Those who read the Curtis Brown Creative writing-school blog yesterday will remember we’re currently gearing up for our second Discovery Day at Foyles bookshop in London this Saturday (16th November). Things are definitely hotting up in the Curtis Brown offices. The literary agents of Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh are readying themselves to being pitched to by large numbers of aspiring novelists, and are already thinking about which clothes to wear. Pitching stations are being set up; an army of tweeters (all, of course, using the #DiscoveryDay hashtag) has been conscripted; and discussions are still ongoing about whether there’ll be sandwiches or salads to eat behind the scenes.
But what of the writers who’ll be arriving on Saturday to pitch, take part in the agents’ surgeries and attend the special publishing panel event? In the fevered atmosphere upstairs at Haymarket House, it’s easy to forget how nervous they must be, honing their pitches and hoping to see a spark of interest in an agent’s eye as they succinctly describe the plot of their novel in 30 seconds or less.
‘I had never pitched the concept for my book before,’ says PF Golden, a writer who went on to apply – and secure – a place on the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course following last year’s Discovery Day. ‘But the Curtis Brown Creative website gave great guidelines on what you should be thinking about in the pitch and how to get the most out of the experience. The agent I pitched to was brilliant; she listened to my 30-second spiel, read the first page, saw the potential and gave broad advice on how I should tackle the telling of the tale.’
‘I had a funny experience,’ says Alex Tyler, who attended last year’s event and is currently studying on Curtis Brown Creative’s inaugural Online Novel-Writing Course. ‘I was lined up in the queue, chatting to the others, when I was called to do my pitch. The agent I was meeting was having a quick break, though, so I returned to the queue. The expression on the face of the person behind me was priceless. She thought that was all the time we got!’
One of the unique selling points of Curtis Brown Creative is that, being part of the UK’s largest literary agency, we can offer an industry focus that other writing schools can only dream about. Our courses are not just about the writing of novels; they’re about ensuring the novelist has the best chance of making it in today’s competitive publishing market. Discovery Day, we’d like to think, is an extension of that. So, based on last year’s event, did we deliver?
‘Half the problem for new writers is understanding the commercial aspects of the industry,’ says PF Golden. ‘The Curtis Brown literary agents to a man turned up, sacrificing their Saturday, to chat with and meet new writers. They gave straightforward answers in the surgeries and the panel discussion, and I can’t think how anyone who attended Discovery Day could not have benefited from the experience.’
‘As writers we sit alone at a desk in our imagined worlds, continues Golden. ‘Discovery Day not only offered me the chance to sit down with a very commercially minded individual from one of the world’s most respected agencies and get feedback, but also the opportunity to meet other people like me who normally sit alone in a room writing. It was both tremendously encouraging and a lot of fun.’
As well as expert teaching from published authors, all our novel-writing courses offer dedicated modules on submitting your novel to literary agents – and include sessions on writing a synopsis and preparing a covering letter. Click for more information or to apply for our creative writing courses.