Blue Pencil Agency First Novel Award 2020

The BPA First Novel Award is open to unrepresented and unpublished authors for a novel in any adult fiction genre.

We are thrilled to announce the winners of the First Novel Award 2020. Our judges this year were literary agents Caroline Wood and Carrie Plitt of Felicity Bryan Associates and author Anna Hope. More than 950 entries were received from around the world with all genres represented. The standard of entries was incredibly high and it was difficult to land on a longlist of 20 titles and a shortlist of 6.

Many thanks to all those who entered from around the world.

Submissions for the 2021 First Novel Award will open in January 2021.

Congratulations to our winners and to all those listed.

WINNERS (7)

WINNER

Roisin Lanigan

Brotherhood

Literary

£1,000 cash prize and introduction to agents at FBA

Roisin Lanigan - Blue Pencil Agency / BPA

Two brothers growing up amidst the escalating violence of The Troubles embark on wildly different routes for self-preservation. Peter struggles with PTSD and Joseph reinvents himself as a precocious teenage gunman.

 

Judges’ Comments

Carrie: “This was a winning combination of beautifully assured writing, a propulsive plot and a strong sense of place. It gave me a new perspective on The Troubles through the story of two very memorable brothers.”

Caroline: “‘There were many reasons why they had decided to rob the bubblegum machine, but the main one was that Mick McElroy had been taken into care.’ I was immediately hooked by this brilliant opening sentence. Set during the Troubles, Lanigan skilfully captures the absurdity of the everyday, alongside the fear and terror of the conflict. The writing is mesmerising and extremely assured.”

Anna: “I loved this. Great voice, great sense of place, time and atmosphere. Engrossing, visceral, shocking and moving. A worthy winner, and I am excited to read the whole novel.”

 

Roisin Lanigan lives in South London. She is a Junior Editor at i-D and a freelance writer of essays, cultural criticism, thinkpieces and fiction, with work published on ​The Atlantic, Outline, New Statesman, VICE a​nd others. Roisin grew up on the Falls Road in West Belfast, and her background has heavily influenced ​Brotherhood, which was longlisted for the inaugural Curtis Brown First Novel Prize.

RUNNER UP

Hugh Blackthorne

The Curation of Eamon O’Reilly

Contemporary Literary 

Introduction to agents at FBA and manuscript review

Hugh Blackthorne - Blue Pencil Agency / BPA

Eamon wants to wear dresses, but the roar and threat of his alcoholic father forbids him from doing so, until he steals his father’s money and runs away. 

 

Judges’ Comments

Anna: “Such an interesting, surprising central character. The author takes us into a fully realised world so deftly, in writing alive with lovely, vivid details. An unexpected, tender romance and a great sense of place.”

Caroline: “I loved this for its originality and unique voice. It’s a touching story about a boy who wants to wear dresses and has to flee his alcoholic father to find freedom and himself.”

Carrie: “I loved this tender portrait of Eamon O’Reilly and his attempts to make a life of his own in Dublin. The writing is unique and emotionally rich, and I was desperate to find out what happened to Eamon next.”

 

Hugh Blackthorne is a Greek-Canadian queer trans writer of LGBTQ fiction and poetry, whose writing has appeared in several literary magazines. A previous novel was longlisted for the 2019 Bath Novel Award and a creative nonfiction story was longlisted for the 2019 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Nonfiction Prize. In 2019, he received the Diversity Scholarship from the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and participated in the PitchWars 2019 mentoring scheme. Hugh works as an archaeologist and curatorial museum professional in Victoria, Canada. He has previously lived and worked in London and spent time in Dublin.

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Tatum Anderson

Bad Material

Historical

Tatum Anderson - Blue Pencil Agency / BPA

A young, Jamaican man follows his younger brother to fight for Britain in WWI, but he discovers the enemy is not only on the other side of no man’s land.

 

Judges’ Comments

Caroline: “We commend Tatum for the sense of place, the quality of the prose and an interesting premise.”

Anna: “A fantastic subject for a novel. The writing was very strong, with some very evocative scenes. I am really interested to see how this develops.”

Carrie: “This book stood out immediately both for the strength of its writing and the exciting scope of its synopsis. The author has a great sense for detail and dialogue.”

 

Tatum Anderson is a journalist from London and has published news and features for many years. This is her first novel, written while taking Birkbeck’s MA in Creative Writing. She received a distinction for the MA and has been accepted for a PhD in Creative Writing, to research the responsibility of fiction to tell the truth in a post-truth world. Her creative non-fiction was published and recorded as part of the Waterloo Festival 2020 earlier this year. Tatum is working on her second novel.

SHORTLISTED TITLES

Ireh Iyioha

Those Who Come This Way

Literary

Ireh Iyioha - Blue Pencil Agency / BPA

A researcher investigates the circumstances around 300 migrant deaths in a single boat accident through the drawings of the lone child survivor, Faven, at a detention centre on Australia’s Christmas Island.

 

Judges’ Comments

Caroline: “What impressed me about this entry was the atmosphere, the timely subject matter and the poetic writing.”

Carrie: “I was drawn to this novel both because of the strong, character-driven writing but also because of the setting. It seems essential that we understand what actually happens at immigration detention camps and this novel offers a human route inside.”

Anna: “I found this incredibly powerful, so much so that it was hard to read at times. I was very invested in the fate of the characters from the first page and I will be really interested to see how the whole novel develops.”

 

Irehobhude O. Iyioha, Ph.D. (‘Ireh Iyioha’) is a Nigerian-Canadian writer and law teacher. Her fiction has appeared in several publications, including Harvard University’s Transition Magazine, Litro Magazine, and the Maple Tree Literary Supplement. Two of her short stories are included in the anthology, All the Good Things Around Us published in the UK and another appears in the European anthology, Payback and Other Stories. Her story, This Time It Will be All Right, received a Special Commendation from the judges of the Caine Prize, 2016.

SHORTLISTED TITLES

Rosanna Oram

The Word According to Joan

Historical

Rosanna Oram - Blue Pencil Agency / BPA

Joan Bocher, a little-known Anabaptist martyr, distributes forbidden English bibles to the women of Henry VIII’s court from under her skirts. She finds herself hunted by the King, but her greatest resistance comes from her husband.

 

Judges’ Comments

Anna: “A very skilful evocation of Tudor England with an intriguing central character.”

Carrie: “This is an atmospheric, confidently-told story. I enjoyed seeing Tudor England through Joan’s eyes.”

Caroline: “I was drawn in by the atmosphere of this compelling historical novel about a woman who risks everything. It has a great opening.”

 

Rosanna Oram has completed novel writing courses at the Faber Writing Academy as well as Curtis Brown Creative. A preparatory school teacher in London, she graduated from Exeter University with a first class degree in English Literature and has written for the Evening Standard’s Flashbulb column. The Word According to Joan was also longlisted for the 2020 Bath Novel Award.

SHORTLISTED TITLES

Conrad Riley

The Diabolist

Historical Crime

Conrad Riley - Blue Pencil Agency / BPA

1831: Bristol is a city seething with unrest, teetering on the edge of revolt whilst in its dark alleyways a sadistic killer is at work skinning young men. Ex-slave Obadiah Rose unites with engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel to investigate.

 

Judges’ Comments

Carrie: “I loved the pacey opening of this mystery, which brought nineteenth-century Bristol to life. It also features a fascinating protagonist in Obadiah Rose, and I was excited to read more about his journey.”

Anna: “A great set-up and Obadiah is a brilliant central character. Some very evocative, visceral writing.”

Caroline: “I loved the action-packed opening, the sweeping third person narrative and the atmosphere of the city seething beneath the surface. But the real strength of this novel is the central character of Obadiah Rose, a former slave and Sherlock Holmes style detective who assists the police in their pursuit of a serial killer.”

 

Conrad Riley lives in Kent. He is legally trained and has worked as a contracts manager in the IT/Outsourcing sector for the past 20 years. The Diabolist is inspired by his deep fascination with history, whether historical fiction (in all its many guises), non-fiction, biographies or memoirs.

LONGLISTED TITLES AND AUTHORS

A Secret Life

A Stone in Her Hand

Bad Material

Bridge over the Neretva

Brotherhood

Bula Marama

Everything Good

Foolish Heroines

Haneen

He Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Madeleine

Marianne

Saving Rosalind

The Baby in the Box

The Clay Wife

The Curation of Eamon O’Reilly

The Diabolist

The Word According to Joan

Then A Starling

Those Who Come This Way

Mina Bancheva

Jayne Gilman

Tatum Anderson

Django Wylie

Roisin Lanigan

Juliet Coe

Hannah Kate Kelly

June Wentland

Miriam Day

Santanu Bhattacharya

Mary Annes Payne

Claire Mannion

Harriet Avery

Anne Hamilton

Susan Reynolds

Hugh Blackthorne

Conrad Riley

Rosanna Oram

Amelia Brown

Ireh Iyioha

JUDGES

____________

Caroline Wood

_______

Literary agent at FBA

Caroline Wood was a film producer before joining Felicity Bryan Associates as a literary agent in 2006. She represents a number of award-winning and top ten best-selling authors including Jonathan Coe, winner of the Costa Novel Award 2019, Damon Galgut, twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Louis de Bernieres and acclaimed literary fiction writers Anna Hope, Liza Klaussmann and Gill Hornby. She is looking for literary fiction – contemporary and historical – upmarket women’s fiction and crime. She loves the editing process and is keen to find one or two exceptional debut authors to add to her list in 2020.

Carrie Plitt

_______

Literary agent at FBA

Carrie Plitt is a literary agent at Felicity Bryan Associates where she is building a list of both fiction and non-fiction. She was named a 2018 Bookseller Rising Star. The authors she represents include Sunday Times bestseller Reni Eddo-Lodge, Wellcome Prize winner Will Eaves and Richard and Judy Book Club pick Alex Reeve. She is looking for writers of literary fiction, book club fiction and upmarket crime. Prior to joining FBA, she worked at the literary agency C&W and in the rights department at Penguin Books. She also hosts a monthly books talk show and podcast on NTS Radio called Literary Friction.

Anna Hope

_______

Author of Expectation, The Ballroom and Wake

Anna Hope studied at Oxford University and RADA. She is the acclaimed author of novels Wake and The Ballroom, both of which have sold in over 15 countries. Her contemporary fiction debut, Expectation, explores themes of love, lust, motherhood and feminism, while asking the greater question of what defines a generation.

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.

Eligibility
_______

  • 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.

ENTRIES ARE NOW CLOSED.

THANK YOU TO ALL WRITERS FOR THEIR SUBMISSIONS