My Week: Gaynor Arnold, Orange Prize-nominated author

The author of 'Girl in a Blue Dress' explains how she balances her job at an adoption agency with a writing career

Gillian Orr
Saturday 21 March 2009 01:00 GMT


I'm in London staying with some friends, so when they go to work my husband and I go to the Van Dyck exhibition at Tate Britain. I think Van Dyck is a great portraitist – there is a terrific liveliness to his work. A lot of court portraiture can be rather dull but he's the best. In the evening I speak at a meeting for the Oxford University Society. It's a lovely social occasion and I address about 50 people who come to hear about my novel. It's nice to have an eager and inquisitive audience.


We head back to Birmingham in the morning. At home later on that day, Luke from Tindal Street Press rings me to tell me that my book, Girl in a Blue Dress, has been long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction. It's a complete surprise because I didn't know when they were going to announce it and I wasn't expecting it, so it's wonderful. They say I must not tell anyone, but I tell my husband later. I don't think he's going to blab it to the world. He's been very supportive and has been so pleased for me, all the way through. We sip a glass of champagne or two to celebrate.


It's back to work today. I work for the adoption and fostering recruitment team in Birmingham, trying to get people involved, making sure they're the right people. I'm going to retire later on this year but I'm used to juggling my job and the writing. It's only on a week like this, and last year when I was long-listed for the Booker Prize, that things get a little crazy. When I arrive at the office everyone says that they've just read about the Orange Prize on their way in. Everyone's so excited for me. The day is spent in duty meetings, giving out information, and answering the telephones to people interested in adoption – interspersed with taking calls from the press.


I did two house visits today in opposite ends of Birmingham, with people interested in adoption. You spend about three hours with them. When I arrived at the first place they said, "We don't often find a celebrity in the house", which I thought was very funny. Later on I go to my writers' group, which runs every other week. It's my turn to have my work discussed so everyone gives me some feedback on my piece.


I do radio and press interviews all day and even have a photographer come round to take some pictures. I have a "teleconference" with my American publisher about the US edition of my book. It's been a busy week with the announcement but I really don't expect to win. I haven't heard of some of the other writers on the list, but it's an honour to be on the same list as Toni Morrison. You can't get better than that. It's nice to metaphorically rub shoulders with a Nobel Prize winner.

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