I entered Undiscovered Voices mostly because a certain other SCBWI member (Ellen Renner) nagged me to. I’d entered the time before and received an honorary mention. That was so amazing that bubbly liquids were consumed and I flew high for about a year. I wasn’t writing total rubbish. Hurrah!
Then along came UV2012 and I have to admit I was reluctant to try again. Having received an honorary mention the first time I was kind of happy to leave it at that. I wasn’t sure my writing had got a whole lot better… so how could I hope to improve on the last time?
I’m so glad Ellen bullied me! Undiscovered Voices was a really amazing experience; from being told that I’d made the long list to the phone call telling me that my extract was going to be included in the anthology.
To go from being scared to show anyone anything to having agents and editors requesting material from me was one of the weirdest experiences of my life. I think I would have gone a little bit mad if it wasn’t for my lovely friends who talked me down every time I got close to freaking out, plus the UV organisers were on hand with nuggets of trustworthy advice. And that's what so lovely about Undiscovered Voices, it's not an impersonal competition where you're just left to get on with it... instead it's a bit like winning the lottery - there is lots of help and advice on the other side - there's even a training day where you get to meet the other folk in the anthology.
Jenny Savill from Andrew Nurnberg Associates was the first agent to get in touch with me as she’d been one of the judges. That was a huge day. Jenny was my dream agent, and although several other agents requested from me, I knew the minute I met Jenny that she was the right agent for me.
My entry, DEAD JEALOUS was by no means perfect. I spent a few weeks revising the manuscript with Jenny before it then went out to editors. Orchard, incidentally, were the very first publisher to get back to Jenny to say that they might be interested... a month or so later, the sale was agreed and Dead Jealous found a home.
It seemed so right that in the week that UNDISCOVERED VOICES 2014 opened to submissions, DEAD JEALOUS was published in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. If it wasn't for UV2012 I doubt I'd even be submitting to agents, let alone be finishing writing my second book.
I owe the hugest of huge thanks to everyone involved in Undiscovered Voices. Through your hard work... well, look...
So that's what it was like for me, I wonder what it's like on the other side of the fence?
who was one of the judges of UV2012...
As an agent, what was the best thing about being involved in Undiscovered Voices 2012?
Discovering a certain Sharon Jones, a single-minded teen sleuth called Poppy Sinclair and a dog called Dawkins...
*blushes* You would say that!
But what was it like being in the judging room? Were there fights?
It was fun and interesting in the judging room. I think we all knew how privileged we were to be reading and selecting the entries. It is a big responsibility, making decisions that can and do affect writers' careers and I think we were all aware of that. The discussions we had were fascinating and it was interesting to see how different the judges' responses could be to a single title. Some could be keen, others less so and it was so interesting to hear what had appealed and why. There weren't actual fights - Sara O'Connor was very strict with us! - but rather impassioned pleas by judges who felt strongly enough about a submission to make the case for it to be in the anthology. There was general agreement on most titles selected. As an agent, it was interesting to see, through the process of selection, with which editors' taste I was most aligned. (I naturally made a mental note for later!)
What makes a submission stand out?
A beginning that hooks you in straight away and leaves you wanting to read on. A strong, clear voice. The clear intention of the author to grip the reader and pull them into the story. The ability to show, not tell. Humour. Atmosphere. A point of difference.
What are your top tips for people entering this year?
The judges want to be blown away - so blow them away! With a character they will fall in love with, an authentic voice that cannot be ignored, a setting - familiar or otherwise - that is yet to be explored, or a predicament which will leave them desperate to read the whole novel in order to find out how things will be resolved. These are the elements that the winning entries tend to have going for them. Good luck!
Thanks, Jenny! So there you have it. Undiscovered Voices isn't the only route to publication but it can be life changing - it was for me!
Best of luck to everyone who enters this year!
You can download a free copy of Undiscovered Voices 2012 HERE!
You can find out about how to submit to Undiscovered Voices 2014 HERE!