Odd Voice Out
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:
We all have to start somewhere. For ‘Out Voice Out’, our new YA fiction press, hosting our very first event at the Chester Art Festival offered a warm welcome onto the local creative scene. This six day smorgasbord of free performances and workshops took place against the inviting blank canvas of St Michael’s Church, the former heritage centre now a bare white space ready to be coloured with imagination.
My partner K.C. Finn and I came to the festival with separate experiences in teaching creative writing but this was our first workshop delivered together, under our ‘Odd Voice Out’ banner, with finding unique voices at the heart of the afternoon’s lesson. And we certainly found plenty of striking new voices among our participating writers. Filling every seat at our tables were a mixture of adults wanting to write stories for teens and teenagers wanting to tell stories of their own. Stories that weren’t afraid to stand out.
Our workshop aims to catch writers in the early stages of their projects, when their worlds and characters are just starting to take shape. Between brainstorming, descriptive exercises and devising character drama, we saw our writers stepping out of themselves and giving voice to their distinctive fictional creations, at first with shyness and then steadily building confidence. Our participants left St Michael’s full of inspiration and with full pages of notes, hopefully at the beginning of new writing journeys. We all have to start somewhere and Chester Arts Centre provided an excellent springboard.
We are delighted to be offering our first ever workshop on writing for teens and young adults as part of Chester Art Centre's week-long arts festival in the heart of our beloved hometown. Stay tuned for a full blog post on how the event went, and for your chance to book the OVO Team for free writing workshops, please get in touch with us via the form on our contact page, or by using one of our many social media outlets.
The full details:
This is a FREE event. Patrons may give an optional suggested donation of approximately £3 at the end of the event if you wish to do so, but it’s not obligatory.
Have you ever wanted to be a writer? Courtesy of brand new Chester publishing house Odd Voice Out, two talented authors will take you through what it takes to write successful fiction. Specializing in the exciting and profitable world of teen fiction, the event features an opening discussion about how to get your work published, followed by short interesting activities to get your ideas flowing. Writers of all ages and abilities will be able to complete and enjoy this crash course, with the opportunity to ask our authors questions at the end of the event.
Suitable for ages fourteen and up. Minors must have an accompanying parent/guardian over the age of 18.
Free Workshop: Writing for Teens and Young Adults
Friday October 5th
St Michael's Church, Corner of Bridge Street and Pepper Street, Chester
Workshop runs from 4:30pm to 6:00pm with a short break in the middle and Q&A at the end.