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?

2016 Success Update: Scholastic UK announces acquisition of NOAH CAN’T EVEN by Simon James Green with pride

UV 2016 finalist Simon James Green has signed a two-book deal with Scholastic for NOAH CAN’T EVEN (previously called Nuts), and a follow up title.

Linas Alsenas at Scholastic UK bought World Rights from Joanna Moult from Skylark Literary, having been captivated by painfully geeky protagonist Noah Grimes.

Simon James GreenAuthor Simon James Green says: “Being published by Scholastic is a dream come true, and it’s an honour to join their list of such wonderful authors. The Scholastic team are fantastically supportive, and I’m really looking forward to working with them to bring this funny, confused, complex mess of a teenage boy into the world. All of this was possible thanks to Undiscovered Voices and I’m incredibly grateful for everything the team at UV have done for me.”

Linas Alsenas, Commissioning and Development Editor – Fiction for Scholastic UK, says: “I often hear editors say something along the lines of “As an editor, I live in hope that a book like this will cross my desk,” but in the case of Noah Can’t Even, there’s no other way to put it. I. Love. This. Book. It gives me all the feels, but most of all a steady stream of genuine, snort-out-loud laughs. The plot twists are shocking and mad – poor Noah – and yet the characters never cease to be real and fully drawn. I’m really looking forward to readers getting to know Simon, who is just as hilarious and fabulous as you would expect from his writing.”

Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green publishes in May 2017.

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.

Tweet Advice for UV Submitters – #AskSwanwick Chat Write Up

One Undiscovered Voices area that’s usually under-represented by good quality submissions is for the youngest (5-8) age group. “We’d loved to see more of those,” Catherine told us. “Funny is often the key – and something obvious, like a timeless theme that works, such as fairies, witches, dragons, beasts, princesses, and animals.”

Undiscovered Voices committee members, Rosie Best and Catherine Coe, participated in a twitter chat for #AskSwanwick on Wednesday, 3rd June 2015. They discussed a range of issues about editing, book packaging and, of course, dispense some sage advice on Undiscovered Voices.

You can read a write up of the chat here at http://www.swanwickwritersschool.org.uk. Look out for some great advice on how to edit and proofread your own work before submitting!

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.