This time last week I was limbering up for the Newcastle Writing Conference. The programme read well and I looked forward to hearing Nicola Morgan speak. Her blog Help! I need a Publisher is choc full of information I've dipped into time and again.
Claire Malcolm chaired the conference for New Writing North and did so very well. The Great Hall in the Sutherland Building of Northumbria University was vast and I was surprised to see it completely full by ten when everything began to click into action.
Questions were not allowed until the plenary session, which did not suit everyone. Most, like me, probably forgot their question or had to rush off home at 4pm when the Plenary session was just about to kick off.
The first session included Nicola, Juliet Mushens (Literary Agent) and Lisa Highton (Two Roads Books Publisher) I wished Nicola had been allowed more time. Juliet is a new agent and therefore deals mainly with debut authors. Lisa selects books that reflect her taste, and is looking for talent and an individual voice.
(Aside to self - If all agents select to their personal taste, isn't it time we knew what their personal taste might be? and - if thousands of fiction books are published every year in this country, how does she realistically expect to discover an "individual" voice? There simply cannot be thousands of individual voices. Or is that just me being picky? And - what exactly does she mean by individual voice?)
The second session was about Market Focus, subtitled What's Hot and What's Not, but do you know, no one actually told us what was Hot. Or Not. Barry Cunningham (Chicken House), Mark Stanton (Jenny Brown), and Julia Churchill (A M Heath) were entertaining (even though BC kept his trilby on the entire time he was on the dais and the conference in general). On the stairs afterwards I asked him to describe J K Rowling's voice, since he was the man who "discovered" her. Straightforward, he said, not too grammatical, over use of adverbs, focussed on character. The one thing that drew him to the book was the friendship of the children.
On the whole I enjoyed the day, though the paper bag lunch could have been more imaginative, and I learnt a good deal about the process my book will go through once it has been accepted. The next conference should be on the writing process and have agents who can say what it is in writing that makes them say no - or I like it but I don't love it.
The pic? Sophie Rochester of the Literary Platform, Toby White, Lisa Gee and Chris Rickaby.