Scardiff

“Feel the fear and do it anyway” was our psychologist’s mantra. We really need to stop listening to him. Because we keep doing it. Yesterday we went to Scardiff, Cardiff’s horror con for the first time. And we were terrified. Yes horror is supposed to be scary, but we were scared for a different reason – because we were pitching one of our novels to the Dragon’s Pen pitching panel. We had three novels to choose from. You can read the post about our deliberation here. In the end we went with Silent Dawn. We knew it would be a big risk because we only finished writing it a fortnight ago and it’s only had one edit. We’re firm believers in the saying “go big or go home.” This was our 50 word pitch:

“Silent Dawn isn’t real. She’s a terrifying computer game character who erodes players’ sanities. Just because she’s been linked to disappearances centuries ago, doesn’t mean she’s real. Just because game aspects appear in reality, or because people start vanishing, doesn’t mean she’s real. Just because she’s standing in the corner…” *cue creepy pointing at corner* Yes we make pointing creepy.

We rewrote that pitch about 5 times and that doesn’t include all the redrafts we did on the 5 different versions. We also had to read the first page. We took our mate Tom with us for moral support. Well, to stop us fleeing. All he’d have to do is ankle tap with his cane and we’d face plant in a pile of curses and chunky chain boots.

Scardiff

us with Honey

As soon as we entered the Masonic hall, we headed straight for the guy with the reptiles. (Animal Zone UK) After harassing the tortoises, we held a royal python. The guy takes in reptiles after people have bought them then realise how big they grow, how much care they need or are bored with them. Kinda like what we do. We were tempted to slip him a business card and tell them there are vacancies at Casa Raven, especially for anything tortoise-shaped. He asked if we wanted to hold an even bigger snake. Naturally we said “hell yeah” so he fetched a lemon Burmese Python called Honey. Think we were the only people who squealed at her cuteness. She weighed 4 stone which is over half our body weight. We wore her like a scarf and would’ve gladly kept her on all day. The guy also had tarantulas but we were already petrified about the upcoming pitch and didn’t fancy having a panic attack whilst holding a constrictor.

author A.S. Cummings

author A.S. Cummings

We then wandered, checking out all the stalls. There were a lot of authors there with stalls so we spoke to a few of them and bought their books/comics and got them to sign them. We even joked that one author now had to get himself hit by a bus so we could make a fortune from his autograph. We’re hoping to try and get a stall ourselves next year to sell our books but as we’re unknown, we don’t think this is likely. We met a girl who recognised us from when we wrote a review on Monstrous Productions’ play of Mort in the new year. She’s going to be in their upcoming performance of Wyrd Sisters, which we’re going to.

Scardiff

one of the sfx people

We sat and composed ourselves with Red Bull before heading back downstairs. We had twenty minutes to go until Dragons Pen started. By now the nerves were devouring our stomachs. We hadn’t eaten all day. There’s only one thing that helps calm us – animals. Luckily, we knew exactly where some were. So it was back to Animal Zone UK. This time we cwtched an Argentine black and white Tegu. Luckily we’re used to our iguana’s claws so we didn’t mind the scratching. He was easier to cwtch than Kyler ‘cos he was bigger and not so rough and spiky. We now realise there’s a Tegu-shaped hole in our lives to match the tortoise-shaped one.

Lynx with the Tegu

Lynx with the Tegu

It was time.

P1090830We entered the temple, which was decked out in dark wood with throne style chairs. We wanted them. But we thought we’d be noticed trying to sneak large thrones out of the hall then stand around outside while we wait for a lift. We spoke to one of the organisers, Rebecca, who we’d been in email contact with about the pitch. Turned out, she saw us walking Bandit on Friday! We still had our turquoise hair then and were wearing our long military coats, but she recognised us. We had to sit at the front, right by the dragons. Tom was a few rows back, armed with our video camera to capture what we were sure would be our public humiliation. We were fourth up. We couldn’t stop shaking. We’ve done loads of readings, hell, we’ve even read at a literary festival, but this was worse. This was before publishers who could tear into our work and leave us with the feeling we should quit writing completely. We don’t even recall what the first pitch was as  we were too nervous to tune in, made worse by the fact we were sitting so close to the dragons. We can’t make eye contact with people. It’s one of the many issues our therapist is working on with us. By ‘working on’ we mean she keeps encouraging us to do it and we keep refusing.

Scardiff

the dragons

Luckily the dragons weren’t critical of anyone. We presumed that pitching to publishers meant there was a chance someone would be taken on, but it wasn’t that at all, it was just a critique session. If we’d known that, we probably wouldn’t have been that nervous. We’re narked with ourselves though because everybody else had printed out their pitches for the dragons to read while they narrated. We’ve not come across this before – it was a pitch, not a reading session. We weren’t told to do this yet everybody else seemed to know about it. And one of their criticisms to us was that they wanted to read it themselves. Which made us even more furious with ourselves for not printing it out. We think “we’d have liked to have read it” was code for “your speech problems and weird Cardiff accents meant we couldn’t understand a single word.” It’s often been said that we need to carry flash cards with us so people can understand us and we’re beginning to think they’re right.

They said our writing was evocative and poetic, they liked the asylum setting and said it was a big idea but it didn’t go into the character immediately. The opening page sees Drake playing the game. But it’s not actually Drake who features, it’s his computer game character. The game is the focus for the opening scene because it’s an important element of the story, as that’s Silent Dawn’s world. The opening doesn’t go into Drake’s character because it’s not really him. But at least they didn’t tell us to scrap it/never darken writing’s door again which is what we’d feared. As soon as all the pitches were done and the session ended, we legged it. Think some of the pitchers stayed to speak to the dragons but we fled like coulophobes from clown college.

We hung around outside waiting for our lift and chatting to Tom’s ex housemates, who were totally nuts. We liked them 😀 The wind was really strong so we had to battle it while wearing dresses, fishnets and underwear that wasn’t public appropriate. One of the organisers (we think) hunted us down and told us we’d done a good job, which was nice. Will we pitch next year if there’s one? Not sure we can stand that level of fear and nerves again!

6 Comments

  1. Sounds like, despite the fear, you had a great day out!

    As for the pitch…I don’t get this obsession with delving into the main character straight away…like readers are stupid and can’t navigate their way into a story in any other way…Maybe it’s just me always wanting to go against the grain! 😀
    Frustrating about the printing the pitch off thing, but I’m with you. A pitch surely is just that and shouldn’t have needed a print out. Also I’ve never had any problem understanding you when I’ve watched Calamityville…and I’m not even Welsh, haha! 😉
    Ooh also love the pink hair! 🙂

    • agreed! It opens with one of the characters playing a computer game, so the character you meet isn’t actually him. So of course we don’t delve into him – it’s a virtual character! We also like going against the grain. We’re still really narked about the print outs. They now have everyone else’s work to look over except ours and the first guy. We were talking to him last night. Everyone else got an email about bringing print outs. Us and the firts guy didn’t get the email. So we look really unprofessional 😦 And thanks! Yeah the pink is very vibrant. And you must be one of the few people who can understand us! Yay! 😀

  2. Don’t fret: of all the short pitches, your was easily the most memorable and you delivered it with flair. As for the “we’d like to have read it” remark – I don’t think that’s because of accents at all. For example, I can’t easily absorb a text that is read to me, which is the reason I don’t listen to podcasts or talk radio. I thought you’d done very well (from what I could take in: I was nervous, despite trying my best, I could only take in about half of what everyone read out)

    Three of the other aspiring writers and I did head to the bar afterwards to have a nerve-calming drink, but none of us stuck around the panellists: you didn’t miss anything except slightly shaky people trying to stop shaking…

    • Thank you 🙂 Yeah we struggled to absorb what people were reading too – we have very short attention spans and get distracted by shiny things easily 😀 A lot of people tell us that we talk funny and are hard to understand and even ask if we’re foreign, which is why we assumed the dragons had the same problem. You did very well too. We were really impressed by how well everyone read. We thought we were the only shaking ones! Glad it wasn’t just us. Readings never get easier, though the pen was by far the scariest thing we have done!

  3. Good post. I think “we’d have liked to have read it” was not code for “your speech problems and weird Cardiff accents meant we couldn’t understand a single word,” but “either you were standing too far away from the mic or the mic is crap.” I was sitting about halfway back and really had to strain to hear anyone including the dragons.. Saying that, I really liked your pitch that day.

    • Thank you 🙂 We were actually too short to reach the mic! Just after we’d done the pitch someone got up and adjusted it. It probably didn’t help that we were so nervous and we tend to talk even quicker when we’re nervous. But we’re glad you enjoyed our pitch 🙂


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