ddxbtdrnWe are delighted to announce that the winner of the Caledonia Novel Award 2016 is The Promise of Water by Andrea Crossley Spencer. Our judge, Kathryn Ross of Fraser Ross Associates Literary Agency, commented:

“This is the story that I keep coming back to, these are the characters who touched me most deeply and this is the novel I most want to read when it is published.”

Kathryn was keen to emphasise the “tremendous quality of writing” which she saw in the shortlist, and attributed this to the rise in creative-writing courses. However, she emphasised that, in her opinion, storytelling is absolutely key: “It’s a real skill, a talent which is not so easy to learn. It was probably the main reason why I chose The Promise of Water – I felt I was setting sail in the safe hands of a storyteller.”

Kathryn Ross and Lindsey Fraser (glasses) of Fraser Ross Associates. PIc Alistair Linford 0131 665 4226 07771 770121

She added: “Many thanks once again for asking me to judge this year’s Caledonia Novel Award. I’ve been impressed by the quality of the writing across the shortlist, and really relished the range of genres and settings. It’s been a treat to read stories set in such diverse geographical locations – I’ve learned a lot! Interesting too that a number of the novels had common themes: twins, family secrets, seriously ill teenagers, twisted religion, dead parents (obsessed parents, cruel parents, even ordinary loving parents!) and, distressingly, child abuse. Reading the shortlisted novels hasn’t always been an unalloyed pleasure; these are unpublished novels after all and they all had their weaknesses as well as their very definite strengths, but it has never been less than a fascinating and thoroughly absorbing experience. As you know, I haven’t found choosing a winner easy and the two novels that, for me, rose to the top couldn’t be more different.”

Congratulations to Andrea Crossley Spencer and to all our shortlisted authors, and many thanks to all 250 writers from 18 countries who entered the Caledonia Novel Award 2016.

2016 WINNER: The Promise of Water by Andrea Crossley Spencer

Andrea is an author, freelance writer and creative-writing instructor who lives in North Carolina, USA with her husband and two children. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and an MFA in Fiction.

Andrea’s desire to write began at an early age, and her goal was achieved when she entered an MFA program and immersed herself in creative writing. The Promise of Water is Andrea’s MFA manuscript thesis, and tells the story of Nora, the able sailor who goes missing on Lake Superior, and Nate, her twin brother who realises throughout the search for her, that he is as adrift as his twin.

Judge Kathryn Ross of Fraser Ross Associates commented: “The cold beauty and sheer vastness of Lake Superior is the dramatic setting for this story of a family faced with the heart-breaking loss of their daughter and sister, Nora in a sailing accident. This is confident storytelling, rich in detail and with an elegiac quality. The characters are strong and Nate in particular is well drawn and believable. I liked the fact that the writer had the courage to keep the pace slow at the start and to let the extraordinary secrets of these ordinary people’s lives unfold gradually.  Nate’s efforts to keep hope alive for his own and his parents’ sake and his increasingly desperate search for why his twin sister Nora went missing feel emotionally truthful and satisfying and the writing kept me hooked even when the pace and structure faltered towards the end. This is the story that I keep coming back to, these are the characters who touched me most deeply and this is the novel I most want to read when it is published.” Read the first chapter of Andrea’s winning novel here. Read Andrea’s winner’s interview here.

 2016 SHORTLISTED: Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron

Sophie Cameron is based in Edinburgh, where she works as a Marketing Officer for TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland). In 2012, she completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing, focussing on YA fiction. Out of the Blue is featured in SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices 2016 and was also shortlisted for the Bath Children’s Novel Award.

“The concept for Out of the Blue came to me after seeing Lynx’s ‘Even Angels Wsophiecameronill Fall’ advert about six years ago. The clip shows angels crash-landing in an Italian town, all of whom bounce
back up without so much as a hair out of place. It got me thinking about the damage that would be caused if that were really to happen and the different ways in which people would interpret it or try to profit from it.”

Judge Kathryn Ross of Fraser Ross Associates commented: “This novel has a visually arresting opening and makes excellent use of its Edinburgh setting. The narrator, Jaya has a great voice; she’s lively and determined, secure in her sexual identity – although not quite as confident as she at first appears – and with a nice line in wry, self-deprecating humour. Despite the high concept of the novel’s intriguing ‘Angels’ premise, the younger characters are satisfyingly real and earth-bound. The family dynamics, particularly between Jaya and her little sister Rani are keenly observed. It’s true that the falling angels turn out to be a bit of a McGuffin, but the writing is confident, the voice is engaging and I really enjoyed reading ‘Out of the Blue’. This is a writer with a great deal of promise.” Read the first chapter of Sophie’s novel here.

 2016 SHORTLISTED: The Liar Bird by Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein


Jena lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has a PhD in Linguistic Anthropology and has worked as a writer, editor and researcher. Her writing has appeared in a number of blogs and academic publications, as well as You Are Here, This Is Now (2002).

As an anthropologist, Jena works directly in intercultural contexts; the story of The Liar Bird emerged from those encounters, and from years living in all of the book’s major locations. She speaks English, Spanish and French – in that order! 

Judge Kathryn Ross of Fraser Ross Associates commented: “This is an intense, slow-burning novel which explores the effect on a relationship of secrets kept through a misplaced sense of shame and lies told in the belief that the truth will be too hurtful. Unable to tell her husband that she was raped as a teenager and that her recently deceased nephew, Craig was actually her own child, Rachel leaves home, saying only that she will ‘come home when she’s ready’ and leaving Paul bewildered and distraught. The timeline switches between ‘Now’ and ‘Then’ and in the engaging opening scene Rachel is on her way home and ‘ready’, which unusually makes her character appear more sympathetic at the start of the novel than later on. Her note to Paul says ‘Don’t wait for me. Live.” but it’s Rachel who travels to Argentina and Peru, who learns Spanish and meets new people including Rodrigo a young man who reminds her of Craig. Paul meanwhile buries himself in the routines of domestic life. The descriptions of the preparation of meals, the washing of dishes etc. are exquisitely detailed and the writing almost meditative, but at times I found Paul’s passivity frustrating.Overall though this is an interesting and thought-provoking read.” Read the first chapter of Jena’s novel here.

 2016 SHORTLISTED: One Act of Defiance by Rachel Malcolm

“I live in the middle of 85 acres in B.C., Canada with my husband and our six wild and wonderful kids.My youngest child is three and my oldest is fifteen, and I homeschool them all. I also work rachel-malcolm-photoas a birth doula because I just can’t get enough of birth and babies.

The inspiration for my novel One Act of Defiance came as I was drifting into sleep – in that place where you can almost create dreams. I started playing with the idea of the time of Moses and of slavery and what that might look like if it was set in the future. One Act of Defiance is the first book in a young-adult series about a young midwife who risks her life on a quest for freedom. Set in a future of slavery and oppression, this tale of courage takes an unblushing view of birth in all its rawness and beauty.”

Judge Kathryn Ross of Fraser Ross Associates commented: “A gritty YA novel set in a world where society is divided into an enslaved underclass of ‘deos’ and the ‘uppers’ who rule them. The teenage protagonist, Naya is a deo midwife and her profession gives a fresh and original twist to this dystopian tale of oppression and rebellion. The descriptions of childbirth are visceral, almost shockingly vivid, and provide some of the most memorable moments in the novel. I liked the fact that Naya looks forward to the days she has to spend in military training because the battle simulations at which she excels are light relief compared with the responsibilities of being a midwife. I have to admit to feeling disappointed when she fell for her instructor Jairan, although she redeems herself by following in her rebel mother’s footsteps and she’s soon fighting for real, and for her life. Overall the writing is assured and the action scenes are particularly striking, but I would have liked more sense of the world that Naya lives in, both the geography of the place and the mysterious ‘uppers’.” Read the first chapter of Rachel’s novel here.

 2016 SHORTLISTED: Zoo by Kate Tregaskis

After studying Fine Art, Kate set up and ran photography galleries before taking the then new MSc co160127_160127-kt_0001-v1aurse in Creative Writing at Edinburgh University, where she gained a distinction and was awarded a New Writer’s Bursary from the Scottish Arts Council. Her short stories have been published in a number of magazines and anthologies, most recently in issue 10 of Gutter.

The idea for Zoo grew out of a childhood fondness for Johnny Morris and his TV programme Animal Magic and days spent at Edinburgh Zoo with her young son which led her to wonder what it would be like to let the animals out. After several rejections, the manuscript for Zoo had been in a cupboard for over a decade until Kate decided to revise it. Kate lives and works in Edinburgh as a fundraiser for a local charity.

Judge Kathryn Ross of Fraser Ross Associates commented: “Zoo is a real page-turner – filmic, darkly comic and thoroughly entertaining. The story takes place over the course of one eventful Hogmanay at Edinburgh Zoo and the writer uses both the setting and the day-long countdown to ‘the Bells’ to good effect, building the tension as partners bicker, children grizzle, animal rights activists gather and lions roar. There’s an ever-increasing sense of anarchy and wildness about to break loose. The cast of characters is large and interconnected in numerous, inventive ways, and the writer displays considerable skill in telling the story through multiple 3rd-person POV and keeping all the plates spinning. Few of the characters are sympathetic, but that’s not a concern and the episodic narrative and the anticipation of disaster just around the corner kept me engaged. I wanted to know who, if anyone, survived… There is certainly commercial potential here and I could see it as a TV dramatization. Only two aspects of the structure, I felt, weakened what was an otherwise sharply conceived story i.e. starting with the last chapter seems like a spoiler and the numbering of the chapters in reverse order didn’t really add anything.” Read the first chapter of Kate’s novel here.

 2016 SHORTLISTED: Hurts So Good by Lucy Van Smit

“I read a book a day as a kid, but didn’t believe I could be a writer myself, until I made up a bedtime story for my son, every night for two years, and read somewhere that’s how Roald Dahl began. I started my first book, Invisible By Day, on the children’s writing course at City Lit, with Sophie McKenzie, and wrote Hurts So Good on the MA Writing For Young People at Bath Spa.”

“I love Nordic Noir, but hate violence, and a child stealing a baby is about the worst thing I could imagine. I wanted to write about a girl who must choose between the love of her life, and being able to live with herself.  Hurts So Good won the Bath Children’s Novel Award, and the judge, Sallyanne Sweeney, offered to be my agent. I think novel awards are a great way to get noticed.” Lucy lives in London with her husband and 14-year-old son.

Judge Kathryn Ross of Fraser Ross Associates commented: “Nordic Noir comes to YA in this stylish, fast-paced thriller set in the mountains and forests of Norway. Wolves, religion, obsessive love, a stolen baby, a beautiful bad boy… Hurts So Good has all the right ingredients and then some. The action is high octane and I was bowled along, willingly suspending disbelief. Even if I’d wanted to there was no time draw breath and ask ‘But, how…?!’ Ellie is an intriguing character – appealing and exasperating in equal measure.  She’s talented, independent and resourceful, but her relationship with Lukas is a dangerous one and the writer plays with the reader’s emotions as well as Ellie’s. Lukas is forbidden fruit and we always want what we can’t have. This is exciting storytelling with clear commercial potential.” Read the first chapter of Lucy’s novel here.


Hurts So Good Lucy Van Smit
One Act of Defiance Rachel Malcolm
Out of the Blue Sophie Cameron
The Liar Bird Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein
The Promise of Water Andrea Crossley Spencer
Zoo Kate Tregaskis


A Shadow in the Blood Martin Gilbert
Hope Brogan McEllan
Hurts So Good Lucy Van Smit
It Must Follow, As The Night Paula Hunter
One Act of Defiance Rachel Malcolm
Out of the Blue Sophie Cameron
Savage Hill Road Claire Delahunty
The Gallachists Joanna Lilley
The Liar Bird Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein
The Promise of Water Andrea Crossley Spencer
Wimmera Mark Brandi
Zoo Kate Tregaskis