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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

UPDATE: The 2021 competition is now closed. Thank you for your submissions ond good luck.

The College’s Fiction Prize, now going into its 11th year, provides a unique opportunity for unpublished women writers to launch their literary careers.

Over the past ten 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. The winner of the 2021 prize will receive guidance and support from literary agent and sponsor Peters Fraser Dunlop and a cash prize of £1,500.

To enter the 2021 Fiction Prize click here

The 2020 winner of the Fiction Prize was Aoife Fitzpatrick, who beat over 400 other entries and 5 other shortlisted authors, with her novel An Arrangement in Grey and Black.

Aoife Fitzpatrick is a native of Dublin, Ireland. Her short stories have been published in 'Southword' literary journal, 'Books Ireland' magazine, and by the Welsh independent publisher, Cinnamon Press. Winner of the inaugural Books Ireland short-story award, her work has also been recognised by the Séan O’Faoláin Prize, the Elizabeth Jolley Prize and by the Short Story of the Year award. She read English Studies at Trinity College, Dublin, and graduated the MFA in Creative Writing at University College Dublin, with distinction, in 2019. The Arts Council of Ireland has supported her shortlisted novel, An Arrangement in Grey & Black, with a literature bursary for 2020.

Aoife says: 

I'm thrilled that my book has connected with readers; a privilege made even more special by the judges’ formidable record for backing real potential. There is comfort in a cash prize, of course – a welcome bursary for the work in progress. But I also value those treasures which go unseen. The college engages wholeheartedly with writers who reach the later stages of the competition, giving access to a writing community, industry knowledge and the kind of faith & shelter that every early-career author needs. This prize has soul. And I'm very grateful to the team at Lucy Cavendish College for their unerring vision and dedication to new women's writing.

Tim Bates, Head of the Books Department and literary agent sponsor at PFD, commented on this year’s winner:

"Aoife Fitzpatrick is a worthy winner from an unusually strong shortlist. Her An Arrangement in Grey and Black is a stunning and sophisticated historical novel, based on a true story of a murder trial in nineteenth century West Virginia, and the only time the testimony of a ghost has been allowed in a US courtroom. It’s a brilliant piece of historical re-creation.

Award-winning author and journalist Allison Pearson is Chair of the judging panel in 2021. Allison 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 yet another year of literary successes.”

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.”

The Fiction Prize and its authors

Over the past ten years, the Fiction Prize has gained a prestigious reputation for uncovering new talent, with regular interest from the publishing industry. Since its foundation in 2010, the Prize has been a starting point in numerous entrants’ success stories. Gail Honeyman (2014 Shortlist) has topped the fiction charts with her novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (published 2017) with accolades including the British Book Awards ‘Book of the Year 2018’, Waterstones Fiction ‘Book of the Month’ for February 2018 and the 2017 Costa Book Awards ‘First Novel’ Award. Catherine Chanter (winner 2013) became a published author with The Well, long listed for the CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger 2015. It is published in the UK by Canongate and has been translated into twelve languages. Catherine has now published a second novel, The Half Sister. Frances Maynard (2016 shortlist) published The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr. It was shortlisted for the 2016 Mslexia First Novel Competition, the McKitterick Prize Author Awards in 2018, and the 2014 Good Housekeeping First Novel Award. In 2019 she published Maggsie McNaughton’s Second Chance. Emily Midorikawa (2015 Winner) and Emma Claire Sweeney published A Secret Sisterhood to wide acclaim. Lesley Sanderson’s The Orchid Girls (2017 shortlist) was published in 2018 and has also received widespread acclaim. Lesley has since published The Woman at 46 Heath Street, The Leaving Party and I know you lied. Sara Collins’ debut, The Confessions of Frannie Langton, is proving to be a lead title in the UK and the US and won the 2019 Costa first novel award. Laura Marshall’s Friend Request was published in 2017 and named a Sunday Times Top 10 List bestseller, and a number one eBook bestseller; it was shortlisted for the Bath Novel Award. Laura has since published another acclaimed crime thriller, Three Little Lies, and is currently working on her third novel. Claire Askew (2016 winner) All the Hidden Truths was named The Times’ September Book of the Month; Claire’s follow-up novel, What You Pay For, was published in 2019 and shortlisted for McIlvanney and CWA Awards. She is currently working on a second full-length poetry collection, and a third novel. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott Swan Song was published by Penguin Random House/Hutchinson in 2018 and has since won many accolades including winning the 2015 Bridport Prize and being named one of The Times' Books of the Year 2018. It was longlisted for the Women's Prize in 2019 and the rights have been sold for television to Balloon Entertainment (Skins, Clique), with Kelleigh adapting the novel as a limited series.       

About Lucy Cavendish

The College was founded as a women's college for students aged twenty-one and over and which transformed their life chances and gave them professional careers. The College has now embraced Cambridge University widening participation campaign and decided to open those opportunities to new groups of under-represented women of all ages (generally 18+) from October 2020, and from all ages and genders from September 2021, and to welcome and support particularly those who have a passion and commitment to address the global challenges that characterise our societies in the 21st Century. Our undergraduate and postgraduate students come from over sixty countries, and a wide variety of educational and professional backgrounds. Many have changed careers or overcome significant challenges in order to reach University. The College is particularly strong in Medicine, Law, Engineering, Veterinary Medicine, Psychology, the Social Sciences and English.

Contact information Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge, T: 01223 768426, E:

To enter the 2021 Fiction prize click here

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