Stephen King fan at the time (I still am) and I’d read that he stuck all his rejection letters onto a nail in his wall, so I asked my Dad to hammer a big nail into the wall of my bedroom so I could do the same. Looking at all the rejections helped me realise how badly I wanted to succeed.

Do you write across different forms as well as fiction?

I’m a freelance journalist so I spend a lot of time writing about different subjects. One of the best things about being freelance is that I can write about subjects that interest me and I get to talk to and meet loads of fascinating people. I specialise in relationships, gender, sex and feminism so often people are talking to me about quite personal things. I think being able to meet so many different people and learn about people’s different experiences definitely helps to inform my fiction writing too. Often, I start out coming to a subject with my own preconceptions, but by the time I’ve chatted to different people my own views have changed. I think it’s really important in writing (fiction and non-fiction) to be empathetic and keep an open mind.

How do you fit fiction writing into your daily life?

I went freelance mainly so that I could have more control over my time. I’m super defensive of my fiction writing time and usually make a schedule the week before and then try hard to stick to it. My partner and my friends are really supportive and understanding. If my friends ask me out for a coffee or to the pub and I say ‘No, sorry, I’m writing,’ they get it and don’t take it personally. I’m also a member of a couple of writing groups, it’s great to have the support of other writers to keep momentum. This year we’ve been meeting via Zoom and staying in touch on WhatsApp, sharing competitions, books, sometimes just funny memes about writing, it really helps to feel part of a wider community of writers, especially this year.

Now that you’ve had time to celebrate your win, what do you think it will mean for your writing career?

Winning this competition really feels like the start of a new phase in my writing career. Being able to learn from Diana Evans will be such an incredible experience and I can’t wait to see how my writing will develop over the coming year. It’s motivated me so much to write more and to be brave and take risks in my writing. I feel more determined than ever before to pursue a career writing fiction. Thank you so much for the opportunities this competition has brought about.