Mslexia have teamed up with New Writing North to run a networking event for the winners of NWN awards and shortlisted writers from the Mslexia Novel writing competition. To prepare us for pitching, they offered an all day workshop on presenting our work. And it was brilliant! It was quite terrifying, as Ian Fenton got us 'speed dating' - pitching our vast, complex, beautiful novels in two minutes, without notes. Needless to say, most of us were not very good at it at first, and in two minutes of listening's time, we were going to have to do it again. And again. After lunch, we looked at the mistakes were making. Not mentioning the name of our novel, nor the genre. One lady got through a fascinating pitch and I was convinced it was a great kid's book - only to find it was an adult book. I repeatedly got lost in the historical details and failed to mention my main character's name. A confidence boosting hour taken by Stephanie Butland not only broke the ice but helped us present our pitches more confidently.
There were four of us there from Mslexia, and I was completely wowed by Victoria Gosling's book Letters to G, and by her confident pitch (she works in publishing). I was also intrigued by Emma Purshouse's book, Scratters, which sounds full of that dark humour that tells big stories with a sly sideways look at the reader as well as the characters. Catherine Simpson's Chicken Dust wove a mysterious story through a family within a place full of secrets. The New Writing North's writers brought a collection of intriguing short stories, a number of children's novels and some adult novels in development, and one 'literary non-fiction' writer. I really do wish them all well, and I think the networking event will be the place to find agents and editors to push their work forward.
Having embarrassed ourselves stammering through the first few pitches, it was time to do it again, two minutes, no conferring. By the end I was hoarse, and when Liv and Claire came back at the end we had to pitch - again - this time in front of the whole group to have feedback from them both. It was exhausting, but although my pitch is still rubbish, it definitely improved. It has brought back to me what's wrong with the book - it's really complicated to explain so maybe it's just too complicated.
Anyway, it was a great day, everyone was really nice and patient with each other, and I know having met loads of people who are going to be at the networking event will be a real asset. I'm actually looking forward to it, especially as Liv pointed at her jeans and jumper and said 'I would come like this - wear what makes you feel comfortable!' Music to my ears.