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‘Ghost Girl, Banana’: Wiz Wharton on choosing a publisher and staying true to your heart as a writer

We first met Wiz when the opening of her debut novel was longlisted for Friday Night Live at the 2020 Summer Festival of Writing. She went on to win our bursary for the Self-Editing Your Novel course, and after receiving six (!) offers, is now represented by the RCW Literary Agency. \'Ghost Girl, Banana\' was pre-empted by Hodder Studio and will be published as its major summer launch in 2023. Here, we got to chat to Wiz about staying true to your heart as a writer, the importance of a writing community, and more. JW: Tell us a little about your background as a writer. When did you start writing? WW: I was an absolutely voracious reader as a kid, and I think that naturally led me to think it would be something fun and easy to do as a job - haha! I remember when I was about six, I sent a hand-drawn children’s manuscript to Hamish Hamilton, called Tilly and the Flower People. It was about a gang of rebellious tulips plotting a coup against their greedy human nursery boss (don’t ask). One of the editors sent me the loveliest reply - a rejection, obviously, with two bits of advice: 1) Never send your original MS through the postal system and 2) Keep trying. I actually started my career in a different field, studying screenwriting at the National Film and Television School where I had the privilege of being taught by some of the greats like Stephen Frears, Mike Leigh and Ken Trodd. My graduation film won a couple of prizes on the international film circuit and from there I was picked up by the BBC. I subsequently worked on a few projects, but ultimately none of them were green-lit - another hard lesson in rejection! JW: What was the first piece of work you put through the submissions process? What was that like? WW: My first adult submission was for a novel that I believed sat firmly in the genre of literary/upmarket commercial. What I was subsequently told by two agents - who offered me representation - was that I’d written an “unintentional thriller” and could I please make it more of one! I absolutely love thrillers as a reader, but in my heart knew that this was not my natural home as a writer. I also knew that I was in this as a career rather than a one-book thing, and worried how I would follow this, having set up readers’ expectations of my work. As a result, and after much soul-searching, I turned down both offers and started again... Finding a community JW: How has having a community of writers around you helped with your writing journey? Do you have any advice for writers trying to find their community? WW: I think the best thing a writer can do - apart from reading everything you can get your hands on - is to find a group of people who understand you. For writers, that’s other writers because no one else can quite comprehend either why we do what we do, or the struggles of the journey. I was incredibly lucky to discover the Twitter writing community early on, especially the #VWG (Virtual Writing Group) who have been absolutely instrumental in keeping me going, but there are other outlets available too: in-person groups, creative writing initiatives/courses (like Jericho Writers!) Instagram and Facebook. The best way to find your tribe is to engage with others. You have to put in the effort because writing is a reciprocal act. What I mean is that it’s not just about creating; you’re always looking to find and understand your audience. It’s intimidating at first, but just say hi, offer suggestions to questions, enter competitions or things like #pitmad, #askagent and #WritersLift, or congratulate someone else’s achievements. By and large, the writing community is incredibly generous and inclusive, despite occasional pockets of unpleasantness, and you will be welcomed. You have to put in the effort because writing is a reciprocal act. What I mean is that it’s not just about creating; you’re always looking to find and understand your audience. JW: Tell us about Friday Night Live. What was that experience like? WW: I was a festival novice when I entered and didn’t think I had any chance of being longlisted, so it was wonderful to have that validation. And just entering a competition is an act of faith and bravery, so I have a lot of admiration for anyone that does it. I didn’t reach the shortlist of FNL but my experience with Jericho did lead to me winning the Self-Edit bursary that year, and being noticed in other competitions, so it’s definitely worth putting yourself out there. I will add that the quality and standard of teaching at Jericho Writers is wonderful, but if you can’t stretch to the cost of a professional assessment or a course, the Summer Festival of Writing is a brilliant, affordable alternative that gives you access to some of the greatest speakers and workshops on writing. The fairytale choice JW: You submitted to six agents and received four manuscript requests within an hour. You also received six offers! How did that feel? Was the process what you expected? WW: I’m still reeling, actually! It’s an enormous privilege and a thrill to have that response to your work, but I do think a lot of it came down to timing and a public appetite for more diverse stories. This wasn’t my first rodeo, and I’d been told previously that my writing was sound but my voice was too marginal for the market. Because of this, I was girding my loins for rejection again (and the famously long wait for a response), so to have that turnaround was a bit bewildering. I remember speaking to my friends in the #VWG and saying “X has asked for a meeting. What does this mean?” You always wonder “is this the call?” because sometimes it isn’t; sometimes it’s a request for a revise and resubmit (an “R&R”), but it just happened that all six offered representation. And as much as it was an absolute fairytale situation, I can’t even begin to describe the agony of making a final choice and having to turn people down. It felt really alien to me, and I do think it’s important to remember that agents are people, too, and they are also said no to daily - be that through editors, publishers or sometimes even writers! I do think it’s important to remember that agents are people, too, and they are also said no to daily - be that through editors, publishers or sometimes even writers! JW: Rather unusually, you’re represented by two agents. What is your working relationship with them like? WW: I am incredibly blessed in that department. I have to say that the wonderful Claire Wilson is my primary agent at RCW and helps me day to day with absolutely everything, but Peter Straus has also taken me under his wing and emails me with incredible advice, offers editorial notes, or sometimes just emails to ask if I’m okay. It’s incredibly collaborative and nurturing, as is the whole agency. Claire’s assistant Safae and all at the foreign rights team are also majorly amazing. I’m working on that “difficult” book two now and Peter and Claire have both been brilliant in terms of their insights. JW: How did the offer from Hodder come about? WW: Claire drew up a submissions list for both the UK and US. We’d spent the previous five weeks rewriting the manuscript (twice) to try and make it as strong as possible before sending it out as we wanted to catch people before the summer break. The “nos” came quickly, and quite fast, but the fact they were all for different reasons helped me view them as subjective rather than a fault with the book itself. And that’s the thing. A book lives for a long time in these early phases and for that reason you absolutely NEED an editor to be in love with it 100%. Some of the editors were incredibly passionate about the book, but it fell at the acquisitions meeting stage for one reason or another. I do think there’s this misconception that only one person has to love your book for it to be published, but it actually takes a village to get to that finish line. Luckily, we did have a fair bit of interest from both here and in the US, but when I had my first meeting with Sara Adams at Hodder I knew instinctively that she was who I wanted to work with. First of all, she’d brought her lucky cat to the meeting (haha) but secondly, her whole team was on board already and loved the book. Most importantly, however, Sara understood the story to its bones which is crucial to me as a writer. We were immediately on the same page about what might need changing/tweaking whilst maintaining the heart and integrity of the novel. That combination was irresistible to both me and Claire. And can I just add that I am so glad to have had an agent at that point; not just for the professional connections but for the negotiations that took place after the offers came through. It was stressful enough handling the phone calls, let alone doing all the figures behind the scenes! A book lives for a long time in these early phases and for that reason you absolutely NEED an editor to be in love with it 100%. JW: Finally, do you have any tips for writers working on their debut right now? WW: In much the same way as any creative field, writing is a skill acquired over many years of dedication and training, and the journey is fraught with disappointment and “almost there”s. Keep the faith, but also keep reading and learning. No one can write your story your way, so as tempting as it is to compare yourself to others it’s also counterproductive to finding and loving your own voice. Your voice is what makes you special and uniquely qualified to tell your story. Write with your heart rather than with one eye on the market (you’ll always be behind the curve) and do it as if no one is looking. Find a support network of other writers and be generous and sincere in your praise. Connect with agents professionally and courteously and don’t trash talk on social media, even when you’re at your lowest. And if you achieve your dream, whether that’s finishing a book or being published, or being successfully published, don’t pull the ladder up after you. I wish you all the very best on the journey. About Wiz Wiz Wharton is a prize-winning graduate from the National Film and Television School. Previously published in non-fiction, she has appeared on various broadcast platforms, including radio, television, and print media. Her debut novel, Ghost Girl, Banana - based on her mother’s posthumously discovered diaries - is a dual narrative examining the search for belonging and identity, set between the last years of the Chinese Windrush in 1966 and Hong Kong’s Handover to China in 1997. Wiz currently divides her time between London and the Scottish Highlands. Read more about Wiz on the RCW website; or on The Bookseller. Connect with Wiz on Twitter: @Chomsky1
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Natalie Chandler’s debut two-book deal with Headline Accent

Natalie Chandler began researching and writing her debut novel, \'Believe Me Not\', in 2020, and attended the Summer Festival of Writing to build up her confidence before seeking agent representation. She\'s now represented by Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment, and recently signed a deal with Headline Accent. Natalie kindly shares her story and some words of wisdom here.  JW: Tell us about finishing your book – where did the idea come from, and how did you go about turning that idea into words on a page?   NC: ‘Believe Me Not’ was born from a dream, believe it or not (delighted to have got a pun in so early on). I woke up thinking about a disorientated woman trying to find her baby son despite everyone she trusted insisting she didn’t have a child - and the idea just wouldn’t be quiet until I sat down and started writing.  I’m very much a pantser so I had no idea where the plot was going or what was going to happen. But my protagonist, Megan, was already fully formed and she drove the early chapters. I did a lot of research – I hate getting details incorrect – and was fortunate that one of my best friends works in the NHS and she not only patiently answered my countless questions but also put me in touch with other mental health professionals.  For the first time, I had no other distractions, due to the small matter of the world coming to a halt with a global pandemic. No lunch invites, no exhortations for ‘just one drink’ or weekend getaways. I was writing practically full-time and it was flowing like never before. I had nearly finished the first draft when I saw an advert for the Summer Festival of Writing and decided, since I was Doing This Properly, it would be a sound investment. It turned out I was right. I came away feeling empowered, knowledgeable, no longer a complete amateur – and ready to edit until I could edit no more.    JW: How did you land your agent? During the 2020 Summer Festival of Writing, I attended every webinar led by an agent. I wanted to learn as much as I could about submissions before jumping into the fray again, having previously tried to find representation for two earlier novels and been unsuccessful. Jericho Writers provided such wonderful opportunities to, for the first time, really discover the secrets of the industry and I felt much more confident in my submissions package after applying everything I’d learnt. I also booked several agent one-to-ones, which were nowhere near as terrifying as expected! One of the early ones was particularly brilliant. She ripped my opening pages to shreds and it really stung at the time, but when I sat down to work through her deeply perceptive notes, I realised she’d helped me improve tenfold and I was so grateful to her. From then, I had a stronger package to present at one-to-ones and I gained three more full requests from subsequent sessions.   By this point, I already had six full manuscripts on submission and was prepared to wait to see what the feedback would be when, out of the blue, I saw on Twitter that Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment had opened her submissions that morning. I’d followed Liza for a while and really liked her style so I decided there was nothing to be lost in contacting her. She replied within hours asking for the full manuscript and just over a week later, I was signing on the dotted line in a state of wonder, disbelief and sheer joy.  It had been nearly a decade since I sent out those first tentative letters (no email back then!) seeking representation and I was so thrilled by the opportunity to become part of the Mushens Entertainment family – a dream agency I had followed since its creation – that I didn’t quite dare to believe it was finally happening.   JW: What was the process of choosing an agent after a number of full manuscript requests?   Liza was the first agent to call – she read the full manuscript in 48 hours and left me the most wonderful voicemail telling me how she loved it so much she’d stayed up half the night to finish it, which I intend to keep forever! As soon as we got talking, I was amazed by her excitement and her sheer passion for ‘Believe Me Not’. She already understood the characters and themes and we were completely on the same page regarding edits and improvements. I knew we’d clicked but Liza encouraged me to continue talking to the other agents who had the full manuscript and see what their thoughts were. They were all lovely and so encouraging but my gut was telling me I was going to accept Liza’s offer. My partner told me to listen to the voicemail again and said ‘anyone that enthusiastic is going to be your most valuable ally. She’s 100% committed to you and the book and you can’t ask for anything more’. That sealed it for me.  JW: What is your relationship like with your agent now?   Wonderful! Editing together was the best experience – the book grew stronger and I learned so much working alongside a talented professional for the first time. Liza’s cup is always half-full and she approaches everything with positivity. She checks in regularly whilst still giving me total autonomy in the writing process, and she always has time for me despite being super busy. I can discuss any problems or concerns with her and know I can trust her advice and guidance.   My partner told me to listen to the voicemail again and said ‘anyone that enthusiastic is going to be your most valuable ally. She’s 100% committed to you and the book and you can’t ask for anything more’. That sealed it for me.  JW: So you got your agent, but then what? What was the submissions process like?   ‘Nerve-wracking’ is probably the best description. There had already been interest from a number of editors when I gained representation so we started with a list of twenty initial submissions to mostly Big 5 houses after we’d done two rounds of edits. I knew there are always rejections so I’d steeled myself but we were getting fantastic feedback and after three weeks, the magic word ‘acquisitions’ was whispered. Days later, Liza called with the news that Headline Accent wanted to meet me and was offering a two-book deal – I was really going to be a published author!  JW: Has everything met your expectations so far, or have there been a few surprises?   As a debut, I didn’t expect to be given the level of autonomy and control I have.  Even though I’m learning fast, I’m still inexperienced, therefore I’d anticipated more instructions and fewer discussions. I was impressed that my thoughts and opinions are valued and how it has been constantly emphasised that it is my book and I am free to decide what works best.  Editing together was the best experience – the book grew stronger and I learned so much working alongside a talented professional for the first time. Liza’s cup is always half-full and she approaches everything with positivity. JW: Has this experience taught you anything about the publishing industry and pursuing your goals? Primarily, I’ve learned how lovely people in the publishing industry are! Everyone I’ve met has been so generous with their time, advice and encouragement. I’m very grateful. Don’t be scared to ask questions and take every opportunity to learn and network. If being an author is what you really want, understand it won’t happen overnight – sometimes it takes a decade. Stay committed through all the rejections and keep going – write anything, write everything, but keep honing your craft and growing as an author. You’ll feel like giving up many times but never forget you write, above all else, because you love it.  It’s all worth it the moment you get the voicemail that will change your life!  About Natalie Natalie Chandler was educated at the University of Durham and currently works in behavioural education, specialising in social, emotional and mental health issues.  Her debut psychological thriller \'Believe Me Not\' was written during lockdown and delves into the fractured mind of a woman abruptly diagnosed with psychosis, as she fights to prove the existence of her baby.  \'Believe Me Not\' will be published by Headline Accent in March 2022. Natalie is represented by Liza DeBlock at Mushens Entertainment and divides her time between London and the rural North of England. 
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Felicia Yap on weaving your life experiences into your writing

Friday Night Live shortlisted author, Felicia Yap, was snapped up by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown soon after our 2015 Festival of Writing. Her brilliant high-concept thriller \'Yesterday\' was bought by Headline’s Alex Clarke for a six-figure sum. Her latest title, \'Future Perfect\', was also published by Headline in March 2021. Felicia has had an expansive and divergent career; we spoke to her about how you can use multiple interests to inform and add texture to your writing. JW: Hi Felicia! It\'s great to talk to you. Could you start by telling us about yourself as a writer? When did you start writing? FY: I started out as a journalist. I wrote newspaper articles from the age of nineteen (for The Economist and The Business Times, amongst other publications). Later on, I became a historian at the University of Cambridge and spent years writing academic papers about the Second World War. I only began writing fiction properly after the idea for my debut novel \'Yesterday\' came to me; the concept struck me on my way to a dance studio in Cambridge. I started writing the next day and I’m glad I did. JW: Tell us about your journey to publication. Were there any events or resources that helped you along the way? FY: I was fortunate to be shortlisted for the Friday Night Live competition at the Festival of Writing in 2015. It was a joy to read the opening paragraphs of \'Yesterday\' to a large audience in York; I was thrilled by how the audience responded. It made me confident that my story began decently – which in turn made me twice as determined to finish my manuscript. \"Nothing in life is ever wasted when it comes to writing.\" JW: So, you got your agent – what happened next? FY: I did an extensive round of edits with my agent. He then sent out my manuscript and it went to auction in multiple territories. JW: What happened at the auction?   FY: I had the wonderful privilege of speaking to several editors in both the United Kingdom and America, to find out if we shared similar visions for the manuscript. It was an exciting time. JW: You’ve had a multi-hyphenate career, including working as a radioactive-cell biologist, a war historian, and a technology journalist. How have your different career paths informed your writing? FY: I have drawn on technical elements and knowledge from the professional orbits I\'ve moved through. I have also incorporated sensory details from these worlds. My second novel \'Future Perfect\' combines high fashion with technology; the book is set in the near future where computers will be able to predict how we will live and when we will die. The first chapter is told by a model who carries a bomb down a catwalk in Manhattan. I used to be a runway model and wrote quite a few articles on detection/prediction technologies for The Economist in the past. \'Yesterday\' contains spoof academic papers and science articles in the house styles of the publications I have contributed to. Nothing in life is ever wasted when it comes to writing. JW: Do you have any tips for balancing writing alongside other, seemingly divergent pursuits? FY: My unorthodox pursuits have stemmed from curiosity; I’m fascinated by the delicious possibilities out there, the things worth trying and doing. I’m convinced that divergent activities can enrich a person’s life (and one’s writing), especially the quirky ones. Life is too short not to be embraced fully. If one truly enjoys one’s pursuits, balance will come naturally. JW: Your writing balances being very high concept whilst at the same time achieving the complexity of a murder mystery. How do you approach this? FY: I normally begin with the concept and iron out the details later. Both my novels were inspired by conundrums, questions I knew I would be happy spending two years of my life figuring out the answers to. \'Yesterday\' grew out of the question: ‘How do you solve a murder if you only remember yesterday?’ While \'Future Perfect\' was inspired by the concept: ‘What if today were your last day?’ Yet, high concepts are merely empty canvases on which to hang narratives. What makes a story sparkle are the tiny yet lively details that populate it. JW: Is your writing more research-driven or informed by the experiences you’ve already had? FY: All my writing is informed by personal experience, the things I have done or encountered  (or eavesdropped on). I try to set my stories in places that I have visited before or know well. This is because the five senses are crucial in the art of storytelling, especially their rich alchemy. Stories come alive when readers can feel, touch, hear, taste and see what the characters are experiencing. I believe that one can only write about the five senses convincingly if one has experienced them in the magical amalgamation unique to a particular location. I also do a lot of research but only after I have completed the first drafts of my manuscripts. It helps to know what you don’t know, so that you can ask the right people the right sort of questions. \"High concepts are merely empty canvases on which to hang narratives. What makes a story sparkle are the tiny yet lively details that populate it.\" JW: Do you think that your experience as a journalist had an impact on your writing? FY: Most certainly. The first paragraph of The Economist Style Guide continues to resonate with me. It says: “Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible.” JW: Were there any other resources you found helpful along the way? I did a couple of writing courses; they helped me understand the basic ‘rules’ of storytelling and gave me some appreciation of form, structure, and technique. It helps to know the rules if you hope to break them. More importantly, the courses put me in touch with other writers. Many of my classmates have since become good friends and we still send our works-in-progress to each other for critical feedback. \"It helps to know the rules if you hope to break them.\" JW: What are you working on next? FY: I wish I could tell you but I’m afraid it might jinx what I’m currently working on. Even my long-suffering partner Alex hasn’t got a clue! About Felicia Felicia Yap is the author of the speculative literary thrillers \'Future Perfect\' and \'Yesterday\', published in multiple languages around the world. She has worked as a radioactive-cell biologist, a war historian, a university lecturer, a technology journalist, a theatre critic, a flea-market trader, and a catwalk model. Read more about Felicia Yap on her website. FUTURE PERFECT YESTERDAY Follow Felicia Yap on Twitter at @FeliciaMYap
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Aliya Ali-Afzal on working with her agent & choosing a publisher at an auction

Aliya Ali-Afzal became a member of Jericho Writers in 2019, signing with her agent in 2020. Aliya’s debut novel, ‘Would I Lie to You?’, will be published by Head of Zeus in the UK and Grand Central Publishing in the US in July 2021. Having already proven to be in-demand at auction, it looks set to be incredibly popular. Aliya is represented by Juliet Mushens of Mushens Entertainment. We spoke to her about the working relationship between author and agent, and the surreal experience of choosing a publisher from an online auction.   JW: Hi Aliya! Great to talk to you. We’re really intrigued by the concept of your debut - where did the inspiration for ‘Would I Lie to You?’ come from?  AA: The initial inspiration came from something that happened in my own life. I had been on a big spending spree, and when I got home, my husband called to say he had lost his job. I felt a surge of panic - then guilt - as I thought about all the money I had spent, especially as my husband didn’t know about it. This sparked the idea about what would happen if someone had spent a lot more in secret, and unless they could put that money back quickly, they risked losing everything.  I’m fascinated by human nature and when I worked in London as a career and life coach, I saw how people’s sense of self can sometimes get caught up with how much they earn and what they have, rather than who they are. I also wanted to explore what happens after someone makes a terrible mistake. Can we ever put things right and can others ever forgive us?   JW: How did Jericho Writers membership help you with your writing journey?  AA: I became a member of Jericho Writers in the Spring of 2019, when I had just started editing my novel. I listened to every single podcast and video in the resource library! There’s a really broad range of topics covered including plot, characterisation, editing, writing cover letters and synopsis. I also loved watching Slushpile Live.  In September 2019, I attended the Festival of Writing in York for the first time and loved the panels and workshops. In my one-to-one session the agent asked for the full manuscript, which was an incredible boost for my confidence. It was also very helpful meeting other writers who shared their experience and tips about the submissions process. I felt inspired by hearing stories about writers who had found agents, after countless rejections!  All these things helped enormously when I started submitting in November 2019 - which resulted in me signing up with Juliet Mushens in January 2020. I would recommend that writers sign up with Jericho Writers immediately!  \"I became a member of Jericho Writers in the Spring of 2019, when I had just started editing my novel. I listened to every single podcast and video in the resource library!\" JW: In what ways have writing groups helped you along in your journey to publication?  AA: Our group meets every fortnight to give honest feedback, help with plot ideas, synopsis, advice on cover letters, agents, and publication. We also provide each other with that other vital ingredient for writers- moral support! The group has been invaluable and feels like having my own personal hotline whenever I need help!  Knowing each other’s work intimately, we feel comfortable enough to point out things that could be improved or are not working. By workshopping regularly, we also shift the focus from writing being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, to work that is simply being edited and improved. This is an important distinction. As well as learning how to give clear, productive feedback, it is important to know how to receive and process feedback too. Over the years, I’ve almost developed an intuition about which feedback I want to take on (often something that most people in the group agree on), and which elements of the feedback I disagree with. After a while, you learn to trust your own instincts as well, and it is important to be able to reject feedback sometimes too, even if you value and accept it most of the time.  \"[We] provide each other with that other vital ingredient for writers- moral support! The group has been invaluable and feels like having my own personal hotline whenever I need help!\" JW: Can you tell us about how you found representation with Juliet Mushens?  AA: Juliet was my dream agent and there were several reasons why she was at the top of my list. I knew that she represented some incredible writers, who all raved about what a great agent she was. She was super successful and brilliant at her job, but also seemed very passionate about it, which I admired. I followed her on Twitter and found that we shared a similar sense of humour and a love of beautiful dresses, which also convinced me that she would be my perfect agent!  I attended an excellent Guardian masterclass that she presented on how to find an agent, but was too shy to go and introduce myself or even ask a question. I did, however, take lots of notes! By the time I submitted to Juliet via the slush pile, I had done months of research about her wish list and wrote a targeted and personalised cover letter. Juliet asked for the full manuscript the same day that I submitted to her. Five days later, she emailed me to offer representation. It was, without doubt, the best email I had ever received in my life!  In total I submitted to five agents and it took me seven weeks to find representation. I had expected it to take months, even years, so I was blown away at the speed at which it all happened. Some of this was of course down to luck and timing too, but I think it also helped that I did months of research, preparation and hard work before I started to submit. JW: What’s your working relationship with your agent like? What do you think are the benefits of having an agent?  AA: Juliet is an incredible, extraordinary agent. Despite being insanely busy, she is always available for me and makes me feel as if I am her only client! She is direct and honest in her communication and I love that – I\'m the same and I feel comfortable saying what I think to her. We also instantly got on when we met, so I really enjoy working with her too.  The most valuable aspect of having Juliet as my agent is that I absolutely trust her opinion on both business and creative matters. I have consulted her throughout the publication process and value her advice. This is especially important as a debut, when you can feel out of your depth.  Juliet is also a brilliant editor, and gave me extensive editorial feedback. I love brainstorming with her, and it helps that we are both obsessed with working on the manuscript until it\'s perfect, however many rounds of edits it takes!  \"Juliet asked for the full manuscript the same day that I submitted to her. Five days later, she emailed me to offer representation. It was, without doubt, the best email I had ever received in my life!\" JW: Can you describe the auction?  AA: It was a surreal and very exciting experience. Under normal circumstances, we would have visited each publisher’s offices for the auction, but under lockdown, everything took place on Zoom. Each publisher’s entire team- editorial, marketing and publicity - pitched to me and Juliet, showing us presentations about their publication plans and creative visions for ‘Would I Lie to You?’ We also chatted to see how we got on.  After years of wondering if I would ever get an agent or any interest at all from a publisher, I suddenly had three publishers, each wanting me to choose them! It was a great feeling to have these amazing publishers telling me how much they loved my writing and discussing my characters with me. It boosted my confidence enormously, both in my writing and in my story. Juliet debriefed me after each pitch and outlined all the factors I needed to consider before making my decision.  JW: Do you have one last piece of advice for the JW members?  AA: Prepare, prepare, prepare, before you start to submit!    About Aliya   Aliya Ali-Afzal is studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, and studied Russian and German at University College London. She is an Alum of the Curtis Brown Creative novel-writing course. Aliya lives in London and is a career and life coach.   Get ‘Would I Lie to You?’ from Waterstones From Bookshop.org From Amazon Follow Aliya on Twitter: @AAAiswriting 
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