Guest blog: So, what’s this ‘voice’ thing anyway? (Kathryn Kettle)

In our penultimate guest blog post before submissions close, previous finalist Kathryn Kettle (UV2018), speaks up for the joy of finding your voice and offers valuable shortcuts to finding yours hopefully a little sooner than she found hers. And find it she did as you’ll be able to see in her debut novel, The Boy I Am.

So, what’s this ‘voice’ thing anyway?

The first three books I wrote, I was trying to write. By which I mean, I had an idea what books should sound like in my head, I’d read enough, after all. The few stories I was brave enough to submit went somewhere, but never far enough. Eventually, after working ten years on a book, I couldn’t do it anymore. For a while, I didn’t write, but inevitably I couldn’t leave the itch unscratched.

I returned to write for fun: flash fiction, short stories, fan fiction, and I didn’t write to please anyone but myself. Looking back that’s when it started to happen, I think, when I began to find a voice (*insert choir of triumphant trumpets here*).

Now, don’t get excited… I had NO IDEA I’d achieved this holy-hand grenade of writing goodness until several weeks ago.

After sending early chapters of my second book to my editor, one thing I didn’t expect to hear in return about my second book was, ‘It sounds like you.’

Having been a finalist in the Undiscovered Voices 2018 competition, I must have some kind of ‘voice’ because, after all, that’s what the judges are looking for, but until now I’d attributed it to my main character, his voice.

Hearing my voice

I didn’t think when writing a second, completely different story, with completely different characters, that there would be any similarities. Yet, somehow in the last 10 years, I’ve found a rhythm of my own. After all these years I finally know what ‘voice’ means: being authentic to you, and no one else.

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself, and exercises to do, to help identify if you’ve nailed ‘voice’…

  • Are there words that jump out to you or trusted readers that take them out of the story? What makes them jump out? If it’s not something you’re intending, probably think about the word choices.
  • Are you trying to capture a particular style, can you avoid that and put down the words in a unique way to you? Try different styles, sentence structures, poetry, or humour where you wouldn’t before.
Photo by Jessica Da Rosa on Unsplash
  • Tell some part of your story out loud in a voice recording app, not as it’s written, but as an anecdote. What do you learn about your way of telling stories in this way? How does it differ from the way you lay it down on the page?
  • Use your editorial eye to analyse your writing style. Take a few pages from different points across the work. Are there sentences, paragraphs, dialogue, metaphor techniques etc that you use regularly and how/why do you use them?
  • Look also at your themes, the things you are interested in and the ‘problem’ of the story, are they unique way to you and your writing. How can you make them ‘yours’?
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
  • Do some of the above with books in your collection, especially writers lauded for strong voice… can you see what makes them stand out?
  • Listen to your gut, when you’re laying the words down do they feel unnatural to you in your head, like you’re laying down bricks, not feathers? If so then it may not be a problem of plot, character or description, but one of voice.
  • Most importantly… write it for yourself not anyone else, not a particular judge, crit buddy, friend, family member. Your edit is when you write it for your reader, but your voice will be in your first draft, the one you write for you.

Made in Birmingham, Kathryn Kettle now lives, works and writes in London. The opening of her debut YA novel, The Boy I am, was shortlisted for the Society of Childrens’ Book Writers and Illustrator (SCBWI British Isles) Undiscovered Voices 2018. She has won competitions and been highly commended for her flash fiction, including being longlisted as part of the 2017 Bath Flash Fiction Award.

When not writing, Kathryn can be found travelling and working around the world transforming business with technology. She is passionate about promoting the role of women as leaders, the value of creativity, and the need for diversity at all levels in STEM and business-based careers.

Kathryn is also the creator of the ‘Book Chain Project’ which you can learn more about here.

UV2020 Honorary Chair, Candy Gourlay, speaks!

Undiscovered Voices is delighted that the amazing Candy Gourlay agreed to be our honorary chair for UV2020. She recorded this heartfelt and uplifting video to celebrate the success of this year’s finalists.

Thank you so much Candy for taking the time to make such a wonderful tribute.

We’re excited as this year’s finalists take the next step in their writing careers. We’ll be posting updates as we hear from them. For now, we want to congratulate them once again.

  • Annaliese Avery – The Invention of Night
  • Yvonne Banham – Tulip Finola Barnacle
  • Sharon Boyle – Pupil K
  • Anna Brooke – Sean & The Franken-Bogey
  • Dr Adam Connors – The Genius Machine
  • Clare Harlow – The Shape Of A Girl
  • Urara Hiroeh – The Air We Cannot Breathe
  • Helen MacKenzie – Hagstone
  • Michael Mann – Ghostcloud
  • Angela Murray – The Sea Lord’s Curse
  • Laura Warminger – The Great Prime Minister Swap
  • Harriet Worrell – The Good Child Serum

You can learn all about our finalists here: http://www.undiscoveredvoices.com/?page_id=1106

UV2020 finalists announced!

Huge congratulations to the twelve incredibly talented writers selected for UV2020 from nearly 250 submissions from SCBWI members in the British Isles and Europe.

The UV2020 finalists

  • Annaliese Avery
  • Yvonne Banham
  • Sharon Boyle
  • Anna Brooke
  • Dr Adam Connors
  • Clare Harlow
  • Urara Hiroeh
  • Helen MacKenzie
  • Michael Mann
  • Angela Murray
  • Laura Warminger
  • Harriet Worrell

Find out more about the selected writers here.

Download your free copy of UV2020 here.

The Undiscovered Voices team endeavours to create an anthology that showcases the variety of writing available from SCBWI members in the British Isles and the Europe. The goal of the anthology is not only to help the selected authors to find agents and editors, but also to promote the quality of work abounding in SCBWI in Europe.

The stories were considered anonymously and selected by a distinguished panel of industry experts:

  • Helen Boyle, Literary and Illustration Agent at Pickled Ink
  • Annalie Grainger, Senior Commissioning Editor at Walker Books
  • Stephanie King, Commissioning Fiction Editor at Usborne Publishing
  • Polly Nolan, Literary Agent at Greenhouse Literary Agency
  • Alice Sutherland-Hawes, Children’s Agent at Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency
  • Clare Wallace, Literary Agent at Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency

UV2020 Longlist and Honorary Chair Announcement

 

We are thrilled to share the longlist of writers who will be considered for the Undiscovered Voices 2020 anthology. We also are pleased to announce that Undiscovered Voices alumni, dedicated SCBWI volunteer and award-winning author Candy Gourlay will serve as the honorary chair for Undiscovered Voices 2020. 

UV2020 Longlist

These talented writers were selected from nearly 250 submissions from SCBWI members in the British Isles and Europe.

  • Angela Murray
  • Abi Moore
  • Dr Adam Connors
  • Aliss Langridge
  • Anna Brooke
  • Annaliese Avery
  • Annie Edge
  • Attiya Khan
  • Becky Danks
  • Cara Lovelock
  • Carry de la Harpe
  • Clare Harlow
  • Harriet Worrell
  • Helen MacKenzie
  • Jane Dudeney
  • Jenny Ireland
  • Jon Tilley
  • Laura Warminger
  • Lucy Marsden
  • Lucy O’Hair
  • Michael Mann
  • Sarah Fulton
  • Sharon Boyle
  • Stuart White
  • Urara Hiroeh
  • Yvonne Banham
  • Zoe Jane Cookson

The twelve novel extracts that will be featured in the Undiscovered Voices 2020 anthology will be announced in mid-January.

The Undiscovered Voices team endeavours to create an anthology that showcases the variety of writing available from SCBWI members in the British Isles and the Europe. The goal of the anthology is not only to help the selected authors to find agents and editors, but also to promote the quality of work abounding in SCBWI in Europe.

The stories were considered anonymously and selected by a distinguished panel of industry experts:

  • Helen Boyle, Literary and Illustration Agent at Pickled Ink
  • Annalie Grainger, Senior Commissioning Editor at Walker Books
  • Stephanie King, Commissioning Fiction Editor at Usborne Publishing
  • Polly Nolan, Literary Agent at Greenhouse Literary Agency
  • Alice Sutherland-Hawes, Children’s Agent at Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency
  • Clare Wallace, Literary Agent at Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency

More about Candy Gourlay

Candy Gourlay was born in the Philippines, grew up under a dictatorship and met her husband during a revolution. Her novel Bone Talk was recently shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Prize – it is set in the moment when headhunting tribes in the Philippines come face to face with American invaders. Her picture book, Is It a Mermaid, illustrated by Francesca Chessa, was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal. Her books have been shortlisted for the Branford Boase, Waterstones, Blue Peter and Guardian Children’s Book Prize. Both her novels Shine and Tall Story have won SCBWI’s Crystal Kite Award. Her fingerprints are all over SCBWI’s online presence, from its jurassic list-serve days to its current experiments in livestreaming events. She is currently devising events and opportunities for published members as co-organiser of SCBWI’s Pulse strand. She lives in London with her family.

Thanks to Candy for championing the anthology and congratulations to the talented longlisted writers!

 

All the best,

The Undiscovered Voices Team

UV2020 judging panel reveals their top tips!

Meet this year’s stellar judging panel and discover their top tips for any writer thinking of entering this year’s Undiscovered Voices!

Our amazing judging panel are:

  • Helen Boyle, Literary and Illustration Agent at Pickled Ink
  • Aimée Felone, Co-founder of Knights Of
  • Annalie Grainger, Senior Commissioning Editor at Walker Books
  • Stephanie King, Commissioning Fiction Editor at Usborne Publishing
  • Polly Nolan, Literary Agent at Greenhouse Literary Agency
  • Alice Sutherland-Hawes, Children’s Agent at Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency
  • Clare Wallace, Literary Agent at Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency

We are open for submissions from 1st June 2019 until 15th July 2019. During this period there will be a link on this website to complete the submission process.

After the 15th July, you will no longer be able to enter the contest.

Undiscovered Voices is run thanks to the kind support of Working Partners Ltd.

Getting Ready for UV2020 – Guest Blog with Sarah Merrett

In our first guest blog by past finalists, Sarah Merrett (UV2018), whose extract was called The Darlington Miracles, talks about how being short-listed opened doors for her and shares tips to get your extract in shape before you’re ready to submit. 

Preparing your UV submission: things to ask yourself

So, you’re thinking of entering Undiscovered Voices 2020. Should you go for it? Most definitely. It was the best decision I ever made for my writing career. Becoming a winning finalist in 2018 was the stuff of dreams. It really opened doors for me. I had agents asking to see my book without even sending out a query. Lots of agents. I was lucky enough to be offered representation from my dream agency before the UV launch party had even started. I still pinch myself sometimes.

I hope that’s tempted you into giving this a go. After all, you have nothing to lose. So what now? How do you prepare your submission to make it the best it can possibly be? Here are a few questions you might like to ask yourself:

Your first line

  • Is your first line attention grabbing enough? Does it entice your reader by posing a question such as why, what or how?
  • Analyse the opening lines of some successful children’s books. Why are they strong? How do they lure you in?

Your opening scene

  • Could your opening scene be improved by adding more drama, excitement or mystery?
  • Have you shown the unique and interesting aspect of your main character?
  • What’s at stake for the main character if they don’t achieve their goal?
  • Have you portrayed strong emotions?

Your first chapter

  • By the end of chapter one, what has happened to lure your reader into the next chapter?
  • Have you ended with a strong enough hook or cliffhanger?

Your extract

  • Have enough story events happened in your extract?
  • Are things moving along quickly enough?
  • Where have you ended your extract? Is this stopping point the best place in order to leave your reader wanting more?

Your pitch

  • What makes your story different to others in the same genre?
  • You don’t need to summarise the entire plot of your book. Give a sense of the story and its genre, what’s special about it, and give an intriguing hook

And finally

  • Edit, edit, and edit again
  • Put your story away for as long as you can bear, then read it with fresh eyes. Weak areas should become much clearer after a break
  • Proofread, and if possible, get someone else to proofread too
  • Submit and give yourself a well-earned treat
  • Try not to stew over the outcome. Why not start your next story? It’s a great way to set aside your emotions for your competition entry

Very best of luck!

Sarah Merrett

UV2018 Finalists Announced!

SCBWI British Isles is proud to announce the promising, unpublished writers and illustrators who have been selected from a record number of submissions to be included in Undiscovered Voices 2018.

SCBWI congratulates the following authors and illustrators whose work will be featured in the anthology:

  • Annie Walmsley – Writer
  • Dale Hannah – Writer
  • David Hall – Writer
  • Deborah Sheehy – Illustrator
  • Emily Jones- Illustrator
  • Emma Mason – Writer
  • Hannah Mosley – Illustrator
  • Jacob Turner – Illustrator
  • James Crosland-Mills – Illustrator
  • Janet Catherine Gibson Pickering – Illustrator
  • Kate Read – Illustrator
  • Kathryn Kettle – Writer
  • Katie Hayoz – Writer
  • Laure Allain – Illustrator
  • Matthew Olson-Roy – Writer
  • Monika Baum – Illustrator
  • Nicola Penfold – Writer
  • Peta Freestone – Writer
  • Rachel Lovatt – Illustrator
  • Sally Walker – Illustrator
  • Sandy Horsley – Illustrator
  • Sarah Merrett – Writer
  • Serena Patel – Writer

The Undiscovered Voices anthology is available to download for free from www.undiscoveredvoices.com. A printed copy of the anthology also will be available to purchase from Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/shop/scbwi/undiscovered-voices-2018/paperback/product-23456467.html

The stories and illustrations were submitted anonymously and selected by a distinguished panel of industry experts:

UV 2018’s Judges:

  • Chrissie Boehm, Artful Doodlers
  • Claire Cartey, Holroyde Cartey
  • Erzsi Deak, Hen & Ink Literary Studio
  • Lauren Fortune, Scholastic
  • Clelia Gore, Martin Literary Management
  • Andrea Kearney, Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Sarah Leonard, Orchard Books
  • Joanna Moult, Skylark Literary Agency
  • Polly Nolan, The Greenhouse Literary Agency
  • Gillie Russell, Aitken Alexander Associates
  • Hannah Sheppard, DHH Literary Agency
  • Kirsty Stansfield, Nosy Crow
  • Will Steele, Usborne Books
  • Nghiem Ta, Walker Books

Because the anthology is also designed to be a learning tool for up-and-coming children’s writers and artists, quotes from the judges – discussing the merits of each piece – are included at the end of each illustration and extract.

Working Partners Ltd, a London-based company that creates series fiction for children and teens, provided the financial support that made this anthology possible.

Congratulations to this year’s Undiscovered Voices writers and illustrators!

Undiscovered Voices Writers and Illustrators Longlist Announced 

We are pleased to announce the longlist of writers and illustrators who will be considered for the Undiscovered Voices 2018 anthology. These talented writers and illustrators were selected from a record-breaking number of submissions from SCBWI members in Europe. 

  • Alice Stallard
  • Andrea Fautley
  • Annette Edge
  • Annie Walmsley
  • Ashley Taylor
  • Becky Hamilton
  • Catherine Lindow
  • Charlotte Reid
  • Claire Rollinson
  • Dale Hannah
  • Daniel Greaves
  • David Hall
  • Deborah Sheehy
  • Elizabeth Joseph-Brahy
  • Emily Jones
  • Emma Mason
  • Esther Harvey
  • Georgina Kirk
  • Glen Deakin
  • Hannah Mosley
  • Hazel Murrell
  • Helen Simmons
  • Imogen Foxell
  • Jacob Turner
  • James Crosland-Mills
  • Janet Catherine Gibson Pickering
  • Jennifer Hicks
  • Jessica Chuan Ping Lai
  • Joe Callanan
  • Julia Tuffs
  • Kate Read
  • Kathryn Kettle
  • Katie Hayoz
  • Laure Allain
  • Lily Grigorova
  • Lorraine Cooke
  • Louisa Glancy
  • Matthew Olson-Roy
  • Mireille Lachausse
  • Monika Baum
  • Morgan Jackson
  • Natasha Ellis
  • Nicola Penfold
  • Peta Freestone
  • Rachel Lovatt
  • Sally Walker
  • Sandy Horsley
  • Sarah Merrett
  • Serena Patel
  • Stephen Burgess
  • Susan Harris
  • Suzanne Dore
  • Tera Pruitt
  • Wendy Storer
  • Zoe Saunders

The shortlist of writers and illustrators to be featured in the Undiscovered Voices 2018 anthology will be selected from the list above and announced in early January. 

As ever, the quality of submissions was extremely high and the judges had a very difficult time deciding on a longlist.  

The Undiscovered Voices team endeavours to create an anthology that showcases the variety of writing and illustration available from SCBWI members in the British Isles and the European Union.  The goal of the anthology is not only to help the selected authors and illustrators to find agents and editors, but also to promote the quality of work abounding in SCBWI in Europe. 

The stories and illustrations were submitted anonymously and selected by a distinguished panel of industry experts: 

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

Congratulations to the talented Undiscovered Voices longlisted writers and illustrators! 

All the best, 

The Undiscovered Voices Team 

Rosie Best, Catherine Coe, Jenny Glencross, Sara Grant, Simon James Green, Patrick Miller, Anne-Marie Perks, Loretta Schauer, Benjamin Scott and Tioka Tokedira 

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 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