Ian Wilson, winner of the October 2023 Slush Pile Challenge, tells us why he entered the competition and about his experience of discussing his submission with Ludo Cinelli and Steven Evans of Eve White Literary Agency.


Ian won this challenge by submitting the following:


“We would like to see a 200-word synopsis of a middle-grade adventure written in the novel’s narrative voice.


Things we’re especially keen to see:


• Pitches from underrepresented writers and/or POVs we haven’t heard from before.


• Stories that are fun, but not necessarily funny.


• An unlikely friendship or complex central relationship.”



Ludo Cinelli and Steven Evans chose Three for Truth by Ian Wilson as it “managed to find a good balance between story arc and the central hook. This is a really difficult thing to get right, and Three for Truth by Ian Wilson was the best at achieving this.”





This story begins during the SCWBI Conference, where I booked two one-to-one sessions. Both agents told me that my writing was fresh and the voice was strong but that my synopsis was complicated and confusing. So, imagine my reluctance when the Slushpile Challenge involved submitting a synopsis! However, this synopsis would be different. Ludo and Steven from Eve White wanted us to write it in the voice of one of the main characters.


This concept unlocked something in me. My main character is a thirteen-year-old boy on an imaginary Scottish island in medieval times. His dialect flowed easily, and I finished the synopsis in a single session. The result read so much better than my previous efforts and I was lucky enough to win. From now on, all my synopses will look like this (until an agent tells me they don’t like it, of course…).


The online meeting with Ludo and Steven was delayed by my pre-Christmas bout of Covid followed by a cheeky attempt on my part to prod a few more beta reads out of my crit group (Thanks guys!).


The day finally arrived. I was feeling extremely nervous, trying to dampen down the hope that always rises to throttle you. Ludo and Steven were charming and helpful, putting me at ease straight away. It was immediately obvious that they knew my book. They identified the confusing elements in the story and provided constructive suggestions for how to overcome them. The novel switches between two narrative voices – a boy and a girl. Their advice was to steer the book towards a Young Adult audience if I wished to keep the second narrator but to remove it if I wanted to stick to Middle Grade. Crit group – you were right. Time to kill another darling. Another useful suggestion was to use a ‘found document’ at the start to help the audience to understand the world more efficiently. This idea excites me, as I’ve found third-person narration challenging in imparting key information without distancing the reader.


Of course, I was desperate for the agents to swoon over the story, invite me out to dinner in a five-star restaurant and fall over themselves to represent me. None of those things happened, but they have asked to see the book again when I’ve acted on the suggestions. So, my ten-year-so-far journey towards publication continues….


Thanks so much to Elaine Cline for organising the challenge and to Ludo and Steven for their insightful comments.



Photo: Ian Wilson



A special thanks to Ludo Cinelli and Steven Evans, of Eve White Literary Agency for setting the competition, judging it and providing such valuable feedback to Ian.

  *header illustration, in house collaboration by 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.


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