Former Bath Children’s Novel Award shortlistees describe what being shortlisted has meant for them.
Sophie Green, shortlisted for Potkin & Stubbs
“Within minutes (literally, courtesy of Twitter) of the winner and shortlist announcements I had got my first request from an agency to see the full manuscript. I remember thinking ‘Wow! Agents really watch this prize,’ and the agency was a big one, based in New York. I had been querying for years and years with my first novel, The Last Giant, but to no avail. And now, suddenly, agents were approaching me, but there was already one that was at the top of my wish list.
I had met Hilary Delamere years earlier and, although she didn’t make me an offer of representation back then, I felt like she really got my writing and where I was coming from, and for me that was going to be the most important thing. So I got back in contact, and this time the answer was a resounding ‘Yes!’ I signed with Hilary at The Agency a week later and she took Potkin & Stubbs along with her to meet editors at the Bologna Book Fair, and then to London. And then the waiting began, and continues …
Although, this time I feel more hopeful than ever, because I know I have people in my corner, and this started with the Bath Novel Award and the strong writing community that surrounds it; former winners, shortlistees, readers and judges (most especially the Junior Judges!) and people from the book industry, who all make the Bath Children’s Novel Award what it is: A competition run by people who are truly passionate about writing and writers, and for me, being shortlisted was the moment where everything changed.
Gareth Osborne, Winner for Clockmasters Three!
“It has been an exhilarating seven months since winning the Bath Children’s Novel Award for Cogs of Castile (now Clockmasters Three!), my middle-grade adventure set in nineteenth-century Spain about cousins Nieve and Sebastián and their battle to free their family from a mysterious clockmaster wielding a powerful gold that has become sensitised to human greed. I have been hard at work editing the manuscript again with my wonderful new agent, Julia Churchill at A. M. Heath. The structure and pace were there, but she thought the characters and backstory needed bringing out more. These months I’ve pushed my storytelling harder than I ever have before. Feeling the book grow has been a wonderful experience as I’ve uncovered deep wells of feeling I never knew my characters had in them. They’ve really taken charge of the story for themselves and even crafted an entirely new ending for me. The manuscript has doubled in size and been gilded with a bright new name in the process, Clockmasters Three. We pitched at the Frankfurt Book Festival while I’m completing the last edits and it will soon be out on submission with publishers. Fingers crossed!”
Noah Weisz, Shortlisted for Echo of Light
“Getting shortlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award was a huge boost of confidence for me and has opened doors professionally that I never anticipated. Award Founder Caroline Ambrose has helped me find agents to query and sent many personalized letters of introduction, with the result that a number of agents have requested the full manuscript of Echo of Light and two have offered representation. After a lot of debating and advice-seeking, I ultimately declined those offers, but continue to work with Caroline to query agents and search for the right representation. In the meantime, I’ve revised the manuscript, gotten about three-quarters of the way through a first draft of my next novel (a middle-grade fantasy set in a coral reef), and been lucky enough to win the F(r)iction Short Story Prize for Winter, 2016. I continue to teach courses on creative writing and children’s literature at St. Edward’s University and reading/writing workshops at two elementary schools. My most important and exciting news, though, is that over the summer I got engaged!”
Fiona Longmuir, Shortlisted for The Waiting Room
“The day after the shortlist was announced I got an email from an agent, congratulating me on being shortlisted. She wondered if I’d like to come in for a cup of tea and a chat. I’m not sure what I expected a literary agent to be like, but I was terrified. I had built the publishing world up in my head to be an army of stern headteachers, wagging their fingers and tutting at my book. But of course it’s not like that. Of course, like everything else important in this world, it’s run by women with twinkly eyes and firm handshakes, who laugh loudly and often, who have shelves and shelves and shelves of books. Women like Sophie [Gorell Barnes of MBA Literary Agency]. I went in expecting a job interview. I got a conversation instead. I’m not sure I paused for breath for the entire time I was in her office. Her excitement about my work made me excited and I talked quickly, waved my hands around wildly, cracked a thousand terrible jokes.
She wanted to read the rest of the book. I sent it over and tried, unsuccessfully, not to refresh my email every five minutes looking for a response. I’ve had lots of agents request my full manuscript, was the thing, and thus far, none of them had decided to take it on in the end. When the email finally came, it came on International Women’s Day, because of course it did. I was on my way to a drag show, because of course I was. I was wearing lots of purple lipstick and the biggest earrings in the world and I was drinking terrible wine out of a plastic pint glass.” [Abridged from Fiona Longmuir’s excellent blog The Escapologist’s Daughter]
Sarah House, Runner Up for The Magpie Garden
“2017 has been an amazing year, and being named runner up in the Bath Children’s Novel Award got it off to a wonderful start. After the excitement of a celebration in London (and the joy of meeting the junior judge who’d loved The Magpie Garden so much she’d read it three times), the BNA team helped me with submissions to agents. I was lucky enough to receive several offers of representation, but sensed from the very first email from Polly Nolan that she was the right agent for me. I signed with Greenhouse a few weeks later, and set to work on Polly’s suggested revisions.
Once we agreed that the new, improved version of The Magpie Garden was ready to submit to publishers, I started work on my next book. Funnily enough, the BNA had a part to play in this too – the idea came to me whilst I was sitting in the Natural History Museum, recovering after the champagne and excitement of the BNA celebration event.
I never dreamed I’d get as far as I did in last year’s competition. To anyone still undecided about entering this year, I’d say do it right now – you never know what might come of it.”