Looking for New Writers!

Newwriters Hello my dear readers (if there are any of you still left!),

This is an odd blog post. Mostly because I haven’t written here in forever (very shameful, I know), and also because this isn’t a review. I’m looking for writers. Real writers who have written an actual novel. If this is you, I’d love it if you would send your work my way.

I work at a literary agency and haven’t read anything good in so very long that (in addition to wanting to kill myself) I’m desperate to find something new to get excited about. In terms of what kind of stuff I’m looking for: something commercial yet upmarket, literary. My blog should give you an idea of the kind of books I like to read (even if your book is nothing like the ones I tend to read, if you feel it’s well written, get in touch anyway). I should probably point out that what I don’t like to read is historical fiction.

Please get in touch using the CONTACT ME page on my blog with the title of your novel in the subject line. Provide a brief synopsis and if I think it’s up my street, I’ll email you back and ask to see the opening three chapters. Feel free to ask any questions by commenting below and if you have any friends that have something good hidden away somewhere, tell them to get in touch too. Can’t wait to hear from you guys (she says with barely veiled desperation)!

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Creative Constipation

For me, blogging has become that older relative that you need to go and visit but keep putting off, the longer you leave it the harder it gets, and then it reaches that stage where you’re too embarrassed to even show your face. And that’s where things are getting to with me right now. I can’t believe it’s been a month since I last posted. Life appears to have rudely interrupted my blogging. A day seems to have turned into a few more, into a week, into a month (hopefully not more), without me having noticed. Perhaps I’ll just blame it on the books I’m reading – not feeling strongly enough about them to tell you guys. I’ve given myself until Friday to get back on the Blogging Train. Choo choo.

 

I’ve been meaning to write…

type-1…but I just haven’t got round to it. So instead of writing (although I appreciate this is also writing) I thought I’d share my favourite bookshops with you. There are only two.

Wandsworth Oasis Charity Bookshop

Wandsworth Oasis Charity Bookshop

The first is the Wandsworth Oasis bookshop. It’s a second hand charity one that supports local people with HIV. I know I shouldn’t promote this cuz I work in publishing, but the books are so damn cheap, it’s  a friggin’ dream. Where else can you get five books for £3.50?! Some of the titles are indeed old, but what really stings is when, amongst the endless stacks, you notice that new-ish book you just bought for full price in the regular bookstore. This place is truly amazing. Last time I was there I got a total of seven books (including the latest Lionel Shriver in hardback) for £4.50 (after a lil’ negotiating)! Wandsworth Oasis is 100% responsible for my inability to fully open my bedroom door. And there’s something to be said for picking up and reading a book that you know has been passed through many hands: the pages that have been folded over, the little scribbles in the margins, the doodles on the cover, the yellow-stained pages, the private birthday/anniversary/thank you message penned on the opening page dating back to 1992 or 2005; all that history. I love it.

My second favourite is the Waterstones near Tottenham Court Road station. For no other reason than it’s quirky and cute and has signs like this:

Cult

Cult

Hounslow-1

Reading

You could literally spend hours in either of these places. I get excited just thinking about my next visit. I don’t think it’s quite possible to feel this way about Amazon. Clicking on the ‘Kindle Daily Deal’ button does not excite me (you’re bound to uncover trash). And on that note….until next time (which will hopefully be very, very soon). waterstones

 

Murder the Others.

I’ve randomly stumbled upon this amazing book trailer. It’s interactive in that you have to click to keep the story moving, but it slowly (or quickly, depending on how fast you click/read) reveals the heard-before tale of aspiring writers arriving in New York filled with excitement, ambition and a little bit of naivety, only to soon be downtrodden by all the other ‘Been There’ writers out there. This trailer reminds writers to WRITE YOUR STORY, to keep a fierce hold of your naivety, and to ignore all those intent on bringing you down.

Failing that, just murder them.

It turns out that this trailer is for a book called Judging a Book by its Lover which has now been put on the top of my Amazon Wishlist and which I hope someone buys me real soon.

What I’ve Learnt About Authors

Over the past month I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise if you were to go through my blog posts. I now work for a literary agency, you see. The good news is that I’m legitimately surrounded by books all day, the not so good news is that I have to read a lot for work so my leisure reading has taken a bit of a backseat. In the past month, I’ve read all kinds of books ranging from a tale of survival in war-torn Beirut, to a novel about the eventful private life of Pablo Picasso, and I’m excited to say that I’ve also read something from a first-time struggling American writer that I have really high hopes for.

I’ve come to understand that almost everyone feels they have a novel inside them, and I’ve unfortunately become that person that crushes the dream, the bearer of bad news. I’ve learnt that it gets easier with time and also that there are some delusional people out there who take it very personally and start to become aggressive.

In my mind, whenever I think of writers, I’ve always maintained a lofty image of a spectacled person with unkempt hair, lounging over a typewriter with a black coffee and cigarette in hand. However, I’ve discovered that authors are real people with real lives. And…

  • I’ve learnt that some live at very normal looking London addresses.
  • I’ve learnt that they are at times insistent that their true identities remain concealed (all for very valid reasons).
  • I’ve learnt that they take public transport and that they sweat after walking through the muggy, late summer, London heat.
  • I’ve learnt that as established as they are, sometimes their work isn’t that good.
  • I’ve learnt that they can lose all their work through the unfortunate drowning of their laptops (Yes. Drowning).
  • I’ve learnt that some are very particular about certain things, especially about money.
  • I’ve learnt that the cover design of a book is the centre of many arguments and can cause professional relationships to dissolve.
  • I’ve learnt that they write on random bits of napkin, stapled together with pages of faded pencil and images drawn crudely with a biro and that it’s your job to make sense of it all and to type it up into a word document (where it should have been in the first place).
  • I’ve learnt that they marry acrobats.
  • I’ve learnt that they find it difficult to write when their children are teething.
  • I’ve learnt that they’re human. As nervous as I was to meet them, so were they to meet me.

So, a million cups of tea and dozens of manuscripts later, I can honestly say that it’s all so very subjective. All I am is an avid reader, my opinion is not necessarily worth more than anyone else’s; I just happen to have a job that means my opinion can be put into effect. All I can say to writers is do your research and send your book to the right agent, an agent on whose list you genuinely fit, because it’s a really nice feeling to be able to tell a person, after years of being rejected, that you loved their submission and would like to read more. The relief and sheer elation in their response is palpable (though they try to play it cool).

And I promise, a review will be up here by the end of the weekend.

Why Blogging Reminds Me of High School

Blogging kind of reminds me of high school. Ok, that’s not quite true.  I didn’t actually go to ‘high school’ per se. I spent my senior school years in England where it is in actual fact called secondary school; so there’s that. I thought I should clarify that in case you were picturing me in jeans and a JanSport backpack, walking down locker-lined halls listening to Blink 182. Mine was an all-girls situation and I had to wear a ghastly red and baby blue uniform. Real Hot. (Did not bring any boys to the yard.)

I should probably shut up now because my ‘high school’ experiences were nothing like that which is depicted in most stereotypical high school teen movies from the late 90s / early 2000s (complete with unrealistic, synchronised mass-dancing scene). (For some reason, the only film that seems to keep popping into my head is She’s All That with Freddie Prinze Jnr, back in the days when he was desirable, haha.)

Source: Wikipedia.org

Sorry, couldn’t resist. This is sooo bad, it’s actually quite good:

So let me change this post to ‘Why Blogging Reminds Me of What I Stereotypically Believe an American High School to Be Like.’

A lot of the bloggers are nice and friendly to the new girl in school: they talk to me, make me feel welcome, occasionally respond to one of my many questions. A small number even decide to be my friend and follow me around the campus of WordPress High.

We wander around in our cliques (categories); the foodies stick together and are always seen with their cameras at lunch time, the bookworms talk about books that are 50 shades of a colour that is not grey, so therefore no one cares; the geeks fill their pages with concepts only few understand, the arty ones don’t care if they’re liked, they let their pictures speak for themselves. And then you have the popular kids which are those blogs with a really large following, taunting you with their stats. They are the jocks and cheerleaders, all blonde and soaring blue eyed graphs looking down at you from their thousandth hit of the day whilst you’re still struggling to make double digits on most days. People just flock to them. You hate them. Or hate that you follow them and ‘like’ everything they do.

You post something new on your blog, ending with a few questions to encourage discussion and debate. You agonise over a catchy title, add a few interesting pictures, tag like your life depends on it, and you’re pretty much good to go.

And then no one responds.

Your question remains unanswered, floating about in cyber space as a constant reminder of your miniature failure. It’s like being relegated to the Loser’s table in the cafeteria (again, making this up, I had an assigned seat at lunch). The sting of rejection is palpable. But then after a while you get used to it, like you get used to having your lunch money stolen. You no longer expect to eat lunch. Who needs those calories anyway? Pshh.

And then one day, out of the blue, you are seen talking to WordPress in the halls (this means you’ve been Freshly Pressed), who’s like this uber cool kid in school so now everyone wants to talk to you. Those questions from before, they’re now answered without any prompting. So many people want to have discussions with you, you can barely keep up. You’re ‘liked’ into oblivion. You feel loved; validated. You try to play it cool.

A week goes by, and soon the other students start to forget that you’ve been touched with the ‘cool’ wand and wander off to talk to the next new thing. You feel used. You feel empty. Like a one night stand.

So the ultimate goal of high school is to be popular, to be heard, to matter. And here most of us are, high school a distant (or I guess not-so-distant) memory, still being haunted by who to sit next to in class. Who will cause those blue-eyed graphs to ripple…?

Disclaimer: This is total tongue-in-cheek.

In Cold Manipulation

The award for the most self-centred, arrogant **** (I realise there are numerous four letter insults out there, so feel free to insert as you feel appropriate) must certainly go to Truman Capote. I suppose we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead but, having watched Capote (starring Philip Seymour Hoffman) the other night, I was really repulsed by the picture that was built of this legendary writer.

Photo: Irving Penn

I read In Cold Blood almost ten years ago, randomly picking it off the library shelves without being fully aware of who Capote was and that this specific title is considered to be one of the American Greats. I just thought the story was quite interesting and was going through a ‘criminal minds’ phase. I should probably clarify that my mid teenage years were not spent devouring Great Novels and philosophising about the morals associated with obtaining a Subject for one’s next work of literature over a glass of red. I drank coke and watched The OC all day (Seth and Summer 4eva, haha).

With hindsight, this show really was a pile of sh*t

I’m sure you all know the story surrounding In Cold Blood so I’m not going to dwell on that, except to say that Capote chose to write a non-fiction novel based on the murder of a family in a small Kansas town. He soon developed a relationship with the two murderers  (Perry Smith and Richard Hickock) once they were caught ( I, personally, don’t believe all that nonsense about Capote having a romantic/sexual relationship with Perry), and proceeded to plow them for information so that he could write his book. The book was not completed until after the killers had been executed; their death necessary for a tidy finish to a book that took years of research to complete.

Is the sacrifice of a human life required for the next Great American Novel to be written? I mean, how far can writers be allowed to go in order to produce good work? I’m probably being a little overdramatic, but when someone’s death is required for you to satisfactorily complete your novel, then surely something is not quite right. To allow these people to trust you and then swiftly deceive them, purely as a means to your own end, does not sit right with me. But where do writers go for story ideas these days? (We know journalists in the UK hack phones, haha).

The killers were indeed killers, there’s no mistaking this, so should I be overly concerned about their well-being or the way in which they were treated when they obviously had little concern for the well-being of the Clutter family when they murdered them?

The years surrounding In Cold Blood were arguably the most important in Capote’s life. It’s difficult to determine what led to his alcoholism and eventual demise. Why was In Cold Blood the last piece of good work he produced?

Ultimately, I appreciate that Capote is indeed a film, that there’s obviously creative licence and it makes for a better film if he’s portrayed as an a**hole. I haven’t carried out extensive research to establish what is true and what isn’t, but what I did find was not conclusive. I did, however,  find this interesting interview with The New York Times where Capote talks about his writing process, how he defined a new genre, and how amazing he generally is. He will probably always be a mysterious character and will be talked about for years to come. I just needed to vent because that film just made me so angry, but the truth will hopefully be clarified one day so I can determine whether he really was either the unintrusive author or the manipulative opportunist. Or both.


Writing 102

Writing can be a bit of a b*tch sometimes. You experience writer’s block, buy little books that promise to have your writing juices flowing in no time, optimistically try a couple of the exercises, get bored, and before you know it the books are gathering dust on your bedroom floor or you start using them as a barrier between your laptop and your now burning thighs. So since I’m fresh out of ideas, I thought I’d give you some general tips. You’re welcome.