SLUSH PILE CHALLENGE Winner Catherine Rosevear


Catherine Rosevear, winner of the January 2023 Slush Pile Challenge, tells us why she entered the competition and about her experience of having feedback from Charlotte Colwill of Colwill and Peddle Literary Agency.



Catherine won this challenge set by Charlotte Colwill of Colwill and Peddle Literary Agency:


Charlotte wanted to read a story for either young readers (6-9) or middle grade readers (9-12) that spotlighted the relationship between a child and an adult, this could have been fantasy or contemporary. Think Charlie and his Grandad in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She loved humour, adventure and feels. She requested a synopsis and the first 750 words.


Charlotte stated, “My winner was Spooky Luke and the Definitely, Completely Not Haunted Hotel (though I'd probably tweak the title!) by Catherine Rosevear. I really liked that it was a father son relationship and that it was a close and clearly joy-filled relationship, and truly the centre of the story. It came across as original and lots of fun, and the writing was of a high standard. It had a real mystery in its plot which gave me confidence that readers would find it compelling as well.”





As a long-time member of scoobie, I always keep an eye out in the SCBWI BI Facebook group for writing competitions that are coming up, and I’ve entered the Slush Pile Challenge several times over the years. A few years ago I’d been a runner up in a Slush Pile Challenge competition, and since then I’ve been long listed and even short listed for various other competitions, but I’d never been an actual winner, and I don’t think I ever expected to be. But this never stopped me from entering every competition for children’s writers that I came across!


The January 2023 Challenge, which appeared on the SCBWI BI Facebook page on the very first day of 2023, was to submit the opening 750 words and synopsis of a story for either young readers or middle grade readers that put the spotlight on a relationship between a child and an adult. When I read that the judge also loved stories with humour, adventure and feels, I know that I wanted to submit the middle grade ghost story that I’d been working on. I was a bit concerned though; I was only a few thousand words into the book, and although I’d written a synopsis to guide me through writing the rest of it, it was very far from complete. But I emailed the competitions team to check if that would be OK, and when they assured me that it would be, I submitted my entry.


It must have been all of ten seconds after I’d clicked ‘send’, that I realized I’d pasted the synopsis onto the entry form incorrectly, and I immediately emailed the team again – this time to ask if I could submit it again. Luckily my original entry hadn’t yet been acknowledged, so they were able to delete it and let me send in a corrected submission. Phew!


Over the next month, I became convinced that my ghost story was complete rubbish – a pretty common thought when I’m a few thousand words into a book – and I decided to leave it alone and move on. I started toying with ideas for either a twisted fairy tale, or a chapter book set in a witch school, and drew up synopses for both. My ghost story had been completely abandoned and left in some kind of virtual drawer on my laptop, so you can imagine how excited I was in early March, when I received an email from Elaine to tell me that my story had been selected by Charlotte Colwill of the Colwill and Peddle Agency, as the winner!


At first I was so thrilled to have actually won something, that I didn’t even really think about what the prize would be, but Elaine explained to me that Charlotte would be getting in touch with me to arrange a one-to-one meeting to give me feedback on my submission. How exciting! I’d had several agent one-to-one meetings previously, but usually I’d had to pay for them. The very best thing about winning, though? The knowledge that someone else had liked my story! It gave me the impetus I needed to haul it back out of it’s drawer and continue writing it.


When the day of the online meeting dawned, I was slightly nervous, but I didn’t need to be – Charlotte was lovely, and she gave me loads of feedback, both regarding the things she liked about my story and characters, and also the things that she thought could be improved, all of which I wrote copious notes on. And I was able to tell her that, thanks to her choosing me as the winner, I’d decided to carry on writing it. She was really pleased to hear this, and, at the end of our meeting, she encouraged me to submit to it her when it’s complete. So many thanks to Charlotte, and to everyone involved in organizing and running the Slush Pile Challenge competitions!

*Photograph courtesy of Catherine Rosevear


A special thanks to Charlotte Colwill of Colwill and Peddle for setting the competition, judging it and providing such valuable feedback to Catherine.



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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