Tips and Advice for Illustrators: Find Your illustration ‘Super Power’

We’re proud to share an edited video of the best bits from our illustrator panel during the Undiscovered Voices 2016 competition launch on May 14th 2015.

The illustration judges talk about the Story Prompts and what they are expecting from our entrants. There’s plenty of suggestions of how you might tackle one of the prompts and what sort of moments or scenes you might imagine for your characters and your illustration.
Keep an eye out for some great suggestions from Ed Burns, including how to find your illustration ‘Super Power!”.

We’d like to thank Mike Perks for recording and editing this video and thanks Foyles for hosting the event!


Captured by a First Line: Sara Grant on Reading Submissions

Sara Grant

Sara Grant got her agent and ultimately her first book deal through Undiscovered Voices. Now she’s on the other side of the submissions process and part of the team of editors who do the initial read through of all the submissions before the illustrious judging panel get to read them.

As she writes: “I love quiet novels and action-packed thrillers. I adore literary novels as much as high concept stories. No matter the story you want to tell – you still have to hook me, entice me to read more from those first lines. I should be desperate to know what happens next. Each year there are those extracts that linger and sparkle and surprise. Even after eight years, I still remember the opening lines from the first Undiscovered Voices extracts:”

Visit Sara’s BookBound Blog for more of her words of wisdom here.


Sara Grant

Sara Grant worked on twelve different series and edited nearly 100 books when she worked as a senior commissioning editor for Working Partners. She writes edgy teen fiction (Half Lives being her latest) and a funny, magical series for young readers (Magic Trix). Sara is the co-creator and co-editor of Undiscovered Voices. Her YA novel Dark Parties won the SCBWI Crystal Award for Europe.

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 for unagented and unpublished children’s writers, seems to have more buzz about it every year.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.


  • 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.