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 The more I looked into UV, the more I realised what an incredible boost it could be to an unpublished writer.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.

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

Guest Blog: Jane Hardstaff – Believing in the Possible.

Jane Hardstaff 2015Finalist in Undiscovered Voices 2012, author Jane Hardstaff takes a break from writing to share her thoughts about her UV journey…

It was all delightfully anonymous. To begin with anyway. I’d been writing alone, almost in secret, desolate and hopeful at the same time. Loving but sometimes hating my characters and the world I was creating. I’m hardwired to doubt myself. Yet I still believed in the possibility that someone, somewhere, might fall in love with my creation.

So when I heard about Undiscovered Voices, I stalked it for a couple of years, going to talks, wondering about it all, writing my book, thinking should I send it in? Should I? In the end I thought, what do I have to lose? If it ends up in the pile of the unchosen, no one will ever know. It didn’t quite turn out that way.

The Executioner's DaughterThree years later, I’m looking back and shivering with the randomness of it all. What if I hadn’t walked to Kings Cross on the last day of submission, to deliver my MS? What if no one on that panel had been remotely interested in my characters or my story? One of the judges told us that you need one person to really love your writing. One person who will champion your submission, fight tooth and nail against other equally passionate judges. This was my first lesson. It’s all so subjective. What I also observed is how many of the longlisted – who didn’t make the anthology, but had obviously written wonderful books – went on to find agents and publishers.

One of the judges told us that you need one person to really love your writing.

So write the best book you can. Make the best art you can. Then pluck up the courage to send it out into the wide world. Undiscovered Voices is many things – exciting, supportive, competitive – but above all it’s a revelation. While it’s happening you will feel part of something. UV gathers together some amazing people: agents, editors, art directors, designers and organizers – many of whom are writers and illustrators themselves. The publishing world can seem so distant when you’re sitting at your kitchen table at 6am trying to write before you go to work. Undiscovered Voices will scoop you up, lay its treasures before you and help you believe in the possibility that one day your words or pictures might live inside other people’s heads, not just your own.

River Daughter by Jane HardstaffJane Hardstaff’s first novel The Executioner’s Child appeared in the 2012 Undiscovered Voices Anthology. Two months after UV12 was published, she signed with Gillie Russell at Aitken Alexander. Six months later, after much rewriting and a title change, Egmont bought The Executioner’s Daughter. The book and its sequel, River Daughter, were published in 2014 and 2015.

Blog Tour: ATTENTION SEEKING? BEGIN YOUR BOOK WITH A BANG

Stephanie Thwaites, Agent.
Stephanie Thwaites, Agent.

Stephanie Thwaites, Children’s Agent at Curtis Brown UK sparkles with good advice as she delves into the secrets of what makes a good opening. She explores three key components and some fantastic examples of how to grab the reader and start off with a bang!

http://childrensliteraryagent.co.uk/2013/06/07/attention-seeking-begin-your-book-with-a-bang-undiscovered-voices-blog-tour/

Blog Tour: Behind the Scenes of an Illustrators’ Competition

annemarieperks-biopic2UV illustration champion and SCBWI BI Illustrator Coordinator Anne-Marie Perks introduces the illustration judges, shares behind-the-scenes of  the evolving illustration  side to the UV competition and reveals some top tips of aspiring and pre-published illustrators hoping to enter. Click here to read more in the Big Little Tale Blog: http://biglittletale.tumblr.com/post/49856256321/behind-the-scenes-of-an-illustrators-competition

 

Blog Tour: Richard Masson on his “lucky break”

Richard Masson (UV 2012)
Richard Masson (UV 2012)

Previous UV finalist, Richard Masson, talks about why he entered the Undiscovered Voices Competition as the Blog Tour continues.

He says, “What made me enter UV2012 apart from their impressive success rate was that I had been more successful with competitions than I ever had been with regular submissions.”

Find out, how within two months he had a publishing contract from Hot Key Books and shortly after that signed with the Johnson & Alcock Agency.

Visit Richard’s Blog and hear more about his UV journey to publication: http://richardmasson.com/where-does-the-time-go/