Thursday, 21 November 2013
A Little Discovery...
This free event, brainchild of Curtis Brown Literary agents (and in association, this year, with sister act Conville & Walsh) was to enable writers from anywhere on Earth to go and pitch their novels-in-progress to living and breathing literary agents.
In preparation for this significant event, I gave myself two weeks to compile and practice the requisite 30 second pitch, trying to devise some intelligent questions to boot. And, for the remainder of my prep time, I usefully bricked myself. I've never done anything like this before, and I've been writing forever.
When it came to crunch-day, my boyfriend and I travelled down from Nottingham on the train. That morning, my nerves somehow transformed into a twisted sense of excitement, despite this being ABNORMAL for me. Normally, facing interviews and similarly terrifying situations, I'm sick with panic. I've clammed up before panels when job-hunting, I've cancelled interviews through fear.
But I practised my pitch over lunch in London, asking my boyfriend to scarily act as agent. Then we headed off to Foyles too early, masterfully avoiding the pub.
There are many other write-ups which detail the day's events, so I'm giving a stunted but flavoursome taster of my own experience here. My heart began its obligtory pounding as I was directed to my allotted agent. Which was Clare Conville.
I've had feedback from both Curtis Brown and Conville and Walsh before - on previously submitted novels, so I felt, at least, some (imagined) familiarity on seeing Clare. But, as others have said about #discoveryday, everyone was so welcoming, reassuring, friendly and interested in what we had to say, they made things much easier anyway. I didn't see or hear any ogre-like roaring.
My pitch seemed to go quite well, although - can you really tell for sure? Clare was lovely and enthusiastic and gave me useful pointers. I'm writing my novel-in-progress online (on this very blog, in fact), so I was keen to know if pre-exposing one's work (to try and gain readers) scuppers writers' chances of traditional publication. And the repeated and positive message I took away from the day was:
'If the book is strong enough it will not matter'.
My one regret is that I didn't take notes whilst there, only photos. (I looked round at people scribbling during the panel event and silently mocked them for not just: 'Subliminally absorbing it'.) However, I've forgotten loads already. As well as being a sieve-head I think it was generally overwhelming. I wish I'd recorded my session on my phone (as I heard one writer did.)
So. My little discovery on #discoveryday was that I'm not quite as timid and jelly-fied as I'd supposed. Perhaps, when it really matters, when it's something you've yearned for, slogged over, been 100% serious about, all of your life, then it's far too important to let fear destroy your chances.
And this last picture shows the back of me, far left! :) And a lovely writer I met on the day in the foreground with agent Gordon Wise.