May Competition Winners 2014

‘Write a Letter to a Literary Agent – 300 words’

As well as being the main speaker, James Wills very kindly took on the duties of adjudicator. James is a Literary Agent at Watson Little and has a BA in English and Italian, which he said was very useful as he has just come back from the Turin Book Fair. James said that he was passionate about reading and good writing, and urged members to read, read, read.

James’ Adjudication:

1st Prize: Louise Morrish, All Earthly Things

“An extremely good letter and, in my eyes, the obvious winner. It does everything a good covering letter needs to do and does so with ease. Clear, concise and professional in tone but just enough intrigue to make me want to read more. It’s a good title, a nice set up and a great setting for a story. Most importantly, the letter makes me want to read this book.”

Dear Mr Wills

I am currently seeking an agent for my novel, ‘All Earthly Things’. The novel is set in the First World War and tells the story of a young woman, Mary, who disguises herself as a soldier in order to follow her twin brother who has been conscripted. The novel follows Mary’s experiences in the horror of the trenches, her struggle to survive the Battle of Messines, and her subsequent escape.

In 2012 I completed the Faber ‘Write A Novel Online’ course, during which I wrote my first novel, ‘Beyond the Pale’, which I am currently self-publishing. I have recently finished another Faber course: ‘Exploring Genre’. A few years ago I wrote a series of non-fiction children’s books in collaboration with another author, which were published by Wayland. I have also twice won first prize in the Alton Wordfest short story competition.

I have attached the first 10,000 words of my novel and a synopsis for your consideration. I am submitting my novel to a number of other selected agents, but I will of course inform you if I receive any interest.

I look forward to hearing from you soon,

Louise Morrish 1st and Louise Taylor 3rd
Louise Morrish & Louise Taylor

2nd Prize: Michael Mortimore, The Troll Patrol

“A lively, fun letter that neatly captures the off-beat nature of the title. It seemed evident to me you enjoyed writing this letter and that made me want to read it too – well done”

Dear James Wills,

You requested an off-beat, quirky, and thrilling character driven story – I am delighted to present you with just that – The Troll Patrol. The book is 37,000 words, aimed at middle readers (8-12 years), and ends in such a way that it could form the basis for a series.

The novel is loosely based on The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen – a story of what it is to be free and to be able to choose how to live … but there are no beautiful mermaids in this modern twist … Becky is a troll. She’s the new girl at school, different, cool – Pete, Harry, and Johnny like her immediately. She gives them a new theme for their secret club. She gives them ‘The Troll Patrol’. This is a story of friendship, but will anyone want to be Becky’s friend when they discover her secret? The slime, the snot, the warts … not to mention all the bogies!

My previous writing experience is The Karma Kid (2nd Prize Writing for Children 2012, Winchester Writers’ Conference) and a YA novel, A.D.A.M. I have worked for a small publisher on another project recently with respect to illustration and also designed the official website – including all the non-fiction material on mythology, original artwork, and the very popular ‘Goblin Maker’ game.

I believe that children’s books should have a moral or defining quality that excites the imagination – even books with lots and lots of snot!

It goes without saying that I would be delighted should you wish to read the full MS and I very much look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

3rd Prize: Louise Taylor, How to Cook on Safari

“A good letter that clearly demonstrated your passion for the book and for East Africa. For future reference, I’d try to keep to your covering letter to one page, but that’s easily fixed – well done.”

Dear James,

I was hoping you would read the first 10,000 words of my novel, HOW TO COOK ON SAFARI.

In colonial Kenya, during the decades spanning its 1920s heyday to the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s, Cecilia, a young British woman, acquires a female friend and lover, a husband and, ultimately, a child. But who are the child’s parents and why does Cecilia reveal their identity only through the pages of a memoir she leaves behind after her death half a century later?

An earlier draft was long-listed in Mslexia’s 2013 competition for novels by unpublished female writers. The book, which I think falls into the historical literary genre, grew out of several visits to east Africa. As well as the game reserves, I spent many fascinating hours visiting Karen Blixen’s house, now a museum; getting sunburnt on a boat on lake Naivasha while trying to spot some of the old colonial houses that can still be seen in the area; and learning about the Mau Mau uprising at the Nairobi national museum.

Although a lawyer by profession, I have an MA in Creative Writing from Winchester University. One of my short stories was short-listed in the 2012 Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook / Arvon short story competition and, in the same year, a travel piece set in Africa was third in BBC Wildlife’s travel writing competition. My poetry has appeared in various publications, most recently in the May 2014 issue of Synaesthesia.

I enclose the first 10,000 words and a single page synopsis as Word attachments to this email.

Thank you for your time.

Highly Commended: Gill Hollands, Slingshot

“A good, clear letter. I like the fact that you acknowledge that this could be a series but do not presume so, and that it works as a standalone book. This is my pick for “highly commended” letter since you sent two letters and it’s always best to pick your strongest work when submitting to an agent.”

The prizes were books supplied by P&G Wells, together with a signed Certificate of Adjudication.

The competition secretary, Jim Livesey thanked James for doing such a great job of adjudication, and we know that getting this kind of feedback is something our members very much appreciate. 1st prize winner, Louise Morrish said that this was only her second visit to the HWS, and she was thrilled to have won and thanked the committee for all their hard work.

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