If the objective of going to the Winchester Writers’ Festival was to catch an agent, I failed; my net is miserably empty. If the objective was to confidently mingle and shamelessly promote my work, I failed that too; there was a fair amount of checking my phone for urgent messages. However, if I’d set out to exchange £300 for some nuggets of golden feedback and a slither of hope, I achieved that wholeheartedly.
It seems everyone agrees, my two picture books are, ‘hilarious’, ‘quirky’, ‘unique’, ‘original’, and ‘bonkers’. What outstanding feedback to receive from industry big-wigs. However, and it’s a fairly monumental ‘however’, my stories lack er, a story. They’re too ‘clunky’ without that most fundamental of story-book ingredients – a story arc; an obvious beginning, middle and end. Ah yes, I see that now.
The agent I met for my one-to-one chat laughed at ‘Lola’s Lice Line’. She laughed a lot. Even threw her head back and laughed. A good sign? She also called it ‘bonkers’. Several times in fact. Too many times. I started to wonder whether she thought I was bonkers for presenting her with such outlandishly ridiculous material. Was she laughing with incredulity?
I pitched my second picture book to her, which she said she’d look at over the weekend. Last night, she emailed to say, ‘As I expected, it was fun, but not one for me.’ Oh balls.
However, she also said picture books aren’t her ‘thing’ and her list is full anyway. That made me feel a little less winded.
Today, I am reflecting on the weekend and focusing on the rays of sunshine I glimpsed. My books are funny, but lacking in story; I can work on that. I certainly couldn’t fix an elegantly crafted, supposedly humorous, picture-book lacking in humour.
I must also remember how utterly subjective taste is. I’m not a fan of Friends, Miranda or Sex in the City. I’d actually go as far in saying I loathe them and their feeble, lazy and obvious humour. But I understand I’m probably alone here; I know they are all enormously popular. I like my humour a little darker; alternative, skilful and witty, as seen in a League of Gentlemen or The Mighty Boosh; programmes which have a sizeable minority following.
If I was asked to commission Miranda or The Mighty Boosh, I’d opt for the former. Obviously. It has a broader appeal and will ultimately make more money than the latter. Actually, scrap that. I’d choose The Mighty Boosh and stand by my conviction!
What I’m trying to say, as elegantly as a hippo in skinny jeans and stilettoes, is that I need to find the agent who wants to take a gamble on head-lice and vomiting cats; the agent who doesn’t just think the books are ‘hilarious’ but who knows other people will find them hilarious too. So hilarious, Waterstones will buy one million copies and Aardman will start making little head-louse figurines.
Until then, I’m going to my cave (kitchen table) to revisit the manuscripts and sculpt the stories. The agent hunting can wait….