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Let's try this again ...

Yeah, that whole "I'll keep posting regularly to this LJ" promise thing really didn't pan out like I'd intended. I blame Tony Blair.


Actually, the real reason is that I ended up posting to my alias LJ account, tybalt_quin so regularly that I didn't have anything much to add here. All that is in the past though as I've deaded my t-q account and plan on being an out-and-proud poster under my RL name. (Hopefully this now helps Flisters from the t-q account to appreciate my irrational rage when people spell my surname wrong - it's 6 letters long and 3 of those letters are the same).

So 2009 has been an utterly mad year for me in terms of the sheer number of things that have happened - particularly since my last update on April 16th. I'll set them out below in (hopefully) chronological order:

1. Came third in a competition thing arranged through my MA and sponsored by the Christopher Little Literary Agency (the agents for J. K. Rowling and Darren Shan):

Unfortunately there was no money for coming third (boo!) but I did get some incredibly morale-boosting comments for the opening three chapters of KYBS and they asked to see the full manuscript once it was ready. For those who are interested, first place was awarded to Liz Trenow, who's written a really interesting historical novel set in a silk factory during World War II and second place went to Michael Grothaus who's written a darkly comic novel about a guy addicted to porn who discovers a sex trafficking ring (it's a lot funnier than that but difficult for me to explain).

2. Signed with an agent:

No, not Christopher Little - even better, I ended up being offered representation by Catherine Pellegrino at Rogers, Coleridge and White. To say I was gobsmacked when the offer came in is an understatement. I almost swooned. Catherine was one of 3 agents I'd set out in my 'Dream List' and she made the offer even though she'd only seen the opening 3 chapters and the synopsis and at that stage the manuscript was not complete. I'd had positive responses from a number of agents who'd variously asked for partials and fulls but none of those agents seemed to have Catherine's track record (she has a number of YA/children's fantasy writers on her list and her agency has a v. good foreign rights department) and also Catherine seemed to 'get' what I was trying to do with the manuscript. All this meant that the decision was a 'no-brainer'. After signing though, I did have an attack of nerves because obviously I now had to finish the manuscript and I kept having recurring nightmares that I'd do so and she'd hate it. More on that later.

Incidentally, I signed with Catherine the day after doing the Anthology Showcase. This was something that I think I mentioned in my earlier entries.

:blows dust off earlier entries:

The Anthology Showcase is a process that kicked off at the beginning of the year when my classmates and I each had to produce up to 4,750 words to go into an Anthology. This Anthology was then sent to agents so they could see if there was anything that interested them and those agents were then invited to come to an event where my classmates and I all read another small section of our work.

I don't think that I'm speaking out of turn when I say that all of the MA Creative Writing (Novels) Class of 2009 was bricking it when the day of the Showcase came along.

In fairness, the MA does prepare you for it, with classes in how to read out loud (which are actually incredibly useful just as a general skill). The problem is that we all knew how much was resting on it and so there's an irrational anxiety about doing badly and blowing any and all chances of ever signing with anyone. If I hadn't already had my offer of representation, I don't think I'd have gone into it with nearly as much confidence as I felt (although you'd have to ask uninvitedcat how I did because she attended as my moral support.

Anyway, the reading itself went okay and while I didn't get approached by any agents on the night, I did get an email from one a month or so after, asking to see the whole manuscript. By that time however it was too late as I'd already signed.

3. Got 'credit-crunched':

I work as a lawyer and at the start of the year had moved to a new firm. Unfortunately it became obvious that the volume of work wasn't there to justify my addition to the group, which was a shame because I think I got on with everyone and I think that the quality of my work was high. Fortunately, I'd seen the writing on the wall before hand and started looking for new positions and I have to say that the firm was v. generous in its exit offer - so much so in fact, that I decided I'd take a virtual sabbatical of 3 months to finish KYBS and only apply for those positions that actually interested me.

4. Sold my flat:

There's a whole saga that can be written about my flat, but 2009 saw me struggle to get the one remaining (admittedly, rather big) problem fixed. Unfortunately, the effect of being credit-crunched meant that it made little sense to stay in a flat with a very large mortgage - not least because I had no idea when/if I'd be able to return to the workplace (the legal market having taken something of a kicking as a result of the recession).

Having put the flat on the market in July, I got an offer for the right price in August and finally completed the sale in October. I was sad to see the flat go because it's the first place I've ever owned and I had some happy times in there. However from a practical point of view, it just didn't make sense to keep it.

5. Finished KYBS:

After being credit-crunched I ended up working full-time on KYBS, writing for at least 8 hours every day. I ended up getting into a little routine of going down to the local Starbucks to edit what I'd written the day before and then going home to write new stuff. Even so, it ended up being tough going and for those people thinking of taking the City University MA in Creative Writing (Novels), here's a handy bit of advice:

Make sure that you've finished the first draft of your manuscript by the 1 July deadline.

I didn't owing to work commitments and while I thought that I only had 30-40k words left to write and really - how hard could that be given that the completed draft didn't have to be in until September 16th?

Er, very hard as it turned out.

I really felt the pressure at the beginning of September when I still had 3 chapters left to write and although I edit as I go along, I still found myself pulling an all-nighter on the final day before submission to get it done. As a result, the last 2 chapters of KYBS aren't as good as I want them to be and need further editing (more on which later).

The good news is that I did have something to show Catherine and by finishing the manuscript I know that I've passed the MA although I won't discover the final mark until the end of this week (and I think that I've kissed goodbye to my hopes of a Distinction).

6. Got offered a new job:

A couple of days after I finished KYBS and handed it in and was taking (what I thought) was a well-earned breather, I got offered a new job. It was a role that I'd first interviewed for a couple of months earlier and it was an in-house position (which, for the non-legal amongst you, means that instead of working for a firm of solicitors, I work for a company). The work was in the sector of my expertise, it was a permanent position, the people seemed friendly and reasonable and the money wasn't bad.

The only down-side was that they wanted me to start the Monday after I moved house - which meant that I was going to go from one stressful situation straight into another. However, I was also aware that having been out of work for 3 months I was getting dangerously fond of the idea of not doing anything except lounge around and pontificate, which does no one any good and frankly, just makes me a dull and irritating person to be around.

Interestingly, I was also offered a locum role on a 6 month contract based in Oxford, which was equally interesting, but which I had to turn down because it was a locum role and I really wanted somewhere I could settle down.

Anyway, I've been in the job for almost a month now and it seems to be going okay so far. It's quite full-on in terms of the type of work I'm doing, which is what makes it interesting, and I've done a fair bit of travelling around the UK in the last couple of weeks. About the only thing I don't like is the commute to and from London from my parents' house, of which more below.

7. Moved Back In With My Mum and Dad:

I've always liked to follow the current social trends and moving back into the old family home certainly puts me in the same position as millions of other 30-somethings within the UK.

It's v. strange to be back in my old room (and sleeping in a single bed is taking some getting used to), but this will only be a temporary measure until I decide whether to rent or buy (which I'm not going to decide until my probation period for the new job is up).

8. Got Feedback on the first draft of KYBS:

As part of the MA, you get feedback from two tutors and I actually agreed with most of the comments. There are some smallish issues in the course of the text which can be resolved by editing them back down and the ending needs to be re-worked as it is a bit of a rush.

Interestingly, the tutor comments accorded with the comments that Catherine gave me and which I've been sitting on for a couple of weeks while I try to get acclimatised to working and commuting and livng with mum and dad.


I think that brings me up to speed. Plan for today is to finish a crit I'm doing on the novel of a T-Party member (which needs to be done for next Sunday), go back to Catherine on a couple of her comments so that I'm clear in my own mind as to what I'm doing with KYBS during the editing process and then do the crits for 2 other T-Party members for the meeting next Saturday.

Oooh, my life is one long social whirl ...


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 1st, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
Speaking of social whirls, CA5 and I are both a go for the 13th.
Nov. 1st, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
A masterful summary, bravo.

I take it Catherine's feedback was positive? Any news on when you're going to market? I think Helen's lonely. :-)
Nov. 3rd, 2009 10:40 am (UTC)
A busy year - I felt flustered just reading it all - but you got a lot achieved.

Do let me know when KYBS goes out though - I shall cross my fingers for it!
Nov. 6th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)
Yes, the feedback was broadly positive and there aren't a huge number of changes required (mostly reducing scenes rather than massive rewrites).

Catherine's already had a pre-emptory word with some editors she knows and there's definitely interest, but realistically I don't think I'll get the manuscript re-done before January owing to work and the commute.
Nov. 1st, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
Good to see you back on line.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline Hooton

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