SLUSH PILE CHALLENGE October 2019 Winner Georgia Bowers

Georgia Bowers

Georgia Bowers, winner of the October 2019 Slush Pile Challenge, tells us why she entered the competition, and about her experience of discussing her submission with Chloe Seager, of The Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency.

Georgia won this challenge by submitting the first chapter, synopsis and pitch of a YA romantic comedy. 

Chloe chose Foes and Cons by Georgia Bowers as "what I loved about the ‘com’ aspect of this was the strong voice – Cece’s dry humour and tendency to say the wrong thing / fall into mishaps was greatly entertaining. What I loved about the ‘rom’ aspect of this manuscript was the love/hate relationship, with lots of sparky banter, which is always fun to read. But what I really connected with was the deep friendship at the core of the romance. Cece and Charlie are two people who know each other incredibly well and care about each other deeply, only somewhere along the way they’ve taken a wrong turn and misunderstood each other. I really wanted to watch them find their way back to one another! I so enjoyed the gap between what Cece knows and what the reader knows. We can all see that Cece still has feelings for Charlie, even if she can’t, and it’s that perfect ingredient every rom-com needs to have us all screaming at the main character to realise her true feelings … And being a fangirl myself, I adored the convention setting and the use of fandom as the thing that brought them back together.



“Before the virus there was the storm, whipping my hair around as I headed through the capital city. Even then, a few wore facemasks and kept their distance, almost as if they knew along with the howling wind that this, in fact, was the calm before the storm.

No, that’s not the opening of my dystopian YA WIP. It’s me casting my mind back to Storm Dennis in pre-lockdown February when I went to London to meet Chloe Seager.

Chloe’s Slush Pile Challenge was to write the first chapter and synopsis for a YA rom com. At the time, I was stuck in the middle of Self-pity Swamp having sent my witchy YA book to dozens and dozens of agents and although a few requested the full ms and loved it, it was still a no from them all.


Should I have a go at the MG idea I had? Maybe I should go full dark side and try writing the adult novel I’d been thinking about? Or maybe I should just give up all together? You know, all the usual post-rejection thoughts.

I was in such a negative place that it was affecting the way I felt about writing and I really needed to fall back in love with it. Chloe’s challenge was the perfect distraction from obsessively checking my inbox, as well as a chance to try something different as I usually write about magic and the macabre. So, I decided to just have fun and go for it.

I’m a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and have been to more conventions than Buffy owns impractical slaying ensembles, so I’d always wanted to set a YA novel at a convention. I let some ideas stew for a few days then got down to it. I wrote the chapter one handed on my iPhone while my 9-month-old baby refused to sleep anywhere else except on me. It came quite easily (apart from the thumb cramp) and the characters just stepped out of my imagination like they’d been waiting in there for ages.

Writing a synopsis for a book I’d only written the first chapter for was tough, but aren’t they always? Luckily there’s plenty of high jinks to be had at a convention and rom coms can really only end one way, so I had a beginning and an end and some fun stuff for the middle.

I wrote it, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. I bounced title ideas around with a friend and that also came easily which was a miracle as titles are usually my arch nemesis. I sent the first chapter and synopsis for Foes and Cons off, then got caught up in the pre-Christmas mayhem, so it was a total shock when I got the email saying I’d won. Chloe was so complimentary of what I’d written (she used the word ‘adored’, yay) and we set a meeting date.

I went to meet Chloe at the Madeleine Milburn Agency offices and got some invaluable advice and actual face to face time with a real-life agent (which feels like something from a historical novel in today’s climate. I mean, we hugged and everything). After we’d chatted about the chapter and where the rest of the story would go, Chloe said those words that every author longs to hear.

‘It has a great voice.’

I nearly fell off my stool. Voice is something we all get told about and try to make happen. I’d achieved it simply by writing for the love of writing instead of pressuring myself about word count, or what the next trend was going to be, or whether I should try Scrivener.

I just wrote.

Now, six months on, Storm Dennis is just a memory, but the face masks aren’t. Working from home and looking after my two little ones has been challenging, plus having a home office co-worker who keeps using my Buffy mug. It’s nearly impossible to find time to write, but when I do, I go back to that mindset of writing for the absolute love of it. It feels more important than ever to check in with that feeling.

I’m happy to say that I’ve had some good news with the witchy YA novel now, but I keep going back to Foes and Cons as the characters are badgering me to finish their story. Which I will.

And I’ll enjoy it.”
* Photos: Ubh Photos and Georgia Bowers

A special thanks to Chloe Seager, Literary Agent at Madeleine Milburn Literacy Agency for setting the competition, judging it and providing such valuable feedback to Georgia.

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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