This page celebrates the amazing winners of our two flagship competitions, the Exeter Novel Prize and the Exeter Story Prize. We wish all of them the very best of luck in their writing careers.
Sandy Kundra Verma - 2022 Exeter Novel Prize
Sandy Kundra Verma has an Mst. in Creative Writing from Cambridge. She has worked in the advertising industry in India and as a drama teacher in Singapore. While taking care of two children, both under the age of four, she wrote ‘Burnt Toast’ a women’s fiction novel inspired from her heady advertising days in Mumbai. The novel was published in 2012 by Rupa Publications and was described by critics as a light breezy read.
She has won The Michael Holroyd Prize for recreative fiction and the Louis Des Bernieres Prize for Short fiction. Her short fiction has been published in The Barren Magazine and The Bangalore Review. In addition to winning the Exeter Prize 2022, her current manuscript has also won the Darling Axe First Page Challenge, The BPA Pitch Prize and has just been shortlisted for the Stockholm Writers Festival (results pending). Originally from Mumbai, Sandy lives in London now with her partner and two teenagers who take up way too much of her time.
Jay McKensie - 2022 Exeter Story Prize
Jay is a former child actress who has lived and worked in Greece, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore and Exeter! She is a performing arts teacher and recently qualified clinical hypnotherapist.She studied at Bretton Hall Arts College and has a degree in English.
Her short stories, flash and micros have been published online at Cafe Lit Magazine, Reedsy, Globe Soup, Vocal and Off Topic, and in print in Mr Rosewood, Fabula Nivalis, Leicester Writes and The Gift and will be featured in two other publications in 2023. Readings of her stories have featured on the Blue Marble Storytellers’ podcast, and she has guested on the Read Lots Write Lots podcast. She is currently juggling motherhood and two novel manuscripts.
Her winning story is HERE
You can find Jay on Instagram HERE
Amita Murray - 2021 Exeter Novel Prize
I'm a writer, based in London. The first of my Arya Winters series of quirky and millennial mystery novels - Arya Winters and the Tiramisu of Death - came out with Polis Books in 2021 and is under a TV option with Renegade Pictures, a Warner Brothers company based in London. A starred review by Publishers Weekly says that the novel is 'full of original metaphors and pithily funny descriptions', and it 'turns the cosy genre on its head.' My collection Marmite and Mango Chutney won the SI Leeds Literary Prize in 2016 and it was part-written under a Leverhulme grant based at University College London. I’ve been a Literature Works writer-in-residence at Plymouth University, and taught creative writing at the University of East Anglia and the New College of the Humanities. My stories have been published in Wasafiri, Sand Berlin, Brand, Aesthetica and others. I’ve recently been a British Council writing mentor and WIR with Spread the Word/City of Stories.
Alicia Mietus - 2021 Exeter Story Prize
Alicia Mietus is a London based writer who recently completed her Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck University. She won the Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize 2019 for the fiction story 'Third Person Female.’ Previously, she studied Law with French Law at the University of Exeter and worked as a lawyer before entering the civil service. Current interests include the role of women, the immigrant experience, cultural and generational clashes, and identity. She is working towards a short story collection focussing on voices from the Polish community in the UK.
You can read Alicia's winning story HERE.
Harriet Avery - 2020 Exeter Novel Prize
Harriet Avery, a school librarian by day, is a graduate of the UEA Creative Writing Masters programme. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies, and her novel ‘Saving Rosalind’ has been longlisted in multiple novel competitions as well, gaining huge amounts of interest along the way. She is currently looking for representation to publish the untold story behind DNA scientist Rosalind Franklin, and her fascinating life. Harriet has been writing for as long as she can remember, and can often be found by the sea in East Anglia, whilst existing mainly on a diet of pen ink and hot chocolate. She is on Twitter @HarrietMAvery
Alex Dawes - 2020 Exeter Story Prize
Alex Dawes is a native Londoner who now lives in the East Midlands with his girlfriend and his dog. He is a Political Science graduate from the University of East Anglia and works in the financial services industry.
Alex has been writing for a few years now. He is great at starting projects and is trying to get better at finishing them. He is a Bridport Prize winner, was a runner up in Writing Magazine's 2020 Virtual Writer’s Weekend Short Fiction Competition and was published in Audio Arcadia’s 2020 anthology. Listen to his Exeter Story Prize winning story HERE
You can follow Alex on Twitter @AlexNDawes.
Sara Cate Green - 2019 Exeter Novel Prize
Sara Green is an award-winning writer whose short stories have been published in anthologies including An Earthless Melting Pot and Refugees Welcome. Her first novel, A Life in Boxes took second prize in the Yeovil Novel Competition.
Sara lives and works in Lyon, France. She is a broadcast and print journalist and copywriter with over twenty years’ experience in international radio, television and corporate communications.
Sara speaks fluent French and Spanish as well as a little Italian and Portuguese. When not writing or running around after her three daughters, she is often walking, swimming lengths or getting lost in Venice. Sara is on Twitter @saracategreen
STOP PRESS: We are delighted that Sara's winning novel is now published. Click on the cover for more.
Vicky MacKenzie - 2019 Exeter Story Prize
Victoria MacKenzie is based on the east coast of Scotland and writes fiction and poetry. Her stories have been published in anthologies and magazines including New Writing Scotland, The Book of Iona (Polygon), Gutter magazine and Brittle Star magazine.
In 2016 she was awarded a Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award and in 2017 she won the Emerging Writer Award from Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre. She has been a Hawthornden Fellow and held writing residencies at Cove Park, Varuna Writers’ House in Australia and at Saari Manor in south-west Finland. She teaches creative writing for the University for the Creative Arts and her acclaimed debut novel For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy on my Little Pain is out now . https://victoriamackenzie.net/
Rebecca Kelly - 2018 Exeter Novel Prize
I have always loved words. From a young age I have written poems, stories and then, as a teenager, and for many years, songs. Despite trying my hand at a variety of jobs, writing remained my first love. In the past twenty years, I have helped to grow our family business, as well as our two sons. It is only now that I have had time to revisit writing and dedicate more time to what I truly enjoy. I finished my first novel, a thriller, 18 months ago and am currently editing my second, which, much to my delight, won this competition.
Edit: Rebecca's debut novel is now out. Click on the cover.
You can follow Rebecca on Twitter @RKellyAuthor1
Daniel Murphy - 2018 Exeter Story Prize
Most of Danny’s professional career has been in education, where he was a successful headteacher at three very different Scottish secondary schools before working at the University of Edinburgh. In that role, Danny wrote/co-wrote/co-edited a number of books on current education policy and practice including Dealing with Dilemmas, now widely used in Scottish headteacher training programmes.
Frustrated at the limitations of academic texts - rigorous, analytical and conceptual in character, they often fail to capture the importance of the individual story – Danny studied for a part-time M.Lit. in Creative Writing at the University of Stirling and is working now on a novel which tells the individual stories of some of the pupils and teachers in a school, one of which is published in New Writing Scotland 34. He is a past winner of the Costa Short Story prize.
Danny’s online life is a bit uneven – improving it is on a long list of ‘things to do next year’! He started blogging while working as an education volunteer with Voluntary Service Overseas at the Ministry of Education in Cambodia, but has not been keeping the blog up to date recently. He tweets erratically @DannySMurphy.
E. J. Pepper - 2017 Exeter Novel Prize
E. J. Pepper was brought up in Worcestershire and Co. Donegal.
She studied English at London University, with a particular focus on Old Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon as a way of deepening her understanding of the roots of language and literature.
Following a lifetime ambition, she completed an M.A. in Creative Writing at Chichester University, a course that she feels really enabled her as a writer.
Her MS, ‘The Colours of the Dance,’ set in late-nineteenth century Ulster and viewing the struggle for Irish Home Rule through the eyes of a mute child, won the 2016 First Novel Prize.
She has had a variety of occupations, including university lecturer, magistrate, and bereavement and marital therapist.
She lives with her husband on the Surrey/Sussex border.
Sophie Ellen Powell - 2017 Exeter Story Prize
Sophie studied Drama and French at Bristol University, and has recently graduated with Distinction from the Creative Writing MA at Chichester Unversity.
As a perfomer her practise focuses on devised work , clown , mask, puppetry and object animation. She is a regular performer with Long Nose Puppets and has performed both with them and for other shows in many prestigeous places including The South bank Centre, ICA, Sheffield Crucible, Little Angel Puppet Theatre and London International Mime Festival.
Writing credits include poems published by Poetry Today and So Sussex, and theatre reviews for Brighton Fringe Festival. Sophie also co -wrote the script for a recent comission Mischief and Mysteries in Moomin Valley which premiered at the South Bank Centre and went on to tour Kew Gardens, Big Family Festival and Colston Hall. Further dates for 2018 are anticipated at Bath Literary Festival and Stratford upon Avon Literary Festival amongst others.
Sophie has undertaken a wide variety of teaching work varying from workshops in the community to regular contributions at Rose Bruford Drama College. Sophie is on Twitter @SophiePowell
Briony Collins - 2016 Exeter Novel Prize
Briony is a writer currently based in North Wales, though she grew up in Leicester, and attended high school in the United States. She has been writing since she was eight, but only began to take her work more seriously in 2016. She entered the Exeter Novel Prize with the opening of Raise Them Up, which began as A-Level college coursework, in September 2016.
Raise Them Up was inspired by her fascination with the Civil Rights Movement, and the struggles that many racial minorities still face today, as the fight for equal rights continues. Most of her writing takes on voices of people that are underrepresented in literature. As Briony said in an interview with Ty Newydd Writing Centre in 2017, “I think art has such immense potential to bring about change, and to bring balance to parts of the world which are still imbalanced and unfair.”
In addition to prose, Briony also writes plays and poetry. In April 2017, she attended a residential writing course at Ty Newydd, where she was tutored by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and Gillian Clarke (National Poet of Wales, 2008-16). Her motivation to pursue poetry came about when her poem ‘Divorce’ was longlisted in the 2016 National Poetry Competition.
She attends Bangor University where she studies English Literature and is represented by DHH Literary Agency.
Laura Guthrie - 2016 Exeter Story Prize
Laura is an Inverness-based writer employing whatever medium she feels will best realise the muse that is blowing through her mind at the time. To date she's written stage plays, prose, songs and poetry. Her poetry tends to be short, and is often surreal, childlike, flippant or parodic. Her poems have been anthologised by several presses such as WomenWords, Early Works Press, and the Federation of Writers (Scotland).
Laura has been telling stories since she was a toddler. In 2004 a short story entitled The Day I Woke Up With Wings was awarded second prize in the secondary schools category of the Neil Gunn Writing Competition. Since then she has written three plays, two of which she has put on with her independent profit-share theatre company, Sunrise Theatre. Her first play, Katiana Was Here, was performed at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, and is published online with Lazy Bee Scripts HERE
Her Exeter Story Prize story, Oh Cheeses, is her first attempt at a piece that is itself largely about writing. It is somewhat inspired by, and marks a tribute to, one of her poet-friends.
Laura is currently finishing her first novel, which forms part of her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow.
Richard Buxton - 2015 Exeter Story Prize
Richard Buxton grew up in Wales but has lived in Sussex for the last thirty years. He is a proud 2015 graduate of the Creative Writing Masters programme at Chichester University. He studied in America during his twenties which proved to be a formative experience as when, in recent years, Richard began to write, he set most of his stories stateside.
The American Civil War is his fascination, in particular how that traumatic event has shaped the America of today. He tries to return there as often as he can for research and inspiration. Earlier this year, he completed a collection of short stories which explore the long shadow cast by the Civil War.
Winning the Exeter Story Prize in 2015 with Battle Town was probably the biggest surprise of Richard’s life. Further surprises followed. He won the 2015 Bedford International Writing Competition and the 2016 Nivalis Short Story award and was therefore forced to take himself slightly more seriously.
In April 2017 he self-published his Civil War novel, Whirligig, which he likes to describe as somewhere between Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels and Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain. Whirligig has since been shortlisted for the Rubery International Book Award. His second novel, The Copper Road, is in the works.
You can find out more about Richard on his website HERE
His Amazon page is HERE
Lucy Welch - 2015 Exeter Novel Prize
Lucy lives in Surrey with her husband and two children as well as two quail, three gerbils and four Bantam hens - and one cat which lives in a state of hopeful anticipation. She works at a lively community centre which she loves even though that means getting up at 6am at the weekends to squeeze in her writing.
She won both the Exeter Novel Competition 2015 and the Flash500 Novel competition 2013. She has flash fiction published in 'A Box of Stars Beneath the Bed' and a short story in 'Hysteria 4' and was both Highly Commended and Commended in the Winchester Writing Competitions.
When her 10-year old daughter asked for a story, Lucy discovered how much she enjoyed writing children's fiction. She is now busy with several Middle Grade projects and spends much of her time in imaginary worlds.
She is not yet represented but - like the cat - lives in hopeful anticipation.
You can find out more about Lucy on her website - www.lucywelch.tk
Clare Harvey - 2014 Exeter Novel Prize
Clare Harvey was born in Barnstaple, North Devon, and lived there until just after her seventh birthday, when her family moved to Mauritius for two years. After living overseas, she moved to Surrey, and then later back to Devon, where she went to secondary school and took a foundation course in art and design.
She read Law at the University of Leicester, but chose not to follow a legal path, deciding instead to do voluntary work in Tanzania and hitch-hike from Zanzibar to Cape Town, where she stayed for a year. After her African adventure, she worked for an overseas charity, picked up a journalism qualification, and fell in love with a soldier. Much to her parents’ dismay, a safe career as a solicitor never looked likely!
She has had an itinerant adulthood, working variously as a freelance journalist, radio reporter and English tutor in Nepal, Germany and Northern Ireland, and England, as the trailing spouse of a serving soldier.
Her debut novel, The Gunner Girl, won the 2014 Exeter Novel Prize and went on to be published by Simon & Schuster in 2015. The Gunner Girl also won the Joan Hessayon Award for debut romantic fiction in 2016. Since then Clare has also had two further books published: The English Agent and The Night Raid.
Clare now writes full time, and lives with her family in Nottingham.
You can get in touch with her on social media, or via her website:
Simon & Schuster author page: http://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/authors/Clare-Harvey/576635850
Su Bristow - 2013 Exeter Novel Prize
Su Bristow grew up in Surrey, before gaining a place at Girton College, Cambridge, where she studied Archaeology and Anthropology.
A consultant medical herbalist by day, Su is a keen drinker of tea, a choral society member and rower of many miles in front of the television. She has written two books on herbal medicine, and two on relationship skills.
In January 2017, Orenda Books published Su's debut novel, Sealskin, winner of the inaugural Exeter Novel Prize. Set in the Hebrides it is a re-working of the Scottish legend of the selkies, or seals, who can turn in to people. Novelist Jane Johnson says, "I love books in which magic takes on a gritty reality and Sealskin is just such a book. Dark and brooding and half-familiar, the tale steals over you 'till you're half-in, half-out of a dream.”