Results - Slush Pile Challenge - April 2016

Helen Mackenzie Smithliterary agent at Bell Lomax Moreton set this challenge.

My challenge was to produce a picture book text that covered one of life's important lessons (including, but not remotely limited to: being kind, being truthful, being considerate/polite, showing love, showing perseverance, etc) in a way that was funny, and not overly didactic or cute. I'm quite partial to a 'filip' or twist at the end, but that wasn't compulsory! Text length to be around the 500-750 word count mark.

Helen Mackenzie Smith

We received sixty-eight entries from members across British Isles and Europe for this competition. And now we have a winner! This is what the agent told us when announcing the results.

As agreed with the SCBWI BI team, I've read a random selection of forty of the submissions and I'm happy to announce that my winner is THIS BOOK HAS BEARS ALPACAS AND BEARS by  Emma Perry. 

I found the ‘voice’ in it instantly engaging and entirely refreshing.  

The feisty Alfonso made me laugh, and I really liked the way the text played with what the 'form' of a picture book is.  

It's quirky, and it's terrific fun. 

The text does have quite a 'knowing' feel to it, which I think could be tempered somewhat to ensure that it remains child-focused, and doesn't become too 'meta' in the way that can happen with books about books, but I was really struck by the distinctive tone and the humour here, and 'funny' was a significant part of my brief for this challenge.  

I'm really looking forward to talking to the writer behind this unusual text and to seeing what other stories they might have to tell.  

Two other texts deserve an honourable mention. 'AT THE TOP OF THE HILL' has such heart and I was really impressed by how, in a very succinct way, the writer has created such a convincing world populated by characters I really care about. 'WUNDERPANTS' was great fun and tackled a difficult and embarrassing subject for kids in a sensitive and light-hearted way.

I’d like to note that I was quite struck by the number of rhyming texts I received in response to this challenge. Lots of these were really good fun, and I can completely understand the read-out-loud appeal of a rhyming texts for sharing with children, but I would just caution against allowing the rhyme to dictate the story in a 'tail wagging the dog' sort of way. If rhyme is the absolute best and only way of telling your story, then brilliant (although do make sure that the rhyme is the absolutely watertight), but I sometimes find with rhyme that I become more preoccupied with the rhyme than the story itself, which can be a shame. 

Another tip I would offer is that a strong title is such a good way of grabbing a reader's (or an agent's or publisher's) attention, so do bear this in mind when naming your story.  Examples of submissions I felt had good titles were 'There's a Princess in my Soup', 'Bonkers about Beetroot' and 'The Trouble with Robots'. 

In conclusion, I'd just like to say a big 'congratulations' to all the writers who entered this competition. It's been a privilege to take part in the challenge, and I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best of luck with your writing.

Congratulations to Emma from all of us at Words & Pictures team. We hope she's well on her way towards getting her stories published. 
Well done to the two writers for getting an honourable mention. Pat Walsh for AT THE TOP OF THE HILL and Jo Dearden for WUNDERPANTS.
Thanks to everyone who entered. Keep writing and we hope you will be encouraged to try your hand at appropriate competitions.

Helen Mackenzie Smith is a literary agent at Bell Lomax MoretonHelen joined Bell Lomax Moreton in January 2014 as a picture book agent bringing a wealth of picture book editorial experience to the agency as a result of her previous roles at Random House Children's Publishers and HarperCollins Children's Books. 
Bell Lomax Moreton represents a wide range of distinguished authors and illustrators, writing and illustrating adult fiction, non-fiction and children's books. 

Helen is looking for stories and characters with humour and heart, and which fire the imagination. These might be in the form of projects from author-illustrators, or in texts or illustrations separately. She is currently focussing on picture books.

Elaine Cline has been a SCBWI member for over 3 years and loves to write picture books, junior fiction and middle-grade. She lives by the sea and has two soft and silly cats.

Elaine is a member of the Words & Pictures' editorial team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge for writers.


  1. Huge congratulations Emma. That's amazing news!!!

  2. Your story sounds really amazing Emma. Well done! Look forward to seeing it in print in the future...

  3. Congratulations, Emma! Wonderful news.

  4. Congratulations, Emma! Wonderful news.

  5. Congrats, Pat Walsh- and, dear critique partner, Jo Dearden, on Wunderpants, too!

    1. I'm loving those titles!

    2. a-ha! thanks Frances. And nice one Emma - hope I get to read your someday soon xx

  6. Congrats, Pat Walsh- and, dear critique partner, Jo Dearden, on Wunderpants, too!

  7. Huge thanks to Elaine for all your huge efforts in organising this.

    Big congrats to Pat Walsh & Jo Dearden for your honourable mentions, & to those picked for those great titles. I feel incredibly grateful to be a part of SCBWI right now.

    1. Thank you Emma. I agree SCBWI is a wonderful organisation and provides lots of opportunities for writers and illustrators to develop our craft. I hope that your meeting with Helen goes well.


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