Spotlight on the TCW First Pages Pitch Contest

‘Pitch contest entries are now full. All places have been taken.’

I flounce back into my chair, cursing my hesitation about entering this contest. Now I’ve missed out! Too slow, too indecisive, too busy with work to think about it properly. Of course, now I can’t enter it is the very thing I want to do!

Did you enter? Are you one of the eight lucky aspiring authors whose pitch and first page of their work-in-progress will be read out by a narrator and then judged and critiqued? Actually, that sounds a little terrifying. So, if you have entered, well done you brave soul! Rest assured, you will remain anonymous and gain valuable professional feedback.

The TCW First Pages Pitch Contest is HNSA’s signature event and a fun way to end the first day before heading off to the conference dinner. The contestants aren’t the only ones who benefit from the session. Aspiring writers in the audience are able to apply the judges’ advice to their own WIPs. Our adjudicators are Clare Halliday (Scholastic Australia), Michelle Lovi (Odyssey Books) and Margaret Conolly (Margaret Conolly & Associates Agency.) Actor and author, Rachel Nightingale, is back by popular demand as our narrator.

Now’s the time to get working on the 15 word pitch, 50 word synopsis, and the first 500 words of your WIP. It is due September 20. Seems a long way away, but you will want to craft and hone your words and that takes time. Remember $200 prize is on offer (courtesy of TCW), and a free membership of the Australian Society of Authors.

Step one is to check the guidelines here.

A few months ago, I did a pitch workshop with Fremantle Press (I’m part of their Four Centres Emerging Writers program). Some of the top tips I received were:

  • It has to be natural
  • Make it a good story
  • Avoid the ‘hard sell’
  • Target it specifically to your audience
  • Get to know who you are pitching to before giving the pitch
  • Include information about you – what have you had published or won, what inspired the story, what is unique or interesting about it (and you), does it link to any current media stories or events?

Later that same day, I had the absolute privilege to watch published authors pitching to a group of people interested in booking authors for events. Talk about eye-opening! I made a list of the things I liked most about their pitches. Here’s some of them:

  • Talking about themes and how audiences connect with these themes
  • Showing a passion for the subject of the story
  • Beginning with a question or an interaction with the audience
  • Ending with a question or the hook of the story
  • Suggesting other similar titles or ‘cross-betweens’

Of course, you could also ask Lauren Chater or Lou Greene for any last-minute tips if you see them around the conference. Lauren won the 2015 First Pages Pitch Contest (and her novel The Lace Weaver is a fabulous read). Lou was our winner in 2017. Her as yet published novel, The Book Lovers, was long listed for the Richell Prize.

The Lace Weaver

Naturally, the internet is full of advice about pitches. Some useful links are:

As for me, I’ll be there in the audience, cheering you all on and making more notes of what I liked about your pitches, and the judges’ comments on your first page. Good luck!

This panel spotlight was written by emerging writer Jennifer Mapleson. She is working on her first novel of historical fiction and is part of the Four Centres Emerging Writers Program in WA. She teaches English and Literature to teenagers and in another life was a professional Historian. She lives in Perth and will make her second trip across the Nullarbor for the HNSA Conference. Find out more at

Once again, historical fiction writers and readers can gather for a three stream program on the weekend of 26-27 October including our extended Academic stream on Sunday 27 October. This time there’s also a Craft & Publishing program on Friday 25 October with craft workshops, masterclasses and manuscript assessments with top class tutors. Our Guest of Honour is Jackie French. Keynote speaker Paula Morris will address our theme: History Repeats.

Among the 60 acclaimed speakers are patrons Kate Forsyth and Sophie Masson, Catherine Jinks, Ali Alizadeh, Lucy Treloar, Pamela Hart, Nicole Alexander, Jane Caro, Alison Goodman, Kelly Gardiner, Michelle Aung Thin, Meg Keneally, Majella Cullinane and so many more.

Enjoy a delicious meal at our conference dinner on Saturday 26 October where Anna Campbell will entertain us. You’ll also hear who’s won this year’s ARA HNSA Short Story Contest with a $500 prize, and the HNSA Colleen McCullough Residency.

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