SLUSH PILE CHALLENGE January 2020 Results

Becky Bagnell of Lindsay Literary Agency set the January 2020 Slush Pile Challenge.

Becky wanted to see the first 1,000 words of a middle grade adventure and ½ page synopsis that had a child and animal friendship/relationship at its heart. It could have been a contemporary, historical or fantasy adventure - so the animal didn’t need to exist in the real world. For inspiration she was looking for anything along the lines of One Dog and his Boy or The Abominables by Eva Ibbotson or something magical like His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.

Becky Bagnell

We received 50 entries from members across the British Isles and Europe for this competition. Becky read all of the submissions. This is what Becky told us when announcing the results:

“Many thanks to everyone who entered the January 2020 Slush Pile Challenge; it was a real honour to be asked to take part. The competition I set asked for a middle-grade adventure with a child and animal adventure at its heart and I was blown away both by the talent and the number of original stories received. There were 50 entries in total and I couldn’t resist reading them all to make sure I didn’t miss out on any hidden gems.

It was a tricky task, but in the end I managed to whittle down the entries to a shortlist of five, which were:

Curse of the Goldicoot by Dawn Treacher

Dexter Drake and the Devils of Endling by Maggie Womersley

A Sea of Spirits by Chloe Nicoll

Microraptor by Philip Kavvadias

Izzy Piper: Apprentice Mathemagician by Lesley Scriven

Each one of these entries captured my attention and interest in a different way. All five offered unique and compelling voices and seemed to stand out either in terms of the original setting or the strong and intriguing characters. There were lots of wonderful animal/child friendships and each one offered something different.  

Choosing the winner was tricky and so instead I decided on joint winners and… these were: 

Izzy Piper: Apprentice Mathemagician by Lesley Scriven & Dexter Drake and the Devils of Endling by Maggie Womersley.

I chose these two because they were the ones that stayed with me long after I’d finished reading all fifty entries. They were also the ones I wanted to return to and find out more.

I knew from the very first sentence that there was something special about, ‘Dexter Drake’. It begins, “One night quite recently, when the sea was as flat as a black mirror reflecting a silver coin, two odd creatures appeared on the cliffs above the Old Town.” It sums up a whole dramatic scene and immediately draws the reader into the world the author has created.

With ‘Izzy Piper’, it was the descriptions of Chester, the Canadian automaton palm reading bear and his relationship with Izzy that initially intrigued me. The Extraordinary Vintage Emporium is so perfectly described – for instance I loved, ‘…the tiger skin rug that snarled when you stepped on its tail.’

In terms of advice for those that didn’t make the shortlist – I would say that the difference between capturing an agent or editor’s attention and being passed over is often very little.

Indeed there were lots of other stories I could have picked out as having piqued my interest or characters who stood out. However, it is the stories that begin just as something interesting is unravelling and that describe a world that is both new and yet immediately recognisable or tangible in some way that tend to reel me in. 

Many thanks again to all those authors who entered the competition – it was a lot of fun!”

Congratulations to Maggie Womersley and Lesley Scrivens from all of us at Words & Pictures. We hope they are well on your way towards getting their writing published.

Well done to Dawn Treacher, Chloe Nicoll and Philip Kavvadias for gaining an honourable mention.

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

The Lindsay Literary Agency was founded in 2008 and has a special interest in children’s books, from picture books through middle grade and up to young adult. We represent a wide range of award-winning authors who have been translated across the world. However, our list will always be open to new authors, whether they are unpublished or mid-career. We have close contacts with all the major publishing houses and because we are very selective in the manuscripts we submit to editors we can ensure our authors get the attention and interest they deserve.

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 a dog and a cat. Elaine is a member of the Words & Pictures' editorial team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge for writers.

Connect with Elaine on Twitter: @elaineclineuk

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