The reading has begun and I am overwhelmed by the quality, range and diversity of the submissions we have been sent.  There are a few things already to read again and consider for the next round but with well over 400 submissions left to read I am going to be realistic about time frames.

By the end of August I will have read and considered all the submissions and had a chance to re-read too.  Early in September I shall write to any authors whose work has sung out to me and shall ask to see the entire novel.

I realise that it is disappointing not to hear if your work is NOT selected but with 525 submissions to read we cant get back to everyone.  So I am going to say here that it is absolutely amazing to realise just how many people are writing great books and have sent their work for us to consider for publication on the Pushkin Press list.  In the days before the open submission date I would wonder how many submissions we would receive.  I hoped for 200, I would have been thrilled with 100.  525 is mind-boggling.

More soon …


Well, the extraordinary thing is we have 525 submissions, from all over the world.  And I have started reading.  It is going to take a while and I hope that by the end of the week I will have a pretty good sense of a timetable on when people will expect to hear from me if they are going to be called to submit their entire manuscript.

Then I will start reading all of those and will hope that at the end there will be some wonderful authors with brilliant books who we will be able to publish.

Thank you so much everyone for your interest, for your submissions, and for your patience!  You might have to exercise quite a bit of that as I didn’t in my wildest dreams imagine I would be reading so many synopsis and first pages.


Writing tip #5

Making your dialogue sound natural is always a problem.  Read it aloud to yourself, or even better get someone to read it aloud to you.  You soon hear what works and what doesn’t.

It is also important to avoid having your characters talk about things that have happened in the book.  Dialogue should drive the plot forward not rehash what we have already read.   Remember that all dialogue has to work in helping keep the pace, explore character and reveal important information.



Writing tip #4

When writing historical fiction carry your research lightly.  We the reader do not need to know every tiny detail of making a dress in 1840 when your character is a dressmaker, or skinning a rabbit when your character is a poacher.  It is great that you have researched and know exactly how these things are done but for us it may be a bit boring to have too much detail.

Get the voice right and consistent.  Ye Olde English can be pretty trying to read but the odd word used here and there can place a character very firmly in a time and place which is not here and now.  Read books written at the time your novel is set in to get a sense of language.

Look at old photos, paintings and other source material for details that can help your book feel time specific.  How did a hospital look in 1917? There are pictures to help.  What was London like in 1925? There are pictures there to help.  Best not to guess or think it was like today but with horses.

Writing tip #3

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops”  Stephen King

Be careful of adverbs.  Running quickly, smiling happily, whispering quietly … Its easy to do and completely unnecessary if we are seeing the characters doing those things in context.

Thank you Stephen King for all your insight in On Writing and it is on adverbs that I quote the master story teller here:

“Adverbs you will remember from your own version of Business English, are words that modify adjectives, or other verbs.  They’re the ones the usually end in -ly.  Adverbs, like the passive voice, seem to have been created with the timid writer in mind.  With the passive voice, the writer usually expresses fear of not being taken seriously: it is the voice of little boys wearing shoepolish mustaches and little girl’s clumping around in Mommy’s high heels.”

Have courage in your voice.  Keep it simple.  Show it through characters action and look at this great example of good and bad.

“put it down!” She shouted.

“Give it back” he pleaded, “it’s mine.”

“Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll,” Utterson said.

… Now look at these dubious revisions:

“Put it down! she shouted menacingly.

“Give it back,” he pleaded abjectly, ‘It’s mine.”

“Don’t be such a fool, Jekyll.”  Utterson said contemptuously.

The three latter sentences are all weaker than the former ones, and most readers will see why immediately.

Stephen King ON WRITING published by New English Library


Writing tip #2

Know your characters.  Not just what they look like and where they live but what they would vote in the EU referendum and which of their neighbour’s houses do they covet, or pity.

For an author to create characters that readers care about they have to be absolutely perfectly imagined.  We readers don’t want to know all that stuff but we feel it when it is there and when it is not.

Write a list of 10 things you know about your character (scared of cats, loves gnocchi etc) 10 things that they would tell their friends about themselves, and 10 ways that their siblings would describe them.  Get in to the habit of really knowing your characters, warts and all.  Even ‘heros’ have their bad points and ‘baddies’ their good.



Calling all authors … open submission details

In my new role as Editor-at-Large at Pushkin Press I am delighted to be working on an initiative to encourage authors to send me their unpublished works of fiction.  I will consider the first 20 pages and a synopsis and there is a twenty four hour period from 00.01am  in the early hours to 23.59pm on the 20th June 2016.   I am looking for originality, strong characters, emotional impact and compellingly readable books for young readers 8+.  Please see the Press Release that went out this week.  If you are looking for tips on how to write a great synopsis this is a good place to start

Pushkin Press Announces Open Submission Initiative

Following the appointment of Sarah Odedina as Editor-at-Large for their children’s imprint, Pushkin Press is thrilled to announce the Pushkin Press Open Submission Initiative. Both Pushkin and Odedina believe whole-heartedly in encouraging new talent and this initiative will provide unpublished writers with a golden opportunity to have their work seen by a leading figure in the literary world.

Authors are invited to submit the first 20 pages and a synopsis of their novel, which will then be read by Odedina. Submissions will be open for full length novels for readers 8+.

Odedina previously launched and ran Bonnier imprint Hot Key Books, and before that she was Editor-in-Chief for children’s books at Bloomsbury, where she oversaw publication of the Harry Potter series as well as publishing Neil Gaiman, Louis Sachar, Celia Rees and Chris Priestley.

She said: ‘It takes a lot of energy and courage to finish a book and authors must find the process of getting published daunting. Pushkin Press are very positive about talking directly with authors and we hope that our Open Submissions Initiative will help us build bridges with the writing community and lead to some exciting books being published.’

Adam Freudenheim, Publisher at Pushkin Press, said: ‘Until now, Pushkin Children’s has focussed on previously published books, contemporary and classic, from all over the world. Sarah’s appointment is part of building and extending the Children’s list, and this open submissions initiative is one innovative way we hope to reach out to and discover up-and-coming writers.’

The 24 hour submission period will take place on the 20th June from 00.00 to 23.59, to coincide with the announcement of the 2016 Carnegie Medal, the UK’s most prestigious book prize for fiction for young readers.

Submissions should be sent to with the subject line ‘SARAH ODEDINA OPEN SUBMISSION MATERIAL’.