Sunday, 28 February 2016

Discovery Day at Foyles

Yesterday I went to ‘Discovery Day’ at Foyles bookshop, in London. I won the place after tweeting a pitch to #PitchCB (Curtis Brown Creative). Even without the competition, the exercise of reducing my synopsis to one line was a very useful task to check my novel had a strong enough premise.

This was my pitch:

“When her sister's body is found after 6 missing years, Alice wants answers. The crime is in their upbringing #PitchCB

I tweeted and then I waited. The idea is, that if your tweet is ‘liked’ by one of the staff at Curtis Brown, you are invited along to their Discovery Day, which according to the website was already sold out. I understand they do a regular ‘twitter pitch’ as well, which allows you to queue-jump the slush pile, straight to the agent who likes your pitch.

So what is Discovery Day?

'An event for aspiring novelists, featuring pitching sessions with literary agents and the chance to learn more about the publishing industry ....

Throughout the day, new writers will be given the opportunity to pitch their novel-in-progress – speed-dating style – to a literary agent, and get professional feedback on their idea and their first page. Agents will read writers’ first pages and draw on their expertise to provide six minutes of on-the-spot verbal feedback. After they’ve delivered their pitches, writers will then be invited to take part in special agent ‘surgeries’ upstairs in the Foyles Gallery. Here, groups of writers will join a Curtis Brown or Conville & Walsh agent at a table, where they can ask questions about everything from the novel-writing process to the publishing industry.'- See more at:

And it was exactly that. I arrived in plenty of time. The queues were massive but it was well organised and I had been emailed a time slot, which reduced my wait to just fifteen minutes. The queuing was pleasant, as I was surrounded by other hopeful writers with plenty to talk about and it’s never a chore to spend time in a bookshop.

So armed with the first page of my novel and a synopsis, I entered the conference room on the top floor. There were about twelve or so desks, and a few window seats with agents already in communication with writers. And there were timers everywhere, ensuring the pitches didn’t run over the 6 minutes allocated. As soon as an agent was free, the next writer in the queue was matched to them. It was entirely random. Whilst waiting I decided to read my work straight from the page, as I’m a better writer than an orator and stumbling with nerves would take me over the time limit.

So was it worth the trip? Even though the whole process took less than an hour, including the Q and & A session, the agent I met, Rufus Pardy, was very encouraging and his reaction to my first page was great. It was really nice to witness the effect my writing had first hand and on first read. Normally sending out work happens in a vacuum, behind closed doors, often followed by a long wait, and sometimes a standard rejection letter.

It was definitely a good experience and reminded me how concise you need to be when you approach agents and the reality of how little time they have to spend on each manuscript. Every word counts. It also confirmed that I’m on the right (or should that be write) track.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Introversion and writing.

A lot of writers are introverted, myself included.  It’s the nature of writing to be introspective and comfortable with your own company.  The problem is that introversion is often seen as a negative trait, particularly in childhood, where choosing a book over a day out is considered 'missing out' on some level. But being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean lonely or antisocial and shouldn't be assumed as such.  Simply put, introverts just don't require the high levels of social stimulation or adrenaline that others need. Being quiet is not the same as being unhappy and does not necessitate being 'coaxed' (or bullied) into engaging in social situations. Perhaps this happens because introverts are a minority, making up just 25% of the population (often hidden!).  

So what's makes an introvert different?

Sensitivity to noise

Introverts tend to be sensitive to noise. There's enough going on in an introvert’s head without having to juggle external noise (big crowds, loud music).  This is why we find silence relaxing.


Introverts tend to be loyal.  We have little patience for gossip, finding small talk exhausting and mostly pointless. I can't remember the last time I found Kim Kardashian's bottom interesting but give me a snippet of science and I'm all ears.  We make excellent 'listeners' because we don't require a space on the center stage.   An introverted friend tends to be a friend for life. 


We prefer one-to-ones.  Parties are an assault on our senses and can make us feel alien and stressed, particularly if there’s no corner to hide in.  Short social bursts are enough, after which we need to be alone to recharge.  There have been many parties where I've wished I was at home in my pyjamas but that's not to say I don't enjoy others. 

Time alone

Introverts spend a lot of time thinking and when over stimulated, we shut down. What we need then is silence and preferably a book, a painting or a piece of music to escape into.  I find time spent with another introvert is as good as time alone.


We don't tend not to follow fashion but our own beliefs.  This is why we can often appear 'weird' or as my friend charitably says: ‘Artistic’.

Social media

Introverts love social media and we tend to congregate on it, especially writing sites.  It's a chance to step back and only engage when you feel ready. It can be horribly addictive though.


The best jobs for introverts are creative, whether that’s mathematical or artistic. Here is a handy list if you're looking: