Update: The winner was announced in November 2013: Carol Crummins for her picture book “Leah and Peggy Have a Beautiful Day”. Full details here: http://amheath.com/blog/irish-childrens-prize-2013-winner/
Have you heard about the A. M. Heath Prize? It’s an exciting new competition for children’s writers living in Ireland. The winner will be awarded a prize of €1,000, while three runners up will receive a bundle of children’s books written by Irish writers. Wow. What’s not to love about such an exciting competition?
A. M. Heath is running the prize to support new Irish writing talent, and to find a debut star. They will offer representation if they find an author, or authors, whose writing they love.
Jane Mitchell, Regional Advisor for SCBWI-Ireland, was lucky enough to be able to ask the judges, David Maybury and Julia Churchill, a series of questions about the prize. See if your question is answered below and then get those dusty first drafts polished up and submission-ready for this terrific competition.
1. Do you have a preference of whether my story is set in Ireland or can it be set anywhere?
Julia: I don’t mind where it’s set. Only thing that matters is a sense of place. I’m looking for a setting that comes alive and speaks to me. It may be down the road, thousands of miles away, or not even exist.
David: No, I don’t think it matters, so long as you’re confident about where you’re writing about.
2. What genre can my story be in?
Julia: We’re wide open. Any genre, any age-group, as long as it’s for children or young adults.
David: Absolutely, anything goes! Both Julia and I are open to any and all surprises.
3. I have a great idea for a story, but I haven’t written it yet. What should I send you?
Julia: If it’s not written, and only at idea stage, it’s not ready to enter. We’re looking for a voice and storytelling magic, as well as a great idea.
David: Get writing and start preparing for next year’s competition!
4. I’ve not finished my book and have only done the first few chapters, but I know exactly what’s going to happen in the story. Can I still enter even though it’s not finished?
Julia: You can certainly enter, yes. I’d always counsel to finish the book before you share. The first draft is really just a brainstorm, it’s when you’ve finished the book, and you know clearly what you want to say, that the shaping and focusing begin.
David: If you enter it, be prepared for both Julia and I to want to read more. Rushing your book won’t help you much but if you think it’s great, send it in.
5. I’ve just finished my book and I’m eager to send it to a publisher/agent. If I enter the competition, do I have to wait until the competition is over before I send my work somewhere?
Julia: No. It’s your book, you can send it where you like. If you get signed up by an agent in the meantime, just drop us a line and let us know to take it out of the competition.
6. I’ve already sent something to an agent/publisher, but I’ve not heard anything back yet. Can I enter the competition?
Julia: For sure. It’s your book.
7. I was published before. How will that affect my entry?
Julia: It won’t. We will make our decision based on the chapters you send through.
David: It’s almost a positive – knowing that you have a track record of being published and that you have experience is great. But we’ll be judging based on your submission only.
8. I used to have an agent, but I don’t have anymore. Can I enter the competition?
Julia: To be totally open about my intentions, I’m not running the prize only to find a winner and to help give someone a leg-up and some spending money. I’m also doing it because I want to get access to great new Irish talent. Hopefully I will love the winner’s book, we’ll be on the same wavelength about it, I’ll offer to represent, and the writer will accept. That’s what success looks like to me! So as long as you don’t have an agent now, that’s what matters.
9. Does it matter if I’m only living temporarily in Ireland? I’m planning to return to my home country in the next year or so.
Julia: If you’re there now, as you enter, then you’re in.
10. I’ve written and illustrated my own picture book and the pictures match the words perfectly. Will I send everything to you for the competition?
David: If you have a pdf version that you’d like to share, upload it to dropbox and we can check it out in full.
11. I’m an illustrator, but I can write stories to go along with my illustrations. What should I send to you?
Julia: The text in a word doc and a few sketches.
Thanks, good luck, and we’re really looking forward to seeing your work! And if you’ve got any questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org