Before the 2014 Sydney SCBWI conference, attendees were invited to enter a Pitching to Publishers session. Entry to this was competitive: I had to submit a ‘shout line’, and about 10 lines from the ms, a middle-grade, contemporary, humorous (I sincerely hoped) novel titled Princess Parsley. The eight entrants chosen would have three minutes to pitch their work to a panel of publishers: Zoe Walton (Random House), Lisa Berryman (HarperCollins), Niki Horan (Hardie Grant Egmont), Holly Toohey (Random House) and Clare Hallifax (Scholastic Australia). A stellar line-up indeed.
Never! (Anyway, I thought, I probably wouldn’t be chosen – so I entered.)
I was fortunate enough to be one of the Chosen.
It all seemed like an excellent idea until I was at the conference, standing at the edge of the stage ready to go on, having listened to some brilliant pitches and wondering why I wasn’t just sitting in the audience having a good time.
I have no memory whatsoever of actually doing the pitch (rabbit-in-the-headlights-moment) but clearly I did deliver it (you can read the pitch below) and all of the panel – ALL of the panel – said they’d be interested in seeing Princess Parsley.
Result!!! So, when I got back home from the conference, I submitted it.
It was turned down.
It wasn’t what the publisher involved had thought it would be.
After a suitable period of sulking, I submitted it to a different publisher. And this one – accepted it. Loved it. (Happy dances.)
Princess Parsley will be published by Omnibus Books in October 2016.
Many thanks to SCBWI for the opportunity. And for reminding me that publishing is very, very subjective – what isn’t one publisher’s cup of Bushell’s may well be another’s Twinings Earl Grey.
Princess Parsley Pitch by Pamela Rushby
What happens when you wake up one morning and suddenly find – you're a princess?
My book is a middle-grade contemporary novel – with a bit of just-turning-teenage angst and a lot of humour. It's titled "Princess Parsley".
Thirteen-year-old Parsley's parents are vaguely-hippyish, herb-farm owners who've named their four daughters Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. The family lives in the hilly hinterland of northern NSW – and everyone knows what that means.
So when it's time for Parsley to leave her rather alternative primary school, where they have drum circle instead of sports afternoons, and to start at the big high school in town, all she wants to do is fit in. Be normal. Maybe – oh, maybe – get to be one of the "in" group.
Because it's right at that time that Parsley's dad has a disagreement with the local Council about the farmer's market he's started up. A big disagreement. Due to nit-picking council regulations, the market has to close. So Parsley's Dad decides the solution is to secede from Australia and set up his own principality. And give himself the title of Prince Kevin. Which means the whole family becomes Royal as well. And Parsley, kicking and screaming all the way, becomes Her Royal Highness, the Princess Parsley of the Principality of Possum Creek.
How's that for making yourself popular at your new high school?
Parsley finds that being a princess is nothing but problems. Where do you find anything even resembling a decent prince to take you to the Year 8 disco? And you just try shopping for a nice, new tiara in downtown Mullumbimby. As if.
And what do you do when the kids at school don't curtsy to you? Have them exiled? Or executed?
What can Parsley do? How can she deal with the group of girls – the Blondes - who are giving her a hard time? And how can she get noticed by the boy she really likes? Whose Dad just happens to be the local Councillor who had the family's market closed?
It's the way Parsley decides to deal with the whole hideous situation that really gets her family offside. Seriously offside. What can she do to get them back?
"Princess Parsley" is different because of the humour. Sure, Parsley has problems. They’re very real to her. But this book is not, like many books about teen problems, dire. Nobody dies. There's a laugh along the way.
And the setting. The hippyish/crossed with country-town alternative lifestyle of northern NSW. What's not to like about incense, beads and drum circles?
"Princess Parsley" is 41,000 words in length.
The manuscript is complete.
May I send it to you?
Here's my card.
I didn’t use this section, but had it on hand in case anyone asked “But how does it end?”
How does it end?
Literally, with a laugh.
Parsley responds to the Blonde's taunting, during a school drama class, by totally losing it. She has a huge rant about how truly awful being a princess is. The thing is, she's funny about it. The class is rolling in the aisles. And her drama teacher has an idea. There's a competition for kids called Class Clowns. It's for aspiring comedians. Parsley's encouraged to work up a stand-up comedian act about being a princess. All goes well. Very well. Parsley gets through the auditions and into the state finals of the competition. And her family, of course, want to come on the big night.
That's a big problem – because Parsley is making a total joke of her dad's Principality. It wins her a place in the interstate finals in Melbourne. But it upsets her dad. Really upsets him. He had no idea Parsley hated his principality so much.
What to do? Dad says he'll close the principality down. Parsley says she won't go to the finals in Melbourne. It's an impasse. Everybody's miserable. It isn't until Parsley's younger sister Sage steps in, that things are worked out.