Friday, 26 June 2015

UV 2016 - Killer Opening Lines Quiz!

Edge Author Katie Dale on the competition that launched her own writing career, and how to write that killer opening line

Submissions for Undiscovered Voices 2016 are OPEN!! 
Undiscovered Voices is an amazing biennial writing competition that has launched the careers of many authors and illustrators - including 5 members of The Edge (Sara Grant, Dave Cousins, Bryony Pearce, Paula Rawsthorne and myself) - and the winners have collectively had over 120 books published! It's FREE to enter, but you need to be a member of the SCBWI (well worth it) and whilst they'd like you to submit the first 4000 words of your novel, you must have completed the whole novel before submitting (I entered in the first year it was running and HADN'T finished my novel - oops! BIG MISTAKE - as you can read about on my blog!)
Full submission guidelines can be found on the UV website

At the recent launch event at Foyles, this year's judges gave valuable advice to prospective entrants. As the submissions are judged purely on the first 4000 words, the main advice was to polish the opening of your story as much as possible - and to start it as late as possible. One editor even advised cutting your first three chapters(!) to get into the action asap. All the judges talked about wanting a hook - a killer opening line that will intrigue and excite them, take them out of their everyday lives, and compel them to keep reading.

So what makes a killer opening line? Now on the UV team, Sara Grant blogged about an experiment she conducted during the last contest.  Having heard editors and agents say that they could tell from the opening paragraph whether the manuscript had promise, she made a note - based on the opening lines alone - on whether she thought that submission would make it to the next stage. Usually, these judgements proved to be right.

So let's have some fun - with a Killer Opening Lines Quiz! Can you identify each of the following opening lines from YA books? Bonus points if you can identify the four books by previous Undiscovered Voices winners...

1) "My name is Vivian Divine. I have a secret. I know how I'm going to die."

2) "The best day of my life happened when I was five and almost died at Disney World. I’m sixteen now, so you can imagine that’s left me with quite a few days of major suckage."

3) "I would rather die than face them all again. Die horribly. In a messy, fleshy, blood'n'guts kind of way. It is a total no-brainer."

4) "She'd never get used to beheadings. No matter what Pa said."

5) "Sometimes I think that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them, that the people buying milk in their pajamas or picking their noses at stoplights could be only moments away from disaster." 

6) "Sitting half in and half out of my bedroom window, a foot resting on the fire escape, I checked myself over one last time. Phone. Oystercard. Keys. Mace. Paint."

7) "It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure." 

8) "Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love."

So...which opening lines made you want to read on most?

Could you identify them all?

Answers at the bottom of the page.

Good luck with your own killer opening lines - especially if you're entering UV 2016! (Go on, what have you got to lose?!)

Katie Dale is the award-winning author of YA titles SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE and LITTLE WHITE LIES 
Simon & Schuster UK
Delacorte Press USA & Canada

1) Vivian Divine Is Dead - Lauren Sabel (UV)
2) Going Bovine - Libba Bray
3) Undead - Kirsty McKay (UV)
4) The Executioner's Daughter - Jane Hardstaff (UV)
5) Severed Heads, Broken Hearts - Robyn Schneider
6) Skulk - Rosie Best (UV)
7) Delirium - Lauren Oliver
8) The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater

Friday, 12 June 2015

Top Ten Best Book Covers by Edge Author Dave Cousins

There is a saying that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I suspect it's something we all do. What's on the jacket has a huge impact on how many potential readers will pick a book off the shelf, (or click for more information). While I own many books with artwork I don't particularly like, I'm fairly certain I would never have picked them up, had I not already been a fan of the author. It makes me wonder how many great stories I've ignored because the cover didn't grab me.

I've spoken to school librarians who offer students "book blind dates"—covering the jackets with brown paper, so the reader has no preconceptions or prejudice against what might be inside. It sounds like a great idea, and places focus back on the content, rather than the smoke and mirrors of packaging and marketing hype! 

I recently received the cover roughs for my next young adult novel (due out next year). I was delighted—the artwork perfectly captured the mood of the story, and had the right balance of intrigue and information. I'm afraid I can't share it with you just yet—the book itself is still in progress! Instead, I thought I'd put together a top ten of favourite covers from my bookshelves. 

Simple eye-catching design that
captures the essence of the story.
Humans are drawn to faces. The eyes in this
seek you out across the bookshop. Brilliant.
The spoof diary cover has been popular.
I think this one works really well.
The book is filled with atmosphere and
a great sense of time and location.
This cover captures it perfectly.
Dated by the furniture perhaps, but I like the way the
kids look like real kids, unlike the airbrushed models
appearing on many current young adult novels.
Another retro cover, but one of
my favourites. Eye-catching, and sums
up the mood and subject of the story.
A classic cover for a classic adventure story.
Great piece of design this, plus there's something
about maps and pins that screams adventure!
A great cover for a brilliant book.
The point where all the elements meet
and cut the lizard in two draws your eye.
I love the simplicity of this.
Exactly the right shade of yellow too.

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts, so please do leave a comment below.

Dave Cousins writes books for children and young adults. For more information, you can find him on the web at

Friday, 5 June 2015

"Gripping...a book to counter bigotry." The Sunday Times Miriam Halahmy

This blog title is a quote from the review of my novel HIDDEN in The Sunday Times when Nicolette Jones made it Children' Book of the Week. HIDDEN was also nominated for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted and longlisted for regional awards.

In two weeks time, a performance of the dramatisation of the book will be performed on stage in Paris.

So my book, published nearly three years ago, continues to speak to readers of all ages about it's central themes of human rights, the plight of asylum seekers and racism in Britain today.

This weekend my publishers, Albury Books,  are doing a free promotion on Amazon to raise the profile of HIDDEN  and the next two books in the Hayling cycle, ILLEGAL and STUFFED.

You can download HIDDEN for FREE here.

HIDDEN is a book which seems to have a life of its own and continues to engage readers including
teachers, librarians and anyone in fact who has any interest in these controversial and topical themes for our society today. One of the outcomes of writing this book is that I have been invited onto the Continent to run workshops on Peace and Tolerance with students at a Paris lycée.
I have blogged about this experience and included comments from the students and their writing from the workshops at this link.

Whole class sets of HIDDEN have been bought by a top independent school in South Africa, I have spoken at two schools in Germany and recently spoke at a conference in Oxford on 'Creativity as an Effective Tool for Social Change.'

I write because I have something to say and all my life I have written in notebooks, the backs of envelopes, on my hand if necessary, when I have needed to write and have been inspired to write. If you choose to download my novel this weekend. I hope you enjoy it and find something there to inspire you in your life as a citizen of the world.