SLUSH PILE WINNER Elizabeth Fowler



Elizabeth Fowler, winner of the July 2023 Slush Pile Challenge, tells us why she entered the competition and about her experience of discussing her submission with Saskia Leach of Kate Nash Literary Agency.

Elizabeth Fowler

Elizabeth won this challenge by submitting “the first chapter of a contemporary YA thriller or YA romance”. The story could have been of any theme and she was particularly interested in hearing from underrepresented perspectives. Entrants did NOT need to have completed the manuscript before submitting their entry.


Saskia chose Elizabeth’s entry as the winner: “Without further ado, my winner is … As Dreams Are Made by Elizabeth Fowler. This YA thriller has a wonderful speculative twist and the author’s conversational tone hooked me from the very first sentence. As Dreams Are Made starts in the moment where everything changed for Ariel and I was particularly impressed with the pacing and the author’s world building ability, which never felt expositional. The last sentence is particularly memorable (and ominous!) and certainly succeeds in enticing me to read on."




The July 2023 Slush Pile Challenge was to submit the first chapter of a contemporary YA Thriller or YA Romance, particularly something from an underrepresented perspective. My queer, speculative novel As Dreams Are Made seemed to fit the brief, so I crossed my fingers and sent it in. I then panicked that the book was neither Contemporary nor Thriller-y enough (though it does feature a shadowy opponent and a central mystery that leaves the main character scrabbling for clues).


I was on holiday when I got the email from Elaine telling me I had won the Challenge. I was gobsmacked. In terms of Kid Lit, I’d had a couple of competition long listings before and one Highly Commended, but this was the first time I had actually won!


Saskia was lovely from the moment she emailed to arrange our Zoom chat. I wasn’t sure what to expect from an agent 1-2-1, but she was so friendly and helpful. She made some kind comments about the extract, praising its staccato style, the set-up, and the voice. She also pointed out a cliché I could remove and cautioned me against making the mystery disease in the novel too reminiscent of Covid.


I took the opportunity to quiz her about trends in publishing and the submissions process. My writing tends to spin dark, which concerned me, as we’re very much in a Cosy era. However, Saskia said she’s just starting to see darker themes coming through, so maybe there’s time to catch a zeitgeist yet! Regarding submissions, she emphasised the importance of polishing the whole manuscript; one of the biggest mistakes she sees is people preparing a fantastic opening section but not providing the same level of care and attention to the rest of the story.


Since the 1-2-1, I’ve taken her advice and tried to whip the latter half of the novel into shape. I am also fortunate enough to be a finalist in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices anthology, and I am looking forward to quizzing more agents and editors at the industry event later this month.


Thank you so much to Elaine, Words & Pictures, and Saskia for this opportunity. There is so much talent out there, and I feel incredibly lucky to have won the Slush Pile Challenge.

A special thanks to Saskia Leach of Kate Nash Literary Agency for setting the competition, judging it and providing such valuable feedback to Elizabeth.

*photograph courtesy of Elizabeth Fowler 

*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.

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

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