Last night was the first meeting of the shortlisted writers for the inaugural Mslexia novel writing prize.
It was also the networking meeting set up by New Writing North and Mslexia to introduce new writing talent to agents, editors, publishers and various talent scouts.
I was so excited to meet the other women on the shortlist, the other women that I’d been corresponding and blogging with over the last four or five months that I hadn’t honestly given a huge amount of thought to the meeting, greeting and charming people part of the event.
The nine of us had decided to meet a couple of hours ahead of the party for tea and a chat, and meet we did. I had seen photos of about half of the women and received mail from all of them. I’d also read some of their blogs, although I haven’t, as yet, read any of their work; I sincerely hope that will soon change.
In this World we live in where youth seems to mean so very much, I was surprised, but also cheered to realise that not one of us could reasonably be called ‘young’. We ranged in age from our late thirties to our early sixties, and we could not have been more different if we had planned to be. We were from different areas of the country, different backgrounds and professions, different cultures and sensibilties, and from two generations. We were all, however, smart, funny, clever, engaged women. Kate was boisterous and generous, Rebecca wise and witty, Azmeena serene, Rachel elegant, Emma bursting with energy, Jenny warmhearted and sardonic, Victoria sensitive, and Catherine was thorough and beautiful.
By the time the ‘professional’ contingent arrived on the scene we were all very comfortable with each other, and in our environment. I had thought we’d be like lambs to the slaughter, but it rather felt like the other way around in the end. They were walking into our space, vying for our attention, following our leads. The youth in the room was concentrated in the eager faces of the agents and editors looking for talent. They needed us more than we needed them.
By the time we left, I certainly had the impression that everyone had capitalised on the opportunity to network, to make new contacts and to impress somebody. I certainly hope so.
I was in the very fortunate position of having my lovely agent by my side for most of the meeting. She introduced me to several very interested parties, who are looking forward to reading “Naming Names” in the autumn, and I got to talk about my book, which still holds my interest even after nearly four years since I first began working on it.
Nobody ever claimed that being a writer is easy. Events like last night do make being published feel a little less impossible, though, and if I can do it... Who knows? Maybe you can do it too.