After six months of reading through hundreds of entries in all genres from around the world, our judges Literary Agent of the Year Madeleine Milburn and author of The Maid’s Room Fiona Mitchell, have picked their winners.
My Poor Deluded Girl – Commercial Fiction
After a stranger dies falling from a bridge onto her car, lonely middle-aged Janice fantasises a connection with her and pursues the woman’s friends and family, trying to replace the dead girl in their affections. Driven by her desire to belong, Janice becomes enmeshed in the layers of imaginings and half-truths she spins. With her lies about to be exposed she has to disappear, leaving the only loving relationships she has known. My Poor Deluded Girl will appeal to those who enjoyed classic novels like Enduring Love by Ian McEwan and Single White Female by John Lutz. It explores character and motive, the twisted logic that leads to seemingly irrational acts and their unforeseen consequences.
“I was completely gripped by Jules’ voice, and her opening scene was so vivid, I can’t stop thinking about it. She presented one of those real moments in fiction where a reader can put themselves right in the protagonist’s shoes: what would happen if they were in an accident like this? How would the trauma of the impact affect them?” Madeleine Milburn
“Of the hundreds of entries we received, Jules’ work was the first to make the back of my neck tingle. By the end of the second page, I knew this book was something special. What made it the winner for me was the hypnotic, slightly sinister voice together with a scintillating story.” Fiona Mitchell
Jules Lampshire wrote My Poor Deluded Girl while attending the six month Faber Academy Writing a Novel programme in 2017. Her early creative writing was shortlisted for the Euroscript Screen Story Competition (2009) and London Fringe Short Fiction Award (2009). Jules works as a business psychologist and provides psychotherapy and coaching to private clients. She’s also an artist and ceramicist, regularly exhibiting and selling her work.
Jules is in discussions about representation with Madeleine Milburn.
RUNNER – UP
Breeder – Dystopian
Breeder is the story of one woman’s transformation from clinical carrier to mother, and her shifting emotions in an uncertain, undated world. The novel considers whether the physicality of childbearing can be separated from the core of motherhood.
“A strong concept which felt a bit like The Handmaid’s Tale mixed with Black Mirror. I loved the structure of the chapters, flipping between the ‘Inside’ and ‘Outside’ worlds.” Madeleine Milburn
“The initial chapters were a pressure cooker of tension – I was impressed by them and wanted to read on.” Fiona Mitchell
Mandy Robotham has imagined herself an author since the age of nine, but was side tracked for many years by journalism and midwifery. She’s a community midwife and has completed a Masters in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. Several of her short stories have been commended for prizes. She recently received a two-book deal for earlier works of fiction with Avon Books, an imprint of Harper Collins, with the first of these due out in December 2018. She has several more ideas in the research and writing stages including one on the potential market in womb transplants.
Mandy is seeking representation.
Facebook: The Midwife Scribe
What Home Is – Literary Fiction
When five young siblings become orphaned, they are displaced from their lives and everything they once believed about their identities. Alone they embark on a journey across America, to find a place they can call home. The novel is an exploration of motherlessness, belonging, race and family cycles. Tali aims to find a common ground between seemingly disparate worlds examining the cultural cross-section between her own Jewish-American heritage and that of the Native American community.
“Tali has a beautiful style of writing: she really captures the innocence of children and has got the tone exactly right. Although the narrative slips between memory and real time, it’s seamless and easy to follow. There’s a beautiful sense of community and protecting your own people, but a mistrust of authority and the outside world. She’s totally mastered the art of showing rather than telling.” Madeleine Milburn
“Lyrical, intelligent and peopled by colourful characters, What Home Is races along almost breathlessly. I was utterly beguiled by it.” Fiona Mitchell
Tali Gumbiner is a writer and a creative director at a leading New York advertising agency. As the co-creator of Wall Street’s Fearless Girl statue, she has been recognised as one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People, Entrepreneur Magazine’s 50 Most Daring Entrepreneurs and AdAge 2018’s Creative of the Year. She recently completed her MFA in fiction at NYU. What Home Is won the 2018 Daniel Goldsmith First Novel Prize.
Tali is seeking representation.
Doll – Literary Fiction
The first half of Doll is told from the perspective of a sex doll, the second from the perspective of the man who owns her. At a time when debate over gender and identity is increasingly fraught, Doll affords a provocative new perspective on love, sex and objectification. The novel begins as the doll is delivered to her owner’s apartment and, as she begins to fall for him and their ‘relationship’ achieves a closeness, what ensues is a very modern love affair, teetering between tragedy and the darkly comic.
“Doll is a provocative, daring and original piece of piece of work exploring themes of love, sex and objectification. I was intrigued by the strong characters and the world they inhabited. I have no doubt this talented writer will go far.” Fiona Mitchell
Peter Leggatt is a writer and journalist living in Paris. Since graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge in 2011 he has been writing literary fiction and journalism and until recently was editor of the Soho Revue. His first short story was published in Areté magazine in 2015 and he has written a number of cover features for the Times Literary Supplement. He is currently launching a book review YouTube channel.
Peter Leggatt is represented by Emily Sweet of Emily Sweet Associates
In Plain Sight – Domestic noir/psychological thriller
A psychological crime thriller in which a woman haunted by a childhood memory becomes obsessed with exacting revenge on those who have betrayed her. The novel features a serial killer mother – she’s a monster on the inside, normal on the outside. Add a dash of The Stepford Wives and Heathers to American Psycho for a thriller read.
“A compelling narrative that shifts between two points of view, taking in the school gates and the psychiatrist’s chair. The pages bristle with rage and revenge, and tension builds as we wait for all hell to break loose. From the powerful opening paragraph onwards, there is much to admire in this unsettling psychological thriller. It’s clear that Rebecca is a most gifted writer.” Fiona Mitchell
Rebecca Williams has worked in bookselling and publishing. Her flash fiction and short stories have been published online and in print. She was a finalist for the Daily Mail First Novel Competition 2018, and shortlisted for the Faber Academy Scholarship 2018 and the Curtis Brown Creative Marian Keyes Scholarship 2018. She is also a senior editor for The Best of British & Irish Flash Fiction 2018-2019 list.
Rebecca is represented by Luigi Bonomi of LBA Literary Agency.
Leave Me Slow – YA
Sad and sweet, Leave Me Slow explores grief and trauma through a coming-of-age story, in which 18-year-old May must cope with the loss of her best friend by an overdose. It will appeal to fans of The Perks of Being A Wallflower, The Silver Linings Playbook,and Looking for Alaska.
“Chelsey has captured the voice of a teenage girl beautifully: the way that she clearly feels the world is against her and is completely absorbed in her own pain, failing to see that everyone else is struggling with the young boy’s death too. She captures the bitterness felt when losing a loved one who you’re not officially bound to.” Madeleine Milburn
“Chelsey’s writing is rhythmic, powerful and punchy, the characterisation spot-on and the dialogue pitch perfect. I enjoyed reading this immensely.” Fiona Mitchell
Chelsey Pippin is a school librarian and freelance journalist based in London. She was previously Commissioning Editor for BuzzFeed UK. Chelsey has been a judge for the Bookseller’s YA Prize and is co host and producer of the monthly podcast YA Oughta. She grew up in the US where she studied theatre and creative writing, before relocating to London to complete an MA in European Culture at UCL. She has also completed the Write to the End of Your Novel course with Curtis Brown Creative
Chelsey is working on the manuscript before submitting to agents.
Living in Twilight – High Concept Fiction
An unusual love story with a fantastical element. Susan’s protagonist is a night cleaner on the Tube, clearing away emotional baggage left by commuters to prevent them clogging up the tunnels. She’s hiding from her past but has an admirer who leaves love tokens for her to find. The novel has a cast of characters that are trying to remain invisible and stay safe in a frightening world.
“There’s atmosphere and colour here, an unusual, quirky hook, charm in the character and a lovely story. Susan’s writing is immediately engaging and I particularly liked the idea of metaphysical concepts becoming physical, and the fact that during political unrest they get worse.” Madeleine Milburn
“An original, hugely imaginative novel with writing that shows real promise.” Fiona Mitchell
Sue Barsby works for Nottingham City Council and in the evenings writes novels, short stories and creative non-fiction. Her work has been published in The A3 Review, Paper and Ink Zine, and DNA Magazine. In 2018 her short stories have been published in 24 Stories, an Unbound anthology raising money for Grenfell Tower families, the Reflex Fiction Anthology, and Beneath the Waves Anthology from Mantle Lane Press.
Sue is in discussions about representation with Hayley Steed of Madeleine Milburn Associates.
Twitter @ SusanEBarsby
Comments from the winner, judges and Bluepencilagency team on the competition:
“Unless I ever buy a winning lottery ticket the entry fee to the Bluepencilagency First Novel Award will be the best investment of £20 I’ll ever make! Each stage has given me so much: the energy of a deadline to complete the first draft; the confidence boost of reaching the long list; the heady excitement of the short list announcement (coinciding with my birthday!) And now the thrilling opportunity to discuss my work with Madeleine Milburn and take the first steps towards launching my writing career. My heartfelt thanks to Sara, Emma, Fiona and Maddy.” Jules Lampshire – winner
“It was such a joy being a judge – talent spotting is one of my favourite parts of being an agent. There was such a range of exciting entries and some fantastic new voices. I loved reading and discussing all the stories with Fiona and the Bluepencilagency team, and I’m delighted that we were all completely mesmerised by the winner.” Madeleine Milburn
“What an enormous privilege it’s been. I’ve relished reading the many entries, spotting gems and falling in love with the irresistible protagonist of Jules’ winning book. I’ve learned a huge amount about just what it takes to shine in a literary agent’s ‘slush pile’ and have rediscovered my love of reading works in progress. Being involved with the competition has been a highlight of my year.” Fiona Mitchell
“Our aim has always been to nurture talent, prepare writers for the world of publishing and connect them to literary agents. The Bluepencilagency First Novel Award seemed like a great way to make that happen for more writers from around the world. This year has proved exceptional in terms of talent – the standard has been extremely high, the range of ideas and creativity awe inspiring. What became clear during the judging process was that great storytelling is noticed by both agents and writers alike” Sara and Emma