Saturday, 6 September 2014

Results - The Slushpile Challenge July 2014

This challenge was set by Lauren Pearson of Curtis Brown.



THE CHALLENGE... 

was to bring Christmas to July.

We sent all our picture book and chapter book entries to Lauren Pearson. 

And the winner is Alison Mary O'Donnell for her picture book entry - Wendall's Wonderful Christmas.

We asked Lauren to tell us about the entries she received and why she chose Wendall's Wonderful Christmas as the winning entry.


I had great fun reading these entries in sunny August. The stories, which were mostly picture book texts, covered just about every angle of Christmas that I can imagine, and then some!  


Santa eating silly foods, aliens decorating for Christmas, big machines saving the day, ninjas, a very sweet little donkey--there were a number of great ideas and some very original concepts.  (And actually several writers that I'd love to chat with!) 




But the winner for me is WENDALL'S WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS, which features a Scrooge-like dog who has a more exciting Christmas Eve than he'd bargained for. Our canine hero was a great character and there was a lot to the story that young readers would love.

Lauren gave us some tips about how we could make the stories better. 

Generally speaking, though the concepts were exciting, quite a lot of them needed work on the execution.  It’s a cliché, but for a picture book text every word counts, and sometimes (quite often), the fewer the better. 


Side comments about how someone's feeling, that they are sweaty, etc. might fit in a chapter book but they can spoil the flow of a picture book.

That's great advice, Lauren. What about rhyming text? Did you get a lot of rhyming picture book entries?

For rhyming to work, it has to be absolutely spot-on; the story can't wander just to make a rhyme, something I saw quite a bit of.  

Writing picture books is always tricky - because you are writing for young children but parents buy the book. Here is what Lauren said about that specific conundrum.

And a few of the entries also seemed to lose track of what young children can understand and find funny.  Never forget your audience and what they bring to the [Christmas dinner] table—or more importantly, what they don't bring to it.

My rule of thumb is to write for the children, not their parents.

Are there are any rules when writing a holiday book? Especially something as mega-grand as Christmas that has universal appeal?

Everyone's taste is different, but as an agent and as a parent, I avoid picture books about Father Christmas that stray too much from the traditional Father Christmas backstory--i.e, that he's one, single person who lives in the North Pole and has done forever and ever. 

For me, some rules aren't made to be broken.


We will be inviting Alison to talk about Wendall and her experience submitting to and winning the Slushpile Challenge and how her meeting with Lauren went.


Chitra has published over 20 books in Singapore, UK, USA and India. She loves writing picture books and retelling folktales. She's also working on fiction for 7+ . Chitra is a member of the Words & Pictures' editorial team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge.

12 comments:

  1. Congratulations to my critique group member - Alison!

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  2. Yay!!!!!! Great news! Well done Alison!

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  3. Sounds a great character, Alison, and thanks Lauren and Chitra. Picture books are such a challenge.

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  4. Congratulations Alison! What a fantastic opportunity, thanks again Chitra and Lauren for creating this challenge

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  5. Congratulations Alison! It must be like all of your Christmasses all at once! Once again, thanks to Chitra for organising, and many thanks to Lauren for your time, advice and expertise.

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  6. Brilliant - well done. I look forward to hearing how you get on with Lauren and can't wait to buy your book as Christmas presents in the future.

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  7. Congratulations Alison, it sounds like a great story!
    Thanks for reading all our stories Lauren, you have been a lovely judge. Thanks also to Chitra for all your work organizing the competition (and for being lovely too).

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  8. Congratulations Alison! I look forward to hearing more about Wendall, he sounds a great character. Thanks to Chitra for all the organisation and thank you Lauren, for all your time and effort and lots of really helpful tips!

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  9. Well done, Alison, and thanks, Lauren and Chitra, for being so generous with your time.

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  10. Thank you everyone for your kind wishes. Special thanks to Chitra for making it all possible.

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  11. Thank you everyone, it is always a pleasure to run competitions for members with such enthusiasm and mutual support.

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