Guest blog: Last-Minute Nerves (Clare Harlow)

In our final guest blog post before submissions to UV2022 closes on Sunday 18 July 2021, previous finalist Clare Harlow (UV2020) offers some last-minute words of wisdom to give you confidence in your entry and some practical tips to give it that extra edge.

For Anyone Struggling With Last-Minute Nerves

Remember, you are not alone

Almost everyone suffers from nerves when a deadline looms. Personally, I’m a serial last-minuter. Give me a deadline and I’ll meander towards it, procrastinating as if I’m training for the procrastination Olympics, which always leaves me in a crisis as the clock ticks down.

But whether you’re frantically rewriting your opening chapters, wondering how you’ll ever distil your story into an impossibly short synopsis, or panicking about whether to give your pages ‘one last’ polish, take heart from the fact that there are plenty of people in the same situation.

Trust your gut

And trust your story too. Maybe you’ve had feedback on your manuscript from critique partners. Maybe you’ve just finished your first draft. Maybe your story has been sitting on your computer for years. Whatever the circumstances, it’s natural to have doubts about whether this is the time to send your work out into the world.

Ask yourself two questions

Firstly, do you love your story? I mean really love it – because if you don’t, it’ll show on the page.

Secondly, have you told it the way you want to? I don’t mean that the manuscript has to be perfect, far from it, but it needs to communicate the story you have in your mind — and for Undiscovered Voices, your first 4000 words really need to showcase your writing as well as hooking the reader with your premise.

If the answer to both these questions is ‘yes’, ignore any little whispers of doubt and get submitting!

Take time to check your work

Leaving it late can be a good thing. Yeah, yeah, I would say that, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants serial procrastinator that I am. But it’s true. I tip my hat to all you early birds, but it genuinely doesn’t matter if you enter on the first day or in the last hour of the submission window. And if you haven’t hit that send button yet, you can take advantage of my top tips for proofreading.

1. Change the font and text size

Someone recommended this to me, and it’s the best technique I’ve found for getting a fresh perspective on my rhythm and phrasing. It’s also a great way to catch typos, especially if you don’t have access to a printer. (Just don’t forget to change the formatting back afterwards!)

2. Read your pages out loud, or use the read-aloud function on your computer.

There’s nothing like hearing a stilted automated voice mangle your words to let you know whether your writing flows well.

3. If you can, be brave and ask a friend or family member to proofread your pages too.

Sometimes, a word or phrase might have a dual meaning you haven’t noticed, or multiple edits might have led you to reuse a piece of descriptive language.

Lastly, accept that there is only so much you can do

Competitions, like everything in publishing, are enormously subjective. You’ve worked hard on your story, polished your pages and synopsis, and given the whole thing a good proofread. Now, all you can do is submit your work and let it go. Don’t worry if you spot typos or spelling mistakes after you’ve entered — your story won’t be rejected because of those. Be proud of yourself for getting this far. Hit send, take a moment to celebrate, then try to forget all about it until the longlist announcement.

And for anyone still feeling those nerves and unsure about whether to enter, remember, you have nothing to lose — and it might just change your life.

Clare Harlow was an actor in a previous life but has stepped away from the stage to work as an English tutor and devote more time to writing. Since being selected for Undiscovered Voices 2020, she is delighted to have signed with Amber Caravéo at Skylark Literary and is working hard on getting her middle-grade fantasy novel ready to go on submission.

Guest blog: Crossing the finish line – three writing hacks (Michael Mann)

In our latest guest blog post, Undiscovered Voices finalist Michael Mann (UV2020) reveals three of his favourite pre-submission writing hacks, which were tried and tested on his forthcoming debut novel Ghostcloud.

Crossing the finish line – three writing hacks for the submission sprint

The UV2022 submission window is open! You are (hopefully) almost there, fine-tuning your piece, or perhaps (more my style) sprinting madly to the finish line.

Fear not. Both methods work. And now, as I cheer you on from the sidelines, I will not share deep, wise words (Annaliese and Anna stole mine anyway) but a few tried and tested hacks I used on Ghostcloud ahead of submission (which worked, I think, as it’s coming out in October!).

1. Shake it like a polaroid picture (aka Robot Voice)

In the film Clueless, Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher states ‘I don’t rely on mirrors’, explaining she takes a polaroid of her outfit each day. Why? Because polaroids are less flattering than mirrors. If she looks good on a polaroid, she knows she looks good.

Reading your work aloud is like looking in the mirror. You round up. You hear what you want to hear. The good news is that an (unflattering) polaroid lies just around the corner: the robotic voice of your Mac/PC. It’ll read it horribly, butcher it even, but that’s what you need. If it still sounds good in robot voice, then it’s ready.

In a Mac, you just highlight the text, and press Option+Esc. I’m sure there’s a shortcut on PCs too. I use it all the time – it helps so much with rhythm, pace, typo spotting – and is a great way to give your eyes a screen break.

2. Cut out the ‘wases’ (and ‘weres’ and ‘ises’…)

When my friend Louise gave me this tip, I was angry. How ridiculous! I mean, the novel was in the past tense, how could I avoid was?

But after I cooled down, reworked the passage and sent it round, most preferred the ‘was-less’ version. They just said it was tighter. Here’s a before and after, when my protagonist, Luke, enters the haunted corridors of the East Wing.

Before: It wasn’t just the length that made him feel dizzy. The lights were flickering, the dark paint was peeling, and the black and white floor tiles were zigging and zagging.  

After: The corridor stretched into the darkness. Lights flickered dimly, flakes of dark paint hung from the walls and black-and-white tiles zigged and zagged underfoot.

In fact, I still like the original, and sometimes a ‘was’ is what you need… but so often, when I check my ‘wases’, I find stronger verb or more concise expression. In kids’ books, every word has to earn its place, so this is usually a good thing.

3. Make it smelly. (Or touchy. Or tasty.)

I know we all know this, but I still forget daily, so I want to remind you because the UV2022 finish line is so close! You can practically see the white ribbon. You can hear the crowds cheering.

But can you smell it?

I doubt it. A smelly crowd would be slightly off-putting. And usually ribbons don’t smell at all. I’d go as far to say that people avoid smells, both in life and writing. But I dare you to stick in a smell in your extract. I’ll raise that, why not try the first page or two?

A simple one will do. For our sprint, maybe cut grass, old trainers or cheap deodorant. Or if it really doesn’t fit, at least try some touch (a chafing sports t-shirt, a powdery start line) or taste too (salty-sweat, minty lip balm). Suddenly that finish line feels so much closer.

Mark Haddon (I think) said he tries to get all five senses in each chapter. And he’s wiser than me. 

Now, stop reading this blog and start editing! I’ll be cheering loudly (in cheap deodorant) from the metaphorical sidelines.

Good luck!

Michael Mann is a teacher by day, dad by night, and mostly writes when he should be sleeping. He was a UV2020 finalist and a 2019 London Writers Award winner.

His debut middle grade novel, Ghostcloud, is a thrilling, magical adventure that will be published by Hachette in October 2021 with a sequel the year after. He owes the idea for the story to his coal-mining grandad and a lifelong love of cloudspotting.

He lives in London with his (patient) partner and their (less patient) toddler, and can be found playing board games when he’s not busy losing his wallet.

UV Masterclass report, part 2

This year’s Undiscovered Voices preparations are bigger than ever with our very first UV Masterclass series proving hugely popular. But if you missed out, don’t panic! Here’s a breakdown to clue you in. Each of the three sessions focused on different elements of your UV submission. Our second report focuses on WRITING A SYNOPSIS with author and editor Benjamin Scott, sharing his secrets for distilling your novel into a 75-word synopsis. This might feel impossible, but Benjamin makes it look easy.

Writing a Synopsis

Firstly, it’s important you don’t try to say too much – it’s only 75-words – try to capture the essence of your story and don’t try to squeeze in all the finer details. Remember, you don’t have to keep it forever – it’s a specific tool to woo our judges.

Hot tip! The writing does matter. Fluidity and intrigue that pulls you in is key, a bit like a movie trailer. You might like to keep that in mind when you’re writing yours. They should tell you just enough to give you a picture of the story and where it might go.

What were the big pointers to look out for?

Make sure you’re pitching your story to the right age group, that the tone and style are reflective of your chapters, be sure to tell the judges about the bigger picture and read the previous anthologies to see successful examples – they’re all available for free!

You’ll notice those who’ve previously bagged themselves a spot in the anthology ensured their audience knew who their stories were about, their conflicts or goals, the stakes and what they intended to do about them, and if they had time, they’ve thrown in a small peppering of setting too.

At the end of the day, Benjamin advises not to let this task consume you – it’s a functional tool just for our judges – if you’re submitting directly to agents, they’ll likely want a longer synopsis.

Get friends and family to check it or write several different versions to let them choose. Why not also get your friends and family to read a selection of your favourite synopses from the previous anthologies? Then ask them what appealed to them.

Make every word count and trust your gut!

Discover more – UV Masterclass report, part 3

Don’t miss the great tips in our UV masterclass report, part 1 on Titles That Sell.

Andrew James is originally from the Lake District and teaches English, Film and Media. He completed his MA in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths in 2018 and for the past five years, he has organised and hosted monthly agent pitch evenings for his local writing group. He has a passionate dislike for anything referred to as an ‘easy peeler.’ Satsumas are the only way to go.

UV Masterclass report, part 3

This year’s Undiscovered Voices preparations are bigger than ever with our very first UV Masterclass series proving hugely popular. But if you missed out, don’t panic! Here’s a breakdown to clue you in.

Our final report focuses on HOOKING YOUR READER FROM THE START, which saw editor and author Catherine Coe and author and screenwriter Simon James Green discussing how to polish those opening lines, including dispelling the most common myths about openings and highlighting the key components your openings really do need.

Hooking your reader from the start

What were the common myths? You’ve heard them all before: avoid exposition, start with action, make sure your first line sparkles and never, ever, ever use a prologue. I know what you’re thinking. Should you now ignore these conventions? Not exactly. They’re just not necessarily absolutes, nor should each be taken to extremes.

Lights, Camera, Exposition

With exposition, readers don’t want to see lots of clunky backstory, but they do need to know some details, otherwise it’s confusing. Exposition should come naturally. Trust your writing to be strong enough so you don’t need to cram the twists and turns into your opening.

Action’s great to start with, but don’t be fooled by the word action. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something physical. E.g. Alan Garner’s The Owl Service merely has the children hearing something in the attic. It’s intrigue we want. Physical action might work brilliantly for some genres but not for all, so try your best to interpret this into something appropriate for your story.

If a prologue is key to your story, if you absitively posolutely have to have it, then why not just name it Chapter One? And a sparkly first line? Really, the whole book really needs to sparkle. If it does, you won’t need to worry about the first line. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

So, what’s the big idea of dispelling myths you’ve worked so hard to adhere to? It’s all about not letting yourself get bogged down trying to follow rules, but instead using your common sense to write your story with these conventions as guidelines.

That’s what not to do. Here are the six key components every opening should have:

One – Start in the right place

Start where your story really starts. You’ve heard it before, I’m sure, yet aspiring writers continually make this mistake. Get to your inciting incident ASAP. It doesn’t have to start where it starts in your head.

Two – How are you going to say it?

Voice! Oh, I know, you’ve had that feedback before. It is key though. The voice of your character, narrator and your voice as the author all have to shine through. Isn’t that why you love your favourite writers so much

Three – Get under the skin of your characters

Use your characters to create engagement and connection. You have to know your characters inside out, but we don’t need every detail on the page. We can see brushstrokes in their actions and reactions, but again, this should feel natural. Don’t list their traits. It’s a classic show, don’t tell situation.

Four – Everyone should know where they are

Setting is vital. Just because you can see it in your head, doesn’t mean your reader can. Your setting is likely as important as your characters, so use it.

Five – Making sure you keep the reader reading

How do you? Intrigue! You need to think about how you begin and end your chapters, the pacing of your story and how to hook the reader to keep turning those pages.

Six – Give us enough clues to know what we’re reading!

It’s important to give a sense of genre to your writing. It helps our judges (and your readers) understand where your story falls and what might come next. Conventions are useful but again, not absolutes. They can be broken, but that’s all part of your intrigue.

And, lastly…

One final brilliant tip from our wonderful Benjamin Scott regarding your 50-word bio. Re-visit the previous anthologies (all free to download) and read some. You want the judges to be interested in you and see that you take your writing seriously. Think about how you present yourself.

There you have it. All three of our amazing Undiscovered Voices Masterclasses in a nutshell. So, what’s stopping you? Get to work!

Good luck and remember, it’s supposed to be fun!

Don’t miss the great tips in our UV masterclass report, part 1 on Titles That Sell and part 2 on Writing your Synopsis.

Andrew James is originally from the Lake District and teaches English, Film and Media. He completed his MA in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths in 2018 and for the past five years, he has organised and hosted monthly agent pitch evenings for his local writing group. He has a passionate dislike for anything referred to as an ‘easy peeler.’ Satsumas are the only way to go.

UV Masterclass report, part 1

This year’s Undiscovered Voices preparations are bigger than ever with our very first UV Masterclass series proving hugely popular. But if you missed out, don’t panic! Here’s a breakdown to clue you in. Each of the three sessions focused on different elements of your UV submission. Our first report focuses on the first, TITLES THAT SELL, with freelance editor Jenny Glencross and Dani Wilson from Simon & Schuster Children’s sales team.

Titles that sell: what did they say?

Titles are important. They’re the first thing an agent, editor, publisher, or reader will see. They have to work hard to grab attention, hint towards your book’s genre and intended readership and entice them to actually open the book. The right title can make a big difference to sales! Would you pick up a book called Trimalchio in West Egg? No? But you might pick up The Great Gatsby. How about a book called First Impressions? You might be surprised to learn that one later became Pride & Prejudice.

Why not consider the titles of your favourite books – what do they tell you about the story, the intended readership, the genre and tone? e.g. The Day the Screens Went Blank tells you so much, including the timeframe the story is set in.

They Both Die at the End means you instantly know it’s YA and it gives you the ending, but you buy it hoping it’s not true.

So, how do you pick the right title for you? Jenny and Dani suggest brainstorming keywords or phrases that describe the plot, character and themes of your book or even phrases that might be in the book that encapsulate your story.

If you’re really stuck, maybe consider some of the classic title conventions and structures, such as the one-word title (Brightstorm, Cogheart, Nevermoor), the name + noun title (Amelia Fand and the Barbaric Ball, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), the play on words title (Who Let The Gods Out, Murder Most Unladylike), the juxtaposition title (Dragon Mountain, Dangerous Remedy, Demolition Dad), the noun title (The Boy at the Back of the Class, The Clockwork Sparrow) and the list title (Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging; Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow; Chocolate Mile, X-Ray Specs and Me).

If in doubt, don’t overcomplicate it and don’t try to be too poetic or clever. Remember, if you get signed by an agent, they might want you to change the title, as might an editor or publisher, or maybe even the booksellers! Keep an open mind and whatever you do, don’t use picking a title as a device to procrastinate and keep you from writing!

Discover more – UV masterclass report, part 2

Andrew James is originally from the Lake District and teaches English, Film and Media. He completed his MA in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths in 2018 and for the past five years, he has organised and hosted monthly agent pitch evenings for his local writing group. He has a passionate dislike for anything referred to as an ‘easy peeler.’ Satsumas are the only way to go.

Guest blog: Nine things I now know (Annaliese Avery)

As recent Undiscovered Voices finalist Annaliese Avery (UV2020) celebrates her debut novel, she reveals the lessons learnt from a simple, but career-changing piece of advice in our latest guest blog post.

Nine things I now know

A few years ago, I was chatting with SF Said about the road to publication and he said to me, and I’m paraphrasing here, that “publication should not be the reason that you write. Your aim is not to be a published writer, your aim is to enjoy what you write, it’s all about the journey”.

At the time, I nodded and agreed. But in my head, I thought to myself, “that’s alright for you to say, you’re SF Said! You wrote Phoenix and Varjak Paw!”

However, I thought about what he said on the way home. And that night. And the next day. And the day after that, too. After a week or so, I sent him a message to let him know that I finally got it and I really did.

Whether you’re just starting to think about entering Undiscovered Voices or in the final stages of polishing your extract, here are a few things that I learnt about writing while thinking about what SF said – and a few things since.

1. You can only move within your power

Sometimes, when it comes to trying to get our stories out into the world, we feel powerless, we are waiting for a yes. Waiting for someone outside of us, an agent, a publisher, an editor, to tell us that we can. We forget that there is a huge part of the process that we have ultimate control over and that part is the story.

You have power on the page. You are in command of the words you write and how you write them and when or even if you write them. You put in the work. You learn your craft. You shape your story. And, here’s the key, you get to make it the best story that you can possibly write. Our power as writers lies in creating as few opportunities as possible for someone to say no.

2. Keep your why close

Why do you write? And more importantly, why are you writing this story? Take time to think about this. Keep checking in as sometimes your why changes. Mine did after talking to SF, my Why went from being “to be published” to “to write the best story that I can”.

Once you have your why, take it everywhere and use it when things happen that challenge either the why of your story or the why of your overall writing endeavours. When this happens go back to your why – it will keep you on the right path.

3. Write towards the joy

Write the story that brings you joy. Write the characters that capture your interest. Write the themes that make you mad and the ones that make you hopeful. Write the stories that sing to you. Write the ones that make your palms itch for a pen.

Whether you get published or not, it’s important to enjoy writing. And, when the day comes and you’re asked for another book – it will feel like too much of an adventure to be work.

4. Learn your craft

Invest in yourself, invest in your skills. Never stop doing this. You will never learn all that there is to writing because some things are beyond knowing, they are innate and mysterious.

However, you can give yourself the best shot at success by learning about the craft of writing: how to tell an engaging story, how to connect with the reader, and how to write realistic characters. All of these things you can learn how to do, and put it all into action in a way that’s uniquely yours.

5. Time worries not

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

The time will pass, as time does, second by second, weeks, months, and years so write in the times that you have. Be precious about your time whether you have minutes or hours to dedicate to your writing, guard them like a bear does her cubs.

We are all given an unknown and finite amount of time to do all the things we need to do. If writing is a thing that brings you joy, a thing that you want and need and love, then give the time to it and give it with dedication, purpose, and power.

6. The journey is yours

It’s called your writing journey for a reason! There is a map … somewhere, and no two maps are the same. It’s different for everyone. There are often route markers, but they’re written in a language that you only almost understand.

Write your story in the best way for you. My advice is to keep finding joy in your journey – look for the light and move towards it. Seek assistance when you are lost. Most of all trust your internal compass – you know the true north of your story is, so believe in yourself.

7. This too will pass

There will be times when you don’t feel like writing and times when you do. Neither stays. When you experience them, embrace them or let them go – whichever works best at the time.

8. Do not ignore your doubts and fears

The doubts will be there whether you talk to them or not. If you ignore them, I’ve found, they will do the same as all things that are ignored they will brood and grow.

Take time to listen. Whether they’re fears of success, failure, or simply writing the story, step back from them and share your why with them. They won’t be as frightening as they once were.

9. The road is lonely but it need not be

Writing is often solitary, but that doesn’t mean lonely. SCBWI offers you an opportunity to connect with other writers.

Find your people. Find those who will support you and guide in a way that makes you feel valid, heard, and included. I have found no greater source of encouragement, support, and nurturing than among my fellow writers.

That’s alright for me to say

So, these are the things I know that have helped me on my writing journey. I hope they can help you, but it’s okay if you just nod and agree while thinking, “that’s okay for her to say, she just had a book published”.

Some advice, like some stories, takes longer to do their thing – words that seep into you and get you thinking. I still think SF is right and we should aim to enjoy what you write.

If you are entering Undiscovered Voices 2022 I wish you good fortune. Make your submission the best that you can and then let it go, the next bit is outside of your power but what you do with the time that is in front of you, how that shapes your journey, that’s all on you.

Annaliese Avery has spent most of her life surrounded by stories, both in her work as a library manager and at home writing them.

She holds an MA in Creative Writing and is a Program Leader and Editor for The Golden Egg Academy.

In January 2020, Annaliese was shortlisted for the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2020 anthology. The Nightsilver Promise is her debut middle-grade novel, and the first in a thrilling, new fantasy trilogy to be published by Scholastic.

Guest blog: The joy of deadlines and other tips for success (Anna Brooke)

Anna Brooke 2020

In our latest guest blog post, a recent Undiscovered Voices finalist, Anna Brooke (UV2020), shares her story of procrastination, pandemics and promising publishing potential. 

The joy of deadlines and other tips for success

I’d been a journalist and travel writer for years, but writing children’s fiction had always been the dream.

The problem? I’d never finished a novel.

Why? No deadline.

Confessions of a serial procrastinator

As a serial procrastinator and a journalist (a profession ironically incompatible with procrastination), I knew the only way to kick the P-word was with a deadline — one set by someone who’s not me. But while newspaper and travel guide editors dole them out in scores, I’d never found a way to get one for my fiction.

Then along came SCBWI and Undiscovered Voices, and suddenly, the skies filled with trumpets as the two-syllable word I’d been longing to read leapt off the competition rules page: DEADLINE. I was sorted.

Erm, no.

Starting with a monster of an idea

As a procrastinator, I didn’t have anything ready to enter! But I did have this silly image trotting around my head: a tower made of bogeys that gets struck by lightning and turns into monster.

Don’t judge me, I know! My approach to the whole novel was very pantsy – but over the next few weeks, as long as it made me laugh, I rode with it. And finally, with a deadline to work towards, I could structure my time.

And guess what? It worked. I had completed my novel in time to enter the competition.

Navigating the brain-fog of lockdown

In November 2019, Sara Grant called me to say that Sean & The Franken-Bogey had made it into the anthology! Not only that. In early February, agents contacted me to say they’d be interested in reading the full MS after the party.

I was ecstatic. But now there was another hurdle: getting it ready for those agents. The week after the party became my next deadline. But here’s where it went pear-shaped: the pandemic.

Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

Like many people, Lockdown fogged my entire brain and morphed all creativity into an OCD-esque obsession with catching the deadly pathogen. Over-night all my travel writing disappeared, leaving nothing but worry in its place. That, plus 24/7 childcare, stinted all progress for six whole months.

I wrote to the agents to explain, and was overwhelmed by how understanding they were. Then from September onwards, once the schools had re-opened (I live in France), I flung myself back into the story. And here’s the great thing: it turns out that the initial deadline had carried me so far, that I didn’t need anyone to set another one. It was finally my own drive to get the book finished that thwarted any procrastination.

A hard, stressful but ultimately wonderful decision to make

Finally, in February, one entire year after the UV party, I was ready to send.

Then imagine my shock when six agents offered me representation! Choosing between six top-notch agents was a dream come true. But it was also stressful – in fact, it was the hardest, most stressful professional decision I’ve ever had to make.

Today, decision made, I couldn’t be happier. I’m agented by the wonderful Sam Copeland at RCW, and I hope to have official news to share about a deal with a fabulous publisher very soon.

Thank you SCBWI and UV and your deadlines. You literally changed my life.

They may well, fellow writers, change your life.

Here’s my three top tips for getting your UV entry ready
  1. Start bold. In the first 4,000 words, give the judges a real taste of what to expect in the rest of your book. Hook ‘em with your tone and the action.
  2. Don’t censor yourself. Allow yourself to write whatever you want, no matter how gross or weird. Write it down. Judge/tweak it later.
  3. Read it out loud. Listen to your story as it’s spoken to check the rhythm and your choice of words.
Anna Brooke 2020

Anna Brooke was a finalist in Undiscovered Voices 2020, you can download the anthology and read her extract here.

She lives in Paris where she’s simultaneously a freelance travel writer for The Times, a voice actor, a scriptwriter and a mum. She is represented by Sam Copeland at Rogers Coleridge and White.

When she’s not reading or writing, she’s composing songs. Anna never picks her nose.

You can find her on twitter at @AE_Brooke.

Guest blog: Ten Years as a Discovered Voice (Nick Cross)

In our first guest blog by past finalists, Nick Cross (UV2010), whose extract was Back from the Dead, reflects on how being short-listed ten years ago changed his life in unexpected and positive ways. 

Ten Years as a Discovered Voice: What I’ve Learnt

Just over ten years ago, I received the call that my extract had been selected for the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices anthology. I thought my life was about to change, and it did, but not in ways I could predict. Here are ten things I’ve learnt in the process.

1. Success is how you define it

Although I’ve written a further four children’s novels since UV2010, I haven’t had a book published. But I’m still writing (and now illustrating too) despite the many knock-backs and rejections. And I have had lots of children’s short stories published and even won an award!

2. You have to ride the rollercoaster
Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@she_sees?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Charlotte Coneybeer</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/rollercoster?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

A career as an author is not a dependable thing – you are at the whims of your own creative impulses, the publishing industry and ultimately your readers. I’ve seen writers whose first children’s novel got picked up for publication in a blaze of hype, but who then struggled to get a second contract. I’ve seen others who had to keep diversifying into other age groups and genres to survive (or even, gasp, writing for adults). And there are a lucky few who found the right publisher and audience, and by working incredibly hard have been able to carve out a steady career path.

3. Everyone needs a side hustle

Because authors’ careers are so volatile, you’ll need to maintain other streams of income, whether those are school visits, teaching adults to write/illustrate or selling merchandise on Etsy. In my case, I’ve worked full-time ever since leaving university, so writing and illustrating are actually my side hustle!

4. The world is out there

Through my involvement with Undiscovered Voices, I was pitched (pun intended) into a social whirl of publishing events. I got introduced to all sorts of writers, illustrators, agents and editors, many of whom are still my friends today. It was incredible to step into a world I’d only dreamed of, and to find that the reality of the publishing industry was more vibrant and complex, and yet also more grounded than I could have imagined.

5. Be open to the unexpected

While my Undiscovered Voices novel didn’t find a home, I did. I realised I liked the people and the industry so much that I wanted to work in publishing. So I changed my day job and I now manage a digital publishing team of ten people, which is demanding but also highly rewarding.

6. Give your creative aspirations room to grow

As I became more experienced as a writer, I was increasingly drawn to illustrated fiction. There was something so appealing to me about being able to tell stories in both words and pictures simultaneously. But the nature of the publishing process – in which an illustrator generally isn’t chosen until the publisher has acquired a book – frustrated me. I couldn’t express what I wanted to in just words, and yet I also hadn’t picked up a pencil since secondary school. Could I really be an illustrator? It turned out I could!

7. Feel the fear and do it anyway

Becoming an illustrator at the age of forty-five is just one of the slightly mad things I’ve done since Undiscovered Voices. A couple of years ago, I walked out onstage to pitch my novel for SCBWI British Isles’ The Hook, in front of a panel of four agents and an audience of two hundred people. I have a chronic anxiety condition, so it definitely wasn’t easy, but I’m proud I could do it.

8. Protect your health

Creative practices can take a toll on your body and mind, whether from sitting in one position for long periods, staring too long at a screen, or not getting proper rest and exercise. While it can be tempting to keep pushing yourself harder and harder to succeed, you only have a finite supply of energy. I learnt this to my cost, and barely a year after the exhilaration of Undiscovered Voices, I crashed into a long period of exhaustion and depression. But I also learnt that…

9. The community will help you through

Nurture your contacts and support network through the good times, and they’ll be there for you when things get tough. This last year of the pandemic has been impossibly difficult for many creative people, but virtual support networks have been a great way to stay sane. Along with the wider SCBWI community, the Undiscovered Voices alumni have been an invaluable comfort to me. I’m looking forward to seeing them again in person at the 2022 launch!

10. It’s worth entering Undiscovered Voices, whatever the outcome

Looking back on my ten years as an Undiscovered Voice reminds me that nothing in life is certain. While dreams of countless book launches and reaching the New York Times bestseller list have yet to be realised, I’m immeasurably richer in terms of friends, inspiration and experience for having been a UV finalist. That’s why I encourage you to put your fear aside and try out for Undiscovered Voices 2022 – who knows where it could take you?


Nick Cross is a writer, illustrator and blogger whose novel extract Back from the Dead appeared in the Undiscovered Voices 2010 anthology. Nick has had more than ten short stories published in children’s magazines, and was honours winner of the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award for fiction. He is a long-time contributor to SCBWI-BI Words & Pictures magazine – as well as his fortnightly Blog Break column, he is currently writing and illustrating a monthly comic called Antisoci@l Media.

Nick is represented by Heather Cashman at Storm Literary Agency, and can be found as @nick_w_cross on both Twitter and Instagram.

SCBWI-BI Kicks Off Its Eighth Undiscovered Voices Anthology

Once again SCBWI British Isles plans to help fresh, new voices in children’s literature find agents and publishers through its Undiscovered Voices project. New this year is a series of free and low-cost events to help writers prepare their submissions.

The Undiscovered Voices anthology will include at least twelve fiction extracts – from early readers to young adult novels – from SCBWI members in the UK and EU. The anthology will be published in January 2022 and sent free of charge to editors 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.

Authors and illustrators from the seven previous anthologies have received publishing contracts for more than 400 books and have been nominated for or won more than 160 literary prizes, including the Carnegie Medal, Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize, Branford Boase Award, Blue Peter Award, the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, and more than 30 regional awards.

Deadlines

Submissions will be accepted between 14th June and 18th July 2021 via an online submissions process. There is no submissions fee, but only unagented and unpublished members of SCBWI living in the UK and Europe (writing in the English language) are eligible.

Judges

Four UK literary agents and three editors comprise the stellar judging panel for Undiscovered Voices 2022:

  • Davinia Andrew-Lynch, literary agent and the founder of the boutique agency ANDLYN
  • Megan Carroll, literary agent at Watson, Little Ltd
  • Sarah Davies, founder and agent at Greenhouse Literary Agency
  • Jane Griffiths, editorial director at Penguin Random House Children’s Books
  • Sarah Levison, senior commissioning editor at Farshore Books
  • Yasmin Morrissey, commissioning editor at Scholastic
  • Jo Williamson, literary agent at Antony Harwood Ltd
Honorary Chair

We are thrilled to announce that Patrice Lawrence, an award-winning writer for children, teenagers and adults, will be the honorary chair for Undiscovered Voices 2022. Her books include Orangeboy, (shortlisted for the Costa Children’s Book Award and winner of the Bookseller YA Prize and Waterstones Prize for Older Children’s Fiction), Indigo Donut (winner of Bristol Crimefest YA Prize and shortlisted for the Bookseller YA prize), Rose, Interrupted and Eight Pieces of Silva (Winner of Woman and Home Teen YA). All four books have been nominated for the Carnegie Award. She was a 2020 Costa Book Awards judge and is a judge for the Little Rebels Children’s Book Award for Radical Fiction.

Undiscovered Voice Events
Free Zoom Kick-Off Event on 22 April 2021 from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.

This event will be a panel discussion with the judges, who will offer valuable advice for those planning to submit to the anthology. To attend, you must be a member of SCBWI in the UK or EU.

Three 90-Minute Masterclasses
8 May – Titles that Sell

Freelance editor Jenny Glencross will discuss how to craft a title to capture the attention of readers with Dani Wilson from Simon & Schuster’s Children’s sales team.

15 May – Writing a Synopsis

Author/editor Benjamin Scott will share the secrets of how to summarize a novel into the 75-word synopsis required for each UV submission.

22 May – Hooking Your Reader from the Start

Editor/author Catherine Coe and author/screenwriter Simon James Green will discuss how to polish those opening lines so readers are compelled to read on. 

Each session will run from 10 – 11:30 a.m. and contain practical advice and hands-on exercises as well as the opportunity for a selection of writers to share their work and receive feedback. The cost for all three sessions is £30. Free places will be available for writers who are financially disadvantaged or underrepresented in children’s publishing.

You will be able to book UV events on the SCBWI-BI web site soon.

For more details on how to submit and to sign up for news and updates about Undiscovered Voices, visit www.undiscoveredvoices.com

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