SLUSH PILE CHALLENGE January 2019 Winner Robert Glenny

Robert Glenny, winner of the January 2019 Slush Pile Challenge, tells us why he entered the competition and about his experience of discussing his submission with Alice Williams, of Alice Williams Literary.

Robert won this challenge by demonstrating he was able to create 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 characters could have had the potential to perhaps appear in further books. Text length: approx. 400-600 words, in 12 spreads. 

Alice chose 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."


There’s something wonderfully bossy about competition deadlines, so I used this deadline to finish ‘Double Trouble’, an idea that had popped into my head for a pitch that (surprisingly!) ended up winning at the Winchester Festival.

I couldn’t wait to bring this idea of a four-year-old inventor and her doubling machine to life, so with the tentative confidence from the initial win and the help of my critique group I worked it up into a final text and sent it in.

When I discovered I’d won the Slush Pile challenge I was so surprised (Won? But I can barely string a sentence together!) I think it’s one of my happiest moments and I did three laps of the flat before being told to explain myself by my partner. (“The slush pile challenge? That sounds a bit disgusting.”)

I met Alice for my 1-to1 at the London Book Fair. It was so nice to meet face to face and she gave me a wonderful hour of insight into Double Trouble, my art concepts for Fizz, my portfolio and other writing work (I came prepared!) Her clarity of thought and directions on what she saw were brilliant, giving me a clear steer on what publishers were looking for and how to push my artwork on.
Sharing my portfolio

Her thoughts on Double Trouble came with a twist too. “Who do you think are the two friends in this story?” she asked. I thought they were Fizz and her double self, but Alice said, “Have you thought about it being Fizz and her sidekick cat?” Alice then suggested focusing the story on the fun of the core idea, which was doubling things, rather than getting side tracked by the mirror-character. I wasn’t sure at first, but as I rewrote it, the story untangled itself into something far better.

After doing a few more drafts, Alice very generously gave feedback on the latest and I’m currently rolling through her suggestions, as they were all perfect. I’m excited to see where it goes. The feedback has really helped shape my work for the better.

It’s so rare to get access to such expertise, and I’m so grateful to the SCBWI team for creating these opportunities and all the behind the scenes work that goes on. Thank you to Alice Williams, of Alice Williams Literary!

Feature photo: Robert Glenny

The Words & Pictures team wish Robert all the best with polishing his manuscript. A special thanks to Alice Williams, of Alice Williams Literary for setting the competition, judging it and providing such valuable feedback to Robert.

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 team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge.

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