I recall… when I read to 300 people.

… at York Writers’ Festival. The audience included writers, agents and publishers. The reading was a competition organised by HarperCollins – called ‘Autonomy Live’ – entry was open to authors from the (now defunct) writers’ website, Authonomy.

It was nerve-wracking for one who’d never really shown her work to others to stand up and read to not just an audience of 300, but also a panel of judges consisting of agents and publishers. I seem to remember having at least two double vodkas before starting.

I didn’t ‘win’, but that was okay. Funnily enough, I’m editing that same book now (published in 2013) for a second edition, and I recall what the judges said about this particular extract being too abstract, that it needed to be happening now and not recounted. I took on board very little of what they said at the time, or of what another agent said later in a harrowing long phone crit, or of what HarperCollins’ editors themselves said when they reviewed it on Authonomy… I took in very little of ANY negative comments because I was a proud writer, I’d finished a book, and negative comments were akin to a stranger telling you your baby’s ugly…

Now, seven years on and re-reading the book for the first time in years – recalling all the professional advice I was freely given – they were right. All of them. This particular extract is horrendously over-wrought and dull. Other parts of the book now jar when I read them… other bits I adore, they’re great, and I can readily see the difference between the two, whereas before it all seemed the same (wonderful beast) to me.

Moral of story: if professionals tell you your baby’s ugly, it might hurt, but chances are they’re right.

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One Reply to “I recall… when I read to 300 people.”

  1. Wow, you were brave. I can’t remember this was going on. In any case, I wouldn’t have had the nerve to read my stuff in front of a large audience. Let me know when you re-publish the book. I liked the story a lot.
    BTW, ‘Course of Mirrors’ is now out, through Troubador. I lost patience with my small publisher. God knows what will happen, having no resources for marketing at the moment. CoM got some interesting reviews on amazon, encouraging me to polish the sequel.

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