The Yeovil Literary Prize

2017 Literary Prize

The 14th Yeovil International Literary Prize now open for entries until 31st May 2017

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Recent Successes

Read about our most recent successes.

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2013 Results

For full details of the results, choose a category:

Results Table Report Novel Short Story Poetry

Novel Category

FIRST PRIZE - Sion Wilson

SECOND PRIZE - Marianne Beyer

THIRD PRIZE - Emily Midorikawa

Short Story Category

FIRST PRIZE - Chip Tolson

SECOND PRIZE - Janet Hancock

THIRD PRIZE - Elizabeth McLaren

Poetry Category

FIRST PRIZE - Kiran Millwood Hargrave

SECOND PRIZE - Chrissy Banks

THIRD PRIZE - Sandra Galton

Western Gazette Best Local Writer Award

WINNER - Elizabeth McLaren

Our tenth Yeovil Literary Prize was another resounding success story with the number of entries rising. It has become a firm favourite for aspiring authors worldwide, as well as accomplished authors, as we continue to see familiar names occurring in our short listings.

Novel Category

We pride ourselves on offering an unusual opportunity for novelists to enter their work at an early stage for judgement. A combined word count for the synopsis and up to 15,000 words gives judges an insight into an emerging novel. All genres are accepted and this makes judging all the more joyful. To hear voices from other countries and to step into different cultures gives the reader such pleasure. Our judge this year, Tracy Chevalier commented… the moment I began reading the finalists I knew I could relax and enjoy the strong stories, well-drawn characters and considered and often entertaining prose. I expect we will be seeing some of these entries in book form in a few years!


That does happen. We have been told of several success stories where novels first tentatively entered into the Yeovil Literary Prize, are now books sitting on bookshelves and on Kindles as the finished published work. Those authors can be justly proud, and the YCAA are also proud to think that we may have encouraged writers to take that huge step towards becoming published.

Short Story Category

All subjects are explored in the short story category. Comedy and tragedy, so close in many ways, will deliver an emotional roller-coaster for the reader. This year in both this and the novel category, the YCAA found a plethora of ‘good reads’, making it even more difficult to pull the short list out of so many worthy entries. It was the ones that rose above the parapet each time of reading that found their way to the top and wouldn’t go away. I have to say that this year our winners are really deserving in their placing.


Our short story judge, Julia Churchill of AM Heath, literary agents, chose some elegant and thoughtful writing in her choice of winners. She wrote… There are some great voices and stories here, and they've stayed with me for long after the judging. That comment is sound advice for all aspiring writers. Find your particular voice and develop a strong story to keep the reader interested.


The YCAA was particularly thrilled to see Chip Tolson as the short story category winner this year, as he has entered the Prize over the last few years with consistently good writing. He is a regular in our short lists of both novel and short stories. Last year he was placed Second. Having risen to the top with ‘Let It Be Anthea’, we hope Chip continues to enter in the future. He has a particularly perceptive way with his characters that make them so believable in very original stories. He must be a good writer because all the judging is done anonymously and each year he offers something different and excellent.

Poetry Category

The Poetry category saw an increase in entries and I’m sure the fact that Neil Astley, our judge, saw every poem was a lure to all our brilliant poets to enter.


A comment received from our second prize winner, Chrissy Banks, says … “It is really exciting news for me to have my poems met with such a positive response. Of course the prize money will be very welcome but what satisfies me most of all is that Neil Astley has chosen them and thought so highly of them. I think he is a great publisher and I have so much respect for the way he has built up and maintained Bloodaxe, bringing contemporary poetry to so many people. I also think he knows a good poem when he sees it - so I feel really affirmed!”


Neil Astley, Editor of Bloodaxe Books, commented… “I've greatly enjoyed reading all the poems submitted for the competition, and was grateful that the organisers agreed to my request that I should be able to read every poem sent in, however many that was, with nothing sifted out by anyone else. But what I hadn’t realised was that the overall quality of all the year’s entries would be so high…”

The Last Word

During this year we have come to realise that the topic of self-publishing and the Yeovil Literary Prize must be addressed in relation to entries qualifying under our present rules. Much discussion and investigation has taken place and, sadly, this year some excellent writing was disqualified from the short lists. Checks are done at the short listing stage and it is a shame if a writer has achieved that status and then has to pull out. But, we all know that Rules are Rules!


As a result we have decided that this writing competition, the Yeovil Literary Prize, will stay as it is, purely for aspiring writers. It does not mean that published authors cannot enter in future, but it does mean that the piece of work submitted as an entry must be unpublished. If new writing wins any of the categories, then it must surely go down the route of publication endorsed by the opinion of excellent judges.


This year it has been a pleasure to read the entries and we are looking forward to word spreading amongst writers everywhere of this important, international writing competition with its significant prizes. We know that agents and publishers read our website and follow our competition, which gives those who are recognised further chances of success. We also know that writers are good at spreading the word among their writing groups and friends.

2014 Yeovil Literary Prize

Opens on New Year's Day 2014, so you can start writing over the Christmas break to be ready to enter. The competition closes on 31st May 2014. It is well known that the Yeovil Literary Prize encourages writers of all genres of fresh work, so the best of luck to you all.


Our prestigious judges for 2014 will be the wonderful novelist Elizabeth Buchan, for the novel category; brilliant writer Mavis Cheek, will judge the short stories, and Annie Freud, highly respected poet, will judge our poetry category.


the Judging Team

This year we had 346 entries for the Novel category and our judge Tracy Chevalier had this to say about her experience working with the Yeovil Literary Prize…

“… It has been a real pleasure judging the Yeovil Prize. You never know what you’re going to get when you agree to judge a prize, and there is always the worry that the standard won’t be good enough. No problem on that front: the moment I began reading the finalists I knew I could relax and enjoy the strong stories, well-drawn characters and considered and often entertaining prose. I expect we will be seeing some of these entries in book form in a few years!”
First Place
Sion S. Wilson Resurrecting Bobby  

I’m an advertising creative director. My work has taken me all over the world from New Zealand and Australia to Asia and the Middle East. I’ve recently returned to the UK after four and a half years with Saatchi & Saatchi in Dubai. My short stories have appeared in a variety of publications and my play, The Ways of the Country, has been staged in Leeds. In 2004 my first novel, Thicker than Water, was short-listed, for the Fish Publishing, Best Unpublished Novel Prize. The Sleepwalker’s Introduction to Flight, was published by Macmillan in 2008 and by Pan and Grazanti. I’m currently doing an MSc in Creative Writing with the University of Edinburgh.

Tracy commented…

What an impressive feat of ventriloquism! Reading Resurrecting Bobby, I felt I was eavesdropping on genuine 19th-century grave robbers. I have no idea if the dialogue is accurate, but it feels right, and it is the author’s skilled prose that convinced me. I felt I was there in the rough and tumble streets of 1830s London. Grotesque, pathetic, yet with moments of poignant calm and welcome humour, this is a book I look forward to reading the rest of. It is a well-deserved winner.

Second Place
Marianne Beyer Cutpurse  

Marianne Beyer grew up in Denmark and now lives in Amsterdam. She was shortlisted for the Fish Flash Fiction Prize in 2012. Cutpurse is her first novel. She is currently seeking an agent/publisher.

The YCAA says… Let battle commence between the agents/publishers as this novel needs to be read.

Tracy commented…

Perhaps it’s inevitable that I would be attracted to a story about a 17th-century Dutch painter who draws a young woman! But the anxious Rembrandt in earthy Amsterdam of Cutpurse couldn’t be more different from the refined Vermeer in quiet Delft of Girl with a Pearl Earring. The author sets out an enticing story of a young Danish woman pickpocketing her way into Amsterdam and her curious appeal to Rembrandt. The historical detail is extensive and deftly used, the characters well drawn, and the prose lucid.

Third Place
Emily Midorikawa A Tiny Speck of Black and Then Nothing  

Emily Midorikawa grew up in Yorkshire. She has an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia, and her work has appeared in publications including Aesthetica, Mslexia and The Times. She is delighted that her novel A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing has won third place in this year's Yeovil Literary Prize. Emily is a visiting writer for Circle of Missé, and teaches creative writing for City University London's Novel Studio and the Open University. She is represented by Ariella Feiner at United Agents. To find out more about Emily's writing and teaching work, visit www.emilymidorikawa.com.

Tracy commented…

This is an intriguing glimpse at the friction between Japanese society and the young Westerners who come to experience life there. Through Anna, the innocent abroad with a complicated past, we get to know the mysterious, tempting Loll and the dubious world of nightclub hostessing. Sprinkled with Japanese folk tales and accounts of awkward culture clashes, this was fascinating stuff.

Highly Commended
Heather Reed A Puff of Madness
Helen Cooper How to Choose your Tattoo
Paul Curd Greenlake
Philippa Brewer Jaz Matunde and the Final Flight from Barfield
Sylvia Downes The Jewel In The Lotus
Commended
Chris Curran After The Darkness
Pauline Crame A Song in the Key of Madeleine
Clare Hawkins The Conjurer’s Truth
Catherine Stobbs The Undoing of Thomas Simpson
Polly Walshe Theresa Smith at the Court of Heaven
Peter Harper Cascade
Patrick McCusker Water Worms
Rowena Hammal On Different Fronts

This year we had 385 Short Story entries, and our judge, Julia Churchill, formerly of Greenhouse, and now of AM Heath, Publishers, had this to say about her experience working with the Yeovil Literary Prize…

“… It's always such a thrill to judge a competition and I wasn't disappointed. There are some great voices and stories here, and they've stayed with me for long after the judging.”
First Place
Chip Tolson Let it be Anthea  

Chip Tolson

The adventure of writing short stories can be a mixture of excitement, frustration, hard graft and elation. The last of these is to the fore when a story is acknowledged in any way, whether it is round the table amongst fellow writers or with commendation in a writing competition.
Gaining acknowledgement in the annual Yeovil Literary Prize, knowing the competition has been many and international, is icing on the cake, a helpful spur to keep writing every day whatever else is happening around you.
Much hard work is put into the running of literary competitions by many people and I would like to record thanks on behalf of all entrants for the time and energy that lies behind this ever more prominent competition.

Julia commented…

A really touching snapshot. An old man, who after decades away from his home town, bumps into the woman he loved from a distance when he was a boy. They’d never spoken, but now, years later, when she’s suffering from dementia, we glimpse that she loved him too. I couldn’t help wonder another story, the story of what could have been, if he’d been able to tell her how he felt so many years before.

Second Place
Janet Hancock Homecoming  

Janet Hancock

For many years, Janet taught English in the south of England mainly to military personnel from the Middle East and Francophone Africa. She has had several short stories Highly Commended in competitions. In April 2012, Memory was published in Dorset Voices, an anthology of prose and poetry by writers living in the county. In November 2012, New was 2nd prize winner in the Balsall Writers Competition. Janet is working on a novel set in Russia and England in the early 20th century, of which the opening chapter and a 500-word synopsis won 1st prize at the 2011 Winchester Writers’ Conference. Janet reviews for the Historical Novel Society and is a member of Wessex Christian Writers. She is a choral singer, belongs to West Moors reading group and was part of the successful campaign to retain the library there. She cares for her husband and has become gardener-in-chief - they grow a lot of their own produce. Janet says: being a prize winner at Yeovil is such a tremendous encouragement and affirmation, the realisation that somebody, several people, have said ‘Yes’. Thank you!

Julia Commented…

This is the story of two 17 year olds who fall in love, and can't be together 'til decades later, when their lives have pulled them in different directions, her to work in Africa, and he in prison for GBH. There's a real love of language and the right word.

Third Place
Elizabeth McLaren Lola the Carolla  

Elizabeth McLaren

Elizabeth told us… “ Many years ago, when I had the privilege of studying at the University of Reading, all Freshers were required to take and pass three subjects in their first year before making their final degree choice. I chose History over English Lit or Archaeology.

So I have spent thirty-five years wondering ‘What if?’ while spending every spare moment immersed in fiction; mopping up stories. I have absorbed them like one of those super thirsty kitchen towels. From Angela Carter to Yevgeny Zamyatin: the weirder the better.

Recently I have had more time to experiment and indulge my addiction to the written word. Lola is one of the products of a stimulating Open University Creative Writing Course. Being placed in the Yeovil Literary Prize will, I am sure, encourage me to wring out the juices from all those accumulated, sucked up, stories in order to produce a few more of my own.”

Julia Commented…

A husband and wife have dinner, and when he goes up to bed, she potters, trying not to be anxious but waiting for her son, who's just passed his test and is driving home from an evening with his friends. It's a quiet, resonant and thoughtful look at motherhood and marriage.

Highly Commended
Christopher Holt The flags of our Empire
E.C. Seaman Roses, Roses all the way
Eve Bonham Cozens I Spy with my Little Eye
Tracey Iceton Dinner for One
Christopher Allen Attack of the Apache

Dennis Harkness Early Retirement

Commended
Bruce Harris Emily’s Derby
Sandra Hogarth-Scott The Boy
Siobhan Collins Stain Removal
Sarah Hilary My Father’s Daughter
Fiona Mitchell UFO Dad

This year there were 386 Poems entered for judging by Neil Astley of Bloodaxe Books. Neil had this to say about his experience working with the Yeovil Literary Prize…

“… I've greatly enjoyed reading all the poems submitted for the competition, and was grateful that the organisers agreed to my request that I should be able to read every poem sent in, however many that was, with nothing sifted out by anyone else. But what I hadn’t realised was that the overall quality of all the year’s entries would be so high that reducing the stack of photocopies to three winners, five highly commended poems and eight commended poems would be so difficult. The final whittling down from thirty or so possible candidates to sixteen was like a blind-tasting: each poem identified only by a number, each to be tasted again and again to try to identify those with the fullest and most subtle flavour. I was pleased that I could pick as many as sixteen in the end. With the quality at the top end being so high, I would have been disappointed not to have been able to give recognition to the achievement of more poets than just my top three or top eight.

All three poems are so good that it feels unfair to make them first, second and third. I feel that they are all winners.

I read the poems and wrote these comments without knowing who the poets are. I'm now prepared to be very pleasantly surprised.”

First Place
Kiran Millwood Hargrave Grace  

Kiran Millwood Hargrave

This is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s first poetry competition win. Kiran was born in London in 1990. She is currently undertaking an MSt at Oxford University, and is President of the Oxford University Poetry Society. Her work has been selected to appear in magazines such as Magma, Other Poetry, The Cadaverine and Orbis. She was recently a featured poet in Agenda. This year, she was offered a Literary Arts Residency at the Banff Centre, Canada, and was Poet-in-Residence for the Expansionists Project in May. Her poem Estuary was selected by John Burnside for his Masterclass at St Anza 2013. Kiran’s third collection Splitfish is forthcoming from Gatehouse Press in late September. www.kiranmh.co.uk

Neil commented…

'Grace' is a remarkable poem about being with a loved one at the precise moment of that person's death. I think the poem says it all, so there's not much I can add to it, except that I think the way the poem moves from couplet to couplet and through its alternating indented lines, all help its beautifully phrased enactment of the last moments experienced between two human beings during which nothing is spoken but all is said through touch and sight. The poem slows down what must have happened in seconds into something which unfolds and closes, word by word, phrase by phrase, line by line, couplet by couplet, on the page.

Second Place
Chrissy Banks The Waves  

Chrissy Banks

I was born and grew up in the Isle of Man. I now live in Somerset and work as a counsellor. An interest in human psychology and a wish to find words and structures to capture experience, especially for some of the dark edges of life, is my main motivation for writing. I have been writing and reading poetry most of my life. A collection, Days of Fire and Flood (original plus) was published in 2005 and my poems have appeared in many magazines, most recently the Rialto and Obsessed with Pipework, and in anthologies The Captain’s Tower: Seventy Poets Celebrate Bob Dylan at Seventy (Seren 2012) and The Listening Walk (CreateSpace, June 2013).

It is really exciting news for me to have both my poems met with such a positive response. Of course the prize money will be very welcome but what satisfies me most of all is that Neil Astley has chosen them and thought so highly of them. I think he is a great publisher and I have so much respect for the way he has built up and maintained Bloodaxe, bringing contemporary poetry to so many people. I also think he knows a good poem when he sees it - so I feel really affirmed! Thanks also for being kind enough to say that those at the YCAA also enjoyed my work.

Neil commented…

Only after choosing 'The Waves' as my second prize winner did I discover from the codes on the sheets that another poem, a highly accomplished and moving sestina called 'Don't Look Now', which I would have wanted as a joint third prize winner, was by the same poet (the competition rules only allow for one prize per poet). This added to my admiration of this poet's technical skills and ability to marry feeling with form in a way which intensifies and draws out the experiences being evoked. 'The Waves' is an urban poem in which people's precariously lurching lives in the city are written about as though swept and buffeted by sea and storm. The metaphor of the waves as the rhythm of life permeates the whole poem in such a way that the reader isn't always aware that the sea carries all before it.

Third Place
Sandra Galton With Hindsight  

Sandra Galton

Now in my sixties and with children grown up, I am finding more time to indulge in my life-long obsession with words.

After writing mostly short stories for four years, I caught a serious ‘poetry bug’ and started to attend classes run by Clare Pollard. I’m thrilled to have won this prize, because I still feel very much a novice who has a lot to learn. This is my second specular poem; I greatly admire how Julia Copus uses the form, and am a fan of all her work.

I have taught English as a foreign language, but for over 30 years my main occupation has been piano teaching. I am particularly drawn to musical aspects of poetry.

Some of my writing has been inspired by my love of the North Norfolk coast, and this year one of my poems was long-listed in the Poetic Republic competition, and will be published in their eBook later this year.

Neil commented…

'With Hindsight' uses the 'specular' poem form invented by Julia Copus ‘where the second half unfolds mirror-like from the first, using the same lines but in reverse order. The result of this discipline should be no more mechanical than a good sonnet or fugue' (her note). She wrote of 'The Back Seat of My Mother's Car' and another specular poem about familial love that the form ‘echoes the way my mind remembered these two traumas at the time of writing, replaying events until the precise sequence of them became obscured’. She has since written a number of other specular poems, and other poets have also tried using her form, which here is handled so deftly that I had to wonder if this poem might even be Copus's work (she does after all live in Somerset). But if it isn't Copus's poem, this similarly inventive/reflective writer has also chosen to use the specular form in the very way she made it work in her poems, with the pivotal switch in the middle being an emotional turning-point after which the unravelling, or re-ravelling, plays the scene back to the beginning, so that the end and the beginning are one. For the specular form to work at its best, the line endings should work in such a way that the each line break changes the meaning of what follows differently in the second half of the poem from how the same line break works in reverse in the first half, where it leads to a different line, and 'With Hindsight' does that beautifully.

Highly Commended
Catherine Chanter Photograph of an Adopted Girl. Bristol 1960
Virginia Astley Peter
David Punter Riau Archipelago
David Grubb Emily Dickinson’s Joke Book
Louise Warren Cell Death
Commended
Tracey S. Rosenberg Prairie Monologue
Louise Wilford At Prospero’s Funeral
Marcus Smith I am human, I want to confess
Roger Elkin Eddie’s Mozart Bequest
Mike Casey The Shape of Rain
Dru Marland Zephyr
Alan Ward Negative
Rowena Warwick Body