On Saturday October 16, BPA invited 26 writers to a country house setting in Kintbury, Berkshire, for our long-awaited Away Day. Once the room was full, the atmosphere was buzzing with creativity and a specific brand of friendliness we’ve come to expect from the writing community. With a workshop from writing tutor Emma Darwin and a Q&A with literary agent Eve White on the itinerary, our first point of call was coffee – and of course introductions: ‘What’s your name and what are you working on?’
We were greeted with crisp October sunshine as Emma Darwin, author of The Mathematics of Love, A Secret Alchemy, and more, kicked off a mega workshop on structure and storytelling. We started by thinking about blurbs. After a few guests shared blurbs from their favourite novels (with How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang making quite an impression), everyone wrote a blurb for their own work-in-progress and used this as a springboard for thinking about the structure, story, and themes of their work. It was amazing what new ideas and potential issues this simple exercise brought to the surface. We were all about ready to get stuck into some story arc development by lunchtime.
Between two doses of hard writing advice, the group filled up on butternut sqaush soup, mediterranean vegetable tart, and a locally-produced three-bean puree that was far more flavourful than you would imagine! BPA’s intention for these events is just as much to enable community as to provide teaching and advice, so it was great to see connections made and story ideas flowing.
Late afternoon, we welcomed literary agent Eve White, founder of Eve White Literary Agency, for an informal Q&A. It was fascinating to hear how she became an agent after working as an actor – taking on a self-published teacher at her children’s school as her first author. After she’d multiplied his sales many times over, she secured him a traditional publishing deal. From there, Eve built her list up, always accepting submissions of fiction, children’s fiction and non-fiction to stay on her toes. She said her favourite adult fiction submissions are novels with a commercial story but written in a literary style, which she would usually pitch as book club fiction, before encouraging the group to submit novels in any genre (or position on the commercial/literary spectrum) to the agency.
Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Away Day and to our guests, Emma Darwin and Eve White. If you’d like to hear about future events, please sign up to our mailing list or bookmark our events page.