Novel Slam 2016 – Join us!

The novel slam 2016 will be at the Crucible!
The novel slam 2016 will be at the Crucible!

I can’t believe that this will be the fifth annual Off the Shelf Novel Slam! This years’s event takes place on Tuesday 25th October at 7.30pm at the Adelphi Rooms at Sheffield’s internationally renowned Crucible Theatre.

It would be amazing if you could shine your shoes and head for the Crucible for this amazing event.

The novel slam is a showcase for writers of fiction. Poets have poetry slams to find their audience, and novelists need novel slams (although you don’t get to read out your whole novel – that would take too long!) In the novel slam, fiction writers get the chance to give an audience a taste of their work and leave them wanting more.

The aim is to bring writers together to share their work, to get used to pitching their ideas and reading out their work in front of a live audience. To enter the novel slam takes a bit of bravery, some good preparation, a little resilience (it’s a friendly but competitive event) and an open mind.

Audience members are also very welcome indeed. Come and meet some of Sheffield’s most talented and prestigious writers, and help to discover new talent.

Tickets cost £5 /£3 concessions on the door, and there will be a bar at the venue. If you don’t want to compete, please come along to enjoy the evening and vote for the best books.

If you want to compete in the Novel Slam, call 07815966784, or email sheffieldnovelists@gmail.com to book  your place.

In true X-Factor style, we have a panel of judges who will give feedback and tips, and advice on kick-starting a successful writing career.

Meet the Panel

Stacey Sampson:Writer, actor and drama practitioner, best known for her work in This Is England. Her first novel won the Arvon Award at the 2013 Northern Writers’ Awards. Stacey was the first winner of the Novel Slam in 2012!

Daniel Blythe: The author of many novels, including The Cut, Losing Faith and This is the Day. He wrote the bestselling Doctor Who adventure Autonomy for BBC books, and Shadow Runners and Emerald Greene and the Witch Stones for younger readers.

Bryony Doran: Novelist, poet, short story and script writer. Bryony won the Hookline novel award in 2009 for her debut novel The China Bird. Her short story collection The Sand Eggs has also won critical acclaim. She also works as a creative writing coach, helping other writers’ creativity to flourish.

Berlie Doherty: A legendary Sheffield writer, a double Carnegie medal winner for her novels Granny Was a Buffer Girl and Dear Nobody, who has written many novels for children and adults. She has also written short stories, plays and poetry, some of which can be found on public works of art in Sheffield in the Botanical Gardens and on the Moor!

Once again, our compere for the evening will be Iain Broome, author of novel A is for Angelica. He will be poised ready with his horn, to embarrass any writers who go over their time limit. This didn’t happen at all last year, and he was very disappointed.

Prizes for 2016

Prizes for 2016 include:

A creative writing coaching session from Beverley Ward.

A creative writing coaching session from Bryony Doran.

A guaranteed read-through and feedback of three chapters of your novel from literary agent Joanna Swainson

A critique and appraisal from Daniel Blythe.

A writing workshop with Sheffield novelist Susan Elliot Wright and fellow Sheffield writer Russell Thomas.

Plus, lots of books from our award-winning judges!

The Rules

Please don’t be daunted by the novel slam. Egos can sometimes be a little bruised, but the event is intended as a light-hearted way to bring writers together and discover new talent. It doesn’t matter how much experience you’ve got or whether you have finished a novel. Everyone is welcome to enter, and you will find yourself in a supportive environment.

The first round is a 1 minute pitch of your novel. You will be timed! You have exactly one minute to convince the audience that your novel is a must-read. You don’t need to explain your entire plot, you just need to prepare the blurb that will make readers pick your book off the shelves and take it straight to the till in the bookshop.

The audience will vote for their favourites, and after a short break, the ten people through to the next round will have 3 minutes to read a compelling extract from their novel. Most people pick the start of the first chapter, but some writers have had success with extracts from the middle of their books. The panel will give constructive feedback to each writer.

The audience and the judges will vote for their four favourite novel extracts.

In the final round, the four finalists will read for a further 5 minutes each and will each receive more in-depth feedback from the panel of judges. The overall winner will get the first choice of prizes.

Good luck!

Tip: practise makes perfect, so carefully craft your pitch, test it out in front of your family and friends, use a timer when you’re rehearsing, and edit your extracts to read so they’re engaging, attention-grabbing and intriguing.

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The Writers’ X-Factor

At the Louder than Words music writing festival in Manchester, Sheffield Novel Slam organiser Anne Grange caught up with the Novel Slam’s 2015 winner Olivia Piekarski about her experience.

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It looks like we’re guarding something secret in this cupboard!

I heard about the novel slam though my writing group, Manchester Women Writers, which is an amazing mixed-ability group of writers who meet weekly at Manchester Central library. Susan Solazzi, who runs the group, found out about the slam. I thought it sounded amazing. I need to find an agent at this stage of my career, and the chance of a guaranteed read-through of my manuscript by Joanna Swainson seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. I rang up and booked a place in the Novel Slam.

My novel The Guest List is my first piece of fiction that I’m pleased with. I’m nearing the end of my first complete draft. I’ve gained confidence as a fiction writer since The Big Midweek, the music memoir I co-wrote with Steve Hanley, ex-bassist of the legendary and notorious band the Fall was released. After all, it had a guaranteed audience of at least 5,000 fanatical Fall fans. Our independant publishers Route don’t insist on working with agents, unlike the larger publishing houses, so I had by-passed that stage during The Big Midweek process.

I almost didn’t make it. The train was delayed, and I was sending frantic text messages to the organiser, Anne. Steve and I piled into a taxi at Sheffield railway station, and told the taxi driver to put his foot down. We reached Bank Street in about five minutes, but didn’t know where Bank Street Arts was and sped past it. Luckily, I caught sight of the A-board outside as we were speeding past and stopped our driver just in time. I arrived just as the first writer was doing his pitch, and we sat down at the back, massively relieved.

Reading the guidelines for the Novel Slam, I was impressed with the format. It was a clean slate that enabled all the writers to compete on an equal footing. The pitching round meant that you had to sell the book to the audience in one minute. I spent hours developing a decent synopsis that fitted into the time limit – something that would be perfect for the blurb at the back of a dust jacket. There were lots of good pitches though – I think that Iain Broome, the compere, was a bit disappointed that he didn’t have much opportunity to blow his horn at people who had run over the allotted time!

The three-minute reading from the start of the novel was the most important and most difficult part of the Novel Slam to get right. I knew I needed to hook people in from the first page – that was all I got to read, and if you were browsing books in a bookshop, that’s all you’d read too, when deciding whether to buy a book. Three minutes was just the right amount of time to keep the audience interested. I was elated when people were laughing and clapping in the right places, even though it made my hands shake with nerves! It was a good experience, but a little terrifying. Getting a positive audience reaction to your work stops you from feeling like a nutter, sitting at your laptop and laughing away to yourself.

I was blown away by the standard of everyone’s writing. All the competitors were serious writers – competing for serious prizes, such as a read-through by the Literary Consultancy, and creative coaching.The feedback from the judges’ panel was very well thought-out, and gave all the writers something to work on to improve their work.

In the break, people came up to me to say that they loved the opening of my novel, which was great. Being an author is very isolating. It’s not like being in a band, where you get immediate feedback from your colleagues and from the audience. The Novel Slam is a beautiful way of testing authors’ writing.

When I found out I’d got into the final, the feeling was amazing, and when I won, I was completely overwhelmed. Then I ran back off to catch the last train, feeling like I’d got away with a total hit and run, Manchester style.

Writing a book is a massive undertaking, and the chances of actually making money from it are very slim. Truly dedicated writers have no choice. They have to go on. It’s an all-consuming passion, even though it’s important to live a “real” life at the same time. Writing is a condition, and only becomes a viable job for very few. The entire profession should be stamped with a mental health warning but if you really can’t help yourself perseverance and patience are key.

I’m now working hard on finishing the first full draft of The Guest List, but I’m buoyed up by the experience of the Novel Slam.

Thank you, Sheffield!

Note from Anne: I was waiting for a tram home after the Novel Slam when I found lots of panicky text messages from Olivia on my phone about her train being delayed. While she was texting, I was busy taking the ticket money for the event, and was too busy to check my phone. I was so glad she’d made it! It was a great opportunity to congratulate Olivia. Her novel is set in the mid-nineties, against the backdrop of Oasis’ rise to fame. My writing is also closely intertwined with music, and we started chatting. This led to an invitation to me working on Across the Tracks, the book of the Louder than Words festival for Route Online publishing, and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I had a fantastic time, met lovely people, including some music legends, and now my work will be in print too. As a writer, chat, network, ask questions; be cheeky. It might just get you somewhere!