Lorna Hemingway of Bell Lomax Moreton set and judged the July 2022 Slush Pile Challenge.



 Lorna Hemingway

Lorna’s challenge was that she wanted to “receive one OR two picture book texts per submission with a summary paragraph to describe each text including comps to books on the market/or films!”


 We received 102 entries from members across the British Isles and Europe for this competition. Lorna read all of the submissions. This is what Lorna told us when announcing the results:


“Thank you all so much for submitting your fantastic texts to me. It was an absolute joy to read them over the Summer. Even when the temperature was soaring, I could not think of anything better than kicking back with your texts while a fan blared over me; I was practically in paradise!


When reading all your texts, I had a flexible checklist that I used when reviewing every special submission:


- Do they mention comparable titles that are new to the market?


- In the comparisons did they mention TV shows/popular movies?


- Was the writing child friendly and/or channelling the imagination and awe of a child’s POV?


- Was the plot either: comical, informative, magical (or all of the above)?


- Can I imagine the illustrations? Does the text offer what the illustrations cannot?


- Does this text have heart?


- Do we learn a moral message?


After referring to all the above, I came to the conclusion of selecting two fabulous winners Poka Paka’s Colour Quest by Stephanie Cotela and Inspectosaurus and the Triassic Tea Party by Tracy Bullock.


Poka Paka, the polar bear explores the vast white landscape to find the colours from Mama’s bedtime stories. When the dark arctic winter arrives, he retreats to his den worried there will be no more colour. Until his curiosity leads him to the Northern Lights. This text was stunningly written with plenty of beautiful descriptions and warm poignant moments of dialogue. This text also managed to find room to teach young children about colours/the rainbow in a playful manner while not being didactic! This submission however really caught my eye from the start where Stephanie used some wonderful comps: For fans of The Christmas Extravaganza Hotel by Tracey Corderoy and The Rainbow Bear by Michael Morpurgo – This instantly grabbed my attention and painted the picture for what I was about to read!


Inspectosaurus and the Triassic Tea Party follows a famished and in disguise, Inspectosaurus who steals the cake from the Triassic tea party. Furious, the dinosaurs need a detective… and the detective needs more scrumptious treats! As suspicions grow, honesty saves her from becoming the grisly carnivores’ pudding. This text was hilarious from start to finish, using quirky sounds to reinvigorate read-aloud sessions and a charming cast of characters. Not only was the text very funny but the location of a tea party made me feel like I was transported into a modern-day Agatha Christie cosy crime novel. This old-fashioned setting felt refreshed and unique due to Tracy’s marvellous world building and subtle lesson on sharing/honesty.


I would love to give a special mention to the following: Fixing A Rainbow/Till Moonfall by Justin Kington, Yeti Spaghetti by Kate Bolden and Piff in A Puffle by Sarah Lavelle. These entries were an absolute joy to read.


I was so impressed with the calibre of this year’s entries it was hard to choose a winner. However, while making my way through the submissions, I was able to write up a list of helpful tips for those who were unsuccessful this time.


Firstly, please take time when writing your synopsis. This needs to hook the prospective reader in and force them to read your text. Make sure it is hooky, impactful, and snappy! If the synopsis is boring or convoluted, an agent is unlikely to even begin to read your PB manuscript.


Secondly, please make sure you format your submission properly. By this, I mean, make sure you divide your text up into spreads/page numbers. Those who submit a PB as a wall of text look highly inexperienced and are easy to ignore. An extra tip regarding formatting would be to make sure you include illustration notes every now and then (not too much and not too little!) so that the agent can visualise your text.


Next, make sure your moral message is not too obvious. Children are very clever and do not need to be TOLD but can be SHOWN what the lesson at the core of the story is. As soon as a text enters the didactic waters of education, children will switch off and get bored.


A few narratives that I would avoid that cropped up a few times include 2D protagonists and tired tropes. Firstly, when it comes to discussing elderly protagonists, please do not pigeonhole them as always being unable to move or typically with dementia. It would be great to see some active and young at heart narratives featuring elderly characters. Additionally, please avoid the Ugly Ducking narrative, where an individual is cast out for being different but is then ultimately accepted. This narrative is very tired and overdone and it is ever so hard to give it a refresh!


My last tip would be to avoid wordplay/puns. When picture books are sold to publishers, they are usually sold for World rights – meaning that text must be able to be sold in every territory to secure co-editions (which fund the making of the book!) If your book relies too heavily on the English language, it will make translation very hard and as such your text is unlikely to be taken seriously.


Thank you everyone again for submitting to my slush challenge and thank you to SCBWI for asking me to take part!


 Congratulations to Stephanie Cotela and Tracy Bullock from all of us at Words & Pictures. We hope you are well on your way towards getting your writing published.


Well done to Justin Kington, Katie Bolden and Sarah Lavelle for being placed as runners-up.


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



After graduating from the University of Exeter with a degree in English Literature, Lorna completed her MA in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths, where she was personally mentored by Michael Rosen.


Lorna joined Bell Lomax Moreton in 2019 and is now one of the agency assistants; she runs the social media channels and creates bespoke assets for our clients and publishers.


Lorna is searching for picture books that have heart at the core of their foundation that then stay with her for a long time after reading; narratives that subvert classic hooks (e.g. bedtime, new home, friendship) and tell them in a fresh new way and characters that exude warmth and familiarity. She also has a weakness for all things colourful, bold, and shiny!


Lorna is particularly interested in hearing from LGBTQIA+ authors and illustrators as well as other submissions from diverse and marginalised individuals who are currently underrepresented in the industry.




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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