Mentee NameTitle of ManuscriptMentor NameAge CategoryGenre(s)Total word count (approx.)
Cara LovelockThe Children of Ink and FlameLisette AutonMGspeculative adventure56000


In a divided world, freedom exists in the wild lands beyond the Wall.

A map hidden amongst Fern’s tattoos shows the secret tunnels between the two lands.

When a stranger arrives, Fern must decide what is most important – protecting the wild lands and its people, or her brother.

Thirteen-year-old Fern is determined to keep herself and her brother free in the wild lands they escaped to. She has woven elaborate stories to hide their true history. But, bit by bit, the strands of her deceit are being unravelled by those around her. Her past catches up with her when the leader of her old world arrives seeking the map, and kidnaps Fern’s little brother, believing he has it. Fern must rescue her brother while still trying to keep the map’s location a secret, just as she promised her dad she would do. Fern sets off on an adventure that will see her flying through the clouds and plunging into the deepest canyon in a desperate attempt to save all that she loves. 

The Children of Ink and Flame is a fast-paced, speculative, upper MG adventure. At its heart the book is about a determined and independent girl discovering that to be truly free she must first give up the secrets she holds and find the courage to show her true self to the world, for only then can she find what she has lost and build a future of her own making.

The manuscript is complete at 56,000 words and is a standalone with series potential. I believe The Children of Ink and Flame would sit alongside debuts such as Orphans of the Tide by Struan Murray, The Middler by Kirsty Applebaum and Where the World Turns Wild by Nicola Penfold.

I’m a part-time volunteer school librarian at my children’s primary school where I run a student librarian club. An earlier draft of The Children of Ink and Flame had an honorary mention in the Undiscovered Voices 2020 anthology, a place on a DHH Literary Agency competition and was recently selected for the WriteMentor Summer mentoring programme. 

The idea for The Children of Ink and Flame was born when I moved my children from inner city London to rural Suffolk. I became aware of how individual their experience was; while one longed to return to the concrete jungle the other revelled in jumping off bridges into our local river and watching kites glide above him. I was interested in exploring the different ways children experience being an outsider and how, as we grow up, we must find the courage to discover our own path.

Thank you for taking the time to read this submission.

Best wishes,
Cara Lovelock


The Children of Ink and Flame by Cara Lovelock

Fern hid behind a large blackberry bush that ran alongside the forest path. She closed her eyes. Listened. Really listened, just as she had been taught when she arrived on the brink of death over five years ago. Fern inhaled and then as she exhaled, she sent out her senses as far as they would go. No sound, except for the tweeting and rustling of the forest coming to life.

Perfect.

She crawled to the edge of the path and took another look. No one. Not yet. The villagers on the rota for dawn foraging or the Hunters would be walking by any minute now. All she had to do was to keep to the shadows and not get caught. Fern knew that she could stalk as quietly as any that were born there. She understood the dangers of getting caught. It had happened before, back then she had come up with a childish excuse of catching butterflies, but she wasn’t a child anymore. Fern couldn’t have them knowing about her tree, and especially what she could see from it.

Fern took her chance. She sprinted deeper into the forest, her brightly coloured tattoos gleaming in the dim morning light. 

She reached the old oak and leant against it to catch her breath. She checked to see if her climbing pegs were still in place. Still there.

Then she spotted him.

A dappled lynx stretched out on the old oak’s branch – one of the branches she needed to climb on to get to the top. 

‘No. Not again,’ said Fern, scraping her spiky hair from her forehead and double checking the path. She didn’t have time for this.

‘Could you move?’ 

He didn’t. 

‘Please.’ 

The lynx yawned and his tail wrapped around the branch, he clearly believed the tree was his.

‘Come on,’ she said. ‘It’s my tree! The sun’s nearly full and if I don’t get up there before Aunt Aura wakes, she’ll make me sit through all of the Birthing Festival.’

The birds dawn chorus filtered through the trees. A purple emperor butterfly danced through the air and away over a nearby branch. 

The lynx closed his eyes and lowered his head. He didn’t seem to care. Not one bit. Did he really believe it was his tree now?

Fern craned her head back to scan the treetops. None of the other trees reached as high as the old oak. None had the willow platform she had built at the top or the secretly etched chart of the Sky Lines in its bark. None would get her above the tree canopy and give her an unbroken view of the Wall and the enormous, genetically engineered falcons, the Wings, who guarded it. 

Fern lowered her eyes to show she was no threat and stepped towards the lynx. ‘Right if you don’t move, I’ll dart you. Got it?’ She tried to hide her smile, a tell-tale sign that she was bluffing – she’d never dart a lynx.