This month, Chip Colquhoun brings you the opportunity for feedback on your Opening Lines from Pickled Ink's managing agent, Helen Boyle

Opening Lines gives you a chance to get some professional feedback on those all-important first few words so you can fine-tune your submissions. Three entries will be chosen at random for feedback. If yours is selected, it will be published anonymously here in August with Helen's response.

Meet Helen

When authors seek an agent, they typically hope to find a business partner who can offer expert criticism and encouragement in perfect balance, who has a broad knowledge of potential markets, and who will know how to package their book as attractively as possible for those markets.

As it happens, these are all the skills Helen has accrued in various roles across the world of children's publishing over the last 20 years. She began her career in marketing and publicity with Hodder Children's Books, mastering the art of perfectly packaging titles for sale, before feeling the draw of editorial.

Helen's editorial work included stints as consultant, editor, and reviewer for UK book and magazine publishers, giving her an extensive knowledge of the global children’s book market. She grew her market awareness yet further during her time as a foreign literary scout. Her passion for encouraging readers is evident in the fact that, even today, she edits WRD, a fiction magazine for ages 8–13.

Bringing her skill, passion, and experience to Pickled Ink in 2016, then a boutique agency for illustrators and picture books, Helen was charged with establishing a literary list. Those pleased to be represented by Helen include Amelia Fang's illustrator Laura Ellen Anderson, fantasy author Annaliese Avery, Philip Pullman's cover artist Melissa Castrillón, the irreverant Angela Woolfe, and one of The Dandy's last artists Phil Corbett.

With such a wide range of industry knowledge and awareness, what might Helen say after reading the first 100 words of your manuscript? Enter this month's Opening Lines for the chance to find out!

How to submit your Opening Lines

Please email and write OPENING LINES ENTRY in the subject line. Your email needs to contain:

•  your story’s title

• your 'elevator pitch' – usually just one or two sentences totalling no more than 40 words conveying the key character, crisis point, genre and/or theme of your story and

• the opening lines of your story, (eg the first paragraph), to a maximum of 100 words.

Make sure we receive your submission by 4 August 2024. Three entries will then be selected at random to be sent to Helen.

We’ll publish the results around the end of August 2024.

Please note that, by submitting to Opening Lines, you give Words & Pictures the right to publish the content of your submission anonymously. However, this is not an exclusive right, so you are free to submit your story elsewhere.

Who is eligible?

You need to be an unagented, current SCBWI member and resident in either the UK or Europe.

To join SCBWI and take advantage of the many opportunities like this one to be supported in the development and pursuit of your craft – and also find advice on marketing your work, meet fellow writers and artists and much much more – visit


If you've received feedback from Opening Lines, how did it help you? If it led to you finding an agent or a publisher please contact us – we'd love to hear your story.

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


Chip Colquhoun began storytelling for children in 2007 and was asked to write the EU’s guidance on using stories in classrooms in 2015. He became a children’s writer when The History Press commissioned him in 2016 to write Cambridgeshire Folk Tales for Children. He’s since had 22 books published, most as part of the Fables & Fairy Tales series he co-produces with illustrator Korky Paul (published by Epic Tales), and is currently working with the National English Hub and the National Literacy Trust to raise the rate of recreational reading in schools. You can find him at

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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