As a SCBWI virgin attending my first event in London yesterday I pondered upon several questuons, perhaps you can guess my answers:
1) Decline free ice cream at the station - yes/no (no, OK, it's autumn, it was 20 degrees, but I didn't want to drop any down my front).
2) Wear unusual jewellry yes/no (yes, everyone needs a teapot necklace to play with, maybe I could hypnotise and agent into taking on my novel)
3) Eat before event yes/no (yes, who wants to listen to my stomach rumbling during a lull in conversation).
4) Drink before event yes/no (yes, before, during, after, but not all alcohol, must not send drunken tweets again)
5) Spot any other eggs from the Golden Egg clutch yes/no (I don't know, I seem to be the only one with the canvas bag declaring my eggdom, and it's hard to recognise people from a Facebook thumbnail profile pic)
6) Discuss event with non-writer friends who aren't the slightest bit interested and ask if I'm going dressed as Velma or Daphne?
Anyhow, I got to the Savoy Tup and everyone was friendly and welcoming, with plenty of positive vibes from the panel. Sarah Stuart, senior editor at Usborne, Julia Churchill of AM Heath (I make a mental note to check if I have submitted to her already - yes, best not try again), Dee Shulman, illustrator and SF Said author (we have and love Varkak Paw at home), hosted by another lovely SCWBI, Mandy Rabin.
Publication is a tricky goal. It's like an acquisition of a material item, it only brings temporary euphoria, there's the thrill of seeing an actual book in an actual book store that contains or proclaims a story you have written, publication makes it real. I'm too shy to shout about a little story that was published as part of a collection, but I will dance around the kitchen about it. But what do you do then? Then there is the tumble weed of other material in the wilderness, the pause, the very long, long pause, before anything else is published.If it ever is.
Dee Shulman says a lot of it is down to luck, to be published, you need to be in the right place at the right time, and that is true, but, as SF Said points out, the harder you work, the more your luck increases. As authors, they are no stranger to rejection, so persistence helps. I'm developing a terrier-like tenacity, like a dog with a bone. After all, what else would I do - stop writing? There is work that takes me away from writing, but there are spaces in my life that can always be filled by words.
Julia gets over 150 submissions a week, most days she can know if it's not for her in seconds, and she prefers a pitch covering letter, not a synopsis (inner writers cheer), a hook. She has 30-40 clients, so no longer feels an urgent need to look for new ones, suggests looking at agents who are staring out in your field and need to build a client list. An agent should help develop you as a writer, find you good editors and publishers, they should be the person to give you the best possible advice.
I've had many rejections, I've had feedback, I've had teaser emails asking for more, I've had whole manuscripts requested, then rejected on the basis that they love it, but are representing something similar. I just have to keep going. I could get to the end of my time on this earth with little evidence of a writing career, except one small published story, but I will have been spending my time doing something that I love, something that I need to do, and if publication isn't going to happen, so be it, but I'm going to have a bloody good try anyway.