March 19, 2014
I am excited, nervous and honoured to be meeting literary agent Carole Blake at the end of the month.
A while ago I booked to go to the Writing East Midlands Writers’ Conference at Nottingham University on March 29. WEM gave us the chance to apply for an agent one-to-one – a very rare opportunity to get in front of an agent and talk about our work. I submitted part of my new novel, a synopsis and a brief biography and forgot about it – until today, when I got an email telling me that I had been successful and would be meeting an agent from 12.15 to 12.35pm. That agent is to be Carole Blake.
Her name swam on the computer screen in front of me and I went a bit giddy – the Carole Blake?! Surely not? Surely there must another literary agent with a similar name out there? I googled her. Nope – the original Carole Blake, partner in Blake Friedmann, publisher for 50 years and, more importantly, author of From Pitch to Publication: Everything you need to know to get your novel published.
If you’re not a writer, or have never aspired to be one, you’re probably not that impressed. Carole who? Sounds like a headteacher to me, you might say. But if you’ve ever attended a creative writing course or browsed through the ‘how to get published’ section at the library, Blake’s book is always there. It’s in its 13th reprinting in the UK and is practically a text book for the unpublished writer.
I have had my copy for more than a decade. When, last year, I moved house for the umpteenth time and decided to donate most of my hundreds of books to Oxfam, From Pitch to Publication was one of the sacred few that got packed into a box and driven up the M1 to Derbyshire. The pages have the yellow patina of age and the front cover is peeling away from the spine. There is a curious stain on the outside – it could be from a banana obliterated in my handbag as I humped it around with me. It became my bible when I tried – unproductively – to publish two books a decade ago. (The first was about an anti-hero so useless he couldn’t even manage to commit suicide; the second was a daters’ guide to London. I am nothing if not varied in my projects).
And now I am off to meet the Empress of Publishing myself. Nervous is not the word. Her website tells me she’s not really looking for new authors to represent but that’s not the issue. This is: what if she tells me I am crap? That I absolutely, resolutely and unremittingly suck at writing and to go back to the day job? What then? I’ll tell you what then – I’d feel as annihilated as that banana in my handbag she smashed to smithereens long ago.