A new event took place at this year’s Literary Festival; ‘Face the Chudleigh Dragons’. This week we hear from two members of Chudleigh Writers: Angela Wooldridge, talking from the point of view of a member of the audience; and Bea Hutchings, who was one of the first contenders to enter the Chudleigh Dragons’ Den.
From the Audience
“Eight brave souls had five minutes each to stand on stage and pitch their novels to the audience, and our three ‘dragons’; novelist, Sophie Duffy, Reader representative, Ian Hobbs, and Publisher, Tarla Moles. Prior to the event, each contender submitted the first page of their work-in-process and a blurb to the dragons.
As an observer, it was fascinating to watch the range of approaches our entrants chose to deliver their pitches:
Celia Moore, The Culmfield Cuckoo.
Celia told us about her life background and her writing journey.
Judges comments: Backstory and publishing process are the type of thing agents like to hear about.
Gail Aldwin, The String Games.
Gail used a cat’s cradle to demonstrate the themes in her psychological drama.
Judges comments: A well structured pitch, very clearly laid out.
Jo Cole, After the Branding.
Jo gave an excellent precis of the situation in her dystopian novel.
Judges comments: Exciting and pacy with a strong voice, very marketable.
Bea Hutchings, Call Me By My Number.
Bea used folded paper ‘chatterboxes’ to demonstrate the theme of numbers in her psychological thriller.
Judges comments: Very original to use numbers as a metaphor, brilliant starting scene.
Lyn Treadgold, Harold the Good Soldier.
Lyn told us how her third romance novel was inspired by her father’s letters.
Judges comments: Lyn obviously knows her market, and this has lots of potential to be a very marketable novel.
Suzanne McConaghy, Takeover.
Suzanne described the setting and main characters of her Young Adult thriller, set 50 years in the future and read an extract.
Judges comments: A pacy story with a strong protagonist and potential for a number of storylines.
Chip Tolson, Jo’s Beech or The Register of Jo’s Trees.
Set in 1943, Chip told us about Alice Hallett’s life, her affair with an older American airman and the repercussions.
Judges comments: Great premise, and love the metaphor of the trees.
Jean Burnett, Cass Crombie and the Brush of Death
Jean told us the premise of her ironic-murderous-cosy-crime novel, set in the 1980s, and read us an extract.
Judges comments: Enjoyable pitch with great central protagonist. Very clear on genre. Very marketable.
The judges then withdrew to make their decisions. With such a diverse range of entries, it was difficult to decide, and Jo Cole, from Chudleigh, came a very close second with ‘After the Branding’. But first prize, and winner of an assessment of their first 3,000 words and synopsis by Sophie Duffy, was…
Jean Burnett, with Cass Crombie and the Brush of Death!
Congratulations to Jean, and thanks to all our contenders and judges for making it such a fantastic event.”
From the Stage
“I knew, right from the start, it was going to be a tough challenge. Dragon’s breathe fire don’t they? and I knew, that any fire-fighting skill’s I possessed, would be about as much use as toasting cornflakes on a barbecue. (I needn’t have worried.)
Yes, it was nerve-racking; yes, it was doing something totally outside of my comfort zone, even though I’m no stranger to the stage, either acting or performing poetry/comedy. This was different. Presenting a novel, exposed before full gestation, was probably akin to standing naked in the freezer section of a supermarket – or so I thought.
I’d prepared my pitch, with props, and had my notes clearly written on an idea map; the premise of which, I’ve used in other presentations. So, although nervous, when my name was called, I was hooked up to the mic, and stepped up to the stage to pitch…
It was a scary moment. After the first minute, I knew I’d made errors in my presentation, but I carried on. I didn’t manage to present everything I wanted to, and my pitching style was somewhat ‘different’ I think? However, the ‘Dragon’s’ were the epitome of professionalism. They listened, took notes, thanked me for my pitch – it was done! The five minutes flew by.Time, to sit back, relax, and watch the other writers face the ‘Dragons’.
Everyone pitched their novel differently, and I soon realised, a definite technique to pitching was emerging. I was learning fast! Everyone was so good, but Jean Burnett’s pitch, (winner), was perfect. It was a lesson in ”how to pitch a novel”, and one I’ll never forget.
The ‘Dragons’ convened, when all eight contenders had pitched, for a long discussion, and came back to announce the winner. They also took the time to give valuable feedback on everyone’s pitch. They did an excellent job.
So what have I gained from the experience? A huge amount! Pitching a novel, for me, represents a skill. It requires confidence, practice, conviction, and above all, I think, a genuine personality.
For any writer, who, like me, hadn’t experienced such a thing before, it’s an absolutely brilliant way to learn, hands-on, the art of pitching a novel.
Thank-you Dragons, for all your comments, feedback, and superb fire-breathing! It was great. Many thanks to Kate too, for giving all of us, the opportunity to compete in what is sure to become an even bigger and popular event in the future.”