Sunday, 25 March 2018

Pitch and Pen 2018 - New Headingley Club

Anna Glendenning with Robert Hamilton -
winning pitcher selected by And Other Stories

Jamie McGarry with George Crompton -
winning pitcher selected by Valley Press

Alison Taft, Jamie McGarry, Anna Glendenning

Sally Bavage writes:
Daffodils and sunshine, after the blizzards and rainstorms, greeted the ten 'pitchers' at this brilliant opportunity for new and aspiring writers to present their ideas to a literary panel.  Ten 'golden ticket' entrants – there is only time to hear ten wildly differing pitches to publish before you can absorb no more – presented their ideas of novels, novellas, poetry collections, short story collections … Food for the brain indeed.

The panel was chaired by Alison Taft, local writer, teacher and creator of young sleuth Lily Appleyard in a trilogy of detective fiction published by Caffeine Nights, a small indie publisher.  Now publishing under the name Ali Harper with the Ampersand Agency (directed by former HarperCollins editor Jamie Cowen), Alison's new book The Disappeared comes out in May.  She knows all about the process, angst, highs and lows of getting your work published.

Jamie McGarry of Valley Press, based in Scarborough, has been an independent publisher for ten years, producing poetry collections (think of our regular artists Peter Spafford, Matthew Hedley Stoppard and James Nash) as well as anthologies, fiction including novels and short stories, and some non-fiction memoirs and travel writing.  He was joined by Anna Glendenning, editor at And Other Stories, A Community Interest Company now based in Sheffield and a writer herself.

This powerful trio of insiders listened with great attention to pitches made on diverse subjects – stretching from poetry on the Spanish civil war from both sides (civil, but tense), the human body (Ode to the Stool, Pickled Punk – a foetus in a jar), WW2 re-imagined, four men in the life of one woman, LitFest's first erotic novel pitch, a performance poet who also wrote for the reading audience in a page v stage dichotomy, short stories on libidinous plumbers and family dilemmas, a pandemic's effects on a small corner of Leeds .. I could go on. 

The work was both very personal and very important to each pitcher.  Exposing feelings, beliefs and understandings that an audience can absorb from the page via couplets, prose or dialogue.  Wow.  As an audience member said, “Thoroughly entertaining. Left me hoping they all get published”.  I think LitFest echoes that!

Ashley Phun writes:

It’s not every day that one gets an opportunity to present their writing to professional publishers, so it was no surprise to find the New Headingley Club buzzing with curious excitement for Pitch and Pen 2018, a major highlight of the Headingley Literature Festival. As with past iterations, this year’s event struck gold as novelist Robert Hamilton’s 'The Strange Talent of Madeline Malarkey' and George Crompton’s collection of poems won the judges over with their compelling explorations on themes of mortality and life’s many journeys, respectively. 
Results aside, it was a testament to the talent of all the pitchers that they could captivate the audience with their unique blend of wit and sincerity while sharing their novels, poems and short stories. Furthermore, it was heartening to note the thoughtful creativity of the pitchers. Indeed, each pitch contained not only intriguing plots or memorable phrases, but also honest meditations on a wide range of topics including mental health, trauma and survival in dystopia, the politics of war as well as the changing form of relationships in an age of technology. All in all, Pitch and Pen made for a spellbinding afternoon and was an inspiring display of local talent, one can only hope to experience it for many more years to come.

LitFest is grateful for the support from Leeds University student Ashley Phun
Audience Comments

A fascinating and interesting mix of pitches crossing different forms - poetry - short story - novel. It was inspiring to see the bravery of people who, having worked in the isolation of their own minds, put their work 'out there'.

This is a great event to attend. It allows a one-to-one pitch to potential publishers, and being able to talk of my novel as opposed to sending a faceless email was really useful.

I found the event a revealing forum of local scriptoria like talent. I would have liked to have had an opportunity for the audience to provide some constructive comment after each performance.

Great idea, very accessible - something which is very important given the initial difficulty to pitch work to publishers. I wasn't sure at first of the extent of the audience so it was a nice surprise to see how intimate it was. A larger audience would be too daunting given the nature of this event. More like this please.

After attending this event as part of the audience last year I have returned as a pitcher this year. I think it is a fantastic opportunity for both established and emerging writers, and I hope it continues in the future!

Very interesting to see people talk about their writing and ideas. Great to have publishers sharing their thoughts about this. Good stuff.

Plenty diverse - which is good. Howard Benn first to pitch - also good. I liked the poetic Dr. Emma. Excellent format 'Pitch and Pen' though 1600 on a Saturday not the best time.

Really enjoyed it, this was very exciting and interesting (and terrifying!).

I found this really fascinating - an excellent idea to include it in the Lit Festival! I was very interested in the great variations in how people presented their pitch, and in the diversity of work presented.

Well organised; friendly on the day. Interesting participants, stimulating all round.

Great concept. Well organised. Thoroughly entertaining. Left me hoping they all get published.

Very much enjoyed the event. Having a buzzer sounding after 5 minutes would add some spice for the audience and ensure all, pitches have equal time. Good format and varied subjects pitched.

Very well run, good pitchers - interesting pitches.

I really enjoyed being part of this event. It was excellent.

Fascinating event and so varied which made it really interesting.

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