Facing The Chudleigh Dragons (Part 2)

Last week, we heard from two members of CWC about the new feature of the Literary Festival. This week we hear from  Suzanne McConagy, a guest from Torquay who heard about the competition via the internet and decided to come along and have a go.

“Entering the den of the Chudleigh Dragons with some trepidation, I expected to emerge with my delicate writer’s soul seared by their fiery breath. Instead, the experience left me feeling encouraged. For a start, even getting on the short list had seemed to be a step in the right direction, especially as this was my first attempt to compete at a festival.

The dragons – Sophie Duffy (writer), Tarja Moles (publisher) and Ian Hobbs (reader) – disguised themselves well, smiling pleasantly at each vic … er … candidate as they waited for him or her to begin.

I should, of course, have remembered this was ‘Dragon’s Den’ and that, in the programme, the pitch was always followed by a tough interrogation, so I did myself no favours when I didn’t allow the dragons enough time for questions. My chance to reveal how clever, witty and professional I am – and I wasted it! Well, it was a long time since I’d watched the programme.

The clear winner, Jean Burnett, gave a perfectly-pitched, succinct presentation of her novel, from which I felt everyone could take something positive. This would have been my choice as well.

I’d like to look at this from the point of view of a writer in the audience. This session gave so much information about pitching your work that it was a little master class in what to do – and what not to do. There was the opportunity to study:

– Body language
– The importance of smiling occasionally at the audience and at the panel
– Using props to make yourself memorable
– How much stage craft is required
– Being clear about the structure of your story – and being able to get that across
– Not including too much information – the audience is only able to hang onto a few salient points.

But equally important, it was entertaining enough for a much wider audience. I think this is a session to which the general public could be invited. There are many people who are great readers who might find this fascinating. The impressive viewing figures for the original ‘Dragons’ Den’ make it obvious the audience was not mainly composed of would-be entrepreneurs.

For me, entering a competition like this was well worth the hard work of preparing for it and the fear that everything would go irretrievably wrong, so thank you Chudleigh Writers for organising the event.”

Suzanne McConaghy

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