3 question interview: Polly Nolan

This is the second micro interview with our Wolves & Apples guests to whet your appetite for the event on October 3rd.

We asked Literary Agent Polly Nolan these three key questions.

What was your favourite book when you were a child, and why?
I loved everything that I read so that’s almost impossible to answer!  Sometimes I wanted to read difficult, gritty books and sometimes I just wanted to escape from everything with books that were like chewing gum for the mind.  I haven’t changed as an adult. A tough day at work sends me running for easy escapism. Other days, I want to read something that will challenge me, educate me and make me think.

What is your top tip for writers?
If you’re writing for yourself, enjoy it.  If you’re writing in the hope of publication, avoid sending your manuscript to agents too early. Once you’ve typed ‘The End’, go back and rewrite the beginning. Polish the book. Proofread it.  Work on the bits that you know deep down aren’t right. And once you’re ready to send it out, don’t! Put it in a drawer for as long as possible first (ideally six months, though – understandably – most people find that virtually impossible).  Take it out and re-read it then. You’ll be amazed – and probably embarrassed – by what jumps out at you once you’ve had a bit of distance from it.  After you’ve addressed those problems (and then got people to whom you aren’t related to read it and give you an honest opinion), it’s probably ready to start sending to agents.  The biggest stumbling block for new writers when looking for an agent is that they send their work out too early.  Avoid this at all costs. It’s heart-breaking for the author, and for the agent.

What is the best thing about creating work for children?
As an agent and former publisher, I’m a step or two removed from actually creating work for children.  That privilege falls to authors, illustrators, playwrights, animators and scriptwriters – and I look at them all with envy!  I can still clearly remember the joy of reading a book as a child and then going out to find that door in the hill to another world, that talking animal, that magical creature hiding at the bottom of the garden, that baby bird with the broken wing . . . I still have the same thrill (without the freedom to explore, sadly) when a manuscript lands on my desk and transports me from the 200 unread emails and piles of editing to a different place.  To be part of an industry that gives children that thrill is brilliant, and being part of something that imparts to a child the sheer delight of reading – a gift that will stay with them forever and see them through the highs and lows of life – is humbling.