Results - Slush Pile Challenge October 2014

This challenge was set by Clare Wallace from the Darley Anderson Agency. 


was to write a first chapter and a synopsis for 5-8 year olds with brilliant characters and great storytelling.

We received 14 entries and we sent them all to Clare anonymously. 
BUT... We have a hitch...
Clare says: "After much deliberating, I don’t think I’m going to pick a winner. 
My two favourites were ‘My Dog Laid an Egg Today’ and ‘Sprite School’. 

My Dog Laid an Egg Today’ had a fun concept (the clue is in the title) and a strong voice. The protagonist, Jack, made me smile a few times and I definitely wanted to read on to find out what was going to happen next. But the synopsis was just that bit too complicated and fantastical for my tastes, and I felt that less might be more.

Sprite School’, about an accident-prone rat living in a school, again had a lovely pace, and some great characterisation. Both the sample and the synopsis felt very confident, and both made me giggle. But, again, sadly, I wasn’t convinced by the plot and wanted to see something more original.

There were some interesting concepts, and some vibrant characters...

But if these had come through the submission process in the normal way, I wouldn’t have requested the full manuscript for any of the entries.That sounds incredibly harsh, I know, but I think it’s better to be honest. 

The reason I asked for titles for 5-8 year olds is because I think this age group is particularly difficult - and although I would love to find some new talent in this area – it’s a very tricky age range to get right. 

For me, although there was something to enjoy in every submission, some of them felt a little flat or clichéd, or not quite contemporary enough, and some were too ambitious in their scope  - although I do love a bit of bonkers in a book, I also need to believe in the characters and be happy to suspend my disbelief.

Bigger isn’t always better.
There were a few entries involving portals, time-travellers and space adventures – and although the plot might have been moving at a breakneck speed, this wasn’t balanced enough with establishing the characters and the world in which they were living.

We really are on your side and actively seeking to grow our children’s list. 

I’m so sorry not to have picked a winner this time. There was a lot of potential in the submissions I received and I so enjoyed reading them all. But, as you will have heard many times before, this is a hugely subjective business and I didn’t feel that any one particular entry delivered on the brief quite enough.

If you’d have me back, I’d definitely participate again. Thanks so much for having me along."

While we are all disappointed that we didn't get a winner for this challenge, as writers we understand that honest feedback is very useful to improve our craft. As Clare said this age-group is the most difficult to write for. Don't be disheartened - we have more competitions planned for 2015.

Chitra has published over 20 books in Singapore, UK, USA and India. She loves writing picture books and retelling folktales. Her picture book Farmer Falgu Goes to the Market was released in India in November 2014 . Chitra is a member of the Words & Pictures' editorial team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge.


  1. I know that this will feel disappointing to some but I feel really heartened that Clare was able to be honest about it. I've learned a lot from reading her response to the entries and she's given us useful feedback on what works as well as what doesn't. I think that too many competitions give false hope and I applaud Clare and SCBWI for doing something that is harder than that -and much more useful. And this shows us that the age group is really hard to write for -I hope very much that we take her up on her offer of doing it again some time. Thank you, from another Clare (who's not yet written for this age group but who plans to over the coming years -and this has been really helpful).

  2. Very useful advice, and I'm glad I entered. Now I know what to work on! Thanks once again, to Clare and Chitra.

  3. I second all that's been said - thank you Clare and Chitra, both. A very interesting and important read for us aspiring authors - hitting the mark is hard, but not impossible. Keep going you fabulous peeps. You will get there.

  4. Thanks Clare for your honest and constructive feedback. Always disappointed when we don't see a winner but you offer some great pointers here. Thanks to Chitra too x

  5. Such good feedback is how we grow as writers - thanks for taking part!

  6. Hear hear, SCBWI writers are such pragmatic and positive bunch of people. I agree with everyone, it is important to get feedback about what is not working so when we really submit we can hit the mark. Thanks to everyone who entered and hoping you will enter future competitions too.


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