Saturday, 31 August 2013


(in the interim between posts I'll just tell you some fun things I overheard recently...)

11.30pm, two guys sat in a doorway, drinking strong lager. I walk past and hear them talking about someone they know.
"She's got links to the mafia, her. Proper mafia. I'm telling you."

Two girls, talking about their exam results:
"I mean, I got an A star and there was absolutely nothing exceptional about what I did."


In a coffee shop, there's a woman with purple hair, alone, with a pack of cards. A man sitting nearby has been watching her. When he gets up to leave, he says to her:
"You can't read the future - no one can - and I don't want you to read my future - you can't even read your own future!"
She smiles and says, "Actually I was just playing a game"
He's already walking away, he shouts behind him, "I can't hear you!"


Man on his phone, on a night out:
"It's not looking good. I mean, it's just not a good night if it starts with you accidentally hitting a female work colleague in the face."

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Agent Hunter - a review

One of the perils of having your email address on your blog is you get spam. There's the usual stuff from people like (the-very-real-sounding-they-just-must-exist) Mrs Fatima Hamilton or Mr Aubrey Smithe or (simply) Mrs Stella, all taking the time to email ME! from their various deathbeds because they like the look of my profile and want to give me a couple of million dollars. Soz guys, but I just couldn't take it from you.

Occasionally you got a more tailored bit of spam - someone who wants to advertise you or to be advertised by you - they've noticed your blog has a good amount of followers and they want in, they want to write a guest post about something, but that something would be totally out of place on your blog, like 'Higher Education' (had that one recently). Anyway you obviously don't go for these offers, they're not in-keeping with the spirit of the blog.

So when I received an email recently from a place called 'Agent Hunter', asking me to write a blog about their site and services, I scanned it expecting it to be sent to Junk any minute. Only there were a few signs that this wasn't spammy, making me read it with a bit more attention.

Firstly, the sender (I didn't know at this point but he's Harry Bingham, an established and best-selling writer, as well as one of the folks behind the Writers' Workshop) referred to the fact that I'm a short story writer, and mentioned my placings at Bridport and The Guardian. He reckoned I'm in an okay position, if I had the material ready, to be approaching agents myself. The crux of the email was if I wanted to, he'd give me a year's free subscription to Agent Hunter, in return for me writing an honest blog post about the site. He also shortened 'because' to 'cos', so he felt extra human.

So, realising this was a good email, I replied and took Harry up on the offer. He signed me up for Agent Hunter, and I've been getting to know the site for the last week or so, and here's what I've found.

The premise is pretty simple - Agent Hunter is a database of all UK literary agents, agencies, and publishers. Think of it as a digitised version of The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook but with more detailed information - agent biographies, their likes/dislikes, along with the important stuff like how long they've been an agent, how many clients they have and who they are, if they're looking to expand their list, and how to contact them.

As well as comprehensive listings, there's a search facility which is very good, allowing you to narrow the hundreds of listed agents down to your preferences - by genre, experience, number of clients, keywords. Or you can search by agent name if you have someone in mind, or by writer to find out who represents them. You can then save and name any searches you run for whenever you need to come back to them. 

The database has been compiled along with the assistance of agents/publishers, all invited to give information about themselves and advice on how to approach them. Some have given more info than others, but even the basic details are comprehensive. The site is run by people who really know the industry so that's reassuring, and because it's online it should be up to date (though, sensibly, if you're submitting to a particular agent check their own website/agency guidelines too).

The only thing I think it's missing, and it's not a biggie cos it's get-round-able, is a button which lets you 'bookmark' a single agent. (It's get-round-able by running a search on that agent and saving the search with their name. So, yeah, no biggie.)

It costs £12 for a year's subscription to Agent Hunter. Really worth the money. AND - when you sign up, you're not charged for 7 days - meaning you can have a look and see if it's worth the fee, and if you don't think it is, you can cancel your subscription without being charged.

If you're looking for an agent now it makes complete sense to sign up, or if, like me - you'd like to be looking for an agent soon - it's a great window in to that world, a way of having a snoop around, and it's there - ready when you are - to help you get to grips with everything, all in one place.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


How lovely to be able to share some result-y type news with you - my story After the cat has made it down to the last 20 in this competition, though the final results aren't ready yet. But it's really good to be there, on that list (AT THE TOP! BECAUSE OF THE ALPHABET!). I'll know by the end of September if I get any further.

Interesting to see the 'note' at the bottom of the shortlist - out of the 209 entries 92 had to be disqualified for not sticking to the rules. They were pretty basic rules - Arial 12pt, keep yer name off of your entry, don't go over the word count. I think that was it. It was free-to-enter, so maybe a few un-seasoned writers entered, not clear on how easy it is to have your entry cast out.

But there were 117 qualifying stories so I'm feeling good about being on the shortlist. And this story is a bit of a shortlist queen. And, ironically (though it might not actually be ironic because ever since someone realised Alanis got it wrong I never feel confident about calling things 'ironic') the story made it onto a shortlist at Writers' Forum last year, and it wasn't until months later that I noticed that I, yes me - oh seasoned writer - had disobyed the rules because the story was UNDER the minimum word count they ask for. So I was lucky to get shortlisted, really.

Another interesting thing (tolerant smile, thank you) is that every so often, someone finds my blog by Googling 'Teresa Stenson After the cat' and they have an ISP address at the BBC London. I've never sent it to the Beeb, but I like to imagine there is a top talent writing executive (they exist) desperately seeking news about me and that story. So, friend at the Beeb - hello - and yes, okay, you can make it into a mini series starring Jason Isaacs or Paddy Considine or Keifer Sutherland, whichever one is available, even though the only male part is in his twenties. Sigh.