We are pleased to announce the April 2021 Slush Pile Challenge, set by Joanna Moult of Skylark Literary.


Joanna is co-founder of Skylark Literary Limited, a specialist Children’s and YA literary agency. She represents many talented authors including Nizrana Farook and Simon James Green. Before setting up Skylark Literary, Joanna was Editorial Director for Children’s Fiction at Mulcahy Conway Associates, discovering and nurturing new talent. Joanna began her publishing career at Hodder Children’s Books, where she edited authors such as Cressida Cowell and Kes Gray. She then moved to become Senior Commissioning Editor at Simon & Schuster, managing the children’s fiction list and editing Sophie McKenzie, among other great writers.

You can follow Joanna on Twitter at @JoannaMoult and Skylark Literary at @SkylarkLit 


Irresistible intros – I want to be hooked from the first few sentences. Please send a maximum of 750 words of the opening of your novel (for any age group) that is so engaging it makes me want to close my email inbox and read all day long! It can be funny, powerful, high-concept, voice-driven, fantasy, realistic contemporary or a mix of any of those, just as long as it gives me that MUST READ MORE feeling. No synopsis needed and don’t worry if you haven’t finished the manuscript.”


Joanna 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 Challenge, 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/editor/judge.
  3. The document should only contain THE TITLE and a MAXIMUM OF 750 WORDS OF THE OPENING OF YOUR NOVEL that 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' April 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 agent/editor/ judge requests to read more. When an agent/editor/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 agent/editor/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 has been a SCBWI member for over seven 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.



  1. Brilliant to have Joanna with this month's Slush Pile Challenge - thanks Joanna! I attended one of the Skylark Literary SCBWI tour events in Cambridge a few years back and both Joanna and Amber were really helpful. Best wishes to everyone.

    1. Thank you for comments and I remember Joanna and Amber doing a tour around the UK reaching out to unagented SCBWI members. I attended one in Exeter and it was brilliant.


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