SLUSH PILE CHALLENGE July 2017 results

Kate Nash, of Kate Nash Literary Agencyset the following challenge for Contemporary realism: "I'd like to see the opening to a children's story, from early reader to YA, 750 words maximum, that is set in the world of children or teenagers of today. I'll be very much looking for that realism alongside, naturally, the beginnings of a great and engaging story."  We received thirty-five 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 all of the submissions. My Slush Pile Challenge winner is SPIN! by Kim HowardCongratulations! The winning entry at once introduces us to a character with a problematic background - thirteen-year-old Jenny, who has taken the adult responsibility of running the household finances, as her mother wasn't capable and they were running into problems. Money is tight. These are the opening lines:
"Jenny stared at the laptop screen. £47.35 and still ten days until Mum's salary went into the account. She pulled out a biro... and did some sums on the back of Mum's credit card bill. She sighed. If she paid the minimum off the credit card, they would still have £5 to put on both the gas and electric keys without going overdrawn."
We're not given the whole backstory, as the action quickly takes over and we see Jenny on the computer being sucked in by some strange messages. By the end of the opening chapter we don't know if these are fact or fantasy, innocent or potentially more sinister, leaving the reader gripped in suspense to find out more. For the unusual domestic setting and characterisation, this entry is a very worthy winner.'

Sea Change was chosen as a runner-up. 'A vivid sense of place is created by the sparse, but very effective, small details in the written description - "the flattened bed of flickering coals" 

'This description is never overdone, and helps build the sense that these are real children about to have a big problem to deal with. The excellent dialogue, pace, and action also contribute to this entry deserving a special mention.'
"Chuck pulled his shorts on quickly, gave Alex a playful kick up the bum with his bare foot and said, 'Your turn.'"
Margot Mayhem And The Hairy Hamster Pants was also chosen as a runner-up. 'The writer creates an exceptionally vivid character within the opening paragraphs, whose child's viewpoint the reader can effortlessly share. There is lightness and humour. I have chosen an excerpt that illustrates why this entry deserves a special mention. Here the teacher and teaching assistant are crawling around the classroom looking for a missing hamster, as seen from the main character's viewpoint: 
"Mr Howl was very tall and had an enormous bottom. His bottom and Miss Bacon's bottom talked to each other, a conversation that went like this: 'Can you see him? one bottom asked. 
'No, can you?' the other bottom replied, and so on from table to table, all around the classroom, until it was nine o'clock and time for maths."'

'The 35 entries included a variety of settings and styles, many involving children and teenagers of the present day, with the second most character (and source of conflict) being Mum, followed by conflicted relationships with their peer group. As the challenge was realism, I would have liked to have seen more entries set in the reality of the present day or a historical reality, perhaps with external conflicts such as war or poverty. The entries that really stood out were those where the setting, conflicts, and characters seemed to be absolutely real.' 

Congratulations to Kim from all of us at the Words & Pictures team. We hope she's well on her way towards getting her stories published. Well done to the two runner-up writers for getting a special mention: Sylvia Hehir for Sea Change and Victoria Richards for Margot Mayhem And The Hairy Hamster PantsThanks to everyone who entered. Keep writing, and we hope you will be encouraged to try your hand at appropriate competitions.


Kate Nash of Kate Nash Literary Agency is a former author, publisher, publicist, and marketer. She has seen every side of publishing and set up her own literary agency so she could do the "best job in publishing". 

Kate's reading tastes - from romance to thrillers - are highly commercial.  

Kate Nash is listed at #20 in UK fiction by Publishers Marketplace, based on the number of deals made (Feb 2017). 

Elaine Cline has been a SCBWI member for over four 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.

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