Mentee NameTitle of ManuscriptMentor NameAge CategoryGenre(s)Total word count (approx.)
Sue Cunningham49 SistersMelissa WelliverYAmagical realism84000

49 Sisters is a YA novel with magical realism and humour, complete at 84,000 words. It will appeal to readers of E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Rainbow Rowell’s Simon Snow series. It was inspired by an article about the varied life of Emma Hamilton (most famous for being Nelson’s mistress) and a ‘what if’ moment led me to a twist on that famous quote:

Behind every great man stands a great woman. Or a great witch.

When seventeen-year-old Alice inherits weird supernatural science skills, she’s seriously underwhelmed. Her new talents have turned her into some sort of nerd when all she wants to do is jam with her band. Worse still, she’s expected to join the 49 Sisters, an uptight secret society with even more rules than school. In history, the Sisters’ magical powers of persuasion were used to elevate ordinary men to greatness – in 2020, it’s all about levelling the playing field for women.

When the Sisters persuade Alice to swap her beloved bass guitar for a STEM summer placement helping a female scientist develop a new wonder drug, her only compensation is meeting cute fellow intern, Jez. Unfortunately, wherever the 49 Sisters go, an ancient establishment of witch-hunters follow. But what’s the worst that can happen? It’s been centuries since anyone stood trial for witchcraft, right?

49 Sisters recently won the Write Mentor Children’s Novel Award 2020 (link below). I’ve also won competitions run by Writer’s Forum magazine and Darley Anderson/Orion and have been shortlisted in others. I’ve sold more than fifty short stories to women’s magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Finland and South Africa.  
I live in Manchester with my husband, two sons and our female cockapoo (a last-ditch effort to even up the sexes). When I’m not writing or standing on minute pieces of Lego in bare feet, I work for the NHS. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sue Cunningham

49 Sisters


“Killing me will change nothing. There’ll be another to take my place soon enough.” She stared through the misted windscreen to the starless sky beyond. 

“There’ll be one less.” The man in the wetsuit bent to check the tape securing her wrists. “If we move fast, we can purge the whole lot of you before you have the chance to regroup.” 

“Others have tried before.” Her short thumbnails scratched surreptitiously but the tape held firm. “What makes you think you’ll succeed this time?” 

“We’re powerful. We’re men.” He slammed the car door, trapping her inside.

She gave a short laugh of contempt. “Keep telling yourself that. Your nose is still bleeding, by the way.” 

He wiped the scarlet stripe from his upper lip and leaned in the open window to release the handbrake. “Goodnight, witch.”

She braced herself as the car gathered speed and rolled towards the deserted harbour. It launched in a graceful arc and hung suspended, headlights briefly illuminating the night sky, before plunging into the inky water.

Chapter 1

I looked down at the dead body and felt a wave of revulsion. Turning away, I clamped one hand over my mouth, resisting the urge to gag.

Mrs. Wilson stood at my shoulder. “Get on with it, Alice.”

“I can’t, Mrs. Wilson. I’m going to puke.”

“Don’t be so dramatic.” She swivelled the dead frog, spatchcocked on its wooden board, towards me. “Let’s see your blade.”

I held out my hand, fingernails curled under the scalpel so she couldn’t have a go at me over the navy-blue varnish.

“Good girl. Now, a nice firm incision down the abdomen to slice him open.” Her coffee breath mingled with the formaldehyde, making me feel worse.

“You know I’m a vegetarian, right?”

Her narrow lips twitched. “I’m asking you to dissect him, Alice, not eat him.”

Beside me, Lucy was cracking up. A butcher’s daughter, my best mate had zero sentimentality about dead stuff. She could watch her dad eviscerate a pig and then tuck into a BLT without a second thought.

Wilson whipped round, glaring at her. “I hope you’ve finished, young lady.”

Lucy rummaged inside her frog. “It all looks the same in there.”

I turned my attention to my little green corpse. Hands trembling, I prodded the scalpel into his belly to reveal the glistening innards.

A lilac film misted across my eyes. For one horrible second, I thought I was going to pass out. 

Don’t faint. Lucy would pee her pants laughing. And the Rugby Boys were working at the bench right behind us.

Nothing could be more embarrassing than fainting in front of the Rugby Boys. For starters, I didn’t have the right build to swoon prettily like a Victorian heroine. I’d go down like a ton of bricks, size seven feet in the air and Primark knickers showing. Worse still, what if I sparked out at their feet and they didn’t even notice?