Undiscovered Voices 2018 – now open for submissions!

SCBWI and sponsors Working Partners are delighted to announce that submissions for the sixth Undiscovered Voices competition are now open. Undiscovered Voices helps fresh, new voices in children’s literature find agents and publishers.

The Undiscovered Voices anthology will include twelve fiction extracts – from early readers up to young adult novels – and twelve black-and-white illustrations. The anthology will be published in February 2018 and sent free of charge to editors, art directors 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.

Submissions will be accepted between 1st July and 15th August 2017 via an online submissions process. There is no submission fee, but only unagented and unpublished members of SCBWI living in the UK and Europe (writing in the English language) are eligible.

From the five previous anthologies, Undiscovered Voices featured authors and illustrators have received publishing contracts for more than 200 books. The authors have been nominated for and won an amazing array of literary prizes: including the Carnegie Medal, Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize, Branford Boase Award, Blue Peter Award, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, and over 30 regional awards.

The following judges will select the extracts and illustrations to be included in the anthology:

  • Chrissie Boehm, Artful Doodlers
  • Claire Cartey, Holroyde Cartey
  • Lauren Fortune, Scholastic
  • Andrea Kearny, Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Sarah Leonard, Orchard Children’s Books
  • Joanna Moult, Skylark Literary Limited
  • Polly Nolan, The Greenhouse Literary Agency
  • Gillie Russell, Aitken Alexander Associates
  • Hannah Shepard, DHH Literary Agency
  • Kirsty Stansfield, Nosy Crow
  • Will Steele, Osborne Books
  • Nghiem Ta, Walker Books

Click here to enter your writing submission and here to enter your illustration.

Before You Click Submit, Part 5 – A Book by Any Other Name

As we get closer to the opening of UV submissions, we’re posting tips to make sure your submission stands the best chance of making it into the anthology.

In our final post, we make a final plea to consider your title and its impact on the reader.  

 

Don’t Take Your Title for Granted.

Mumnesia by Katie Dale

Your title is part of your writing. It’s your representative during the judging process, selling your story and ideas as much as the text does. Once you’ve proofread and polished, scrutinise your title.

UV Founder and Author, Sara Grant, says, “Great titles are memorable, distinctive, intriguing, easy to say and clearly indicate the story you will tell. Endeavour to use concrete nouns and active verbs in your title.”

Test your title using the following criteria:

  • Does it match the content of the book? You might like it because it’s quirky or fresh or poetic, but if it doesn’t match the story, don’t use it. You are setting up an expectation about the type and style of the story. Your title should attract the right reader. If there’s a disconnect, you may only disappoint readers. Does it capture the drama, humour, or romance of your work?
  • Is it memorable? Does it sound too much any other book? Will it be confused with too many other titles?
  • Can it capture the reader’s imagination or curiosity?
  • Is it as short or long as it needs to be?
  • Say it out loud again and again – because if it gets published you will be saying it a lot! Is it easy to say with words that won’t be confused at a glance?

You might like a title because it’s quirky or fresh or poetic, but if it doesn’t match the story, don’t use it.

It’s worth taking a look at the titles of books for the age group you are writing for inspiration. Test run your new titles past friends, critique partners, librarians or children and ask them what they think the title suggests about the book. Look for that magic combination that spark interest, prepares the reader for what’s come and arouses unquenchable thirst to find out more.

 

And, finally.

Good luck to everyone who enters from the whole UV team!

 

Submissions for UV2018 will open tomorrow (1st July 2017) and will close 15th August 2017. Why not sign up here for submission reminders?

 

Before You Click Submit, Part 4 – Hunting Mistakes

As we get closer to the opening of UV submissions, we’re posting tips to make sure your submission stands the best chance of making it into the anthology.

In this post, we’re looking at a great way to scrutinise your text, some commons errors and few pet peeves that can let your extract down.

No Place to Hide – Paragraph Swap Around

UV Founder and Author Sara Grant suggests reading your extract out of order. First switch the pages around and read them out of order. Next read the paragraphs out of order.

“It’s surprising what you’ll find when you scrutinize pages and then paragraphs out of context and individually,” she says. “You start considering if every line, word and punctuation mark is correct. Also you may spot words, phrases or ideas you overuse reading in this mixed-up fashion.”

Just make sure your paragraphs are in the right order when you submit.

Find-and-Replace Mistakes

Rosie Best (UV 2012)

Author and Working Partner’s editor, Rosie Best, warns about the sort of errors that come with using ‘find-and-replace’ on the manuscript. “We all use it,” Rosie says, “But you need to check the results for consistency.”

Make sure find-and-replace has caught every version of the word – some find-and-replace software misses out possessive versions of words, or where a different grammatical agreement has been used.

“A common error is when find-and-replace makes a change inside another word entirely. If you’ve changed a character name from Rose to Emily, you may end up with a sentence like this ‘in the morning, Ben aEmily from his bed’.”

“Also double check that you’ve also deleted any obsolete references that may be left over from previous drafts,” Rosie adds. “It can be surprising how many can survive repeated edits.”

Pet Peeves and Common Errors

“We all have writing ticks,” says Benjamin Scott, committee member and creative writing tutor. “Whether it’s a sentence structure we tend to favourite, a set of words we always reach for first, or, some stock dialogue. It feels comfortable to use, but often leads to wordy, untidy writing.”

A good critique partner (or editor) will point these ticks out to you, but there are plenty web-based editing tools (like http://editminion.com/) that use algorithms to suggest potentially useful edits to your text.

Keep looking for ways to tighten your writing and search the web for common errors to avoid. Here are some of our favourite pitfalls to dodge (thanks to Sara Grant):

  • Unnecessary word repeated in short space, or over-usage in the whole piece.
  • Unnecessary phrases – i.e. his heart thumped in his chest, nodded his head, imagined in his mind, blinked his eyes, actual facts, at this moment in time
  • Main character or narrator thinking too many questions in quick succession – i.e. What was he thinking? What could he do? What did it all mean?
  • Not trusting yourself as a writer and not trusting your readers by showing and telling your reader something – i.e. My hands began to sweat. Fear fizzled in my stomach. My eyes widened in surprise. I was scared.
  • Too many competing metaphors or similes in close proximity to each other. Let your best metaphors and similes breathe.
  • Appropriate level of description – avoid either too much or not enough. Tell your readers what they need to know to picture a scene and understand the action.
  • Too specific action that proves unimportant – i.e. He picked up the knife with his left hand and turned counterclockwise.

And, finally, watch out for tenses – nothing is more disruptive that an unexpected and unintentional shift in tense!

Stay tuned for our final tips, coming tomorrow. Submissions for UV2018 will open this Saturday (1st July 2017) and will close 15th August 2017. Why not sign up here for submission reminders?

Before You Click Submit, Part 3 – Eight Ways to Make Sure Your Submission Hits the Mark

As we get closer to the opening of UV submissions, we’re posting tips to make sure your submission stands the best chance of making it into the anthology.

Eight Ways to Make Sure Your Submission Hits the Mark

Shine by Candy Gourlay

Award-winning author and one of the first UV finalists Candy Gourlay has kindly given us eight incredible and direct tips to make sure your submission is ready to wow our judges:

Tip 1: Intrigue starts with your first chapter. No explanations. Make your reader desperate to find out what happens next.

Tip 2: Voice. Everyone talks about looking for a voice. Voice only happens when your characters have come alive. How do you do that? Inhabit your character and build the plot from within.

Tip 3. Setting is context AND character, not information. Stop describing and start characterising. If your setting is alive, your reader will read on.

Tip 4. Cause and effect. If cause and effect is not happening then your chapter is static and your reader has probably died of boredom.

Tip 5. Don’t be anxious to make sure that your reader understands your story in the first three chapters. First chapters intrigue and lead your reader on. They are not there to explain. Trust the judges – they are reading a LOT of first chapters and I’ll bet a lot of them are explaining rather than exciting.

Tip 6. Select the eggs you’re going to offer in the basket. YOU DON’T HAVE TO PUT EVERYTHING INTO THE FIRST CHAPTER. You are more likely to engage a reader with a choice selection.

Tip 7. Make sure you identify WHO you’re writing for and that your sample is appropriate to your target readership. Oh, and here’s a guess … most people submitting will probably be writing YA. Ask yourself, is this the one that will help me stand out in the herd?

When you are editing down your chapter samples, don’t cut for word number, cut for MEANING and DRAMA.

Tip 8. When you are editing down your chapter samples, don’t cut for word number, cut for MEANING and DRAMA. I know so many people who edit down without realising that they are losing the deliciousness of their writing. This means you will have to be wise and practical about choosing what you winnow out of your text.

Check back soon for more top writing tips before you submit.


Candy Gourley was a finalist in UV2008. She has been a journalist, press photographer, web designer, short film maker, radio presenter (well, once) and fake American accent voice talent. She once helped overthrow a dictator (with several million other people). She has now forsworn revolutionary activity to become a children’s author. She is the award-winning author of Tall Story and Shine.  www.candygourlay.com

Before You Click Submit, Part 2 – Three Illustration Tips

As we get closer to the opening of UV submissions, we’re posting tips to make sure your submission stands the best chance of making it into the anthology. Today, we’re talking illustrators!

FLIPPING, MULTIPLE SCREENS and FILE SIZE

Illustrator and committee member Patrick Miller suggests before you get ready to send,  make sure you do the following:

 

Flip Your Image
  • If you haven’t already, flip your image horizontally so that you can see the mirror image of it – you’ll be amazed at how it highlights any errors of proportion, perspective and anatomy. It’s never too late to check and amend.

 

Check on Different Screens
  • Check your image on lots of devices, not just your computer screen. Everyone’s screens are different so have a look on a phone, an iPad, on a friend’s computer, and when printed out. The judges won’t know exactly what values you intend your image to have so it’s good to feel sure that they’ll see what you want them to see!

 

File Size and Resolution
  • Make sure your online submission image is 72dpi and under 1Mb in filesize, and make sure you saved the 600dpi version separately – we’ll need that for the anthology!

 

Check back soon for some writing top tips before you submit.

Before You Click Submit, Part 1 – Proofreading Tips

As we get closer to the opening of UV submissions, we’re posting tips to make sure your submission stands the best chance of making it to anthology.

Unless you’re submitting at midnight on 1st July, there’s still time to give yourself a few hours, days or even weeks breathing space before coming back and giving your work a thorough proofread. Make time to check for glaring errors that are going to interrupt a judge’s enjoyment of your piece.

Proofreading the Unfamiliar

The human mind can be wondrous and inventive, but it can also be downright lazy – the more familiar something seems then the less attention we give it which is why taking a break from it is so important.

Another sure fire way to give your proofreading a boost is to make sure what you’re reading looks different:

  • If you predominately write on screen, then printing your text will help you see it in a different light. Use a ruler or piece of paper under each line as you’re reading to slow down and proofread more accurately.
  • If you don’t have access to a printer, editor and author Catherine Coe recommends sending it to an e-reader or another device to read. You could even temporarily change the font to help you proofread it.
  • We often hear errors (especially grammatical ones) better aloud than when we read silently, so reading your text aloud slowly is great way to hear what works and what doesn’t work. Brave authors can record their text and play it back, or even get friends (or text-to-voice software) to read it to them.

Check back tomorrow for some more top tips before you submit and don’t forget to read the relevant criteria for instructions.

Getting Ready for UV2018 – Guest Blog with Sophie Cameron

In our sixth guest blog by a past finalist, Sophie Cameron (UV2016), whose novel Out of the Blue will be published next year, talks about the power of thinking yourself as a writer. 

Masterclass Breakthrough

Just over two years ago, I went to a masterclass on writing young adult fiction with Juno Dawson. The class was brilliant and Juno gave us lots of great tips, but one in particular stood out to me: think of yourself as a writer. If you write, regardless of whether or not you’ve been published, that’s what you are – not an “aspiring writer” or a “wannabe writer”, a writer. (Juno no doubt put it more eloquently than I have, but you get the gist.)

It’s pretty simple advice, but it really changed my outlook on writing. Before, I’d been someone who enjoyed writing, someone who’d done writing courses and workshops, someone who hoped to one day be published… but not a writer. Once I started thinking of myself as such, I began to take my writing more seriously. I got into a routine and started viewing it as a responsibility, just like my day job.

Entering UV

A month or so after that masterclass, I sent the first chapters of my YA novel Out of the Blue to Undiscovered Voices. I’d started writing the manuscript just a few months beforehand so at that stage it was only a very rough first draft, with lots of gaps and plot holes to be filled in. In the time between submission and the longlist announcement, I stayed focused and worked on properly finishing the novel and improving it as much as a could – not because I thought I had much chance of being selected, but because that’s just what writers do.

Even having a complete, polished manuscript to my name felt like a huge achievement.

Even having a complete, polished manuscript to my name felt like a huge achievement. Until then I’d always reach twenty or thirty thousand words, hit a wall, then get distracted by a shiny new idea and start over. I spent years stuck in this cycle, but once I decided I was a writer, finishing felt like something I had to do; it gave me a focus and drive that I’d never had before.

To my amazement, I made the Undiscovered Voices shortlist in December 2015.

The next few months were incredible: I got lots of requests to read the full manuscript from agents and editors, several of whom I met while I was in London for the Undiscovered Voices launch party last February, and ended up with multiple offers of representation. I signed with my brilliant agent Hellie Ogden last March, she sold Out of the Blue to Macmillan Children’s Books in October, and it’s now due to be published in spring 2018 – something that still hasn’t quite sunk in!

I was so lucky to be included in UV, and I know not everyone has such a quick or straighforward route to publication. But thinking of yourself as a writer, as someone who is serious and professional about what they do, can only help – especially if, like me, you’ve had trouble sticking to projects in the past. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been writing or what stage in your career you’re at: if you write, you’re a writer. Don’t be afraid to think of yourself as such.

Submissions for UV2018 will open this Saturday (1st July 2017) and will close 15th August 2017. Why not sign up here for a reminder when submissions open?


Sophie Cameron is a YA writer from the Highlands of Scotland. Her first novel Out of the Blue was featured in Undiscovered Voices 2016 and will be published by Macmillan Children’s Books in 2018. She currently lives in Spain, where she works as an editor for an events magazine, and is writing her second novel. 

Win Win Win with UV2018!

Submissions for the next Undiscovered Voices open on Saturday! To celebrate, UV founder Sara Grant is giving away books this week. It’s her chance to support her fellow Undiscovered Voices writers and indy bookshops. Follow her on Twitter @AuthorSaraGrant for details and a chance to win books from Imogen White, Simon James Green, Dave Cousins, Kate Scott, Katie Dale, Claire Fayers, Candy Gourlay, Jane Hardstaff, Sarwat Chadda, Jane Benson McLoughlin & Shirley McMillan.

Undiscovered Voices helped launch the careers of 37+ writers with more than 200 books sold worldwide. We can’t wait to see who we will discover next!

Tonight, Monday 26th June, Sara Grant, Benjamin Scott, and Loretta Schauer will be taking questions as part of a live chat from 8pm to 9 p.m. for any last minute Undiscovered Voices questions.

Getting Ready for UV2018 – Guest Blog with Kate Scott

In our fifth guest blog by a past finalist, Kate Scott, who was featured in the first UV anthology back in 2008, talks about saying yes to changes and inspiration. 

The Magic of Saying Yes

I have a good friend who has taken improv classes for years (‘improv’ being the obligatory shortening of ‘improvisation’ – those extra three syllables being presumably too taxing [or uncool] for those who have been initiated into the process’s dark arts).

As I understand it, taking improv classes involves being willing to writhe on the floor, stick chewing gum in your ear, or arrange chairs into endless representations of impromptu and entirely imaginary cars, airplanes or art sculptures. I am not brave enough to undertake any of those actions (On stage? With witnesses? The horror!) but there is one thing about improv that I do understand and try to emulate.

The one rule when improvising is that you say ‘yes’. Yes to all possibilities. Yes to all avenues. It’s essentially acting out the words ‘why not?’ (It’s also related to perhaps the most basic building blocks of storytelling, the ‘what if?’)

It was ‘why not’ that led me to enter the very first Undiscovered Voices competition.

I said ‘yes’ even though I had no idea (and no confidence) that entering my three chapters would get me anywhere. Where it got me was the most important ‘yes’ of my writing career to date – an inclusion in the Undiscovered Voices anthology. That in turn led to other yes’s (along with many, many no’s). That one yes is the main reason I (eventually) became a published author and a full-time writer.

Where it got me was the most important ‘yes’ of my writing career to date – an inclusion in the Undiscovered Voices anthology.

Holding ‘yes’, or at least, ‘why not?’ in your mind is also helpful when it comes to the editorial process. It particularly comes into its own when someone makes a radical suggestion about changing your story.

Your first instinct might be to say something along the lines of ‘You think I should give my superhero protagonist a flying-dog sidekick with a flatulence problem? You great, galumphing fool!’

But if you give it time and an open mind sometimes you’ll discover that you agree with them – and that they’ve just helped you to make an enormous improvement to your work. (Note: sometimes the suggestion is just that of a great, galumphing fool though. Not everyone likes flatulence in stories, even coming from a flying-dog sidekick.)

You don’t have to writhe on the floor or stick chewing gum in your ear to become a good writer – but you do have to say ‘why not’.

You don’t have to writhe on the floor or stick chewing gum in your ear to become a good writer – but you do have to say ‘why not’. You do have to take a chance on yourself. So take your writing, believe in it, and enter the UV2018 competition. Say yes. Because you never know, they might say yes too.

Submissions for UV2018 will open on 1st July 2017 and will close 15th August 2017. Why not sign up here for a reminder when submissions open?


 

Kate Scott has written over 25 children’s books (trade fiction, educational fiction and non-fiction) and over forty children’s television scripts. She is also a script editor and consultant for children’s film and television; a published/broadcast poet; and a playwright. Spies in Disguise: Boy in Tights won a Lancashire Fantastic Book Award in 2015. Her latest children’s book, Giant, has been longlisted/nominated for two awards. Another standalone novel, Just Jack, comes out in 2018.

Agents: Eve White at Eve White Literary Agency (Books) and Jean Kitson at Kitson Press Associates (Scriptwriting)

Websites: www.evewhite.co.uk and www.kitsonpress.co.uk/

Twitter: @KateScottWriter

 

Getting Ready for UV2018 – Guest Blog with Katrina Charman

In our fourth guest blog by a past finalist, Katrina Charman, who was featured in the UV2014 anthology, talks about her UV experience.

Take a Chance

When I sat down to write this blog post I had part of an Abba song repeating in my head – Take a chance, take a chance, take a ch, ch, chance chance. I don’t even like Abba that much, but the point is that when I entered Undiscovered Voices 2014, I honestly didn’t think I had much of a chance. But if you don’t try you don’t get, right?

So I polished up my submission as best I could and sent it off and then went on to my next WIP to stop me from agonising about all of the mistakes I might have made or thoughts of should I have edited more, or changed the opening . . . and on and on.

Then I got THE CALL from the lovely Sara Grant, saying that I was one of the finalists and I honestly couldn’t believe it. Things moved very swiftly from the UV14 launch party to being offered representation from multiple agents and then signing with my fabulous agent Gemma Cooper at The Bent Agency.

But it was not all smooth sailing from there. My entry into the competition, a YA, went out on submission and it didn’t sell. I could have let it get to me (and believe me it hurt) but after a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I worked on something else.

Inspired by a workshop run at my agent’s writing retreat, and by my fellow Team Cooper writers, I wrote something completely new and different to my usual YA.

A picture book.

It sold at auction to Bloomsbury and is going to be illustrated by the inimitable Nick Sherratt. This spurred me on to try genres that I had never written in before and to write for different age groups, so I wrote another book – an early reader, and it sold. So I wrote something different, and when it didn’t sell, I wrote something else. Since Undiscovered Voices 2014, I have contracts for 15 books and counting. I am now able to write full time because of the opportunities that the SCBWI and Undiscovered Voices created.

If there is one piece of advice that I can give any aspiring writer or illustrator thinking of entering Undiscovered Voices (and you absolutely should!), it is to keep going. Don’t give up.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that writing is less about talent and more about luck and perseverance. If there is one piece of advice that I can give any aspiring writer or illustrator thinking of entering Undiscovered Voices (and you absolutely should!), it is to keep going. You will get rejections, over and over again. But don’t give up. Try something new – a different genre, age group, a poem. You never know what is going to get you there. Take every opportunity that comes your way, even if you think you have no chance.

You never know where it might lead you.

Take a chance*.

(*Apologies for the earworm!)


Katrina Charman is the author of eleven published books including The Ninjabread Man (Franklin Watts). Poppy’s Place series (Stripes), The Firehawk series (Scholastic) and two picture books to be announced. She lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband and three daughters. In 2013 she was a recipient of the SCBWI BI Margaret Carey scholarship and is lucky enough to be represented by super agent Gemma Cooper at The Bent Agency.

 

Submissions for UV2018 will open on 1st July 2017 and will close 15th August 2017. Why not sign up here for a reminder when submissions open?