Catherine Pellegrino of Marjacq set the July 2021 Slush Pile Challenge.




Catherine was looking for great new contemporary YA voices and wanted to meet a 'kick-ass girl' or 'bad boy'. She requested 500 words about the main character and a half page synopsis of the story. The manuscript didn’t need to be completed.



We received 21 entries from members across the British Isles and Europe for this competition. Catherine read all of the submissions. This is what Catherine told us when announcing the results:



“Thank you to everyone who entered the August Slush Pile Challenge. I was really excited to take part and to see what kick-ass girls and bad boys you had in store for me. I really enjoyed reading all 21 entries and was impressed by the quality of the prose, the different genres and the different interpretations of the brief.



I have chosen two winners, one fantasy, the other dark dystopia as the voices of their characters, the quality of their prose and the worlds they created with so few words were totally gripping and left me bereft that I couldn’t read on and spend more time with them. Interestingly, in both entries, we learn most about the characters from those around them."



The winners are:


 Vita in The City of Dark Ink by Jo Baker.


 ‘Reader Dram, would say that I am stubborn and cold and arrogant and brilliant….’


‘You… you used to say that I have a soft centre, sweeter than toffee but just as intractable. Hard work, but worth it. That I am kinder than I think I am, and that my cleverness matters far less than my good heart. I am not convinced. I have done far worse things than I could ever admit to someone like you.’


Mattie in The Day the Flies Died by Sarah Macdonald.


‘Didn’t know Mattie before. Wish I had. The things she’s seen. The things she’s - we’ve done, they change you.


 - What things?


She wouldn’t like me talking to you. She keeps things deep. Say’s there’s no point giving a shit. But she does.’



I would also like to mention three other entries which caught my attention - Swansea Wipeout by Zoe Kear and The Raven Light by Mary Hopper both for their engaging and compassionate male characters, William Albright and Ben. It was very nice to meet you both. Also, Fyn in Nightwalker by Andrea Parr, a Sarah Connor in the making whose voice I would be interested to hear.”


 Congratulations to Jo Baker and Sarah Macdonald from all of us at Words & Pictures. We hope you are well on your way towards getting your writing published.


Well done to Zoe Kear, Mary Hopper and Andrea Parr for gaining a special mention.



Thanks to everyone who entered. Keep writing and we hope you will be encouraged to try your hand at appropriate competitions.


Catherine joined Marjacq in 2015. She began agenting at Rogers, Coleridge and White in 2007 and set up her own agency CPA when she moved to France in 2011. She is now based in London. Catherine represents children's (middle grade and YA) and adult fiction.


In children's fiction, whether literary, commercial or genre, she is looking for singular and underrepresented voices, powerful ideas, imaginative storytelling and characters who from the opening pages, take up residence in your heart and in your head.




Elaine Cline has been a SCBWI member for over six 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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