SPECIAL FEATURE Undiscovered Voices Party 2022


After months of waiting, the moment finally arrived when the winners of Undiscovered Voices could celebrate their success with a real-life party, in an actual venue with champagne and cup cakes that you could eat. Emma Norris, one of the talented winners, reports.

I was deep in the doldrums of writing despair when I received a phone call that blew the wind back into my sails. The opening chapters of my children’s story, and those of eleven other writers I’d never met before, had been selected for the Undiscovered Voices anthology 2022. SCBWI’s magnificent novel competition runs every two years and invites around eight industry experts to select twelve writers from a longlist created by the UV team from a pool of nearly 300 talented writers. An email followed introducing us to one another, and we set up the obligatory WhatsApp group and began to share our writing journeys, our hopes and our fears.



This group of writers became a lifeboat in the choppy seas of what was to follow, because we were still in the grips of a Covid storm. The anthology was distributed in January 2022, the ‘Getting Discovered’ workshop was moved online and the highly anticipated agents party in February had to be cancelled. Instead of waiting for the party to be able to send out our work, we were able to submit to agents right away. Some of us were fortunate to receive interest on the back of the anthology which eventually led to offers of representation, some were still editing, and some felt the ever-familiar fear of submission – almost all of us have been writing for over ten years and have surfed the wild waves of submitting to agents before. We all knew the process was nail biting.


We kept in touch, but the feeling grew that we wanted to meet in person, to celebrate with a hug and a glass of bubbly. We wanted to thank the Undiscovered Voices team, the judges and our sponsors, Working Partners. We wanted a party. A plan was hatched, a date was set and not long after, the invites went out.

The 12 UV 2022 winners

We travelled from Manchester, Leeds and Bristol, from Winchester and Suffolk, from Brighton and Hertfordshire, from around and within London. There were setbacks – all comical. One person booked the wrong hotel, one person’s bag fell open and threw its contents across a busy London road, one searched for a precious earring only to find they’d left home wearing a jaunty solo dangler. Two of us were blocked by a pushy man on the tube platform, finding ourselves on the wrong side of the doors as the train whisked the rest of the group away. But, as good friends do, they waited for us at the next stop. No writer left behind.


As in our stories, the mishaps only made it better and on a balmy evening in mid-May, we arrived in the heart of Brixton. We met in real life. We exchanged real hugs. We were together, at last, in the perfect venue.


Real champagne and hugs: (from l-r) Emma Norris, Victoria Benstead-Hume, Cara 
Lovelock, Katja Kaine, Paula Thompson, Sue Cunningham, Alex Atkinson, Zoe Cookson

Upstairs at The Department Store is a rooftop, laid-back private members club with a lushly-planted terrace and a London skyline, overlooked by a stone turret and elegantly topped by a glass dome observatory – Rooftoppers meets Rapunzel.


'Rooftoppers meets Rapunzel' 

Agents, publishers, SCBWI volunteers, Working Partners folk, UV team members – you came. The lights were soft. Champagne was quaffed. Cupcakes were scoffed. We talked characters and plot, stakes and settings, industry intel and our passion for books. One of us even hooked an agent on the spot. Above all, we celebrated.


As writers we all know that, even with the validation of winning a huge competition like Undiscovered Voices, nothing is certain. We know that we must put our work out there and it might not fly the way we would wish it would. I volunteered to write this article because my extract, after one bite, failed to garner any further interest — an experience every writer has been through at some point in their career. Oh, hello again, doldrums. I wasn’t sure I could come back from what felt, at the time, like failure.


As writers we all know that, even with the validation of winning a huge competition like Undiscovered Voices, nothing is certain.

Some years ago, I walked the Inca trail in Peru, a four-day, high altitude trek from Cusco to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. As I climbed the mountainside, every steep, knee-straining, hairpin turn ended at a rockface where I was convinced I’d turn the corner and see a brief respite — a piece of flat. Sometimes I was convinced I was about to arrive at my destination. But every turn revealed another steep incline.


The Inca trail: 'every turn revealed another steep incline'


Many times along that hike, I wanted to give up. But I discovered that if I repeatedly looked back, each time seeing how far I’d come, and how much I’d prevailed against stumbling rocks, and shaky legs, I felt stronger. Looking back helped me move forward. And once, when the altitude sickness got too much and I sat forlornly on a rock, unable to go forward or back, a flashy emerald green hummingbird appeared and I knew I’d never have seen it if I hadn’t stopped.


I recommend to us all, all the writers on this same path, if I may, that you keep looking back. Notice how far you’ve come. And though you might still be ‘undiscovered’, celebrate every milestone, every longlist, every ‘wow’ from a beta reader, every compliment. Book a date, find a venue (or attend one of the many SCBWI social events) and celebrate with the writers that are on this mountain trek, because writers know. And look out for hummingbirds.


Notice how far you’ve come. And though you might still be ‘undiscovered’, celebrate every milestone, every longlist, every ‘wow’ from a beta reader, every compliment.

The UV2022 anthology winners formed a group that has been just as important to me as being in the anthology. You could not ask for a more compassionate and welcoming bunch of people to be aligned with. They picked me up, dusted me off, and made me know that I belonged. Our friendships will endure and we thank you, SCBWI, for giving us this opportunity to bond and cheer each other on.


We are planning a picnic next. In the meantime, we are delighted to shout out our heartfelt congratulations to Ali Clack, Gerry Rush, Paula Thompson, Tom Mann and Sue Cunningham on signing with literary agents.


And we celebrate Cara Lovelock, Victoria Benstead-Hume, Zoe Cookson, Alex Atkinson, Katja Kaine, Andrew James and last but not least, me. We’re forging on with our editing, some submitting anew and some creating new stories. The path may be rocky, but we’re adventurers and we’re trekking.

*All images courtesy of Emma Norris


Emma Norris is a former child psychologist who volunteers at The Wild Place Project, Bristol, to satisfy her passion for conservation. She writes MG speculative adventures that immerse children in the exciting habitats of our planet’s wildlife. Her next book is about a boy who wants to be a zoo keeper in the last zoo on Earth.


Fran Price is Deputy Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact: deputyeditor@britishscbwi.org


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