19 November 2013

Discovery Day: the online reaction

A writer pitches her novel to Curtis Brown's Gordon WiseA writer pitches her novel to Curtis Brown's Gordon Wise
by Rufus Purdy Events

While we at Curtis Brown Creative spent much of last week blogging about our Discovery Day event at Foyles bookshop on Saturday, the mantle now seems to have passed to the bloggers (and aspiring authors) who attended the event. Just to remind you, Discovery Day saw the literary agents of Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh set up shop at Foyles so that members of the public could come along and pitch their novels – speed dating-style – and get comments and feedback on their projects. Writers were asked to do a one-minute pitch, then agents would read their opening page before opening up a discussion about the book.

‘Let’s face it, seven minutes is little time,’ said Michelle Flatley, who posted about her experience of Discovery Day on her How to Stay Married Whilst Writing a Novel blog. ‘I talk a lot, probably too much, and agent Gordon Wise hardly got a word in. In those seven minutes I learnt a lot. Agents are not as frightening as many of us imagine. The agent was smiling. Everyone was smiling. On the train I had imagined Discovery Day as the equivalent of Dragons’ Den. Instead, the agents I met were patient, positive and clearly passionate about books.’

Adam Stevenson, author of the Grub Street Lodger blog, was also given food for thought. ‘Anna Davis described my writing as “fun” and “lively”,’ he says. ‘She said it was like a rich pudding and, enjoyable as it is in parts, it might be too heavy to sustain for a novel.’

‘I was very lucky to have a positive experience in my pitch,’ says Megan Lee on her Pop Verse blog. ‘I pitched to Conville & Walsh agent Carrie Kania first thing in the morning. She was very positive, saying that I was on the right track. However, I’m not sure it was what I was looking for. There’s very little value-add to having someone say “keep doing what you’re doing”. Of course there was the other worry – perhaps she was just being nice. The heartening thing was (for me at least) was hearing others say that they had a terrible experience with their pitch. I hope that doesn’t make me an awful person…’

My personal favourite blog post about Discovery Day came from The Times journalist Kat Brown, who wrote about her experience of pitching her novel to Curtis Brown CEO Jonny Geller on the Exotic Maypole blog. ‘I was wheeled round to table one,’ she says, ‘which only had bloody Jonny Geller on it. If you don’t know who he is, he is Ross’s literary cousin. (He is not). He is the co-head of Curtis Brown and also a Thing on Twitter.

‘“So don’t panic. Let’s have a chat about your idea, and then I’ll look over your page,” he said. I sadly thought of my impeccable “introducing me” section, now completely unnecessary, and then manned up and enthused about the idea behind the book and who I was inspired by.

“Jilly Cooper, Richmal Crompton, Katherine Mansfield and Angela Carter,” I said.

“Great. They’re very different.”’

Keep them coming. We’ve loved reading these posts and we’ll keep highlighting the best.

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