On the Dazzle – Scholastic seeks a new child star

Here’s another UK newspaper launching a novel writing contest. Last week, it was The Guardian with a self-published novel of the month award and now The Independent is setting up the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing.

The major criterion for entry seems to be that you must be “dazzling”. The contest stipulates that The Indy is only looking for “dazzling new fiction writing talent”, previously unpublished, with a novel aimed at children in the 7-12 age group.

Star children’s publisher Scholastic, which must be looking to follow up on its massive success with The Hunger Games, is backing the award together with Italian luxury stationery supplier Montegrappa.

The prizes certainly look better than the review or published extract offered by The Guardian, with The Indy contest offering a £5,000 publishing contract, a Montegrappa pen worth over £1,000, a weekend for two to Venice to visit the Montegrappa factory and literary agent representation.

Don’t get too excited, the advance is only payable in thirds and amazingly the agent will take 15% of it, so that’s £750 gone straight away, plus 20% VAT (£150), so the winner will end up with three instalments of around £1,360.

The King of Pens

I can’t fault the pen prize though as I particularly like the look of the Montegrappa pens and I’d love one of their Elvis Presley ballpoints, a snip at £1,215 (no, you can’t borrow my pen), although there is also a gold (presumably solid gold) Elvis pen available at £13,500. Who needs a publishing contract? I’ll just take the pen. They don’t go overboard with these pens, there’s no garish Vegas show decals, just a classy band saying Elvis.

Here come the judges

The Indy and literary agency Luigi Bonomi Associates are partners in the prize and the judging panel includes representatives from Scholastic, LBA and The Indy plus children’s author Cerrie Burnell.

Entrants must submit the first 5,000 words of their book by June 2. There’s no word limit on the final manuscript. The short list will be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August.

As well as the main prize, four runners-up will get a minimum of one hour’s editorial advice session from agents at LBA and a Montegrappa fountain pen worth over £100.

The winner will get a rush publishing job by trad publishing standards, with the winner announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October and the debut novel published for the London Book Fair in April 2015.

If you have a truly dazzling children’s novel, you could self-publish it quickly and maybe earn more than the prizes by the time next spring comes around, you might even be able to make enough to afford one of those lovely Montegrappa pens.

The contest is unfortunately a bit insular as it’s only open to Brits or people living in Britain and Ireland as authors must be current residents of the UK or Ireland.

Only one entry per individual. Send the first 5,000 words of your book in Word or PDF format plus a one-page synopsis and author biography by Monday, June 2 to montegrappaprize@scholastic.co.uk

Full terms and conditions are available at Scholastic. In fact, remarkably, there seem to be two sets of T&Cs governing the competition as there’s Scholastic’s terms and there’s also The Indy‘s general terms to consider.