Penguin WriteNow Newcastle – a summary

Yesterday was long and tiring and still slightly unbelievable – I went to Newcastle, got feedback on the semi-rural fantasy from a Penguin Random House editor, then they sent me away with free books.

The books I got from Penguin WriteNow Newcastle

The Pelican book is actually a notebook.

I chatted to Abir Mukherjee and I’m looking forward to reading his historical crime novel, set in India in 1920. I never quite plucked up the courage to speak to Kirsty Logan (whose novel The Gracekeepers I reviewed for Luna Station Quarterly a while ago).

There were talks from literary agents, authors, Claire Malcolm from New Writing North, and Katie Hale who’s currently being mentored via the first WriteNow scheme from earlier this year. I spoke to other writers who’d been chosen for WriteNow (everyone greeting each other with ‘what’s your book about?’) and Penguin Random House staff, including an editor from Penguin Classics who I obviously had to talk to about Morrissey (I reassured him that I’d enjoyed the autobiography but had to admit I couldn’t finish the novel). Realising that I was talking to someone who’d met Morrissey was more exciting than it probably should have been.

I learnt some stuff (enter competitions; agents aren’t scary; it takes at least 13 passes for a good edit), wrote copious notes, and got unreasonably nervous waiting for my one to one with Mikaela Pedlow. I needn’t have worried – she had useful advice and pertinent questions as well as embarrassing praise (I need to learn to accept compliments without getting awkward and fidgety) and I have some ideas for how to improve the novel. Even without getting onto the mentoring scheme (which could still happen, shortlisting is a couple of weeks away) this has been one of the most exciting experiences in my writing life (entire life?). And because I was in Newcastle I got to eat a cheese savoury stottie for my tea.

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