In these unprecedented times we believe that many more people have found the time to hone their skills of writing. A major benefit of this activity is that we are sure that they are improving their own mental health. We have enjoyed providing the opportunity for many more writers to enter our Literary Competitions. The judging team have appreciated the time, energy, and talent our contributors have exercised in the past twelve months, and we applaud them for their efforts and indeed their skills.
Last year, we saw such an extraordinarily wide variety of entries from all over the world. The readers and the judges can only imagine the hard work of the huge numbers of contributors, with possibly more time on their hands, sitting with their pens and paper in hand, or word processors and computers before them. We can picture them, all letting their imaginations explore so many possibilities before exercising, what some consider, the most rewarding but demanding of skills, editing.
The Novel entries began trickling in from the early months of the year before the metaphorical post-box simply exploded towards the end of May. Many a midnight lamp was burned so that the different readers could sensibly assess the extraordinary range of genres, plots and writing styles. Every novel was read by at least one of the readers. Between them they collectively amassed a quality longlist of fifty entries, all of which had their champions and all of which were read by every other reader before decision day. Much debate ensued in narrowing down the entries to a shortlist of titles to present to the judge, Hellie Ogden. Hellie commented: “I loved judging the prize. Such a range of ideas and talent and extremely well-polished manuscripts. It was an honour to be involved.
She said of Kate Kemps’ winning entry, Warren Place, ‘A blistering hot, claustrophobic setting coupled with an original, thrilling plot made this really stand out for me.’
A similar scenario applied to the Short Story Category. Our judge Ayisha Malik has written several outstanding novels including Sofia Khan is not Obliged, The Other Half of Happiness, and The Green and Pleasant Land. She is a winner of The Diversity Book Awards and has been short-listed for The Asian Women of Achievement Award.
She said of the winning story ‘The Unfinished Business of Snakeface by Caroline Sutherland – This to me was the clear winner, with some lovely description, evocative characterisation and a strong setting. I know that the endings do not have to be hopeful, this one was, and it felt more satisfying as a result.
Sean Borrodale judged the 2021 Poetry Category. He was Resident Artist and Writer at Bluecoat and was Creative Fellow at Trinity College Cambridge.
Sean commented: the three poems chosen all conveyed warmth of spirit, which feels necessary at this time. Of the first prize winner, Jennifer Hunt, Sean wrote, ‘Hedgehog shows the poet’s command through economy of line and tonality in risking the intensity of encounter to a spacious, playful imagining. The result is quietly spellbinding: a flowing evocative poem in the dark, which shows the hedgehog’s world alive whilst a risk from interventions from humans and otherwise.
This next year sees the introduction of a new category, Children’s and Young Adult Novel. The word count is set at the first three thousand words with a synopsis of up to five hundred words. In addition, you may include one illustration.
Writing Without Restrictions. Our judge was Steve Voake. Steve is the award-winning author of several YA novels including the Dreamwalker’s Child and the Starlight Conspiracy. His Insect Detective was awarded the best illustrated non-fiction children’s book by the English Association.
Steve said, ‘Thanks for inviting me to be a judge of this year’s ‘Writing without Restrictions category. It was a pleasure to read these entries from so many talented writers. What a variety of pieces! The high standard of these entries meant the job of deciding on the top three was an enjoyable challenge.’
Steve said of the winning entry Hiraeth by Sue Bevan: ‘This is an extraordinary and beguiling piece of writing. Although it contains satisfying echoes of Dylan Thomas’s ‘Under Milk Wood,’ the writing has an originality and freshness of its own. A worthy winner.’
We must continue to emphasise the word count is so important in all of our categories, especially when entering the novel groups. The limit for the novel entry is the first ten thousand words, even if you finish in the middle of a sentence. This also applies to the children’s/Young Adult section where the limit is 3000 words.
Each year £100 is awarded to the Western Gazette, Best Local Writer, the highest placed long listed entry who lives in the distribution area of the Western Gazette. The winning entry this year was awarded to Marion Lovelace whose poem ‘Carpe Diem’ was placed second in the Poetry Category.
The YCAA is a partner in the 2022 Yeovil Literary Festival, and we are hopeful that our winners can participate again, either in person or on Zoom.
Our thanks and congratulations to everyone who entered last year, and we welcome you and all writers in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the rest of the world with your many and varied voices to join us again this year.
Our 2022 competition opens on January 1st with a closing date of May 31st. Some of the fees and prizes have changed and of course this year we are welcoming entries to the Children’s and Young Adult Novel Competition. Happy Writing!