The Yeovil Literary Prize

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2024 YCAA Book Group

The YCAA book group meets in Yeovil in the Westlands Entertainment Venue's Lounge every second Tuesday of the month from 12 noon until 2pm. We read a wide selection of books as suggested by people who come along. You would be welcome! Details can be found on

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2019 Results

For full details of the results, choose a category:

Results Table Report Novel Short Story Poetry Writing Without Restrictions

Novel Category

FIRST PRIZE - David Laws


THIRD PRIZE - Chloe Turner

HIGHLY COMMENDED - Monica Balt / David Hough

Short Story Category

FIRST PRIZE - Christine Goodwin

SECOND PRIZE - Mildred Davidson

THIRD PRIZE - Clare Reddaway

HIGHLY COMMENDED - Valerie Hoare / Joan Wilson

Poetry Category

FIRST PRIZE - Caroline Gilfillan


THIRD PRIZE - Aripi Menken

Writing Without Restrictions

FIRST PRIZE - Lucy Bignall

SECOND PRIZE - Vanessa Lampert

THIRD PRIZE - Wendy Breckon

The Western Gazette Best Local Writer Award

The Western Gazette Best Local Writer Award has been won by Bob Shepherd. Congratulations Bob!

Report for 2019 Yeovil Literary Prize

The number of entries rose yet again this year and each of our judges made encouraging comments on the quality of your writing. We promote all the arts in our local area as well as offering everyone, no matter where you are writing in the world, the opportunity to enter our competition. We endeavour to encourage aspiring writers everywhere.

It is obvious to those of us behind the scenes at the Yeovil Literary Prize, by the comments from people who happen to have a ‘way with words’, that this writing competition is appreciated. The quality of writing ranges from the new writer to those who have achieved already with the written word. Many of you, if asked the question why you write, or when did you start writing, would answer simply ‘I always have’. Those little notebooks and stubs of pencil you kept near you as a child was the foundation on which your love of words and writing is based. The doodles were ideas, forming into poems, stories, and now blogs. The day of the pencil and paper may have moved into the digital era, which fortunately makes writing anywhere and at any time far easier. I wonder how many chapters have been written on trains or planes, or in waiting rooms? We are always intrigued to know where you write. Solitude may be best for you, or with the background buzz of a café, or during the night when those words will not settle down and your brain is composing poetry or prose, but sleep is alluding you.

Our four categories open up competition possibilities for writers whose work would not normally slot into the usual novel, poetry and short story slots with our now popular category for Writing Without Restriction. Our judge, Chris Redmond, loved the variety of writing in this category and congratulated everyone who made the longlist. It demonstrates that it is not always about winning, but by entering it’s about sharing ideas. Some super writing stays hidden and forgotten, but here you can bring it out and see what a judge thinks of your inspirational thoughts. Super category.

The novels entered this year covered such a range of genres; full of beautifully constructed opening chapters, leaving the reader with that frustrating but wonderful feeling of wanting to know what is going to happen next. Our competition is for the opening 15000 words, so if at the end that feeling is there, we know they are potential winners. Our Judge, Vaseem Khan, made some incredible comments about the future possibilities for our winners. We hope they do find editors and publishers as we think they deserve recognition. At least one of the winners is almost ready for publication. We wish everyone success. For achievements by earlier winners click on our SUCCESSES tab. Some are now authors of several books.

The short stories category always springs intriguing surprises. The discipline for completing a tightly structured tale with believable characters, unusual settings, and a satisfactory conclusion is a tough one. We were not disappointed this year. Those longlisted entries could all have been winners as they transported the reader into a different space. Exactly what a short story should do.

Our poetry judge, Philip Gross, made some lovely comments which you can see when you click on the tab for Poetry. He mentions voices, and that seems to be the secret to all our categories, when a writer develops a voice that resonates with the reader then success is guaranteed.

We were so impressed by our winner of this category, because she also had a poem Highly Commended and another longlisted, that we invited Caroline Gilfillan, to be our judge for this category next year. News of our other judges will be on our website when our 2020 Yeovil Literary Prize opens on 1st January.

Each year we award £100 to the Western Gazette Best Local Writer. It means the highest placed entry in the longlists where the writer lives within the distribution area of the Western Gazette. This year we are delighted to give this award to an excellent local writer who was longlisted in the short story category – Bob Shepherd. You may notice that Bob also won this prize last year, showing what a consistently good writer, he is. We not only encourage writers from the far corners of the world to enter, but also our very active local writing groups. With anonymous judging by reference number only, it is always a happy surprise to see who our winners are.

The YCAA is a partner in the 2019 Yeovil Literary Festival and we will, once again, be holding an event for past winners of the Yeovil Literary Prize. The winners from each category will be reading their work at 10am on Friday 1st November in the Johnson Studio of The Octagon Theatre. Following this event will be a previous winner of the novel category, Beena Kamlani, and if you read the Yeovil Literary Festival website you will see that Beena, an experienced editor, will be offering a critiquing opportunity. She will also speak about editing before publication. I know these two events will be popular. The Yeovil Literary Festival attracts thinkers, readers, writers and celebrities – something for all our festival goers. We hope to see you there.

Our thanks and congratulations to everyone who entered this year, and we welcome you, and all writers in the United Kingdom, Europe and the rest of the world – with your varied and many voices – to join us again next year.

the Judging Team

Novel category Report

Our Prize this year attracted 404 entries in the novel category, all of which were of a high standard of writing.

The Novel judge

Vaseem Khan

Vaseem Khan is the author of the bestselling Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series featuring Indian detective Ashwin Chopra and his baby elephant sidekick. The first book in the series, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, was a Times bestseller, and a Waterstones Paperback of the Year. Vaseem is a strong proponent of literacy and the need for inclusivity in publishing. He has previously judged Spread the Word's London Writers Awards aimed at discovering exciting new voices from the capital. He is particularly keen on well written prose and intrigued by fiction that is unafraid of exploring edgy, quirky or taboo subjects, the road less travelled, or by writers who revisit familiar themes in exciting new ways.

Vaseem Khan said "Judging this year's Yeovil Lit Prize has been a delight. Tasked to judge a well-curated shortlist of entries, I found myself impressed with the coordination of those behind the competition - as an experienced judge I appreciate a process that makes judging easy! I was equally impressed with the standard and range of the entries, from contemporary crime to gripping historical narratives. Judging is always a subjective process. But I firmly believe that there is a level of quality and a 'spark' that always stands out. This is what agents and publishers are on the lookout for and judges are no different. This year a number of entries made me sit up and not only take notice, but murmur in appreciation as I whizzed through the pages. I am confident that some of these entries are good enough to find publishers, if they haven't already done so. I look forward to seeing them in print!"


FIRST – The Maze Kids by David Laws

David Laws

David Laws

David has been a national newspaper journalist in London and Manchester after working as a reporter on local weeklies and as a writer and editor for magazines dealing with film, medicine, travel and finance. He’s fascinated by the great thriller writers of our time; names like Robert Harris, Robert Goddard, Henry Porter, Philip Kerr, Ken Follett and Jack Higgins (and he very much hopes to be able to follow in their distinguished footsteps). He was inspired to write The Maze Kids after researching the Kindertransport rescue mission set up by the late Sir Nicholas Winton.

He has previously published two thrillers through the Matador self-publishing service: Munich, The Man Who Said No! (about a woman’s search for her missing grandfather) and Exit Day (a spy story set against the background of the Brexit controversy). David had great fun promoting these in bookshops in his local area of East Anglia and in e-books through his web site but would very much like to be traditionally published.

(NB The Maze Kids has not been published anywhere, as per the rules.)

He is delighted to be attending the Yeovil Literary Prize Past Winners’ event as part of the Yeovil Literary Festival on 1st November

Our judge, Vaseem Khan, commented ““I loved the concept of this novel. The idea of a band of dispossessed children hiding out in Nazi Germany, in danger of discovery and (one assumes) of being shot, imprisoned or sent to the concentration camps, and the daring rescue attempt to save them. This is a book that works on many levels: as a thriller, an old-fashioned adventure yarn, a wartime escape story, a historical account, and a romance. The plot involves multiple narrative strands, woven together with a sense of excitement, yet simultaneously underscored by a sense of dread at the plight of the children.

The lead protagonists, Peter and Claudia quickly gained my empathy and interest. With such characters it is always a question of what motivates them to place their own lives at risk to help others. This central question speaks to our own humanity and in that sense this novel is very much a tale of good versus evil. It grabbed me by the throat from its opening pages and drew me in. I particularly liked the way the narrative moves between Claudia and Peter, both reluctant heroes. As a reader I sense that their fates are ultimately entwined, but watching that journey unfold, two strangers, ostensibly at odds (he is an English ‘spy’, she a German national) finding common purpose through an unspoken moral code that exists within each, is a wonderful literary device powering the heart of this story.

There is always a danger for a debut author in setting a story in such well-trodden territory, but this is a well-structured narrative and an engaging plot that offers something to a wide range of readers – for me this book could work for both adult and young adult audiences.

This is a novel that should certainly find a publisher, if it hasn’t already done so. Interest in fiction set during Nazi Germany has risen again following the worldwide success of The Tatooist of Auschwitz. Just as that was a story of the best of humanity triumphing over the worst, this too is a tale that appears to offer hope in the darkest of times.”

SECOND – Still by Rue Baldry

Rue Baldry

Rue Baldry

Rue Baldry was born in Essex in 1969 and now lives in York. She has a BA in English Lit from York University and an MA in Creative Writing from Leeds University. Ten of her short stories have been published or are forthcoming, including in Mslexia, The Honest Ulsterman, The Incubator, The Nottingham Review, Postbox and The First Line. In 2015 she was awarded a Jerwood/Arvon mentorship and in 2017 she won the The Bridge/Moniack Mhor Emerging Writer Prize.

Our judge, Vaseem Khan, commented ““This is a beautifully rendered opening to a novel that sets out its stall to deliver an emotionally powerful, spare, impactful narrative. The story of Albert and Edgar, two men who have managed to hold fast to their love for one another over a vast span of time, in spite of myriad hurdles, is one that will resonate with readers who enjoy challenging, well-crafted literature. There are moments of intense emotional drama during this journey; even in these early chapters we see such instances exploding from the page, such as when Albert refuses to cane a young man in the school that he has been employed at, choosing instead to snap the cane in two in front of an astonished tutor.

The quality of the writing is first-rate; there are some wonderful turns of phrase, and the author impressed me with their ability to hold back. There is little exposition or over-description. Instead we have a narrative that moves along swiftly and quickly begins to grip.

What elevates this from the ordinary is the outstanding flashbacks of the war. Here the author really finds their feet. These short sequences rattle like gunfire and depict the ghastly brutality of that conflict.

The characters of Albert (in particular) and Edgar are well drawn. I instantly achieved empathy with Albert as his understanding of his own traumatic experiences filtered through to me via the flashback sequences. One of the key themes of this book is youth and the ability of circumstances and our own moral righteousness to corrupt it. Albert embodies this perfectly.

This is at once an understated romantic tale, a historical narrative, a social critique and a war polemic. Balancing all these elements is a difficult feat but I believe the author has managed it. Good modern writing should challenge the reader and that is precisely what this story does. I believe that in the hands of the right editor at a receptive publishing house this novel would find its own audience.”

THIRD – Blue Hawk by Chloe Turner

Chloe Turner

Chloe Turner

Chloe Turner’s short fiction has appeared in journals and anthologies, including Best British Short Stories 2018, and her first collection, Witches Sail in Eggshells, was recently published by Reflex Press. Her novel Blue Hawk was inspired by the 17th century industrial landscape around her home near Stroud, Gloucestershire. Chloe is represented by Angel Belsey of the Emily Sweet Agency and is now readying Blue Hawk for submission to publishers. You can find her on Twitter @turnerpen2paper.

Our judge, Vaseem Khan, commented ““This is a quietly assured piece of historical fiction. The quality of the work crept up on me as I found myself slowly immersed in a world brought wonderfully to life by the author. It is a world set in the 1600s, recreated with an excellent eye for detail. The author has clearly researched their material but has managed to avoid the pitfall of ‘dumping’ the information into the work. Instead, the historical detail is woven into the narrative with a deft hand. The plot itself is a slow burning human drama that focuses on individual characters and their motivations. Joan, the central protagonist, the daughter of an indigent weaver, is a character who would not appear out of place in modern literary fiction – an intelligent and able woman fighting to establish her right to dictate the terms of her own existence against a prevailing culture of misogyny and male chauvinism. The plot of the novel hits a number of tried-and-tested emotional touchstones, such as sibling rivalry, adolescent infatuation, failure, tragedy and redemption. The writing itself is good. I was particularly entranced by the author’s use of (textile) colours almost as charms - the author’s passion for the subject came through in those moments. I found this an accomplished read and worthy of merit, a work that left me better informed and quietly intrigued. “

HIGHLY COMMENDED (in no particular order)
Monica Balt The Last Pilgrim
David Hough The Girl from the Killing Streets
COMMENDED (in no particular order)
Nicola Keller Red Fox Hiding
Deborah Tomkins Crusoe Can You Hear Me
Caroline Day Hope Nicely
Christina Briggs An Open Question: Summer Story
Pat Bryant The Moment of Truth
LONGLISTED (in no particular order)
Campaspe Lloyd-Jacob The Swap
Sumana Khan The Good Twin
Romla Ryan The Antics of Atticus
Sally Bramley Structural Damage
Jem Fletcher Waseem’s Tunnel
L.J. Krease Commemorate
Lisa Hilton Eventually We Became

Short Story Report

There were 407 short stories entered this year.

Our judge Laura Williams of Greene & Heaton said that “It was a wonderful experience to read the longlisted short stories. The calibre was incredibly high, and I congratulate the authors on the entire list, as well as the winning entries. “

Short Stories judge

Laura Williams

Laura Williams joined Greene and Heaton as an agent in 2018. She worked at Peters Fraser and Dunlop from 2011, after completing a degree in Classics at Oxford. She is actively building a fiction list and a small non-fiction list. She is currently looking for literary fiction, edgy commercial fiction, psychological thrillers and high-concept contemporary young adult, as well as narrative non-fiction of all types.


FIRST – Sunday Afternoon Tea by Christine Goodwin

Christine Goodwin

Christine Goodwin

Christine Goodwin lives with her husband in Bournemouth. They have three married sons. During her teaching career she endeavoured to inspire a love of English Literature, Language and Drama in young people. In addition, as a pastoral councillor in schools, she liaised with families and the Social, Medical and Police Services. When she retired, she gained her Equity Card and enjoyed working as a supporting artist on films and television. She was also a reader and editor for the Bournemouth and Wessex Talking Newspaper for the Blind. Christine belongs to a writers’ group. She has recently completed a correspondence Course with Writing Magazine encouraging her to find the courage to enter her own stories into competitions. She hopes one day to complete a novel! She is interested in writing about the complexities of human relationships. She loves reading, stage and television dramas, family gatherings and people-watching!

Our judge, Laura Williams, commented “This unravels the way that all short stories do – an amazing twist slowly revealed, leaving us wanting more but perfectly self-contained at the same time. A really wonderful concept, brilliantly executed.”

SECOND – Dolls by Mildred Davidson

Mildred Davidson

Mildred Davidson

Mildred has been a teacher of English Language and Literature at various levels in schools and colleges and on degree courses. Several years ago, she had some children’s stories published, but she didn’t continue in that direction. Instead, she has built up a portfolio of adult stories which every now and then she submits hopefully to competitions.

Our judge, Laura Williams, commented “This seemingly innocuous story had me absolutely gripped. This story will stay with me for a long time.”

THIRD – A Long Way from Home by Clare Reddaway

Clare Reddaway

Clare Reddaway

Clare Reddaway writes short stories and plays. She is interested in blurring the line between written fiction and performance – she enjoys taking words off the page into the ear. She has performed her short stories at events and festivals throughout south-west where she lives, and she runs a regular live-literature event in Bath, called Story Fridays. Her short stories have been published in anthologies, in magazines, in print and on the web, and have won and been shortlisted for quite a few national competitions. She is currently working on putting together her first collection of short stories. Her plays have been performed throughout the UK, including a run at the Edinburgh Festival, and a number of productions in London as well as her home town Bath. Read more at

Our judge, Laura Williams, commented This unusual setting and time period is wonderfully realised and had me tearing up at the end.”

HIGHLY COMMENDED (in no particular order)
Valerie Hoare Fishing and Other lessons
Joan Wilson Blood and Cuts
COMMENDED (in no particular order)
Bob Shepherd I’ve Killed George
Kelly Van Nelson No Need for Speed
Chip Tolson A Lifelong Kiss
Cath Barton The Turtle on the Stairs
Barbara Hawkins The Dark Place
Valerie French GG Gate
LONGLISTED (in no particular order)
Jan Cascarini In the Pink
Kate Fereday Eshete Doppleganger Dungrunting
Nichola Ratnett Chad wos ‘ere
Charles Osborne Paperback Writer
Benny Allen Up in the Air
Joyce Walker Find me a foot to fit this Shoe
Clive Newnham One Day in Montalcino
Maria Burke A Glimpse of Paleness
Alex Burnett The Grove
Sue McCormick The Pig
David Butler Legacy
Josie Turner Wide Blue Yonder

Poetry Report

This year we had 405 poems entered and as always, they were of an excellent standard. Our judge, Philip Gross commented on his experience of judging the Yeovil Prize, “In its 17 years of life, the Yeovil Prize has built a reputation, and it shows; the poems I found myself shortlisting here could have been in contention for any award I have judged, with their sensitivity and confidence and their reach across cultures and time.”

Our Poetry Judge is Philip Gross

Philip Gross

Philip Gross has published some twenty collections of poetry, including A Bright Acoustic (Bloodaxe, 2017). The Water Table won the T.S.Eliot Prize 2009, and Love Songs of Carbon the Roland Mathias Award (Wales Book of The Year) 2016. He is a keen collaborator across artforms, eg with artist Valerie Coffin Price on A Fold In The River (Seren, 2015). 2018 saw two new collaborations – with Australian poet-artist Jenny Pollak on Shadowplay (Flarestack) and with poet Lesley Saunders on A Part of the Main (Mulfran), an exploration of ideas of insularity and migration in our fractious times – as well as a science-based collection for young people, Dark Sky Park, from Otter-Barry Books.

Philip said of judging… “Should poetry be speaking for the spirit of its time? There are so many reasons to be wary of that question – the conscious intention, for one thing, in the ‘should’; also, the hubris of thinking we know what we are part of, when we are still in its midst. And of course, how to discern the difference between the deep currents of a time and the tropes and clichés floating on its surface? The job of poetry is equally to preserve the long and clear perspectives of human experience across this and other times.

All of that said, I was struck by a certain spiky, seething energy in the poems that presented themselves to me, on reading after reading, as the necessary shortlist. That feels like something in the air of now. Even the one clearly humorous one has a dark and quite topical glint in its eye. Several of the poems rising to the top, including the very top, have ‘difficult voices’, hurt, edgy, angry, at odds the world and themselves. “


FIRST – Origins by Caroline Gilfillan

Caroline Gilfillan

Caroline Gilfillan

Caroline wrote: - “I am absolutely delighted - bowled over, and so appreciative of the judge's comments. I'm glad Philip Gross saw the tenderness as well as the spiky bits in the poem.”

Caroline Gilfillan has published four poetry collections. Yes won the East Anglian Book Award for the best poetry collection. She won the Suffolk Poetry Society prize in 2015 and 2012. She also writes fiction, and her first novel, The Terrace, was published in 2018.

Our judge, Philip Gross, commented: I don’t believe that strong emotions or a hard life-story, on their own, make poetry; what makes it is the struggle for these ‘left-behind’ mis-fitting feelings to be heard, held, reconciled. Consider Caroline’s Origins, which takes First Prize. This poem is so many things – colloquial and imagistic, private and public, snappy and sad and tough and ultimately – most startling – tender. All of this could fly apart in discord, but fine judgement in the language, in the shifts of rhythm and the pauses over line breaks, holds it – holds it not just together but makes it a gift to be shared. “

SECOND – In The Maternity Wing by Ann Leahy

Ann Leahy

Ann Leahy

Ann Leahy’s first collection, ‘The Woman who Lived her Life Backwards’ (Arlen House, 2008), won the Patrick Kavanagh Award. Most recently, news poems have been placed in Troubadour International Prize 2018 and shortlisted for another (Shirley McClure Prize, Los Gatos Arts & Writers’ festival, California). Individual poems have twice been commended in the British National Poetry Competition and have also won or been placed in other competitions.

Poems have been widely published in Irish and British journals (including The North, Poetry Ireland Review, Stand, AGENDA, Orbis, New Welsh Review, Cyphers) and have been included in several anthologies.

She used to work as a lawyer but now works as a policy analyst and researcher. She recently returned to writing poetry after taken a break from it while completing a PhD on ageing and disability. She grew up in Co. Tipperary in Ireland and lives in Dublin.

Our judge, Philip Gross commented: - “Ann’s wryly-titled In the Maternity Wing, our Second Prize, also finds gentleness in an unexpected place. This is a small step into the past, to a time ‘when women’s labour was out of bounds for men’. In stanzas gently contained by assonance as much as rhyme, it tells an atmospheric story, one you can see, touch, hear and smell, releasing implications about masculinity and femininity that are complex – hopeful, largely, but subtly nuanced too. “

THIRD – Visiting Broadmoor Hospital by Aripi Menken

Aripi Menken

Aripi Menken

Aripi writes screen and stage plays, novels, and also children's stories (which no real child would be remotely interested in) - but she loves the challenges of the sonnet form.

Our judge, Philip Gross commented “Deciding a Third Prize was a job I did not want to do. I could imagine any of the Highly Commended poems, in their utter differences of subject and style, edging into this slot. In the end, I couldn’t take my eyes off Aripi’s Visiting Broadmoor Hospital. I’ve no idea if this is autobiographical, and that isn’t the point. It rings true. What grips me is the way the shockingly tight sonnet form wrestles an emotion almost too complex and naked for words. It holds it... just, as the characters are held in their tightly controlled situation. If you find some line breaks jarring, well, look at the words they expose. Sometimes the jolts and jerks are where a poem speaks.”



Most of all, I want the whole list of Commended, Highly Commended and Prizewinning poems to be read together. Each one is there because it represents a quality our writing culture needs. In a world fixated on the game of winners and losers, let’s speak up for poetry as the real ‘great conversation’ that depends on, and thrives on, our differences, our multiplicity.

HIGHLY COMMENDED (in no particular order)
Caroline Gilfillan Restructure
Stephen Boyce A Governess Reckons Her Worth
Bob Newman Jon Jonsson Speaks
Susan Spiers Service
COMMENDED (in no particular order)
Malcolm Watson Teeth
Louise Wilford Finding Four Quartets
Sally Davis All the Sea Will Say
Natalie Holborow Adders
LONGLISTED (in no particular order)
Jennifer Hunt Fixing
Diana Sanders Herrick Road
Cahal Dallat Horse
Estelle Price Iii
Laura Jenner I Left the Fire
Joy Winkler Landscape
Miles Parker Nine Second Sonnet
Christopher M. James Ravel at Montford l’Amaury
Joan Michelson Tamara Cappellaro

Writing Without Restriction Report

This relatively new category is growing in popularity as we had 174 entries for 2019.

Chris offered his congratulations to everyone who made the longlist as he was impressed by the standard of entries.

He commented: “This was quite tricky to judge! They are all so different. There is some really lovely writing in here, sometimes wholly, sometimes in part. It has been difficult to choose!”

Chris Redmond

The Writing Without Restrictions judge is Chris Redmond

Chris Redmond is a poet, musician and artistic director of Tongue Fu. Let the Pig Out is the first collection from Chris and, read or performed, it entertains as only the written word can. Chris is the creator and host of Tongue Fu - one of the UK's leading spoken word and music shows, where poets, comedians and storytellers perform with improvised music and films.

As an educator, Chris leads workshops in writing, performing and musicianship. Clients include the British Council (Spain, South Africa, Brazil), BBC, BAC, National Theatre, The Roundhouse, Forward Foundation and St Mary's University, Twickenham. He is the perfect judge for the Writing Without Restriction category.


FIRST – 'I would like to take your hand and lead you through the Suks' by Lucy Bignall

Lucy Bignall

Lucy Bignall

Lucy Bignall was born in Zambia and grew up in Africa and Saudi Arabia, before moving to London to study at the Royal College of Music. She then emigrated to Australia where she lived with her husband and children for fifteen years, working as a freelance violinist and teacher. In 2015 the family returned to live in a hairy house in Buckinghamshire, where Lucy teaches, performs, runs choirs and writes. She has had stories published in UnSung Stories, Writer's forum Magazine and Litro Online and has won the Henshaw Press Prize, the Global Short story competition and the Writer's Forum Competition as well as being shortlisted for many others, including the Fish Memoir prize.

Our judge Chris Redmond commented: - 'I would like to take your hand and lead you through the suks'

“I was struck by the imagery and intimacy first, like I was allowed in to both a sensuous relationship between two people - one present, one distant - and with a place - the dusty, incense-filled, colourful markets of an un-named Arab world. It uses dense imagery and is a wonderful evocation of sense memory. I was wary of it being too sentimental at first and hoped that it was more than just a well-crafted orientalism, which it teetered on once or twice. So, when paradoxes were introduced and the beauty and richness were countered by suggestions of bad smells, slave/child labour and distrust, I leaned in. Even though the device used for the final twist is a well-worn one, I didn't see it coming. This piece is a warm and candid exploration of aging, relationship to self and memory. It left me with questions about the many versions of ourselves that jostle for position and the lenses with which we choose to view the world. It is for this complexity presented simply and sensitively that I feel it deserves first prize. “

SECOND – Neither of our Dogs is Black by Vanessa Lampert

Vanessa Lampert

Vanessa Lampert

Vanessa Lampert has just completed an M.A. in writing poetry at Newcastle University’s collaboration with Poetry School London. She has been highly commended in the Bridport, Troubadour and Gregory O’Donoghue poetry prizes and published in The Interpreter’s house. She lives in Wallingford South Oxfordshire and works as an acupuncturist.

Our judge Chris Redmond commented: - This as a witty, well crafted, text-speak poem about friendship and depression. I almost passed over it as a contender because it is so easy to read, but each time I read it I noticed more nuance and that beneath the short lines, well-crafted rhythm and everyday vernacular there is real feeling and trouble. The dynamic of one person reaching out to grab another from a difficult place as an act of love is communicated by the medium of a typed abbreviated conversation, as banter. There is a lightness, as a result, that belies the gravity of the situation and the quiet pun it ends on is a gentle wallop in the guts. Lovely stuff.

THIRD – The dinner party trilogy by Wendy Breckon

Wendy Breckon

Wendy Breckon

Wendy Breckon lives near the sea and can often be seen in Lyme Regis, scribbling away, on a stripy deckchair wobbling in the sand. She has a passion for storytelling and memoir, appearing in the Fish Anthology as a runner up in 2018 and again this year. Other special moments include being placed third in the Winchester memoir competition and publication of a quirky book, 'Under the Hen's Bottom', nostalgic tales of an Irish childhood.

Wendy is delighted to be chosen for the Writing Without Restriction competition. On hearing about her good news, she celebrated wildly with her favourite coffee and a delicious almond croissant. Fortunately, no-one was watching!

Our judge Chris Redmond commented – “This is a warm, funny, well written trilogy of three short stories and an epilogue, spanning forty-five years of friendship between the same people. There is such love in here, it's hard not to be charmed by it. The care the writer has taken in 'wrapping' the stories up in a handmade collage book with enticement to feast at the table is testament to the passion of the writer for both her craft and the friendships she is writing about. The scene setting is snappy, the dialogue witty. It's nostalgic, sentimental and utterly unapologetic about it, but there is a craft evident here. There's a gentle paciness to the writing that helps remind the reader of how quickly forty-five years can skip by and that small moments shared by good friends can become micro-mythologies worth savouring again and again. “

David McVey A Childhood in Sounds
Maureen Osborne Regional Cooking
Barbara Hawkins Breakout
Felicity Tessaro Rondine
COMMENDED (in no particular order)
Jasmina Svenne Wasp
Srinvanti Zaheer Six Characters in Search of a Bridegroom
Adrienne Howell Chocolate
LONGLISTED (in no particular order)
Edward Sergeant She
Sarah-Jane Huelin Don’t unpack Ethel
Katherine Gallagher Dogged
Denise McSheehy Gratitude
Carol Waterkeyn Darkness and Light
Lesley Bungay Waiting
Richard Kefford Alice, Queen of Spades
Sheila Findersby Ode to Dine with Myra Kitt
Elizabeth Rowe The Blank Page
Elizabeth Rowe Featherendown
Margaret Wood An Extraordinary Tale
Jenna Powell The Final Journey

Chris Redwood, our judge, specifically wanted to pass congratulations to all those longlisted.