Tracy Bullock, winner of the July 2022 Slush Pile Challenge, tells us why she entered the competition and about her experience of having feedback from Lorna Hemingway, of Bell Lomax Moreton Literary Agency.



Tracy won this challenge set by Lorna Hemingway of Bell Lomax Moreton Literary Agency:


Lorna wanted “one OR two picture book texts with a summary paragraph to describe each text (including comps to books on the market/or films!)”



Lorna stated:


“I came to the conclusion of selecting Inspectosaurus and the Triassic Tea Party by Tracy Bullock.


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.”





My story starts in July – at the infamous Holland House for the SCBWI Picture Book Retreat. In-between my awkward attempts at downward facing dog in Gary Fabri’s morning yoga session and secretly hoping I could snap a selfie with Pippa Goodhart, I remember chatting with Elaine. She told me how July’s Slush Pile Challenge was unusual in that the agent, Lorna Hemingway, was allowing two picture book submissions per writer. She also advised ensuring all the criteria was ticked in the submission. I must have checked my comp titles and that my SCBWI membership hadn't expired at least five times before I finally clicked send on my entry.


I’d chosen to send two contrasting stories - one darker, lyrical text and then Inspectorsaurus and the Triassic Tea Party, which is light-hearted - hoping that one or the other might make an impression. I’m generally good at pressing send and moving on to new projects without getting stuck in the land of waiting... But I did make a teensy tiny note in my diary of when the winner would be announced.


Summer slipped by. My children returned to school (hooray!) and I turned the page in my diary to see what the week ahead had planned for us. My diary is mostly taken up with events for my children - swimming lessons, friends’ parties, school trips - but pencilled into Sunday was the note I’d made earlier: winner announced.


A day before the announcement, we had taken the children to play in the park. Before another thrilling afternoon of pushing swings and turning roundabouts, I escaped for a moment into my emails. I squealed …


“I WON!”


Middle child, littlest child and husband were daydreaming about the zipwire. Thankfully, our eldest child had a much more enthusiastic response. “Well done, Mummy!” Despite this and my initial reaction, I’m not sure I believed the news at first. As writers, do we ever expect to place in, or win a competition? I always hope I will – but to actually win it. I was happy to read the official announcement the next day. So it was true.


I ‘met’ Lorna via Zoom in October. She was incredibly lovely from the start, chatty and encouraging. Since my original submission, Inspectosaurus and the Triassic Tea Party had passed through my critique group and I’d completed another round of edits. Lorna kindly agreed to look at the updated version and feedback. She liked the cosy-crime element and mentioned how dinosaurs are an evergreen hook, especially for debut writers. Lorna’s industry insights were helpful. She liked the onomatopoeia I’d used and we spoke about how I could draw on that to enhance characterisation and reduce wordcount. The icing on the cake was when Lorna mentioned how the world I’d built had series potential … I’m not sure how much more I took onboard after that. Thankfully, my pencil scribbled non-stop notes for me.


I would always encourage others to take part in competitions. The feedback and exposure were helpful and reassuring. I’m grateful to SCBWI and Lorna for providing the opportunity.


My notes have now been analysed and my manuscript has been tweaked. Lorna was kindly open to me resubmitting and that is where this story ends – somewhere in a Slush Pile, hoping to be discovered again.


A special thanks to Lorna Hemingway of Bell Lomax Moreton Literary Agency for setting the competition, judging it and providing such valuable feedback to Tracy.


*Photo: Tracy Bullock







Elaine Cline has been a SCBWI member for over eight years and loves to write picture books, middle-grade and teen books. She lives by the sea and has one adorable dog. Elaine is a member of the Words & Pictures editorial team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge.


Twitter: @elaineccline


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