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Nina De La Mer and Myriad Editions demonstrate the Joy of Writing Competitions

Guest Blogger and Brighton Writer Rosie Davis highlights a free event this Thursday for writers courtesy of Myriad Editions and tells us why she is passionate about the work of one of their writers.

On Thursday 8th May Myriad Editions will announce their shortlist and winner of this year’s Writer’s Retreat Competition.  The very competition Nina De La Mer was shortlisted for in 2010 with her entry 4a.m. This is where she caught the attention of the publishers and from there saw the birth of her debut novel.  Five years on she has released her highly acclaimed second novel Layla proving that entering that competition really can take you to soaring heights.   

~ Layla by Nina de la Mer ~
Having just read Layla, it is hard for me to fault with Nina De La Mer’s second novel.  A storyline that steps into the back streets and into the strip clubs of Soho with a large serving of dirt and grime. But it isn’t the sex, drugs or thread worm tablets that kept me hooked, it was the underlining plot that weaved its way throughout the hangovers and spotlights of the dance floor.  It was the feeling that Nina so powerfully manages to put across that the separation from a mother and her child is unbearable, that there is a part of you that is missing, which will never be complete until they are back, “you’re gripped by the horrible deadening of your hopes: of seeing that button nose ever again…”

In 2011 Nina’s debut novel 4a.m. was published and it follows the story of two pill popping, techno loving squaddies in Germany in the early ‘90s.  A black comedy that grabs the reader by the delicate parts with the use of the second person narrative, a clever narration that has us deep in the sub-conscious of the two male protagonists.  Layla uses the same narrative device, but this time taking us into the mind of a 19-year-old girl who has moved to London after being kicked out of her mum’s home in Peacehaven.  Set in the present day and told over one week, Layla (who is actually Hayleigh) looks at the transition from the label of teenage mother to stripper and surviving in the bitchy environment of a strip club and being cut off from her son, Connor.  The mother and son bond keeps her mind occupied every day in the most inappropriate times; “Funny how he pops into your head whenever, wherever, your Little Man, as if he was lying swaddled right there on the dance floor.”   

Nina de la Mer
Hayleigh (Layla is Hayleigh’s stage name, don’t worry it is less confusing in the book) introduces us to a mixture of acquaintances from kind souls (Ivana) to the scum of the earth (Billy), who may have been based on personalities that Nina met while researching a number of lap-dancing clubs over five years. Then there’s the mother.  She pops in and out of the story but is still an integral part as Hayleigh attempts to know more about her son and her mother’s info is kept to a minimum creating an ever-growing distance; “Telling you more by what she’s not telling you, in fact. Namely, she doesn’t give a damn.” I felt empathy, but also frustration and anger for Hayleigh, on one occasion throwing the book off the bed to stop and release floods of tears without spoiling the pages.  I refused to pick it up for another two days until I was ready to step into her world again. But this is what I want, I want to feel attached, I want to care about the protagonist, and Nina delivered this.  

As the numbers neared the final page of 269, I was sinking my nails into the bright and alluring cover, the final chapter had built up a sense of tension and I was flipping through the pages wanting to know what was going to happen, but at the end of my marathon I was denied the medal.  At first I searched the pages expecting an additional chapter, or a final conclusion like Life of Pi, but once I had come to terms with it not being there, I relished in the knowing that Nina had left me wanting more, wanting to follow Hayleigh on whatever path she chooses to take.  Nina is an accomplished writer and although the ending wasn’t what I was expecting I would recommend reading Layla and while you’re adding it to your basket, why not pick up 4a.m.  These two books compliment each other and highlight Nina’s talent and skill for taking us inside her characters minds.   

Join Jonathan Kemp and Lesley Thomson for The Joy of Writing Competitions, this free event will be held at the University of Brighton on Grand Parade on Thursday 8th May from 6pm-8pm.
Listen to the writers discuss the importance of writing competitions.
For more information visit

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