In this week's Undiscovered Voices writer interview, we're delighted to introduce Nicola Penfold.

Tell us what you write

I write middle grade adventure stories.

Why did you enter Undiscovered Voices?

A lovely friend recommended SCBWI and Undiscovered Voices to me last summer. I’d just started a book I was really excited about, set in an imagined future where a deadly tick-borne disease has made nature dangerous, and people live shut away from it in cities.

Tell us about the book you submitted

My two main characters, 13-year-old Juniper and her little brother, Bear, don’t fit in to city life. They’re always in trouble, and then things become so dangerous they must escape. So my book’s sort of bleak and dystopian in the beginning, though Juniper and Bear cling to any beauty they can find in the sterile city: the glasshouse where their grandmother has a license to grow a few plants; old forbidden books; an Emporium where they find clues to the past. The second half is all about the Wild outside the city, and the perilous journey Juniper and Bear have to make. It’s a rediscovery of nature, and of themselves.

How did you feel about winning Undiscovered Voices?

Undiscovered Voices has been incredible. I can’t state strongly enough what it’s meant. It opened the door to so much clever and constructive feedback, as well as a number of agent offers.

Have you had any success with your book as a result of Undiscovered Voices?

I signed with Aitken Alexander’s Gillie Russell, one of the UV judges, and she’s been entirely amazing. My book needs some work yet, but I’m excited about what’s ahead, and really hope that Juniper and Bear can go on their journey out into the Wild.

Tell us about about yourself

I grew up in Doncaster, moved to Cambridge for university and then came to North London where I’ve lived ever since. I suppose I’m a Londoner now, and my four children have never known anything else, though we’re always keen to escape to wilder places in school holidays - by the sea and back up north. I’ve wanted to be a writer all my life and I’m so enormously grateful to SCBWI and the whole UV team for their hard work and this fantastic opportunity. I can’t finish without a shout out to my totally brilliant UV2018-ers. They’re the best cheering squad when things go well and the kindest support network when you need a boost.

You can find me on Twitter @nicolapenfold

You can download the Undiscovered Voices 2018 anthology here to read an extract from Nicola's book.

Undiscovered Voices is an anthology published every other year by the British SCBWI and aims to help fresh, new voices in children’s literature – both writers and illustrators – find agents, publishers and ultimately readers. Undiscovered Voices has launched the careers of writers and illustrators, who have gone on to publish more than 200 books. These authors have been nominated for, and won, an amazing array of literary prizes: including the Carnegie Medal, Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, Branford Boase Award, Blue Peter Award, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, and nearly 30 regional awards. Visit www.undiscoveredvoices.com for all the details and news when submissions will open for the next anthology.


  1. Great interview, and the book sounds amazing!

  2. Thanks, Nizrana. Means a lot coming from you! 😊


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