I’ve just been to see a literary agent in London for a one-to-one session to review my manuscript, The Serpent of Eridor.
Putting myself forward for this felt like stepping up to put my head in a lion’s mouth.
‘Yes please, I’d love to. What a lovely, sleek beast this is. And such a particularly large one…’
On the bright side, as cranium approached pharynx, feline rotting meat breath might knock you unconscious before you got savaged. This left me hoping for an agent with halitosis.
Arriving spectacularly early in London, I headed to the British Museum, which is the most superb building, stuffed with wonderful artefacts. Feeling that only an hour here would hardly graze the surface, I graciously admitted defeat and repaired to the cafe for a sustaining brownie. Diet 652 whistled straight past my left ear without so much as a sigh.
The appointment was at Bloomsbury’s, a stunning old house overlooking a leafy square in central London. Bloomsbury’s spacious reception is lined with books from floor to ceiling, possibly related to Bloomsbury being a publisher. Presumably if they imported giraffes, the room would have been filled with tall ungulates peering out over the square, munching on cornices or having the neck to nuzzle the receptionist’s hair. The delivery boy who arrived to drop a book parcel would instead have been arriving with a bale of hay and a box of Ungul-eat: Gives your giraffe clear shining eyes and a sleek, healthy coat. Seven out of eight giraffes prefer Ungul-eat.
I waited with some trepidation for Lucy Luck, my appointed lion, who turned out to be more of a pussycat; relaxed, friendly, non-halitotic and a complete delight. Our meeting room was in the old servants’ quarters, at the top of the house, where they kindly offered us tea. Take one adrenaline rush from getting there, add in three flights of steep stairs and a cup of caffeine. By the time we started talking my cardiovascular system was in overdrive, speech at the speed of machine-gun fire.
My first question: can I write? probably sounded like cniwrt. Her reply was very sweet and encouraging. She said that one of my particular strengths was dialogue. I now have to resist the temptation to write my next book entirely in dialogue; the zero-description challenge.
I had thought that agents were a bit like guillotines but rather less polite. Lucy was chatty, helpful, with a genuine interest in my work (or was acting superbly) and made many extraordinarily useful suggestions for my current book, as well as broad brush strokes which will help with future writing. Lucy clearly had looked at my 7000 words in considerable detail beforehand, making many notes on the margins; sensible ones, when I might have expected uh? OMG or delete, delete, delete.
Satisfied, I left, resolved to plunge into an MS re-work, à la Lucy, also feeling that it would be lovely to work in this environment. With these stairs I’d soon have one of the best cardiovascular systems and tightest set of buttock muscles in London.
Alison Gardiner 2013