Davinia Andrew Lynch of ANDLYN Literary Agency set the following challenge.

Davinia gave our unagented members a choice of challenges. However, they were only allowed to enter ONE challenge. They had to submit a logline, one-page synopsis and the first three chapters.

"Middle-grade: I'm looking to be scared. And not in a twee sense. Think Goosebumps or, Nickelodeon's Are you afraid of the dark. How the old favourites get a little more … twisted? Essentially I want to be taken back to my 11-year-old self - petrified to read the following page, but desperate to know what happens next. Words of caution though: AGE APPROPRIATE PLEASE!



Young Adult: Romance is the word of the day. And I want it to be comedic. No lovers horrifically scorned, no parting with sweet (and death) sorrow. Just your happy-go-lucky, universal rom-com with enough jeopardy to keep us hooked but not have us blubbing out of sheer heartbreak. And let's have real teenagers, not thirty-year-olds in sixteen-year-olds' bodies!


Image result for picture of davinia andrew-lynch
Davinia Andrew-Lynch

We received eleven entries from members across the British Isles and Europe for this competition. Davinia read all of the submissions. This is what Davinia told us when announcing the results:

“I know my Slushpile challenge (or challenges) was rather specific and at completely different ends of the fiction spectrum but I very much wanted this to be an opportunity to find material which hadn’t yet appeared in my Submissions Box.  This was a chance to achieve my Wish List: I think it did the trick because though the entries were small in number, they were high in quality and that meant you didn’t make my job easy!

So to the front runners: It seems that Middle Grade horror has particularly caught peoples’ imagination and there were two entries, so different, both inspired and with great promise which really stood out.  It has to be said, I found it incredibly difficult to choose my winner here.

After a lot of umming and ahhing (and an actual written pros and cons list), my winner is THE SCARE CROWD by Geoff Barker.

This touches brilliantly on the type of fear factor I was looking for i.e other worldly but firmly rooted in our reality, and freaked-out-by-my-own-shadow scary.  It was brilliantly creepy and the pitch line of:

 Village of the Damned meets Goosebumps: The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight
meets The Wicker Man!)”

Perfectly met my brief. Also who knew that Hygge could ever be considered remotely scary?!

Of course, it’s all very well having a scary concept but the characters (both good and bad) really have to come alive to make you quiver in your boots. Maggie, the protagonist of The Scare Crowd, was startling real.  Her narrative voice, revealed through her journal, and told with an unmistakeably Scottish dialect, was a wholly refreshing voice for the Middle Grade market.  I was engrossed immediately by her strong and direct personality, her thoroughly disconcerting dreams, and those truly horrific tattie-bogles.

This was a clever opening few chapters, and if this had entered my inbox – there is no doubt it would have me stopping to read immediately.

Also however, I must mention WINTERHOWL by Jenny Shippen. To be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of the title, it made me expect something of a heavier fantasy vein to what I read… which was very good. The opening chapters took me right back to being 11 years old, under the cover and scared. 

The writing here was so strong, every scene was clearly and confidently set, and the description was vivid and original, helped by a startlingly original turn of phrase which immediately sucked me into Olly’s world and surroundings. The characters jumped right off the page, I loved the references to Hammer Horror, and despite an uneasy atmosphere quickly and expertly created, I laughed. Often. Therefore, Winterhowl comes in as my highly commended entry.

Again, thank you to all the entrants, and especially those who really homed in on what I was looking for when setting the challenges.   A quick note to the YA Rom-com entrants.  This is such a difficult area in which to write, and I guess what I am really looking for is a set-up which harks back to the old favourites but gives us a fresh and unique spin on the genre.  I want a manuscript which feels wholly British, whilst telling a universal story.  I want something that reflects this land in all its forms, something that feels new and (more importantly) relevant to teenagers today, something to make every lucky soul who reads it feel head over heels about the prospect of first love. 

Well done to all and thanks again for taking up the challenge!”

Congratulations to Geoff Barker from all of us at Words & Pictures. We hope he is well on his way towards getting his story published.

Well done to Jenny Shippen for being highly commended.

Thanks to everyone who entered. Keep writing and we hope you will be encouraged to try your hand at appropriate competitions.

ANDLYN is a boutique agency dedicated to children's fiction and content. Set up by Davinia Andrew-Lynch, the aim is to find authors whose material can, not only exist on the page, but also find an outlet through other media territories. Davinia was previously an associate agent at a highly reputable film and television agency, and has worked simultaneously as a freelance children's fiction editor and reader for various publishers, literary agencies, consultancies and scouts. The small an intimate nature of the agency means the services offered will be tailored to an individual's needs. This is not a 'one size fits all' agency, but a place for authors, illustrators and storytellers to nurture their talent and ultimately their careers.

Elaine Cline has been a SCBWI member for over five years and loves to write picture books, junior fiction and middle-grade. She loves writing about food. 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.

Connect with Elaine on Twitter: @elaineclineuk


  1. Hello,
    I see that Andlyn is currently not considering Picture Books. Does anyone knows if this is permanent or temporary?
    Also, how do I take part in the Slushpile challenge?

    Many thanks. :)

    1. At the moment, Andlyn does not take accept picture books. I'm not sure whether Davinia Andrew-Lynch intends to represents in the future. I think you will need to look at that website and also agents websites to see if they accept picture books at the time you wish to submit.

      The SCBWI BI Words and Pictures Slush Pile is launched every quarter on the first Sunday of the month - January, April, July and October. The links are posted on SCBWI BI facebook pages and also on network pages. They are also posted on twitter.


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