May 3rd – to my first meeting with Hellie Ogden at Janklow & Nesbit.
10:50am. On the bumpy train on the way to London. Good temperature this morning. Usually find trains too hot or cold. Before it arrived, the tracks buzzed from the train’s vibrations, first time I’d ever noticed that.
Next to a lad who when, we both sat, we immediately pulled out paper, pens, and phones. Peripheral vision tells me he’s house hunting. Stressful. He’s penning times and places. Why would anyone in their right mind move to London? He smells, incredible; powdery cologne, and looks like an Elvis-haired throw-back wearing a blue checked shirt. Uh-huh-huh.
Swear I wouldn’t be half so nervous about this meeting if it had been in Bath or Bristol.
Sun’s out. Perfect. The glow outside matches the fluttery one on the inside because I’m nervous and excited. Desperately hope that I will be represented by Hellie because one of my lecturers said last night that winning the competition didn’t necessarily mean representation. Worrying.
However, I’m confident the meeting will go well and I’ll leave smiling because I’m willing and determined to make the best of this opportunity. Mum (surprisingly) offered to come with because of the shit-creek start to the week, but I’ve always done everything alone so why change the habit of a lifetime?
My tummy keeps turning. Been tuning into the Insights Timer app for meditation this week. It’s brilliant. Helps me focus on breathing. Breathe, in, out.
Just did a little reminder research on J&N and also on what literary agencies do; contracts, rights, negotiating, promotion etc and have come up with a few questions for Hellie, if necessary, but the two main things I need to remember to say are, ‘Thanks for awarding me the prize’ and ‘How can I sort out this spaghetti thin plot?’ But maybe in more professional terms, if I can think of them.
Reminds me of Gavin C-B’s advice to always act professionally. He was the best lecturer I ever had. Non-judgemental and encouraging. Goals for this meeting are: be grateful, warm, calm, friendly, honest, professional, willing, focused, level-headed and determined. Oh, and try to think before any tongue-splurge.
Shit me, this train’s going fast. Rapeseed fields, triangle roofs, big puddles like mirrors, plowed patches, fences, and gates rush past. England’s rather beautiful under the cottage cheese clouds and blue sky. ‘Tickets and railcards, please.’ Out comes the surprisingly attractive train attendant. ‘Thanks, that’s lovely. Thank you.’ Too bad he’s not wearing one of those old-fashioned conductor hats. In an hour I’ll be on the tube. Yack! Last time I went under, I heaved from the stench.
Back to reading. Want to finish The Remains of the Day so it’s not remaining at the end of this day.
3:43pm. Back on the bouncing train, listening to the lucid sounds of the clanking tracks, metal on metal and the grumbles all around of aircon and engine and the wires pulling us forward overhead.
It was brilliant. Hellie started by congratulating me with a hug and suggested going for lunch. We went to a posh little place in Notting Hill and the veggie options were lush. So great, in fact, I found it hard to decide and was worried about choosing something too expensive, but she said to have whatever I wanted: omelette with avocado. Truth is, I was so nervous that food was quite a fight, but I nailed it and am glad because eating helps with anxiety. It’s impossible to feel nervous when you’re eating, well that’s what Iain said and I cherish any possible placebo effect.
The best thing? Hellie loved the title. I KNEW it was a good title – yay!
I’m the biggest risk Hellie’s taken, BUT (!) she loves that I’m ‘different’ which feels funny when I feel so ordinary. Her feedback was insightful and will make my manuscript shine the way the story deserves and she’s going to send me a reading list, starting with Pigeon English. I was apprehensive when Hellie mentioned it because I read a bad review ages ago regarding authenticity and appropriation, but she was surprised saying the reviews were great and that Stephen Kelman grew up on London estates and she also argued a writer’s rights to artistic license and imagination. I’m going to read it and pick it apart as best I can.
Next steps for my manuscript, write a plot (as there isn’t one), send to Hellie for input, rewrite. Wish I’d met her and had this advice this time last year. The problem with creative writing degrees is that they aren’t geared towards commercial and marketing aspects and if you’ve never written a full-length manuscript and have no idea about how to create a plot, you’re pretty much screwed at the end of it.
There’s a lot of work to be done, but I’m so excited that I now have well-informed, nay, expert direction.
Bouncing train slows to a stop. Swindon. Came here with Cam in March. Has to be one of the shittest towns in England. Roll on, train, roll on! Want to get to Bath Waterstones to buy the first of my new reading list.
Tomorrow, I’ll start brainstorming new ideas for the plot and start to harness my artistic license. No more sticking to what I know; let’s get fictional, fictional!