Wednesday 13 April 2011

Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns Grow - Karen Ball

Today marks the end of a week-long blog tour to celebrate the launch of Undiscovered Voices. For those of you who don't know, Undiscovered Voices is a joint innovation between SCBWI and Working Partners to platform unpublished and unagented writers. UK members of SCBWI are invited to submit a manuscript extract and 12 are selected by a panel of judges to be published in an anthology that is then circulated gratis around UK publishers and agents.

I've seen the anthology change lives and careers and I was lucky enough to enjoy a ringside seat from the first quiet inception of Undiscovered Voices. I've also been lucky enough this year to see several members of the Scattered Authors Society generously join in with the support and contribute to the blog tour. Published or unpublished, it's clear that our children's author community is one of the strongest going.

But how did this all start?

Two editor-writers had coffee and came up with an idea. The fact that Sara O'Connor and Sara Grant happen to be driven, energetic, optimistic go-getters helped. We can all have good ideas, but it takes chutzpah to put ideas into action.

Their first conversation was back in 2006. The following summer I was aware of meetings taking place, quiet discussions, a stack of submissions that began to grow on someone's desk. Working Partners had agreed to pay for the costs of the anthology, probably more as a goodwill gesture than anything else. SCBWI enthusiastically bought into the idea. Still, I don't think anyone expected that on the back of the first anthology, significant deals would be made and several careers successfully launched.

David Almond was the inaugural honorary chair person. Anyone who heard his speech back in 2008 will confirm how inspiring it was. Here was a successful author telling us all never to give up hope, sharing the joke that it took him 20 years to become an overnight success. In 2010, Melvyn Burgess brought his charismatic presence to the launch party and in 2012 Malorie Blackman will be the honorary chair.

But Undiscovered Voices isn't really about the Davids or Melvyns or Malories. It isn't about the two Saras who started all this. It definitely isn't about SCBWI, Working Partners, or the Scattered Authors Society, though their support will never be forgotten. It's about the people whose names we don't know yet, the writers who are honing their talent and sanding smooth the rough corners of their craft. We've all been there, working hard at our desks, swimming against the tide.

Undiscovered Voices will help some dreams come true. Not everyone who applies will make it into the final anthology and there will be disappointments. That's the writer's life. But every single person who submits an extract will have been given the opportunity to consider their work worth sharing and they'll have been given the chance to make something happen.

Two women made things happen in stupendous fashion with Undiscovered Voices. For anyone who says 'Oh, I'll never be published' or 'My manuscript landed on the wrong desk at the wrong time' or 'My type of writing just isn't in fashion' I'd advise them to think about the origins of Undiscovered Voices. It wasn't rocket science; it was good, old-fashioned hard work. People rolling their sleeves up, getting stuck in and not waiting for someone else to do it for them.

That's all it takes sometimes, the ability to get stuck in - and we can all do that.

Undiscovered Voices 2010

The very best of luck to any authors entering this year's Undiscovered Voices. And a huge thank you to the Scattered Authors Society for their support this year.

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Robert Clear said...

This is the first I've heard of it, but it sounds like a great idea! I'll certainly be checking it out...

Linda said...

Hear! Hear! The Saras are the best!

saramoohead said...

Good, old-fashioned hard work can get you anywhere and accomplish ANYTHING. Lovely blog, Karen. So glad to have you on the UV team!

Sue Purkiss said...

A lovely, generous, and it's an over-used word, but inspiring post, Karen! It makes me feel like pretending to be an undiscovered author (well, that's not such a stretch...!)- but more to the point, it makes me feel like just getting on with it.

Best wishes for this year's anthology.

catdownunder said...

While I cannot, being from the Antipodes, join in - good luck to those who can try. I would in a heartbeat!

Tracy said...

Great post and very inspiring. I'll add this to my list of UV blog posts.

And just to keep the UV posts rolling, I'm going to be posting a new interview with one of the UV 2008 winners on my blog very soon.
I'll tweet and facebook as soon as it goes live! (Hopefully at the weekend)

Leila said...

This has been such a successful project. Congratulations to everyone involved, and hooray for hard work!

Nick Cross said...

Here's to hard work and optimism (some of it mine) And here's to those 12 not-long-to-be-undiscovered voices!