The time is nigh. Well, nearly.
In a few weeks, the winners of the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices 2012 competition will be announced. 25 writers made the long-list (which, if we’re being honest, is really a short-list). In a dramatic plot twist, only 12 will go on to have their 4000-word extracts published in the Undiscovered Voices anthology in February…
The SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) strives to create opportunities for unpublished writers at every turn – and boy, do they do it well! Much in the spirit of the society, this year the Undiscovered Voices team announced the long-list prior to announcing the winners for the first time.
In an effort to milk the last bit of calm before the storm, I asked some of those on the long-list to give their thoughts, hopefully to give everyone a flavour of SCBWI and the suberb Undiscovered Voices competition.
Rosie Best: I picked up the email on my phone at about midnight. It's hard to adequately express the feeling in words - interpretive dance might be better, but to the untrained eye it would probably just look like a lot of flailing and jumping up and down! I work in the Working Partners office with some of the people who organise the competition so it's been a hard couple of months trying to keep a straight face whenever it came up in conversation - they had no idea I'd entered and I had no idea whether anyone had liked my submission! Plus, I've read the previous anthologies and it means a huge amount to me to be in that company. I'm so flattered to think anyone thought my submission might possibly have as much potential as some of the ones we've had in previous years.
Liz de Jager: More than anything else, from the responses I’ve had from friends who are writing YA or kids books and who have not heard about SCBWI before, I know that UV has done something incredible: it has highlighted SCBWI, the fun and camaraderie we have and also the opportunities we offer aspiring writers. I would be surprised if we don’t get a swathe more members joining because of the buzz. At least, I hope so! As to how I feel weeks on from the announcement? Still very weird!
Julienne Durber: Of course I’m incredibly pleased to have made the long list, as my family and friends keep reminding me. But, while 125 budding authors shrug and move on to the next submission strategy, I along with 24 others am chewing my nails up to the elbow wondering whether I’ll be in the top 12 and make it into the anthology ...
Sharon Jones: I nearly didn’t enter Undiscovered Voices. The voices of doubt all but drowned out those of my critique partners, until one of them told me in no uncertain terms to stop being such a wimp and put something in. I will be eternally grateful for her nagging! Being longlisted has given me everything a budding writer needs: a boost in confidence, an introduction to industry professionals, and the motivation to get on with writing the next thing. Jo asked how I feel… well… I feel grateful… and lucky… and as nervous as an X Factor contestant on elimination night!
Rachel Latham: When I got the email to say I'd been long-listed I screamed for my eldest daughter and husband to check I'd read it correctly. How I feel is unbelievably excited and so hopeful. But it's hard not to live in that fantasy world of turning into JK Rowling overnight but at the same time I have to keep going to work, running the home and caring for my daughters. I want to be a published author so much I feel as though someone in a position to know has said "Yep you can write and so..." but I don't know the outcome yet. So hard, so exciting.
Maureen Lynas: How did I feel when I received the email from the UV team? Thrilled that the judges enjoyed my work. Excited by the possibilities. Nervous about the possibilities. Hopeful for the future. I think it went something like ‘Yay! Wow! Eek! Yay!’
Stephanie McGregor: SCBWI has played such a huge role in my growth as a writer, and I am so thankful to have been chosen as one of the long listees! You asked what it means to me, and gosh, isn't that a huge question? Hopefully it means being discovered, as the title insinuates, but there's more to it than that. It's been a long black tunnel though rejection hell, and the honour of having someone acknowledge my work is a light, not necessarily at the end of the tunnel, but at least guiding me in that direction. The dream of having my own novels on the bookshelf remains to be seen, but just having SCBWI UV take the time to say 'well done' has meant almost as much to me.
Sally Poyton: Imagine the scene: my husband’s away and has promised to call before he goes to bed. It’s ten past one in the morning, and he’s not called. Annoyed and determined to stay awake for when he eventually phones, I switch on my PC. An e-mail from the Undiscovered Voices team is waiting, saying I’ve made the long-list. I’m Dyslexic, and they manage see the story through the spelling errors - wow! Has it actually happened? Have I read it wrong, better read through, again, and again, and again. So when my husband eventually called at 1.15am, (hanging out of the hotel window to get signal), instead of being cross with him, I was uber happy. So Undiscovered Voices, at the very least, saved me a huge argument!
Lara Williamson: I must make a confession. I only joined the SCBWI seven months ago. But the seven months since have been fantastic. The writing bubble I'd lived in, on my own, has grown and flourished. Now I'm joined and supported by like-minded people. And it feels good. Finding out I was long listed for UV2012 was amazing. (Could you hear my heart pounding as I opened that email?) No, it was more than that. It was amazing x100. I am very grateful and proud to be part of it.
As for me? Well, I’d like to say that the envelope went in the post and I calmly forgot about it, but I didn't. I’d like to say that when I got the email saying I’d made the long-list I took the news with the grace and togetherness of a proper grown-up, but I didn't. What I can say is that this has been a great end to the year that has changed the way I see writing, a year that started with joining the SCBWI. I know for sure if it weren't for the great people I've met, who have between them supported and cajoled with brilliance, I’d never have thought to enter something like Undiscovered Voices, let alone stood a chance of being long-listed. Of course, we now have an agonizing five weeks to discover who will make the infamous anthology. And I thought people in the writing business were nice...
So that’s it. Eleven of the Undiscovered Voices 2012 long-listers. (Apologies to those I couldn’t get in touch with in time!) The remaining long-listers are: Jan Carr, Veronica Cossanteli, Sandra Greaves, Jane Hardstaff, Deborah Hewitt, Jennifer Hicks, David Hofmeyr & Zoe Crookes, Michael Marett-Crosby, Richard Masson, Anne Mitchell, Melissa Rogerson, Joanna Sargent and Rachel Wolfreys.
This year, writers weren't the only ones to get pen-happy - illustrators joined in too. The illustration long-listers are: Kim Geyer, Jennifer Graham, Julia Groves, Amber Hsu, Heather Kilgour, Shana Nieburg-Suschitzky, Nicola Patten, and Rachel Quarry, and I for one can't wait to see their efforts!
Of course, this competition is only one of the myriad of ways for writers to get a foot in the publishing door, and from talking to others who entered I know that the effort that went into getting work ready for Undiscovered Voices was a testament to the SCBWI in itself – and all that care and support won’t have gone to waste for anyone, regardless of whether they found themselves on that long-list.
Those who did can enjoy the feeling for another few weeks, and then it’s Judgement Day. Until then, we’ll party on!