As you'll have read in previous blogs, I love writing!! Having gone to the Romance Writing course in Tuscany last year (see one of my first blogs) the girls and I booked ourselves onto the first annual York Writing Festival run by the Writers' Workshop (www.festivalofwriting.com).
There were to be lots of agents and publishers, editors and novelists taking workshops, giving keynote speeches and indulging us would-be authors in ten minute one-to-one's – a valuable way of getting specific feedback about our own work.
I was very happy the first night during dinner to find myself talking to the London agent Oliver Munson – they've got my favourite author Tess Stimson on their books it turns out. We spent some happy hours debating the merits of Harry Potter, Vampires, and the rights and wrongs of married couples reading in bed!
The festival was set in a beautiful place too – I never went to a campus university, the London School of Economics was slap bang in the middle of busy London. Probably why I've encouraged my two kids to go to a university where things are localised and it's not like being in the middle of a busy city.
Brad and Lauren both chose Bath, which is beautiful – it also makes it interesting for me when I visit them, as I love the history! Anyway I was thrilled to go off on a weekend getaway with my pals, to do some studying, which I love.
Ok I admit it, I'm a closet geek! Maybe the love of Excel and the Archaeology 'A' Level give it away a bit, but I'm as happy going on holiday to learn stuff as I am to go to somewhere like Vegas – and being in wonderful surroundings and in great company made my weekend.
I chose Julie Cohen as my main one-to-one. She's a sassy American writer who's published several Mills and Boons and now writes for a similar imprint called Little Black Dress – I like this series as it's often got a lot more plot and more adventure in the stories! Well, I was very nervous to find out what both she and the other tutor thought.
What we had to do was to submit the first chapter and a synopsis of our story, and our tutors would look at them and give hints, tips, feedback and suggestions on what to change in order to make it more suitable for publishing. Mills and Boon are happy to receive submissions from authors, but most publishers like to work through an agent, basically because according to one of the workshops, the vast majority of the submissions received are rubbish!! Now whether mine would fall into that category I wasn't sure, but there was only one way to find out…
Soon after, Julie was good to her word. Following her workshop on Chick Lit (great fun!) two ladies entered the room to speak to her just as everyone was filing out. They were the two editors from Mills and Boon whom I'd seen earlier on at their very interesting workshop. They'd said, out of the 1500 workshops submissions they receive each year, they choose 12!
Luckily one of our girls from the Tuscany course is one of the 12 – Maureen got a two-book deal for her Regency romances, so of course the rest of us were all hoping to follow suit. So imagine my face when Julie turned to me and said to the editors, "This is the lady I was telling you about – Debbie, meet the Mills and Boon girls". They've given me their card and asked me to send the rest of the submission in, once I've done all of Julie's recommended changes of course!
The story's got a classic Mills and Boon title – 'The Playboy Millionaire's Hawaiian Affair'. Some of the titles are really funny, as you'll know if you've ever read one! What's your favourite title of all the books you've read?
I won't tell you much more about my story right now, suffice to say that it involves a yacht, a case of mistaken identity, a handsome entrepreneur, a single mum of young kids trying to make her mark in the business world, and a backdrop of exotic locations including Hawaii and St Tropez…Now I've just got to write more than one chapter and get it in by the middle of May!
Wish me luck!
July 21, 2017 By Katy Pullinger