SLUSH PILE CHALLENGE April 2021 Winner Laura Warminger



Laura Warminger, winner of the April 2021 Slush Pile Challenge, tells us why she entered the competition and about her experience of discussing her submission with Joanna Moult, agent at Skylark Literary.



Laura won this challenge by demonstrating she was able to write an “irresistible intro” and hook Joanna Moult from the first few sentences. Joanna requested a maximum of 750 words of the opening of your novel (for any age group) that was so engaging that it made her want to close her email inbox and read all day long! It could have been funny, powerful, high-concept, voice-driven, fantasy, realistic contemporary or a mix of any of those, just as long as it gave Joanna that MUST READ MORE feeling. No synopsis needed and the manuscript didn’t need to be finished.



Joanna chose THE PHOENIX CHILD by Laura Warminger because “this story began with a lovely captivating mystery. A main character with some fabulous secret skills (what child doesn’t want to have the ability to make fire?!) and a really readable and charming opening came together to make me feel really engaged and keen to immerse myself in Soleme’s world and find out more!”






When I spotted the "irresistible intro" Slush Pile challenge, I instantly thought of the strange story that I had written a while ago called the Phoenix Child. I had originally intended it to be a short story for grown-ups rather than a Middle Grade novel opening. However, after sharing the beginning with my very kind and fabulous critique group, I have been trying to decide if I could write it into a whole book for children. So, on a bit of a whim, I entered it into the competition.



Like so many writers, I am always anxious about sharing the words I write. It has taken me a very long time to overcome this irrational fear. I have only just been brave enough to join a critique group in the last year! However, once you have you wonder why you have wasted so much time worrying. The prospect of talking to agents is also utterly terrifying but each time you push yourself out of your comfort zone, you become a little braver.



Being chosen as a joint winner with Jenny Ireland was a wonderful surprise. Joanna Moult’s comments in the Words & Pictures article were such a confidence boost. The beginning of Soleme’s story arrived in my head out of nowhere and it has niggled away at me for a long time, so it was brilliant to know that it was strong enough to hook Joanna.



My meeting with Joanna via Zoom was really encouraging. Joanna instantly made me feel at ease and she was really interested in Soleme’s story. Unfortunately, it is a long way from being finished but it was so helpful to be able to ask her questions about how it might progress. We chatted about my other writing and Joanna gave me some great advice about securing agents and asking the right questions before you decide. Her advice was ‘be picky’ which might sound a hard thing to even contemplate! However, Joanna’s advice has really stuck in my mind. The process of writing and publishing a book is slow and gruelling, so you really do need someone who will be your champion.



Currently I am waiting on some news about another manuscript, but whatever happens I will be taking on board all of Joanna’s helpful advice. I am very grateful to her for generously sharing her expertise. Many thanks also to SCBWI and Elaine for organising the competition. I have been very lucky to benefit from the many opportunities that SCBWI provides, and I am certain my writing is all the better for them.



Feature photo: Laura Warminger


The Words & Pictures team wish Laura all the best with polishing her manuscript. A special thanks to Joanna Moult, agent at Skylark Literary for setting the competition, judging it, and providing such valuable feedback to Laura.





Elaine Cline has been a SCBWI member for over six years and loves to write picture books, chapter books and middle-grade books. She lives by the sea and has two soft and silly cats. Elaine is a member of the Words & Pictures team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge.


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