Undiscovered Voices 2022 Long List Announcement

We are thrilled to share the longlist of writers who will be considered for the Undiscovered Voices 2022 anthology.

UV2022 Longlist

These talented writers were selected from 270 submissions from SCBWI members in the British Isles and the EU.

Alex Atkinson
Alison Clack
Andrew James
Barny Hobbs
Cara Lovelock
Catherine Rosevear
Colm McGeever
Deborah Longstaff
Ele Nash
Emily Randall
Emma Norris
Gerry Rush
Julie Farrell
Karen Walk
Katja Kaine
Katrina Sansone

Kelly Smith
Lucy Sharmila Mohan
Mandy Rabin
Miriam Craig
Natalie Perry
Paula Thompson
Sarah Broadley
Sarah Harrison
Sarah Wood
Stuart White
Sue Cunningham
Tom Mann
Victoria Benstead-Hume
William Dobson
Zoe Cookson

The fourteen novel extracts that will be featured in the Undiscovered Voices 2022 anthology will be announced in mid-January.

The Undiscovered Voices team endeavours to create an anthology that showcases the variety of writing available from SCBWI members in the British Isles and the Europe. The goal of the anthology is not only to help the selected authors to find agents and editors, but also to promote the quality of work abounding in SCBWI in Europe.

The stories were considered anonymously and selected by a distinguished panel of industry experts:

  • Davinia Andrew-Lynch, literary agent and the founder of boutique agency, ANDLYN
  • Megan Carroll, literary agent at Watson, Little Ltd
  • Sarah Davies, founder and agent at Greenhouse Literary Agency
  • Jane Griffiths, editorial director at Penguin Random House Children’s Books
  • Sarah Levison, senior commissioning editor for fiction at Farshore Books
  • Yasmin Morrissey, commissioning editor at Scholastic
  • Jo Williamson, literary agent at Antony Harwood Ltd

Congratulations to these talented writers!

All the best,

The Undiscovered Voices Team

Guest blog: Last-Minute Nerves (Clare Harlow)

In our final guest blog post before submissions to UV2022 closes on Sunday 18 July 2021, previous finalist Clare Harlow (UV2020) offers some last-minute words of wisdom to give you confidence in your entry and some practical tips to give it that extra edge.

For Anyone Struggling With Last-Minute Nerves

Remember, you are not alone

Almost everyone suffers from nerves when a deadline looms. Personally, I’m a serial last-minuter. Give me a deadline and I’ll meander towards it, procrastinating as if I’m training for the procrastination Olympics, which always leaves me in a crisis as the clock ticks down.

But whether you’re frantically rewriting your opening chapters, wondering how you’ll ever distil your story into an impossibly short synopsis, or panicking about whether to give your pages ‘one last’ polish, take heart from the fact that there are plenty of people in the same situation.

Trust your gut

And trust your story too. Maybe you’ve had feedback on your manuscript from critique partners. Maybe you’ve just finished your first draft. Maybe your story has been sitting on your computer for years. Whatever the circumstances, it’s natural to have doubts about whether this is the time to send your work out into the world.

Ask yourself two questions

Firstly, do you love your story? I mean really love it – because if you don’t, it’ll show on the page.

Secondly, have you told it the way you want to? I don’t mean that the manuscript has to be perfect, far from it, but it needs to communicate the story you have in your mind — and for Undiscovered Voices, your first 4000 words really need to showcase your writing as well as hooking the reader with your premise.

If the answer to both these questions is ‘yes’, ignore any little whispers of doubt and get submitting!

Take time to check your work

Leaving it late can be a good thing. Yeah, yeah, I would say that, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants serial procrastinator that I am. But it’s true. I tip my hat to all you early birds, but it genuinely doesn’t matter if you enter on the first day or in the last hour of the submission window. And if you haven’t hit that send button yet, you can take advantage of my top tips for proofreading.

1. Change the font and text size

Someone recommended this to me, and it’s the best technique I’ve found for getting a fresh perspective on my rhythm and phrasing. It’s also a great way to catch typos, especially if you don’t have access to a printer. (Just don’t forget to change the formatting back afterwards!)

2. Read your pages out loud, or use the read-aloud function on your computer.

There’s nothing like hearing a stilted automated voice mangle your words to let you know whether your writing flows well.

3. If you can, be brave and ask a friend or family member to proofread your pages too.

Sometimes, a word or phrase might have a dual meaning you haven’t noticed, or multiple edits might have led you to reuse a piece of descriptive language.

Lastly, accept that there is only so much you can do

Competitions, like everything in publishing, are enormously subjective. You’ve worked hard on your story, polished your pages and synopsis, and given the whole thing a good proofread. Now, all you can do is submit your work and let it go. Don’t worry if you spot typos or spelling mistakes after you’ve entered — your story won’t be rejected because of those. Be proud of yourself for getting this far. Hit send, take a moment to celebrate, then try to forget all about it until the longlist announcement.

And for anyone still feeling those nerves and unsure about whether to enter, remember, you have nothing to lose — and it might just change your life.

Clare Harlow was an actor in a previous life but has stepped away from the stage to work as an English tutor and devote more time to writing. Since being selected for Undiscovered Voices 2020, she is delighted to have signed with Amber Caravéo at Skylark Literary and is working hard on getting her middle-grade fantasy novel ready to go on submission.

Guest blog: So, what’s this ‘voice’ thing anyway? (Kathryn Kettle)

In our penultimate guest blog post before submissions close, previous finalist Kathryn Kettle (UV2018), speaks up for the joy of finding your voice and offers valuable shortcuts to finding yours hopefully a little sooner than she found hers. And find it she did as you’ll be able to see in her debut novel, The Boy I Am.

So, what’s this ‘voice’ thing anyway?

The first three books I wrote, I was trying to write. By which I mean, I had an idea what books should sound like in my head, I’d read enough, after all. The few stories I was brave enough to submit went somewhere, but never far enough. Eventually, after working ten years on a book, I couldn’t do it anymore. For a while, I didn’t write, but inevitably I couldn’t leave the itch unscratched.

I returned to write for fun: flash fiction, short stories, fan fiction, and I didn’t write to please anyone but myself. Looking back that’s when it started to happen, I think, when I began to find a voice (*insert choir of triumphant trumpets here*).

Now, don’t get excited… I had NO IDEA I’d achieved this holy-hand grenade of writing goodness until several weeks ago.

After sending early chapters of my second book to my editor, one thing I didn’t expect to hear in return about my second book was, ‘It sounds like you.’

Having been a finalist in the Undiscovered Voices 2018 competition, I must have some kind of ‘voice’ because, after all, that’s what the judges are looking for, but until now I’d attributed it to my main character, his voice.

Hearing my voice

I didn’t think when writing a second, completely different story, with completely different characters, that there would be any similarities. Yet, somehow in the last 10 years, I’ve found a rhythm of my own. After all these years I finally know what ‘voice’ means: being authentic to you, and no one else.

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself, and exercises to do, to help identify if you’ve nailed ‘voice’…

  • Are there words that jump out to you or trusted readers that take them out of the story? What makes them jump out? If it’s not something you’re intending, probably think about the word choices.
  • Are you trying to capture a particular style, can you avoid that and put down the words in a unique way to you? Try different styles, sentence structures, poetry, or humour where you wouldn’t before.
Photo by Jessica Da Rosa on Unsplash
  • Tell some part of your story out loud in a voice recording app, not as it’s written, but as an anecdote. What do you learn about your way of telling stories in this way? How does it differ from the way you lay it down on the page?
  • Use your editorial eye to analyse your writing style. Take a few pages from different points across the work. Are there sentences, paragraphs, dialogue, metaphor techniques etc that you use regularly and how/why do you use them?
  • Look also at your themes, the things you are interested in and the ‘problem’ of the story, are they unique way to you and your writing. How can you make them ‘yours’?
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
  • Do some of the above with books in your collection, especially writers lauded for strong voice… can you see what makes them stand out?
  • Listen to your gut, when you’re laying the words down do they feel unnatural to you in your head, like you’re laying down bricks, not feathers? If so then it may not be a problem of plot, character or description, but one of voice.
  • Most importantly… write it for yourself not anyone else, not a particular judge, crit buddy, friend, family member. Your edit is when you write it for your reader, but your voice will be in your first draft, the one you write for you.

Made in Birmingham, Kathryn Kettle now lives, works and writes in London. The opening of her debut YA novel, The Boy I am, was shortlisted for the Society of Childrens’ Book Writers and Illustrator (SCBWI British Isles) Undiscovered Voices 2018. She has won competitions and been highly commended for her flash fiction, including being longlisted as part of the 2017 Bath Flash Fiction Award.

When not writing, Kathryn can be found travelling and working around the world transforming business with technology. She is passionate about promoting the role of women as leaders, the value of creativity, and the need for diversity at all levels in STEM and business-based careers.

Kathryn is also the creator of the ‘Book Chain Project’ which you can learn more about here.

Guest blog: The Hot Seat (Andi Ipaktchi)

What of life after Undiscovered Voices? Previous Finalist, Andi Ipaktchi (UV2016), takes a wry look at her journey from illustrator and printmaker to comedy writer and performer in our latest guest blog post.

The Hot Seat

“What are you working on?”

With those five words, our entire dinner table full of artists, writers, actors, and composers fell silent, not just me. Seconds before the question, I was chattering away like a chipmunk. Now I was staring down at my dish. Perhaps a good answer would appear inscribed in the log rings of my roasted parsnips. I could hear someone pouring himself a very, tall glass of wine.

“Well?” the blockhead insisted. He was looking straight at me. He would have addressed me by name, if he had known it, but I was new. I was here to reunite with my friend. We had made plans months ago to and now she was seated right next to me.

I waved my napkin to my mouth to feign a mouth full of food and looked at the actors. Surely, they would be happy to talk about themselves? But they just stared back. My friend tapped my boot heel with hers.  She was on to me. I didn’t have a good answer for the blockhead and she knew it.

The truth was that we had shown up at the arts residency together because we brought out the best in each other. We liked volleying stories back and forth while the other diners fueled us with their laughter. In fact, they were the ones who encouraged us to return to write it all down.

She is a short story writer; I’m an illustrator and printmaker. We had returned to create a comedy of some kind, or another. Maybe a scripted sketch for Youtube. Or a podcast. Or a cartoon strip. Or why not a play? Or a live performance for kids.. or a Tiktok dance for old people. But definitely not a book. (Or maybe a book.) We had no idea, but we were there to figure that part out.

It had felt like a pretty solid plan, but now I felt exposed. Naïve. Foolish.

Being asked too soon into the creative process, “what are you working on?”  can feel like a stranglehold on a newborn’s neck. I wanted to give him a simple but satisfying answer so he would move on. Being too vague might sound coy and incite even morequestions. I stopped chewing and put my napkin down on my lap.

“My partner and I are taking a leap of faith that our combined creative energies will transform into something artistically viable.” But I didn’t say that because only a twit would talk like that.

Instead, my partner piped in. She blew across her green tea and said, “We’re working on something together.” (She has such a way with words, doesn’t she?)

“Like a creative collaboration?” asked the blockhead.

“Yes. A creative collaboration.” And that was enough. He was satisfied. He stabbed a small potato with his knife and popped it into his mouth.

Each evening at dinner, our collaboration process drew more interest than the project itself. We became a two-headed monster novelty. Our project began to take form.  Our stories began to volley back and forth across the table once again. (Even the blockhead laughed.)

A year later, we have written Season 1 of our audio comedy about a house full of international guests and staff at an arts residency in rural Ireland. But you probably want to know more about the collaboration. I’d tell you, but I can’t. There is no way to explain it, without sounding like a twit.

So, tell me… What are you working on?

Andi Ipaktchi is an American illustrator, printmaker, comedy writer and performer. She is an illustration graduate from Parsons School of Design. Since Undiscovered Voices 2016, she continues to exhibit her prints and paint. In 2021, she co-wrote and co-directed a scripted, audio comedy with Aoibheann McCannn called: RETREAT (Another Painful Irish Family History) due out in the autumn.  She encourages the UV community to contact her when travelling to Paris to take her famous Deux Centime, French, kid-lit tour. Her family really doesn’t mind.

Photos of Andi Ipatchi thanks to Noura Gauper.

Guest blog: The pressure of time (Kate Scott)

Welcome to one of our original Undiscovered Voices finalists, Kate Scott  (UV2008). Her guest blog talks about the forces that seek to whittle away the precious time that writers have to write. There are times to write slowly, she suggests, and some occasions that require writing quickly!

The pressure of time

Whether published or pre-published, it’s easy to feel under pressure as a writer. The pressure to produce a book, to submit it (or, if under contract, to market it), then to write another, and another, and another. But writing books with frazzled speed is not the way to produce your best work – and if you’re not producing your best work then maybe it needs a new approach…

Slow writing

We have slow cooking, why not slow writing? Wallow in your words. Ponder your paragraphs. Curl into your chapters. Submerge yourself in your story. (And avoid too much alliteration.) Creating good stories takes time – so take the time. What you produce will be the better for it. What sticks is a good story, so don’t rush or you’ll write something that slips from the reader’s mind, rather than lingering there.

R. J. Palacio, author of Wonder, is about to publish a new book, Pony. She says: “I love to tell stories, and writing is my preferred way of doing that. But I also love spending time with family and friends, and I can’t say I’m one of those writers that writes ever day even when I’m not working on a book. I write until a story is finished, then I do other things. Then when I have another story to tell, I write that one.”

She talks about how she put her new manuscript aside when she realised it wasn’t working. She only went back to it a few years later when she’d figured out the way to fix it. The result? A better book. The lesson? Take your time.

The pressure of the brand

As a writer or an illustrator, you’re also pushed to create a brand, to promote that brand, extend it, and work to make it ‘sticky’ (among other vaguely unpleasant-sounding marketing terms).

You’re told to network, promote, create acres of content. You’re told to choose your social media platform and to dance on that platform until your feet bleed and you have followers in their thousands…

To which I say (and editors and marketing managers may want to cover their ears at this point): No.

It’s not that having a social-media platform or a brand is a bad thing – of course it’s not – but it’s not what should come first.

If you are spending more time online networking and promoting than you are offline writing and editing your stories, then you have things the wrong way around. Funny memes may get the likes, but good stories pull in the readers. Social media fans are fickle, readers of good books are anything but. Take your time.

Don’t do what makes you feel uncomfortable

Some people are natural networkers, happy to share their lives online. If this is you, that’s wonderful – use your gift-of-the-online gab. If it’s not you, don’t worry that you are losing out. It’s unlikely that your online presence will have as much as an effect on sales or reach as you might have been led to believe. Other people’s recommendations will snag sales, your own promotions? Not so much. And other people’s recommendations will come if the work is good.

So again, take your time to make it so. Just like the Field of Dreams quote: ‘If you build it, they will come.’

The exception proves the rule

BUT. If you’re reading this and you’re thinking of entering the Undiscovered Voices competition? Ignore everything I’ve just said and HURRY UP.

This is the chance of a children’s writing career lifetime…

type at your fastest speed and grab it!

Kate Scott is the author of 35 children’s fiction and non-fiction titles, including Giant, Just Jack and Spies in Disguise: Boy in Tights, which won a Lancashire Fantastic Book Award. Kate has also written over 90 episodes of children’s television for CBeebies, C5, CITV, Disney and Netflix. She was the script-editor for the animation-film, A Christmas Letter, narrated by Kate Winslet (Sky) and was recently commissioned to write the treatment for a 45-minute TV film special based on the classic children’s series, Brambly Hedge, by Jill Barklem.

She is currently the Story Editor for a new pre-school show coming to Apple TV. Kate co-founded the Book Pen Pals initiative with Sara O’Connor in May 2018.

Guest blog: Crossing the finish line – three writing hacks (Michael Mann)

In our latest guest blog post, Undiscovered Voices finalist Michael Mann (UV2020) reveals three of his favourite pre-submission writing hacks, which were tried and tested on his forthcoming debut novel Ghostcloud.

Crossing the finish line – three writing hacks for the submission sprint

The UV2022 submission window is open! You are (hopefully) almost there, fine-tuning your piece, or perhaps (more my style) sprinting madly to the finish line.

Fear not. Both methods work. And now, as I cheer you on from the sidelines, I will not share deep, wise words (Annaliese and Anna stole mine anyway) but a few tried and tested hacks I used on Ghostcloud ahead of submission (which worked, I think, as it’s coming out in October!).

1. Shake it like a polaroid picture (aka Robot Voice)

In the film Clueless, Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher states ‘I don’t rely on mirrors’, explaining she takes a polaroid of her outfit each day. Why? Because polaroids are less flattering than mirrors. If she looks good on a polaroid, she knows she looks good.

Reading your work aloud is like looking in the mirror. You round up. You hear what you want to hear. The good news is that an (unflattering) polaroid lies just around the corner: the robotic voice of your Mac/PC. It’ll read it horribly, butcher it even, but that’s what you need. If it still sounds good in robot voice, then it’s ready.

In a Mac, you just highlight the text, and press Option+Esc. I’m sure there’s a shortcut on PCs too. I use it all the time – it helps so much with rhythm, pace, typo spotting – and is a great way to give your eyes a screen break.

2. Cut out the ‘wases’ (and ‘weres’ and ‘ises’…)

When my friend Louise gave me this tip, I was angry. How ridiculous! I mean, the novel was in the past tense, how could I avoid was?

But after I cooled down, reworked the passage and sent it round, most preferred the ‘was-less’ version. They just said it was tighter. Here’s a before and after, when my protagonist, Luke, enters the haunted corridors of the East Wing.

Before: It wasn’t just the length that made him feel dizzy. The lights were flickering, the dark paint was peeling, and the black and white floor tiles were zigging and zagging.  

After: The corridor stretched into the darkness. Lights flickered dimly, flakes of dark paint hung from the walls and black-and-white tiles zigged and zagged underfoot.

In fact, I still like the original, and sometimes a ‘was’ is what you need… but so often, when I check my ‘wases’, I find stronger verb or more concise expression. In kids’ books, every word has to earn its place, so this is usually a good thing.

3. Make it smelly. (Or touchy. Or tasty.)

I know we all know this, but I still forget daily, so I want to remind you because the UV2022 finish line is so close! You can practically see the white ribbon. You can hear the crowds cheering.

But can you smell it?

I doubt it. A smelly crowd would be slightly off-putting. And usually ribbons don’t smell at all. I’d go as far to say that people avoid smells, both in life and writing. But I dare you to stick in a smell in your extract. I’ll raise that, why not try the first page or two?

A simple one will do. For our sprint, maybe cut grass, old trainers or cheap deodorant. Or if it really doesn’t fit, at least try some touch (a chafing sports t-shirt, a powdery start line) or taste too (salty-sweat, minty lip balm). Suddenly that finish line feels so much closer.

Mark Haddon (I think) said he tries to get all five senses in each chapter. And he’s wiser than me. 

Now, stop reading this blog and start editing! I’ll be cheering loudly (in cheap deodorant) from the metaphorical sidelines.

Good luck!

Michael Mann is a teacher by day, dad by night, and mostly writes when he should be sleeping. He was a UV2020 finalist and a 2019 London Writers Award winner.

His debut middle grade novel, Ghostcloud, is a thrilling, magical adventure that will be published by Hachette in October 2021 with a sequel the year after. He owes the idea for the story to his coal-mining grandad and a lifelong love of cloudspotting.

He lives in London with his (patient) partner and their (less patient) toddler, and can be found playing board games when he’s not busy losing his wallet.

UV2022 is open for submissions

Official announcement

Submissions Are Now Open for SCBWI-BI’s Eighth Undiscovered Voices Anthology

Once again SCBWI British Isles plans to help fresh, new voices in children’s literature find agents and publishers through its Undiscovered Voices project. 

Submissions will be accepted online at www.undiscoveredvoices.com from now until 18th July 2021 via an online submissions process. There is no submissions fee, but only unagented and unpublished members of SCBWI living in the UK and Europe (writing in the English language) are eligible. ‘Unpublished’ means you have not had a book (including a picture book, novel, non-fiction book or collection of short stories) accepted for publication or currently published in any country. 

The Undiscovered Voices anthology will include at least twelve fiction extracts – from early readers to young adult novels – from SCBWI members in the UK and EU. The anthology will be published in January 2022 and sent free of charge to editors and agents whose focus is children’s literature. The book is produced with the financial support of Working Partners Ltd, a London-based company that creates series fiction. 

Authors and illustrators from the seven previous anthologies have received publishing contracts for more than 400 books and have been nominated for or won more than 160 literary prizes, including the Carnegie Medal, Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize, Branford Boase Award, Blue Peter Award, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, and more than 30 regional awards.

What You Need to Submit:

  • The first 4,000 words of a completed novel for children/teens. Picture book texts and nonfiction work are not accepted.
  • The target age range of your book, choosing from 5–8 year olds, 9–12 year olds and Young Adults (YA).
  • A 75-word synopsis of your story.
  • A 50-word bio written in the third person. 

You may not resubmit any extract from a novel you submitted for consideration in previous Undiscovered Voices anthologies ­– even if it has been significantly revised.

Before you submit, please review the complete submissions eligibility and rules.

Judges

Four UK literary agents and three editors comprise the stellar judging panel for Undiscovered Voices 2022:

  • Davinia Andrew-Lynch, literary agent and the founder of boutique agency ANDLYN
  • Megan Carroll, literary agent at Watson, Little Ltd
  • Sarah Davies, founder and agent at Greenhouse Literary Agency
  • Jane Griffiths, editorial director at Penguin Random House Children’s Books
  • Sarah Levison, senior commissioning editor for fiction at Farshore Books
  • Yasmin Morrissey, commissioning editor at Scholastic
  • Jo Williamson, literary agent at Antony Harwood Ltd

Honorary Chair

Patrice Lawrence, an award-winning writer for children, teenagers and adults, is the honorary chair for Undiscovered Voices 2022. Her books include Orangeboy, (shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award and winner of the Bookseller YA Prize and Waterstones Prize for Older Children’s Fiction), Indigo Donut (winner of the Crimefest YA Prize and shortlisted for the Bookseller YA prize), RoseInterrupted and Eight Pieces of Silva (winner of Woman and Home Teen YA, the Jhalak prize for writers of colour and the Crimefest YA Prize). All four books have been nominated for the Carnegie Medal. She was a 2020 Costa Book Awards judge and is a judge for the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award for Radical Fiction.

For more details on how to submit, tips for writers, blogs from previous writers featured in the anthology, and to sign up for news and updates about Undiscovered Voices, visit www.undiscoveredvoices.com

Guest blog: The power of seeing yourself as the hero (Serena Patel)

Undiscovered Voices finalist Serena Patel (UV2018) shares the importance of making sure children can see themselves in the stories they read and how diverse voices are a gift to every reader.

Seeing yourself as the hero

Imagine loving stories, inhaling book after book, books being such an important part of your life. Now imagine never seeing yourself in books. Imagine never seeing someone like you as the hero of the story. Imagine never believing you can be a hero in your own story.

I loved books as a child. Reading was comfort, escapism, mystery, adventure. Books held my hand through difficult times and kept my head above water when I couldn’t express how I felt as a young person growing up.

I never realised that in the stories I loved I never saw myself. I was never the hero of the story.

The hidden impact of being invisible

I’ve only realised as an adult what the impact of that can be. Seeing yourself in stories can be validating, empowering, educating. We know books create empathy. We know books help children make sense of the world around them. The world I was seeing was white centred, not just in books but in my primary school too as I was the only child of colour there. I felt like I didn’t belong, that there was no place for me.

I hadn’t realised that was the message I was receiving but it makes sense now. If I couldn’t see anyone who looked like me in stories, what did that make me? Invisible? Not to say there weren’t books about people of colour but those that did exist were not made accessible to us, not given the same visibility.

Don’t stop believing

I had always loved writing, but had never shown anyone my words, never believing anyone would want to hear what I had to say. Then much later as a mother, I remember looking at our bookshelves and thinking something is not right here. Where are the books that reflect our life, where are the British Indian main stories?

So I started writing again, but still disbelieving even as I embarked on the journey to publication that anyone would want to read this book.

Sharing stories with the world

When I entered the Undiscovered Voices competition I had no idea what could happen. It was the most wonderful thing. The judges heard my voice, they valued it and they put it in front of publishing and said ‘look at this!’ I am forever grateful to them for providing this platform to new writers.

How wrong I was thinking no one would want to hear what I had to say – the reception for the book from readers, librarians, teachers, parents and children has been amazing. They all accept and love Anisha as the hero, no questions asked. And now it feels so simple – of course, Anisha can be the hero. Why couldn’t I see it before?

How I wish I’d had these books as child, how validated I would have felt, I might have felt differently about myself? Seen myself and my culture through a positive lens. Seen myself as a hero of my own story?

But how glad I am we have a chance to give this to the next generation. Those books that reflect realities, act as windows and mirrors can make a real difference to our children. Reading those stories, hearing new voices, opening up the world and our minds. What a gift that is.

Serena Patel is the author of the Anisha, Accidental Detective series which won the Sainsbury’s Children’s book Award for Fiction and the CrimeFest award for Best Children’s Crime Fiction.

She lives in the West Midlands with her family. Serena believes all children deserve to feel seen in the stories they read and that books are an important tool for empathy. When she’s not writing Serena enjoys watching movies, reading and eating cake. Chocolate cake preferred.

UV Masterclass report, part 2

This year’s Undiscovered Voices preparations are bigger than ever with our very first UV Masterclass series proving hugely popular. But if you missed out, don’t panic! Here’s a breakdown to clue you in. Each of the three sessions focused on different elements of your UV submission. Our second report focuses on WRITING A SYNOPSIS with author and editor Benjamin Scott, sharing his secrets for distilling your novel into a 75-word synopsis. This might feel impossible, but Benjamin makes it look easy.

Writing a Synopsis

Firstly, it’s important you don’t try to say too much – it’s only 75-words – try to capture the essence of your story and don’t try to squeeze in all the finer details. Remember, you don’t have to keep it forever – it’s a specific tool to woo our judges.

Hot tip! The writing does matter. Fluidity and intrigue that pulls you in is key, a bit like a movie trailer. You might like to keep that in mind when you’re writing yours. They should tell you just enough to give you a picture of the story and where it might go.

What were the big pointers to look out for?

Make sure you’re pitching your story to the right age group, that the tone and style are reflective of your chapters, be sure to tell the judges about the bigger picture and read the previous anthologies to see successful examples – they’re all available for free!

You’ll notice those who’ve previously bagged themselves a spot in the anthology ensured their audience knew who their stories were about, their conflicts or goals, the stakes and what they intended to do about them, and if they had time, they’ve thrown in a small peppering of setting too.

At the end of the day, Benjamin advises not to let this task consume you – it’s a functional tool just for our judges – if you’re submitting directly to agents, they’ll likely want a longer synopsis.

Get friends and family to check it or write several different versions to let them choose. Why not also get your friends and family to read a selection of your favourite synopses from the previous anthologies? Then ask them what appealed to them.

Make every word count and trust your gut!

Discover more – UV Masterclass report, part 3

Don’t miss the great tips in our UV masterclass report, part 1 on Titles That Sell.

Andrew James is originally from the Lake District and teaches English, Film and Media. He completed his MA in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths in 2018 and for the past five years, he has organised and hosted monthly agent pitch evenings for his local writing group. He has a passionate dislike for anything referred to as an ‘easy peeler.’ Satsumas are the only way to go.

UV Masterclass report, part 3

This year’s Undiscovered Voices preparations are bigger than ever with our very first UV Masterclass series proving hugely popular. But if you missed out, don’t panic! Here’s a breakdown to clue you in.

Our final report focuses on HOOKING YOUR READER FROM THE START, which saw editor and author Catherine Coe and author and screenwriter Simon James Green discussing how to polish those opening lines, including dispelling the most common myths about openings and highlighting the key components your openings really do need.

Hooking your reader from the start

What were the common myths? You’ve heard them all before: avoid exposition, start with action, make sure your first line sparkles and never, ever, ever use a prologue. I know what you’re thinking. Should you now ignore these conventions? Not exactly. They’re just not necessarily absolutes, nor should each be taken to extremes.

Lights, Camera, Exposition

With exposition, readers don’t want to see lots of clunky backstory, but they do need to know some details, otherwise it’s confusing. Exposition should come naturally. Trust your writing to be strong enough so you don’t need to cram the twists and turns into your opening.

Action’s great to start with, but don’t be fooled by the word action. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something physical. E.g. Alan Garner’s The Owl Service merely has the children hearing something in the attic. It’s intrigue we want. Physical action might work brilliantly for some genres but not for all, so try your best to interpret this into something appropriate for your story.

If a prologue is key to your story, if you absitively posolutely have to have it, then why not just name it Chapter One? And a sparkly first line? Really, the whole book really needs to sparkle. If it does, you won’t need to worry about the first line. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

So, what’s the big idea of dispelling myths you’ve worked so hard to adhere to? It’s all about not letting yourself get bogged down trying to follow rules, but instead using your common sense to write your story with these conventions as guidelines.

That’s what not to do. Here are the six key components every opening should have:

One – Start in the right place

Start where your story really starts. You’ve heard it before, I’m sure, yet aspiring writers continually make this mistake. Get to your inciting incident ASAP. It doesn’t have to start where it starts in your head.

Two – How are you going to say it?

Voice! Oh, I know, you’ve had that feedback before. It is key though. The voice of your character, narrator and your voice as the author all have to shine through. Isn’t that why you love your favourite writers so much

Three – Get under the skin of your characters

Use your characters to create engagement and connection. You have to know your characters inside out, but we don’t need every detail on the page. We can see brushstrokes in their actions and reactions, but again, this should feel natural. Don’t list their traits. It’s a classic show, don’t tell situation.

Four – Everyone should know where they are

Setting is vital. Just because you can see it in your head, doesn’t mean your reader can. Your setting is likely as important as your characters, so use it.

Five – Making sure you keep the reader reading

How do you? Intrigue! You need to think about how you begin and end your chapters, the pacing of your story and how to hook the reader to keep turning those pages.

Six – Give us enough clues to know what we’re reading!

It’s important to give a sense of genre to your writing. It helps our judges (and your readers) understand where your story falls and what might come next. Conventions are useful but again, not absolutes. They can be broken, but that’s all part of your intrigue.

And, lastly…

One final brilliant tip from our wonderful Benjamin Scott regarding your 50-word bio. Re-visit the previous anthologies (all free to download) and read some. You want the judges to be interested in you and see that you take your writing seriously. Think about how you present yourself.

There you have it. All three of our amazing Undiscovered Voices Masterclasses in a nutshell. So, what’s stopping you? Get to work!

Good luck and remember, it’s supposed to be fun!

Don’t miss the great tips in our UV masterclass report, part 1 on Titles That Sell and part 2 on Writing your Synopsis.

Andrew James is originally from the Lake District and teaches English, Film and Media. He completed his MA in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths in 2018 and for the past five years, he has organised and hosted monthly agent pitch evenings for his local writing group. He has a passionate dislike for anything referred to as an ‘easy peeler.’ Satsumas are the only way to go.