Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Guest Author Teri Terry: winning stuff at conferences and shocking endings

Teri Terry is a writing buddy who has blogged for me before. She’s been to the 30th Winchester Writers’ Conference and hauled a few awards, so this time, I thought I’d interview her - be sure to read to the end of this interview so that you don't miss the truly shocking ending. Teri divides her time between writing, stalking agents and publishers, and working in a library in Bucks, and as if this isn’t enough to keep her busy, is also reading for an MA in creative writing at the University of Bedfordshire in YA fiction.
How did you find the Winchester Writers Conference?

I took a train to Winchester, got in a taxi, and said ‘take me to the conference’

….that isn’t what I meant.

I know.


Can you be a bit more specific?

I see this is going to be one of those days. Tell us about the conference.

It was a full on intense weekend of panels, plenaries, workshops, one-to-ones, awards dinners, schmoozing, drinking, and not sleeping. But now I’ve had some time to recover and jump up and down to see what thoughts settle as a result.


One has got to be Terry Pratchett’s plenary address. His work, his life, the way he is getting through things now are such an inspiration. Also the way the packed to over-flowing venue was so silent you could hear a pin drop, everyone willing him to get through it, to find the right words. And he did.
I’m sure there were more highlights.

There were many: meeting up with old friends and new, all the discussions, the exchange of ideas, the one-to-ones, the…

Other sorts of highlights. Like, say, winning a few awards.

Oh, that. If you insist. Yes well I did win first prize in the Greenhouse Literary Agency prize for my 10-plus novel, Meet Me at the Lost and Found. That was adjudicated and awarded by Julia Churchill. And also a first in Writing for Children 12-plus for dystopian novel, Slated, awarded by Jude Evans of Little Tiger Press and associated Stripes. And Arthur and the Bad Lads was highly commended in the 8-11; and YA ghost story Claustrophobia was commended in the first three pages of a novel competition.

Teri (centre) with other victors at the final Winchester Conference winners photoshoot.

Wow that is quite a haul. I am truly impressed. Of course you are so talented, it is hardly a surprise.

Stop it, you’re making me blush!

If there are any agents or editors out there they should get in touch with Teri, right now.

Should we get back to the conference?

All right. Any other highlights?

I was also thrilled when friends Paula Harrison got a second for Rescue Princesses for Writing for Children aged 4 – 7, and Anne Jensen first prize in the page of prose for her Aphelion. We’re in the same writing group.


OH MY it was HOT. So hot. Though heat is a great leveller: agents, editors, famous authors and wannabees all sweat, just the same.

Did you learn anything?

Robert Goddard says plotting is about meticulous planning.

Terry Pratchett doesn’t plot; he likes to see where he will end up, a sort of steered serendipity.

Terry Pratchett

Anything else?

Three other thoughts settled in my mind after jumping about for a week: technology is OK, size does matter, and it’s a small world.

I see. Perhaps you could elaborate.

I went to see Carolyn Caughey (editor at Hodder) talk about finding a publisher in hard times. A good general discussion but she touched on these new-fangled electronic book gizmos. What do you call them?

Authors dread the rise of the handy, carry-anywhere digital reading device 

I’m supposed to be asking the questions, here. Do you mean e-books, like Kindle?

Yes. As a wannabee author, the thought of one day holding a book in my hands is part of what keeps me going. And by ‘book’ I mean the sort with an illustrated cover and pages in-between, and…

You mean like Tall Story, with beautifully illustrated cover and available at Amazon right now:

Don’t hijack. Anyhow the draw of holding my own book one day is so strong; I suppose I’ve viewed the potential explosion of e-books with a sense of queasy distrust. But she pointed out that those who produce the content (writers - us ) can only gain by new formats; those who produce the traditional formats (them – publishers, printers etc) need to get with it or be obsolete. I hadn’t thought of it quite that way before.

Your second point: does size matter?

Apparently. My adult crime novel Ready Steady Run – sort of like Bridget Jones with a body count – is very clever and amazingly well written, but too short to be taken seriously. Apparently 100,000 words would be just right.

And it’s a small world?

Oh yes. Sitting in the bar with a random woman who turns out to be author of a signed book on my shelf at home that I got as a raffle prize a few years ago (Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society, by Christine Coleman). Scary story as her first book got published, then the publisher went bust, and….

NOOOO…. (stuffs fingers in ears). Not listening, can’t happen, la-la-la-la-la….

Calm down, Candy. breathe deeply. Couldn’t possibly happen to David Fickling Books, fantastic publishers of the beautiful Tall Story, could it? How about you ask me another question, now.

OK. How did the WWC compare to other conferences or retreats you may have attended in the past?

Tactfully asking about SCBWI events? Caught you. Well it is different as it is a general event: all types of writing and writers are represented, with a huge range of workshops on pretty much everything you could imagine. Probably there is more for beginners than the SCBWI conferences offer. Of course, for specific information relating to writing or illustrating for children you can’t beat the SCBWI, but if you are interested in other areas and the wider writing world, this is the place to go.

A retreat is completely different. The SCBWI retreat this year was chilled, relaxed, you got time to really think about things, and talk to people. The WWC is frantic.

Relaxed attendees at this year's SCBWI retreat 

Are you glad you went? Would you go again?

Yes, and probably yes. I’ve been to the WWC three years in a row now, and I’d love to go every year. But it is the old finances and juggling time that comes into it also, and maybe if one has to go the SCBWI events are more relevant to me, personally

Any hints for those thinking of going next year?

Apply early: you give a list of agents, editors, writers and others you’d like to see for one-to-one appointments, which is included in the conference. You can have up to three. But the earlier you apply, the more likely you are to get who you want.

What is the accommodation like?

It’s not 5 star. It’s not four star. Or three... (you get where this is going?). Think typical student accommodation, and you get it. It is fine considering you’re only in your room to sleep, and not much for that. Take your own alarm clock, tea cup, hairdryer.
No it wasn't at all like these student digs.

How about the food?

Let’s just say packing snacks is a good plan if you are fussy like me.

How was it for networking: did you meet any agents, editors, famous writers?

There was a good sprinkle of authors, agents and editors about. You could spot them owing to the adoring crowds following them about and pushing each other out of the way to sit next to them at dinner.

Aspiring authors quietly approaching agents at the Winchester conference


Politely, of course: this is England. But seriously it was great to see how giving people were of their time, how willing to chat. Though there were stories of manuscripts being thrust into the hands of agents as they exit the loo. I prefer a more subtle approach to my stalking.

Do you have anything else you’d like to tell us?

No. I’m good.

Any, say, confessions you’d like to make?


Confession is good for the soul.

Is it?


OKAY, fine!

One magnificent Candy Gourlay thought it would be cool to interview me for her blog about the conference, but owing to her impending departure to the Philippines for a whirlwind promotional tour of her amazing book Tall Story (editor's note: thanks for repeating this over and over and over again) was a bit pressed for time.


Solution? I interviewed myself.
(bet you never saw that coming)

Thank you, Teri for so presumptuously interviewing yourself. Editors and publishers gagging for this immense if rather compulsive talent, you can fight over Teri via the contact page of the Writer's Coven website. No pushing, now! (From the Real Candy Gourlay)


If you've stumbled on this old post and enjoyed it, you might want to know that Teri finally got a book deal with Orchard - and she's expecting triplets!

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