On Friday the 9th May, I joined 23 unpublished authors for a weekend that I’m certain none of us will ever forget.
We had all applied for the Book Bound course and were successfully chosen to take part in the schedule weekend retreat . If you’re an unpublished author wanting to take that next step nearer to publication, then Book Bound is a course you seriously need to consider. Devised by four best friends, with the intention of creating a compact, intense writing weekend, they had no idea they would also bring together an army of united writers, confident and brimming with motivation to succeed and make them proud.
To say these ladies had experience in the publishing world would be an understatement; between them they have over 30 years of editorial experience. Not to mention that they have helped over a 1,000 books reach publication, as well as writing nearly 40 published books between them.
The four ladies in question were as follows:
Karen Ball – a publisher with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Atom. Karen has also written over nineteen books herself, published by Puffin, OUP, Usborne, Harper US and Random House US.
Sara Grant – well loved YA author, whose first novel, Dark Parties won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Europe. Also co-founder of Undiscovered Voices, which has launched the writing careers of twenty two UK authors.
Sara O’Connor – Digital and Editorial Director at Hot Key Book and co-founder of Undiscovered Voices. Pioneering the development of digital writing projects, including the IBook of award winning book, Maggot Moon.
Jasmine Richards – Senior Commissioning Editor for children’s fiction at Oxford University Press. Author of the dark thriller, Oliver Twisted as well as her debut novel ,The Book of Wonders.
The course was held at Oxon Hoath, a stately home in Kent. Built in 1372, it was opened as a retreat in 1999. The house and grounds were stunning. I spent the first few hours repeatedly gasping at how beautiful it was.
Through out the weekend, I found myself constantly drawn back to the library – not sure why…
And the food! We were spoilt every meal time, as we devoured home made, home grown, organic, vegetarian dishes. I can honestly say, everything I’ve eaten since returning home has been extremely bland.
As I mentioned earlier this was an intense course. It felt like we were absorbing important information from the moment we arrived to the moment we left. On the Friday evening, we were given an insight into what an acquisition meeting was really like. The experience was informative and eye opening!
Saturday was the busiest part of the weekend and we spent the day rotating through the sessions. Within groups of six, we took part in lessons that covered all aspects of developing our manuscripts. From examining our first few chapters to developing our characters. From plotting our manuscripts to ruthless revision; we finished the day with our minds truly blown. I was amazed at how much I absorbed in one day. I came out of each session with a list of things I needed to do to make my book stand out from the crowd.
We were all lucky enough to have a one to one session with one of course leaders. This allowed us to talk through any problems we had with our manuscripts as well as discuss any editorial feedback we had been given.
At the end of Saturday, the course leaders presented a superb comedy sketch, showing us how to make sure how first book was definitely not our last. I could share so much of it, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you, should you ever get the chance to see it! I think Sara Grant and Jasmine Richards should consider touring writing festivals with this little gem.
On the Sunday, we were taught how to pitch to agents. This was probably the most nerve wracking experience I have ever had. We practised with each other until we were word perfect. By the time the agents arrived, we were armed with our pitchs and ready to present them. We were lucky enough to pitch to four leading literary agents.
Julia Churchill – A.M. Heath
Zoe King – The Blair Partnership
Polly Nolan – The Greenhouse Literary Agency
Hannah Sheppard – DHH Literary Agency
This experience was invaluable. In fact the whole weekend was invaluable. I can’t remember a time that I’ve ever felt so excited and confident about my writing. I arrived for the weekend, with huge doubt in myself and left with the strong belief that I am actually a writer. I’m not pretending, I can really write!
Since returning home, I’ve spent most of the week, trying to come to terms with what I’ve experienced. I don’t think any of us were prepared to come away with so much after one weekend, nor did we realise what an impact it would have on us going forward. Not only did we leave with a collection of invaluable writing tools, but we also came away with a network of long term friends. Throughout the weekend we relied on each other to analyse our writing and I am hoping this is a relationship that will continue.
By the end of the weekend, we were brimming with confidence and highly motivated to polish our manuscripts.
I would like to personally thank the four fabulous women, who organised this weekend. They were happy to share their knowledge and experience and made us truly believe we could do this. I think I may be indebted to them for quite some time.
So from one unpublished author to another, let me give you some good advice. If you attend one writing course, then let it be this one. The next one will be held in Oxon Hoath again from the 17th to the 19th of June 2016, however there are plans for some non residential events throughout 2015. If you want to know more, then head over to the Book Bound website where you can sign up for the newsletter which will keep you updated with any future events.
If you would like to know how my fellow writers felt about the course, then head over to Words and Pictures to read all our views on this superb course.
Also a big thank you to Harry Ball-Weber for the last three photos in this post.