Imagine if you will, a massive exam hall, lofty, lit by fluorescent strip-lighting, and containing 60 small square desks set out in rows. Now put a nervous writer in front of each one, holding a sheaf of paper or a dog-eared manuscript. Behind each desk sits an agent, an editor or other industry professional. For fifteen minutes they talk - or should I say shout, before the chairs scrape back, the writers reluctantly leave and are replaced by another eager batch.
The noise is the first thing that strikes you, as exam halls are usually silent. The noise is deafening as everyone tries to make themselves heard against the other 59 conversations. Outside, there are a team of counsellors waiting, for those who get given a hard time by the agent they were sure would love their novel.
But this is a serious business, both for the writers and the agents. Books do find their way to publication here - since last year seven writers have been published. I talked to one man whose opening pages I had admired in a workshop, and he was delighted to report that an agent has asked for his complete script.
Over the weekend I met a lot of other writers and at least a third of the people I introduced myself to said they were working on an urban fantasy novel featuring vampires! I naturally thought that Stephanie Meyer must have something to do with it, but no, all claimed they were working on theirs since before Stephanie Meyer. I also met quite a few crime enthusiasts including one lady who told me the best way to cosh people is to use a few hundred pound coins swung in a sock. I met very few other historical novelists, which was a shame, but I did meet with Judith Allnatt who was lovely and gave me good advice about my second novel . Her book, A Mile of River is now on my bedside table.
The workshops I attended were excellent, and as a way of thanking those writers whose workshops I enjoyed. the illustrations here are of their books. The writers are Julia Bryant (Shape and sharpen your novel), Debby Holt (Character) and Alison Habens (Fairy Tale and Story) Even when you have been published there is still a lot to learn from other writers who have been at it longer than I have. My quote of the weekend (if I couldonly remember her exact words) is from Alison Habens, who said that writing has to be transparent, so that the reader looks through it to the real life behind.
Word addict, book addict. Nature, art and poetry fan, and writer of thought-provoking historical fiction, published by Macmillan/St Martin's Press/Endeavour Press
Creative writing tutor and writing mentor.
HIGHWAY TRILOGY BOOK TWO - based on the life and legend of heiress and highwaywoman Lady Katherine Fanshawe
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HIGHWAY TRILOGY BOOK ONE 'Terrific' - Gabrielle Kimm, author of His Last Duchess
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A DIVIDED INHERITANCE 'stellar historical fiction' - Orange nominee Ann Weisgarber
THE GILDED LILY 'There is no greater compliment than 'Give me more!' Susanna Gregory 'Beautifully written and meticulously researched, the novel drew me straight into the teeming streets of Restoration London. an addictive, page-turning read.' Mary Sharratt
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THE LADY'S SLIPPER 'Top Pick!' RT Book Reviews 'Highly recommended.' The Historical Novels Review 'Brilliant saga' Romance Reviews Today 'Rich and haunting' Reading the Past 'Riveting narrative' For the Love of Books 'Complex and engaging' Bookgeeks 'Utterly captivating' Karen Maitland, author of The Owl Killers