SLUSH PILE CHALLENGE October 2021 Winner Sally Tomson



Sally Tomson, winner of the October 2021 Slush Pile Challenge, tells us why she entered the competition and about her experience of having feedback from Angharad Kowal Stannus, of Kowal Stannus Agency.


Sally won this challenge set by Angharad Kowal Stannus:


Angharad was looking for an “excerpt and a one-sentence synopsis for any novel age 5-8, 8-12, 10+ or Young Adult pertaining to the subject of love. It could have been in relation to any kind of love: romantic love; love of your country or homeland; friendship; the love between a child and parent; the love between a child and their dog (or cat, or elephant); love of nature, etc. The excerpt could have been from any part of the novel as long as it convinced Angharad of the underlying emotion or relationship and ideally made her feel something. The excerpt could have been as short as a few paragraphs but no longer than a chapter. THE NOVEL HAD TO BE COMPLETE.


Angharad chose The Hedge Witch by Sally Tomson as it was “full of passion and atmosphere, I loved what I read of The Hedge Witch and wished I could have read the whole manuscript then and there. The Author immediately pulled me in to the world of 17th Century England during the English Civil War and made me sympathize with their characters. Full of romance, danger and emotion, The Hedge Witch had everything I look for in a book.”




Without a doubt, winning the October 2021 Slush Pile Challenge with SCBWI was a roller coaster from start to finish. To start, I missed the email from Elaine at SCBWI BI Words and Pictures, so the first I heard of it was in an email from Angharad Kowal Stannus, which left me understandably, confused.


However, once we were over our initial confusion, the entire experience was a delight. Angharad provided very helpful feedback to me and requested the full manuscript.


This was my first full manuscript request and it completely revolutionised and revitalised my book. Although Angharad decided not to take on The Hedge Witch in its first draft, her advice and insights were absolutely invaluable, and I have taken what she said on board, dare I say it, with panache.


In fact, since winning the competition, I have stripped 80,000 words back to 10,000 and rewritten the majority of my manuscript. My WIP has a new name, a new main character, a new target age range … I could go on! I’m back up to nearly 70,000 words now and it’s going to be longer, darker and much better for the process. Angharad has even agreed to read the second draft when it’s done!


Much more importantly though, the competition massively boosted my belief in my writing. I’ve since gained a place on a creative writing master’s for next year at MMU, which I’m currently debating whether to do. I’ve written 20,000 words of my second novel and started another as well. As someone who has always written stories privately, it was really lovely to receive the recognition that my work is actually good!


My advice would be to give it a go if you feel you fit the challenge, then enter, because you could get as lucky as me.


So, thank you Angharad, and thank you also Words and Pictures for running the Slush Pile challenge and working so hard in the background. It’s been a brilliant experience.


Photo: Sally Tomson



A special thanks to Angharad Kowal Stannus, of Kowal Stannus Agency for setting the competition, judging it and providing such valuable feedback to Sally.





Elaine Cline 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. Elaine is a member of the Words & Pictures editorial team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge.


Twitter: @elaineccline



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