EVENTS Passion for stories shines at Agents' Party

(photo by Angela Wooldridge)

Angela Wooldridge reveals all to Words & Pictures about the 2019 Agents' Party. She tells us how it felt to attend this now staple event for the very first time.

This was my first big SCBWI event, and thanks to the Facebook page set up for attendees, I’d arranged to meet up with some of you beforehand (something that we all warn our kids never to do, but seems to be a frequent occurrence with writers!). Unfortunately, a certain well-known bus company (forever immortalised in song by The Divine Comedy) had different ideas, so I missed that (sorry guys!). However, I arrived in plenty of time to join the queue at the front of the building where I was relieved to find I fitted in perfectly.

I’d heard stories that previous agents’ parties had been somewhat akin to a rugby scrummage, but this year there wasn’t a cauliflower ear in sight. The evening was brilliantly managed by Gail Doggett, Sara Grant, Terri Trimble and their team of volunteers.

I’d seen Sara Grant in action as interviewer/host a couple of times now, and she’s a pleasure to watch. Setting everyone at ease and keeping the conversation flowing.

This year’s panel had an impressive array of agents: Megan Carroll  from Watson, Little Agents,   Joanna Moult from Skylark Literary, Zoe Plant from The Bent Agency, Kate Shaw from The Shaw Agency, Emily Talbot from United Agents, Bryony Woods from DKW Literary Agency, Lydia Silver from Darley Anderson Children’s Literary Agency, Chloe Seager from  the Madeleine Milburn Agency, and Felicity Trew  from Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency. Unfortunately, Jo Williamson (Antony Horwood Ltd) couldn't attend due to illness.

It was fascinating to watch discussions on who prefers spoilers and who hates them, what not to put in your query letter (it really is best not to lie!), and how picture book writers should steer clear of the urge to illustrate their submissions if it’s not their forte.

What shone through was the passion these agents have for great stories, the partnership they form with their writers to create marvellous books together, and the fact that they want our submissions! 

They don’t look at the slushpile in trepidation, but as if it were a pile of gifts. And while yes, some may turn out to be socks from Auntie Mavis, there’s a good chance that one or two will be sparkling gems from Great-Aunt Florence, or Cousin Trevor.

Gail and Terri were everyone’s fairy godmothers for the evening, being everywhere at once and doing their utmost to make sure nobody missed out. They must have been exhausted by the end of the evening.

Everyone I met was chatty and supportive, and sharing our stories and experiences provided a form of therapy as we waited nervously for our chance to pitch. Choosing who to pitch to was incredibly difficult. I now know exactly how Augustus Gloop felt on visiting Willy Wonka’s factory! 

How all those agents managed to remember who spoke to them about what is beyond me. And having now been through the pitching experience, I concluded that there’s only so much advice and guidance that you can take in, and in the end, it’s best to just be yourself.

The first agent I spoke to already had something similar to my novel, so I swallowed my disappointment and reminded myself NOT to go down on my knees and beg, but to give up my place gracefully for those who could make better use of her time. 

That initial wobble made it all the sweeter when subsequent agents asked me to submit (I was fortunate enough to speak to three).

Three minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but I think some kind of magic occurs at the agents’ party and time slows down. It certainly gave me plenty of opportunity to talk about my novel, whilst still having time to appreciate the ‘times up’ signals from the volunteers (particularly those of Ashley Taylor's who made waiting in line a never to be forgotten experience)! 

So, well done if you were brave enough to pitch and good luck to those sending in their submissions. And thank you to everyone involved for making it such a positive experience.


Angela Wooldridge lives in Devon, in a rickety old house with her husband and the railway children. She wanted to be a writer ever since the early days of exploring Narnia with the Pevensies and eating sardine sandwiches with the Famous Five.
Her stories have appeared in magazines such as My Weekly and The People's Friend, been published in anthologies and shortlisted in various competitions.
She is currently seeking representation for her middle-grade fantasy The Merewoods Witches. You can read her blog here or follow her on Twitter.

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