Results - 1st Slush Pile Challenge 2013

The winner of the first 2013 Slush Pile Challenge is Gerald Killingworth.

Anne Clark of Anne Clark Literary Agency set the challenge in April. The challenge was to send in a paragraph pitch for a middle grade novel

We received over 25 entries for this challenge. We sent 15 randomly picked pitches without mentioning the names of the entrants to Anne Clark. We asked Anne to tell us about the entries and how she chose the winning entry.

Thank you for inviting me to judge the first 2013 Slush Pile Challenge. I really enjoyed reading the middle grade paragraph pitches – what a fantastic range of subjects and styles!

I chose The Dead World of Lanthorn Gules as the winner because it succeeded in telling me enough of the plot to engage my interest and gave me a strong sense of the atmosphere and tone of the book.

I also liked the way it plunged straight into the story, leaving the hard sell until the end.

The most successful pitches really homed in on the elements of the story which were original, intriguing or exciting, without reaching for too many abstractions. 

They included enough detail to convey the flavour of the book as well as the plot. But I do know how hard it is to find the perfect balance between ‘too general’ and ‘too much detail’ and to boil down tens of thousands of your carefully honed words to just a few lines – so congratulations to all entrants!

Words & Pictures
First Slushpile Challenge Winner!
We asked Gerald Killingworth about his experience of taking part in the competition and about meeting Anne Clark.

"I have only been a SCBWI member for a few months and so I was delighted when I heard that I had won the first Slush Pile Challenge of 2013. 

For many years I was an English teacher and unable to give my full attention to my writing; it’s difficult when your head is full of ‘Will you please sit down.’ and ‘Who drew that on my whiteboard?’ Joining SCBWI was an important step in my becoming a ‘serious’ writer and I have been very grateful for the tips of the trade that I have picked up at the socials and the Saturday goal-setting brunches.

When composing my paragraph for the Slushpile Challenge, I decided to write it about a supernatural novel for 9-12 year-olds that I have just begun. I am currently three chapters in with the synopsis more-or-less complete.

I chose to write as if I were a publisher’s publicist, trying to make the story as appealing as possible to the target readers and also to their parents who are the ones likely to be buying the book.

I divided my paragraph into three sections, the first giving some of the most unusual/dramatic details of the story, the second suggesting that the atmosphere was exciting and spooky and the third saying, basically, ‘It’s fantastic for the following reasons.’

Anne Clark and I finally met at the Wellcome Collection café in Euston Road. She had come down from Cambridge for the meeting and we talked for over an hour, not simply the half-hour promised as the prize. Anne had even taken the trouble to buy the ebook version of Lord of the Silver Hand and read it on her kindle on the journey to London. Winning the Slush Pile Challenge was really useful for the time factor alone, as un-agented authors become very used to not having the opportunity to present themselves and their work as fully as they would like.

Anne and I talked mostly about the book which was the subject of my winning paragraph. I had sent her four chapters prior to our meeting and we discussed in detail what I planned to do with the rest of the story. She had obviously read the chapters carefully and the discussion was a helpful one.

For example, Anne suggested that I increase the age of Edwin, the central character, to twelve as she feels that 9-12 year-old readers prefer their protagonists older rather than younger.

We also talked about possible publishers and markets. Anne seemed very enthusiastic about the book and, although she did not make me an offer of representation then and there, she explained, quite reasonably, that she needed to see whether she liked the rest of the book as much as she liked the beginning.

I plan to finish the novel over the summer and it is heartening to know that, when it is complete, I have an agent keen to read it. So it’s up to me to be as brilliant as I can! Thanks again to the SCBWI organisers of the Slush Pile Challenge and to Anne Clark.

I feel that I have jumped quite a few places in the queue that leads to publication and success.


  1. It sounds great - what was the winning pitch, though?

    1. Anne and I felt that it would not be a good idea to give away the plot of the book before I have finished writing it. This is why we have concentrated on the structure of my paragraph in general terms. In the happy event of 'The Dead World of Lanthorn Ghules' being accepted by a publisher, I shall be delighted to print the paragraph pre-publication. Gerald Killingworth

    2. I wish you lots of luck Gerald! It's such an intriguing title alone.

  2. Congrats Gerald, it sounds like a very helpful meeting - yay for SCBWI!

  3. Congratulations from me too. Sounds like a very useful meeting.


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.