X Factor for authors

Back row, from left: Helen Etty, Oxford City Poet Kate Clanchy, Thomas Chadwick, senior lecturer James Hawes, literary agent Caspian Dennis. Middle row, from left: Mrinalini Patnaik, Megan Price, author and creative writing fellow at Brookes, Philip Pullm

Back row, from left: Helen Etty, Oxford City Poet Kate Clanchy, Thomas Chadwick, senior lecturer James Hawes, literary agent Caspian Dennis. Middle row, from left: Mrinalini Patnaik, Megan Price, author and creative writing fellow at Brookes, Philip Pullm

First published in Oxford

THESE are the writers hoping to find out whether they have the literary X Factor.

Authors from Oxford Brookes University’s creative writing course faced the task of pitching their fledgling novels to a group of hard-nosed literary agents and one of the world’s best-selling writers.

Seven hopefuls had been judged by writer Kate Clanchy, who is Oxford’s city poet, to be worthy of presenting extracts of their work in front of author Philip Pullman.

And they faced the pitch of a lifetime in the hope of getting a big literary contract, although there were no guarantees any of them would be taken on.

One of the hopefuls, Victoria Pougatch, 43, from Sibford Gower, wrote a story about a missing woman told from various viewpoints.

She said: “I had never done anything like this before and I was nervous about it.

“I am more happy sitting at the kitchen table.”

The seven students were chosen from an initial group of around 15 by Ms Clanchy.

Mr Pullman said: “An evening like this is a real treat and it would be wonderful if all seven of them went away with big fat contracts.

“Because they are mature students who have a lot of life experience, their work has been very varied. They have lived a bit.”

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Another of the students presenting her work was Helen Etty, from Jericho, Oxford, who wrote a young adult novel based in a boarding school.

She said: “I have written the whole novel and have been working on it for five years.

“I did an English course at Oxford University and I have always enjoyed writing. This is a really good opportunity for us and I was honoured to be chosen.”

The evening was held on Thursday at Pegasus Theatre and involved the group from Brookes read their work in front of a group of literary agents and publishers.

Oxford Brookes has been celebrating its inaugural residency at the youth theatre in Magdalen Road this week.

And over the past week there have been a number of events including a film installation in a shower and poetry inspired by science.

James Hawes, director of creative writing at Oxford Brookes, organised the evening.

He said: “The point of this evening is to take our students out of the world of the university and introduce them into the ruthless world of agents and publishers.

“This will become an annual event from now on and it will be the climax of my students’ year.”

This year Pegasus is celebrating its 50th birthday and a number of events will be held throughout 2012 to celebrate this.

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