The Yeovil Literary Prize

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Recent Successes

Read about our most recent successes.

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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2022 Results

For full details of the results, choose a category:

Results Table Report Novel Short Story Poetry Children’s and Young Adult Novel Writing Without Restrictions

Novel Category

FIRST PRIZE - Sian Meades-WilliamsBelville
SECOND PRIZE - Estelle PhillipsHard Wet Sand
THIRD PRIZE - Brid CummingsThe Girl Who Blinked

Short Story Category

FIRST PRIZE - Arleen McCrombieNorth Ridge
SECOND PRIZE - Janet JonesStorm-Tossed Dreams
THIRD PRIZE - Jon RobinsThe Sky’s the Limit

Poetry Category

FIRST PRIZE - Holly PetersPhobia Collector
SECOND PRIZE - Carole GreenfieldHushed
THIRD PRIZE - Jennifer HuntTreading Water

Children’s and Young Adult Novel

FIRST PRIZE - Laura HaywardThe Dead Man
SECOND PRIZE - Amy FeestMaisie and the Space Catapult
THIRD PRIZE - Karl O’NeillThe Adventures of Percy Bloo

Writing Without Restrictions

FIRST PRIZE - Ann MiltonBecoming Transparent
SECOND PRIZE - Jennifer HuntGranite is the Hardest Word
THIRD PRIZE - Daphne MilneDocumentation relating to Mrs Claus and the Alien

Western Gazette Best Local Writer Award

WINNER - Jenny Hunt

Report for 2022 Yeovil Literary Prize

The numbers of authors who have a story within themselves is increasing year by year. We are proud to offer a world-class writing competition that challenges those authors to enthuse the readers and judges. This event gives writers the opportunity to share their diverse range of work across many genres.

For every moment the entrants have struggled to find the most appropriate word and phrase, every judge in every creative category also labours hard to decide upon a winner.

The readers and the judges are always delighted to learn of past winners who have now progressed into the field of publishing with their debut novels, short stories and poems. See the SUCCESSES tab above for their news.

Novels – Developing an idea for a story through a satisfying plot with an attention-grabbing opening, plausible characters and mind-twisting conclusions is no easy task. Creating a novel is the ultimate challenge for an aspiring writer and we have enjoyed reading so many exciting ideas, plots, themes and, above all, settings that take the reader away from the strains of life.

Our winning novel, Belville, related the true story of the struggle of a young woman, Maria Belville, who lived in Greenwich, and sold time all over London (her route each week was some 28 miles!). She was a widow, and was blind when she was retired, but it was her daughter Ruth who continued on selling time until 1940. The novel focuses on both of them, and their relationship. We can envisage this novel sitting on the shelves of our local bookshops.

Short Story – A short story needs to capture the readers imagination so well that they have no choice but to read on. All our winning stories had great descriptions guiding the reader into a unique setting. Riveting dialogue moved the stories along. Believable characters created atmosphere, even a dead body or two peppered the pages, until reaching a satisfying ending. Not all endings are happy, but they must seal the plot, hone the time and place, refine the theme with various strong characters dealing with unusual situations.

If all those elements are there, then we will have a very satisfactory conclusion. This year the standard shone, and we loved so many of the entries.

Children’s and Young Adult Novel – This was the first year that we presented this category and it created much interest. We received a wide selection of themes. Our winning entry was written full of humour but had a serous theme underlining it.

Poetry – The winning poems explored the much-debated themes of mental health. Her expressive language excited our judge who thought the poem so outstanding. The vivid descriptions triggered feelings that only poetry can convey, and, in the present world dilemma, those words are important to everyone.

Writing Without Restrictions – This category always delivers exquisite, and often quirky writing. This year the winner gave us a very different perspective on a much-written topic. There is always something for everyone in this wide-open category. Finding the niche for your writing is the key. Having the freedom to enter writing you are proud of is rewarding for any writer. This category allows for that freedom.

Our competition opens on 1st January so spread the word; stimulate your creative imaginings and sharpen the ideas in your mind. We are looking forward to reading your work.

We always emphasise it is important to adhere to the word count in all our categories, especially in the Novel, where you may even have to finish mid-sentence. After all your effort it is disheartening to have your work discounted due to not reading the Rules.

Each year we award £100 to the Western Gazette Best Local Writer. It means the highest placed entry where the writer lives within the distribution area of the Western Gazette and who lived closest to the centre of Yeovil. This year we are delighted to give this award to a winner who featured in two winning lists, Jenny Hunt. Congratulations!

We encourage all writers to join and be active participants in Writers’ Circles or writing groups as the sharing of praise and critiques is so important to the progress of a new writer. Above all else, we must enjoy our writing.

We add 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 2023 competition opens on 1st January with five categories with a closing date of 31st May.

We are excited about reading your new work, so Happy writing!

the Judging Team

Novel Results

The Novel judge was Barney Norris

Barney Norris

Barney Norris's plays include Nightfall (The Bridge Theatre); While We’re Here (Up in Arms at the Bush and on tour); Echo’s End (Salisbury Playhouse); Eventide (Arcola and on tour) and the acclaimed Visitors (Up in Arms, Arcola and on tour – Winner of the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright and nominated for an Evening Standard Award). He has also adapted work by Ishiguro and Lorca for the stage. His novels The Vanishing Hours, Turning For Home and the bestselling Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain are published by Transworld. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and the Martin Esslin playwright in residence at Keble College, Oxford.


Winner: Belville by Sian Meades-Williams

Sian Meades-Williams

Sian Meades-Williams

Sian Meades-Williams is a freelance writer by day. She's the creator of the media industry newsletter Freelance Writing Jobs, and co-editor of lifestyle and culture newsletter Tigers Are Better Looking. Her non-fiction book, The Pyjama Myth: the Freelance Writer's Survival Guide was crowdfunded with Unbound and published in March 2022. After completing an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Westminster University in 2019, Sian turned her attention and research fully towards Belville. It is her first novel.

Our judge, Barney Norris, commented: - “Belville”

I thought this was an excellent story about a woman who has to take on sudden responsibility in a moment of grief, and who takes on London and the attitudes of her time alone. Some of the sexism Maria faces skirts predictability, but it is all well executed - the extract is written with feeling, clarity and intelligence. And how could anyone not fall in love with the idea of a woman who sells time?! It’s a great place to situate a story, warm and entertaining.

Second: Hard Wet Sand by Estelle Phillips

Estelle Phillips

Estelle Phillips

Estelle Phillips is a writer and performance poet. Her 2022 competition results include runner up in the Yeovil Fiction Prize (novel), and shortlisted for the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Story Prize and the Ukraine Institute’s ‘Writers Lab’. Recent publications include “Motherhoodlum” (Jawbone Collective, poetry chapbook, “beautifully brutal”*), the BBC (“Walking Home”, “Reaper”, “The Trapped Doe”, “Dragon Child” and “The Hand of Hazard”), Mslexia, A Rock And A Hard Place, Anti-Heroin Chic, The International Times, and Cult of Clio. Estelle is a slam winner and her performances include the Royal Albert Hall (Hammer & Tongue national finalist ’21), the Nuffield Theatre where her autobiographical poem and multi media work, “110 m.p.h.” won competitive selection and ran in February 2020, the John Hansard Gallery, Russell Cotes Museum, Anthroplay Theatre, Bardfest (’22 opener), Salisbury Fringe, A Word In Your Ear, and Novel Nights (forthcoming). Her journalism includes The Financial Times, TLS, The Independent, 7 Days, and Verge.

*The Hansard Gallery

Our judge, Barney Norris, commented: - “Hard Wet Sand”

This story has a really satisfying architectural symmetry - a relationship fractured by an accident, the reader following the two unravelled threads as their stories develop. The elements play a beautiful role, and the atmosphere of the hospital is effective. I feel that the chapters begin to become slightly repetitious in the extract I’ve read, which I think may be because the scenes are slightly lightly sketched and succeed each other too quickly. It’s really good story though, and has the potential to be very moving.

Third: The Girl Who Blinked by Brid Cummings

Brid Cummings

Brid Cummings

Brid Cummings is an Occupational Therapist and fiction writer living in South Australia. She was the winner of the Glencairn Glass inaugural crime short story award (2021) and a runner-up in the Mslexia short story competition (2021). She has had stories published in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, including the Big Issue Fiction Edition, The Moth Magazine, and Bath Short Story Anthology. When not working or writing, she can be found hiking or kayaking in the beautiful SA countryside.

Our judge, Barney Norris, commented: - “The Girl Who Blinked”

This is an excellently structured story which starts in exactly the right place and gathers characters together in a way that is immediately compelling. I got a strong sense of place, and I thought the emphasis on dialogue was very effective. If I had a criticism, it was that the story, as described in the synopsis, may overdevelop slightly - it begins to sound difficult to believe, and the line writing is very good, it might be as good to sit in the scenario as to find new narrative events.

The Lifeboat Men Claire Thorpe
Being Wil Van Gogh Allie van den Hoek
Kept Yvonne Lyon
Brothers of the Sword Jon Byrne
Record of an Interrogation Campaspe Lloyd-Jacob
Mascara Nights Cate Sweeney
The Tattooist's Apprentice Claire Chamberlain
Sideslip Diane Bown-Wilson
As the tree falls Annemielke Waite
At Utopia’s Core Chris Harman
Behind the Black Gate Mark Hudson
Blackheart Sarah Lilley
Charlie’s Little Secret Gerard Duffy
Cooling Like Tea Ana Salote
End of the Line Nick Thripp
From Sleep Io Carter
Into the Blind Jenn Murg
Lethal Justice Jay Jones
Not my mother's daughter Kasia Sedgwick
On my Mind Jessica Douglas
Something old Something new Adele Ward
The Beatrice Legacy Hana Cole
The Blue Door Andrew Bynom
The Girl Who Multiplied KB Holm
The Job Seekers Vanessa Thompson
The Pied Piper of Aberfan Jeffery Adams
The Rhythm of Time Richard Attree
Unfixed Michael Fleming

Short Story Results

The Short Story judge was Nicholas Royle

Nicholas Royle

Nicholas Royle is the author of four short story collections – Mortality, Ornithology, The Dummy and Other Uncanny Stories and London Gothic – and seven novels, including Counterparts, Antwerp and First Novel. He has edited more than twenty anthologies and is series editor of Best British Short Stories. Reader in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, he also runs Nightjar Press, which publishes original short stories as signed, numbered chapbooks, and is head judge of the Manchester Fiction Prize. His English translation of Vincent de Swarte’s 1998 novel Pharricide is published by Confingo Publishing and his most recent book is his first non-fiction work, White Spines: Confessions of a Book Collector (Salt). Forthcoming is his next short story collection, Manchester Nocturnes (Confingo Publishing).


Winner: North Ridge by Arleen McCrombie

Arleen McCrombie

Arleen McCrombie

I live in the north-east of Scotland, about 6 miles as the crow flies from the gothic ruins of Slains Castle, which Bram Stoker often visited and which many credit for having inspired his novel ‘Dracula’. I have a PhD in 19th century English literature and love reading historical fiction by the likes of Hilary Mantel, Cormac McCarthy, Emma Donoghue, and Joseph O’Connor.

Working in a public library, I also try to encourage customers to discover short story collections by writers like Flannery O’Conner and Muriel Spark. Currently I am in the process of setting up a creative writing group because there is a dearth of them in this corner of Scotland. In 2016 I was accepted onto the Curtis Brown Creative Novel writing course, and next month I embark on a new writing course led by the author Tess Hadley, which I am very much looking forward to.

Our judge, Nicholas Royle, commented: - “North Ridge”

Even though the story is being told mostly at one remove, it is still remarkably vivid and feels real and believable. I love the way the clouds full of dreamed-of and much needed rain feel like a metaphor for the story itself, in which latent precipitation might stand for withheld information and meaning. Excellent story, worthy winner.

Second: Storm-Tossed Dreams by Janet Jones

Janet Jones

Janet Jones

Janet Jones grew up Hertfordshire and lived and worked in various areas of the southeast until she moved to Somerset with her husband eight years ago, having decided to take early retirement from her job with a housing association.

When she’s not writing, Janet is a novice beekeeper, volunteers for the National Trust, and enjoys baking and walking on Exmoor.

The majority of her writing has been in the field of short stories, and, amongst others, she has won awards from the Sunday Times and the Wells Literary Festival. In recent years she decided to try writing a novel. Lockdown gave the impetus to get it finished and “We Are Unknown” was published on Amazon in 2020.

Receiving a prize in the Yeovil Literary competition is wonderful encouragement to continue writing short stories, and to try to finish her second novel.

Our judge, Nicholas Royle, commented: - “Storm-Tossed Dreams”

Very clever double-edged use of the Shipping Forecast, mining all of its indescribable, hinted-at wonder and at the same time exploiting the complicated nostalgia of our profound affection for its late-night incantatory rhythms, and then having the balls slyly to undermine all of the above. A strong second-placed story that made it hard to pick a winner.

Third: The Sky’s the Limit by Jon Robins

Jon Robins

Jon Robins

Jon is based in the West Midlands and earns a living in the world of consumerism. He is an avid reader, with his favourite authors being Kazuo Ishiguro, Thomas Hardy and Stephen King. During lockdown he finally had time to try his hand at writing – something he'd been meaning to do for years. He then went on to study an online Creative Writing course with Strathclyde University and ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ short story is based on an assignment he submitted during that course. So far, he's enjoying the creative journey and is surprised and thrilled to have won third prize in this.

Our judge, Nicholas Royle, commented: - “The Sky’s the Limit”

Clever, funny, sharp satirical fable of human ambition and greed. At first, we wonder how on earth these guys are going to keep their bookshop business going and then we are reminded of a certain bookseller turned aspiring astral traveller. Maybe this deserving third-placed story will be the one that comes true?

Overheard Conversations Jan Gray
Pain has Holy Beauty Judith Wilson
Last Week Mark Demeza
Strangers on a Train Sam Pratt
Hidden David Butler
Climbing Weeds Joe Murphy
Moulded Souls Brian Kelly
Be Seeing You Dermot Budd
Chess With Eggs Laura Hayward
Fading Stars & Black Holes Stephanie Percival
How Asifah Took Her Revenge Jane Andrews
Not my Mother’s Daughter Kazia Sedgwick
Perchance to dream Toonie Cox
Shall We Dance Elizabeth Meyer
Tapasya Aneeta Sundararaj
The First Temptation of Shekhinah Richard Hooton
The Island Pádraig Ua Briain
Unraveling Colin Brezicki

Poetry Results

The Poetry judge was Louisa Adjoa Parker

Louisa Adjoa Parker

Louisa Adjoa Parker is a writer and poet of English-Ghanaian heritage who lives in south west England. Her first poetry collections were published by Cinnamon Press, and her third, How to wear a skin, was published by Indigo Dreams. Her debut short story collection, Stay with me, was published in 2020 by Colenso Books. Her poetry pamphlet, She Can Still Sing, was published by Flipped Eye in June 2021, and she has a coastal memoir forthcoming with Little Toller Books.

Louisa’s poetry and prose has been widely published. She has been highly commended by the Forward Prize; twice shortlisted by the Bridport Prize; and her grief poem, Kindness, was commended by the National Poetry Competition 2019. She has performed her work in the southwest and beyond and has run many writing workshops.

Louisa has written extensively about ethnically diverse history and rural racism, and as well as writing, works as an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion consultant. She is a sought-after speaker and trainer on rural racism, black history, and mental health.


Winner: Phobia Collector by Holly Peters

Holly Peters

Holly Peters

Holly Peters has studied an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Exeter and a BA in English Literature and Publishing at the University of Plymouth. She currently holds the position of Plymouth’s Young City Laureate for 2019-2022. Her work has been published by Lucent Dreaming, Small Leaf Press and the Art and Energy Collective in their Moths To A Flame anthology that was featured during COP26 in the Glasgow Botanical Gardens. If you need her, you’ll probably find her reading a book, at a music gig or walking her bowtie wearing spaniels: Dotty and Booby.

Our judge, Louisa Adjoa Parker, commented: - “Phobia Collector”

The winning poem stood out amongst the other excellent shortlisted pieces due in part to its unusual subject matter, approach to and exploration of mental health, and its execution. The imagery was beautiful - 'bleached knuckles', 'knotted with the hair...' - as was the way domesticity (and the imaginary worlds we can enter within these spaces) was infused with vivid details. Fear was palpable, brought to life, and every word deserved its place in this brave, interesting and beautiful poem.

Second: Hushed by Carole Greenfield

Carole Greenfield

Carole Greenfield

Carole Greenfield grew up in Colombia and lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English Language Learners at a public elementary school. Her work has appeared in Sparks of Calliope, Dodging the Rain, Glacial Hills Review, Sky Island Journal and Humana Obscura, among others. In March, she appeared on “Poets vs. the Pandemic.” She is currently at work on her first collection of poetry.

Our judge, Louisa Adjoa Parker, commented: - “Hushed”

This winning poem brought to life the nitty gritty of the everyday in simple, accessible, yet powerful and emotive language. It is a poem of two contrasting halves - the first four stanzas depict the repetition of domesticity and responsibility; the other five tell of romance, love, new adventures, of simply stepping out of one life into another. The sparse imagery works well with the simplicity of domestic life and love - everything is pared down, stripped away.

Third: Treading Water by Jennifer Hunt

Jennifer Hunt

Jennifer Hunt

Jennifer Hunt is an artist and writer living in a medieval thatched cottage in Dorset. She has had a lifelong love of the natural world, from a childhood immersed in the green depths of Oxleas Woods and her grandparents’ farm in Devon, to the prehistoric chalk landscape of Dorset. Since graduating with an MA from Bath Spa University in 2001, she has had many poems published in magazines and anthologies, and been successful in poetry and nature-writing competitions. She has taught Creative Writing for 17 years and has published annotated sketchbooks, featuring the landscape and wildlife of the Jurassic Coast. Last year she had a poem selected by Seren Books to be included in their publication, 100 Poems to Save the Earth. She was pleased to win first prize with her poem, Hedgehog, in the Yeovil Literary Festival in 2021.

Our judge, Louisa Adjoa Parker, commented: - “Treading Water”

Although much has been written about the sea and our relationship with it, this poem highlights the meditative, mindful nature of walking in coastal spaces. The imagery is stunning - 'knotted loops of light' - and the reader is there with the poet, walking, noticing each detail of the surroundings as if for the very first time.

Amorous Intentions Daph Larner
Bring me to life Emily Paget
Rainy Day at Bavardez Suzanna Fitzpatrick
Sparrow in the Departure Lounge Suzanna Fitzpatrick
Syrian Love Song Jennifer Eller-Kirkham
Traveling in the Back Seat Fenja Hill
Want Ann Westgarth
Ash Andrea Lucy-HIrst
Ayisha Kate Gold
Droves Elizabeth Underwood
He shines with a truth of blue in his eyes Belinda Rimmer
I Am Me! Amanda John
Land Girls Villanelle Anna Phillips
Last Night Mairi Wilson
Mermaid Tales J.S.Watts
Night Birds Carolyn Peck
Octopus Self Rachel Carney

Children’s and Young Adult Novel Results

The Children’s and Young Adult Novel judge was Sharna Jackson

Sharna Jackson

Sharna Jackson is an author and curator who specialises in developing and delivering socially-engaged initiatives for children and young people across culture, publishing and entertainment.

Her debut novel High-Rise Mystery released in 2019 has won numerous awards and accolades including Best Book for Younger Readers at the 2020 Waterstones Book Prize and Sunday Times Book of the Week. The sequel, Mic Drop, was released in 2020. Sharna also develops books to encourage participation in the arts, with two activity books released with Tate in 2014 and Black Artists Shaping the World in 2021. She was Southbank Centre’s Imagine A Story Author in 2019/20 creating London/Londoff with over 1200 school children in the capital.

Sharna lives on a ship in Rotterdam, Netherlands. She is publishing a number of books between 2021 and 2022, including the much anticipated The Good Turn, coming in May 2022.


Winner: The Dead Man by Laura Hayward

Laura Hayward

Laura Hayward

Laura Hayward has been a social worker for more than thirty years, in London and now in Dorset. She wrote as a child but had the writer crushed out of her by secondary school. She read English at Oxford and child psychotherapy at the Tavistock; the perfect training for a writer. After bringing up four children and reading to them every day for her own enjoyment as much as theirs, she writes again. She has been both long and short listed by Mslexia, Yeovil and Bridport for short stories and YA novels – but has never WON anything before!

Our judge, Sharna Jackson, commented: - “The Dead Man”

Such a fantastic, compelling opening for a story which has both humour and heart (and reality) in abundance. I loved this, it very much appealed to me and my stylistic tastes. Congratulations!

Second: Maisie and the Space Catapult by Amy Feest

Amy Feest

Amy Feest

Amy Feest is a Children’s Writer, Bookseller and School Librarian based in Bristol, which she squeezes in around parenting her own three book-devourers. When she is not writing books, selling books, recommending books and reading books, she can be found swimming in lakes, playing board games and learning to play the ukulele.

Our judge, Sharna Jackson, commented: - “Maisie and the Space Catapult”

A fantastic opening which does an excellent job of giving you a clear sense of character, setting and plot in very few words. Would make an excellent early readers book!

Third: The Adventures of Percy Bloo by Karl O’Neill

Karl O’Neill

Karl O’Neill

Karl is an Irish writer and professional actor based in Dublin. Author of a children’s book The Most Beautiful Letter In The World (The O’Brien Press), he has had several radio plays produced by RTE, and had theatre plays produced in Dublin and New York, with various prose works and poetry broadcast and published elsewhere.

Our judge, Sharna Jackson, commented: - “The Adventures of Percy Bloo”

The world building shown in this story immediately draws you in, and the multiple perspectives are excellent. The story has real potential.

The Copper Mine Mystery Teresa Hayes
The Mystery of the Golden Swan Georgina Edwards
Lexi Lambert's Suburban Murder Squad Joely Dutton
Human Immunity Ellen Phethean
The Vital Life of Jonty Whale William Dobson
The Three-legged Detective Agency Deborah Wilcox
Crooked Lane Rhoawen Shaw
Aliens eat Veg Claire Dalkin
KYRENE Michelle L. E. Kenney
This Nourished World Laura Baggaley
Wolf Princess Audrey Eric Cheung

Writing Without Restrictions Results

The Writing Without Restrictions judge was Hazel Prior

Hazel Prior

Hazel Prior has written three books that have become best-sellers. Ellie and the Harp Maker, then Away with the Penguins, and her latest book following the adventures of Veronica McCreedy is Call of the Penguins. Her books have been described as quirky and life-affirming. As well as writing Hazel works as a freelance harpist.

She’s had short stories published in literary magazines and has won numerous writing competitions in the UK.


Winner: Becoming Transparent by Ann Milton

Ann Milton

Ann Milton

I’m a housewife, with university age children. My husband and I are just beginning to plan our retirement which involves leaving Brussels where we have been for 25 years and looking for a new base back in England. Once the children left school that left me with more time to write poetry which has often been purely for personal satisfaction, but publications in Artemis magazine and in my writing group’s 2019 anthology were most encouraging and helped me seek an audience. 2 Courses with Arvon and some on-line courses helped me to find my personal voice, as well as participation in a poetry reading group during Covid. The regular feedback from my writing group, the Brussels Writer’s circle has been most helpful. Some of the poems in this collection owe their form to feedback from that group.

Our judge, Hazel Prior, commented: - “Becoming Transparent”

This entry moved me and stood out because it felt so genuine and honest. A brave topic and a very current one, there was no bandwagon-jumping here but a raw account from the heart – and when writing comes from the heart, it is powerful.

I love the ingenious play on words with trans-parent and transparent. From the first lines, we have a sense of looking through deep currents of emotion, of seeking out the truth and ways of dealing with it. The drifting, fluid form reflects the way a human mind works. There are frequent switches between different times, viewpoints and scenarios, which also give the writing a dreamlike quality. The writer has used plenty of metaphors (swimming, keys, a mist, a funeral) but these are perfectly balanced with details from the practical business of living (a family sized turkey, the mobile app, the photo albums, sandwich-making in the community kitchen; the coffee, notebook and pen). Each stanza brings a fresh question, thought or insight.

The use of Jack and Jill, JillJack and JackJill, is a clever, concise way of conveying the ‘bothness’, with a hint of humour alongside the uncertainty.

In these well-chosen words we find much love, pain and sensitivity, together with repeated, determined attempts of the mother to understand her changing child. And anyone who reads this this will themselves gain greater understanding. The sense of grief and rejection come across so strongly. Yet this is a story filled with hope. The last word, ‘courage’, is the perfect final note.

Second: Granite is the Hardest Word by Jennifer Hunt

Jennifer Hunt

Jennifer Hunt

Jennifer Hunt is an artist and writer living in a medieval thatched cottage in Dorset. She has had a lifelong love of the natural world, from a childhood immersed in the green depths of Oxleas Woods and her grandparents’ farm in Devon, to the prehistoric chalk landscape of Dorset. Since graduating with an MA from Bath Spa University in 2001, she has had many poems published in magazines and anthologies and been successful in poetry and nature-writing competitions. She has taught Creative Writing for 17 years and has published annotated sketchbooks, featuring the landscape and wildlife of the Jurassic Coast. Last year she had a poem selected by Seren Books to be included in their publication, 100 Poems to Save the Earth. She was pleased to win first prize with her poem, Hedgehog, in the Yeovil Literary Festival in 2021.

Our judge, Hazel Prior, commented: - “Granite is the Hardest Word”

First, what a great title! And what a great subject for a descriptive piece! As I read this I was immediately transported to the Isles of Scilly. I could picture the sights, smell the air, and touch all those wonderful textures. It is unusual to find such sheer physicality in a piece of writing.

A lot of writers fall into the trap of using too many adjectives when describing place, but that’s not the case here. The nouns and verbs are strong and play an equally descriptive role. Although this is prose, the names of rocks, flowers and wildlife combine with the place-names to create a sort of poetry. I would love to hear this one read aloud by a talented actor.

The passage is full of contrasts: the grainy hardness of the rock compared to the softness of the flowers, the moving tides and the solid land, the light and the dark, the cool and the heat. A tribute to stone, it is also pays homage to all the life that surrounds it. The granite provides shelter, roads and houses, but it has also crushed ships and killed sailors. It is indeed ‘a reminder of our own impermanence.’ For me, it is the human references that keep this piece relevant and buoyant. The comparison with the locals at the end is lovely.

Third: Documentation relating to Mrs Claus and the Alien by Daphne Milne

Daphne Milne

Daphne Milne

2022 — Forward prize nomination - 1st prize Second Light Network long poem competition

2021 — Katharine Susannah Pritchard Fellow. Reader at Perth Poetry Festival on own account and representing Peter Cowan University Writers

2020 — Poetry Kit Contemporary Poet - Runner-up Hedgehog Press pamphlet competition

2019 — Publication 'The Blue Boob Club' - Indigo Dreams Publishing

2018 — Publication 'Angels to Warzones' - a poem a day for December. Work published in various magazines [print and on-line] including Artemis, Acumen, Mslexia, Poetry Super Highway and in anthologies in both UK and Australia. Member of WA Poets [Australia] Falmouth Poetry Group, Second Light Network and various other writing groups both in UK and Australia. Recent Broadcasts/interviews: ILAA [arts programme] with Peter Jeffreys OAM, Fremantle Shipping News [poetry programme], Poetry Place Wiltshire Radio. Regular reader, over many years, at Perth Poetry Festival fringe and at various venues in WA, on the Australian East coast and in UK either in person or via zoom.

Daphne has been living in Fremantle, Western Australia for the past four years but returns to UK in autumn 2022.

Our judge, Hazel Prior, commented: - “Documentation relating to Mrs Claus and the Alien”

This is such imaginative writing, alive with fun and furnished with eccentric details. I love the way the viewpoint changes, and that each voice is endowed with their own specific quirks and characteristics. I especially enjoyed the fixation of Mrs Claus and her particular wish that the aliens would go to Australia and swim with the jellyfish! Not to mention those crazy elves! There is an underlying sadness too. The loneliness of both Mr and Mrs Claus adds depth and sparks sympathy in the reader. The effect is strengthened by expressing this from the alien’s point of view (‘it spends much of its time alone it has wet eyes’). It’s always satisfying for readers to understand what’s going on better than the actual narrator.

You can read this on different levels. You can relish the entertainment value of the many chuckle-worthy one-liners. You can see it as satire underlining the absurdity of our obsession with Christmas and its trappings. Or you can see it as an exploration of mental illness and paranoia. As with all good writing, the characters take centre stage. The aliens, Mr and Mrs Claus, the policemen, the reindeer and the elves are a highly original combination. Quite delightful!

Alison R Noyes No Turning Back
Joan Wilson Not so Fit Bits
Nicola Pickstone Dear Boris, I lied too
Louise Mangos The Marathon of Motherhood
Abby Voss Odd Snark, Out
Wendy House Give Me Back My Head
Valerie Moyses Judas Iscariat, how do you plead?
Gerard Killingworth Catacumbas
Esther Cann Gaugin In Tahiti
Anne Stillings Gretel's Song
Alan Bryant If the Truth is out there, where are the Lies?
Denarii Peters Making a Point
Rachel Angel What will happen to you?
Richard Kefford Shakespeare's spell checker
Laura Wetton The Ballerina
Marion Lovelace THE SHED