SLUSH PILE CHALLENGE Penny Wilcox January 2018 Winner

Penny Wilcox winner of the January 2018 Slush Pile Challenge, tells us why she entered the competition and about her experience of discussing her submission with Thérèse Coen, Rights Director and Agent at Hardman and Swainson

Penny won this challenge by demonstrating she was able to write a one-line pitch, blurb and first chapter of a middle-grade fantasy or sci-fi adventure with either friendship or family at its heart.

Thérèse chose Penny's submission because she thought The Ghost Party was such a fun take on the haunted house and ghost family concept and loved the clear, crisp and energetic writing. The short first chapter really seems to set the stage for a terrifically fun story.

And to think I nearly didn’t enter this competition! After all, the brief – set by Thérèse Coen of Hardman & Swainson - was ‘first chapter of a middle-grade science fiction or fantasy story with family or friendship at its heart’… and I don’t do sci-fi or fantasy, do I? But I did have this idea lurking around for a very family-orientated ghost story. Are ghosts fantasy? I wondered. Well, it seemed worth having a go, so I did. After all, I’ve been entering Slush Pile competitions fairly regularly for a few years! Never for one moment did I expect to win! Nor to receive such positive comments when the results were published.

Thérèse was very generous with her time. Not only did she read every entry; she also asked for several more chapters before our one-to-one. Considering how incredibly busy she was (the Bologna Book Fair intervened) I deeply appreciated this extra time that she gave. Our meeting took place over Skype and was a wide-ranging and constructive discussion on how to develop the story, giving it greater depth and breadth, as well as more humour. My original idea had been for an early reader but Thérèse felt it was now aiming at the right age group. We also touched on more general writing topics, like books for children whose reading age lags behind their chronological age, and about how helpful SCBWI critique groups are.

All in all, Thérèse could not have been more friendly and encouraging, and she left me feeling motivated and enthusiastic about working hard on this story. Maybe I will at last produce something I think is submittable.

Thank you to Thérèse and the Words & Pictures team. The Slush Pile Challenges represent an invaluable opportunity to meet an agent and take one more step along that long road to publication. And winning is the best encouragement of all.
Feature photo: Penny Wilcox

The Words & Pictures team wish Penny all the best with polishing her manuscript. A special thanks to Thérèse Coen, Rights Director and Agent at Hardman and Swainson for setting the competition, judging it, and providing such valuable feedback to Penny.

Elaine Cline has been a SCBWI member for over five years and loves to write picture books, middle-grade and teen books. She lives by the sea and has two soft and silly cats. Elaine is a member of the Words & Pictures team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge.

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