Getting Ready for UV2018 – Guest Blog with Jane Hardstaff

In the third of a series of guest blog by past finalists, Jane Hardstaff, talks about the twisty-turny route to becoming a published author, and almost not entering Undiscovered Voices 2012!

When I was sixteen years old, I had a weekend job as a waitress in a hotel in the small market town where we lived. The hotel restaurant was the place you ate if you were old-school posh. It had a veneer of class (avocado vinaigrette, Dover sole and grouse in season), but underneath it was kind-of seedy with many unpleasant tasks for a waitress. It was my job to pick the flies out of the vinaigrette with a teaspoon. To descend to the creepy cold store, always worried I’d lock myself in. To clean up after the very hairy hotel dog. Every Friday and Saturday night, I’d arrive home stinking of grease and cigar smoke and I guess you could say this was a pretty uninspiring job. I wasn’t being mentored on some amazing internship. I was hiding from the sleazeball barman and developing an addiction to prawn cocktail.

At sixteen years old I had no particular ambition to be a writer. All I knew was I didn’t want to be a waitress. Fast forward a couple of decades. I’d travelled a twisty-turny route through several jobs, discovering along the way that the one thing that made me happy (and also weirdly unhappy) was writing.

If you are wondering (as I did) whether to enter Undiscovered Voices, then you probably should.

What has any of this got to do with Undiscovered Voices? I guess what I want to say is, it can take a long time to find your voice. And it can take just as long to pluck up the courage to get it out there. If you are wondering (as I did) whether to enter Undiscovered Voices, then you probably should. You are probably your own worst critic. Enter, because you have nothing to lose. And if you’re not longlisted, keep going. Write a better book. Write the book only you can write.

It may take half a lifetime to get there, but it will be worth it.

 


The Executioner's Daughter
The Executioner’s Daughter by Jane Hardstaff

Jane Hardstaff (UV 2012) is the author of The Executioner’s Daughter and River Daughter (published by Egmont UK and Lerner Books USA). Longlisted for the Branford Boase, winner of the Salisbury Schools Book Award and selected for USBBY Outstanding International Books List 2017.

 

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?

Getting Ready for UV2018 – Guest Blog with Georgia Bowers

In the second of a series of guest blog by past finalists, Georgia Bowers, an author featured in the UV2016 anthology, talks about her UV experience.

The 7th of December 2015 was a big day for me. I was leaving work early for the  twelve week scan of my first baby and as I was packing up, I noticed I’d had a missed call on my mobile. I listened to the voicemail and it was a message about my other baby – my novel, Clopwyck River.

I’d tried not to think about making the Undiscovered Voices longlist since I’d had the email a couple of weeks before, but hearing Sara Grant’s voice asking me to call her back, hope and a little bit of doubt came flooding over me. Sara wasn’t calling people to tell them they hadn’t made it, was she?

She wasn’t. Clopwyck River had been chosen for the UV anthology!

At this point I had queried thirty-seven agents, with only one requesting the full manuscript. In the fortnight after the shortlist was announced I had four requests for the full manuscript, including one from an agent in the US, and met with an agent to talk about the possibility of representation. I submitted to a few more agents following the launch and received four requests for the full MS almost immediately. Being part of the anthology also meant that I attended the launch party where I met agents and publishing representatives, and I spoke to a few of the UV judges who said lovely things about my writing, one of them asking me to send him my WIP. I may not have an agent, but being a finalist has got me within touching distance of my dream.

Write what’s in your heart.

My advice for anyone thinking about entering UV would be:

  • Get your 4000 words up to scratch, have a break from them, get them up to scratch for a second time, hold your breath….and enter!
  • Give the rest of your novel the same attention. If there are scenes that you’re not keen on, re-write them or get rid, don’t leave them in and hope that an agent won’t notice them.
  • Write what’s in your heart. An agent asked me to write a version of Clopwyck River without the paranormal storyline. I did it, but the agent didn’t go for it, probably because it wasn’t really what I wanted to write so it had lost my voice and my heart.
  • Learn from every rejection. My re-written version may not have had my heart, but it had my blood, sweat, and tears as I managed to finish writing when I was eight months pregnant! Although the agent didn’t go for it, they did say that it was much more streamlined and successful as a novel. I now know that I’m capable of producing good work if I put a little pressure on myself.
  • Finally, if you make the anthology, network your ass off at the launch party, even if you’re considering signing with an agent already. Keep the momentum going, be proactive and don’t wait for people to come to you; go to them and shout from the rooftops because being included in the UV anthology is an amazing thing.

It’s been a year since the UV launch, and I’ve gained so much.

It’s been a year since the UV launch, and I’ve gained so much. I’m part of a network of writers and illustrators who I feel so proud of when I read about their successes. I have feedback on the first three chapters of Clopwyck River from people with so much experience and insight into the publishing world, I could have only dreamt of it before. I’ve learned that when agents say that the publishing industry is subjective they really do mean it, and it’s not just something they say to fob you off. I have a handful of agents who, although they didn’t go for Clopwyck River, have asked to see anything I write in the future. I’ve had a taste of what it could be like to be a published author and I’m even more driven to achieve it.

 

Oh, and I have a beautiful baby girl, who thinks that every story I tell her is a best seller.

 


Georgia is a librarian by day and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan by night. She has written a number of articles for Hodderscape including Stranger Things vs. The OA, What Would Buffy Do, and Films To Watch at Halloween if You’re a Big Scaredy-cat. She is currently working on a new YA project, a mix of The Breakfast Club and Lost, where six teenagers take a journey with a bus driving dog and a cross-dressing conductor. Her spirit book character is Mildred Hubble.
Twitter: @georgia_bowers
Tumbler: bookbewitched.tumblr.com
Hodderscape: www.hodderscape.co.uk

Getting Ready for UV2018 – Guest Blog with Imogen White

In the first of a series of guest blog by past finalists, Imogen White, whose debut book The Amber Pendant launches in June, talks of her emotional Undiscovered Voices journey and her tips for writers preparing to enter UV2018.

 

When I entered the first 4,000 words of my book (then called Shadow Inclusions) to the Undiscovered Voices 2014 competition it was a big moment for me. It was the first thing I had EVER put out there publicly.

I wasn’t expecting anything to come of it. For me it was more about getting over my jitters and taking that first bold step of pressing the ‘SUBMIT’ button. After all, what did I have to lose?

The moment I learnt I had been selected for the longlist remains my most thrilling memory. Thoughts like there must have been some terrible administrative error were eventually replaced with sheer joy, and tears too, if I’m honest. It was the first time that I felt like an authentic writer. All those embarrassed conversations over many years with family and friends playing down why I dedicated so much time to writing when I had nothing tangible to show for it, were finally laid to rest. The more I thought about it the more my head spun. Would I now be put to the top of the slush pile when I eventually put my work forward to agents and publishers? That was the pinnacle of my aspirations.

Then, quite unexpectedly I got “THE CALL!” from the lovely Sara Grant letting me know that I had been chosen to appear in the Anthology. WOW! What a total privilege. Now the beast of my writing ambitions had become something else; it had grown arms and legs and had a momentum all of its own. Actually, I was also pretty terrified! I felt like a total fraud compared to the other worthy winners, especially as I am mildly dyslexic and had no previous writing experience. But as soon as I met the wonderful Sara Grant and team, I was put at ease. They led us all through the whole process – and best of all my work was printed in the Anthology.

It really is the most brilliant competition. I met so many industry people at the launch party, including the amazing Anna Power from Johnson & Alcock, who became my agent. I feel so fortunate to have met Anna, she believed in my work from the very beginning and her expert editorial advice helped me tidy and develop my story.

So, I am absolutely delighted to announce that the first book in my series of historical mysteries, is to be published by the fantastic team at Usborne in June 2017.

None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t entered Undiscovered Voices. And if it happened to me, it could happen to you too. Go for it!

Imogen White’s Undiscovered Voices Tips:

  • Start with a bang! – Open your submission with a moment of great mystery or high drama, and don’t get bogged down in boring details. Grab the judges’ attention from the off.
  • Get other writers to critique your entry before you send it. These 4,000 words must be the very best you can present. You want honest and considered feedback (not undiluted sunshine!) from people who write themselves and whose opinion you trust. I need help with my punctuation and spelling – so this was a must for me! Thankfully I had a fabulous writing group to share work with.
  • Do a final line edit to make sure every word has earnt its place.
  • Take a deep breath. Press “SUBMIT.”

GOOD LUCK!


Imogen’s debut The Amber Pendant will be published by Usborne, June 2017. the first of the The Rose Muddle Mysteries. It features the plucky workhouse girl, Rose Muddle, whose world is turned upside down when she is given a magic pendant. It is a tale full of necromancy, shadows and adventure. As Rose bravely tries to unpick the clues set in and around Edwardian Hove, she must find out who the baddies are and stop them before an unimaginable evil is let loose… Becky Walker, Usborne Fiction Editor, writes, “The Rose Muddle Mysteries have everything I look for in a series – full to the brim with magic, mystery, myth and history, and pacy stories that are impossible to put down.” You can follow Imogen on Twitter at @imo0030, or visit her website: https://mysteryverse.wordpress.com/author/mysteryverse/

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.