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Lucy Cavendish College is delighted to announce that its Fiction Prize, recognised as the leading women’s fiction prize in Europe, is now open.

Lucy Cavendish College is delighted to announce that its Fiction Prize, now recognised as the leading women’s fiction prize in Europe, is now open for entries. The Fiction Prize, now celebrating its 10th year, provides a unique opportunity for unpublished female writers to launch their literary careers, with past successes including Sara Collins (The Confessions of Frannie Langton) Gail Honeyman (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine), Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott (Swan Song), Laura Marshall (Friend Request), Frances Maynard (The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr) and Catherine Chanter (The Well).

Over the past nine years, the Fiction Prize has developed a formidable reputation for uncovering new talent and draws significant interest from the publishing industry. It has been a catalyst for numerous literary careers. Last year Sarah Brooks, who works in East Asian Studies at the University of Leeds, beat over 600 entries to become the winner of the 2019 Prize with her novel The Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wastelands. The story tells of a young girl who finds a stowaway and the adventure begins when she discovers the stowaway isn’t entirely human and perhaps poses a danger to the train.

Sarah Brooks, 2019 winner, with Allison Pearson

Sarah says:

“Winning the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize has been really life-changing. The whole experience was fantastic; from being long-listed to attending the reception with the other shortlistees, the college's enthusiasm and warmth was infectious. Sending work off for other people to see is always a bit terrifying, so it feels amazing to be longlisted or shortlisted for anything. It's such a confidence boost, and lovely (though still quite terrifying) to know that your words are being read and enjoyed. All of us on the shortlist are keeping in touch, and it's been great to be able to share our writing ups and downs.

The competition introduced me to my agent, Nelle Andrew, of Peters Fraser and Dunlop, and she's been absolutely brilliant at helping to bring out what's working in the novel and what's not, and encouraging me to push things further. The prize has made a real difference to how I approach my work, not least in giving me the confidence to actually start telling people, 'I'm writing a novel'!

I entered the competition with minutes to spare before the deadline, and I'd encourage anyone who's hesitating before entering to ignore those little voices of self-doubt and go for it (though possibly not by leaving it quite so last minute...!)”

Another great success story is Sara Collins whose first novel The Confessions of Frannie Langton has been repeatedly spotted crowding the windows at Waterstones as ‘book of the month’ in August this year. Sara says:

Sara Collins

“Little did I know when I was shortlisted that within two years I’d have signed with an agent, finished the novel, and agreed book deals in several territories as well as a TV option. I’m still pinching myself. And on top of all of that I feel like I’ve become part of the lifelong Lucy family, who have been cheerleading every step of the way.”

Before becoming a published author, Sara worked as a lawyer for seventeen years before obtaining a Master’s degree in creative writing with distinction from the University of Cambridge, where she also won the Michael Holroyd prize.

Her novel has been sold for translation into more than fourteen languages, as well as being optioned for television, and making an appearance in numerous ‘best of’ lists by Oprah magazine, The Guardian, The Observer, Amazon, Apple and Essence, to name a few. Oprah magazine named her one of the women of summer 2019, and The Sunday Times called her “a star in the making”.

Award-winning author and journalist Allison Pearson is Chair of the judging panel in 2020. Alison says:

“The Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize is the foremost prize of its kind in Europe and has gained an outstanding reputation amongst publishers for finding undiscovered talent. It really does provide a platform for new writers to showcase their work, and I look forward to celebrating its 10th year of literary successes.”

The winner of the 2020 prize will receive guidance and support from literary agent and sponsor Peters Fraser Dunlop and a cash prize of £1,500.

Dame Professor Madeleine Atkins, President of Lucy Cavendish College said:

“The Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize is the only official prize of its kind at the University of Cambridge and has an exceptional reputation in literary circles. It provides a unique opportunity for unpublished women writers to get the support they need to publish their first novel.”

In January 2020, the College will also host a Fiction Prize Festival following the sell-out-success of last year’s event. Many of the attendees last year went on to enter the competition, following a day of talks and tips from authors and industry experts. Speakers last year included Fiction Prize authors Sara Collins, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, Laura Marshall, Frances Maynard and Lesley Sanderson, Fiction Prize judges Sophie Hannah and Allison Pearson, and leading literary agents, publishers and editors including Nelle Andrew, from the sponsor of the Fiction Prize, PFD.

To find out more about the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize click here.

The closing date for the competition is 12 noon Friday 17th January 2020.