Blue Pencil Agency First Novel Award 2019

The Award is open to unrepresented and unpublished authors for a novel in any adult fiction genre

We are delighted to announce the winners of the First Novel Award 2019. Our judges this year were Nelle Andrew of Peters, Fraser + Dunlop and author Beth Underdown. More than 525 entries were received from around the world with all genres represented. The standard of entries was very high as reflected in a longlist of 23 titles and a shortlist of 6.

Nelle has signed the winner as well as one of the shortlisted authors. Many thanks to all those who entered and congratulations to our worthy winners.

Submissions for the 2020 First Novel Award will open in January 2020.

Congratulations to our winners and to all those listed.


Kate McNair

The Price of Blood – speculative

£1,000 cash prize and introduction to Nelle Andrew

Katy McNair winner of BPA First Novel Award

Scientists have discovered a way to delay aging using transfusions of blood from young people with teenagers competing to sell their blood to an elderly elite. A story of two families – one with everything to lose and one with nothing.


Judges’ Comments

Nelle “This was an immediate stand out– assured, compelling and innovative. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.”

Beth “Kate’s chapters offered a chilling glimpse into a world in which everything is for sale. Her writing is confident and utterly gripping, effortlessly drawing the reader into the fates of her characters.”

Kate McNair lives in Glasgow. A former writer-in-residence at Cove Park, Scotland and the MacDowell Colony, USA, she has also been the recipient of a Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s Award. Her short fiction has been printed in New Writing Scotland, Gutter, and been recorded for BBC Radio 4. In 2019, her novella, The Lie That Made Her, was shortlisted in the Mslexia Novella Competition.

She has worked as a journalist, editor, touring taiko drummer and Higher Education marketing professional. Currently she’s on maternity leave from the University of Glasgow.

Kate has been signed by Nelle Andrew at Peters, Fraser + Dunlop.


Thecla Condon

Tell All the Bees –  historical 

£250 cash prize and manuscript review by a BPA editor

Thecla Condon runner up BPA First Novel Award

A family saga set in Ireland in which a young librarian discovers her family’s past and the power of the honey bee messengers. Themes of truth, facts and the subjective nature of recall.


Judges’ Comments

Nelle “Initially, I didn’t think this novel would grab me but as I continued reading, I was utterly swept up in its evocative writing and deeply realised characters. Quiet power at its best.”

Beth “Thecla’s writing is vivid and completely memorable, offering the reader a sparky and unique narrator who somehow makes unreliability feel fresh.”

Thecla Condon lives in London. She’s had short stories and poetry published or shortlisted in competitions with Fish publishing, First Writer, Still Standen, Ink Tears and Retreat West. She has completed writing courses with Birkbeck College, Curtis Brown and has an MSt in Creative Writing from Oxford University. Tell all the Bees is inspired by the ‘Big House’ dwellers of Ireland, and by a childhood memory of the lady with the black umbrella, in the room upstairs.


Neil Daws

Blood in the Blackout – crime thriller

Neil Daws Highly commended BPA First Novel Award

In 1940 women pilots ferrying war planes for the RAF face death in the air while a serial killer stalks them on the ground.


Judges’ Comments

Nelle “ A brilliant premise; incredibly engaging characters and an idea that I cannot understand why it has not been done before. Great story.”

Beth “The reader is instantly gripped by Neil’s pacey, incisive writing. This great idea is backed up by some engaging, stylish characters and a highly convincing world.”

Neil Daws retired from the Civil Service in 2015 after over thirty years, twenty of which were spent in security and counter terrorism. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and was awarded an MBE for charitable services in 2006. A graduate in psychology from the Open University, he completed a course in forensic psychology. Neil is a recent graduate of Curtis Brown’s Write Your Novel course.

Neil has been signed by Nelle Andrew at Peters, Fraser + Dunlop.


Daisy Baldwin

This is Just an Observation – contemporary

Daisy Baldwin - shortlisted BPA First Novel Award

A fading actor accused of sexual harassment and his daughter suffer from the fallout. Explores themes of dysfunctional families and social isolation as well as the rift between millenials and Generation X.


Judges’ Comments

Nelle “Very on the money with regards to current affairs and the kind of stories we are wanting to see reflective in novels as they are in real life.”

Beth “There’s some fantastic observational writing here, with characters which have clearly been developed with a lot of thought and care.”

Daisy Stella Baldwin grew up in Blackpool and read English at Oxford University. She currently works as a Communications Manager for the International Committee of the Red Cross and is a recent graduate of Faber Academy’s Writing a Novel course.


Grainne Murphy

A Thousand Ways – literary

Grainne Murphy shortlisted for BPA First Novel Award

An exploration of the ways in which family and identity intertwine as well as the loneliness and bewilderment that comes from having an ill child.


Judges’ Comments

Nelle “Deeply personal and affecting story with a great sense of authorial voice.”

Beth “There’s a really unique voice here, and a convincingly-rendered and heartbreaking set of circumstances.”

Gráinne Murphy lives in Ireland. A Thousand Ways was shortlisted for the Caledonia Novel Award 2019 and was a finalist in the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair 2019. Her earlier novels have been shortlisted for the Virginia Prize for Fiction 2014 and the Luke Bitmead Bursary 2016 and longlisted for the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize and Mslexia Novel Award in 2017. She’s also had a number of short stories listed and published.

Gráinne previously worked in forensic research and human resources and now works as a copy editor. She has an MPhil in Applied Psychology from University College Cork and an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University.


Suzanne Burrows

Birthrite – adult horror/dark fantasy

Suzanne Burrows shortlisted for BPA First Novel Award

A nature versus nurture experiment set among black and white magic witches in the 13th Century sees two young women unite opposing factions.


Judges’ Comments

Nelle “Incredibly interesting ideas with room for a really gripping alternate take on feminist inspired adult fantasy.

Beth “There are the beginnings of an intriguing world here, with real possibilities for tension and conflict.”

In 2015 Sue was short-listed in the Pen to Print Book Challenge Competition with her novel Green Haven; a haunted house tale spanning 130 years. The book was entered in the Womentoring Project and chosen for a period of mentoring by Catherine Cho at Curtis Brown. Birthrite sprang from a love of history, stories of witchcraft and the desire to create a believable world with an exciting story.



A Thousand Ways

Alice & Iris

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down


Blood in the Blackout

Blood Bones

Coincidence Detection

Cutting the Roses

Eighteen Years

Elephant Road

Tangled Roots

Tell All the Bees

The Days Are Falling In

The Dream World

The End of Men

The Girl Who Heard Maggots

The Greater Good

The Peninsula

The Price of Blood

The Triplets of Mount Sinai

The Unmaking of Eden

This is Just an Observation

Kate Viggers

Grainne Murphy

Leigh Chambers

Anna Korving

Sue Burrows

Neil Daws

Natalie Bayley

Selaine Henrikson

Jane Archer

Nicola Daly

Apala Chowdhury

Clare Evans

Thecla Condon

Beverley Stark

Steven Coombs

Christina Sweeney-Baird

Abigail Davies

Elliot Sweeney

Trish McGrath

Kate McNair

Suzanne Reisman

Dakota Canon

Daisy Baldwin



Nelle Andrew


Literary agent at PFD

Author and Agent representing some of the UK’s best-selling and award-winning authors alongside rising new talent.

2019 BPA First Novel Award Judge

Nelle Andrew is a primary agent at Peters, Fraser and Dunlop (PFD). She was nominated for Literary Agent of the Year at The British Book Awards 2018, and was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. Her career includes discovering and agenting Sunday Times, and New York Times bestsellers; award winning novelists as well as several Richard and Judy Book Club picks. Nelle has a particular affinity for debuts of any age as she is a published novelist in her own right and personally knows the struggle to get published. As such, she is keen to find those voices who she can champion into long and productive careers. She is on the board of both the Lucy Cavendish Prize for unpublished writers and more recently judged the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer’s Award.

Beth Underdown


Author of The Witchfinder’s Sister

debut author and lecturer in creative writing at Manchester University and NT writer in residence

2019 BPA First Novel Award Judge

Beth Underdown was born in Littleborough, Lancashire. Her debut novel, The Witchfinder’s Sister, is based on the witch-hunts orchestrated by Matthew Hopkins in seventeenth century Essex, and is out in the UK and US with Penguin Random House. It won the Historical Writers Association Debut Crown 2017, and was a spring 2018 Richard and Judy Book Club pick with WH Smith. Beth is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester, and Writer in Residence for 2018 with the National Trust at Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire. She is currently working on her second novel. Beth is represented by Nelle Andrew.

The team at Blue Pencil Agency will oversee all submissions.

Entries: The first chapter(s) of the novel up to 5000 words.

Entry fee: £20 for each submission. Online entry only.


Entries now closed.

Long listed writers will be contacted by email with announcements of the titles on the website on July 12.

Short listed writers will be asked to submit 20,000 words (includes the initial entry).

Winners Announcement: September 27

The winners will be notified by email and announced on our website

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.