Welcome to the Caledonia Novel Award, an Edinburgh-based, international award for unpublished and self-published novelists.

Prize: £1,000, and a trophy specially designed by Edinburgh artist Astrid Jaekel

Shortlist judge: Madeleine Milburn, literary agent and founder of Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency

Special Prize: a free place on a writing course at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre for the best novel from the UK and Ireland

And we have our winner!

We are thrilled to announce the winner of the Caledonia Novel Award 2018! Here’s our shortlist judge, Madeleine Milburn, Literary Agent and Director of Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency:

“I was so impressed by the standard of entries for the Caledonia Novel Award 2018, and it’s been an utter joy to judge. We had such a range of genres from impressive Young Adult and beautiful book club fiction to epic historical fiction and unique thrillers.

Many congratulations to all the entrants; you made my job very challenging! Hugely well done to all those who made the long and shortlists: your work has affirmed my belief that the future of storytelling is very exciting indeed, and I wish you all the best in your literary endeavours. Most importantly, thank you for giving me the opportunity to read your work.

So, to the winner.

The title I chose was one that stood out from the very start. The voice was unique, the characterisation vivid, the plot electric. It was a masterful piece of fiction, and might have been written by someone at the pinnacle of their powers, rather than one who is just starting out on what promises to be a hugely exciting career.

And so I am very pleased to announce that the winner of the 2018 Caledonia Novel Award is Elizabeth Macneal, for her debut novel The Doll Factory.

One of the most thrilling parts of being a literary agent is that surge of adrenaline when you encounter a truly special piece of writing, and this piece had me bouncing off the walls for days.

Set in 1850s London, it tells the story of Iris, a beautiful doll-making apprentice who dreams of being a painter, and Silas, a lonely collector of morbid curiosities who dreams of building his own museum.

Elizabeth’s voice is incredibly striking and through her beautiful writing and cinematic descriptions she has masterfully recreated multiple layers of Victorian London, from the bohemian residence of a young artist to the dark and gritty underbelly, via curious establishments and Great Exhibitions. The familiarity of the characters residing in these settings demand empathy, but also at times their eccentricities repulse and terrify. Along with the reader, these characters are dragged through the streets of London by an unrelenting plot that is both gripping and hugely gratifying.

Though its setting is Victorian, there is so much for the modern reader to relate to. Central to the book is a hugely contemporary theme: female empowerment. Iris has dreams constrained by society and her place in it, but she also possesses a dogged resilience that compels her forward. It will resonate with the growing momentum of the #metoo movement, and the demands to break down the barriers blocking the ambitions of so many women today.

It is, in short, a truly unique and completely wonderful read. I’m delighted to say that I will be representing Elizabeth for her superb debut historical fiction, and I can’t wait to share the novel with publishers.

Huge congratulations to Elizabeth, you are a true master of your craft and I simply cannot wait to help you reach the huge readership that you deserve.

Well done, a thousand times.


Elizabeth Macneal also wins the Moniack Mhor Writing Retreat Prize for the best novel from the UK and Ireland – congratulations!





Dark Barn by L P Fergusson – “The Second World War comes crashing down on a quiet community in rural England, starting a chain of events that will irrevocably alter the destiny of four lives. A fascinating look at how one’s actions, no matter how noble the intentions, can have dramatic and unforeseen consequences for you and those around you. This is a refreshing and emotive story about ordinary people caught up in events and passions far beyond their control or understanding.”




Angel Derby by Mary Ann Kurtz – “We were immediately drawn in by the unusual, intriguing tone and stunning writing of this entry. The writer has a fascinating voice, and a spellbinding style. With a wonderful child protagonist, we see the world and its complications through innocent eyes, all in the rich and atmospheric setting of Tennessee.”




Four Degrees by Julie Carrick Dalton – “It was refreshing to read an original and intriguing take on the thriller genre. As well as being wonderfully written, the nature elements and convincing plot blended together to create something brilliant. Sadie was a startling protagonist, who we eagerly followed in her quest to hide the truth of her dark past. The entomology angle and the atmospheric setting of the woods really enhanced the notion that no one can hold back the power of nature, and also served as an excellent backdrop to a more familiar plot line.”



The Fate of a Golden Boy by Susan Hurley – “The cut-throat world of pharmaceuticals is laid bare in this thrilling account of a drugs trial gone bad. The effective employment of multiple perspectives and unreliable narrators keep the reader guessing at the truth, and who is really to blame for what went so disastrously wrong. Encountering ruthless corporations, ambitious doctors, and those caught up in the middle, The Fate of a Golden Boy is a study of guilt versus good intentions, and of loyalty versus betrayal.”




The Revision of Eleanor Reddy by Eva Sandoval – “We were captivated by the eccentric protagonist of this entry – it’s a story we haven’t seen before in fiction, and having an insight into Eleanor’s mind was compelling and expertly told. It was a wonderful thought-provoking story that forced the reader to question their day-to-day existence, and really shone a light on the kind of character who looks for excuses to keep to themselves, at the detriment of their happiness and their livelihood.”




Many thanks and congratulations to all our shortlisted novelists! This year’s Caledonia Novel Award attracted more than 350 entries from 26 different countries – our shortlisted writers hail from Scotland, England, Australia, Italy and the USA.  It’s been a bonanza year for extraordinary stories: their tales took us on exciting journeys from Victorian London to contemporary America, covering wartime England, medical drama in Australia, an all-women flying contest and a life-changing adventure in Guatemala.

The Caledonia Novel Award 2019 opens to entries on 1 May, 2018.


Here at The Caledonia Novel Award, we are really keen to nurture undiscovered talent and encourage new writers. With this in mind, we are very excited to announce that, for the second year running, we are offering a special prize for the best novel submitted by an author from the UK and Ireland. This prize is a free place on a writing course at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre, situated in the Scottish Highlands, just 14 miles from Inverness. The winner will be able to choose from a selection of week-long residential courses taking place there in 2018. Details of the 2017 courses, and further information about this excellent resource, can be found at http://www.moniackmhor.org.uk.

Moniack Mhor is Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre. The centre runs residential creative writing courses and partnership courses throughout the year for adults and young people at all stages of their writing career. Courses are tutored by established writers, with a mid-week visit from a guest writer, and cover many different genres. Moniack Mhor also runs one-off events for writers, outreach workshops, awards and a fellowship. High on a hill close to Loch Ness, the centre is an inspirational and nurturing setting for writers to spend an intensive period focussing on their work.

Many thanks to Moniack Mhor for their participation and continuing support.




Hannah Foster 

Little did I know, when writing Take Flight, which is set in a drought-stricken Australian landscape, that I’d end up editing it in a place almost the polar opposite. Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre, in the lush Scottish Highlands, became my home for a week after winning The Caledonia Novel Award’s special prize for best novel from the UK and Ireland.

I chose a Fiction writing course tutored by Kevin MacNeil and Tiffany Murray, with Patrick Gale as our special mid-week guest. I knew I was choosing a course with brilliant writers as tutors, but what I didn’t know, or entirely expect, was how much I’d bond with the incredible and supportive group of students attending the course.

On the first evening, after a hearty dinner prepared by the Centre’s staff, Kevin led all of the students through an introductory writing exercise. It is quite a vulnerable thing to do, to share something you’ve written with a group of strangers. I was nervous that first night. But my fear was misplaced. Everyone had chosen to do the course for different reasons – from finishing a novel to writing creative prose for the first time – but each person was similar in their generosity of spirit and their passion for creativity.

I had originally thought I’d spend most of the week in my room or tucked away by a window, writing. And I did spend many hours at the little desk in my room, which had a beautiful view of the ‘Hobbit House’ and fields beyond. But, more important than the words I wrote, were the many hours I spent in tutorials, one-to-ones, readings and informally with other students improving the quality of my writing. I learnt to think about scenes differently, to review and edit dialogue critically, and I wrote down so many little tips that, though they seem obvious now, I had either forgotten or had not occurred to me before. On top of this, each day involved hearing people read their stories. Both tutors and students shared their work; some of it funny, some sad, some polished and some very raw and new. Each day I glimpsed a slice of an individual’s fantastic world, or was dragged back in history or granted entry to the most private of moments. It was bliss!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to The Caledonia Novel Award for this very special prize. I’m so thankful that the Award teamed up with Moniack Mhor to offer a place on one of their retreats, because, for a writer, time and space to write is just about the best thing you could possibly offer. For anyone considering entering the Award this year, I would say: just sit down, write those words and make it happen. Make this year the year you write a novel!


“I was delighted to be invited to judge this year’s shortlist.” Richard Pike of Curtis Brown, 2017 Shortlist Judge

It has never been less than a fascinating and thoroughly absorbing experience. Kathryn Ross of
Fraser Ross Associates Literary Agency, 2016 Shortlist Judge

Thank you again for this tremendous honour!” Cam Terwilliger, 2017 Winner with Yet Wilderness Grew in My Heart

“Such a great competition! Helpful feedback, great prizes – highly recommend entering!” Hannah Foster, 2017 Shortlistee with Take Flight