We are pleased to announce the July 2019 Slush Pile Challenge, 
set by Ben Illis of The BIA (Ben Illis Agency).

Ben Illis
Ben Illis has been lucky enough to work in many guises in the publishing industry over more than two decades. As part of the branch management team of Books Etc, he bought kids and YA books in stores across the whole of London. He was a co-founder of Old Street Publishing. He has been both sales director and marketing director of small publishers. He has acquired, commissioned and edited; done picture research and ghost-written, all ahead of turning his hand to agenting. He is a published writer in his own right and has had the experience of working with agents both good and bad from the other (your) side of the fence.

After two years working in-house at AM Heath, Ben established The BIA in 2013 to offer specialist literary representation, focussing on writers of children's, young adult and crossover fiction, and select clients who also write for adults. The team at The BIA works directly with publishers around the world, both directly and via a network of sub-agents and scouts.

As a small agency, with a small team, The BIA can offer a personal service, working more closely with their clients to build their work into as commercial a prospect as possible. They are in constant contact with editors at UK and international houses  both large and small  as well as, of course, the Film and TV world  and pride themselves on finding the right home on the right list for the right book.

Ben is looking to be transported. He looks for the sorts of stories that make him want to stay up late under the covers with a torch, squeezing in just one more chapter before he falls sleep. 



First off, I’d like to say how thrilled I am to be setting this month's challenge.

I’d like to invite children’s narrative non-fiction submissions for my Slush Pile Challenge. I’m keeping it very broad though, so fear not!

I’d like to see only ONE submission per writer for a narrative non-fiction aimed at any of the following demographics: 7-9; 9-12; 13-15 (teen, broadly) or 16+ (YA).

Your submission should include:
  • Outline of the book, including why you think there is space for it out there
  • Some market research on competing titles in the market-place, which might include publisher, pub date etc
  • Target readership, including (if applicable) any syllabus/key stage tie-in
  • Why you are the writer to tell this story
  • A sample of up to 2500 words of text (give or take) from your proposed narrative non-fiction title.
You might want to propose a biography/history/story of a person, place, event, concept, hobby, inanimate object, animal(s) or geographical feature, even. You might have a gazillion FAR more interesting ideas than those. We at The BIA are looking forward to finding out and reading your submissions!

Simple, no?

As I suspect fewer SCBWIs will have non-fiction up their sleeves, I have arranged with the SCBWI BI Words & Pictures to allow a longer timeframe than usual for entrants to enter. Let’s call it “The Big Summer Slushpile Challenge.”



The winner of this month’s challenge will get a meeting with Ben in real life or on Skype, depending on location, and the chance to pitch further ideas and pick his brains with your questions about the industry and the process. All strong entries will of course also be considered as agency submissions.



You need to be an un-agented, current SCBWI member, and resident in either the UK or Europe.

If you win a challenge, you will not be able to enter any other Slush Pile challenges.

To join SCBWI and take advantage of the many opportunities to raise your profile, market your work, meet fellow writers, artists and the gatekeepers to publication, while being supported in the development and pursuit of your craft, visit

If, between submitting your entry and the winner being announced, you gain representation from an agent, please contact us at


1. Check that you are a paid-up member of SCBWI before submitting your entry by going to Any entries received where member's details cannot be found on SCBWI records will not be included as a valid entry. 

2. Send in your entry as a single Word Document to Submissions to the Slush Pile Challenge should not be sent direct to the agent/editor/judge. 

3. The document should only contain OUTLINE OF BOOK, SOME MARKET RESEARCH, TARGET READERSHIP, WHY YOU ARE THE WRITER TO TELL THE STORY and A SAMPLE OF UP TO 2500 WORDS OF TEXT the judge has requested. Do not include your name, address or email address in your word document or the document name. The word document should be named in the following format – 'your title' July 2019 Slush Pile.doc

4. Please do not insert a header or footer in your submission. 

5. In the email please write your full name as it appears in SCBWI membership records and your email address. Also include the title of your work.

6. Shortly after you have submitted your entry you will receive an email from the competitions email address stating, “Your entry has been received.” If you do not receive this message please send an email to However, we cannot put entries through after the closing date unless your entry is received on or before the closing date. 

7. Only the first entry will be considered. Please do not send revisions, multiple entries or multiple attachments. 

8. Any entries received after the closing date will automatically be disqualified. 


As soon as the competition is closed, a random selection is generated using a computer program. All valid and verified entries received will be included irrespective of whether the entry was received on the date of the launch of the competition or on the closing date, or whether the entrant has previously had their submissions seen by an agent/editor/judge. This has to be done to ensure that there is no bias or pre-judging from SCBWI BI/SCBWI BI Words & Pictures editorial team when sending the entries for judging. The terms of the competition are that the judge agrees to read a minimum of fifteen entries from the number of submissions. In many cases the judge requests to read more. When a judge requests to read fifteen or another proportion of the total entries, those chosen as the first ones to be read by the computer will be sent to him/her. Sometimes the judge may request a further selection of valid and verified entries before making their decision. When this occurs, to avoid bias, the next group of entries from the initial computer generated random selection will be sent to the judge. There are times when the judge requests to read all the entries and these are then forwarded to him/her. 

The judge will pick a winner and also tell us why. Sometimes he/she may quote a few sentences or phrases from the winner's submission in the blog announcing the winner.  

The winner will be put in touch with the judge so they can arrange the 30-minute discussion, in person, by Skype, or on the phone.

Good luck everyone!

The Words & Pictures team are aware that our members write for different ages and genres. With this in mind, we endeavour to provide at least one Slush Pile Challenge a year that our un-agented members feel able to enter.


Elaine Cline has been a SCBWI member for over six years and loves to write picture books, middle-grade and teen books. She lives by the sea and has one dog and one cat. 

Elaine is a member of the Words & Pictures editorial team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge. 

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