Last night I attended an agents’ party kindly organised by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, British Isles. I love SCBWI_BI and think it’s a completely fabulous organisation, but do wish they’d chosen their acronym to reflect less of who we are and more of something pronounceable.
This particular event was held in London; with 100 of us, who were lucky enough to get a ticket, with 13 agents attending. Maths has never been my strong point, but even I was able to work out that statistically I might leave with 0.13 of an agent. It wasn’t a lot, probably only their left foot, but it would be considerably more than the nought I had walked in with.
Having arrived spectacularly early, I needed to make a few running repairs, so I pulled in at a local hostelry and bought a drink as an excuse for using their facilities. The first toilet break was simple enough: change of shoes, hair brushing and mascara. Believing that a queue forming outside, people cross-legged and anxious, I cracked under the strain of trying to get everything done in one hit, exited the cubicle, reasoning that two loo visits covered by the same pot of tea almost smacked of economy, halving the cost per square of loo paper.
I found an enormous queue at the counter, which included three people who clearly had no idea how to choose a cup of coffee. Seems simple enough? Apparently not. It began to approach farce levels, played out on a backdrop of muffins, with two harassed baristas as unwilling stooges.
I ended up sharing my table with a charming young man who looked after my cup while I made my second toilet foray. I decided to name my unknown tea-guarder after the establishment we were in. Costa should be extremely grateful that we met where we did, not the Slug and Lettuce or Annette’s Diner.
One of the authors present at the event had dressed for the era in which she writes, the 1940s and looked thoroughly charming. As I write adventure fantasies set on a mythical island and detective stories set in modern times, my choice would be to dress like a wizard, an enormous fierce lizard-like creature or a shot victim. Head dripping blood might be dramatic but is not perhaps my best look. It would save two neatening up loo visits though as either way dishevelled would be de rigueur.
A publisher friend once said that all the publishers who turned down Harry Potter meet once a month in a pub in London to drown their sorrows and whine. Presumably it’s called The Potterless Fest. Doubtless a legend, but still a good story. If any of you are reading this, I can recommend somewhere with decent drinks and an extremely capacious dressing room with a handy white seat for one’s handbag.
I met several completely charming agents who were human, friendly, interesting. They all presented fluently, replying to the floor with extraordinarily helpful comments. Interestingly, the panel presentation seemed to be a request for submissions, which was sweet of them, as clearly in this market it’s them choosing us not vice-versa. I must now send a letter to see whether an agreement to read my work was just a canapé high or whether my work will be read, with perhaps even representation offered. After all, I don’t need an agent to accept all of me, just the bit above my neck and my typing hand: about 13% by my maths.
Alison Gardiner 2013