SLUSH PILE Winner, Janet Foxley


Janet Foxley, winner of the October 2022 Slush Pile Challenge, tells us why she entered the competition and about her experience of discussing her submission with Silvia Molteni, of Peters Fraser and Dunlop (PFD)

Janet Foxley
(Picture credit: Janet Foxley)

Janet won this challenge by submitting: “One line pitch, blurb and opening chapter of a middle grade novel.” Silvia was “particularly looking for voicy/character-led manuscripts, in any genre, with an immediate and strong hook.” The story didn’t have to be completed, though this was preferable.


Silvia chose Janet's entry as the winner: “The entry that stood out the most to me, and therefore my selected winner for this challenge, was Just Like Magic, by Janet Foxley. I was immediately drawn to this story, it has a simple but very strong concept at its core, a captivating title, a likeable main character, and a gorgeous narrative voice from the start.”




“I was delighted to win this challenge because, although already published, I have never had an agent and am increasingly feeling the need of one.


The 38,000 word middle-grade novel I submitted had already been published in Germany, but had not attracted any interest from agents in the UK. Winning the Challenge gave me the chance to find out why not.


The one-to-one with Silvia Molteni was held over Zoom. She told me that although she loved the set up and the writing, there were significant weaknesses in the plot. This did not surprise me, as plotting is far and away the part of writing I find hardest.


She explained that middle grade magic is such a crowded market that submissions need to be exceptionally strong. There is no room for any weaknesses and my story had plenty.


A major weakness with my plot was that it lacked a proper antagonist. The tension lay in having to reverse an accidental magic mishap within a time limit, which she thought felt artificially contrived. She also felt that I had introduced too many types of magic and should have just stuck to one. There were a number of places where she thought characters had waited an implausible length of time before taking action.


Silvia suggested I try rewriting it as a 20,000 word 7-9 book, developing an existing character into more of an antagonist and condensing the time frame.


This would basically mean a total rewrite, so for the time being I have set that book aside to concentrate on other things I was already working on. However, Silvia also offered to look at other books and I am currently awaiting feedback on something I sent her recently.


It is rare nowadays to be given feedback by an agent, so I am enormously grateful to the Slush Pile Challenge for giving me this opportunity, and to Silvia for generously offering to look at more than one book."


A special thanks to Silvia Molteni of Peters Fraser and Dunlop (PFD) for setting the competition, judging it and providing such valuable feedback.

*Header image: In-house collaboration between Ell Rose and Tita Berredo


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 dog. Elaine is a member of the Words & Pictures editorial team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge. Her Twitter handle is: @elaineccline


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact them at

Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Contact her at:

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