This month Natalie Yates brings you the opportunity for feedback on your opening lines from Rachel Hamilton from The Ben Illis Agency

OPENING LINES gives you a chance to get some professional feedback so you can fine-tune your submissions. Three or more entries will be chosen at random for feedback. If yours is selected, it will be published anonymously here in April with Rachel's response.

Rachel Hamilton – An Introduction

Rachel’s journey to agenting has been a twisty-turny one, through ad agencies, a men’s prison, a building site, a secondary school and lots of lit fests. She fell in love with storytelling as an English teacher – perhaps because it was the easiest way to get students to stop talking and listen to her – and has written six books, published by Simon & Schuster, OUP and Scholastic. While promoting her own books, she discovered she preferred talking about other people's stories, so she trained as a moderator to chat with writing heroes like Alexander McCall Smith, Jasper Fforde and Esi Edugyan and began working as a freelance editor and consultant.


Rachel recently made the move into agenting at The BIA, where she's currently enjoying building her own list. She loves books with humour, particularly if it's edgy and smart and triggered by characters' actions, flaws and foibles. She is also a sucker for strong-voiced action stories that make you fall in love with a character and then plunge them into peril, pushing the 'what if' premise to extremes. 

How to submit your Opening Lines 

Please email and write OPENING LINES ENTRY in the subject line. Your email needs to contain:

• your full name

• title

• elevator pitch

first few opening lines – i.e. the first paragraph or up to the first 100 words only!

Make sure we receive your submission by March 28 2021 for your chance to get your lines seen by Rachel. 

We’ll publish the results on April 25 2021

Remember, OPENING LINES isn’t a competition, so you are free to submit your story elsewhere.



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

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 you've received feedback from OPENING LINES, how did it help you? If it led to you finding an agent or a publisher, we'd love to hear your story.


Natalie has been a SCBWI member since 2015 and is now Networks Coordinator for the North East. When she is not working as a Teaching Assistant for a local secondary school, she writes for the YA audience. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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