Thursday 25 February 2010

Flight of the Undiscovered: Voices Coming Soon on a Children's Bookshelf Near You

This was their moment!

Suddenly, after years of being supplicants to the great and good of publishing, our SCBWI heroes find themselves the object of a schmooze-for-all, with agents, editors and publishers eager to check them out at the launch of the Undiscovered Voices anthology for 2010.

In 2008, the first ever SCBWI British Isles Undiscovered Voices competition led to all 12 winners (including me, yay!) being signed by agents.

And here's who we have to blame, The Saras (Sara Grant and Sara O'Connor) - who conceptualized the Undiscovered Voices and made it happen. Should you run into them, please be sure to kiss the hems of their skirts (or trousers), they have changed some lives BIG TIME - including mine.

The Saras (Grant and O'Connor)
Sara G and Sara O

Of the 12 2008 winners, eight now have book deals and an array of nominations, shortlistings, longlistings for the gamut of prizes available in the children's book world, including:
The Blue Peter book award
Barnes and Noble Top Teen book for 2009
American Library Association Best Book for Young Readers
2010 Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize
Branford Boase First novel award
Borders Book of the Month
Steve HartleySarwat Chadda, and Harriet Goodwin - the first three of the original Undiscovered Voices to see their books in print - were present as were copies of their books for signing.

Steve Hartley Sarwat Chadda Harriet Goodwin
Okay. Apologies to Harriet (right) and Steve (left). But that's what comes from not taking the time to pose properly. You should really try to be more like Sarwat (center). Just smile.

Here's the cheat sheet that all guests were provided with so that they could target their desired author with appropriate ardour:

It's quite remarkable to think that the lives of these 12 somewhat shy people are about to change forever.

Watching the winners screwing up their courage to talk to agents they had previously feared, I remembered what it was like two years ago when I spent the launch party cowering in the company of friends rather than schmoozing the great and good.

Now I am a great fan of the Undiscovered Voices patron, Melvin Burgess, but I just could not get a shot of the man with his eyes OPEN. Here he is with Natascha Biebow, SCBWI BI's regional advisor:

Keynote speaker Melvin Burgess and British Isles RA Natascha Biebow

Luckily I managed to film his evocative speech with my trusty ... erm ... mobile phone. Turn up the volume to get the full impact - it was a moving tribute.

At the dinner afterward - which I gatecrashed along with Sarwat - Sara O'Connor toasted the winners and their soon to be golden tomorrows.

Sarwat and I were bemused by the guests that each winner took along, who all wore nametags that said 'Plus One' (as in added guest).

Lisa and her Plus One, Graham
Lisa Joy Smith (Slugs in the Toilet) with her Plus One, Graham.

These are the powers behind the throne, we thought. So after Sara's toast, I offered another one: to the Plus Ones - these are the people who make it happen for us writers, the ones who have to take the moodiness, the lateness and who keep us going into the light. Most likely, these are the names who will grace the dedication pages of future UV books!

Plus Ones!
More Plus Ones, lined up against the wall!

I'm afraid I didn't manage to photograph all the winners or the agents for that matter as the white wine was rather distracting. But here's a sampling of the evening:

Jude Ensaff Nick Cross
Jude Ensaff (One of a Kind) and Nick Cross (Back from the Dead)

Jasmine Melvin and Bella

Editors Jasmine Richards (OUP) and my editor, Bella Pearson (David Fickling) ... and of course Melvin with eyes closed

Sarah Manson and David Cousins
David Cousins (Fifteen Days Without a Head) has been signed by agent Sarah Manson (that's why they're toasting)

Natascha Biebow
Natascha introducing Melvin

Steve and Katy Lauren Chris Snowdon, Working Partners
Katie Dale of UV 2008 who finally made it after missing the first launch because she was travelling; Lauren Sabel (Vivian Divine and the Days of the Dead) flew in from the US just to attend; Chris Snowdon, managing director of Working Partners, the generous sponsor of the anthology

Sorry again if I didn't manage to photograph anyone who should be in this piece. You can read more about the UV launch on Nick Cross's wonderful blog Who Ate My Brain? (catchy title, Nick). Nick wrote Back from the DeadYona Wiseman (Becoming Invisible) has also blogged about it on Daylight Procrastinator. Anne M Leone (Adele) blogged about it on Critically Yours.

Left to right foreground: Yona Wiseman, Lisa Joy Smith, David Cousins, Anne Anderson, Paula Rawsthorne; back row: Nick Cross, Melvin Burgess, Jane McLoughlin, Lauren Sabel, Abbie Todd, Claire O'Brien, Emily George (not in picture, Jude Ensaff)

Meanwhile, congratulations to all the winners. May your tomorrows shine. Write well.

My signed copy of the anthology!

You might want to read my interview with Melvin about his experimental Twitter short stories. Scroll down.


  1. Why wasn't I invited to this, HUH?!

  2. it was only editors, agents and publishers, dear heart! i got in (dubiously) as scbwi webmaster and former winner (well probably as former winner because even network heads and those on the honours list weren't there).

  3. Very exclusive...
    Huge congratulations to the winners, and well done to the two Saras for such a great idea.

  4. So jealous of your signed UV!!!Looks like a fab night, let's hope they go on to the success of last years winners x

  5. it's a good thing the competition only happens every other year. it took me that long to get a contract!

  6. Great report Candy, I had an incredible night! Sad it's over; it went so quickly!

  7. A great evening. Well done everyone! Can SCBWI possibly keep this up every year??

  8. Sounds and looks like it was a great night! Once again, huge congratulations to all the winners.
    Now, Candy, you of the awesome powers, you just have to wangle it so I can somehow enter...

  9. I lovely post and great pictures! All the pictures I didn't seem to get (esp of my DH!!!). Thanks, Candy.

  10. Candy, you are a star! So great to see you and a brilliant post. (Thanks for the video!)
    -- Sara OC

  11. What am I doing with my hands in that picture? I swear that if they're not holding a pen they just go off and cause trouble by themselves.

    Great post Candy and thanks for the photos and the encouragement!

  12. Brilliant post. Thanks Candy. I thought Melvin's speech was inspiring, we had the same school experience only I didn't get the second type of teacher, sob.
    But he is right - love it, do it and you will get there.

  13. Nick, you appear to be playing some kind of strange finger pointing game.

    Maureen, like Melvin said to me last year - you are nearly there.

    Nicky - you don't need a competition, judging from the quality of your writing, I can tell it's only a matter of time for you.

  14. thanks for not being totally distracted by the white wine, to share the night.

    Big congrats to all and thanks to the Sara's and Natascha who have raised the profile of SCBWI so all Undiscovered Voices have a fighting chance in the future

    Candy - now you've moved from 'discovered' to 'undercover' perhaps you should change your blog title to Notes from the hush-hush pile?

  15. Hush hush sounds good ... except I've got such a big mouth! Thanks Sue!

    btw this is to let everyone know I've added a group picture of the winners courtesy of Sara Grant.

  16. Oh, I dunno - ok- for supreme list info- notes from the plush pile!

  17. I'm looking very earnest and interested there aren' I? Great post- as always Candy. You are an inspiration!

  18. Great report Candy and great (if terrifying and noisy) night! Excellent pictures too - so glad you got so many as I completely forgot to think of it. Thanks for your encouragement on the night and for the links (I have actually written about the night now!)
    Did you create your lovely UV winners badge yourself (the one on this page) and can I steal it to make a 2010 one?

  19. hi yona! yes thanks - but your badge would be yellow! i'll make one and send it to you to forward to all your fellow winners. and congrats on your brilliant story which i read today.

  20. Thanks for the fantastic reminder of an exciting evening. I've been following your blog, so was sorry that we had to leave dinner early--it would have been lovely to have talked to you at length. Your encouragement and enthusiasm mean so much to us all, Candy. Can't wait for my badge!

    Jane McLoughlin


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