The wonderful setting of Stirling in Central Scotland plays host every September to one of the best crime writing festivals on the planet.
Bloody Scotland also happens to be my local festival and one which brings some of the world’s top crime fiction writers to our part of Scotland every year.
As well as a wonderful opening event, where writers and fans parade from Stirling Castle through the city with burning torches, the three day fest welcomes a staggering array of global crime writing stars.
It also hosts the annual Pitch Perfect competition, where rookie authors get two minutes to pitch their novel to a panel or industry experts with the chance to get their names known and win the coveted title. A number of wonderful authors have gone through the pain of pitching there and some have landed fantastic agents and publishing deals after winning.
I had submitted my hundred words in early summer and was delighted, but scared in equal measure, when I found out I’d been picked as one of eight to pitch at the Allan Park Church hall on the Sunday morning.
My friend Alison Belsham who won Pitch Perfect in 2016, had given me the best advice. Find a hook, write your pitch and then practice, practice, practice. Which was what I’d been doing for weeks in the run up to the day.
I was also massively lucky that the brilliant Jacky Collins, aka Dr Noir, host of Newcastle Noir, Edinburgh Noir at the Bar and many other events at crime festivals around the world, had offered me the chance to perform my pitch at a live crime fiction reading event on the Thursday before the big day.
On the day itself, we were all asked to go to the green room in the Golden Lion Hotel, for a pep talk from leading agent and lovely panel host Jenny Brown. Panellist, Holly Domney, now an editor at Head of Zeus, was also there. We were introduced to our fellow pitchers and given a few tips, before we walked together down to the church.
The place was packed, and I knew as the local author, I was lucky as I had a full house of supporters including my Moniack Mhor crime writing crew, and other writing pals.
As well as Jenny and Holly, the panel also had agent Mark Stanton, Orion editor Emad Ahktar and Sunday Times crime club editor Karen Robinson. We were called up in order and given the chance to perform our pitch. I was one of the first to go and there was a genuine sense of nervous cameraderie already amongst my fellow pitchers.
As I got up to the lectern, all my nerves evaporated and I began. You could have heard a pin drop and when I mentioned my character carrying her children’s teeth in a matchbox, I lifted my own matchbox and rattled the tiny teeth within, to a few sharp intakes of breath.
Once everyone had done their brilliant pitches, the panel retired to another room to deliberate the outcome. 2018 winner Edinburgh writer David Bishop, entertained the audience as to the progress he had made after winning as the panel seemed to take forever to make their decision.
When they finally emerged, Jenny stood and announced that the winner of the Pitch Perfect 2019 event was.... me!
I was absolutely stunned. There were some amazing writers as part of our group and I couldn’t believe they had picked me. The whole place erupted and my fabulous mate Tricia couldn’t stop crying. I still can’t believe I won, but also made a great bunch of writing friends for life as a result.
Afterwards I had my photo taken back in the green room and then was treated to bubbles and afternoon tea with my family and great writing pals Mari, Mo, Yrsa, Oli, Karin and Birgir at the Highland Hotel.
A day I’ll never forget.