Summer Lovin’ - NW Speed Dating for Writers

At the beginning of our lovely summer the North West led the way with this great opportunity for northern writers. George Kirk reports.

On Saturday 13th of June it seemed like the whole of the North West region had turned out to meet at the ‘Speed Dating for Writers’ professional series event at City Library, Manchester.

Confectionery provided
by the talented Samantha Williams

Not only did we have the walking wounded present but also our youngest ever delegate. And why wouldn’t we be there? After all it was the hottest day of the summer so far, we all had loads to chat about and there was a mountain of delightful cake awaiting us, what else could we need?

 Carmel and Karen                             our youngest delegate.
Have I forgotten something?

Oh yes, our wonderful dates for the day, who had just arrived remarkably fresh faced from the train despite the heat their early starts!

Liz Bonsor
Liz is an agent at The Blair Partnership which is now coming to the end of its second year. It is an agency with an exciting bespoke approach to its clients, seeking to provide exactly what each individual author needs. It has an in house team of not only agents but also foreign rights specialists, lawyers and digital media experts. They currently have a client list of around 20 authors (and I can’t help but mention a certain author with the initials J. K.) and are actively looking to extend this further. Liz is looking for anything that ‘blows her away’.

Philippa Donovan
Philippa has worked as an agent, a literary scout and most recently as commissioning editor at Egmont. She is currently focusing all her editorial talents into her own literary consultancy Smart Quill. Smart Quill provides a personal consultancy service to authors who feel they need for some professional advice and support. Unlike other companies it focuses on the personal, there are no readers involved, you pay for Philippa’s time and experience. She assesses each individual author and develops both them and their manuscript. If she feels their work is ready she will offer to put them through her agent recommendation service.

Gemma Cooper
After a very successful year at The Bright Agency, Gemma joined the the transAtlantic Bent Agency  . She represents all children’s books but has a special passion for 7+ and MG and is possibly best know for representing SCBWIs very own Mo O’Hara and a certain fishy friend. She would love to find a really strong boy’s voice, be that in a 7+ funny series or a 9+ ‘Goonies’ style adventure. She’s also a romantic at heart and so is yearning for a beautiful contemporary romance. Wish list aside, she never says never, so if you have a story that grabs her, she’ll put all her energies into representing you.

Liz Bonsor, Philippa Donovan and Gemma Cooper’

After the cake and getting to know you session it was straight into Q and A which covered a range of areas that included... 

Are publishers keeping away form issue type books for YA?
No not at all, especially if there is a good story at the heart of them. Books are the safest place for young people to explore the whole range of issues life can throw at them. Just make sure you have a strong, compelling voice and imagine the person you want to be your audience as you write.

Are publishers beginning to create picture books for older readers?
Yes, there is definite gap in the market and upcoming books like ‘Squishy McFluff’ have a longer text and are aimed at older readers. Educational publishers such as Franklin Watts and Hodder are already producing books like this but for other publishers they are taking their first few steps into this area and may be more attracted to author illustrators.

Do you expect authors to have built their own internet platform when they submit to you?
Not necessarily, your story is far more important that your platform No one ever lost a deal because of their lack of internet presence, but you won’t get close to one if you lack a story! Most agencies are also very happy to help guide their authors through this area at a level they are comfortable with.

So now everyone had got to know each other the speed dating could commence. 

Timed appointments

It was an incredibly busy afternoon of strict 10 minutes appointments, combined with a game of musical rooms as we tried to dodge the heat. There was a convivial atmosphere as people chatted and ate more cake as they waited their turn. Many turned to creative pass times.

 Creative use of time
Gone but not forgotten
Everyone came away from their ‘date’ with a warm glow and saying the same thing. It had been incredibly useful, both encouraging but also giving them plenty of things to go home and think about.

As the last appointments came to an end nearly 4 hours since the beginning of the event our now rather tired speakers echoed our feelings. What a lovely, friendly event it had been, and how much they enjoyed it. So thank you to organisers, speakers and delegates for making it a great afternoon.

I have my fingers crossed that maybe it will lead to a second date for someone out there.

George Kirk
George wrote as soon as she could hold a pencil but never anything factual.  She teaches at a primary school in East Lancashire and finds the relationships and diversity within the White British, Bengali and Pakistani community it serves, truly inspirational. George has been published in A Pocketful of Moondust and in 2011, her picture book text 'Once Upon a Princess...' went on to win a national award. She is now developing two series - a respectable snot fantasy for 7-9 year olds and a culturally diverse fantasy for 9-11.


  1. What a great event, and really useful write-up - thanks, George!

  2. Thanks Lesley. It was a lot of fun.

  3. Fabulous idea for an event and a great write up from George. Thank You!

  4. The professionals in this regard have shown much of their emphasis regarding all those provisions of interest. english grammar correction


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