Big excitement in my life last night (well, it delayed the ironing for an extra evening) when I won tickets to the above event at the Southbank Centre.
I am following both @OrangePrize and @Grazia_Live on twitter since entering their first chapter competition last month, and they both offered free tickets to people who retweeted the event. A click later and I had two tickets waiting for me at the desk. The only problem was I couldn't find anyone to go with me at such short notice so one ticket went spare - in fact, I nearly didn't go myself as I don't live in central London and the logistics of sorting travel, child care & the aforementioned ironing nearly put me off but I'm so glad they didn't!
Kate Mosse (Labyrinth, Sepulchre etc) was hosting and for the first part of the evening she interviewed Sadie Jones (The Outcast & Small Wars). The audience was quite small but a show of hands showed that of those attending around 90% claimed to be writers (I kind of hovered my hand half up around my shoulder embarrassingly). Kate was an amazing host - I wasn't a great fan of the book of hers that I read but she was articulate and succinct, funny and definitely inspiring. I think I might try another of her books after all. Sadie was honest and informative but didn't look as if interviews were her favourite choice of evening activity. In fact, she looked like a dinner guest wondering how the hell they ended up on Come Dine With me, but being far too polite to say so.
They were joined for the second half by an agent, publisher & another author Jean Kwok who is Waterstones featured new writer for June (Girl In Translation). She was amazing, and had a great story. She had some short story success when younger and had an agent in New York. She relocated to Holland and took 10 years to write this book - sent it to her agent, and he passed on it! She said it was such a shock, but she put the book away for a month, got it out again and re-read it and realised she believed in it. She then made a list of the TOP agents in the US, emailed the first one a query letter and had a reply within 20 minutes asking for the MS.
The main message of the evening that I took away was the product has to be good. It was fascinating to hear from the agent and publisher their perspective. As one of them put it "I'm not looking to fall in love, but it's worth it when I do." The final section was a question and answer session which the audience made great use of! Again, they reiterated the importance of the talent, the agent stated that her job was to look after the clients she already had - finding new blood was what happened at evenings and weekends!
It was such a rewarding evening, I bought Sadie and Jean's new books and came home on the train clutching these signed copies and my copious notes! As I tweeted to Orange & Grazia in my thank you - I felt in equal parts inspired and inadequate!