They came, they queued, they pitched.

With pitches and first pages of novels in hand, Elaine and Francesca travelled up to London last weekend for this year’s Discovery Day at Foyles bookshop, to speak with agents from Curtis Brown and Conville and Walsh.

IMG_0166 cropped ERElaine: Saturday the 27th February 2016 had arrived. The nerves had suddenly come to the fore. Hundreds of unpublished writers travelled to the Curtis Brown Discovery Day at Foyles Bookshop in London. Everyone of us excited to have the first page of our novels critiqued by one of their agents.

I sat, with paperwork in hand, and spoke to the lovely Sophie Lambert who is an agent with Conville and Walsh Literary Agency. I give my thanks to her because my nerves disappeared and I was able to talk about my Victorian Saga with ease. Sophie showed a great deal of interest in my novel and pointed me in the direction of another agent, Rebecca Ritchie of Curtis Brown, whom she thought would be interested in my genre.

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Queueing!

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A glimpse into the pitching room.

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Were they trying to tell us something?

IMG_0780Francesca: I must admit, I wasn’t as nervous this year, maybe because I knew the agents weren’t there to snap people up but to give sound advice. I was lucky to land Clare Conville of Conville and Walsh. Although not representing my genre, she had some good suggestions about what to add to the opening. She also said it was ‘sharp and funny’, which was encouraging. She gave me the name of two agents from Curtis Brown, so I’m storing those up for when I’ve finished the novel.

After the one-to-one, we were sent in groups for the surgery session. Here we had an opportunity to ask any questions about writing, submitting and publishing. 

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Claire, on the stairs ahead of us.

Rosemary, pitch in hand.

Rosemary, pitch in hand.

Elaine: At the end of the pitching and surgery sessions, Francesca and I, along with our writing friends, Rosemary Goodacre and Claire Verillo, stayed for the panel talk. This was chaired by Anna Davis.  Also on the panel were Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is Missing, Karolina Sutton, Emma’s Curtis Brown agent, and Venetia Butterfield, from Emma’s publishing company, Viking. Anna informed us that the agents had spoken to over seven hundred writers, which is a staggering figure.

The panel discussion was mainly about how everyone has to pitch to sell the novel, from the author, agent and the buyer of the publishing company, who then has to try and sell it to the Sales Team and the Marketing Department. They also talked about what attracts them to a novel. The answer can probably be broken down into three words; Emotion, Characters, and Plot, but not necessarily in that order.

All relieved now it's all over. Surgery session in the background.

Relieved it’s all over. Surgery session in the background.

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Giovanna, asking which queue she should join for YA.

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Anna Davis, MD of Curtis Brown Creative, introducing the speakers.

Francesca: I think the location within the store and the queueing system worked a lot better this year (Foyles has been refurbished since we were there last). We didn’t have to wait around for so long and there was a cafe to hang out in until your time slot arrived.

I understand the experience of those pitching Young Adult novels wasn’t quite as smooth. My daughter, Giovanna Burgess, was there to pitch a YA fantasy and her queue did move a lot slower. To speed it up, some of the writers ended up seeing non YA agents and even an agency reader. Despite this, Giovanna was more than happy with the advice she received.

 

It’s pretty safe to say we all had a good day and it is definitely something we would recommend. The opportunity to meet with agents and get feedback on your first page is priceless.

Were you there? What was your experience?

Twitter: @RobertsElaine11            @FCapaldiBurgess

 

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Setting Out on a Journey

Francesca takes a journey around the settings she’s used so far

At the moment I’m working on a number of projects, and it got me thinking about the different settings I’m using. On the whole I’ve used known settings in my short stories, novels and novellas, though I’m likely to rename them and take liberties. Some of the locations are from my childhood, like Littlehampton, Worthing and Brighton (renamed Costerham, Ording and Telmstone respectively).

Brighton, taken from the Wheel.

Brighton, taken from the Wheel.

Worthing Pier.

Worthing Pier. Something I’m working on currently is set in Worthing, as Worthing, and I hope to have news of that soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there are the settings I’ve discovered through family research like the former mining town of Abertysswg (where my mother was born) and Castle Pill, near Milford Haven, where one of my great-great grandfathers was born. These settings gave me the idea for three short stories, one about someone researching her family (like me!) and two historicals set in 1908 and 1915.

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Some of my ancestors lived in Castle Pill, somewhere around this field, as far as I can tell.

Abertysswg, all evidence of the coal mines invisible these days. My mother was born in a house in the middle terrace on the hill.

Abertysswg, all evidence of the coal mines invisible these days. My mother was born in a house in the middle terrace on the hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A novella set in ‘Telmstone’ also has a section set in Rome. I’ve visited there three times and had longed to use it in my writing. And what could be a more passionate setting for a romance?

Newcastle: two of my characters stood on Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

Newcastle: two of my characters stood on Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

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Piazza della Rotunda in Rome, with the Pantheon in the background. A bustling setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My stories have taken me on excursions to many other places, including Skye, Margate, Brixham, Newcastle and the coast of Ceridigion. Of all the settings I’ve used, the only one I haven’t known or visited, as far as I’m aware, is Brisbane, where I relied on Google and Google Earth for information. Having had a good look at it, I’d love to visit there some time in the future.

Brixham Miracles 2008

Brixham: my daughter and brother-in-law are on the dinghy. This inspired two stories

While I’m writing stories in different locations, I often feel I’m actually there. It’s a great way of visiting anywhere you like as you sit at your desk. Or is that just me?

Happy travels.

Do you use settings you’ve visited, or do you write outside of your experience?

@FCapaldiBurgess