SLUSH PILE CHALLENGE October 2023 Results


Ludo Cinelli and Steven Evans of Eve White Literary Agency set and judged the October 2023 Slush Pile Challenge.


 Ludo Cinelli

Steven Evans

Ludo Cinelli and Steven Evans requested “a 200-word synopsis of a middle-grade adventure written in the novel’s narrative voice.”


We received 26 entries from members across the British Isles and Europe for this competition. Ludo and Steven read all of the submissions. This is what they told us when announcing the results:


“We had great fun reading the submissions for our Slush Pile Challenge, and there was a real mix of genres, styles, characters, setting and plots in the 26 synopses we received. A few trends we picked out included: ghosts, monsters and the fantastical; pets, animals, and our relationship to nonhuman beings; more serious issues like mental health, illness and the environment; and first-person narratives. Ghosts, monsters and the fantastical are such a good source of fun – they are of perennial interest in children’s fiction as there is a wealth of tropes to play with; some of our favourite ideas here included a Coco-esque tale of kids trapped in the underworld and a boy who can see adults’ ‘inner children’. 

Indeed, even in more grounded fiction, there was plenty of interest in the nonhuman realm, including learning to overcome cynophobia, and children forming strong bonds or learning to rethink relationships with pets and humanoid figures. There were a couple of speculative/sci-fi submissions, though we were surprised that there were not more. A good handful of submissions were interested in contemporary social/environment issues, such as mental health, illness (dementia, in particular) and climate change. 

While we absolutely appreciate the goal of making children more aware of parents’ mental health and illness, we felt this worked best when included as an incidental, peripheral part of the narrative, rather than its focus or something the child protagonist must (re)solve. There were also plenty of fun, wacky narratives; though, perhaps due to our ‘fun not necessarily funny’ criterion, we felt there was a lack of submissions setting out to be explicitly hilarious or outlandishly daft. This is totally fine – indeed, we wanted to get across that it’s not always necessary to be funny (just fun!) and that this is often difficult to pull off. That said, we would, of course, always welcome unashamedly funny submissions! 

Finally, there was a preference for first-person narratives in the synopses we received (around two-thirds of submissions!); we felt this amount was slightly unusual for middle-grade, but perhaps it was again due to our requirement that the synopses were written in the book’s narrative voice.


When we considered the submissions as a whole, we agreed that the ones that really stood out were those that managed to find a good balance between story arc and the central hook. This is a really difficult thing to get right, and we felt THREE FOR TRUTH by Ian Wilson as well as ELLIE ANDERSON IS DEAD by Sophie Clarke and FINN’S GAP by Louise Roberts were the best at achieving this. Still, many of the other submissions had something praiseworthy about them: perhaps they had a unique hook or character, but we didn’t feel they quite had the narrative to sustain it; or else they had a well-constructed narrative but just needed to add that extra twist to make the work stand out (a special character, relationship, setting or theme); or, maybe they had brought in too much, with three or four ‘special somethings’ making for a plot that in the end lacked focus and prevented us from connecting emotionally with the character and the story.




Three for Truth by Ian Wilson




Ellie Anderson is Dead by Sophie Clarke


Finn’s Gapp by Louise Roberts


Our thanks to everyone for taking part, and we wish all the authors the best of luck with the next stage of their writing journey!


Ludo and Steven


Congratulations to Ian Wilson from all of us at Words & Pictures. We hope you are well on your way towards getting your writing published.


Well done to Sophie Clarke and Louise Roberts for being commended.


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




Ludo Cinelli is an Agent and the Managing Director at Eve White Literary Agency. He joined the company in 2017 and began to grow his list of clients in 2018. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London.


He reads widely across fiction and nonfiction. The books he loves might challenge him with their ideas and style, but they might also be a simple story beautifully told. He does this job because of the variety, the excitement, and the potential it offers. He takes pride in building strong, long-lasting relationships with his clients and publishing colleagues alike.


He was shortlisted as British Book Awards Literary Agent of the Year in 2022.


In his spare time he enjoys good and bad films, cooking, eating, and sporadically attempting to improve at chess.


In no specific order, here are some older and newer books he’s enjoyed recently:


Bad Behaviour by Mary Gaitskill


Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake


Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman


Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan


Luster by Raven Leilani


…And Away by Bob Mortimer


Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters


Underworld by Don DeLillo


No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood


Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe


The Premonitions Bureau by Sam Knight


Islands of Abandonment by Cal Flynn


Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage



Steven Evans is the agency assistant at Eve White, reading submissions and providing administrative and editorial support. Steven grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne. After completing an MPhil in comparative film & literature at Queens’ College, Cambridge, he moved to Paris, where he taught English and worked as a freelancer for several literary scouting agencies. He enjoys reading fiction and non-fiction of all kinds, but has a particular interest in non-fiction which sheds light on under-represented perspectives, communities and histories, and literary fiction which explores new ideas, challenges the reader, and plays with style, form, character and/or plot.


Eve White Literary Agency is UK-based representing internationally published authors. A Member of the Association of Authors’ Agents.



 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. Elaine is a member of the Words & Pictures' editorial team, managing The Slush Pile Challenge for writers. Connect with Elaine on Twitter: @elaineccline


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the detailed comments Ludo and Steven. The one about “making children more aware of parents’ mental health and illness” being best done as “an incidental, peripheral part of the narrative” was really helpful for me and my WIP. I appreciate your time and help.


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