Writing Bursary Competition Winners Announced!

Writing Bursary Competition Winners

To celebrate 155 years of creativity at “The People’s Friend”, our recent Writing Bursary Competition was looking for “a new voice in fiction”. We received around 650 wonderful entries and we can now reveal our overall winner, category winners and runners-up!

Writing Bursary Competition Winners

Thanks to all who entered the competition, the standard was extremely high and the judges and the “Friend” fiction team enjoyed reading the stories.

Here are our 10 winners, including overall winner Léonie Gregson. You can now read a Q & A with Léonie as she discusses her win and her writing plans.

Overall Winner (one £10,000 prize): Léonie Gregson with “Fossils”

Overall Winner Leonie GregsonAuthor Bio

Our overall winner Leonie moved to the UK from Tasmania in 1999 and now lives in Gloucestershire with her partner Jonathan and an irascible black cat called Marlowe. She works in marketing and when not working, writing or researching, Leonie generally collapses in a heap and sleeps.

Story Synopsis

Widowed teacher Hannah is walking on a coastal path near her home, a route she used to take with her much-missed husband, Robert, when she sees an older man acting strangely. Convinced that he’s about to take his own life, she feels a strong urge to protect him, not least because he reminds her so much of Robert. Despite the man’s initial resistance, she engages him in conversation and discovers that he too has lost his partner and is struggling with loneliness. Although very different, the two find common ground in those brief moments and a strange, fragile and unexpected romance begins to blossom from their shared grief.

A Word From Our Winner and Head Judge

Léonie was delighted to be chosen as our overall winner. “I’m absolutely thrilled. While I hoped my story might be a good fit for ‘People’s Friend’ I certainly didn’t expect to win. I’ve always been quite an obsessive writer but I felt I never really had enough time to give to it in the past. I’m trying to change that now – I’ve just started a PhD in English and creative writing so this has come at the perfect time for me. I plan to do a whole lot more writing now, and can finally focus on getting published. It’s like a dream come true, really.”

Writing Bursary Competition head judge, Sally Lindsay, says: “When I first read Leonie’s story ‘Fossils’, I thought ‘that’s the one’. It was a standout piece and just had that little bit extra. I read and re-read all the finalists and all were excellent, but ‘Fossils’ takes you on an unexpected journey, just as the best short stories should. Definitely a deserving winner.”

Category Winners (three winners receiving £500 each)

ROMANCE: Amanda Smith with “Bags of Time”

Category Winner Romance Amanda SmithAuthor Bio

Amanda is 35 years old and lives in London with her husband and eight-month-old daughter, Ashleigh. Amanda has worked as a project manager in the charity sector for nearly 15 years but has always had stories and characters buzzing around in the back of her head. Since being on maternity leave she has decided to pluck up the courage to finally put pen to paper.

Story Synopsis

Fashion-mad Paige is on her way to a friend’s wedding, daydreaming about the day when it might be her turn. When she finds herself in a sartorial mess on the way to the ceremony, could a series of fateful twists, coincidences, and a new handbag, finally bring her face to face with Mr Right?

THRILLER: Maria Clark with “On Lancaster Sands”

Category Winner Thriller Maria ClarkAuthor Bio

Maria Clark from Hemel Hempstead is a British writer who loves languages, photography and travel. Alongside her degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at Lancaster University, she worked as a copywriter for Eurail and lived abroad in the Netherlands.

Story Synopsis

“On Lancaster Sands” is a historical thriller set in 1849 at Morecambe Bay, England. Morecambe Bay is a well-known beauty spot, but when the tide goes out, it becomes a deadly quicksand. In the 19th century, many travellers used to follow guides known as Carters across the sand to get from one side of the bay to the other, but this often resulted in tragedy. Inspired by real-life events, this story focuses upon Clara, who lost her fiancé, Felix, in one such accident on the sands. Having returned to her hometown from London, she struggles to confront her past.

COMEDY: Helen Bain with “Christmas Crackling”

Category Winner Comedy Helen BainAuthor Bio

Helen lives in a village in Sussex, works as a sub-editor at the Financial Times, and is completing a creative/critical PhD at King’s College London. She is currently writing a novel set in rural Devon in the early 1960s. She loves walking, swimming, reading, writing, and eating.

Story Synopsis

It is Christmas Eve in a village in the English countryside. A young woman, Daisy, is devastated that her close friend Henry will serve up their beloved pig, Jeremy, to eat at the village celebrations. After nine months of rearing Jeremy to forage truffles, Daisy learns that Henry, who will inherit the Estate, instead intends to raise pigs to slaughter. Daisy, a soft-hearted vegan, is heartbroken by the loss of both Henry and Jeremy. She intends to tell everyone what has happened. But the pigs-in-blankets at the party are vegan, and Henry appears with Jeremy. Henry and Daisy kiss.

Runners-Up (six winners receiving £200 each)

ROMANCE UNDER 30: Cristina Ortiz with “Arthur’s Flowers”

Cristina OrtizAuthor Bio

Cristina Ortiz was born in Mexico. She moved to the United Kingdom at seventeen and is 28, living in Brighton with her family.

Story Synopsis

Arthur and Sophie return home from a housewarming party. They are attracted to one another; however, Sophie is afraid of love after a previous bad relationship. As they walk, Sophie recounts the story of a bouquet which was accidentally dropped off at her home one day, as well as what she did with it. In doing so, she remembers a conversation between Arthur and her regarding the bouquet, where he told her he’d never received flowers. She buys him a bouquet from the Co-Op they stop at. They continue their journey home until their paths separate.

ROMANCE OVER 30: Kim Gravell with “Silly Old Fool”

Kim GravellAuthor Bio

Kim Gravell is 60 years old and lives with her husband in mid-Wales, in an old chapel which they converted themselves. Having recently retired from her full-time job as a program manager for a global IT company, Kim is enjoying the freedom to pursue her writing hobby.

Story Synopsis

A feel-good senior romance set in Greece. Martin watches his wife, Veronica, dancing with a stranger at a wedding. He reflects on how the romance has gone from their relationship following his stroke the previous year. He can no longer dance and feels Veronica has stopped loving him since taking on the role of his carer. Watching her, he feels lonely and forgotten and is shocked when Veronica insists they have the last dance together. She says she has missed the closeness of dancing with him and he realises his fears are ill-founded and that their love is still strong.

THRILLER UNDER 30: Fin Fearn with “Just a Man”

Fin FearnAuthor Bio

Lives in Mirfield, near Huddersfield and Leeds but goes to university to study creative writing in York. Currently working on a fantasy novel.

Story Synopsis

Mr Jones didn’t think that his life would end like this. And yet, here he is living his final moments in the company of the people who were about to kill him. For one of those people, it was all too much. Unable to come to terms for the role he has played in Mr Jones’s execution, the executioner writes his resignation letter accounting the events of the execution, and how he believed in Mr Jones’s innocence.

THRILLER OVER 30: Claire Gallagher with “The Tattoo Killer”

Claire Gallagher

Author Bio

Mum, part-time teacher and self-published author from Oldbury. Writes from 4am every day before family wakes up. Says she’d benefit from editorial support.

Story Synopsis

Lisa, single parent to a crime-novel-addicted teen, is a detective. She’s put in charge of a serial killer case by her DS, Philomena Newton, when a new victim is found with the killer’s calling card: a T drawn on his bicep. With the assistance of the Crime Scene Investigator, a criminal psychologist and her daughter, she unravels clues which point to a female insider. When she reports this to DS Newton, the Superintendent attacks her. After her arrest, Newton reveals that she has been exacting revenge on men who look like her husband, Anthony/Tony (the mysterious T), who betrayed her with a younger woman before he died.

COMEDY UNDER 30: Esther Clark with “Nothing Ever Really Happens”

Esther ClarkAuthor Bio

A young writer from rural Somerset, Esther enjoys studying local history, and getting involved in community and church events. Currently she’s looking to publish a debut novel (a Victorian romance) in the coming year.

Story Synopsis

Alice is on the bus on a dull, wet day, when a young man with a rucksack boards and sits next to her. The young man, Tom, explains that he is on the way to his twin nephews’ birthday party, after a chaotic day which culminated in the piñata he made for them getting damaged in the rain. Afraid of disappointing his nephews, Tom goes home with Alice, who asks her mother to help mend it. They then go on to the party, where Alice meets Tom’s family and reflects that her dull day had been transformed by meeting Tom.

COMEDY OVER 30: LJ Sexton with “Wild Civilisation”

LJ SextonAuthor Bio

Returned to university at 46 to undertake a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. Currently writing a novel about a middle-aged woman who walks The Camino in Spain and meets a much older man and falls in love. Mum of four and a yoga instructor, living in the Glasgow area.

Story Synopsis

“Wild Civilisation” stems from lockdown when I heard about a woman who lived alone and made a fortune selling tablet to her neighbours. So I created the character of a self-absorbed snob who doesn’t see reality beyond her own kitchen, and I put her against a good man who has little himself, but thinks life is about “giving”. I’ve drawn on two great paradoxes, the givers and takers, the privileged and the oppressed, highlighting humanities differing circumstances, but with humour thrown in, to show the absurdity of what people sometimes think and see as “uncivilised”.

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.