Thursday 14 February 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Discovered (alternative title: Matching Faces to Rejection Letters)

So last night was the reception for winners of the Undiscovered Voices competition of British SCBWI, sponsored by Working Partners.

It was held at Foyles Bookstore in Charing Cross at the height of the rush hour which made the turn-out of people from the book world all the more incredible.

A few days before, the organisers emailed the authors a list of people who had RSVP'd. This gave us time to compose ourselves and thus reduce the chances of anyone inadvertently drooling on unsuspecting agents.

The superhuman Saras (Grant and O'Connor) - who organised the event and edited the book - went so far as to provide guests with a photographic contact sheet to make it easier for agents and editors to identify and snatch a chosen author before any of the others get there first.
Undiscovered Voices winners
That's me, bottom right, in a photo taken by my eight year old daughter. I must say I photocopy rather well.

Surveying the Foyles reception space, I rather regretted ditching an earlier plan to smuggle members of my critique group into the invitation-only party. There was a good sized curtain at one end that would have been a perfect hiding place.

Natascha Biebow, British SCBWI's energetic leader, in her welcome speech described the anthology as a "creative way for creative people to get noticed".
Natascha Biebow of SCBWI
Chris Snowdon, managing director for Working Partners, recalled the "mind-boggling number of scripts" submitted. "There is some damn fine writing in the anthology," he said.
Chris Snowdon of Working Partners
The celebrity guest of the evening was the wonderful David Almond who wrote a foreword to the anthology. David delivered an inspiring talk, recalling how he himself had been an "undiscovered voice" for a long, long time and the intense humiliations he went through - people who want to write "must dare to feel stupid". "There is something inside us that drives us to write stories," he said. "You spend your lifetime trying to find out what that thing wants to say."
David Almond
Hobnobbing with agents and editors is a strange experience. I had to restrain myself from curtseying and kissing the hems of their wide-leg trousers - being a supplicant is a hard habit to break. It was the oddest thing finally putting faces to all those rejection letters I had received over the years!

The best thing was my agent (MY agent) came along to say hello. She was probably aware of my need to be reminded that she really does exist. I promised her that I wouldn't splash her identity all over my blogs to keep her safe from stalkers and wannabe-authors-who-jump -out-from-behind-bushes -at-night. But here's a lovely picture of her anyway toasting my success with uber children's author Jane Clarke on the right.
My secret agent
The weirdest thing about the evening was that people kept saying, "You're not UNdiscovered anymore!"

Which is very nice in theory. That said, there's plenty of work to be done.

Still. Pinch me someone!


  1. There! Bet that really hurt - I pinched you extra hard, just to be sure.
    Congratulations to all of you newly discovereds and thanks for being so generous as to share your evening and U.A.(unidentified agent)with us!

    Where and when can we buy the anthology?

  2. Consider yourself pinched! ;-)

    Thanks for sharing that with us, Candy. It really sounds like the whole thing, from deciding to create the Anthology to hosting the event was a really special thing - and a wonderful way for undiscovered voices to at least get a look in.

    And, as ever, huge congratulations to you! Do I need to pinch you again? ;-)

  3. Ouch ... and ... ouch! You are strong women (even in virtual circumstances!)

    Yes, we are all crossing our fingers and hoping the anthology will be repeated if not this year then the next. We must all be extra nice to the very generous sponsor, Working Partners!

    I'll find out about where to buy it and add the info to the end of this post when I can!

  4. Candy - how wonderful. I am so thrilled for you and all the successful undiscovered voices. Yes, when and where is the anthology going to be available?

  5. I was there too (and much fun it was). Therefore I can confirm that Candy was very well behaved and there was no kissing of hems!

    Mariam V

  6. And Sara Grant resisted the urge to throw herself on the floor in front of the group photo!

  7. it was great to see you there mariam - and i have a photo of you that is eminently photoshopable.

  8. Congrats! Sounds like so much FUN!!!

    Loved the picture of your agent. I'm going to toast to you tonight!

  9. What a heart-warming post! It's so encouraging to hear of altruistic and canny people who are prepared to put their time and money into giving some of the deserving Undiscovereds a leg-up!
    The book world could do ith a few more people like the Sara's - It's about time people woke up to the fact that altruism is essential for the survival of us as the human species and 'us' as writers. And it can co-exist alongside business acumen

    I'd guess there'll be a huge market for the anthology and I look forward to finding out how to get a copy of it.

    Well done Candy!! (and congratuations for the eight-year-old photographer - she's done a great job.)


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