Blue Pencil Agency First Novel Award Winners 2023

The BPA First Novel Award is open to unrepresented and unpublished authors for a novel in any adult fiction genre.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 2023. It wasn’t easy, but after some back and forth, the judges have come to an agreement. This year’s judges were literary agents Eve White and Ludo Cinelli of the Eve White Literary Agency and author Luan Goldie.

We received more than 1,000 entries from around the world, including titles in historical fiction, crime and book club fiction, as well as psychological thrillers, YA, fantasy and speculative fiction.

We are interested in knowing what writers (and by extension our societies) are currently preoccupied by, and certain themes stand out. This year we saw missing or absent mothers, women fighting for independence, and a preoccupation with the sea, increasingly hostile and yet a means of escape.

Selecting a longlist of 22 titles and a shortlist of five was no mean feat, and so many submissions held real promise. It is always disappointing when a personal favourite doesn’t make the cut. Nevertheless, we are so proud of all our selected authors and we absolutely love these winning titles!

Congratulations to our winners and to all those listed. Many thanks to everyone who entered. We found the reading process incredibly enjoyable and wish you all the best with your next drafts.

Submissions for the 2024 First Novel Award will open in January.

winners 23 fb b&w 2


Smita Bhide

Goddess Town

Book Club

£1,000 cash prize

SmitaBhide cropped

In a small town in the north of England, a catatonic young woman is declared an Indian goddess. Soon the news attracts pilgrims in saffron and online influencers – and then the right-wing supremacists arrive…


Judges’ Comments

Eve White Agency: It’s a rare, joyful experience to read unpublished manuscripts looking as polished and confident as Goddess Town; it’s a riotous, thrilling, and truly original novel.

Luan: The most engaging and original story I’ve read in ages. Funny, interesting, and very clever. I loved the main character, even when she was being problematic, and the wider cast of characters are so hilarious and real.

Blue Pencil Agency: We all loved this engaging and memorable story filled with vibrant characters. It’s rare to come across an entry that is so polished, well-paced and full of satirical humour. Utterly brilliant!


Smita Bhide is a screenwriter who has written and developed a wide range of TV dramas for BBC, C4, Netflix, as well as films in the UK and internationally. She is the co-creator/writer of the Netflix hit The Indian Detective and is currently working on BBC One’s new flagship drama Ten Pound Poms. She is the writer-director of award-winning indie feature film The Blue Tower. She lives in west London.

Smita is represented by Zoë Waldie at RCW Literary Agency.


Stephanie Latham



£500 cash prize

Introduction to Eve White Literary Agency

Steph Bio Photo

It’s AD64 and a courtesan risks everything when she joins a plot to kill the Emperor. Little does she know how much she is going to regret that decision…


Judges’ Comments

Luan: A story which drops you right into another world. Engaging, interesting and at times sad, with characters you want to follow.

Eve White Agency: What a vivid, fresh look at ancient Rome this novel is. Reading it is like walking along the street with its likeable protagonist, and the political intrigue she gets drawn into is fascinating.

Blue Pencil Agency: Stephanie’s edgy humorous voice immediately draws you into the life of a Roman prostitute. You can taste the heat and the dust, feel the uncertainty around the hierarchical power struggles.


Stephanie is a teacher based in London. As a child she was fascinated by the weirdness of the ancient world. During her Classics degree, she specialised in women’s studies, keen to uncover the lives of women who had been written out of history. This sparked the idea for Epicharis based on a real historical figure.  Stephanie is an alumna of Curtis Brown Creative’s selective three-month novel writing course.


Ned Carter Miles

For Sugar



£150 cash prize

Introduction to Eve White Literary Agency


K is pregnant and alone in a crumbling house on the flooding Dorset coast. As the sea edges closer, she spends her days planning to rebuild the world as it once was. Help arrives in the form of ‘Priest’, a joyless man with a guilty past.


Judges’ Comments

Blue Pencil Agency: The story of two people who are locked into a post-apocalyptic world and are looking to start over. The writing is pure poetry, drawing you into a bleak landscape that is both beautiful and filled with a tangible sense of tragedy.

Eve White Agency: Intense and lyrical in equal measures, For Sugar impressed me greatly with its style – and Ned Carter Miles’s imagery of nature reclaiming the land will stay with me for a long time.

Luan: An immersive, gentle, and beautiful piece of writing. The unfolding of the relationship between the two characters is so warm and curious, you just want more.


Ned is a writer and radio producer originally from Dorset, and a recent graduate of the UEA Prose Fiction MA where he received a distinction for his dissertation. His short fiction has appeared in Carve, Litro, Ox Mag, Trolley, Cicada, the Wrong Quarterly, and others.



Stephen Morrison-Burke

Sun of Broken Glass


Stephen Morrison-Burke

Birmingham, 1970’s. Working as a DJ at the country’s largest roller-disco is Peter’s only ticket home to the West Indies. Then tragedy strikes. Should Peter follow his dream or support the people he loves?


Judges’ Comments

Eve White Agency: This Windrush generation story of a boy uprooted from his home moved me from the first words. It’s written with great heart, wisdom and warmth.

Luan: An enjoyable and interesting story of one man’s history. Great settings, wonderfully described, and energetic dialogue which pops with life.

Blue Pencil Agency: Stephen’s ability to get inside a child’s emotionally constructed perceptions of the world really drives home the sense of displacement felt by the Windrush generation. What’s at stake is immediately apparent and the characters are beautifully drawn.


Stephen is a writer from the Midlands. He graduated from Birbeck University with an MA in Creative Writing. Prior to writing fiction, he travelled up and down the country performing spoken word poetry. Stephen was a Birmingham Poet Laureate, performing on BBC Radio 4, and become National Poetry Slam Champion. He was the first recipient to be awarded the Kit de Waal Scholarship.

Twitter: @BurkeMorri85979  LinkedIn: Stephen Morrison-Burke


Alexandra Vernon

My Name is Fee O’Leary

Historical feminist

Alex Vernon

Teenage Fee and her friends face appalling working conditions at the Bryant & May match factory. After the death of her best friend from ‘phossy jaw’ and a sensational exposé in the press, will the anxious Fee find the courage to put down her tools and join the fight?


Judges’ Comments

Eve White Agency: Alex skilfully takes us to a backdrop we’ve never seen before – a Victorian match factory – and tells a powerful story of friendship and social justice.

Blue Pencil Agency: An interesting take on the Victorian historical novel, giving light to injustices in the work place for women working in a match factory. A good portrayal of the East End in Victorian London.

Luan: A historical look at the tough lives lived by the young women of east London. A large cast of characters, an interesting setting and lots of mystery.


Alex is a freelance writer working with charities. When she first stumbled across the Bryant & May match women, she was bowled over by their bravery and couldn’t believe their story hadn’t already been told in a novel. She lives in the Forest of Dean with her family.

Twitter: @CharityStory  Website:


A Perpetually Burning Building

The Artist

The Bystander

Chopin’s Bones

In a Quare Country

Just Fantastic

Like Feathers in the Breeze

Little Creatures

Mrs P goes to Town

Orbiting Polaris

The Oxford Handbook of Murder

Paper Cuts

Portrait of A Secret

The Show Woman


The Slip

The Truth About Dust

Colleen Predergast

Lucy Steeds

John David

Cath Paulley

Maurice Carlin

Fran Fabriczki

Alison Offer

Jon Barton

Louise Jensen

Miranda Moore

Adriana Borisova

Helen Varley

Wendy Coleman

Emma Cowing

Johanna Robinson

Alison Rees

Sally Brockway

“Hearty congratulations to each of the 2023 listed writers and winners. Having your work selected by the judges out of hundreds of entries is a huge accomplishment, and all of you should be immensely proud!  I’m confident that this recognition and validation of your work will propel your writing careers forward and open exciting new chapters for each of you. The best is yet to come!! I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for weeks after I won the BPA First Novel Award!” 

Tracy Coker, winner of the BPA First Novel Award 2022

Tracy’s novel White Yams is currently out on submission in the UK and US. Her agent is Rowan Lawton, The Soho Agency, our 2022 judge.



Luan Goldie


Author of These Streets; Homecoming

Luan Goldie is a teacher, novelist and short story writer from East London. She is the author of These Streets and Homecoming. Her debut novel, Nightingale Point, was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the RSL Ondaatje Prize.

Her short stories have appeared in HELLO! Magazine, Stylist and the Sunday Express. In 2018 she won the Costa Short Story Award and has been shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize and the Grazia/Orange First Chapter competition.

Eve White


Founder of the Eve White Literary Agency

Eve started EVE WHITE LITERARY AGENCY in 2003. Her company has grown to represent everything from prize-winning literary fiction to bestselling picture books worldwide while maintaining the caring, family feel of a boutique agency. Eve’s goal from the start was for massive success for each of a small stable of authors. She is very happy to say that she has achieved that aim with Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling writers on her list and many book-to-film deals signed. Eve was shortlisted for The British Book Awards, Literary Agent of the Year in 2015 and in 2017.

Ludo Cinelli


Agent and Managing Director at the Eve White Literary Agency

Ludo Cinelli is an Agent and Managing Director at Eve White Literary Agency. He joined the company in 2017, after various internships in the publishing industry. He is building and maintaining his own list of clients as well as being involved with all day-to-day aspects of running the business. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London. He was shortlisted for The British Book Awards, Literary Agent of the Year 2022.

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.