We are pleased to announce the January 2021 Slush Pile Challenge, set by Emily Talbot, of United Agents


Emily Talbot

Emily Talbot is an Associate Agent in the office of Jodie Hodges, and represents children's illustrators and authors of picture books, middle grade, teenage and YA. 


Emily started working at United Agents in 2013 in the foreign rights department, representing the overseas rights for United Agent's children's authors and illustrators, before moving over to primary agenting in 2015. Before this she worked in a primary school reading books with children every single day and discovering exactly what they like to read. 


She loves books that touch on the gritty realisms of life such as the writing of Louise O'Neill and Holly Bourne. She’s also on the lookout for middle grade of any kind; everything from authentic and emotive to humorous adventure. Above all she has a passion for great characterisation and is on the hunt for a distinctive, new voice in children’s literature, whatever age group that may find itself in. 


She’s also looking for picture book authors and illustrators. Her favourite picture books are those with an off-the-wall, irreverent humour. Not Now Bernard frames many a childhood memory for her for example. On the illustration side, if you’re looking for representation, the most important thing you can do is find your own voice and adapt a style that is unique to you. 




I would love to see a non-rhyming picture book text that incorporates a STEM theme or idea and does so in a fun, accessible and commercial way. It can be realistic or fantastical and can feature human or animal characters so there’s scope play around with it, but what I’m mostly looking for is a way of presenting this tricky topic with originality, and a desire to make it feel aspirational. Text length should be between 400-750 words approx and paginated into 12 spreads. Best of luck!



Emily will pick a winner. She will arrange to have a 30-minute meeting with the winner. It will be via Zoom or a phone call. 







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


If you win a challenge, you can enter any other Slush Pile Challenges but not with the same manuscript. 


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. 


3 The document should only contain THE TITLE and PICTURE BOOK 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' January 2021 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, it is necessary to generate a random selection 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 by Zoom 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 is a member of the Words & Pictures editorial team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge. She 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. 



  1. Thanks for another intriguing Slush Pile challenge. Thanks too to Emily. A great way to start 2021!!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to express your gratitude to the Words and Pictures editorial team and the agent/judge, Emily.


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