Smart Quill Editorial About the Editor

Book Club Summer: Lincoln in the Bardo

Posted on June 3rd, 2017

What is it to be human? The legend that is George Saunders tries to explain, using American political history, the death of a child and a host of foul-minded ghosts. Nothing short of extraordinary!

Book Club Spring: The Girls

Posted on March 17th, 2017

A debut novel about cults and seduction in California, by Emma Kline.

Book Club Winter: The Sellout

Posted on January 5th, 2017

The 2016 Man Booker Prize winner by Paul Beatty is up for discussion. And wow, is it controversial.

Book Club Autumn: The Light Between Oceans

Posted on November 6th, 2016

Autumnal tones in Tasmania, where I am talking about The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman.

Book Club Summer: East of Eden

Posted on August 5th, 2016

California Heartland Fiction at its best. This month I review East of Eden by the indomitable John Steinbeck.

Book Club Spring: The Neapolitan Novels

Posted on April 26th, 2016

The most talked about tetralogy of the year; exceptional literary fiction by Elena Ferrante, with a translation by Ann Goldstein that adds vicious charm.


Posted on March 15th, 2016



April is going to be a busy month! The Bologna and London Book Fairs have been placed right next to one another in the first two weeks. Normally rights people, publishers, agents, editors and everyone else have a at least a week to turn work around between the two. This year will be a marathon of physical stamina and vocal skills (almost everyone loses their voice).

Plus, I am one of four judges in Operation Thriller, a writing competition for Authors.Me (an extremely clever acquisitions platform) in conjunction with Reedsy (a freelance digital marketplace). It is an open call for writers of thriller fiction in both the US and the UK, with a minimum of 30 pages, and no registration fee! Increasingly competitions will run with an admin fee and I think this is a bit of a ruse. So I am absolutely delighted to be part of this talent scouting initiative, which requires nothing of entrants other than just that – talent. And the prize clocks up to about $3000, including some cash.

Unsung Hero Award 2016

Posted on February 29th, 2016

It is difficult to sing one’s own praises, but happily White Fox made some noise on my behalf this month. They voted Smart Quill an Unsung Publishing Hero for 2016.

The list of 25, in fields as diverse as design, production, editorial, agenting, and management, celebrates specialists working in-house or freelancing for the book publishing industry.

I am just going to lift the quote verbatim: “Philippa has tried to make SmartQuill as relevant and supportive as possible for authors who are interested in Hollywood, or Hollywood writers who are interested in becoming an author. At the end of the day, she helps all creative writers — both authors and screenwriters in the UK and US — to see that there are many options for their material to consider, and not just one narrow path”.

Well, I couldn’t have said it better myself, as this is precisely what I wanted to achieve in moving from London to LA. Providing some sort of fluidity both ways; so film/tv does not feel geographically distant from books; so author options feel expansive. Stories beget stories in any case, and I am lucky to be able to find them on both sides of the world.

Next Year’s Words Await Another Voice

Posted on January 10th, 2016

2015 was a big year – I moved from London to Los Angeles to explore book to film possibilities for new writers, set up the Book Boutique as an exclusive online platform, and established the Authors Club in conjunction with Soho House West Hollywood.

2016 is set to be similarly exploratory… I’ll be continuing with LA workshops until the Spring; pitching to agents and producers at the Bologna Book Fair; and doing a London Book Fair event on the 11th April. I’ve been asked to talk about the event on National Radio Ireland – so if you are based there, stay tuned to the Green Room programme!

As well as the Smart Quill Edits, I will be allocating more time to one-on-one consultations. If you want a sense check on your writing, or to discuss general narrative direction, please email to book a session.

I hope you invoke the muse in 2016.

Never-Ending Summer Reading

Posted on December 24th, 2015

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 16.09.42

I have said it before. The best thing about summer is reading… Worn paperbacks, pages filled with sand, or even, falling apart in the sun. Lolling in a pool with your book propped on the side. Or placed over your face as a customised hat. Summer = reading for sure.

This year, I determined to take Smart Quill to some far off places – looking for new writers, different voices, and researching cultural narratives. I have had a rather perpetual summer as a result, and an excellent excuse to catch up “must-reads” (when I am not editing, of course).

So here is what I read, and here is what I thought:

1. Euphoria by Lily King – two words: read it. It’s short, and perfect. Dual male and female strands, based obliquely on the rather incredible story of lauded female anthropologist Margaret Mead.

2. Moby Dick by Herman Melville – oh dear. I just could not lose myself in this. The prose is so gargantuan, it really only served to alienate me. At the risk of sounding like a philistine in the face of great literature, no thanks.

3.  Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts – Gregory certainly knows how to spin a tale. I am not sure how much of this I believed was “autobiography”, but it’s an enjoyable and nuanced whirlwind through Bombay nonetheless.

4.   The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan – this won the Book Prize in 2014. But honestly, I found it a little facile. Flanagan is the most incredible writer and this is beautiful in parts… But not his best.

5. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad – it’s a powerful insight into Afghanistan, but rather thin, and political agenda of the narrator was heavy. I’d rather have seen more facts, more anecdotes, in order to build the story.

6. The Martian by Andy Weir – I couldn’t put it down! The light tone contrasts exactly with the enormity of the plot, and the technical detail is WOW.

7. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr –  the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2015. And rightly so. This is magnificent, with a deft narrative balance between a girl in France and a boy in Germany during WWII.