For full details of the results, choose a category:
Read about our most recent successes.
The May 2021 YCAA book group reads are 'Warlight' by Michael Ondaatje and 'The Midnight Library' by Matt Haig.
For more information, see the Yeovil Community Arts Association News page.
For full details of the results, choose a category:
FIRST PRIZE - Sophie Forsyth
SECOND PRIZE - Luke Clifford Richardson
THIRD PRIZE - Robert Cranbrook
HIGHLY COMMENDED - Gordon Scott / Linda O'Sullivan / Ian Hamilton
FIRST PRIZE - Martin Phillips
SECOND PRIZE - Anthony O'Reilly
JOINT THIRD PRIZE - Terri Armstrong
JOINT THIRD PRIZE - Dianne Bown-Wilson
HIGHLY COMMENDED - Emma Hollands / Jenny Giel
FIRST PRIZE - J.D. Sparkes
SECOND PRIZE - Janet Dean
THIRD PRIZE - Marjory Woodfield
HIGHLY COMMENDED - Gordon Aindow / Michael Hall / Jill Flanders / Shirley Anne Cook
FIRST PRIZE - Dalvinder Ghaly
SECOND PRIZE - Lesley Bungay
THIRD PRIZE - Caroline Rose
HIGHLY COMMENDED - Mary Fox / Barbara Featherstone
The Western Gazette Best Local Writer Award has been won by Louise Green. Many Congratulations!
We love writing in all its forms and it’s our pleasure to encourage everyone, no matter where you are writing in the world, with the opportunity to enter our competition. Aspiring writers know they are very welcome, and their work will be appreciated by us all.
It was yet another bumper year where the number of entries increased; was it one of the few bonuses that the 2020 lockdown, due to that virus that rocked the world, gave us – time to write? Have we all found it easier to write in chunks of time that ordinarily has been denied us? Solitude may suit your writing style, without that buzz of the coffee shop and the mobile phone interrupting the flow of words. Not having to write on trains, planes or in waiting areas where noise is of a certain annoying level. If that is the reason for the extremely high standard of work entered this year, then the local team of judges followed by our main judges, have been truly spoiled by the quality of your novels, short stories, poems, and that open category Writing Without Restriction. Those four categories cover such a wide range of possibilities and each of you found the one place to suit your writing.
The novels you wrote this year covered a cornucopia of topics, and as with every good book, the readers learned something from each one of them. The genres covered were extremely varied and interesting. It was the hardest job to whittle the entries down to a shortlist, so much so that we had to submit more than usual. Our judge Paul Blezard has given really valuable advice, if you click on the Novel tab, where you will also see the winners, the Highly Commended and Commended. So many were close to ‘the cut’ so each of you can be proud of your writing and his advice on characters, time, place, setting and the need to be really strong minded when editing, is really beneficial. Paul will very kindly introduce the winners to agents, and we may soon be seeing their names on our SUCCESSES tab. A brilliant selection of winners this year based on the quality of writing, impeccable research, atmosphere, and even some menace, covering all the points he has highlighted in his report.
The same applied to the Short Story category. Our judge, Susan Sandon, is Managing Director of Cornerstone, a division of Penguin Random House, who, this year, had a longer short list than usual to judge. Again, making ‘the cut’ was such a difficult job this year. With the inevitable high standard of writing Susan has awarded two outstanding short stories a Third place. Each short story must weave a complete picture, with strong characters, a jump-straight-into setting, and of course an outcome that should either please or surprise. We heard different ‘voices’ from across the world which makes a story so satisfying. Our winners are worthy stories and you can see the writers in our Short Story report.
We were so lucky to have Caroline Gilfillan as our poetry judge this year, as, being a previous winner in our Yeovil Literary Prize, and with all her experience in creative writing, she knew all about good poetry. The winning poem ‘Death of a Decorator’ did everything a good poem should; wonderful character, setting and an understanding by the reader. See Caroline’s Poetry category report for all her comments. Every poem told a story, an atmosphere, a situation in a succinct way that left the reader thinking and feeling. A brilliant category to show the effectiveness of words as poetry.
Fortune was found when Jessica Axe, a Director of White Lion, publishers’ part of the Quatro Group, accepted our invitation to judge our multi-facetted category Writing Without Restriction. Jessica grew up in Yeovil before graduating into the world of publishing. She certainly qualified as our judge as the amazing breadth of topics that our entries in this category covered was fascinating. It is exactly what it says… if you have written a worthy piece that you are proud of, on whatever subject, then this category is for you. One of our winners this year commented that she has now found her niche, as her writing didn’t fit other writing competition categories. That delighted us, as we definitely nurture all types of good writing.
We always emphasise that it is important to adhere to the word count in our categories, especially in the Novel, where you may even have to finish mid-sentence. After 15000 words we will know if we want to read on beyond that crucial point.
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 Louise Green. You may notice that one of the members of the Yeovil Creative Writers’ group also won this prize last year, showing what a consistently good idea, it is to be part of a writing circle or group, wherever you live. 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 winner is.
The YCAA is a partner in the 2020 Yeovil Literary Festival and we are hopeful in this very unpredictable year with COVID-19 determining so much for us, to once again, be holding an event for past winners of the Yeovil Literary Prize. As instructions change by the day, we will keep you informed.
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.
Our 2021 competition opens on 1st January with a different closing date of 30th April. Fees and prizes have changed so check the website in January. We are excited about reading your new work. Happy writing!
the Judging Team
This year we had 534 entries, far more than any other year, and the quality of writing was outstanding. So, thank you to all the brilliant writers who entered, and a huge thank you to Paul.
Our judge for the Novel category is Paul Blezard, who is regarded as one of the most influential people in the world of literature and broadcasting. He is an expert interviewer at literary festivals and certainly knows the benefit of impeccable research in presenting the written word. Paul, in addition to judging the novels, has arranged for our three winners to have opportunities to pitch their novel to the literary agent Cathryn Summerhayes of Curtis Brown; Luigi Bonomi, literary agent at LBA; and Clare Conville of Conville & Walsh. This is an exciting and valuable opportunity to have in addition to be the winner of this category. Thank you, Paul.
Paul Blezard has been an influential literary broadcaster, editor and commentator for 20 years and has written reviews and author interviews for many publications ranging from the Independent on Sunday to Banipal, been broadcast across radio and TV for many BBC stations and for LBC in the UK, as well as coast-to-coast in the USA. His unique daily author interview programme helped Oneword Radio win two Sony Radio Academy Gold awards in consecutive years. He also has chaired and been a judge on a wide range of national and international literary prizes.
A committed supporter of all things cultural and literary, he has for twenty years advised, consulted, presented and chaired at myriad international literary festivals and major cultural events around the world.
To judge any prize involves a certain degree of subjectivity that can all too easily favour entries that one likes over those that one dislikes but may admire.
In having the honour and responsibility of judging this year’s Yeovil “Fiction” prize I have tried to avoid this conundrum by focussing on the name of the prize and the values it represents. It is a literary prize first and foremost and a fiction category, not a mere story prize.
I have therefore used what I expect from, and admire in, good literary fiction as my yardstick, seeking out not only good narrative and narrative structure but also elegant prose and dialogue, a sense of place, time, locale and environment and of course characters that are fully drawn, who readers will engage with and invest in.
There is a simple test for the relationship of trust between an author and their readers. It is for the reader the answer to the question, “Do I trust this author not to waste my time?” It is a test simply applied by answering the question, “Do I want to read more?”
For all twelve shortlisted entries, this was a test passed with flying colours. Each entrant had a story to tell, characters with promise and the gumption to have spent their time, energy and thought in committing them to paper and submitting them for scrutiny.
I admire all 12 authors for having done so. I have greatly enjoyed reading the synopses and 15000-word entries and I wish them all good fortune. I would advise them ¬all to keep writing, they all show great promise.
But there has to be grading, a reckoning that sifts those with promise from those which deliver. What follows are my decisions based on the above.
Sophie is a part time solicitor in London where she lives with her husband and three teenage daughters. She completed a Faber Academy creative writing course in 2019 and currently takes part in the Gold Dust writer mentoring scheme. Her fascination with the past and for historical fiction stems from her time studying history at Oxford University. The Collector of Curiosities, inspired by a visit to the Chelsea Physick Garden, is her first novel.
Our judge, Paul, commented: - “The Collector of Curiosities”
I am generally not naturally drawn to historical fiction. This has changed my mind and my world. It is beautifully crafted, elegantly written and with a nuanced balance between history and fiction. The history is trustworthy and the fiction so compelling that the two are seamless and make this work a stand out winner.
This is confident, highly accomplished writing by an author who understand the requirements of their story, is true to their characters and who demonstrates a flair for weaving fact and fiction that put me in mind of Hilary Mantel.
That the subject, Hans Sloane, has such a compelling story is by the by. In less accomplished hands this work could have been stilted and dull, but this author shows an evolved, deft touch in balancing light and shade, in the counterpoint between the political and the personal and consistently draws the underlying motivations of ambition, greed, fear and morality with such fine, subtle strokes.
This is a truly stunning piece of writing that delivers all a reader can ask for; great characters - from main protagonists to “walk on” urchins - a storyline that drives the reader from page to page with pace and depth and with such subtle, nuanced touches that it made this an utter joy and privilege to read. I wanted to read more of this, much more.
I congratulate the author on being a very worthy winner and hope that, in the lottery that is publishing, this work finds its place in bookshops here in the UK and further afield. It deserves to.
Luke Clifford Richardson
Born in Gloucester in 1985, Luke grew up in a number of places in South Wales and the South West of England before moving to London in 2009. He completed a doctorate on the literature of Albert Camus at University College London in 2014, where he was also a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant in the Humanities Faculty for five years. He has published on Camus in peer-reviewed journals and Brill’s Companion to Camus (2020). He completed the Novel Studio programme at City University in 2017 and has since been a full-time parent to his two-year-old daughter while pursuing his writing ambitions. Kaleidoscope is his first novel.
Our judge, Paul, commented: - “Kaleidoscope”
Billed in the synopsis as a “contemporary literary fiction,” this work does exactly what it says on the tin and delivers in spades. A gripping depiction of a pretty, fictional seaside resort beset by county lines drug dealing, Kaleidoscope is a compelling depiction of communal fear, societal decline and the eviscerating effect of the threat and delivery of violence on a once supposed tight-knit community.
That it is told in multiple voices, each clearly defined and beautifully drawn, gives a wonderful narrative structure and is deftly and confidently handled by the author. This work is highly convincing, utterly gripping and carries a message that has enormous contemporary relevance. It was a real treat, one that I enjoyed enormously and admire greatly. My sincere congratulations to the author.
Robert Cranbrook was born in Kettering in 1945. He is married with two sons and has lived for the last 35 years in Dorset.
After graduating from Aberdeen University, he spent 26 years as a teacher of modern languages, before joining Citizens’ Advice. He only took up writing seriously later in life. He has a continuing interest in European history and culture and when not reading or at his keyboard, he enjoys birdwatching, photography and good food.
Our judge, Paul, commented: - “Best Served Cold”
If ever a book deserved the strapline “Miss Marple meets George Smiley” this is it. A well conceived and beautifully written thriller, this author has a total control over their story and their characters and is as gifted at expressing both the tension and drama of the action sequences as they are at creating and managing the contrast with the quotidian and even mundane.
Tea and execution, the curiosity of youth and the wisdom of age, there are levels in this which I greatly admired, as I did the attention to detail in the historical descriptions and the knowledge and details of the tradecraft of 20th century espionage.
This writer should be very proud of their work, of the creation of the wonderful Katherine and of a fine piece of writing, which I would like, and feel deserves, to be published as a welcome new addition to a very competitive genre.
These three works are testament to the high quality of the Yeovil Literary Prize and each in their own ways show the authors to be writers with advanced skills and fine storytellers.
Two deal head on with very contemporary political and social issues and for addressing these so honestly and with such passion, the authors should be much admired. Some work is still required in all their cases to make these fully-fledged novels and I would counsel the authors to do what all good (and - coincidentally - successful) authors do, which is to keep re-writing until their stories have no slack in them.
I would particularly like to commend the author of “Sins of the Father” for what is perhaps the best retribution story I’ve read in years with beautifully handled tension and threat and for crafting three memorable characters who will stay with me for years to come.
|Sins of the Fathers||Gordon Scott|
|The Lives we Dream of||Linda O’Sullivan|
|Five Times Twelve||Ian Hamilton|
All had the making of good books but require work, either in terms of the telling, too often the choice of first person narrative created difficulties, but also less than fully fleshed out characters, a sense of place and time that needed more work and so on. Some might benefit and hold greater interest by addressing gender and perhaps considering changing lead male to lead female. Some require work on the use of language.
However, all these works are worthy of having been shortlisted and their authors should be proud of their achievement.
|Saving Marjorie||Celia Jenkins|
|Crazy About Cakes||Alison Quigley|
|Two Boys and a Beach Hut||Romi Jones|
|Back to One||Stephen Mann|
|I, Jack Parker||Martin Milton|
|Middle Cut||David Gibson|
|Rodin’s Mistress||Maggie Humm|
|An Infamous Seduction||Glenda Cooper|
|King of the Zulus||Peter Jones|
|Webmaster in Training||Steph French|
|The Homecoming||Anna Korving|
|Chasing Elena||Anne Hamilton|
|The Prophet of Fire||Paul Cuff|
|Where we Kept the Light||Anil Classen|
This year we had 392 short stories entered. Susan said “What a really great set of stories: immensely strong. I know everyone says this, but I honestly had trouble making my selection (and changed my mind a couple of times which is always indicative of how close run one’s choice is). But here goes.” Thank you, Susan.
Our Short Story Judge, Susan Sandon is a valued and influential connection within the publishing world, and, like us, she champions literary festivals. A chance conversation at the Appledore Book Festival lead to Susan joining our judges for 2020. We are delighted to welcome her.
Susan Sandon started her publishing career at Headline Books and worked at both Virago Press and Penguin before joining Random House. Working in roles across both marketing, publicity and editorial during this period, she was also a founder of the Women’s Prize for fiction and initiated contact with Orange, the prize’s first sponsors. Susan is currently Managing Director of Cornerstone, a division of Penguin Random House, and a Trustee of the Appledore Book Festival.
Born and brought up in Bromley, Martin Phillips taught English in secondary schools in London and the west country before becoming the Local Authority English Adviser for Devon. More recently he has run his own consultancy with a focus on helping schools to teach the writing process more effectively and – crucially – creatively. He has written a variety of educational books and is the author of a collection of short stories - Listening To Coloured Dreams.
Our judge, Susan, commented: - “A Nice bunch of Guys”
The outright winner for me was A Nice Bunch of Guys. What an excellent and immensely enjoyable story. Such assured writing and a well-rounded tale, succinctly told, that manages that difficult feat of being both entertaining, but also warm with richly drawn characters. Phil’s hopes and anxieties in particular were expertly, but also lovingly conveyed.
Tony is a graphic designer who lives and works in Dalkey, Co. Dublin. He was shortlisted for the William Trevor Short Story Competition, The Sunday Tribune Hennessy’s New Writers competition and the George Bermingham short story competition. He won the Discovered Authors competition for the Republic of Ireland with his book, Sentinel, which won overall 2nd place in the UK and Ireland. Nowadays he is easing up on his business commitments and concentrating more on his first love: writing. At the moment he is working on his latest novel, a mystery/thriller, set in the immediate days following the 1916 Easter Rebellion in Dublin.
Our judge, Susan, commented: - “A Living Think”
In second place I have A Living Think. This story has such a quiet force - its resonance stays with you. I thought the boy’s pride in his father and in being with his father set against the actual experience of landing a fish was so well drawn. And I particularly liked the sparing way through which the father’s relationship with the boy’s mother was conjured. Skilful writing.
Terri grew up in rural Western Australia and moved to the UK about thirty years ago, in her twenties. While doing factory and office work, she went to evening classes in Women’s Studies at North London Poly, then studied Politics and Sociology, and later Creative Writing, at UEA in Norwich. Her first novel, Standing Water, won the 2010 Yeovil Literary Prize and was published in 2012 by Pewter Rose Press. She has written drafts of three novels which all need attention. Instead, she’s been trying short stories. As much as she loves the depth that writing a novel offers, she finds it satisfying to have something complete in a shorter time. Terri has worked in homelessness and housing for many years. Writing helps keep her sane. She has recently trained and worked as a facilitator in Creative Writing for Wellbeing and hopes to continue this.
Our judge, Susan, commented: - “The Cubby House”
To be honest I was very close to awarding a joint third here and possibly still would if that is allowed. Writing from the first-person point of view of a young child is a hard feat to pull off successfully and this author has done so beautifully and authentically. An evocative and moving story which manages not to be saccharine.
The judging team agreed as our two entries were very worthy joint-third places.
Dianne Bown-Wilson was born in England, grew up in New Zealand and has now retired to an inspirational property within Dartmoor National Park which she shares with her husband, two cats and a rich assortment of wildlife.
She has always written short stories and loves exploring depth of character and the extraordinary diversity of human relationships. In recent years her stories have either won prizes or been listed in competitions including the Fish Prize, Leicester Writes, Henshaw Prize, Writing Magazine, Writers Forum, Bedford Writing Competition, Flash 500, and numerous others. She had a story longlisted in the 2017 Yeovil Prize competition.
Thirty-two of her successful stories were published as Instructions for Living and Other Stories in 2016 and she is now compiling a second collection. She is currently working on her first novel.
Dianne’s previous career was in management and she has a PhD in Organizational Behaviour.
|First of Her Kind - by Emma Hollands. Such an interesting and unusual subject matter – an imaginative recreation of a historical moment.|
|Uncle Freddy and the Gnomes - by Jenny Giel. A very arresting and unusual story. I think the author has been hugely successful in creating a slight disturbance for the reader without overplaying their hand.|
|The Killing Sky||Callie Cooper|
|Not Alone||Ria Raut|
|The Owl||Julia Spargo|
|An Absolution||Andrew Vickers|
|Mock Cream||Beryl Brown|
|Mother Love||M. L. Green|
|Captain Coltrane at Seaview||Fred Canavan|
|Learning the language||Peter Bray|
|The Lockdown Chronicles||Peter Jones|
|One Last Kiss||Cate Sweeney|
|She's Leaving Home||Hazel Whitehead|
|My Story||Rebecca Hyde|
|Smart Toilet||Nick Hanna|
2020 competition saw 388 poetry entries. Our judge for this category was: -
Caroline has written poetry all her life, and her early work was published in ‘Seven Women’ and ‘One Foot on the Mountain’. Her poem ‘The Painter’ was nominated for the Forward Prize for the best individual poem in 2007 and her work appeared in the ‘Forward Collection of Poetry’ in the same year. She was a winner of the North West Poetry competition in 2000, and ‘Drowned in Overspill’, a collection of her poetry, was published by Crocus Books in the same year.
Caroline 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. www.carolinegilfillan.co.uk
On judging the 2020 competition Caroline said “Thank you for giving me the chance to read this lively and rich group of entries. Congratulations to all who have won prizes, been Highly Commended or Commended.”
Aged about ten years old I remember asking my mum this question. "How old do you have to be to be a writer?" Smiling, she replied. "No particular age." I took this gently offered wisdom to heart and started bashing away on her old Bluebird typewriter, churning out clumsy laments about cowboys dying tragically after some shootout or other. In the intervening fifty-two years my style and subject matter has altered a little, but I still continue to write, mainly for the sheer pleasure and challenge of trying to make simple words work well.
I am quietly delighted that Caroline Gilfillan has chosen my poem and appreciate her kind comments immensely. I endeavour to write about the commonplace with both tenderness and truth and always feel blessed when someone else is touched by my efforts to achieve this.
Our judge, Caroline, commented: - “Death of a Decorator”
This tender, observant poem beautifully conjures the decorator who was ‘Almost ghostly’ even when alive. In deft, economical vignettes, the narrator explores a relationship with a man who was ‘a brooding presence, slowly sloughing off his overalls/Sullenly shedding the man he’d never planned to be.’ It is full of striking images, such as the overalls which become ‘this other self ... a suicide of sorts.’ The poignancy in the relationship is exemplified in the beautiful image of the child narrator who pulls the empty arms of the ‘worn unwanted skin’ of the overalls into ‘a limp hollow hug’ while the decorator dozes. The second half of the poem recounts the only time the decorator took the narrator with him to a house in which he was working – a house full of ‘white sheeted shapes ... spectral, silent; unknowable.’ Here, the child is allowed to help with the undercoating, and is rewarded by closeness: the ‘cigarette scent’ and a moment when ‘his old whiskered cheek scraped mine.’ But this is a poem that doesn’t sentimentalise this connection, for the older man soon becomes impatient, banishing the child to ‘an endless afternoon alone/ Picking at the peeling paper, wondering what was wrong.’ The structure and rhythm are poised, making this a memorable elegy for a man never fully known.
Janet Dean is a writer from York. Her poetry has been shortlisted in the Bridport Prize, commended in the Stanza Poetry Competition and is included in the Northern Poetry Library’s 50th anniversary digital Poem of the North. Her work appears in anthologies and magazines published by Valley Press, Paper Swans, Templar and Strix and in 2020 she was placed third in the Brian Dempsey Memorial Poetry Competition. As Janet Dean Knight she writes fiction and her first novel The Peacemaker was published in 2019.
Our judge, Caroline, commented: - “On Sunday it Might Rain”
This subtle poem explores the process of knowing and ‘not really knowing’ the small things that surround us. Starting with an unhurried exploration of the grass, this whole poem is set in the narrator’s garden. Surely, it speaks to us of the recent lockdown required by the Covid-19 pandemic: the need to stay within a small space, and the opportunities that come when ‘there’s more to know/with less about’. The poem is full of fresh detail such as the ‘little ferns spread/ like fresh green doilies’ under the narrator’s feet, and the ‘overrun of spurge’. The poem gains energy from the actions that the narrator is taking, and the mix of new and recycled objects used. The last two stanzas anticipate a fresh flowering – a vision of what’s to come: the ‘luscious heads of peony’ that will ‘overflow/bleed on the lawn/like spilt wine’, the images conjuring both pain and copious celebration. The final verse declines to tie the poem up neatly, but instead refers back to the title, which anticipates rain after a dry spell. I loved the image of the narrator waiting for the lady’s mantle to ‘hold the raindrops’ in her capes, because it ends the poem with an appreciation of a common plant, depicted through fresh eyes.
Marjory Woodfield is a New Zealand writer and teacher, who until recently lived in Saudi Arabia. She’s been published by the BBC, Raven Chronicles, The High Window, Flash Frontier, and others. In 2019 she won the Dunedin Robert Burns Poetry Competition and was commended in both the Hippocrates Poetry Award and Proverse Poetry Prize. She’s been anthologised in Pale Fire (Frogmore Press), Best Small Fictions 2019, (Sonder Press) and with one eye on the cows (Bath Flash Fiction Volume Four). Most recently she was long-listed for 2020 Bath Novella-in-Flash competition and the Cinnamon Literature Award. Much of her writing inspiration comes from her life and travel in the Middle East.
Our judge, Caroline, commented: - “Stillness of Pomegranates”
This allusive poem caught my attention for all that it didn’t say. It’s a poem that allows readers to enter the places and incidents described and draw their own conclusions. Its form is interesting, too: 15 lines that make it a sort-of sonnet, with a turn after the first eight lines, beyond which the hints of sorrow and reversals increase. The theme of pomegranates runs throughout, with their delicate sweetness, and their symbolism of both fruition and death. Verse 3 introduces us to a list of the riches picked in the Banias nature reserve, with the sense of taste evoked through references to ‘Wild raspberries, sumac/ and capers. Ancient almond and pomegranate.’ Verse 4 introduces more sombre themes: the narrator’s companion’s ‘Syrian homeland. Sadness in every/falling phrase,’ and a camera angled ‘in front of Demeter and Persephone’, reminding us of the underworld Persephone must enter each winter. The closing couplet continues the theme of reversal – of things being out of kilter – when we read that ‘She has hung new curtains in my sun porch. The pomegranates are upside down.’ All in all, an elegant and restrained poem.
Highly Commended: Shortcut – Gordon Aindow
This touching poem uses flexible form to explore a meander through the cemetery, and the poignant ‘markers’ litany of loss and love/of ordinary things’ recorded there. The narrator comes across one stone ‘cast aside in a careless corner’ broken apart below the phrase, ‘Pray for the soul of ...’ – the identity and humanity stripped away from whomever the stone commemorated. In the penultimate stanza, the poet imagines the everyday things this person might be remembered and praised for: ‘They did some good./ they were ordinary./ They tried./ Had a life.’ The short lines work well here. Once again I felt this was a poem that spoke to things we’re experiencing at the hands of the pandemic as well as mulling over universal truths about remembrance.
Highly Commended: Things of Desire – Jill Flanders
This evocative poem takes us back to the narrator’s childhood – to a time when the child gathered the flowers of the rampant convolvulus, thinking of them as lilies. Rhyme is used with great skill, knitting the poem together without being obtrusive. The transition from the present day, when ‘the metal links are rusty’ to the time when the child ‘would twist and pull/ til bruised and bloodied arms were full.’ Excellent use of verbs and descriptive details give the poem a lively energy. The final couplet introduces a more sober, adult thought – that these ‘things of desire/would hardly last for half an hour.’
Highly Commended: Saturday Night – Michael Hall
This was a rhyming poem full of vigour and humour. It conjures the people who gather in the pub on a Saturday night, naming them and providing brief vignettes. It creates a strong sense of community, and if it’s about a specific pub, I suggest the poet gives a copy of this as a gift to the establishment. I much enjoyed the lively details of people – ‘a weasel called Willie ... rat-faced Ron’ – and their activities: shove halfpenny, cards, darts. There’s direct speech, too, and appeals to the senses, including ‘Arrowroot dust clouds’ and ‘the great smell of Brut’. A joyous romp of a poem.
Highly Commended: Salt and vinegar – Shirley Anne Cook
I loved the tenderness of the poem and its simplicity. In bright, sensual detail it evokes the experiences of eating chips on Brighton beach. The pleasure of eating is expressed in the way the wooden forks are ignored and replaced by hands ‘hungry/for wet hot greasiness.’ As the poem progresses, we’re shown an intimacy between the two characters. Sensual details such as the ‘saline tang’ licked from fingertips, and the way the ‘Shingle clinked as the incoming/ tide foamed at our feet’ lead us to a satisfying conclusion.
Commended: The Dance – Jack Howard
The fluidity of this poem, with its choice of lower-case letters and repetition of the word ‘and’ at the start of each verse gives it a flow I much enjoyed. Its rhythm evokes the movements of the person weaving a tapestry with actions that are like that of a dance. Or perhaps she dances too? I’m not sure, and it doesn’t matter. The ending shows us that the essence of that weaving dance survives in the tapestry hanging on the poet’s wall. Delicate and sensual.
Commended: My Mother – Margaret Whellams
This witty and observant poem made me smile. I enjoyed the freshness of the language and the specific references to people who are deftly drawn in a few words. Wouldn’t most of us fancy ‘the bloke on the dodgems at the fair/ dangerous in a leather jacket’? The final couplet is telling and conveys a truth many will relate to: ‘my mother wanted me to be/ someone else I think.’
|On the theme of Nature||Sarah-Jane Huelin|
|Counting Chickens||Hazel Prior|
|Love Poem||Mary Barnes|
|Mr Cahill & Mr Jones||John Lancaster|
|Once they Fluttered and Dances||Jocelyn Simms|
|The Devil is coming to Tea||Barry Childs|
|The Matchgirls 1988||Mary Aherne|
|The Tooth||Geoff Aird|
This year we saw an amazing bounty of writing with 231 entries, all different, all exciting.
Our Judge for the Writing Without Restriction category has to be someone really special, someone who appreciates wide-ranging styles of writing as well as the wit that life delivers every day. She was born in Yeovil so has a link to our town and this prestigious literary prize. We really enjoyed Jessica back home as our judge.
Jessica Axe is a Publisher at White Lion Publishing, part of The Quarto Group. Born in Yeovil, Jessica grew up in the area and attended Preston Schools before moving to London for University and commencing her career in publishing. She has previously worked at Fourth Estate, HarperCollins and Random House Publishers before moving to The Quarto Group as Director. She now specialises in publishing illustrated non-fiction, predominantly books on food & drink, gardening, London, travel and the outdoors.
Jessica commented: It has been a very enjoyable process. And the winner is truly excellent...do hope they get picked up by a fiction publisher at some point...
Dalvinder Ghaly lives and works in London. She completed her MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck University in 2019. She writes fiction short stories, creative non-fiction and is currently working to complete her first novel. As a member of a writing group made up of Birkbeck alumni, she continues to develop new work. She has enjoyed the success of her first publication, a short story inspired by caring for her elderly mother, which won third prize in a creative writing competition run by Carers UK. This led to her exploring the genre of creative non-fiction further and has resulted in the story that won this prize. She is absolutely thrilled at its success as the piece is extremely close to her heart.
Our judge, Jessica, commented: - “Two Rivers”
Moving, evocative and beautiful. Extremely adept use of language conjures up such a strong sense of place and I was completely immersed in the narration. An excellent piece of writing.
Lesley grew up in the North East and now lives in Hampshire with her husband. She works part-time as an advisory teacher for children with special needs. Lesley has dabbled with creative writing since completing a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature with the Open University. In 2019 she started to take her writing seriously and had short stories published in competition anthologies with Audio Arcadia (An Eclectic Mix Vol.9) and the H.G. Wells Short Story Competition. She was shortlisted with Writing Magazine and longlisted in the Writing Without Restriction category of the Yeovil Literary Prize. She is delighted to improve this year with Second Place and wonders if unconventional writing really is her thing. Now her son and daughter have flown the nest, she has no excuse not to finish that debut novel.
Our judge, Jessica, commented: - “Train Spotting”
Really compelling. The use of emojis at the start was very clever and certainly made me intrigued as to how the story would progress, completely believable dialogue and a well-crafted build-up of anticipation through to a very satisfying conclusion.
Born in Cape Town, educated in Dublin and London, and living for a while in America, I am now settled in Somerset. I like it here.
From my earliest memories, I have delighted in stories of all sorts, from legends through to the classics. I read them, and from the moment it was possible, I have written them. Some I have illustrated and am currently working on what, I hope, will be a picture book.
I love cats and working on my allotment.
Our judge, Jessica, commented: - “Summer”
Lovely imagery and very moving. Skilfully conveyed a lot of emotion in a very concise piece of writing.
|Sleeping Dogs||Mary Fox|
|Seaside Rock||Barbara Featherstone|
|Lions and Roses||Marnie Devereux|
|A Letter to Lauren||Barbara Featherstone|
|Diary of a week in Lockdown||Wendy Breckon|
|Night Children||Edward Sergeant|
|Worlds Apart||Edwina Burridge|
|ABBS & ACRONYMS||Eve Bonham|
|Mountain Fudge||Elizabeth Rowe|
|Snow Child||Caron Clifford|
|The Ant Farmer||Marnie Devereux|
|The Disappeared||Francis Thompson|
|Salix Fragilis||Lorna Mann|
|Whispering to our Sons||Porter Huddleston|
|Writers’ Group||Fay Dickinson|
|Roget’s Meaning of Life||Sherri Turner|
|Stepping up to the Plate||Jane Ryan|