Gabbie’s Got A Hot Date

We interrupt your viewing of The Print Posse’s Month of Letter Writing to bring you this update of Gabbie’s Hot Speed Dating Session…


Okay – so it was a Literary Speed Dating session and it wasn’t ‘hot’ in the steamy and passionate sense. But in all other regards it was exactly like a date. There were the usual conundrums of what to wear and what to say as well as a few additional nerve-janglers only associated with a pitching-event:

what if I get a flat out rejection?

what if every publisher in the room says ‘no’?

what if they ask me something that I don’t know?


Before the date, I worked diligently planning my outfit – nah just kidding – I finalised my manuscript, making sure it was ready to be sent off if requested. I wrote out my pitch and then I ran it by my galfriends here at The Posse. They helped me tweak it and twist it until it sounded just right. Together, we whittled it down until it was a 2-minute pitch.

I read and re-read the guidelines and followed them like a very good girl. I printed copies of my manuscript, as well as a one page Literary CV and dusted off copies of my previous publication.

I even went out and had business cards designed and printed. It was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and this event was a great excuse. Again, The Posse helped me with the wording, agonising over three descriptive words and the placement of a semi-colon. {Side note: Every writer needs a Posse – especially if you’re thinking about Literary Dating. Possibly also regular dating.}

Anyhoo… so the business cards… Ta dahhhh!


(They look fabulous don’t you think?)

While we drove to Sydney (from Merimbula – 6 hours, thank you to my sponsors; husband and kids dragged along for moral support) I practised my pitch. Conservatively, I ran through it about… fifty hundred times. My 7 year old daughter acted as prompt from the back seat and can now confidently add contemporary, resonate and compelling to her vocabulary.  By the time we hit Campbelltown, the four year old was correcting me.

At the event, I was as dry mouthed and heart thunderingly nervous as if a much younger me was going on a date with a super-cutey (think Eddie Perfect).


The event was organised by the Australian Society of Authors, which is kind of like every Aussie writer’s posse and if you’re not already a member then you should seriously think about joining up. This year, I’ve participated in their Virtual Writers’ Group with Charlotte Wood and Alison Manning. This was an unspeakably good experience that deeply enriched me as a writer. In the past I’ve been awarded an ASA mentorship and received contract advice from them, so I can’t say it enough…. they’re an awesome organisation.

In the waiting room, dozens of authors stood around awkwardly clutching their notes and mumbling their pitches. A very loose and unstructured line began to form as various publishers and agents were ushered into the conference room. When the doors were opened, there was an overwhelming identity-shift as these nervy, mild-mannered writer-types suddenly surged forward as though we were at Myer’s Boxing Day sales!

Here’s how it worked. You lined up in front of your preferred publisher. I had my eye on Kimberley Bennett from Random House Children’s Books and Kate Stevens Junior Commissioning Editor from Hachette. Grace Heifetz from Curtis Brown (Literary Agent) was also there and I hoped I might pitch to her as well, but within a minute of the door opening the line to see Grace was loooooong. Clearly, Grace was the Hottie at this Speed Dating Session.

A hooter (yep, like at a sports event) was sounded and the first in line had three minutes with the publisher/agent. During that time they were expected to pitch their novel/idea/poem/picture book and answer any of the publisher’s questions. When the hooter sounded again it was the next person’s turn. After you pitched, you could line up and pitch to someone else.

My first pitch was with Kimberley of Random. As I stood in the line I was thinking “Why am I doing this to myself?”  The nerves were similar to those I’d experienced before going for my P plates, job interviews, major exams or those harrowing moments before entering the labour ward. I was desperate for a drink of water, but that was the one thing I hadn’t brought.  It wouldn’t be appropriate to lick the sweat from my palms so I glanced around for any water stations and that’s when I noticed Kimberley had a glass and a whole jug of water in front of her.   The hooter blared and I sat down in front of Kimberley, resisting the delirium of my water-parched nerves that were telling me to drink her water.  (I may or may not have taken a few deep and noisy “I’m in labour” breaths – the memory is somewhat hazy.)

I launched into my pitch without a stumble and had only one significant pause where I completely lost my place. Kimberley made thoughtful comments, accepted my (gorgeous) business card and CV and handed me her business card and told me to send my manuscript through via email!!!!! (Yes five exclamation points are warranted.)  The hooter blared and I left the table,  filled with some kind of writerly-endorphin rush that made me feel as triumphant as the moment I finish a manuscript.

I found the line for Kate at Hachette and proudly waited my turn.

The second pitch went equally as well, although Kate refused all my well-prepared paperwork, instead handing me her card and saying “Email me all of this and your manuscript.”

Hazahhhh!!!!!! (Six – I know, but I will still argue each one is warranted.)

By this time, there was only forty minutes left and the line for Grace at Curtis Brown was a forty two minute wait. I boldly abandoned that plan and pitched instead to Joel Naoum of Momentum Pan Macmillan who don’t even publish the kind of YA fiction I write. But, it was a chance to practise my pitch and gain some feedback.

Then – with a bold and confident speed dating swagger – I sat down with Emily Stewart from NewSouth Publishing and had a chat about a non-fiction book I’ve got lurking in the back of my mind. No pitch prepared – just a casual little Q & A session, how confident was I becoming??  Confident enough to use two question marks.  Again – gained some great feedback and encouragement.

It was an exhilarating experience and I mean that – if you don’t think writing can invoke heavy breathing, dry mouthed, heart pounding mania then you’ve never been a literary speed dater! Every writer should try this once! I met some fabulous writers while I was waiting in line and built my burgeoning writing network a little more. I also got to connect with ASA staff that I’ve dealt with in the virtual world, but not in real life. The preparation meant that I really got to know my manuscript and honing the pitch to a two-minute spiel helped me consolidate the heartland of my story.

Next time, I probably wouldn’t lug three copies of my manuscript and previous publication around with me.

I probably wouldn’t get so hung up on learning my pitch word for word.

I would probably anticipate the most popular publications/agents and make a bee-line for them at the beginning.

And I would probably bring a drink.



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