Silly Mistakes and 2013 365 Challenge #18

Dewar's Lane Granary (The Berwick YHA building prior to coversion) from Sallyport to Barbara Carr

Dewar’s Lane Granary (The Berwick YHA building prior to coversion) from Sallyport. Photograph by Barbara Carr

I made a basic error yesterday when sending out a query email. I have a track sheet with all submission guidelines (length of synopsis, how many chapters to send etc) for my shortlisted agencies and I spent three hours compiling a cover letter and pack for The Blair Partnership (I’m working through the list in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, approaching agencies that seem a good fit and will take email submissions). I hit send in time to go and collect the kids, feeling happy with a job well done. Until I started looking at the next name on the list and realised (oh no…) that I’d accidentally followed their submission guidelines for The Blair Partnership. So I’d sent a long synoposis and 3 chapters instead of a one-page synopsis and one chapter.

IDIOT.

What a waste of three hours. I resent my submission but I can’t help but feel that has plonked me directly in the reject pile. A tweet I read from an agent yesterday said

“Am ruthless when there’s loads of submissions to read: If they can’t be bov to read our guidelines, I might not be bov to read their book.”

Good advice which I tried very hard to follow today when I sent my next batch of query emails.

The quote was reweeted by someone I follow and I didn’t pay any attention to who wrote the original message. When I went to copy it into this post I noticed that the message was written by Julia Churchill of the Greenhouse Literary Agency. The same woman I sent a submission to earlier today! It’s a small world. I wish I’d noticed the connection, I could have mentioned reading her tweet in my submission and how it made me double and triple check that I sent her the right stuff.

Another missed opportunity.

It doesn’t matter how many blogs, books and articles you read on how to send query letters it’s still a huge learning curve!

This evening is all about researching the first hostel on my list – Berwick. I still haven’t received my YHA membership card so I can’t send off for a hostel guide. Google it is then. It has reminded me that Claire doesn’t have YHA membership so might incorporate that into today’s post somehow.

P.S. After three hours of wandering around the web I have an excessive amount of information about Berwick YHA in my head and on my computer. My brain is too full to write my post! This level of research is new to me and I am learning that you can know too much, it stifles your creativity. What I can’t find is a picture of the front entrance so I’m going to have to put Claire somewhere in the hostel… Right, let’s write.

Usual disclaimers apply – I haven’t visited this hostel, my writing is part fiction part research and no offence is in anyway intended.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Claire peered through the dark at the place her sat nav had decided was her Final Destination. It looked like a small car park surrounded by an eclectic mix of buildings. Her ears rang with the silence of the evening as she pulled into a bay and turned off the ignition. Every part of her body ached.

I’m not going to have to worry about how to stay fit without my annual gym membership; this car is a workout all by itself.

Claire looked through the windows for the green YHA sign that she thought would greet her arrival but all she could see were cars and walls. She pulled out her iPad and loaded up the hostel page but there was no more information.

Bugger. I guess I’ll just have to wander around until I find it. Claire got out and looked around the car park. She didn’t welcome the prospect of staggering about in the dark. I wish I’d managed to get here in daylight. She turned and glared at the car.

“We would have done too if you hadn’t overheated three times in that traffic jam. Stupid car.”

She could hear a clock chiming the half-hour and realised she had no idea which hour it was. The last fifty miles had passed in a daze of exhaustion and misery. It was one thing travelling around the country in a modern Audi, knowing you were staying in a four star hotel when you got there. A bit different hauling this heap of shit three hundred miles up the country to stay in a flea-infested hostel.

Claire dragged her rucksack from the passenger seat, not willing to leave it in the car even though she barely had the strength to lift it onto her shoulders. Please God let this damn place be close by.

“Are you lost my dear?”

Claire looked round but couldn’t locate the source of the voice.

“Are you staying at the hostel, perhaps? The YHA one?”

Claire caught a faint scent of perfume, the kind her grannie used to wear. She looked down and saw a petit lady standing in the shadows smiling at her.

“I guessed by the rucksack. I’m staying there too, would you like me to show you how to get in? It’s easy to miss in the dark.” When Claire didn’t answer the lady walked a bit closer. “Do you speak English my dear?” She enunciated the words as if talking to someone hard of hearing.

“I’m English,” Claire managed. “And yes, thank you, I am looking for the YHA.” Claire was too tired to question why someone who looked the wrong side of seventy was staying in a Youth Hostel. I guess I don’t really count as youth either if it comes to it. She followed the lady a short distance to a building which loomed four or five stories above them, blocking out the star-spattered sky.

“I’m Hattie, I’m in one of the dorms. Are you staying long?”

Claire forced her scattered mind to focus on the voice. “Er, no, two nights.”

“That’s a shame. Lovely hostel this.” When Claire didn’t respond Hattie peered up into her face. “You look done in. Get yourself checked in and get some sleep. I’ll probably see you at breakfast?” She made the statement into a question but turned and scurried away before Claire could answer.

Claire let the rucksack drop from her shoulders and gazed around without seeing, unsure what to do next.

“Can I help you?” Another voice hailed her, male this time. “I’m the hostel manager. Are we expecting you?”

Claire turned and smiled at the man. “Yes, my name is Claire Carleton.”

“Ah yes, you’re booked into a twin room for two nights. Come with me I’ll get you checked in and you’ll be snuggled under your duvet in no time. You look like you could sleep standing up.”

Twin room? Claire’s mind latched onto the only part of the sentence that mattered. By myself? No sharing, no strangers snoring? For the first time in weeks Claire was conscious of a feeling of gratitude towards AJC. She stood waiting by her rucksack but the man didn’t offer to carry it, just walked off without checking whether she was following. Claire felt her cheeks flush red as she stooped to retrieve her bag.

The next ten minutes were a blur of forms and questions. Claire had a vague recollection of being shown a bistro which seemed just a sea of lime green. Very on-trend was Claire’s only thought. She was then ushered into a lift and escorted to her room on the third or fourth floor, she didn’t notice which. This doesn’t seem right for a hostel. I thought they chucked a key at you and handed you a sheet? They certainly don’t carry your bag. Claire felt the straps digging into her tired shoulders and gave up trying to make sense of it all..

As the hostel manager opened the door to her room Claire felt she might weep. It was bright and neat, if slightly like a posh prison with its grey wall and grey metal beds. Not a plush hotel by any means but the duvet looked thick and comfortable and she could spy an en-suite through another door.

The hostel manager handed Claire a sheet. “You’ll need to make up your bed and you can hire towels if you haven’t brought any. You’re booked in for breakfast and if you want dinner you can go down to the Bistro, or there’s a pub and an Indian not far away. I can’t imagine you’ll want to cook tonight but, if you do, the guest communal area is on the fifth floor.”

He stood for a moment as if waiting for Claire to respond. When it was clear she had no words he nodded a farewell, handed her the key, and left the room. Claire’s senses were overwhelmed by twelve hours of new experiences. Her body fought conflicting needs: a shower, coffee, dinner and sleep all seemed equally important. Half-heartedly flicking the sheet over one of the beds Claire collapsed full length and dragged the duvet over her head.

Sleep first, everything else could wait.

***

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