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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2005, 01:39 GMT
From waitress to the Whitbread
By Laura MacDonald
BBC News, London

Rachel Zadok
Zadok is "absolutely thrilled" to have been nominated.
An author whose talent was spotted on a TV writing contest has been nominated for the Whitbread First Novel Award.

Rachel Zadok, 33, moved to London four years ago, working as a waitress while she wrote Gem Squash Tokoloshe, a novel set in her native South Africa.

She got a book deal after being spotted on the Richard and Judy show, reaching the final five of 46,000 entrants.

She said she was thrilled to hear about the nomination adding: "I just sat there, waiting for it all to sink in."

Zadok began writing when she began to feel unfulfilled with her job as a graphic designer in Johannesburg.

"I suddenly realised that it was something I really enjoyed doing. Writing takes you to another place," she told the BBC News website.

I grew up in South Africa during apartheid and saw how beliefs become so ingrained in people
Rachel Zadok
"When my husband had to move to London for work, I made the decision to work here as a waitress and concentrate on writing."

It was at her Brixton flat that Gem Squash Tokoloshe began to take shape.

The book follows Faith, the young daughter of a mentally ill woman living on a remote farm in apartheid era South Africa.

"The book is really about belief and the influence society has on children," she said.

TV competition

"I grew up in South Africa during apartheid and saw how beliefs become so ingrained in people."

After one unproductive afternoon, a frustrated Zadok began to doubt her skills.

She stopped working and turned on the television in time to see Richard and Judy announce details of a novel-writing competition.

Seeing it as a sign, she sent off a sample chapter and synopsis to the competition - eventually reaching the final five of 46,000 entrants.

Although she did not win, publishers Pan Macmillan were so impressed with her work that they offered her a deal and Gem Squash Tokoloshe was published earlier this year.

'I quit'

"The day the book arrived in the post was the first time that I felt that I didn't have to waitress anymore. I was overwhelmed that I had actually had my book published," she recalls.

"That night, I went to the restaurant and quit."

Now working on a new novel that deals with superstition, Zadok hopes that one day she will return to South Africa to live.

"Its such a dynamic country right now and its changing so fast.

I'd miss London if I left but I would always come back to spend time here."

The winners of all the Whitbread Awards will be announced in January.




SEE ALSO:
Hornby on track for novel prize
16 Nov 05 |  Entertainment


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