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 Hundreds of unpublished writers travelled to the Curtis Brown Discovery Day at Foyles Bookshop in London.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

 

I Believe, I Really Do Believe…

What Elaine Roberts discovered this week is that you have to believe in yourself.

Yes, it is lovely when people give you a boost by saying how wonderful your writing is, or anything else that you are doing if it comes to that.

Francesca & I at an RNA Party

Francesca & I at an RNA Party

My dream, since time began, has been to write novels and anyone who reads this blog regularly will know I am a member of the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme (RNA NWS). My biggest problem is that it doesn’t take much to dent my confidence or for me to feel I’m being selfish, dedicating as much of my spare time, (did I say spare time?) as I can to my writing. Yes, I am improving but whether I will get there or not, hmm I’m not so sure. There are a whole lot of writers out there all fighting for the same publishing/agent places, but as they say, you have to be in it to win it.

My Daughter Made Me A Cake Of My Modern Romance "Forgotten Love" As Yet Unpublished

My Daughter Made A Cake Of My  Romantic Novel “Forgotten Love” – As Yet Unpublished

I have reached chapter ten of the saga I am writing. That’s probably about mid point, around forty eight thousand words. It has been a steep learning curve for me because prior to this, I wrote modern contemporary romance, which is a very different kettle of fish. A saga tends to be longer than the average modern romance, at least that is what I have been told, approximately an extra thirty thousand words. Consequently, I’ve had to think more about my characters; there are three generations to consider. There’s the plot and the sub plots, are they interwoven enough. Then there is the setting and how to bring that alive? Use more description, which has always been a little alien to me.

When we live in a world of speed and shortened speech, for example text speak, it has taken me a while to get my head around it all, but I am getting there and what’s more, I believe I am getting there quicker. Please note I didn’t say better because I’m still in my first draft and I have no doubt there will be several edits to come.

I Do Believe...

I Do Believe…

I don’t mind that because at the RNA Conference a couple of weeks ago, Julie Cohen gave me and all the other writers there permission to write a rubbish (that’s not the word she used, but I’m sure you get my drift) first draft. She said it’s more important to get the story written and worry about making it book shape later. This boosted my confidence because I discovered I’m not the only one to write in layers. Until then, I thought I was a little strange, and before you all start shouting that I am, I mean in the way that I write.

This leads me right back to the beginning. Mix with other like-minded people who can help with any learning, but above all else, and no matter what, believe in yourself.

@RobertsElaine11

 

 

I’m late, I’m late…

Elaine Everest explains why she is always trying to catch up with herself. stop-watch.jpg (300×313)

I always thought that the life of a writer would be a life of glamour and ease. I’d live in a cottage overlooking a beautiful Cornish cove. Upon my antique desk would be my latest work in progress all written by hand with an expensive fountain pen presented to me by a grateful publisher. I may even have a bevy of bespectacled secretaries taking down my every word while I recline on a chaise longue being fed grapes… However, in reality, I’m pounding the keys of my laptop trying to keep up with a list of writing jobs that have to be done as soon as possible whilst sitting at my kitchen table, keeping an eye on the dog, while my upstairs office is housing my husband’s photography equipment and a seven foot high chocolate fountain – don’t ask!

Until the beginning of this year my day was spent pitching ideas and being commissioned to write articles for any publication that would take my work. The life of a freelance journalist is fast paced. There could be times when my ideas sold so well they had to be written and the copy filed within days. A more leisurely job was writing short fiction and deadlines only being dictated to by the seasons. In women’s magazine land we are always at least three months ahead of any seasonal story.

Apart from my freelance writing work I run The Write Place creative writing school and nfountain9.jpg (738×585)eed to plan and meet deadlines for lesson planning and event organisation. I was being pulled from left to right keeping up with deadlines even though some were self-imposed.

My dream has always been to be a full time novelist but as the years passed I found myself no nearer living the dream. Something had to give. Those deadlines had to go! I decided to start drawing on my private pension and this gave me the financial freedom to be able to ease off writing articles and work instead towards being a ‘proper writer’. I still write the occassional piece but now, to all intent and purpose, I’m a novelist. What gave me the push to fight for me dream was being taken on by a literary agent in January. Suddenly I had a new deadline – write a 120,000 word historical novel so my agent could send it to publishers. Great, I hear you say. Just sit at home all day and tap away until the book is finished. Wrong! Suddenly, other deadlines got in the way.

Along with Natalie Kleinman I work on the Romantic Novelist Association’s blog. We have to source content for two blog posts each week. That can mean interviewing authors, publishers and agents, editing work and loading it onto the blog. Next there is the technical stuff associated with such an important blog. We need to check that we are not being spammed, promote the blog on Twitter and Facebook and remind contributors to do their own promotion. It all takes time. I won’t even mention how many times Natalie and I have been tearing our hair out when a contributor changes their mind or forgets they are scheduled to send up a blog post. The show must go on –  twice weekly, come hell or high water.

Any problems can have a knock on effect to my self emposed deadline to write those thousands of words each week for my novel. In fact that’s why I’m writing this blog post at two in the morning – I’m still trying to catch up!

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I have ‘to do’ lists buzzing in my head all the time – they just won’t go away. Each one is screaming, ‘it’s my turn next’  whilst my novel is simply yawning and saying, ‘write me when you have time…’

Do you remember the White Rabbit’s song from Alice in Wonderland? “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date…”

That song could have been written for me.