Tuesday 13 September 2016

Notes from the Critique Group - Meet the Agents! by Em Lynas

On Saturday members of our SCBWI BI York critique group headed up to Seven Stories in Newcastle for a mini Agents Party arranged by our lovely NE organisers Marie-Claire Imam Gutierrez and Cathy Brumby.

I was feeling very lucky as the agents appearing at the event were my agents - Amber Caraveao and Joanna Moult of Skylark Literary. They were coming up north so I got to see them and catch up on how our Witch School Sucks submissions were going. Very exciting!

From the left - Marie-Claire, Jo and Amber
As they already represent me (yay!) and as Amber has already put me through four rounds of insightful editing I wasn't submitting any work for their 1-2-1's like the rest of our group. Which meant I wasn't channelling Nervous Nelly on this occasion and I could spend time gathering reactions from the other authors. I've had some 1-2-1's at conferences and some have been very helpful and others have left me reeling so I was interested to see how other authors experienced a Skylark 1-2-1.

My thanks to them for sharing.


Before the 1-2-1
Very much looking forward to it because I have nothing pinned on it. I'll tell you why - Because I'm primarily a PB writer and illustrator and I've submitted a comic horror script. So I'm just interested to see what they think.

Feeling really positive about trying something new and sharing it. Nice to be told I had the right attitude. The agent didn't put many comments on the manuscript because she was so absorbed in the story. She would be interested in seeing the finished work even though it isn't something Skylark normally represent.


A mixture of apprehension and excitement.

The agent expressed a concern that had been niggling me  about my protagonist's journey. She said my writing was compelling and the 1-2-1 has refreshed my passion for the story.


I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve who's been looking forward to it for months and I don't know what it's going to be like when I walk into that room. Am I going to get a bike or a pair of socks?

I'm stunned. It was a mountain bike!


Apprehensive because my subject matter - short stories for teens - is such a niche area.

Stunned. I didn't expect to get such positive feedback. The agent wanted to know how I came to write for the genre - what was my background?


Slightly apprehensive but actually excited to be getting professional feedback for once.

I felt at ease. Very insightful feedback which will enable me to develop areas of weakness. It was a very quick 15 minutes! A very positive experience.


(Big sigh) I am very nervous and apprehensive. I'm hoping for constructive feedback on what does and does not work. Is it near? Is it commercial? Is it worth continuing?

The agent liked the set up and said I have lots of good ideas. She liked the premise. Her comments were very positive but I need to focus on the protagonists journey because there's a lot going on.


Highlight of the day is actually getting to a SCBWI event!

I came away full of ideas on how to make the second half of my book as much fun ass the first!



It was a really positive experience with friendly people. It was great to get genuine advice from industry professionals.


A truly informative event by Skylark. Really good to meet up with fellow Scoobies and other writers. The one to one sessions were magical and inspiring and I got so much from this event - really pleased.


The bit that made me happiest was when the agent said I could write and had no problems moving the story forward.


I'm not doing 1-2-1's but found the talk very useful - it exceeded my expectations for usefulness!


I'm feeling a bit odd about being here because my book has been accepted by a publisher after I submitted for the 1-2-1. I'm expecting the criticisms to be positive because they have come over as such positive people during the talk.


Thanks to Seven Stories for hosting and real tasty lunch. And a huge thanks to Skylark Literary. Joanna and Amber gave such a useful talk to start the day. And my pointed, clear and helpful feedback from Joanna sent me straight to the cafe to set to work re-writing my opening chapter.

Seven Stories is fantastic! Skylark are obviously very talented and well connected and they have a wonderful relationship with SCBWI. I'm actively looking for an agent now and it's really good for people to talk to a number of agents, the more we meet and talk the better. So, I'll be attending the SCBWI Agents' Party in London too.

And to finish - here's a lovely comment from Amber Caraveo.

You've been a lovely bunch. Lots of great ideas. Really inspiring.

In our post event chat our York group came to the conclusion that it had been an excellent event and our future critiques were likely to be more detailed and more professional as we shared the points that had been raised in each 1-2-1. Plus - the agents had asked to see some of the completed manuscripts once changes had been made. Great result.

If you're thinking about having a 1-2-1 with an agent in the future you might find this Skylark
post helpful. The Dos and Don'ts of One to Ones.

You can follow Amber and Jo on Twitter at @AmberCaraveo  @JoannaMoult and @SkylarkLit

You can follow Em Lynas on twitter at @emlynas and read her silly poetry on her website Em Lynas and the funeverse.


  1. Great summary of a great event - so nice to hear what people thought as I was so busy, I didn't get to chat much. Thanks, Maureen! MC

  2. Fascinating to see how people felt before and after the event. I wish everyone lots of luck with submissions - especially Maureen! Can't wait to see your books in the shops!

  3. An absolutely brilliant day! It was great to meet all of you - hope we can have a repeat! -JJ


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