The Yeovil Literary Prize

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2009 Results

For full details of the results, choose a category:

Results Table Intro Novel Short Story Poetry

Novel Category

FIRST PRIZE - Victoria Owens

SECOND PRIZE - Judith Williams

THIRD PRIZE - Elizabeth Doe

Short Story Category

FIRST PRIZE - Hazel Osmond

SECOND PRIZE - Adam Wilson

THIRD PRIZE - Craig Hawes

Poetry Category

FIRST PRIZE - M Lee Alexander

SECOND PRIZE - Jennifer Copley

THIRD PRIZE - Heather Harrison

Six years in and the entries still keep coming! 2009 was another bumper year for entries: more than a thousand for us to look at. All the judges were impressed by the wealth of talent that the competition has revealed. Selecting the short lists to send to the judges is becoming a challenging and time-consuming job. It is also full of delightful surprises. The online entry system seems to be working well now, although we have no plans to disenfranchise the third of you who prefer to enter by post. Our international reputation seems to be expanding: entries arrived from the USA, Cyprus, Africa and France (to locate but a few of our international entrants) as well as from our many loyal UK supporters.

The Novel category is always a challenge because, on the whole, you are submitting unfinished material, and we only see the opening of your work. But you all know it’s possible to tell from the first 15000 words (sometimes from the first 1500) whether or not you want to go on to read the rest of the book! As someone with several years’ experience as a school librarian, I was delighted to discover a number of children’s novels among the entries. Children are a demanding audience who can cope with tough topics and thought-provoking material but who will also scorn anything that seems to ‘write down’ to them. Although none of these children’s books made it to the prizes I was impressed by them and look forward to the day when we have a winner from this genre. And what a lot of genre fiction there was! Fantasy and crime and historical novels were all strongly represented. The fantasy tended to lack real conviction but two of our prizewinners came from among the historical entries. The same qualities are as important in genre fiction as in literary fiction: characterisation, originality, a sense of place, sharp plotting and, perhaps above everything else, an individual voice we want to hear more from.

Voice is perhaps even more central to Poetry. The best entries moved us and gave us images and feelings that have lingered in our minds. The mixture of emotion and discipline demanded by poetry is a challenge few can maintain – and then poetry stumbles into mere versifying. This happened in some of the entries but those that did well were exceptional. Carol Ann Duffy was ‘very impressed’ by the standard of the short list she received.

Rachel Billington, who judged the short story shortlist thought they all ‘showed flair and some good writing’. This category had a very wide range of quality in its entries. Some were disappointing, lacking real understanding of the demands of the form: it’s more than a ‘twist in the tale’ and it certainly isn’t a mini-novel. Those of you who understood this wrote some interesting stories which were a joy to read and deserve to reach a wider public.

We were very fortunate to have the support of three highly professional judges this year. Our thanks go to Katie Fforde, Rachel Billington and Carol Ann Duffy for their time, and for the thoughtful consideration of their judgements.

the Judging Team

(the final judging by Katie Fforde, best-selling author of contemporary, humorous romances and creative writing tutor.)
The total number of entries for this category was 299. Results are as follows:
First Prize
Victoria Owens Caelica's Bridge England
Katie Fforde comments: ' I liked this a lot. It does start a little slowly but has a wonderful atmosphere and really puts you back into those times. It's exciting and makes you want to read on. I think you need to make sure your meaning is always clear. For example in the first paragraph we need to know sooner that she is late home. May be you could even start with 'Caelica was late, but whenever.....' We just need a slightly punchier first line. But well done! '
Victoria Owens tells us that she worked both in the book trade and as a legal executive before reading for an English degree. PhD research on John Dryden’s Aeneid translation followed and she finished her thesis about ten days before her eldest daughter’s birth. She started to write fiction when her younger daughter went to playgroup. Caelica’s Bridge grew out of her interest in eighteenth century life and winning the Yeovil Prize has given her huge hope of finding a publisher. Victoria runs and swims to keep fit and loves singing. One of her short stories has recently won the 2009 Jane Austen award.
Second Prize
Judith Williams To Be A Merchant Prince England
Katie Fforde comments: ' A good, immediate opening, giving us lots of information without 'telling' it to us. However there are rather a lot of names to contend with quite early on. There is also a problem with viewpoint, just when you describe the white lawn kerchief waving bravely until it's too small to be seen. This is putting us into the heads of the men on the galleys. You could easily alter it by saying, 'Chiara waved .....until the last galley turned into a speck, then she let it droop and fall. etc. These things are important as they can pull the reader out of the story. '
Judith Williams tells us that she has been writing for as long as she can remember, but only took it up seriously in 2002, after retiring from practice as a family solicitor. Since then she has taken a Diploma in Creative Writing at UEA, and various other writing courses. She has had some success with short stories, winning both Writing Magazine and Writers' News competitions, amongst others, and has had stories published in anthologies and small press publications. To Be A Merchant Prince is intended as one of a sequence of novels about the Seresini, the preceding one having already been written.
Third Prize
Elizabeth Doe The Dying Of The Light Scotland
Katie Fforde comments: 'I found this very readable in spite of Catherine not being particularly likeable in the beginning. I do feel DI Crawford should come into the story sooner, if she (he?) is doing the crime solving. As readers we need to attach ourselves to this person. I'm also afraid I'm not sure about the imaginary friend. We are already suspending our disbelief by being so much in Catherine's head, I'm not sure we can quite cope with Violet. Imaginary friends are also the sort of thing agents hate. Could you bring the Inspector in to sit at her bedside for some reason and use him/her (I think when I saw DI, I thought - a woman!) as the mental sounding board.You have given yourself some problems, but I do think you can write and I did enjoy it. '
Elizabeth Doe writes " I have written all my adult life and had some success with short stories and articles and a story on Radio 4. Since moving to Scotland, I have attended the Scottish Association of Writers` Conference, where I have attained first places in the short story and drama categories. I belong to an excellent writers group - Angus Writers’ Circle, where I was President for a year. I recently gained a qualification in criminology. I am thrilled to have been placed in the Yeovil Literary Prize as Yeovil is where we brought up our family and it still has a huge sentimental tug for me."
Highly Commended
Susan Bedford Thiel England
Douglas Bruton Marin And The Stuff Of Dreams Scotland
Sibel Hodge Fourteen Days Later England
Alexandra Sutcliffe Salvation France
Saumya Balsari Summer of Blue England
Martyn Brian Chapman Hormones And Crumble England
Angela Collins Writers' Block England
Jade Hamilton Things England
Kathy Hammad Artless England
Louise Hume The Bomb That Will Bring Us Together England
Katarina Johansson Fossil Girl England
Angela Lett Something You Should Know England
Susan Morris The Garden Volunteers England
Eve Phillips Just In Time England
Sue Pickard The Lover's Cookbook England
Margaret Samson Talk To Me England
Jenna Wallace Nightwords USA
Barry Walsh Love Me Do England
(the final judging by Rachel Billington, author and journalist)
The total number of entries for this category was 335. Results are as follows:
First Prize
Hazel Osmond Bonne Maman England
Rachel Billington comments: ' Bonne Maman is a wittily well-paced story of a man with six wives – told from his daughter’s point of view. World weary as someone much older, she describes the parade of women, ‘mothers’ some of them, most not. At her side throughout is ‘Bonne Maman’ or Eloise, the French housekeeper who looks after the growing child and isn’t quite how she first appears.
The list of dreadful wives (and girlfriends) is wickedly well described, including one who ‘trailed a large spotted pig on a lead’ and one who has a spoilt little dog – spoilt, that is, until Eloise gives him some very special chocolate.
There’s not much dialogue but where it comes, it’s used with panache. Characterisations are equally original. I particularly like the final description of the dying father who ‘had a look of sucked paper.’ '
Hazel Osmond tells us that she started writing short stories in the little gaps between doing the ironing, cooking, cleaning, etc. Now she write stories instead of doing those things. So far she’s managed to get away with it. Winning this competition makes her feel better about all those cobwebs and ready-made meals. She like to use humour in her writing, and she’s especially interested in the ways in which it can be used to make something more poignant.
Second Prize
Adam Wilson Detach Wales
Rachel Billington comments: ' Detach has a surreal charm about it. Ferris, Parker and Russell are ‘watchers’, a surveillance team with their eyes on five citizens statistically most likely to become terrorists. Joshua M Appleton, the man who devised this unlikely scheme is waiting for results.
The story is excitingly dialogue-led. Ferris describes to his colleagues Appleton losing his temper: ‘The man just erupted… He filled the boardroom with smoke and ash. There were pyroclastic flows down his verdant slopes…’.
Gradually the plot which had seemed static, develops a new surprising twist in which Appleton becomes part of his own story. Disconcerting and funny, Detach is cleverly tackling a contemporary preoccupation: how far can surveillance go? '
Adam Wilson tells us that he is a 23-year old PhD student studying chemistry. He has been writing fiction since his early teens and is fascinated with all things scientific or mathematical which has often permeated his stories. Whatever spare time he has between sessions spent arm-deep in a fume hood mixing posionous chemicals is spent fencing, drinking dangerous amounts of tea and trying to get the squeak out of his harmonica playing.
Third Prize
Craig Hawes Aim High Olongapo Wales
Rachel Billington comments: ' Aim High, Olongapo brings to life the situation of a Philippino woman working for a Dubai family. She is instantly an interesting character, full of determination, caught in a trap created by her own family’s poverty at home and the callous behaviour of her employer.
There is almost no dialogue because Deena is alone in the house except for the baby she cares for. But the prose is purposeful, delicate when necessary, and the present tense, always difficult, is handled well.
Most important of all, Deena gains our sympathy and makes the reader think more deeply about the many Philippinos employed in English households. As the saying goes, a piece of writing is only as good as its subject. '
Craig Hawes tells us that he was born in Briton Ferry, South Wales and has worked as a journalist in London and the United Arab Emirates, writing for publications including the Evening Standard, The Big Issue and Time Out Dubai. Since returning to Wales in 2007 to go freelance and write fiction, his short stories have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and he was recently short-listed for the Bristol Prize. He is currently working on a collection of stories set in Dubai.
Highly Commended
Anne Dowds The Going ( Winner of the Western Gazette Literary Award ) England
Janet Edwards Killing Kevin England
Dennis Harkness Watling Avenue England
Indu Linker Emily Cyprus
Dorothy O'Grady Security Matters England
Chloe Tonkin The Golden Girl and The Silver Pen England
Joan Condon A Ripping Adventure England
Elizabeth Doe What The Lightening Saw Scotland
Claire Harris The Imperfect Breasts Australia
Edward Hopkins Unripe Fruit England
Philip F Latham Time Remembered England
Michael Law Deadly Circle England
Sonia Suedfeld Ambush Canada
Sheriden Turner Wet England
Therese Whitelock Snapped England
Steven Williams At World's End England
(the final judging by Carol Ann Duffy, poet, playwright and freelance writer - recently appointed Poet Laureate)
The total number of entries for this category was 416. Results are as follows:
First Prize
M Lee Alexander The Gift of Flight USA
Carol Ann Duffy comments: ' A poem of memory and bereavement, The Gift of Flight transcends the ordinary with the gorgeousness of its language and its true-poet’s love of listing- sparrows, finches, buntings, wrens. The balancing of the decorative and living birds in the first and final verses manages to be both skilful and moving, and the poem has a lovely, human, humour. '
M Lee tells us that she teaches creative writing, detective fiction, and ESL at William and Mary where she says working with students keeps her young or at least thinking that way! She's an incorrigible Anglophile and was thrilled when the Queen visited campus recently. Her secret vice is watching britcoms on Youtube. She’s both delighted and honoured to have won this year’s poetry prize.
Second Prize
Jennifer Copley There's A Graveyard Near the Sea England
Carol Ann Duffy comments: ' Sonnet-length, with the title as the first line, this poem is urgently physical and beautifully detailed - we imagine the upright dead, pining for their fishing nets or bowls of dough. The ending amazingly turns the shocking into the tender. '
Jennifer Copley tells us that she lives in Cumbria in her grandmother’s house where five generations of her family have also lived. She has had three collections of poetry published, with a fourth (Beans in Snow) coming out shortly with Smokestack. She has been writing for about thirteen years and has been a prize winner in several major competitions eg. National winner in the Ottakar’s and Faber (2006), 2nd prize in the Academi Cardiff (2007), 2nd prize in the Essex (2008) and 2nd in the Ware (2009). She says: ‘To get such praise from Carol Ann Duffy in the Yeovil Prize is terrific. It was emailed round to all my friends within minutes.’
Third Prize
Heather Harrison The Sylkie England
Carol Ann Duffy comments: ' a re-working of the old legend of fishermen who fall in love with seal-women, or sylkies. Here is another poet with a deep, confident relish for the sound of words - ‘shreds the mended sheets to whipping rags’ - and an effortless talent for rhyme and for the music of verse. '
Heather Harrison tells us she is an exiled Geordie. She says "I have been teacher, wife and mum . Now I am writing full time. In the 1980s I had poems, prose and short stories broadcast, poetry commissions from Wolverhampton Art Gallery and West Midlands Arts and published a poetry collection, ‘Roots Beneath the Pavement’. In 2004 I had three poems performed at the Royal Shakespeare Company New Writing festival. I won the Seafield Publishing Poetry Competition in 2005 and Warwickshire Arts Festival Open Poetry Competition in 2006.I have recently had poems published in ‘Orbis’, ‘Staple’ and Cinnammon Press’s anthology of narrative verse, ‘In the Telling’. I have completed my first children’s novel and am working on the second."
Highly Commended
Jeanette Burton A Game Of Chance England
Deborah Harvey Prawle Point England
Stephen Holloway Coastal Bluff England
Sharon Keating Seadog England
Chris Robinson Downsized England
Tracey S Rosenberg Captain's Colours Scotland
Nigel Speight Virtual Unreality England
Geraldine Walsh How to Put Words to this Sentiment Eire
Julia Webb The Unknowing England
Sharon Black Crackling France
Sharon Black Rainbows France
Jim Bradbury A Permanent Wave Goodbye England
John Hawkhead Farewell To Basra England
Richard Labram Dreaming England
Daphne Schiller Coming From My American Lit Class England
Beverly Stark Flower Press England