For those who don’t know, Undiscovered Voices is an initiative by SCBWI British Isles where unagented, unpublished, authors have the chance to appear in anthology which is then sent out to agents and publishers and other movers and shakers in the KidLit world. This is the Undiscovered Voices website here.
Last night’s event was the launch of the new project. The organisers had all the judges there and it was a genuinely friendly panel who sat down, facing this room full of hungry aspiring writers.
Sara O’Connor started the evening with a round of questions to get everyone relaxed and chatting. The questions related to things like “favourite books growing up” and “books to recommend to aspiring writers”. Julia Churchill copped out slightly on this question but it made me laugh because she said “read read read”. Basically read within your age group, read with out of the age group, but just read. The more you read, the better you will learn your craft. I felt like standing up and applauding her.
Some of the books that were recommended were: How I live now by Meg Rosoff & The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. And if you’ve read these, you may realise that what carries both these books so strongly and makes us remember them is voice and narrative.
My notes are rather random, so here we go. The question of “What are you looking for / not looking for” went like this:
Rachel @ Egmont:
- not looking for straight historical / not looking for high fantasy.
- looking for adventure with humour for 8 – y/o
- survival stories, tying in with dystopic
Dagmar – Literary Scout
- books for younger readers are very much in demand
- also books with humour and humour done well
Amber @ Orion
- not looking for epic fantasy
- adventure stories
- YA – well written YA for the new Indigo imprint Orion has started
What can aspiring writers do when writing their stories, to stand out from rest?
Jo @ Foyles
- memorable characters – she quantified that the memorable characters may not even have to likeable.
Rachel @ Egmont
- character – original
- feel real – you want to continue with them on their journey
- the writer must have the writing ability
- strong voice
- stand out plot and hook
Catherine @ RCW
- good writing
The group was then asked about pitfalls to avoid and also the most common pitfalls they see aspiring writers make:
Jasmine @ OUP
* Jasmine explained that they receive so many submissions written by adults for adults, telling children’s stories. This is obviously not what they are after. Your readers have to be able to identify with the above three items wholehearted and writing for kids is hard as they pick up when they are being talked down to. Writers have to keep it fresh and original, even when reworking an old trope. Take the trope and spin it around and make it new. A lot of heads were nodding at this stage. Not just by the panelists but by the audience.
Jenny @ ANA
- too many words
- not enough words
- the wrong type of words
Jenny, like Jasmine explained: too many works means when a writer just does not manage to get the story started immediately. They harp on and on about a certain thing and five pages later nothing else has happened. Similarly in not enough words, it is as the writer wrote in draft format only. And the wrong type of words relates to finding the most boring way to say something.
Julia @ Greenhouse
- entering a scene too soon
- exiting a scene too late
- show don’t tell
There were some questions from the audience and from our watchers online but those I didn’t write down – sorry. All in all, it really was a very positive meeting. There were a lot of smiles on the panel and also from the audience and I think the deepseated fear everyone felt last year about publishing going through a tough phase has sort of worn off. It sounded like people are honestly looking for new things and to help grow debut authors careers.
I loved the buzz and stayed far too late. A great big thanks to both Saras who worked so hard to make this a success. I will definitely be nabbing their idea to host it online too, for the Agents Party in September.
Eddited to add, because I am LAME: also, do visit Anne’s site – she’s a previous winner of the Undiscovered Voices anthology for her take on last night’s UV event.