Out of the quicksand by Jennifer Burkinshaw

Jennifer Burkinshaw entered our April Slush Pile Challenge set by Julia Churchill (A.M. Heath).  

Julia asked for a paragraph or two in the voice of the main character about what is it they want most and why.

You'll find out how Tess's voice and what she wanted most won Jennifer her meeting with Julia Churchill.

You can read about the competition and why Julia chose Jennifer as the winner for this challenge here

Now over to Jennifer to talk about her experience of entering the challenge, winning it and meeting with the judge.

I’d entered a few SCBWI competitions before; some of the Slush Pile challenges were simply beyond me, such as the need to be funny.  April’s, though, that was right up my street: just at the end of a new draft, of my YA novel, Quicksand, it wasn’t too hard to find a couple of paragraphs that got to the heart of what my main character, Tess, wants.

What’s harder, when you’ve been working on a story for a long time, is believing it will ever get anywhere at all. The email from Chitra, saying Julia Churchill had picked my Tess paragraphs, was the first time an agent’s hand had reached down to the sinking sand of redrafting for mine.

Since the competition asked for such a small piece of writing, Julia, very generously offered to look at my early chapters. 

And since this was probably the only time I’d ever step foot over the threshold of an agency, I very generously offered to go to London to meet her!

The generosity continued, as Julia spent a good hour with me. She wanted to know how Quicksand continues from the beginning she’d read; listened intently, and made some insightful suggestions about the subplot, and surprisingly, the ending and the sort of feeling and images I want my readers to go away with.

It was a real luxury to have the attention of such an experienced and incisive agent for a while; encouraging to hear there’s room in the market for a new, all-consuming love story and  that she’d like to see it, once it’s ‘cooked.’

A big thank you to SCBWI and Julia for lifting me and Tess out of the quicksand.

Well done, Jennifer. We're looking forward to your celebration of getting an agent and getting out of quicksand soon. 

Now get on with the edits and let us know when you land that big deal.


  1. It would be interesting and useful to read the paragraphs...

  2. I explained this on Facebook - but it would be good to iterate here. As the text is meant for submission and hopefully publication, it would be a problem for the writer if we published any extract here. She will need to keep all her rights for her agent to sell later on.


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