Thursday, May 03, 2012
ANNOUNCING THE GREENHOUSE FUNNY PRIZE - OPEN TO UK/IRISH WRITERS
Julia here, and I’m excited about something. The UK side of the Greenhouse is running a prize in conjunction with this year’s Writer’s Workshop Festival of Writing. It will be called the Greenhouse Funny Prize.
At Greenhouse we love all sorts of writing for children. We love edgy, wincingly close-to-the-bone YA fiction, we love thrilling, commercial concepts with big surprises, and beautiful and heartfelt younger stories. I could keep going, but in short, we love quality. And there’s something that Sarah and I agree that we don’t see enough of: Funny.
I had the idea for a prize because every time I sit down with an editor and ask what they’re looking for, they generally say, ‘Funny. We need humour’. When I was little, half of my reading was humour – Dahl, the Ahlbergs, JUST WILLIAM, MR MAJEIKA, WHAT-A-MESS, FUDGE, ASTERIX. And there is loads of great humour on the market today - WIMPY KID, Andy Stanton, Lauren Child, Dave Pilkey, David Walliams. Funny is selling in the shops, publishers are wide open to it, and yet we don’t see that represented in our submissions inbox. We want more laughs.
The Greenhouse Funny prize is open to un-agented writers who are currently resident in the UK and Ireland. Entries will be judged by me and guest judge Leah Thaxton, Publishing Director of Egmont Children’s Books (and discoverer of Andy Stanton).
The winner will get an offer of representation from the Greenhouse and a full weekend ticket to the wonderful Festival of Writing that runs 7-9 September ’12 (worth £525). The winner will also be presented with a bottle of champagne at the Festival’s gala dinner on the Saturday night. The runners up will each get five of my favourite funny books, and maybe even a comedy mug.
Our judging criteria is very simple. Funny, and we are wide open to all ages. The winner may be a picture book like OLIVIA or DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS, or a young series à la HORRID HENRY, FLAT STANLEY, THE GREAT HAMSTER MASSACRE or UNDEAD PETS, or for 8-12 year olds like Lemony Snicket or RAMONA. It could even be for teen readers, like Louise Rennison, DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS? or THE PRINCESS DIARIES. It’s going to be the person with funny in their DNA.
Funny is subjective, of course. Perhaps the winner will have a slow-burning, gentle wit. Perhaps a Python-esque sense of the absurd. Or maybe the concept, and the freshness and immediacy of it, will do much of the heavy lifting.
1) To get a good sense of the voice and where the character is headed, we’d like to see the first 5,000 words PLUS a short description (a few lines) of the book AND a one page outline that shows the spine of the plot. The book does not need to be completed at the time of entry.
2) Please attach the 5,000 words to a word document and send your entries to If you are submitting a picture book (or shorter fiction that comes in under 5,000 words), then send the complete text in a word document. The short description of the book and outline should be in the body of the email. PLEASE NOTE: This is different to our general Greenhouse submissions policy. If submitting work to the Greenhouse in the future (outside of the Greenhouse Prize), visit the How to Submit section of the website to find our submission guidelines.
3) You must be resident in the UK or Ireland.
4) The deadline for submissions is Monday 30 July.
The shortlist will be announced Monday 6 August. We anticipate that 6 writers will be shortlisted.
The winner will be announced Monday 13 August. If we get two or more outstanding entries, we may offer representation to more than one writer.
Entrants will not be acknowledged on receipt, but all entrants will be emailed when the shortlist is announced.
I’ll confess it feels a bit disingenuous to offer representation as a prize, because when those great books come along, I’d offer to represent anyway. It also feels a bit reckless. What happens if it’s all unfunny?! But I’m confident that at least one brilliant new voice will come to me if I open my arms and say out loud, ‘Show me the funny’. I’m happy to be transparent and say this is a totally self-serving competition. We just want to wave the flag to all those new writers tapping away in their sheds and spare rooms, and say, ‘Hey! If it’s funny, send to us! That’s what we’re looking for.’
I’ll post any updates here, so save this page in your ‘favourites’ if you’re thinking of entering. And if you could tweet/share/talk about it, we’d be ever so grateful.
Any last advice? Write for yourself, for the child in you. Write what makes you laugh.
We’ll be looking at voice, character and concept. In a nutshell, we’re looking for originality and a writer who trusts their reader’s intelligence, whatever age they are. Really funny doesn’t feel like it’s busting a gut to be so – it’s effortless. We’re looking for someone who makes it look easy.
The little girl in the photos is my niece and she’s reading her favourite funny book. I can’t tell you how sweet it is to sit with her when she’s reading her best funny writers. She actually chuckles. I had forgotten all about chuckling.
Glad your niece likes a chuckle - I remember when I was young and my siblings thought I was insane when I suddenly burt out laughing whilst reading Richard Carpenters Catweazle.
What a great competition. Can you clarify the submission guidelines, Do you want the first 5000 words in a separate document or pasted into the entry email like your normal submission guidelines?
Hello Mark, thanks! GFP has different submission guidelines to our general submissions. Have clarified on the blog post. The 5,000 words should be in a word doc, and the outline and blurb should be in the body of the email.
We’ve decided to have a different policy for the prize, as 5,000 is just too long to fit in an email, and hard to read.
Can each person submit more than one entry? Say 2 picture book texts and 1 chapter-book or one in each category?
Thanks in advance.
Hi Chitra. More than one entry is fine.
Can you be any more specific in what you want from the outline for this competition? I am discovering there are many different ways of writing them.
Thanks for your question.
I’d like to see a synopsis, which is the spine of the book. I need this so I see the shape of the story.
And then also a few lines of a blurb, like you might get at the back of a published book.
Hope that helps.
Thanks - just to clarify though, do you mean a description of what happens in every single chapter, in the order that it happens, or do you mean a summary of the plot that conveys its structure and turning points but doesn’t actually lay things out chapter by chapter?
Good to read about your co-judge in the latest post!
Summary of the plot, please.
Is poetry eligible?
I sent my entry off before the clarification of the submission guidelines and included my story in the body of the email as per your usual method. Should I send it in again in the correct format or will my entry be accepted as is?
Mr Uku, that’s fine. And Alan, in the case of the Funny Prize, poetry is eligible.
Hi there Julia,
I wanted to ask if it was OK (or not) to put the entry up on an on line critique group (to get feedback from members etc.), and to remove it before submission?
Many kind thanks!
I have written a kids book I think might be appropriate. However it has pictures which are drawn by my 11 year old brother. He doesn’t mind them being sent in and loves the idea but I was wondering if there is an age limit I should be aware of?
Rik, that’s fine. Amy, no age limit.
I was just wondering if there is a specific cut off time for submission like midnight on Sunday or Monday? Last minute rework called for!
End of work on Monday 30th, so 5.00. Thanks for alerting me that it wasn’t there. I’ll change on rules.
I’m illustrating my kids’ book at the minute, and I was just wondering would you prefer the pictures embedded in the text, sent as a separate file or omitted entirely?
Don’t think my last comment went through so I’ll try posting again!
Just curious as to whether, when submitting a picture book, do you want the word doc. formatted with the pictures there, or would you rather just the text?
(I have the story written, just not sure if I’d have the illustrations all done by the 30th)
Similar question to Dave, above.
If submitting a picture book, obviously text placement makes a difference and pictures would be part of that. Would you like the text formatted as it would be on the page or just in a block?
I also can’t draw well enough to illustrate my own story but have ideas; should I sketch in rough images as an indication or leave out entirely?
If you’re a writer and illustrator then send along one or two illustrations. I don’t need the whole spreads.
Or if you’re only sending the pictures to show me what it could look like if it’s worked up, I don’t need to see that.
This is a great idea! Expect to find my submission winging its way into your inbox very soon!
Hi - What a wonderful and exciting opportunity!! Just checking - what is the maximum number of entries one can submit? - Then, depending on the answer, (if lots and lots!) would you send one submission at a time or all submissions together in one e-mail? Thank you! Tara
Wow, the GFP is just fantastic. Good luck to all funsters that enter. Stanley Mills.