May 3, 2012

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.

Entry guidelines:

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 {encode=”” title=””} 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.