So I'm sitting in an Internet cafe in Rome - really just a few PCs in the back room of a Chinese laundrette - when I read the email from Susan Hill telling me I'd been shortlisted for the Long Barn Books first novel competition.
Most of you will know Susan Hill as an author - nearly everyone I've spoken to about the competition has been to see "The Woman In Black" or has read "I'm The King Of The Castle". I first saw the former, adapted from Susan's original novel, when I was at school. My Mum took me, and laughed when I nearly wet myself. It's one of the scariest experiences of my life, and I've been to Slough. Anyway, Susan and her husband set up a publishing company called Long Barn Books back in 1997, and started the first novel competition a few years ago. She didn't set it up to make money - most first novels apparently don't - but wanted to give unpublished authors a chance to break into a notoriously difficult industry.
I manage to draft a reply to Susan, though I'm completely thrown by the weird keyboard (what's the @ sign doing on the number 2 key?! where have the double quotes gone?!). The boyfriend and I pay the laundry guy a few Euros for the ten mins of web access, and then we're off to explore the Colosseum and the Forum, in a very good mood!