The Magical Voyage That Comes After Being a UV Finalist

Claire Fayers
Claire Fayers (UV 2014)

The thing they don’t tell you about Undiscovered Voices is how it turns your writing life upside down. I’d been writing for a long time before I became a 2014 winner, and I knew the process. You write a novel. You edit the novel. You edit some more. Then you send off queries to some carefully-chosen agents and wait while, one by one, the polite rejection notes come in. Then you repeat.

Yet within days of the Undiscovered Voices 2014 longlist coming out, I had a query from an agent. (Don’t they know how this is supposed to work? I’m supposed to query them, not the other way round.) And when the shortlist was published, it all went a bit mad. Not just agents, but editors – real, live editors who weren’t just having a laugh, but sounded really serious about wanting to read my book.

And this is where I discovered the real strength of Undiscovered Voices – the organisers. Their patience is endless and I couldn’t have managed without their advice and support. Over many phone calls and email exchanges, they never once made me feel like my questions were silly or a waste of time. Everything from what should I wear to the launch party to how on earth do I go about choosing an agent when everyone is so brilliant.

The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers
The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers (US Edition)

The launch party is the most amazing, exhilarating, terrifying experience. Hundreds of agents and publishing people all wanting to talk to you about your book. And once again, the organisers are on hand to steer you towards the right people and make sure you’re never left standing on the side-line. As someone who has spent every party ever standing on the side-line, this was something new.

I came away from the launch part with multiple offers of representation and spent weeks agonising over a decision before signing with Gemma Cooper of the Bent Agency. It still hadn’t occurred to me that my book might actually sell, but this is what happened here.

Less than a month after going on submission, my book sold at auction in a transatlantic deal. Not just the first book, but two more books that I hadn’t even written yet.

Almost exactly one year after the UV2014 longlist came out, I gave up work to write full-time.

The Accidental Pirates: Voyage to Magical North will be published by Macmillan in the US on the 5th July and the UK on the 14th July this year. Book two will be out in 2017.

My advice to the 2016 finalists is: celebrate, keep writing, ask all the questions you want and take your time with everything. Enjoy the magical adventure.

Guest Blog: Matt Ralphs – Everything to Gain, Almost Nothing to Lose

Matt Ralphs 2015It was August 2013. I had a nearly finished manuscript, and a plan.

I was aiming to submit my children’s novel, Fire Girl, to literary agents after Christmas and then cross my fingers. I was braced for the wait. The rejections. The Battle Scars. It’s what all writers go though, right?

And then a friend – who I am now forever indebted to – suggested I enter my novel to Undiscovered Voices. She said this unique competition was an opportunity not to pass up. After all, many previous Undiscovered finalists had been well and truly discovered.

Discovered meaning that magical word: published.

What the hell, I asked myself, did I have to lose? He who dares wins. Fortune favours the brave. Carpe diem. And other clichés.

So began a feverish two weeks cutting, polishing and shining my words to within an inch of their lives. Then I sent it off and promised myself I’d forget about it and get on with my life.

At this last point, I failed miserably. The more I looked into UV, the more I realised what an incredible boost it could be to an unpublished writer. If I was selected as a finalist, it could be life-changing.

I waited…

And waited…

Until I received the best email ever. I’d been chosen for the longlist.

More waiting until I got the best phone call ever. I, along with eleven others, had been chosen as a finalist.

Undiscovered Voices 2014

Things happened very quickly after that. The UV14 anthology was published. It was sent out into the world. Agents got in touch with me (I repeat: agents got in touch WITH ME) to ask if I was going to the anthology launch party.

At the party we chatted and they asked to see the whole book. The very next day I sent it out. Most got back to me and suggested we meet over lunch to discuss representation.

Which landed me with a rather surreal conundrum. Which of these industry experts was I going to pick? In the end I made my difficult choice and after some tweaks to the manuscript, my new agent submitted the book to publishers.

To my astonished delight my book found a happy home at Macmillan Children’s Books. (Who are publishing Fire Girl on August 13th 2015. Thanks for asking!)

It sounds like I’m showing off, doesn’t it? Well, I suppose I am.

My point is, Undiscovered Voices and the amazing team of volunteers who work their selfless socks off made all this possible for me. And they can make it possible for you too. So go on. Cut, polish and shine your entry, take a deep breath, and send it in.

What have you got to lose?
Fire Girl by Matt Ralphs 2015Matt Ralphs’ first novel, Fire Girl, featured in the 2014 Undiscovered Voices Anthology. Soon afterwards he signed with the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency. Two months later Macmillan Children’s Books bought Fire Girl (pub Aug 2015) and a sequel, Fire Witch (pub June 2016).

You can comment on this blog post at Matt Ralph’s own website here.

Captured by a First Line: Sara Grant on Reading Submissions

Sara Grant

Sara Grant got her agent and ultimately her first book deal through Undiscovered Voices. Now she’s on the other side of the submissions process and part of the team of editors who do the initial read through of all the submissions before the illustrious judging panel get to read them.

As she writes: “I love quiet novels and action-packed thrillers. I adore literary novels as much as high concept stories. No matter the story you want to tell – you still have to hook me, entice me to read more from those first lines. I should be desperate to know what happens next. Each year there are those extracts that linger and sparkle and surprise. Even after eight years, I still remember the opening lines from the first Undiscovered Voices extracts:”

Visit Sara’s BookBound Blog for more of her words of wisdom here.

 

Sara Grant

Sara Grant worked on twelve different series and edited nearly 100 books when she worked as a senior commissioning editor for Working Partners. She writes edgy teen fiction (Half Lives being her latest) and a funny, magical series for young readers (Magic Trix). Sara is the co-creator and co-editor of Undiscovered Voices. Her YA novel Dark Parties won the SCBWI Crystal Award for Europe.

Guest Blog: Jane McLoughlin – UV’s “Awesomeness”

Jane McLoughlin 2015Last month I was delighted (and proud) to be attending SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices launch at Foyles Books in London.

This competition (open to SCBWI members only—so join, why don’t you?) for unagented and unpublished children’s writers, seems to have more buzz about it every year. The number of authors who mention SCBWI and the UV editorial team in their acknowledgements is growing and growing, too.

At this year’s launch, the events room at Foyles was standing room only, and those in attendance got a mini-masterclass in how to enter the competition and how to submit to agents and picture editors and publishers in general. The event (free) was almost worth the price of the competition entry (oops, sorry…free again, as long as you are a member of SCBWI!)

So, what did winning UV 2010 do for me?

The Crowham Martyrs by Jane McLoughlinWell, I met my wonderful editors for my first book, At Yellow Lake, which was featured in the 2010 anthology, at the launch party.  And, I met my lovely agent (who has worked tirelessly to find my second novel The Crowham Martyrs a home) through Undiscovered Voices, though (typical for me) after I got the first book deal. I can’t say for certain that these books wouldn’t have been published without Undiscovered Voices, but, being included in the anthology has made a huge difference to me.

What else has winning UV 2010 done?

It’s made me feel part of a pretty cool group of children’s writers and illustrators.  There’s a camaraderie and closeness, and this support network has helped me cope with the ups and downs of trying to get published, and trying to stay published.  I am also proud vicariously, when another “Undiscovered Voice” gets an agent or a publishing deal. It’s wonderful to be able to share in the success of others who have been on a similar path.

Here’s an recent example of the awesomeness of UV winners…

As the UV 2016 launch was winding up, I was chatting to previous winners, Jane Hardstaff, Katie Dale and Sarwat Chadda.  A writer who was planning to enter the competition joined us, and asked a few questions. Jane, Katie and Sarwat were so encouraging and enthusiastic; all were happy to share their experiences and offer support. I know they would have been kind and helpful in any situation (like all SCBWI members, I hasten to add), but there is something about winning Undiscovered Voices that makes a writer doubly happy to support those who are at the beginning of the journey to publication. We are all so grateful to have been given this wonderful start.

So:

  • Join SCBWI, if you aren’t already a member
  • Finish the book, hone your illustrations, give it your all!
  • Enter the competition

And finally…

Remember that even if you don’t win, even if you aren’t on the longlist (a fantastic achievement in itself), membership in SCBWI will be the best thing you can do for yourself as a children’s writer or illustrator.

Undiscovered Voices happens every two years, but SCBWI membership gives rewards every day of the year.

When it comes to SCBWI,  everybody wins!

 

At Yellow Lake by Jane McLoughlinJane is originally from Minnesota, in the USA, but has lived in the UK for over 25 years. At Yellow Lake was her first novel for young adults. It has been published in the UK, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and will be out soon in Brazil. It has also been nominated for the Carnegie Award 2013 and Branford Boase Award 2013. Her second novel, The Crowham Martyrs, will be published by Catnip Publishing this month!

UV2016 – Blog Round Up.

UV10A superb summary of the launch event by our friends at the SCBWI British Isles webzine Words and Pictures has appeared, with lots of advice from judging panels. Feast on these selected tips at Words and Pictures and you can look for more posts about UV on Words and Pictures on their special Undiscovered Voices feed.

We recently found Sarah Broadley blogging about attending the Undiscovered Voices launch earlier this month. She shared her thoughts on writing and what advice she took away from our panel. Check it out at the Great Big Jar blog.

Coming soon: Watch out for videos from the launch event featuring the best advice from our two judging panels.

How to Write a Winning Opening: Claire Fayers shares her tips!

Claire FayersA finalist in the last Undiscovered Voices, Claire Fayers now has an agent and signed contract for her novel, The Accidental Pirates: Voyage to Magical North, due to be published by Macmillan next year. She’s been blogging over over at Middle Grade Strikes Back about writing a winning opening and sharing a few pointers that she’s learned through Undiscovered Voices and beyond.

As she says, “2015 is a good year to write middle grade fiction. Actually, any year is a good year because where else can you spend your days in the company of pirate ships and man-eating penguins, but this year is particularly good because it sees the launch of a new Undiscovered Voices.”

Two of our favourite tips from Claire are:

  • “When you think you’ve finished, put your opening chapters away for a week or two, then read them again.  Read out loud.  I use an electronic text-to-speech voice because nothing highlights dull writing like hearing it read in a robotic monotone.”
  • “Don’t hold back. Know what you’re aiming for in terms of genre and tone, and go at it like a bull in a red-flag-and-china shop… be yourself.  Be dark, be funny, be scary, be ridiculous, be anything except the same as everyone else.”

You can read the rest of her amazing tips at: Middle Grade Strikes Back