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?

 

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.

UV 2014 – Writers Bonus – The Panel discuss their recent acquisitions and why they loved them!

Please note: this video relates to the 2014 Undiscovered Voices judging panel.

As part of the Undiscovered Voices competition launch on April 18th 2013, we asked the fiction judging panel who were present about their most recent acquisitions. What followed revealed a lot about the role agents and editors in the acquisition process and how important it is for there to be a personal connection between the reader and the characters. It’s not just about being commercial and marketable, but about making the reader excited into enter into the world of the book. In comes as no surprise to anyone who has watched the previous videos that the role of voice ruled supreme.

 

UV 2014 – Writers Bonus – Ben and Sam discuss “Is there ever a time for Info dump?”

Please note: this video relates to the 2014 Undiscovered Voices judging panel.

In this bonus video from our fiction judging panel, Ben Horslen and Samantha Smith talk about how characters can be used to impart information and getting around problematic exposition (as known as “Info Dump”). Please check out our other Undiscovered Voices videos.

UV 2014 – Video for Writers: The Final Words of Advice from our Judges

Please note: this video relates to the 2014 Undiscovered Voices judging panel.

In our final clip from the Undiscovered Voices competition launch meeting on April 18th, we asked the fiction judging panel who were present for some words of advice and tips for writers. As Gemma Cooper starts off the discussion about how to get voice right by encouraging writers to listen to their work aloud (whether recording yourself reading it or getting someone else to read it). The panel then share their top tips for writers, from making sure you write the book you want to write, through to letting the readers use their imaginations.

UV 2014 – Video for Writers: Judging Panel’s Mistakes to Avoid and Advice on Genre

Please note: this video relates to the 2014 Undiscovered Voices judging panel.

Here’s our second clip for writers from the Undiscovered Voices competition launch meeting on April 18th. We asked the fiction judging panel who were present what mistakes writers should avoid and what advice they had on writing in popular genre. The panel start by talking about the obvious mistakes to avoid such as starting off with a character waking up or putting “info dump” in the first chapter, but soon start talking about how to bring something new to a genre you love. Our editors and agents also talk about how work for younger fiction is in great demand – especially in the Undiscovered Voices anthology!

UV 2014 – What the fiction judges are looking for – Video from the UV Launch Meeting

Please note: this video relates to the 2014 Undiscovered Voices judging panel.

Here’s our first clip from the Undiscovered Voices competition launch meeting on April 18th.

We asked the fiction judging panel who were present what they look for a manuscript. As Sarah Lambert says at the very beginning, “everyone knows this is voice, but only one of us gets to say it.”

However, there’s lots of other things that contribute to make a manuscript standout – including confidence, convincing world building (even in contemporary books), getting the reader excited about the story and rewarding their commitment to reading it.