This is the title of a wonderful blog I've recently discovered. Experiencing the divisive aftermath of the recent Big Ref, with all the judgments, opinions, and tensions swirling around, I read Stephen Pentz's recent post, Humanity, with a deep sense of relief. A kind of refuge, and truth, to be found in poetry.
I had it in mind to send a card today to my one time agent, Pam Royds. I searched
through last year’s diary to find her new address, and then went online to confirm it was
correct. It was then that I discovered, to my sorrow, her obituary. She died on May 31st,
Pam was a wonderful champion of children’s literature, and children’s editor with Andre
Deutsch for many years. You can read about her here – Pam Royds obituary.
I met her some time after she’d retired. She was already in her mid-eighties, but not yet
ready to stop working, and she offered to be my mentor and agent for the two novels
I’d written for children – The Green Table and Walking Backwards. Walking Backwards
she said was great, but just wouldn’t sell to a wide enough group – after all not many
children would be interested in a boy who wants to be a poet! But she thought The
Green Table stood a good chance with some work. We arranged to meet one
afternoon at John Murray publishers on Albemarle St.
When I arrived, very nervous and feeling rather provincial, she took me straightaway
down the street to choose a sandwich, before we settled in her circular room with its
wonderful domed ceiling in the heart of the elegant building.
Pam reminded me in the best possible way of a grammar school English mistress –
discerning, wise, sensible, exacting and encouraging. She was very direct with her
comments. The main problem with The Green Table was that my heroine, Katje, just
wasn’t likeable enough. She needed to be more heroic, not flawed and impetuous, as I
had drawn her. By the end of the afternoon, despite the fact that I had to undertake a
complete reworking of the novel, I left feeling buoyant, and practically danced my way back to
the tube stop.
Sometime later Pam attempted to sell my novel, newly titled Dance for Your Life. We
were both sorry we never quite made it. Puffin books were interested, as was a smaller
publishing company, but in the end the publicity departments weren’t convinced.
I was really happy last autumn to be able to send her a copy of The Green Table,
once more rewritten, this time for adults. ‘You’ve done a splendid job,’ she said, when
she’d read it. ‘I’m so delighted.’
I am grateful to her. She gave me a glimpse into the world of publishing as it once was,
full of people dedicated to helping the writer make the best of his or her work – the
days when a writer had an editor for a lifetime. I felt she believed in me, and her belief
kept me going at a time when it might have been all too easy to give up.
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.