Megan Carroll of Watson Little Ltd set the April 2020 Slush Pile Challenge.

Megan wanted to see a non-rhyming text of no more than 700 words that took place in an interesting or unusual setting (not commonly seen in a picture book) that featured either human or animal characters. The characters needed to be compelling an appealing to children of course, but the setting also needed to play a part in the story.

We received 70 entries from members across the British Isles and Europe for this competition. Megan read all of the submissions. This is what Megan told us when announcing the results:

“Huge thanks to everyone that sent in an entry to this years Slush Pile Challenge, it was a real pleasure to read through them and see how differently each author tackled the challenge I set. I read each entry and it was really difficult to pick a winner – such a lot of talent, well done to everyone!

What really stuck out to me were the instances where the characters, plot and setting came together to create something really original but also child-friendly. I love an interesting setting in picture books and the texts that really stood out were where a brilliant setting completely fit alongside a really strong narrative.

So, (drum roll, please) I am delighted to announce my winner is THE PUFFIN FROM PLASTIC ISLAND by Corrina Campbell – a big issue book with lots of heart and a brilliant and striking setting about a Puffin who is struggling to find fish to eat and travels to the humans for help. It’s got a lovely, clear message that manages to not be too didactic and I enjoyed the clear writing and strong voice. There’s great visual potential here too, which is so important for a picture book text. I love stories that tackle the big issues in a child friendly way and this was certainly that, well done!

Honourable mentions go to THE POCKET PIRATE by Kate Thompson – a brilliant and inventive setting with a heart-warming ending that had a really strong narrative arc. THE READING TREE by Kathleen Luttschyn – a lovely, lyrical story about reading and the power of sharing books that had such heart. THE ICEBERG by Darren Sexton – a brilliantly visual story about a seal and a bear working together and learning to share.

The texts that didn’t quite work for me generally lacked a strong link between setting and narrative or had a great setting but the story wasn’t quite strong enough to back it up. At the core of any picture book, there needs to be a really strong story and narrative arc – these are short texts but still aim to give them a beginning, middle and an end. The character, and the reader, needs to go on a journey with you.

Congratulations to everyone who took part in this challenge, I really enjoyed reading all of these entries. I was so impressed by the range of texts (and interesting settings) and I wish you all the best of luck in your writing.”

Congratulations to Corrina Campbell from all of us at Words & Pictures. We hope they are well on your way towards getting their writing published.

Well done to Kate Thompson, Kathleen Luttschyn and Darren Sexton 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.

Megan Carroll graduated from Goldsmiths with a BA in English and American Literature in 2013 and worked as an intern at Watson, Little and Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency before returning to the agency as the assistant in July 2014. She is now an Associate Agent and is building her own list.

In Children’s and YA, Megan would love to see contemporary YA tackling realistic issues and big, epic love stories as well as funny, female-focused MG – think Louise Rennison – and an Abi Elphinstone-style adventure for that age group too. She’s also keen on finding new picture book authors writing funny, commercial texts tackling the big issues and is growing a list of talented illustrators for all ages.

Watson, Little Ltd handles an unusually wide range of fiction and non-fiction for adults and children. Founded in 1970, Watson, Little Ltd is a long-established literary agency that offers a full service to its clients across all aspects of media. It has an outstanding track record, and has represented a number of celebrated, bestselling and prize-winning authors over the years. Its current authors feature some of the world’s leading and most exciting novelists, children’s writers, historians, illustrators, and specialist writers, each of whom are at the top of their respective fields of expertise.

Watson, Little’s agents combine years of experience in many different aspects of the publishing industry with modern and author-centred attitudes and a keen awareness of the changing face of the industry.

Elaine Cline has been a SCBWI member for over five years and loves to write picture books, chapter books 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: @elaineccline

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