Louise Roberts entered our January 2016 Slush Pile Challenge set by Louise Lamont literary agent at LBA Books.
Louise Roberts won this challenge by submitting a blurb and an opening of up to 2000 words for a love story. She tells us why she entered the competition and all about her experience of discussing her submission with Louise Lamont, literary agent at LBA Books.
As soon as I saw Louise's challenge, I thought I must give this a go. My YA novel, Girl Frozen, is most certainly a love story or rather two, intertwined, so I sent it in.
A couple of months later, there I was sitting in bed on a Sunday morning checking my emails, and plop, in comes a message from the competition organisers telling me that Louise Lamont had chosen me as the winner. The Words and Pictures team had also included the agent's comments about why my submission had been chosen. To read that feedback about my work was a prize in itself. And to know I was actually going to meet her, or speak with her, was great.
Louise Lamont got in touch with me and we arranged to meet in a coffee shop before work. She started by giving me advice on how I could improve my opening chapters. My main character is a schoolgirl who has won a prize to take part in an archaeological dig in the remote Altai Mountains of Siberia.
Louise felt I should work in more of my main character's trepidation at what she was about to embark on, so she would feel younger, and readers could relate to her more.
I'd recently lopped off the first few chapters, to plunge straight into the story, and perhaps I'd been a bit heavy handed with this. So I've been going through those early chapters, and putting in more about how odd she feels being the only schoolgirl in such an adult world.
Originally, I'd written the novel as a screenplay and Louise and I chatted about how this can really help the story structure, enabling the author to see more clearly where acts and plot twists should fall. Then, because my story features a ghost, she recommended that I read Jessica's Ghost by Andrew Norriss, which I absolutely loved. She also asked me to send her the full manuscript of Girl Frozen, which was just fantastic.
My time with her flew by, and when I got to the office, I scribbled down more notes to make sure nothing was forgotten.
And then a month later, I heard more good news that Girl Frozen had been long listed in the Times Chicken House competition.
I write in lots of different styles, for children of all ages, and Louise told me it was fine to carry on doing this, as long as I concentrated on one story in particular, so it becomes my 'showpiece'. And this I'm doing with 'Girl Frozen'.
Thanks so much to the SCBWI BI Words and Pictures Team for organising this competition and to Louise Lamont for her excellent feedback. It was lovely to meet Louise and to feel so spurred on and encouraged. If anyone is thinking of entering a slush pile challenge in the future, just do it, do it, do it. You never know you might find yourself chatting about your work with an agent too!