Manuscript critique from agent Anna Hogarty

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Authors for Grenfell Tower: An Online Auction

Madeleine Milburn Company Shoot by Libi Pedder084

ITEM: Manuscript critique from agent Anna Hogarty

DETAILS: Literary agent Anna Hogarty will give an editorial critique of the first 10,000 words of your manuscript by email.

BIO: Anna Hogarty is a literary agent and in-house editor for the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. Previously, she worked as an editor in publishing. She represents writers of adult fiction and non-fiction as well as YA and crossover stories. She also teaches yoga, and has an interest in wellness, meditation and mindfulness books.

WHO CAN BID: Worldwide

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My Radiant Friend

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On Thursday of last week, the news I and countless others had been waiting to hear, dreading to hear, came through. A woman we had come to know and love had finally lost her eight year battle with breast cancer. Some had known Jan a short time, others a lifetime. For me, it was thirty six years, earthly years that took only the blink of an eye to pass. Since Thursday, I have looked though the mementoes of friendship collected over the decades. As a thank you for being her bridesmaid when she married the love of her life, Rob, Jan gave me a small crystal swan, which has travelled with me for over thirty years, through all the changing scenes of my life, and I have always placed it where I can see it. These past few days, it has been right in front of me when I have sought solitude, catching the sunlight and throwing rainbows round the room as I have wept and cried out with the agony of loss, as I have replayed memories like a favourite film I haven’t watched for far too long. And as the swan refracts the sunlight, I am again reminded of the Jan the world has lost, a woman who became more radiant with each year.

The first time I met Jan, I was dazzled by the sparkling young woman who fizzed withA sparkling young woman love for others and welcomed me into her heart and life with arms that never grew tired of gathering, never failed to be full of love. As I sit today, once again wondering how I could begin to write a tribute to this remarkable woman – where can I start? – the sunlight hits my little swan and I know: Jan has left this world a lighter place because of her life.

Rob’s calling as an Officer in the British army meant that they led a somewhat nomadic existence: at one point they had nineteen house moves in twenty years. That sort of nomadic life resulted in hundreds (and hundreds) of lives that crossed Jan’s and witnessed her radiance: not for Jan the life of a lamp in the corner of a carefully co-ordinated room, but the life of a beacon on a hill, one that illuminated a path for the lost, the lonely, the heartbroken, the simply broken. The lamp of Jan’s life was not a perfect Jan and Rob Sunday 9th April 2017vessel, over the years it was knocked and dropped and bashed. The years she learned to wait, to lay aside personal ambitions, the years of struggles and pressures she couldn’t skirt, the final years of failing health and the prospect of missing the joys so many get to experience – retirement, grandchildren – have been the very means by which she discovered her greatest treasure: the goodness of God, which springs from His love that endures forever.

We spoke several times over the past few months about that goodness, laid out like a feast, the grandest of picnics, right in face of the final enemy, death. The goodness of God that sends fear fleeing back into the shadows of the valley. The goodness of God that brings peace and rest when our hearts would have us despair. The cracks and fissures and dents that shaped Jan’s life created a lamp so intricate, so beautiful that there was little left of any hard veneer that would limit the light it radiated: there was nowhere for the light that filled Jan’s life to go other than to spill out into the world from the depth of her surrendered soul. And now, dwelling in the house of the Lord forever, she stands before the throne of the heavenly father she adores, the days of knocks and cracks behind her because: ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever … And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city and the Lamb is its light.’ (Revelation 21 verses 2 and 23)

There are things in life, circumstances, choices, people, that knock us and wound us and break us. And there are people in life who stand with us, who give us their arms and hearts and help remould us. Jan was one of my shaping-people: she was light and salt and a channel of God’s grace and love. Jan taught me that there is a love, there is a grace that has no limits, no depths, no sides, no heights that can ever be scaled, and she walked in the mystery of the goodness of God in the face of her enemies, for her the cancer that A friendship that spanned decadesfinally destroyed her body. I am ever grateful that I had the privilege of knowing this radiant woman.

Jan in her own words:  

29 June 2016 ‘…My journey of surrender is not one of believing that somehow the bad things that happen are ok, but that in the midst of the bad things I am ok, because God can take care of my heart and provide all I need to be at peace and to live a godly life, and also knowing that God is doing all he can, working for the good to surface. Sometimes the good is so amazing that we think God wanted the bad to happen, but no – it is his amazing surrendered self to winning us back that is his work. He is utterly, utterly good …’

New Year’s Eve 2016: ‘… Hope means the confident expectation of goodness and I believe in hope for us both this coming year. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives …’

Rest – Matt Maher

The Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize

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Joan Aiken

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Could You write a classic children’s book that would be in print fifty years from now?

When Joan Aiken was writing The Wolves of Willoughby Chase in 1960, she was also travelling up to London every day for her ‘day job’ on Argosy magazine, which paid the mortgage and fed the family. As the daughter of an impoverished poet, and step-daughter to another well known but equally impecunious author, she had no illusions about the difficulties of a writer’s life.  But now, having survived the years of fantastic difficulties ( read more here!) that beset the publication of this award winning novel, she was absolutely determined to continue in her chosen profession.

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Joan Aiken had decided to be a writer at the age of five, and so after her first success with ‘Wolves‘ she continued unstoppably for the next fifty years – producing over 100 books in her…

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The Most Cherished @ #CBF2016

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A heart-touching post that reminds me how powerful stories are, how important it is to pass them on.

Demogorgon's Fiction

This year, my dearest treasure is an anthology of stories, poems, essays, and the making of poems.

Its story is one that I am both ashamed and thrilled to tell. Before I chose it for this post, I searched thoroughly for a replacement. But there was none.

Sometime in February 2011, I felt low. Too low. The lowest I have ever felt. So I thought I could buy some pills.

In the morning, I went around town buying them from different shops till I had 280 of them. Then I bought 500ml of water and made my way to Ngong Hills, into the forests and bushes there. I wanted to just lie down and forget the world for good.

But before I could do that, I, somehow, remembered my books and a fierce sense of jealousy gripped me. I said, “Who’s going to have those books?” I couldn’t remember one…

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Editing Angst

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I do a lot of editing as I write, some authors leave it until they have a completed first draft. Whatever your editing looks like, Mary Cathleen Clark expresses how it feels to be a word-murderer …

Southern Highways and Byways


I’m in the final stage of editing my manuscript for publication, which means I’ve been residing for a while in that special place in hell reserved for writers. See me over there? I’m tucked away behind the third brimstone pit on your left, smoldering notes scattered about me, and laptop clutched in my sweaty hands.

I need a break. I need inspiration. So it’s time to pause for a moment and remember why, of my own free will, I chose to be in Writers Hell.

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No truer words have ever been spoken. Any writer who thinks her/his first draft is ready to make its grand appearance before the reading public is delusional. Maybe the twentieth draft. Maybe.

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I butchered my story, cutting out description, exposition, dialogue, and backstory until I stripped its skeleton of all flesh. Lord, it looks so damned bare now. Does anyone have a spare jacket?

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I argued with myself–did I…

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My God is in Control

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When I began treatment for an underactive thyroid a couple of years ago, I was relieved – at last the symptoms of the past few years would disappear. Some did go. But last November, after years of refusing to even consider I had CFS/ME, the consultant’s diagnosis meant I couldn’t hide from it any longer. This condition, which has eaten away at my life for more than a decade, has become part of the story of who I am. Over the past few weeks, I have been unable to work. The disappointment of living with this condition can be crushing. But during this time of my physical life being made smaller, when everything I love to do has been curtailed, my life has been enriched. I am learning more about the depths and the mystery of the love and grace and mercy of the God who created the universe, the God I get to call Father. This post tells me I’m not alone …

Hope Whispers

Living with a Chronic Illness means coping with the insecurity of not knowing what the next week will hold. These past months have been a struggle, as I have juggled accepting that I am not in control of my illness, with carrying the weight of expectation upon me that I must somehow find a way to control it. The stakes are high and failure has the potential to move the course of my life in a different direction. You carry fear with you in the back of your mind, fear that you will have to have more time off, fear that one day work will decide it’s time to let me go, fear that ultimately the weight of my successes will be less than my failures.

But the reality is, illness or not, none of us are really in control of our lives. Any control we believe we have is…

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One Voice from the Somme – A Personal Remembrance

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On 17th October 1914, standing just  five feet five and one-quarter inches tall, with blue eyes, fair hair and a ruddy complexion,  a 19 years and 184 days old almost-still-boy, a joiner by trade, enlisted into the British Army and became a Private in the 11th Service Battalion The Border Regiment (Lonsdales). His name was John and he was my grandfather’s brother.

Amongst the few mementoes we have of John are the remains of two letters. One, written whilst training at Codford, Wiltshire, and written to his brother contains the following lines:

“I have been looking for a letter from you ever since I came back from my leave, but maybe you won’t have time to write, but anyway no news is good news isn’t it  … We are having fairly nice weather here now but it’s getting rather cold back end like … How is Grandma’s cold getting on, I hope it’s about alright again, tell her I will write soon.”

An ordinary young man writing home about ordinary things.

Only the last page of the second letter, written to his stepmother, still exists. I believe it was the last letter he ever wrote, which makes these lines even more poignant:

“I suppose you haven’t any idea when the war is going to finish have you because we haven’t, but there’s one conversation Jeannie, “it can’t last forever” can it … I wrote to the School Master a week or two since … well he hasn’t wrote back yet, but maybe he won’t have time to write to soldiers in fact some people don’t believe in it, but never mind, what the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve … P.S. We are going to the trenches tomorrow Sunday for a few days and then I think we are going away back for a rest, but I will tell you all the news later.”

John Willian SalkeldAlong with over 500 other men from the 800 in the Lonsdale battalion, John participated in the first day of the bloodiest battle in human history – The Battle of the Somme. That day, 1st July 1916 saw 57 470 British casualties of which 19 240 were killed. John was one of them. By the end of the battle on 18th November 2016, of the more than one million men wounded or killed, there were 419 654 British officially dead, missing or wounded. 72 000 of the British dead have no known graves.

I find the numbers impossible to grasp, but each statistic is the bookmark to the story of one life that tells its own ordinary story, a story that ended far too abruptly.

My son, a historian who now works at Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life, was given an amazing opportunity by the local ITV news channel. They took him to the Somme, where he became the first member of our family to visit John’s grave. You can watch the moving report here.

When I learned about John’s story, just a few years ago, I wanted to write something based on what I’d discovered. Currently, I am working on a novel about a twelve-year-old boy, which though set during WW2, draws on the legacy of 1st July 1916. I have also started work on another, contemporary, novel that also draws on the period of WW1. As I write, and as I remember my great uncle John and the thousands upon thousands of other lives lived and lost in that period of our world’s history, I know with certainty that not one of their stories can be called ordinary, that not one of their stories should be forgotten.