With this year's Agents' Party coming up, I am reminded of the dual task writers and illustrators face. Not only do you have to find the voice of your work, you also have to find the voice of YOU.
I spent the whole of last year searching for the 'right' voice for my WIP. Opening after opening after opening, and still it didn't resonate, didn't want to flow. So when I took my idea to the Agents' Party, and made a badge for my main character (all shiny and Blue-Petery) I shouldn't have been surprised at what happened next.
To begin with I couldn't find Foyles bookshop. Instead of trusting my own eyes to find it, I grasped my 'phone, and followed google maps. This is a lot like trying to find your way around by looking at the reflection of where you want to go. Twice I walked past Foyles, too busy following the blue arrow, that was upside down and back to front (as far as my brain could see).
I arrived, my eyes huge with the shelves of books, all that glass and light. Upstairs I signed myself in. A friendly waiter took my coat and presented me with a tray of wine. I took a glass and happily knocked it back. And the room gradually filled, like one of those speeded up films, with me still standing in the same place.
Someone else hovered at the edges. A lovely illustrator who'd recently moved to London. We chatted. She shared the same reservations about having the courage to talk about her work. Someone else joined in, moved on, and we stayed put. Like molecules, the room of people grouped and dispersed around us.
The panel of agents spoke. Then it was the writers' and illustrators' turn to take the floor. The two of us watched in awe, like two kids on the edge of a disco. If only we could be like all those daring dancers. Eventually I took a deep breath and dived in to the crowd gathered around the agents. When I glanced back, the illustrator had gone.
I only made it as far as three or four people deep. I asked eagerly about people's work, tried to talk about my book. But my voice did this thing where it becomes like an overtightened string. Higher and tinier, until I am left with no more than a mouse's squeak. Which is no good in a room brimful of chatter and buzz. And all the while the friendly waiter swooped by with more wine.
I collected my coat and left, my badge still hidden inside my bag. On the train home I remonstrated with myself. Why couldn't I have spoken like normal people?
But here's the thing. Going to events like the Agents' Party is a little like starting that opening. You need to do it in order to find your voice. And you need to keep on doing it until you get there.
I'm still looking. I wish all those going this year, the very best of luck!
Sunday's Results of July's Slushpile Challenge with DKW Literary Agency
Monday's Ask a Picture Book Editor's advises how to promote yourself off-line
Tuesday's Ten Minute Blog Break brings another veritable feast from Nick
Wednesday's Writer's Minds - this month featuring Toby Forward
Thursday's Network News from the Northwest
Nancy Saunders is the Editor of W&P. You can find some of her short stories here, and on Twitter @nancyesaunders