Halloween seemed a fitting day for the Misses Almost Write meet-up – going out as a group to terrorise strangers, a bit of dressing up and plenty of opportunities to be scared.
We assembled in Starbucks (v cute barista, most accommodating with the loan of sellotape to tidy up fluffy trousers) and marched into the Little, Brown building like we knew what we were doing. The mob mentality works. After we'd had our photographs taken for our ID cards – all very 'Spooks' – we were whisked upstairs into the ultra-swish goldfish bowl offices and met the Louises – Candlish and Davies.
What followed was a really useful and candid session about what they liked and what they'd change in all of our submissions. I'm not going to bore you with the minutiae here but it was very interesting for us to get detailed feedback about our work, both the Louises were clearly very familiar with all of the entries and had good points to make. Clearly we were all quite nervous about it all (and the arrival of the photographer during Stacey's section, and just before mine!) added another type of spice, and mostly we absorbed what was being said rather than contributing to the discussion about each other's stuff – besides, we'd done that already between ourselves.
You might be interested to know a bit more about the competition – as I understand it, there were over 3000 entrants and much of the initial reading was done by Waterstones, by people who specialise in women's contemporary fiction, as well as by people at the publishing house including the editorial, marketing and publicity departments. A longlist was drawn up which was read by all of the judges and they narrowed it down to the five finalists.
As for why they didn't pick a winner – I think we all knew, after the session, exactly why our work didn't quite fit the profile this time around. It would have been great to win (or to have split the prize five ways as we keep saying) but at least we all came away energised to keep writing and press onwards.
After the business end of things, photos and feedback, we headed out to lunch. With the aid of a map, as it's all very new around there for the Little, Brown people. We celebrated with bubbly and pizza and lots more chatting, until it was time to start wandering towards tubes, taxis and trains. The other Misses Almost Write are wonderful company (as were Louise and Louise, natch!) and I'm so looking forwarding to keeping in touch. More to the point, I'm relying on us kicking each other's arses to finish those damn novels…