SLUSH PILE CHALLENGE January 2019 Results

Alice Williams of Alice Williams Literary set January's challenge.

Alice wanted a non-rhyming text with a pair of characters at its heart. They could have been animals or children. They could have been, for example, siblings, friends, a child and a grandparent, or a child and their pet, or even a toy. It could have been realistic or magical. These are characters who could have perhaps appeared in further books. Text length: approx. 400-600 words, in 12 spreads. 

Alice Williams

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

“First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for sending me so many fantastic texts. I read all 102 of them – twice! Even so, it’s perfectly possible I’ve missed some gems in there, so please don’t be despondent if I don’t mention yours now. 

What I was looking out for were texts in which the writing, characters and concept came together in an original, very child-friendly way. Texts that really stood out, and had strong visual potential, whether they were funny, lyrical or issue-based.

So, without further ado, my winner is Double Trouble by Robert Glenny. It’s about a girl inventor, her side-kick cat and a machine designed to solve a problem that many children will relate to. This leads to a madcap sequence of events, culminating in the girl’s realisation that she hadn’t really had a problem in the first place. So we have a warm ending and a subtle, talking-point ‘message’. There are lots of great ingredients here for a successful text.

A close second for me would be Danni’s Dinosaur by Frances Tosdevin. Also a funny text (and also with a strong girl character) this is a spirited romp through lots of different dinosaurs in search of a special friend.

It was interesting – as I knew it would be – to see all the different ways you wrote about a pair of characters. 

Some of the texts centred around an existing relationship – sometimes a parent or a grandparent (nice to see lots of Grandpas there as well as Grannies!). The tone here was often loving and reassuring. A particularly assured example of this was What If? by Jenni Skene, one of several texts dealing with the kind of everyday worries that can make children anxious.

Many of the texts celebrated differences between friends (or siblings), an important theme. One striking example of this was Stone Stories by Hannah Sanguinetti about a boy and his brother who is blind. 

There were some very engaging texts that started with conflict or loneliness and progressed to friendship. Sometimes, though, the pairing didn’t work out – such as in the funny text, The Pet Princess by Becky Wilson about a rather spoilt dragon!

We had lots of bear stories, some lovely pet stories, and several witches and their cats/bats. A number of alien stories too. All of these are great, enduring themes/settings that can be given a twist to keep them feeling fresh. Some writers chose to focus on more unusual animals or even inanimate objects as friends, which can be more challenging in some ways, but as long as the emotional engagement with the reader is there, can absolutely win hearts.

Just a couple of suggestions about areas to watch out for: a few of the texts had a school setting, and while that can sometimes be appropriate, it can occasionally be a warning that the story isn’t quite pitched squarely for core picture book readers. The other thing that held a few texts back was a slight lack of drama. It is unfortunately very hard for a ‘quiet’ or ‘gentle’ text to stand out, however well written.

And finally, as I know has been said before in Slush Pile Challenges, titles are important and good ones should be celebrated! A few that stood out for me were You’ve Gone Too Far Granny Knit-a-Lot, Piggyprickle’s First Winter and Houndini The Great.”

Congratulations to Robert Glenny from all of us at Words & Pictures. We hope you are well on your way towards getting your story published.

Congratulations to Frances Tosdevin for coming a close second.

Well done to Jenny Skene, Hannah Sanguinetti and Becky Wilson for gaining a mention.

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

Alice Williams set up her agency in 2018, having represented children’s books for over ten years at David Higham Associates. She is looking for funny, warm, exciting, or inspiring stories for children of all ages. 

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 comment:

  1. Thank you to Alice for reading so many manuscripts (!) and congratulations to Robert for your winning manuscript!


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