The Yeovil Literary Prize

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2014 Results

For full details of the results, choose a category:

Results Table Report Novel Short Story Poetry

Novel Category

FIRST PRIZE - Sarah Hegarty

SECOND PRIZE - Stella Radford

THIRD PRIZE - David Young

Short Story Category

FIRST PRIZE - Andy Stevens

SECOND PRIZE - Paul Barnett

THIRD PRIZE - Douglas Bruton

Poetry Category

FIRST PRIZE - Sharon Keating

SECOND PRIZE - Marilyn Francis

THIRD PRIZE - Laura Thompson

2014 Results Report

The YCAA is wallowing in the praise received from the wonderful writers who entered the Yeovil Literary Prize this year. Without your efforts, often achieved in isolation, there would not be this well of words that brings novels, short stories and poetry to your judges to appreciate.

Judging is anonymous; the names and places of origin only become known after the short listing stage. This year, the judges were thrilled to see the range of countries in the short list including entries from New Zealand, Canada, Greece, France, Italy, Ireland, Wales; then from the Isle of Lewis and Edinburgh in Scotland, right down to the Isle of Wight in England. Making the short list is remarkable, and it shows the Yeovil Literary Prize to be a truly international writing competition.

Comments made by the judges in each category verify the high calibre of the entries. Whittling numbers down to a long list, then to the short list, followed by our renowned judges then having to make their decisions, is extremely difficult. Every writer who entered can be proud of their brilliant writing.

It has to be said that many of the novels, short stories and poems that came close to selection could very happily be bought and enjoyed if they were lined up in a bookshop. With so many good reads it means that the winning entries can only be rated as excellent. They certainly deserve to be published.

What a super surprise was in store this year, as our winner of the novel category, Sarah Hegarty, was also the winner of the 2011 novel category. She was Highly Commended last year with an earlier version of her winning novel which then had a different title. This year our judge Elizabeth Buchan selected her novel, now titled ‘Under A Different Sky’, for first place. This was an outstanding piece of writing.

Each year we see names we recognise once the judging is over. It shows that writing of a consistently high standard will always stand out. Is it a case of ‘practice makes perfect’? We do hope so, and that you all continue to enter in the future.

Look at each category to see the judges’ comments. The writers’ biographies tell of their lives as authors and poets, and can only inspire any new writer to persevere and achieve the highest they can.

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, so feel free to carry on the good work.

2015 Yeovil Literary Prize

Our 2015 Yeovil Literary Prize opens on 1st January, so start those ideas and plots bubbling away now and you’ll be ready to enter.

Our judges for next year are as prestigious as always. We have popular novelist Santa Montefiore judging the short stories. Our esteemed poetry judge is Esther Morgan, and our contributor from the world of publishing is Victoria Hobbs from A M Heath, literary agency.

We look forward to reading all your work and watching new talent emerge in the literary world.

the Judging Team

Results of the Novels category

Our eleventh year of this competition saw a record number of entries from every genre with 432 novels being submitted.

Our judge, Elizabeth Buchan commented:
Judging the Yeovil Literary Prize has proved to be a special experience.
Sent eight short-listed entries, I settled down during a hot summer to read my way through them.
I have been fortunate enough to judge a few literary prizes and, occasionally, I have encountered sticky patches. Here, there was no such problem. The standard was so very, very high that I was kept on my toes throughout the process. Each and every entry possessed an element – narrative grip, original perspective, lyricism, quiet but devastating insight - which marked it out. The final choices were not easy to make.
Congratulations to everyone on the short list and to the winners. Yeovil is clearly a town which harbours writing talent and I would like to thank the organizers of the Yeovil Literary Prize for giving me the opportunity to read such a thoughtful, invigorating and impressive level of entries.

Thank you Elizabeth as you have chosen three outstanding winners.

First Place
Sarah Hegarty Under a Different Sky  
Sarah Hegarty

I’m thrilled to be writing a second biography for the Yeovil Prize! It was a wonderful boost to my writing to win in 2011 – I never thought I would repeat that. Writing is a lonely and often dispiriting business. Awards like the Yeovil Prize are hugely important and motivating – a source of feedback in the silence. So a big thank you to the Yeovil team for your dedication, and encouragement.
Before writing fiction I worked as a journalist, but deadlines proved too punishing once my sons came along. When they were old enough I studied for an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University, which gave me the confidence to start sending out my work. I started with short fiction, and after many rejections, slowly began to have pieces accepted. My work has been published by Cinnamon Press, Mslexia, the Momaya Annual Review, Hysteria 2 and on the web, and my story Something Hidden was the title story of the 2013 anthology from Bridge House. In 2013 I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the mentees on the 2013/14 Jerwood/ Arvon mentoring scheme, working with novelist Nikita Lalwani.
If you’d like to find out more about my work, please visit – or follow me on Twitter @SarahHegarty1.

Elizabeth Buchan commented…

“From the first sentence: ‘I saw it in my dreams – it framed my days and nights… The maw of Katilia: a gaping wound in the burnt remains of the forest…’ a tight, taut narrative is sprung from the trap.
We are – literally – in Conrad’s heart of darkness, a place in the Belgian Congo where the weak die and greedy, violent men fight it out in order to plunder what they can and don’t care how they do it. None more graphically so than the bosses of the diamond mine where Lucas, the illegitimate son of white coffee growers, is imprisoned. A hell in the jungle of hunger, noise, thirst and despair, civilization, in the sense we understand it, is absent and the repercussions for a failed escapee do not bear thinking about.
But escape Lucas does, taking with him his guilt and his secrets and, at this point, the narrative shifts up a gear into thriller-like intensity which would guarantee that it stood out in itself. However, Lucas meets the childless Sula, also an outsider, and they flee for the coast together they find themselves in a raw and elemental battle against nature, their pursuers and their own selves. It is a moral and physical odyssey which promises to notch the novel up to yet another level.
Told alternately from Sula and Lucas’s point of view, this is a strong, resonant piece of writing which makes a deep impact. The use of imagery is arresting and the build-up of tension and the detail is terrific. Most impressive of all are the two voices which are totally convincing and achieved with astonishing dexterity and – the word may seem odd given the novel’s setting – a delicacy.”

Second Place
Stella Radford The Beekeeper  

Stella Radford

Stella Radford is exploring the resurgence of religious pilgrimage in post-Soviet Russia, and she juggles teaching with freelance translation. She enjoys archival research as much as fieldwork, and delights in the friendships, adventures and puzzles that tend to grow out of her projects. The form of the novel offers a potentially powerful way of working through those puzzles, although her academic publications often explore the same questions. How do people experience the divine? Does landscape shape us as much as we shape it? What happens when we forget our pasts?

Elizabeth Buchan commented…

“The author has described The Beekeeper as: an exploration of the relationship between ‘landscape, memory and identity’.
Authors are notorious for declaring that they are setting out to do one thing in their work, only for the finished artefact to show something quite different – often in a manner which is unconsciously revealing.
There is no such problem here. Seen through John’s eyes ( he is now in his late seventies) and those of his young grandniece, Ruth, The Beekeeper is rooted in the landscape of North Devon where John and his family were born and bred.
Since John’s boyhood, the generations have dispersed and illness has also taken a grip on John’s sister, Jeanie. The fear of dementia stalks the pages and the arrival of Ruth only serves to point up the discrepancies between young and old. Yet, a bridge between the two can be built and this is one of the joys of the novel as John and Ruth (who is in the grip of a religious cult or, rather, in the grip of the cult’s leader) begin to learn and to understand each other’s language.
Like all families – and in particular remote rural ones – there have been secrets to keep and to fester and the unearthing of one such secret will go on to provide the trigger for psychological release. However, in the opening section of the novel this is only hinted at, and it is the establishment of the locale: its texture and its smells and its feel, and how its impacts on John, that is so beautifully wrought. That, plus the tentative and utterly believable relationship between uncle and niece is what provides the substance of the extract.
The bees play their part – and there is some fascinating detail woven into the text. The imagery is lush and lyrical but never overdone. The characterization is very fine indeed: ‘’memories rose in and fell these days in folds – some events vivid as yesterday, some yesterdays quite invisible in the creases of his mind…’
There are strong and powerful emotions buried in the text – longing and regret, and sorrow – but this is not a negative piece of writing. Far from it. On the contrary, there is much that is quietly joyous.”

Third Place
David Young Stasi Child  

David Young

David Young was born near Hull and survived being sent to a boarding school, aged nine. After dropping out of a Bristol University science degree, he studied Modern History at the city’s Polytechnic. Temporary jobs cleaning ferry toilets and driving a butcher’s van were followed by three decades as a journalist on provincial newspapers, a London news agency, and international radio and TV newsrooms. He now writes in his garden shed and in his spare time supports Hull City AFC.

Elizabeth Buchan commented…

“Anyone who saw the superb film, The Lives of Others, will recognize the backdrop to Stasi Child. It is 1975 and the body of a young girl has been found in a graveyard by the Berlin Wall. Karen Mȕller - East Germany’s only female head of a murder squad – is assigned the case. Naturally, it proves not to be straightforward and Mȕller is thrown into crises which involved her personal life as well as her professional one.
This is East Germany before the Wall comes down. Corruption and depravity are, as ever, present and, in this case, contained and concealed in a repressive and secretive state apparatus. Victims of it, and the politically naive, do not stand a chance. Nor, do inconveniently inquisitive police officers such as Mȕller and her deputy Tilsner. In pursuing the truth, they are putting themselves at risk.
East Germany has proved a fertile setting, among others genres, for thrillers and noir crime drama. The extract from Stasi Child suggests that it will go more lightly on the existential questioning in order to concentrate on the unravelling of the case in an unsettling, shifting and dangerous world. It takes skill to do this, to avoid falling into clunking cliché and to keep the reader on board. With terrific detail, excellently paced and with deceptive, little shifts of emphasis, Stasi Child is a cracking read.”

Highly Commended
Vanessa Savage History of You
Naomi Kruger May
Alice Herve Falling Into The Sky
Colin Brezicki Heart Murmurs
Peter Howard Waiting For The Hyena
Warwick Blanchett Evening Rain – Storm Mountain
Patricia Mullin Casting Shadows
Susan Williams On The Edge
Hilary Standing Inheritance Powder
Janet Hancock Door of Darkness
David Martin Cancer Comes to the Professor
Anjana Chowdhury Under the Pipal Tree
Freya Boyesen In Another Room
Vanessa Savage The Murder House
Clare Hawkins Footprints In The Sand
Brenda Fine Missing Person

Results of the Short Story category

Our eleventh year of this competition saw a record number of entries from every genre with 428 short stories being submitted.

Our judge Mavis Cheek said “I've read and re-read and I do so agree - this is a very high standard for short short-stories and these eight have certainly risen to the challenge.
'Get in. Get out. Don't linger. Go on.' So said the master of the modern short story, Raymond Carver - and The Yeovil Literary Prize provides the chance for the writer to do just that. It was an absolute privilege to be the judge of this category - and the stories were of an exceptionally high standard - not always the case with such competitions; this may have something to do with the way Yeovil organised the event which was - well - perfectly. Long may it continue.
Thank you Mavis for being such an brilliant judge.

First Place
Andy Stevens A Visit to York Station  

Andy Stevens

Andy’s writing journey started during his Uni days when he began writing lyrics/poems for a new wave band. His inspiration came from the story telling of Bob Dylan, Christopher Isherwood and John Cooper Clarke. Later, this initial burst of creativity had to be put on hold in favour of a twenty-odd year sabbatical to the computer services industry.

Over the last eight years, Andy set about re-igniting his creative side by attending writing courses at Exeter Uni and afterwards by setting up a small writing group. This allowed him to refine his style and discover his voice; four novels, a play and a number of short stories followed. From 2013, he took the decision to submit a new selection of short stories to the most influential writing competitions in order to assess his progress and hopefully attract interest from literary agents. His work is characterised by tarnished, but likeable characters finding themselves in traumatic situations, often of their own making, whose stories are laced with tragedy, humour and hopefulness and sometimes, it must be said, hopelessness.

In 2013, Andy came 3rd and was Highly Commended in two writing competitions at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. In June 2014, Andy was awarded 1st and 2nd places in the ‘Writing Can Be Murder’ competition also at the Winchester Writers’ Festival and this was followed in September 2014 by a 1st place for the Short Story Category at the prestigious Yeovil Literary Prize. Andy hopes that the prestige of these awards will lead to representation and, ultimately, to publication.

Andy lives in Hampshire with his wife, Amanda. They have two children; their daughter is studying Law at Bristol Uni and their son has just completed his MSc at Warwick Uni and starts work in the autumn.

Mavis Cheek commented…

“I've given this first prize. It was a real balancing act between 'A Visit to York Station' and my second choice but in the end I thought this very touching story had the edge for the subtle handling of the dynamic between the two boys - the one innocently observing his father's betrayal of his mother, but teetering on the edge of understanding - and therefore on the edge of becoming devastated by the discovery - and his friend, who has already been through the experience of a broken home, protecting him from the same potential outcome. There's a lot of truth in the exchange between the two boys; I thought, often, of William Brown, one of my comic/tragic boy heroes when the boy narrator says of his friend William's prowess, 'After all, he had a pet grass snake, he brought stink bombs to school and he had kissed Mary Sidebottom. We smirked together every time her name was read out in Assembly.' And ideas such as the boys buying blackjacks to try to feed to the pigeons to make them sick are completely believable and add colour to the character. We really believe in his charisma and we need to in order for him to be able to convince the young narrator to forget he has seen his father at the station kissing a strange woman and giving her flowers. With its undertow of loyalty and friendship and what divorce can mean to a child, I think it really is a worthy winner.

Second Place
Paul Barnett Our Quiet Bond  

Paul Barnett

I joined the Bow Wharf writers group in Langport last year which I’ve found to be extremely valuable, as members actively encourage one another in their writing. It has also provided the sort of safe environment in which to try out new ideas and voices. I therefore felt encouraged to start entering my first competitions this year. Recently I was also fortunate enough to be one of the winners in the 5 and 10 competition in Neath South Wales which was for performance pieces. So having also now taken second place in this event I feel I’m on something of an unexpected roll.
Writing something, anything which might have a resonance for anyone can be rewarding enough but to actually be picked in competitions is a tremendous boost. Equally the judge’s comments are an additional source of encouragement and value. Being a winner in this year’s Yeovil Literary competition may even reduce my tendency to procrastinate before settling down to put pen to paper, though I somehow doubt it. The amount of distractions I can come up with is sometimes creative in itself, or so I tell myself.
I should like to thank all those involved in organising this wonderful event. I am sure it requires a lot of hard work. I am also looking forward to entering again in future years.

Mavis Cheek Commented…

“This is number two. A brave and compelling story - with a wonderful sense of the characters through dialogue - and a strong sense of place, too. We are back in the early 1960s, - when Martin Luther King gave his 'I Have a Dream...' speech, and we are with two brothers who might, in their time, be described as 'white trash.' The older brother has married. It's a sparky marriage but it seems to be secure - but the younger brother is wayward and has all the trademarks of a lost soul, drinking and drifting. Something has been shared by the two boys when they were younger which has wrought a terrible effect on the younger brother who is lying in drunken mess in a broken down motel when he calls his older brother for help. The tale gradually unfolds leaving the full horror of what it was the boys saw as children that has marked them - and made their Quiet Bond - it's a comment on past prejudices and where it can lead, and on the full effect of brutal fathering. Excellent.”

Third Place
Douglas Bruton Something Missing  

Douglas Bruton

Douglas Bruton throws words together. Sometimes they make sense and sometimes they even make stories. He sends those thrown-together words out to nice places and every now and then that makes sense, too. He thinks he is a writer, but that’s just more words that he throws about.
He has been published in many nice places, including The Eildon Tree, Transmission, The Delinquent, Grasslimb Journal, The Blood Orange Review, The Vestal Review, Storyglossia, Ranfurly Review, The Smoking Poet, Interpreter’s House, Flash Magazine, Brittle Star Magazine and The Irish Literary Review.

Mavis Cheek Commented…

“This short story, seen through the eyes of a child, has a marvellously strong voice - with a good feeling for a rural way with words - without being told exactly where you are, you know very well its a hardworking farming community - close knit, gossipy, chapel going and unsentimental. The young narrator describes what happens when her mother comes back from hospital after a mastectomy - at a time when such things were seen more as shame than straightforwardly medical - and how - painfully drawn - the effect on the family is devastating. The child narrator's way of seeing the experience, and trying to make sense of what she sees, is beautifully captured.”

Highly Commended
Corben Duke Rovers Return
Gerard Loughran A Woman of Quality
Ken Elkes The Final Countdown
Paul Trembling The Weather Says It All
Fred Canavan Jealousy

Alison Wray Longing
Sharon Bennett The Bench Factor
Chip Tolson Daisy Chain
Lynda Tavakoli All You Need
Helen Somers The Poseidon Adventure
Sarah Houghton The Number
Helen Morris A Love Letter to my Wife
Jo Tiddy Blessed

Results of the Poetry category

Our competition, now in its eleventh year, saw an overall record number of entries, with 365 poems being submitted.

Our judge Annie Freud commented… “ Here are my choices of first, second and third. I arrived at my decision by reading through each poem once, noting the impact that each one made on me and then putting them away before reading them closely.
I have greatly enjoyed being taken on these unexpected imaginative journeys and wish to thank you for the invitation to judge these poems.”

Thank you Annie for being such a wonderful judge.

First Place
Sharon Keating End of the Pier  

Sharon Keating

Sharon has worked as a counsellor for various organisations including the London Fire Brigade and, most recently, a nine year stint at Sussex University where she also worked as a supervisor for trainee counsellors and as a group therapist. She completed an MA in Psychoanalytic Studies at the Tavistock Clinic, London in 2002. Her thesis was awarded a distinction and subsequently published in the journal Free Associations.
Sharon has been an avid writer of poetry and stories since she was a child. She’s continually intrigued by the minutia of human feeling and relationships, but is also drawn to the natural world, which she feels gives some perspective to and relief from the human point of view. In 2009 she completed a diploma in Creative Writing with the Open University, for which she received a distinction. In the same year she entered a poem in the Yeovil Prize, her first ever foray into the world of literary prizes, and was overjoyed when it was listed as Highly Commended by Carol Ann Duffy! In 2012 two poems were commended by Louis de Bernieres in the same competition and are to be published in the Yeovil anthology out later this year. She has also had poetry shortlisted for the Bridport Literary Prize. Sharon has had stories shortlisted for the Asham Award and Aesthetica. Her story Three Monkeys was published in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2013. She is currently working on the fifth and - she hopes - final draft of a novel.
This is Sharon’s first literary competition win and she is delighted; she feels that this recognition, after all that solitary slogging, is wonderfully affirming! And offers her heartfelt thanks to all involved.

Annie Freud commented…

“I thought this was the most accomplished and convincing of the poems submitted. It demonstrates control and mastery of its chosen form. I enjoyed the richness of its language and the keenness of the observations, particularly where the poem conveys a sense of the immeasurable.”

Second Place
Marilyn Francis Aftermath  

Marilyn Francis

Marilyn Francis lives and works in Radstock and Midsomer Norton. Her first poetry collection, red silk slippers, published by Circaidy Gregory Press came out in 2009. Since then, she has been published in some places and has been placed and shortlisted in some things. She keeps writing poetry mostly for pleasure

Annie Freud commented…

“I enjoyed the way the authority of the narrating voice is sustained from start to finish. Every part of this poem convinces. Both characters have great presence. The middle stanza is especially powerful, deviating from, and yet underlining, the human drama. Excellent ending.”

Third Place
Laura Thompson A State of Grace  

Laura Thompson was born in Northern Ireland in 1972 and lives in County Antrim. She is a full-time mother looking after her three young sons.

She was placed second in the 2010 Yeovil Literary Prize and also won a Peterloo prize in 2006. Writing poems and short stories has always been an interest of hers, and she was very encouraged by her previous success in this competition.

Laura uses the postal method of entering the competition and wrote saying “Many thanks for selecting my poem for this year’s shortlist. It is so encouraging to win something!”

Annie Freud commented…

“I was entertained by this witty take on being young, urban, clever and unknowing at a specific time in the past. I particularly liked the way there was space for the reader to chart her/his own way though these familiar rites of passage and the subtle way the beliefs and stances were set out. All very visual.”

Highly Commended
Margaret Eddershaw Scattering
Dr Richard Ormrod Hands
Ann Palmer Skylarks in Stereo
Tony Weston The Butterfly has not, as yet, complained
Christine Whittemore Pollen
Tony Weston Diagnostic Imaging
Ruth Muttlebury Formula One Fern
Frances Corkey Thompson The Woman of the Lough
Wes White Leopard
Noel Williams Snowstorm
Corrinna Toop After the Burning
Andrew Leigh The Snowman
Gabriel Griffin Reflecting