I had the chance, along with a hoarde of other SCBWI members to attend the Undiscovered Voices event last night.

For those who don’t know, Undiscovered Voices is an initiative by SCBWI British Isles where unagented, unpublished, authors have the chance to appear in anthology which is then sent out to agents and publishers and other movers and shakers in the KidLit world.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.

The judges:

JO ANNE COCADIZ, Book Buyer/Seller for Foyles children’s books
AMBER CARAVEO, Editorial Director at Orion Children’s Books
JULIA CHURCHILL, Literary Agent for Greenhouse Literary Agency
CATHERINE PELLEGRINO, Literary Agent at Rogers, Coleridge & White
JASMINE RICHARDS, Senior Commissioning Editor at Oxford University Press
JENNY SAVILL, Literary Agent at Andrew Nurnberg Associates
RACHEL BODEN, Commissioning Editor at Egmont

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.
  • voice

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

  • voice
  • character
  • good writing

The group was then asked about pitfalls to avoid and also the most common pitfalls they see aspiring writers make:

Jasmine @ OUP

  • theme*
  • emotion*
  • concern*

* 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.

14 thoughts on “Undiscovered Voices 2012 – A Recap on the Evening

  1. Hi Anne!

    Certainly – I need to actually link to yours, as I read yours via the SCBWI Yahoo group site. 😀 Us cool kids gotta stick together!

  2. Excellent account Liz! You managed to make all those useful notes even with me and Christian sitting there and putting you off?! It was a fab evening!

  3. If I can write in Costa Coffee with screaming children around me, I can concentrate long enough to make notes at a SCBWI meeting!

  4. It was great evening and v interested to hear what the agents and editor want right now. Have already emailed my my to Egont after speaking to Rachel, and next is Orion after talking to Amber.

  5. Thanks Jenni. It was such a positive event – so many smiles. It really lifted everyone.

  6. Thanks Mel, much appreciated! We are hoping to do a LiveStream for the Agents Party in September too.

  7. Thanks for a great recap, Liz! We’re looking for ways to bring UV to other regions in the EU and your notes give a great sense of the kick off evening.

  8. Hi Tioka

    It was so great – there was such a great atmosphere in the room. A tremendous buzz and a “looking towards the future” feel.

  9. Ah well, back to the drawing board for writers of YA fantasy…but thanks for an extremely helpful summary!

  10. HI Gita

    They did stress that they do not want derivative things…so if your take is deep and unusual, you still stand a chance. And remember they were not looking for traditional high fantasy a la Tolkien / GRRM or such authors, but that urban fantasy and paranormal romance was still much sought after.

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