Slushpile readings – Professionals panel

Concept: Moderator reads a manuscript until all the panel signal they are out. Panel then give reasons why they would stop reading.

Kelly Hunter (Tule), Hailee Nash (The Nash Agency), Alex Adsett (The Adsett Agency), Kathleen Scheibling (Harlequin US), Moe Ferrara (Bookends Literary Agency), Rachael Donovan (Harlequin), Kate Cuthbert (Escape Publishing) 

Reading 1: 

  • Warzone, terrorists, dead nurse on the floor, injured person being stitched up 
  • Kate was out first (Escape) – too much exposition, too much backstory 
  • Moe – a lot to keep track of, so many people introduced at once 
  • Rachel (last out) was intrigued by set up, relationship between characters  
  • Kathryn – was interested but found it hard going.  Out at the mention of AK47 
  • Haylee – felt it needs to be more relatable if in a warzone to sell in Australia 
  • Kelly – needed to engage more with characters 
  • Alex – liked the beginning, entrance of heroine. But felt dialogue slowed action down 

Reading 2: 

  • Old shed, door not opening.  Seems to be rural setting, vintage WW2 aircraft 
  • Moe – don’t use description then say ‘she hardly noticed it’.  Journal reference was really obvious 
  • Rachael – sense of place very important.  However wants more voice from character, too much description 
  • Kathryn – a list of description, not so much investment in character.  Listy 
  • Haylee – didn’t like foster care reference, too much backstory too soon 
  • Kelly – wanted the couple to meet up, too much description 
  • Alex – too much description (gate, plane etc) 
  • Kate – established itself quickly.  Journal and foster care were clangers dropped in too soon / obviously  

Reading 3 

  • About #MeToo, police, domestic violence related cases 
  • Kate – don’t like prologues. Info is for author more than reader.  First person story comes with challenges.  This was narrated rather than happening to character. 
  • Moe – doesn’t like when narrator talks to reader.  Doesn’t work in a prologue – author wasn’t sure how to start the story – filter in gradually throughout story 
  • Rachael – narration. Prologue a giveaway 
  • Kathryn – mentioning #MeToo feels like trying to grab reader without doing the work 
  • Haylee – knows the story, so opted out right away.  Felt the prologue was there to create an artificial tension 
  • Kelly – hashtag #MeToo made her concerned it was an issues book 
  • Alex – felt the narrator was smug before she knew them 

Reading 4 

  • Historical, fight, resulting in bleeding unconscious man 
  • Alex – opening line – unsure if kids, innocent, then got darker and more violent.   Not what she was wanting 
  • Kelly – liked the voice, but didn’t like the violence so early.  Wasn’t sure where it would fit in to the genre 
  • Haylee – starting with an almost rape is pretty dark. Dialogue is very cliché 
  • Kathryn – lots of cliches presented in a short period of time (big man quick on his feet, hiss of pain, you vixen etc) 
  • Rachael – well worn phrases, don’t want to start reading with an aggressive sexual attack 
  • Moe – didn’t like the adverbs, made writing weak. Starting with violence before we know heroine – hard to connect other than on generic level.  Dialogue was like melodrama  
  • Kate – cliches, repetition,  

Reading 5 

  • Outback, female with dog, obvious fear involved – running from someone 
  • Kathleen – nice coming home / running story.  It was fine, but nothing stood out.  Probably would have kept going if she was looking for this kind of story. 
  • Haylee – didn’t think it was bad, but nothing stood out.  Talking to dog felt like plot device  
  • Kelly – talking to dog wanted her to like heroine (manipulative).  Quite liked it, might keep reading.  Small town contemporary is what she looks for (but unsure if it was a historical) 
  • Alex – there for the dog, but didn’t like the dialogue. Threw her out of the story. 
  • Kate – dialogue is at odds with the mood the story is trying to set out (it is cheerful vs the darker undercurrent) 
  • Moe – moving to a new town is like someone waking up from a dream.  Story is not starting in the right spot.  Should maybe start a few chapters in.  Also – read dialogue aloud, hear the cadences. 
  • Rachael – can get too caught up in pleasantries, reader can assume they happen.  Want natural dialogue and information but not to distract readers 

Reading 6 

  • Van Diemen’s Land 1837 
  • Kelly – publisher has narrow focus.  Wouldn’t know how to sell a Tassie Historical 
  • Alex – once she placed the book setting, not a book for her 
  • Haylee – wanted to know more about the politics. Hot for Tassie, hot for Historical tassie, would definitely look at more 
  • Kathryn – not a book she would acquire, but enjoyed it 
  • Rachael – would keep reading.  Entry with sunlight drew her to it.  Heading set the place and tone, really liked it 
  • Moe – liked the voice and tone. But felt chapter 1 was a prologue in disguise. Almost too sad an opening before she learns who the heroine is.  Writing was beautiful, would prefer it in chapter 2 – 3 once they know the heroine 
  • Kate – the writing was beautiful, but it was incredibly sad.  Felt it was wallowing, didn’t feel like it would fit with the market (dead babies) – readership is 36-50, many have children 

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