Chloe Davis of Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency set and judged the April 2022 Slush Pile Challenge.




Chloe wanted “to receive the first chapter and synopsis of a young fiction title, ideally for the 5-8 age range. It would have been great to see some humour and silliness in the writing, as well as some great storytelling and memorable characters. Anything with series potential was very welcome! The manuscript should have been completed prior to the entry being submitted.



We received 47 entries from members across the British Isles and Europe for this competition. As agreed with SCBWI BI team, Chloe read 30 submissions. This is what Chloe told us when announcing the results:


“First of all I want to say a big thank you to everyone who submitted their work. It was a real pleasure going through them all and I was blown away by the quality of the submissions. I loved the sense of joy and silliness in each of these texts and I’m sure that children would too! Thank you also to SCBWI for giving me the chance to be a part of this month’s Slush Pile Challenge.


It was a hard job deciding on my shortlist and winner, but after careful consideration I have decided that the winning entry is… Hattie Harris: A Forever Family! by Tara Girvan. This story has a gentle and reassuring, yet also hugely fun, voice to it and more than anything I love that it places adoption at its heart in a very light and warm way. It was refreshing to read a story told from a different and underrepresented perspective, and to see an adoptive home depicted in such a loving way. The story has a loveable cast of characters and Hattie in particular is a very warm and relatable protagonist who I’m sure children would connect with instantly. This is definitely a story with a lot of potential!


I’d like to award my runner-up position to Maisie and the Space Catapult by Amy Feest. This a very fun story and I think readers would instantly be drawn into the silliness of it. I love that Maisie lives on a double decker bus on an allotment and that she and her friend create inventions out of junk found in their local junk yard. The voice is fun and age-appropriate, and the general concept has commercial appeal. There was a lot to enjoy in this story!


I also wanted to mention a couple of other submissions that caught my attention. The first is Seraphina Wisp by Jessica Nelson, which has a great sense of voice and a fun cast of monster characters. The storyline is intriguing and very commercial. I particularly liked the groaning mummies in the laundry room! The second story I wanted to mention is Suzette Rattlebones and the Nefarious Factory by Anne Boyere. This is another story with a good sense of voice throughout, and a fun and interesting concept.


I also wanted to add a bit of advice for budding authors. While it was great to see how dynamic and lively these stories were, you also need to make sure your story hangs together as a whole and that it’s not overly complicated for the age range. Also think about what is already out there on the shelves and what you can bring to your story that is different or unique. Finally, a few of the texts I read had a decent sense of voice but often this needed pushing even further. One of the pieces of advice we always give as an agency is Show, Don’t Tell. If you can communicate something through the characters’ actions and general behaviour or from their interactions and dialogue with each other rather than simply stating it within the narrative then do. It will make the reading experience all the more gripping, as well as helping to make the characters and the world you have created real to your reader.


Thanks again to everyone who submitted and to SCBWI for asking me to be a part of the Slush Pile Challenge. I wish each of you the very best of luck with your writing endeavours!”



Congratulations to Tara Girvan from all of us at Words & Pictures. We hope you are well on your way towards getting your writing published.


Well done to Amy Feest for being placed as a runner-up and to Jessica Nelson and Anne Boyere for being given an honorary mention.


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



Chloe joined the Darley Anderson team in 2019 as agency assistant. She works very closely alongside agent Clare Wallace, assisting with her clients and talent spotting. She often gets a first look at submissions and shares any promising manuscripts and portfolios with Clare and agent Lydia Silver. Chloe has also recently started to build her own list at the agency. She is particularly fond of middle grade books of all genres, but she’s mostly drawn to stories with an element of mystery or adventure – think the Murder Most Unladylike series or anything by Katherine Rundell or Abi Elphinstone. She’d love to find contemporary stories with plenty of heart and warmth, as well as a strong and unique concept, that are relatable to today’s children and that bring in new perspectives. Chloe is also drawn to laugh-out-loud funny stories for younger readers. In terms of YA, she’d love to find a great commercial romance or a contemporary story with a unique hook or element of mystery.


Chloe would very much like to hear from authors from underrepresented backgrounds so please do include the hashtag #diversevoices in the subject line of your submission email. She previously worked in the Rights department at Pan Macmillan and as a Bookseller at Waterstones. She also has a degree in English Literature and French from the University of Edinburgh and spent a year studying in Paris.




Elaine Cline has been a SCBWI member for over eight 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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