‘So when my lead character hears the Messerschmitt dive bombing out of the fog, she throws herself into the slurry heap and naturally that triggers a dream sequence, where she imagines herself speeding full pelt towards Istanbul on the old steam Orient Express, while making tricksy little canapes out of potted meats and pineapple chunks.’
Bob Kleinwold massages his temples, sighs like a man with almost nothing to live for and opens his eyes. He stares at you for a long time without saying a word.
‘Perhaps it wasn’t a Messerschmidt, no, come to think of it, maybe it was a Stuka,’ you suggest, searching Kleinwold’s face for a little softening.
The kitchen timer on his desk goes off and trying hard to smile, he says that he is sure you will find the right agent eventually. You have no option but to leave.
Here you are on the first day of the Writing Weekend (see previous post) and already you have blown your chances with two literary agents.
You have retreated to the ladies to cry a little, when you overhear an excited conversation between two women in adjacent cubicles. It concerns the merits of a young literary agent who is actively looking to build his client list. His name is Clyde Darling. He is with Mallory Makepeace Associates and so enthusiastic, you overhear, that he has come to the Writing Weekend specifically looking for debut novelists. At this news you drop your handbag, which you were gripping with your teeth, in the absence of a hook on the back of the door. As the contents of your handbag spill onto the floor there is a small hiatus in their conversation, during which you blush.
Then, as they are washing their hands, you hear a new woman enter the ladies and greet the other two.
‘I just nearly followed that gorgeous Clyde Darling, right into the gents next door,’ she announces.
As they all laugh, you scrabble together the splayed contents of your handbag from the floor and exit the cubicle, then exit the ladies and run straight into the gents. It is empty apart from the door of one cubicle which is closed. You sidle up to the cubicle.
‘I’m terribly sorry to bother you.’
The fact that you are addressing a pair of shoes just visible beneath the door is a little disconcerting, but you remind yourself that this is potentially a man who is hungry for talent.
‘I wondered if you’d look at this.’
You then pass the synopsis of your novel under the door, where a hand grasps it. Encouraged, you pitch your novel to the shut door. This time, you make a really great job of it. Your pitch is succinct, coherent, interesting. You even have time to explain where you think it might sit in terms of genre and market. You amaze yourself. The toilet flushes and slowly, very slowly the cubicle door opens. You step back, slightly confused by the figure you see emerging with your synopsis in one hand. He is wearing a pair of red overalls and has a belt hung with workman’s tools.
‘You’re not Clyde Darling from Mallory Makepeace Associates?’
The man shakes his head and hands you back your synopsis.
‘No mate’, he says, ‘I’m Wayne, from maintenanance.’
‘Hallo Wayne’, you say, backing out of the toilet as a group of men enter behind you.
‘It sounds bloody great Babe,’ says Wayne, ‘I’d buy it, not sure about that dream sequence though.’
You thank Wayne and run out into the hotel foyer where you select a bin, in which to throw your synopsis before making a tactical retreat. Lhasa would be your ideal destination, but you could settle for going back to your room, packing your stuff and seeing if you can exchange your train ticket. Tonight you could be lying in your own bed, in sweet, quiet ignominy. That has now become your main goal. But, as you stroll determinedly towards the main door you find your way blocked by Barry Gothic Fantasy Horror, who informs you that he has booked you in for this evening’s ‘Pitch Live Event’ .
‘It’s OK,’ Barry is reassuring,’ nothing to worry about, all we have to do is competitively pitch our novels on stage, then the audience votes for which pitch should go through to the panel of industry professionals, it’s a great opportunity. I knew you’d love it.’