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Winner Kelly Doran with Chancellor Jeremy Irons

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Winning Wordsmith: Bath Spa University’s ‘Novel in 25 Words’ winner announced

Monday, 18 September, 2017

Above Chancellor Jeremy Irons and judges Philip Hensher and Jonathan Dent with the three shortlists, Kelly Doran, Clare Gallagher and Michael Hunt.

The winner of Bath Spa University’s ‘Novel in 25 words’ competition was announced on Friday 15 September at a prestigious event to mark the launch of a new anthology, ‘A Place in Words’, in celebration of 25 years of teaching creative writing excellence at the University.

American actress, Kelly Doran took the top prize for her comical story about Carl and an unlikely situation with a pineapple, titled, FYI.

The competition, which challenged people to submit a novel in just 25 words, was judged by a panel of successful authors and literary figures, including author of nine novels, Philip Hensher and senior assistant editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, Jonathan Dent. The heavy-weight judges shortlisted just three of the 1,415 entries, each of whom had their novels read out and recorded by Jeremy Irons, Oscar-winning actor and Chancellor of Bath Spa University.

The winning entry is:

FYI by Kelly Doran

Obviously I’m not judging Carl; I just think it would’ve been nice to know about the whole pineapple situation before I moved in with him.

The runners-up are:

Early Learning by Clare Gallagher

With boys she hit harder. Hit at the child he once was. Thirty years’ ‘exemplary classroom practice’. The soft palm of so many small hands.

Rise of the shy horticulturalist by Michael Hunt

Veni, vedi, Aesculus hippocastanum: I came, I saw, I conkered. Caesar of playgrounds, bullied no more, commander of string, nut and a smattering of Latin.

Kelly Doran, winner of the Novel in 25 Words competition, said: “I am absolutely delighted to have won the Novel in 25 Words competition, especially as I realised quite quickly how difficult it was to write something eloquent within the constraints of such a small word count! But the idea to run a competition like this, marking 25 years of creative writing, is fantastic and I’m so pleased I stumbled across it; I had so much fun thinking of funny things I could say and I love the word pineapple, so it was a no-brainer for me to write a comical story about such a wonderful fruit!”

Judge, celebrated author and Bath Spa University graduate, Beatrice Hitchman, commented: “The standard of entries to the competition was, unsurprisingly, incredibly high and we saw a very diverse range of themes and topics covered in entries from right across the world.

“Interestingly, these topics changed as the news agenda changed, highlighting to us how peoples’ thoughts, feelings and writing can be affected by prominent stories in the media. In this case, there was a distinct shift in tone after the Grenfell Tower tragedy and when another story of the worsening refugee crisis came to light. It's interesting to see how contestants use their writing to respond to major events; this has echoes of how other authors chose to express themselves in flash fiction throughout literary history, particularly after World War One.”

Philip Hensher, Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, said: “What we loved about FYI by Kelly Doran was the very sly humour. It's a real skill to open up a new range of possibilities in the final words - here are two lives tantalisingly hinted at.

“Among the runners-up, we admired Claire Gallagher's poignant 'Early Learning', and Michael Hunt's knottily charming 'Rise of the Shy Horticulturalist'.  The elegance of treatment, and the fine consideration of every word's effect, made these entries stand out.”

A Place in Words – A celebration of 25 years of creative writing excellence

As well as running the creative writing competition to mark the 25th anniversary, Bath Spa University has launched an anthology - entitled A Place in Words - containing work by its most celebrated alumni and staff. The 420-page tome includes entries by award-winning authors, Tessa Hadley and Phillip Hensher, former professor of creative writing at Bath Spa University, Richard Francis and creative writing graduate, Evie Wylde.

The anthology also features a deleted chapter from Naomi Alderman’s award-winning dystopian science-fiction novel, The Power, where women develop the ability to release electrical jolts from their fingers, thus becoming the dominant gender. The 2016 book became the first science fiction novel to win the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

A Place in Words can be purchased directly here.


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