NEWS SCBWI member wins Firefly Press competition

Not one, not two, but three SCBWI Wales members were finalists in the Firefly Press competition, set on St David’s Day earlier this year; two went on to win their category — and Chloë Heuch was announced the overall winner. Françoise Price reports.


From Welsh women pirates to dystopian Cardiff blood-drinkers, the Firefly Press competition attracted some weird and wonderful stories, but none weirder than Chloë’s winning entry, entitled A History of My Weird. She wins a residential course at Tŷ Newydd, Wales’s creative writing centre, and a 1-to-1 with a Firefly editor.


Here is what our members said:


Victoria Pici (winner, 7-9 category)

Victoria Pici won the 7-9 category


“When Firefly Press announced their Children's Fiction for Wales competition on St David's Day, the only full book I had in my portfolio was my first one, a book that I had decided to shelve earlier in the year in favour of newer projects with more potential. Pulling it off the proverbial shelf, I dusted down the first few chapters and sent them off. You can imagine my surprise when I got the email to say I had been longlisted a couple of months later. We were given just five days to send in the rest of the novel and I began the frantic process of editing a book my heart loved but had almost given up on. Normal life was busy but, through the encouragement of a couple of my SCBWI buddies, I made it through a sleepless weekend of edits and handed it in the night before.


“Or so I thought… a fellow entrant pointed out I should have received a confirmation email. Two hours of panic, and a frenzy of messages to my husband ensued, as we tried to work out what had gone wrong, and I rushed to make the deadline. I did, and a further month passed before a stomach churning email arrived — I’d made the shortlist! What alternative reality was this!? Me, a shortlistee? One month of waiting turned into two and then, the final email asking for a photo and bio. Just one more week to wait until the winners were announced. I spent the morning cleaning and waited a whole five minutes past the deadline before checking Twitter. Time stopped as I read and re-read the announcement: I had won the age 7-9 category with a book that I had planned to bury only months earlier beneath the bed of writerly experience. I guess every book really can have a home in the right heart, at the right time, in the right place.”


Abigail Tanner (shortlisted)

Abigail Tanner - shorlistee 

“When the Firefly Press competition came up, I tossed and turned on whether to send it off. I knew I had a complete first draft but only the first 4-5 chapters had been read by anyone else (my lovely SCBWI Wales critique group). With online SCBWI writing friends giving me virtual chants of ‘do it do it’, I sent the opening 4000 words and synopsis, not really thinking much would come of it.

 "The longlist email arrived and I did the usual doom scroll thinking blah blah blah and I could swear I read the response ‘sorry thanks, but no’. Then I stopped, oh it didn’t say that! I was on my first ever longlist. Cue dancing around the kitchen over breakfast, much to my husband and son’s dismay.


"Keeping this a secret was hard, but once I heard about being on the shortlist (no dancing this time) keeping that secret was SO MUCH WORSE. How do authors do this with publishing deals?! Perhaps, I can hope, this is training for the real thing?


"After finding out about the shortlist, a frenetic weekend proofing and editing my full MS ensued, so thanks to my family for letting me disappear that weekend.


"Announcement day was so exciting, shhh don’t tell work but I struggled to concentrate. And while I didn’t win, the fact that two of my SCWBI Wales crit group did (Vicky and Chloë, with Chloë overall winner whoop whoop) was amazing. Such a credit to our crit group, helping each other to achieve our goals. The supportiveness of the group when we’re in a writing slump or don’t have time to submit to the group or critique as much as we would like has been amazing — especially over the past few strange years. Can’t wait to see more success come out of this group of talented individuals.”


ë Heuch (Overall winner)


Chloë Heuch was announced as the overall winner

“I wasn’t sure whether to apply for the Firefly Press competition as I have been published before, though currently agentless and with no publisher. I checked the rules and found I was in with a chance! I had over half of the story written so I submitted. I was amazed to find I’d been longlisted. I was asked to send in the whole manuscript, but it was still unfinished! My writer friend, Victoria Pici, was also getting her submission ready too. I had a frantic weekend, barely sleeping as I speed wrote. We messaged each other to keep going and be positive. I hit the deadline and submitted. I was amazed to be shortlisted, and sworn to secrecy. I took that very literally and didn’t tell a soul! It was a wonderful shock to find out I’d won my category. A real boost. It was even more special to find Vicky had too. My dream would be to get an agent and find a publisher for A History of My Weird.”


On behalf of the Words & Pictures team, huge congratulations to Victoria Pici, Abigail Tanner and Chloë Heuch.

*Header image: Firefly Press; all other photos courtesy of the authors 

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