I entered the Blue Pencil First Novel Award in 2017. The deadline provided me with much needed motivation, and the thrill of being placed was a great morale- booster. It gave me the confidence to submit my work to an agent and now that my novel The Oceans Between Us published by Headline, I realise how much gratitude I owe the agency for recognising its potential.
“Winning the Award marked a real breakthrough in my writing life. The slightly overwhelming news that I had won first prize (I found myself shaking uncontrollably!) was followed by an exciting week involving a London photo-shoot with the judges, and the sight of my face in The Bookseller. The lovely Blue Pencil Agency team gave me the chance to meet the judges and to talk about my novel in some depth with agent Eve White. This was a fantastic opportunity and one that is rare in the writing prize world. Winning the Blue Pencil Agency competition gave me confidence that my novel is a good one and this, I would say, is the most valuable reward an aspiring writer can get.” February 2018.
Carolyn’s debut novel The Conviction of Cora Burns is out now. Her second novel When We Fall is coming in May 2020. She is represented by agent Andrew Lownie.
“Unless I ever buy a winning lottery ticket the entry fee to the Blue Pencil First Novel Award will be the best investment of £20 I’ll ever make. Each stage has given me so much: the energy of a deadline to complete the first draft; the confidence boost of reaching the long list; the heady excitement of the short list announcement (coinciding with my birthday!) And now the thrilling opportunity to discuss my work with Madeleine Milburn and take the first steps towards launching my writing career. My heartfelt thanks to Sara, Emma, Fiona and Maddy.” December 2018
Jules is represented by Madeline Milburn. She is working on her debut novel My Poor Deluded Girl.
Having re-drafted various aspects of my first novel, I realised that it still needed more work. However, I was unsure what the priorities should be, and worse, I was beginning to lose faith in what I was doing. On a recommendation, I contacted Bluepencilagency for editorial help. Iain Maloney’s detailed report came through on time, with sections on various key topics such as Plot and Pacing, and was written in a highly supportive style without losing incisiveness. The summary at the end pulled together his main recommendations. I have read the material numerous times: it provided carefully-reasoned insights. Iain emphasised that the nature of editorial guidance is to identify weaknesses and give examples, but he also pointed to certain strengths in my work. As a result of his report, I feel not only more confident in tackling the re-draft, but re-energised and keen to begin the task.
Lesley MacDowell reviewed several drafts of my work in progress. Her observations and criticisms were deft, intelligent, clear and entirely apt. They were (almost) a pleasure to receive. But above all, they enabled me to make the book significantly better, something I would not have achieved without her help.
I poured my heart and soul into my debut Y/A manuscript Resistance and I knew after the first few rejections that something was off, something that as a new writer I didn’t have the experience to fix. A really kind agent emailed to say I could write but that my package needed work and she suggested Bluepencilagency to me. It was a godsend. Sara gave me some of the best feedback notes I’ve ever had. Remarkable story insight, clear, concise, and professional notes. Exactly what I needed to bring the next draft to a level where it would attract an agent. More importantly, Sara’s comments also gave me the confidence to really go for it when pushing the manuscript out. I have no doubt that the work she did with me is what helped me find an agent. She’s a rare find in a tough competitive industry and I can’t recommend her and the team enough. When it came to seeking representation, both Emma and Sara were very helpful and found me an agent. As it turned out, I was offered representation by Marianne Gunn O’Conner at the same time, but it was their faith that kept me going.
“Asthall was a fabulous choice of venue. Amazing rooms, a welcoming ambience and good to soak up the Mitford history. Lovely grounds too.”
“Beautiful location. Idyllic, pastoral village setting in Oxfordshire. Delightful family home of the Mitfords, steeped in history and literary vibes – an inspiring place to write! I enjoyed the delicious organic and vegetarian options prepared by Fiona. Her cakes were out of this world! Emma and Sara were great hosts ”
“I absolutely loved everything about Asthall Manor. I thought it was a tremendous privilege to stay in such a gorgeous private home”