#PitchCB is a Twitter pitch party run by Curtis Brown on the fourth Friday of each month.
#PitchCB opportunity for writers to pitch their completed works directly to agents. All you need to do is tweet your pitch using the hashtag #PitchCB. If an agent marks your tweet as a favourite you then submit your work directly to the agent. The experience could even land you with a publishing deal!
With all the bravado of the New Year, I entered #PitchCB in January. This is what happened:
Nursing my poorly child, I spent about half of the day coming up with a pitch for my novel. I’d only just finished writing my it (after about a decade!) so I really struggled to work out what I wanted to say in 140 characters or less. After much soul searching I came up with:
Set in 1960’s India, Dream Life explores the themes of love and loss through the lives and fortunes of an ordinary Gujarati family. #PitchCB
— Farhana Shaikh (@farhanashaikh) January 29, 2016
I wasn’t expecting anything to come from #PitchCB, partly I was just entering for the fun of it and to be part of a wider community experience. I watched my timeline and on the Twitter trends as #PitchCB trended all morning and in the early afternoon. I thought I had no chance. But having spent so much time on Twitter I thought I’d be doing myself a disservice from not taking part so I took the courage and tweeted later that day. I went away to look after my son who was running a fever, came back around an hour later to find that my tweet had been picked. It was happening. An agent, Sheila Crowley had marked my tweet, from thousands among thousands. I felt a wave of happiness, and huge surprise. Then I was filled with panic!
I saw an announcement that among the selected tweets, the agents would be picking their top 10 and inviting them down to London for #DiscoveryDay (a live event where agents meet with writers). Again, I wasn’t expecting to be picked and was pleasantly surprised to be one of the ten. I waited for a tweet, some confirmation but never heard. Did I need a ticket? I spent days on edge waiting to hear. In the end due to a family commitment I couldn’t make #DiscoveryDay. I felt like I’d pulled the plug on my only chance.
Then I did what writers do best. I went back to the work. The words I’d lovingly written, revised and polished time and time again. I read aloud. Tried and failed to write a synopsis. I read my work over and over. I wrote and wrote. I deleted entire scenes, wiped chapters. I felt hopeful but nervous that I was stripping away. I needed to learn to trust myself. All the time, Julia Cameron was a voice in the back of mind. Take a leap! It took months for me to pluck up the courage to write my submission and after leaving it for so long I wasn’t sure I’d even submit. Then April 20th happened. I’d agreed some time ago (and way before #PitchCB) to go to Kingston University to read and talk to creative writing students. I was expected to read from my novel. It was that date in April that had propelled me to finish my novel in the first place. I was desperate not to seem a fraud. But I’d begin to question if the novel was any good. April 20th came. I sat and read the opening of my novel. The world didn’t cave in. I started to believe in my work again. It was time.
The submission guidelines on the Curtis Brown Creative website detail what you need to do to send your submission to an agent. I read them over, checked them twice. I pondered over every detail. Tried my best to make my letter personal but also reflect my intentions as a writer. When I was ready, and only when, I submitted by manuscript and prepared myself for the 8-12 weeks of worry that followed.
To my surprise, I received an email from Sheila Crowley that day. I knew then that I’d been turned down for representation (the website states that you’ll hear via a phone call if it’s good news) but I felt hopeful. Sheila’s email was filled with encouragement and good advice – advice I’m now following to revise my manuscript and which I believe will help me to strengthen my manuscript when I’m ready to submit elsewhere.
#PitchCB may not be your path to landing an agent, it wasn’t mine. It may not land you a publishing deal that you’ve longed dreamed of, but it will teach you to believe in your work, and for me that was a wonderful lesson to learn. More importantly, it taught me that rejection isn’t always the very worst thing. As someone who really struggles to show people my work, I needed to learn that lesson. If it makes me a better writer, then so be it!