Our First Creative Writing Contest: Closed for Business
On Saturday 31st August, we finished taking submissions on our inaugural short story competition, Not So Normal Narrators. We called upon all participating writers to join us in expanding the boundaries of what a YA hero can be, throwing out stock characters and finding truly unique viewpoints. The best entries will be compiled in an anthology of stories told through underrepresented and unusual teen voices.
Since closing this competition, we've retreated into our respective reading caves and we are now reviewing the many excellent submissions we have received, some from astounding writers who are still in their own teen years. We are honored to have so many weird and wonderful tales sent to our press and pleased to say that you've made our job of selecting finalists and prize winners very difficult indeed!
For those writers who are waiting on results and readers who simply want to know when our first anthology will be available, here's the dates when we'll be making our big announcements. Firstly on October 31st, following our Devil's Night showcase in our hometown of Chester, we will post our initial shortlist of highly commended entries. About a month later, in late November, we will go onto announce the Top 10 stories that will be published in our anthology collection along with our prize winners in first, second and third place. We will then move on to the editing stage, working with our finalists towards the publication of their stories this coming winter. They will also be invited to participate in our launch event for the anthology in early 2020, either in person or via Skype. With what we've read so far, we're really excited for this upcoming collaboration. So many new voices the world needs to hear!
Announcing Catherine Johnson!
More exciting news regarding our upcoming anthology...award winning YA author, Catherine Johnson, will be providing an introduction to our short story collection and providing her own insight into the world of YA fiction for the offbeat writer. As well as being admirers of her work as a novelist and screenwriter, by crazy coincidence, Catherine has also served as a mentor for both Kell Cowley and K.C. Finn. Catherine selected Kell as her apprentice for the Adventures in Fiction development scheme, while K.C. was chosen for the Curtis Brown Creative Programme with Catherine as her mentor. Through these schemes, Catherine has played a big part in shaping OvO publications - The Vagabond Stage and Fallow Heart - for the better. We're thrilled to have her own bold brilliant voice included in this project.
The Odd Voice Out team had to do battle against the July heat wave to make it to YALC 2019 in time. After our train was delayed at the outskirts of Euston station to rescue the passengers of another train that had broken down, we'd missed our time slot for setting up our debuting stall by a good four hours. This meant that we were having to lay out our table in the late shift of a baking hot Thursday evening to be ready for our first morning of YALC as exhibitors.
But we made it! OvO was set up and raring to go come Friday morning. And what a crazy three days of sales, signings and book bantering it was that followed. What we offered on our table was not only glossy paperback copies of our first four titles, but also free samples to take home and games to play daily. Every day at 1pm we had a free prize give away, handing out raffle tickets to our stall's visitors and giving them the chance to walk off with a piece of our exclusive OvO merchandise - be it our owlish note pad and pen, our coaster and bottle opener in one, or our funky red headphones - modeled here by two astoundingly lucky winners in the same family. Thanks to those of you who shared photos of your prizes!
But it wasn't all about the stall. The Odd Voice Team also ran two workshops on the Saturday of the con, which turned out to be really engaging round-table discussions with groups of highly imaginative budding writers who shared in our desire to see greater diversity in YA fiction. We also handed out many flyers for our creative writing contest 'Not So Normal Narrators' and have already seen entries coming in from our fellow YALC attendees. But one of our biggest draws over the three day event was our grand prize to win a bundle of our books and merch. We're happy to say that hundreds of you entered, signed up to our mailing list and answered our query regarding what you would most like to see represented in YA fiction (the rich variety of your answers will be discussed in our next blog!). In the final hours of Sunday afternoon, Rebecca Mace AKA @alwaysbookishbecca was picked as our winner and took home with her a hefty bagful of our swag.
For any of our visitors who missed out on our prize giveaways, we hope you still managed to pick up the free first chapter samples of our current titles. If you did, then all we ask in return is that you now read and share your freebies with other YA fiction fans, either in person or on your social medias (using a #oddvoiceout tag or our author names). Please don't just let them lie at the bottom of your YALC tote bags. And if you like what you've read so far and missed out on buying, then you can still follow links from our books page to buy any or all of our titles in digital form. Paperback copies of our summer releases will be available very soon! And for any fellow writers new to our mailing list, remember we are now in the last few weeks of our first creative writing contest - get those entries in by August 31st to be in with a chance for cash prizes and anthology publication. Good luck all you fellow oddballs! We can't wait to read what you have come up with.
After a few months of radio silence, Odd Voice Out will soon be bursting with news as we gear up for our biggest splash yet. In recently weeks we have been feverishly editing final drafts and preparing new cover art for our summer releases – The Vagabond Stage by Kell Cowley and The Book of Shade by K.C. Finn. Now alongside our well-received winter novels Shrinking Sinking Land and Fallow Heart we are ready to showcase our diverse bookshelf and unleash our OvO brand for an audience of avid YA readers.
From Friday 26th July – Sunday 28th July we will be exhibiting at YALC 2019, the UK’s largest annual YA lit fest at the Olympia in London. Over the three day event we’ll be selling and signing, offering prizes, merch and samplers, and promoting our short story competition Not So Normal Narrators. Not only that, but on the Saturday we’ll be hosting two creative workshops – Be the Change and Let’s Get Dramatic.
We began planning for this event on the train home from YALC 2018. In the time between then and now, we have collectively published four novels. We have completed our first successful Kickstarter campaign. We have hosted our own gala launch night in our hometown of Chester. We have performed readings and workshops for a variety of fairs and festivals, most recently a local author night at the Northwich Literature Festival (pictured above). Our short story contest has been promoted in the UK’s Writing Magazine and we’re currently receiving entries from all over the world for our first anthology collection. Like we said…we’ve been busy! We look forward to bringing you news of our big national debut as we reach the final leg of our road to YALC. Can't wait to meet the readers.
The Shadeborn Series
OvO are proud to announce the acquisition and continuation of K.C. Finn's award winning gothic fantasy series.
Exclusive Sneak Peek
Enter a world where the rules of magic are not what you assumed, and the dark creatures you’ve always wondered about are brought into the light. Opening with the multi-award-winning title The Book Of Shade, K.C. Finn’s masterpiece tackles the fantasy genre from new angles of representation.
As university student Lily Coltrane begins her journey to adulthood, she can’t even imagine the intrigue and diversity which awaits her at the illustrious Theatre Imaginique. The performers there will take Lily and those who follow her into a wild world of centuries-old magic, with killers and conjurers on the loose through five superb books that create a universe all of their own.
For those already following Novel and Lily’s epic fantasy journey, the culmination of everything begins as Odd Voice Out proudly announces the exclusive publication of the fifth and final book in the series: The World Of The Wish.
Here, Lily begins her quest for redemption, rescue and rediscovery of her true self and the powers that lie within. Enemies old and new will stand in her path, but with the strength of her troupe, this newfound ringmaster of the Theatre Imaginique is here to show how hard she’s worked to be the hero that they need her to be.
The Shadeborn Series is a contemporary gothic fantasy filled with cross cultural magic and diverse character narratives, suitable for readers aged twelve and up.
The Vagabond Stage
Kell Cowley returns with a queer historical tale of villains, criminals and acting, darling!
Exclusive Sneak Peek
Timony is a born actor before he even learns the meaning of the word. A sixteenth century farmhand with a restless imagination, no patience for chores and a yearning for the wider world, he is already seeking escape when he catches his first glimpse of a band of travelling players performing in his small rural town. After falling in love with the theatre and its heroine, Gwendolyn, he’s determined to gain a place in their troupe.
Timony’s dramatic temperament catches the eye of the playwright, Makaydees, who takes him on as an apprentice. But there are shocks and perils waiting for Timony in this new profession. First he learns that Gwendolyn is really a boy named Rum, whose face has lately been scarred in a tavern brawl. Timony is soon hired to take Rum’s place and enact the female roles, and here he learns there are much worse things to brave than stepping out on stage in a frock and wig. In an age when the law considers unlicensed actors to be no better than idle criminals, the players live in constant threat of arrest and are forced to travel in the same channels as much more dangerous outlaws.
Timony finds himself propelled on a journey through the Elizabethan underworld, straying into its whorehouses and gambling dens, at constant risk of the correction house. Now, more than ever, he must learn to act for his life on a precarious road where disguise and deception may be his only means of survival. Along the way he wrestles with his role as the girl of the gang and his confusing feelings for Rum, as the two boy players become embroiled with the most wanted highwayman in the land. And if they escape with their lives, will these outlaw actors be ever allowed to put on another play?
The Vagabond Stage is a queer picaresque adventure novel exploring transgenderism in Tudor times aimed at ages fourteen and up.
Odd Voice Out is delighted to announce that it will be showcasing two of its most innovative workshops this summer at YALC, part of the London Film and Comic Con 2019. If you can't make it down to join us then, remember that these workshops are available to book for your writing group, school or organisation, just get in touch by replying to this email. All the details are below, plus some fantastic news from author Kell Cowley.
Available to book now from OddVoice Out:
Let's Get Dramatic (45mins)
How does a writer really get inside their character's heads? The drama queens of Odd Voice Out Publishing are going method, exploring ways to inhabit your characters through theater exercises, costume and prop interactions. This practical workshop focuses on separating author from character, and then translating that fictional mindset onto the page - all with the guidance of our author/playwrights and their dramatically fun activities.
Be The Change (45 mins)
Want to write stories that could change the world? During the last decade, YA readers have been embracing novels that take a stand on social injustices and engage with hot-button political issues. In this workshop from Odd Voice OutPublishing we'll be looking at the causes that matter to teenagers today and how we can channel them into a compelling narrative and revolutionary characters. Join us to unleash your inner activist through the power of storytelling.
Shrinking Sinking Land Makes the Hit List for Earth Day
Kell Cowley's climate fiction adventure Shrinking Sinking Land has made it onto the reading list over at Reading Hack to celebrate Earth Day 2019. You can check it out and many other excellent environmental books at the website. Many congratulations are in order, Kell!
Odd Voice Out were proud to be a part of the second annual Northern YA Literary Festival held on a very stormy Saturday 16th March. The event brought readers, writers and publishers of teen fiction together under the same roof at the University of Central Lancashire for a busy day of book fairs and author panels. Hot discussion topics of the festival ranged from talks on Feminist Fantasy Fiction, Inclusion and Mental Health rep and the problem of shaming among teenagers, all issues close to the heart of our OvO ethos. There were also workshops, author signings, agent advice, face painting, bookish jewellery and book exchanges going on on the day, which made for a fun experience all round.
Your founding authors K.C. Finn and Kell Cowley spent most of the day on the lit festival’s first market floor, selling and signing our books, promoting OvO’s inaugural creative writing contest ‘Not So Normal Narrators’ and (most rewardingly) chatting and geeking out with fellow YA readers and writers. We were delighted to have so many visitors to our stall, the vast majority of whom were very happy to sign up to our mailing list and answer our market research question, asking fans what they wish to see in YA fiction that they are not seeing enough of already. So if you’re new to list this week – welcome!
The answers we received called for stories with more racial diversity and LGBT rep, more characters struggling with learning difficulties or mental health issues, stories that tackle global political issues that will affect future generations and more YA novels with historical or mystical settings. We loved all of this, along with a few wackier suggestions such as ‘Dystopias with Dragons’. Needless to say we were excited to confirm that YA fans are looking to read the same type of books we have written or have imminent plans to write!
So a big thank you and a welcome hug to all who’ve joined our mailing list since NYA lit fest. Please follow our various social media feeds and stick with us for monthly newsletter updates. We really hope to see some of you submitting your own stories for our anthology competition, and perhaps we’ll meet up again at YALC 2019 in London this summer!
Closing date: Saturday 31st August 2019
Prompt: Diverse and Unusual Teen Voices
Prize: £200, £150, £50 (First, second and third prize respectively)
Publication: A dedicated anthology will include the top ten tales, available winter 2019.
Word count: 2000 - 5000
Internationally open to entrants aged fourteen and above.
In the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion of diverse and wonderfully weird teen protagonists in young adult fiction. At Odd Voice Out we want to keep the boundaries expanding of what a YA hero can be, throwing out stock characters and finding truly unique viewpoints. For our inaugural short story competition,Not So Normal Narrators, we are seeking short stories told through underrepresented and unusual teen voices. We’re hoping to see central characters of different ethnic, cultural and class backgrounds, characters who identify as LGBTQ+, characters with disabilities or mental health issues, or just any young character with circumstances or a perspective outside of the mainstream.
Think about the YA heroes you’ve not seen yet, and be the strange you wish to see in the world!
And in Other News...
December has been a hectic yet rewarding month for Odd Voice Out with KC and Kell cramming events, readings, sales, interviews, fundraising and awards into a few short wintry weeks. We started on the last day of the Chester Literature Festival, performing readings from Fallow Heart and Shrinking Sinking Land to a crowd gathered on the main floor of the Storyhouse. We presented Odd Voice Out press and a sample of our fiction as part of ‘Litfest Elevenses’, a free morning session for Chester residents to get a taste of the city’s local literary talent. We signed our first paperback releases at this same event before taking the rest of our stock onto the Sustainable Winter Fayre, presented by Friends of the Earth at the Industry in Handbridge. With the focus on ecology, Kell gave another reading followed by a talk on the cli-fi genre and its role in green activism.
December has also been a month of happy surprises and successes. Along with successfully hitting (and exceeding) our very first kickerstarter goal, KC got the good news that her fantasy novel ‘The Book of Shade’ had been selected as a General Fiction first prize winner in Top Shelf magazine’s Indie Book Awards of 2018. Six years after it was originally written for NaNoWrimo, KC was delighted to see ‘The Book of Shade’ still doing so well. This latest accolade is the perfect way to build up excitement for both new editions and the final installment of the epic Shadeborn series. Odd Voice Out will be re-releasing KC’s award-winning saga as part of its summer season for a brand new audience to enjoy!
Kell also received a rather wonderful shock this month as she was contacted by Scott Lankford, a teacher at Foothill College in Silicon Valley, who let her know that he's been teaching her original short story version of 'Shrinking Sinking Land' for the last two years, since its release in the Everything Change climate fiction anthology. Scott described her story as “a perennial student favourite” and invited Kell to take part in a Skype interview with his specialist class studying fictional & factual climate writing. Scott also sent a few sample essays from students who'd analyzed Kell’s story, providing plenty of inspiration for Odd Voice Out as we make plans to embark on school visits and educational workshops in 2019.
As a final bit of online publicity, KC and Kell also conducted detailed interviews with Amy Bernal of My Books - My World. Click the links below to hear KC discussing Fallow Heart and Kell talking about Shrinking Sinking Land. If you ever wanted to learn about the methods behind our madness, now's your chance!
K.C. Finn Interview
Kell Cowley Interview
The hardest thing about starting our own indie press is we have to do everything for ourselves. But the best thing about starting our own press is that we GET to do everything ourselves. In the last few months we’ve had to embrace the heavy workload that comes with full creative control as we worked towards unveiling our press to the local community. On Monday 12th November, the popular music venue the Chester Live Rooms played host to the launch night of Odd Voice Out, our indie literary press for teen and crossover fiction in a colourful range of genres, with casts of diverse young heroes. Together we took to the stage as two writer friends, joining forces and taking their literary careers to the next level.
“Our main goal during this initial year…” K.C. Finn told our launch night audience, “…is to establish Odd Voice Out as a brand, producing and publishing four books within our first twelve months of opening. We hope to create an income baseline that’ll allow us to expand and take on more authors who fit our style and ethos in the future.”
Both of us moved to the city of Chester in the summer of 2015 and met at an audition for A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the local Little Theatre. Since then we have collaborated on everything from original drama showcases to performance poetry nights, whilst at the same time working separately on our own repertoires of teen novels. That all changed in July 2018, when we attended the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) in London, hoping to find opportunities in traditional publishing for our new ideas. Instead we came away with a shared desire to create our own platform. Not only do we want to bring our own novels to the 2019 con, but we want to showcase a distinctive and diverse teen fiction press of our very own.
“We spent the entire train ride home brainstorming ideas,” Kell recalled. “First we came up with the name and the branding. We call our press OvO for short after, its owlish looking acronym that inspired the bespectacled bird logo. Next came the cover art for each of our novels. Then we were planning websites, social media platforms, business cards, workshops, a Kickstarter campaign. All of it building towards this autumn launch party.”
Our bustling crowd at the Live Rooms launch got a tantalising taster of everything that Odd Voice Out has to offer. The attending audience walked into the candlelit barroom and found the stage set with a huge flat-screen TV, scrolling through a sideshow telling the story of OvO’s conception and journey so far. There were also sample booklets containing the opening chapters of OvO’s winter releases set out on every table, a sales desk to take pre-orders or accept donations to their Kickstarter campaign, and even a ‘bookstagram’ table covered with artsy backgrounds and props that could be used to snap photos of our first edition hardbacks, then get those snaps up on social media.
“We wanted our launch party to be more than the conventional show and tell,” says Kell. “We wanted it to be a visceral, immersive and interactive experience. We encouraged everyone who came to get creative with us. To read our samples, write in suggestions, make collages with our cover art, take part in quizzes and prize draws. We also had a very talented local teen musician, Kathryn Graham, performing during our intervals – our way of keeping powerful young voices at the heart of all that we do.”
The main events of this eclectic launch night were the dramatic readings from each of our books, followed by a Q&A conducted by host and local playwright Andy Hutchings. These showcases focused on our winter novels – the urban fantasy horror ‘Fallow Heart’ by K.C. Finn released on November 30th, and the climate fiction thriller ‘Shrinking Sinking Land’ by Kell Cowley released on December 14th, available in ebook, hardback and paperback editions. These novels are the first titles on our growing bookshelf for offbeat readers. Forthcoming books will represent a variety of genres, from historical to futuristic, surreal to supernatural. But all OvO novels will come with a common theme of diverse and underrepresented voices, touching on issues such as racial and sexual identity, body dysmorphia, disabilities, mental health and political repression.
“Kell and I have both had some experience with agents and publishers trying to restrict and censor parts of our writing, supposedly to make it more marketable,” said K.C. Finn in her interview. “But neither of us are interested in playing by the rules of what timid publishers think you can and can’t do in YA fiction. We want our teen books to be unconventional and challenging and we feel that’s something the readership wants to see too.”
We both bring different strengths to our joint enterprise. K.C. is already established as a best-selling and award-winning indie author, who is also a PhD student and a private coach in English and Creative Writing. Kell meanwhile is a debut novelist, with a degree in Performance Writing and an apprenticeship in fiction, who has worked as an entertainments journalist, a museum tour guide, and currently runs a school library.
“We are both writers first and foremost,” says Kell. “But in terms of running our press we try to play to our individual strengths. Kim has got a better business head than me and a great grasp of social media promotion. I’m more the market researcher. I talk to teen readers every day. It’s part of my job to know all the new releases and latest trends. Between us we have professional experience as writers, readers, reviewers, librarians, teachers, journalists, performers, academics and entrepreneurs. We are also networking with other Cheshire creative types in a variety of mediums. It’s become a real home-grown passion project.”
“The culmination of our first year’s work…” K.C. concludes, “…will be to present Odd Voice Out press and our publications at the Young Adult Literature Convention 2019 at the Olympia, London in July – fully fledged and ready to take on the world!”
“This is just the beginning,” Kell adds. “Anyone who wants to get involved or show their support should follow us across our social media outlets as they will be the first port of call for all our major updates, events and new releases.”
If you're looking to support the future of diverse fiction with Odd Voice Out, you'll be wanting to get involved with our Kickstarter project to launch us into the mainstream at YALC 2019. In the process, you can grab the best bargains on book pre-orders, so long as you back by December 14th!
Get more details and links below:
Odd Voice Out: Publishing and Education Project
A young adult publishing house which supports diverse voices and creative education for young people in and out of school.
What Your Donation Gets You
Alongside regular donations, we are presenting a unique pre-order opportunity for the first two books due for release in Winter 2018: K.C. Finn's Fallow Heart and Kell Cowley's Shrinking Sinking Land. Depending on the level of your pledge, you may choose to receive a digital, paperback or hardback copy of one or both of our brand new releases. You can find out all about these exciting and diverse stories at the end of this section.
As an educator, librarian or youth group leader, you also have the opportunity to include interactive lesson materials with your pledge, which feature reproducible extracts, exercises, quizzes, discussion set-ups and writing challenges to inspire your group and get them talking about diverse issues and the joy of writing.
As a fellow author, Odd Voice Out would love to cross promote for you! Choosing an Author Package allows you to become a featured and recommended writer with at least 2 weeks of dedicated cross-promotion in our newsletter and across our social media sites during 2019.
As an aspiring writer, you can opt to purchase an exclusive one to one to tutorial with either of our award-winning and highly talented writers as part of your pledge. We will read a sample of your work prior to the session and help to guide you towards achieving your writing dreams. These sessions can be delivered via Skype, over the telephone or even in person if you're able to travel to Chester City Centre!
These pre-order books and services prices are guaranteed to be cheaper than those found online and in stores after general release, so grab them whilst you can!
Please remember that any of these pledges can also be bought as gifts for others, just let us know when you donate!
What Your Donation Gives Us
Your donations go towards: