We could not be more delighted to share the news that UV co-founder and all-around literary superstar Sara Grant is our UV2024 Honorary Chair!
Sara Grant is a teacher, mentor, editor, and author of the CHASING DANGER series, DARK PARTIES, HALF LIVES and the MAGIC TRIX series. Over the last 20 years, Sara, as one of the founders of Undiscovered Voices – alongside her dedicated team of UV volunteers – has launched the careers of countless new children’s authors.
For us, the new committee at UV HQ, Sara continues to be the UV mothership. It is her dedication, care and humility, that’s made UV the standout competition that it is. With countless writerly careers launched and over 440 books now published as a result of the competition, there is much she should be honoured for – she is a literary legend.
Here, in conversation with us, Sara shares her thoughts on what UV means to her, her standout UV moments, along with some handy competition hints and tips too. But first off, we asked Sara how it all started.
In the beginning
It was 1am back in 2006, that Sara found herself writing a proposal to create a SCBWI literary competition as a platform to celebrate new talent in the world of children’s books. The next morning, she shared her idea with her partner in crime and fellow Working Partners editor, Sara O’Connor. Sara Squared – as their Working Partners’ boss Chris Snowdon nicknamed them – started to put the plan into action. Natascha Biebow, RA of SCBWI-BI, applauded the idea – along with Chris at Working Partners, who generously agreed to fund the venture. Then it was all systems go!
“That first year, it was just Sara and I sorting through the submissions. It was all paper-based – suitcases packed with paper and binders to read in the evenings and at weekends! It was already exciting – and then something truly miraculous happened… David Almond, Sara O’Connor’s favourite author, agreed to be our first-ever honorary chair! That was a wow moment.”
Things continued to go from strength to strength, and by the time the first 2008 UV anthology was born, Sara and Sara thought if just one person managed to get published, it would all have been worth it.
“In the end, 10 out of the first 12 writers in the 2008 anthology got book deals. Which was just mind-blowing.”
Since that landmark, the competition has been honed and crafted – and digitalised! It has continued to grow and transform.
How does it feel being the UV2024 Honorary Chair?
“Undiscovered Voices has been my life’s work for almost 20 years. It’s my baby and my passion – and to be asked to be the Honorary Chair for UV2024 is such a lovely sentiment. I feel honoured and flattered.
“Getting published had been a dream of mine since I was eight years old! However, in truth, I have found more satisfaction from seeing the hundreds of UV authors achieve their dreams of being published and watching them find their success.”
Making ‘that call’
Sara explained to us how one of the seminal moments of each competition is making ‘that call’ to those selected to appear in the anthology.
“The tingles and excitement of these moments – knowing that UV is working its magic for a new line-up of talent – it’s an incredibly special feeling.”
What advice do you have for those thinking of entering the competition?
“JUST DO IT!” Sara explains how pressing send on your submission is such a scary and amazing thing to do:
“This is your opportunity to get your stories out there. Sending your submission in is – whether you are selected or not – your first brave, bold step to publication. There are many reasons other than quality that decide which 12 extracts will be selected by the judges and appear in the anthology. Each UV anthology is a collection that reflects the various genres and age groups covered by the competition. But only by pressing ‘SEND’, are you allowing yourself to be in the running.”
“Important to say, though,” Sara adds, “many, many titles, and authors who did not get selected to appear in the anthology have gone on to have illustrious careers as superstar writers. So, most importantly, whatever the outcome, never give up!”
Sara’s hot tips before you press send:
- You only have 2500 words, so make them the very best they can be – edit, edit, edit!
- Get other people to critique your work and give feedback.
- A winning submission should grab the reader’s attention immediately. Can you hook me from the opening line?
What was your biggest UV high?
“Goodness, it’s hard to know where to start, really! There have been so many highs.
“Making the calls to those selected each year, creating a new class of amazing new voices – and then, seeing the anthology for the first time – and knowing that some of these extracts will be a book one day.
“The party every year is also always exciting. Then hearing about those who’ve become agented and the ever-increasing number of book deals that come year after year as the UV alumni grow in numbers and experience, into the multi-award-winning community that it now is.
“To be part of all this has been incredible. But best of all though, I would say, reading the submissions – and finding those new, fresh voices – this is always a real thrill for everyone involved – including the judges.”
Any thoughts on the future of UV?
“To the new committee, made up of previous UV alumni, I’d just like to say hold it close to your hearts and make it your own. Volunteering and giving back ensures UV continues to be where authorly dreams for the future are made, and you are all a part of making that happen. Keep up the good work and continue to be brilliant!”
Thank you, Sara Grant!
On behalf of the new committee and all the many hundreds of writers whom you have supported with your patience, expertise, and kindness over the last 20 years. Thank you. You are UV.
Your vision and dedication to UV has established the competition as a pivotal event on the literary calendar. Our thanks too to the previous committee, who worked alongside you and volunteered so much time so generously. Sara Grant, you are an exceptional human, mentor and writer. We are so grateful that you have agreed to be this year’s honorary chair.