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TLC Online Writers’ Day Write-Up 2021

Ciara Holly headshot

This month, we’re pleased to feature a write-up of our recent Online Writers’ Day, from friend of TLC Ciara Holly. We were grateful to Ciara for stepping in as a ‘roving reporter’ on the day and capturing the key parts of the day, so that those of you who may not have been able to attend can catch up!

Despite TLC’s seventh Writers’ Day taking a slightly more ‘virtual’ approach, the event remained as well-organised and inspiring as ever, with writers tuning in from across the globe to participate. The forum and chat function acted as an effective way for writers to meet and get to know each other, with Twitter handles and WordPress links flying in from left, right and center.

After an introduction and welcome talk from the ever-delightful TLC Director, Aki Schilz, our first speaker was Leodora Darlington, Commissioning Editor at digital publisher Canelo.

Leodora explored the advantages and disadvantages of digital publishing, leaving writers able to make up their own minds as to whether this is the right route for them, and offered advice for writers to take forward, such as what questions to ask about the editing process before signing a contract. Leodora then went further in describing the life of an ebook (which in itself sounds like a novel in the making), explaining the process of editing, author branding, pre-publication activity, through to publication day and beyond. This proved of interest to writers who may not otherwise learn anything about the process until they’re plummeted into the center of it, and acted as a preparation guide for what may come.

Furthermore, Leodora addressed the question, Does digital publishing work? Using examples such as S.B Caves’ I Know Where She Is, Nick Louth’s The Body in the Marsh, Mary Torjusson’s The Closer You Get and Angela Marsons’ Silent Scream, novels which have collectively racked up millions of sales, Leodora proved beyond doubt that digital publishing works, and works effectively.

Leodora’s insightful talk was followed by renowned publicist Maria Garbutt-Lucero, Director of Publicity at Sceptre. Having gained considerable knowledge of the industry over her ten years within publishing, Maria stated that a publicist should be a cheerleader for your book and do everything they can to see it succeed in the marketplace, as she did with her own clients Sally Rooney and Zadie Smith. Maria also suggested that writers begin to build their own personal brand by creating a biography, including who you are and what you write, as well as generating a presence on social media (Twitter strikes again) by joining conversations linked to books you particularly enjoy and supporting other writers. Maria provided a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable talk about publicity, and I for one definitely hope to see her with a cookbook out soon! Follow Maria’s recipes at @BaboyClub, and see how she uses social media to create her own brand and following.

Maria’s discussion around food led us nicely into the lunch break, after which we returned for the Breakout Sessions. I attended Write Your Story, Your Way with Okechukwu Nzelu, author of The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney, for which he won the Betty Trask Award. This writing-led session prompted participants to delve deeper into the idea of character, and explored how they would react within a story by dropping them in various scenarios and situations. Okechukwu’s interaction with his participants was lovely to be a part of, and I hope to see more of his writing soon.

The final sessions focused on pitches, during which I attended Alice Sutherland-Hawes’ hilarious talk on pitching to Children’s/YA agents. Alice’s frank approach gave light relief to an otherwise daunting prospect, highlighting topics such as how to structure letters and how to send a synopsis. One poignant moment that I took from this was when Alice said she often receives pitches from people who seem uncertain about their work; she said that writers should take pride in knowing they have managed to complete a piece and feel ready to send it out into the world. I think it’s important for writers to hear such words from an agent, as submitting your work can be a very overwhelming thought, so to know that agents like Alice want writers to feel confident in their work is a huge boost when it comes to pitching ideas.

During the final round-up, the winner of the TLC Penfactor Competition 2021 was announced, and it was a privilege to hear Jill Dobson accept the award for her manuscript, The Woman in the House Next Door. Congratulations Jill! I sincerely hope that her work is available to read soon.

A huge thanks and appreciation should be given to TLC’s Aki, Joe and Nelima for organising such a wonderfully inspiring, creative and insightful day, especially during such difficult circumstances. It was crammed full of useful tips and advice that I’m certain each participant will rely upon as they continue their writing journey.

You can read more about the winner and shortlist of this year’s TLC Pen Factor Writing Competition in our April Showcase.

Ciara Holly

Ciara Holly is a Kent-based writer who is currently working on her first novel. Her play is due to make its first appearance at the University of Westminster’s New Writing Festival in May, where she is also completing an MA in Creative Writing.

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