Today I received some much-needed good news. My story, The Pocket Pirate, received an Honourable Mention in the recent SCBWI Words & Pictures Slush Pile Challenge!
For those of you who don't know, SCBWI is the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. It is open to anyone, regardless of what stage they are at in their writing and/or illustration career. I have been a paid member since early 2019.
Words & Pictures is SCBWI's Online Magazine. Throughout the year they run 'Slush Pile Challenges', which are set and judged by literary agents. They are open to any un-agented, current SCBWI members, who are resident in either the UK or Europe. It isn't often that a fiction picture book challenge comes around, so I was excited to take part!
April's Slush Pile Challenge was set by Megan Carroll of Watson Little Ltd. Megan wanted to see 'a non-rhyming text of no more than 700 words that took place in an interesting or unusual setting (not commonly seen in a picture book) that featured either human or animal characters. The characters needed to be compelling an appealing to children of course, but the setting also needed to play a part in the story. '
I didn't have any existing picture book texts that fit the brief, so I rolled up my sleeves and started to write. The contest coincided with the beginning of lockdown, so I was not only limited on time and energy, but I wasn't feeling particularly 'in the mood' for writing. However, I was determined not to let the opportunity pass! Luckily, I'd always wanted to set a picture book inside a child's pocket, so it felt like now was the perfect time to make this book into a reality.
It took me a lot longer than usual to finish a first draft, and I wasn't 'in love' with the text, but my lovely beta-readers (aka my husband, mum and mother-in-law!) were all very encouraging, so I decided to submit the story. It was a huge surprise to find out that The Pocket Pirate had received an honourable mention for having "a brilliant and inventive setting with a heart-warming ending that had a really strong narrative arc." If you'd like to read more about the contest and the overall winner, click HERE!
I highly recommend making the most of any writing competitions. They give you the opportunity to write to a brief, which may be outside your usual comfort zone, and can sometimes get you over a writing block. It certainly did for me - I've written another two new picture book texts since entering the contest!