New Writer 2019: Sheila M. Averbuch

Children's and YA writing

New Writers Awardee 2019 Sheila M. Averbuch

Sheila is a former journalist who's interviewed billionaires, hackers, and the guy trying to send humans to Mars. She is bewitched by and suspicious of technology in equal measure, and founded Ireland's first IT newswire back in the day. Originally from Massachusetts, she did a degree in history and literature at Harvard and later a journalism Masters at Stanford, before moving to Ireland to cover the Northern Ireland peace process for USA Today.

She moved from Dublin to East Lothian in 2003 and co-founded the Southeast Scotland network of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She’s been shortlisted twice for the New Writers Awards and won The Hook 2015, the SCBWI’s national live pitching competition in the UK. She writes fiction for middle grade and has read her work at the Portobello Book Festival. She’s represented by Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Writing Sample

“I’m sitting with Roisin for the trip, didn’t I tell you guys?”

The words echo through the squeak of gym shoes, and it’s a moment before it registers that it’s my name Lily said. It sounds odd to me still, in that American accent, the emphasis all wrong: Roe-SHEEN.

A hush falls on Lily’s girls. I pull on my shorts fast, hotly aware that they’ll be studying me now. I should've found a quieter corner to change. Of all the flipping days to wear my babyish underpants, with the tiny Dachshunds – Dachshunds in top-hats. I finish tying my laces, arrange my face into something friendly and straighten up to smile at the crowd that clings to Lily. Two of them look like they want to spit at me, like they’re working up mouthfuls of it behind shiny lips.

Blush creeps up my neck. I swallow and go back to folding my clothes. Zara – is it Zara? All these rhyming names... maybe she’s Mara – knees a locker shut with a metal bang. “Why Roisin?” Zara’s eyes cut to me again: fur-thick lashes, lids black-lined with that cat-flick she’s copied off Lily. Her look is utter bewilderment, like I’m her dog and she’s caught me using her credit card.

“She’s my girl.” Lily grins, a genuine smile that’s all sunshine, and Christ, now I know what this is. She was near tears in homeroom this morning, bent over her Geometry. I gave her a dig-out on her equations, and she said she owed me. I didn’t think it’d be this. I’ve only been here a month, but even I know that sitting with Lily for a school trip is a thing.

“You’re not serious.” That one’s Mara, I think: yellow hair, ruler-straight. She smears on extra gloss. Nice. All ready for PE, then.

Sheila says:

"The fifth time's a charm for me: I've applied every year since 2014 and wasn't able to process the good news when the call came in early December. The prospect of enjoying the resources, hand-holding and community of a New Writers Award in the year ahead is more thrilling than I can say.”