Blue Pencil Agency First Novel Award 2022

The BPA First Novel Award is open to unrepresented and unpublished authors for a novel in any adult fiction genre.


We are excited to announce the winners of the BPA First Novel Award 2022. Our judges this year were literary agents Rowan Lawton and Marina de Pass of The Soho Agency and author Jo Bloom.

More than 950 entries were received from around the world with literary and commercial fiction, including crime, historical and speculative fiction, all represented. The standard of entries was higher than ever and it was difficult to land on a longlist of 23 titles and a shortlist of six.

Congratulations to our winners and to all those listed. We are delighted for this year’s winner, Tracy Coker, who captivated us all with her story of the reunion between three very different friends from Sierra Leone and who is now represented by Rowan Lawton. The judges were also deeply moved by Karen Pierce’s gritty coming-of-age novel, set in 60s Soho, and Tom Powell‘s original novel about the ‘son of Zeus’.

Many thanks to all who entered. We found the reading process incredibly enjoyable, as well as challenging, and wish you all the best with your writing.

Submissions for the 2023 First Novel Award will open in January.

winners 22 bpa site b&w


Tracy Coker

White Yams

Women’s Fiction

£1,000 cash prize and introduction to agents at The Soho Agency

Tracy Coker, winner of BPA First Novel Award 2022

Funmilayo, Dalanda, and Jeneba were best friends in primary school in Sierra Leone but moved on to various parts of the world – and very different lifestyles. About to turn 40, they plan a Christmas reunion.


Judges’ Comments

Rowan: I absolutely loved White Yams – Tracy is a hugely talented writer who introduces us to three incredibly memorable women at a pivotal moment in their lives, and I can’t wait to read more about them.

Jo: I raced through this absorbing, well-written story about three friends originally from Sierra Leone. Tracy also deftly weaves through some powerful cultural themes that I’m still thinking about weeks on…

Marina: I adore the set up of White Yams – with three distinct female voices, drawn together in friendship, but with different challenges to face. I felt fully involved by the three narratives and taken in by Tracy’s confident writing style.



Tracy Olabisi Coker is a Sierra Leonean-American writer who believes that the written word is an art that can open minds and transform hearts. She has published short stories in Rigorous literary journal,

Short Fiction Break online literary magazine, and Pede Hollist’s Literature Blog. White Yams is her first novel. She lives in Virginia, USA with her husband and three children.

Tracy is represented by Rowan Lawton at The Soho Agency.

Twitter: @_olabisiwrites_


Karen Pierce


Historical Coming-of-Age

Introduction to agents at The Soho Agency and manuscript review


Soho, 1962. It’s Petal O’Rourke’s eighteen birthday and she prays to Our Lady for three things: For Da to come home and not be dead or in prison. Babbie to be cured. To be ‘Someone’.


Judges’ Comments

Jo: Engrossing and atmospheric. Karen’s keen eye for detail immerses us in the grubby, intoxicating underbelly of sixties Soho.

Marina: A vivid, immersive portrait of 60s London, told from the perspective of a loveable central character, Petal. I was fully immersed in the vivid description and rooted for Petal as she started her journey to adulthood…

Rowan: I really enjoyed this exploration of Soho’s underworld. It felt like reading Peaky Blinders in the 60s!



Karen has an MA from University of Chichester (Distinction) in Creative Writing, and has worked in both TV and print journalism, and also as a nutritionist. She is dyslexic and couldn’t read till she was eleven. She was runner up in the Jericho Writers Self Edit Bursary. Karen lives in Brighton with her three children and unruly hound. She is currently working on the second book in the Petal series and a TV sit com.


Karen is represented by Katie Fulford at Bell Lomax Moreton Agency.

Twitter: @kpiercewrites


Tom Powell

My Father, the God


Introduction to agents at The Soho Agency


Alan, son of Zeus, lives with his dad in a council flat in Lewisham and waits to come into his demigod powers. But the powers aren’t coming – and when the man he thought was Zeus passes, Alan has to face the truth alone.


Judges’ Comments

Marina: An inventive and unconventional story, with an immersive writing style.

Rowan: Tom’s writing is really strong here and this novel turns on an original and engaging concept.

Jo: Tom’s prose feels fresh and original. I was immediately drawn into the mind of a troubled young man.



Tom is a playwright and screenwriter whose work has toured the UK and been broadcast on BBC Radio 4X and BBC One. A graduate of BBC Studios Writers Academy, Tom has written for EastEnders and Holby City. A filmed production of his play The Silence and the Noise will be released by Pentabus/Rural Media in Autumn 2022. An early draft of his novella, Wednesday Morning, was longlisted for the BPA First Novel Award 2021 and was a winner of the BPA Pitch Prize 2021. My Father, the God is his first full novel.

Twitter: @_TPowell_


Fiona Dewar

Life’s Too Short



Susie and Matthew meet in a bathtub, fall in love and then face ‘the Choice’: parenthood or a life-extending treatment. Drawn towards opposite Choices, can their relationship survive?


Judges’ Comments

Rowan: A strong and original concept.

Marina: This was an interesting idea to explore in fiction. Concept-led, with a couple at the centre who have a great rapport.

Jo: Life’s Too Short is thought-provoking and packed with ideas.



Fiona is a Scot living in London. She’s a practicing barrister and alum of the Curtis Brown Creative novel writing course. Life’s Too Short is her first novel.


Jessica Douglas

On My Mind

Psychological Suspense

J Douglas Portrait

An average-in-all-ways university student becomes increasingly obsessed with the charismatic mother of the child she babysits and goes to extreme lengths to immerse herself in their family life.


Judges’ Comments

Jo: A sleek, engaging (and ever so slightly tense!) read.

Rowan: I found this thriller very compelling and atmospheric.

Marina: I loved the opening of this one and Jessica has a wonderfully assured writing style. I whipped through the chapters.



Jessica Douglas lives in London with her partner and cat, and is a Digital Content Lead for a multinational retailer. She was longlisted for the 2021 London Writers Award, and was a recipient of Cornerstones’ 2021 Arts Council England ELEVATE literary mentoring scheme and of Greene & Heaton’s 2021 Greene Door Project. She is originally from New Zealand and holds an MA in History of Art.


Kate Pettigrew

Taking on the King



14th century England: a woman fighting for a forbidden love; a King determined to stop her; a baron torn between them. Three lives clash amid a civil war where there can be only one winner.


Judges’ Comments

Marina: I enjoyed the focus on a lesser-known female historical figure. It has a strong opening, throwing the reader straight into the drama.

Jo: An interesting snippet of unknown history is put under the spotlight in this smoothly told story. The opening was strong.

Rowan: I thought this novel had a great opening and it reveals an intriguing untold story from history.



Kate is a charity worker and writer, working for many years in Fleet Street, including ten years as a sub-editor on The Times. She has a love of history, especially uncovering lost and little-known stories of women.

Twitter: @wotkatydid1


The Angel and the Apothecary

The Dead Phone

Eliza’s Corner

Emotional Transport

The Fall of Bellweather

Felicity Braithwaite is Done with Being Nice

The Gibbous

The Husband Whisperer

I Do Not Know What She Sees

In a Quare Country

The Most Beautiful Woman in the World

The Mouth That Swallows

Paper Boats in Darjeeling

The Seafarer and the Storm

Something of a Hoax

Take this Light


Kate Rose

Jordan Coriza

June O’Sullivan

Ruth Newton

Chad Broughman

Michelle Pilkington

Hutch Hill

Caroline Madden

Lo Carter

Maurice Carlin

Nancy Crane

Amy Twigg

Sangya Pundir

Florence Prior-Evans

Rosanna Oram

Kitty Donnelly

Anna Orhanen



Jo Bloom


Author of Permission; Ridley Road

Jo Bloom’s debut novel, Ridley Roadwas published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 2014. She was inspired to write her novel after hearing about the 62 Group, the group of Jewish men who took to the streets to fight fascism in the early sixties in London. Ridley Road was adapted into a four-part thriller for BBC One and aired in October 2021. Jo’s latest novel, Permission, will be published in 2022.

Rowan Lawton


Literary agent at The Soho Agency

Rowan joined The Soho Agency in 2019 after two decades in the industry, predominantly in agenting. Her internationally bestselling authors have been awarded and shortlisted for literary prizes including the British Book Awards, the CWA Daggers, the Irish Book Awards, the Wales Book of the Year, Romantic Novel of the Year and the BBC National Short Story Award. She has also been involved in the judging of a number of fiction prizes including Richard & Judy ‘Search for a Bestseller’ and the Bristol Short Story Prize. Rowan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2012. Rowan’s taste ranges from the most commercial well-written genre fiction and domestic suspense to accessible literary and reading group novels, as well as narrative non-fiction (often, but not always, written by women) – particularly moving and inspiring memoirs.

Marina de Pass


Marina has been at The Soho Agency for over five years, after previously working in editorial at Little, Brown and HarperCollins. She adores great storytelling in all its forms and is building a list of upmarket commercial, reading group and accessible literary fiction – and is actively looking to take on clients in this area. Marina especially loves launching debuts – the last three she has sold have been bought by UK publishers as lead titles – and enjoys working editorially with her authors. She also works with #1 Sunday Times & New York Times bestseller Sophie Kinsella, Sunday Times bestseller Veronica Henry, and the award-winning writer and cook Nigel Slater, among others. Marina is a trained copyeditor and proofreader and, in addition to her agenting work, she has a rare insight into the publishing industry as a published author and graduate of the Faber Academy’s creative writing course.

What we’re looking for:

• any genre with the exception of children’s fiction and non-fiction. YA is permitted provided there is an adult crossover.
• a strong voice.
• an original and unforgettable story that grips the reader.
• an attention grabbing first paragraph.


  • Authors must be over 18 years old at the time of entry.
  • The Award is open to unrepresented and unpublished authors of fiction at the closing date of May 31.
  • Clients of BPA who have had full manuscript reviews are not eligible to enter however those who have been to a retreat or workshop are still eligible providing they did not follow up with an editorial service.
  • Writers must advise the organisers if they accept representation during the judging period or win any other prizes. They may still be eligible for the Award.
  • Self-published authors are accepted. Entrants who have had other types of books published such as non fiction, memoir or poetry are also eligible.
  • The novel must be completed or close to completion at the closing date of May 31.
  • Long-listed or short-listed entries in other competitions are eligible.
  • Entrants may submit more than one novel but as separate entries.
  • Entries must be written in English.
  • Entries can only be submitted electronically via this site and payment made via PayPal.
  • Entrants may withdraw entries but fees cannot be refunded.
  • Judges’ decision is final. Judges are unable to comment on individual entries.
  • Copyright remains with the author, however we reserve the right to publish extracts of up to 300 words on our website as well as the opening lines on twitter.
  • By submitting their manuscript, entrants are agreeing for BPA to keep a record of their e-mail address for marketing purposes only. This information will not be shared with third parties. Entrants can unsubscribe from all communication at any time.

How to submit

  • Please enter through the link on our website
  • Download your opening chapter or chapters up to 5000 words plus a 300 word synopsis and a covering letter with some information about yourself/career as a writer.
  • Please ensure that the file name is the title of the story and ensure that this is also in the subject line of your email.
  • Entries must be in either a doc., docx, or pdf. No other formats will be accepted.
  • Entries must be double spaced in a clear font (Times New Roman or similar) and pages numbered.
  • The novel’s title must be on every page but your name should not appear anywhere on the story.
  • The covering letter should include the following details: your name, the title of your novel, your email address and telephone number, a brief CV or publication history and the genre of your novel if applicable (e.g. uplit, romance, contemporary, historical, psychological thriller, fantasy, crime, women’s, literary)
  • Go to the Shop page and click on the paypal button to pay the fee.
  • If payment is made using a different name, it is essential you include that name in the email you send with the story.