2016 Winner & Shortlist

Here's our 2016 Winner & Shortlist

We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Caledonia Novel Award 2016 is The Promise of Water by Andrea Crossley Spencer.

Our 2016 Caledonia Novel Award Judge 

Our judge, Kathryn Ross of Fraser Ross Associates Literary Agency, commented: “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 Reading the shortlisted novels hasn’t always been an unalloyed pleasure; these are unpublished novels after all and they all had their weaknesses as well as their very definite strengths, but it has never been less than a fascinating and thoroughly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.”

2016 Winner of the Caledonia Novel Award

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 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.”

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 Will 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.”

Kathryn Ross 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.

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!
Kathryn Ross 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.”

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 as 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.”
Kathryn Ross 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.

Zoo by Kate Tregaskis

After studying Fine Art, Kate set up and ran photography galleries before taking the then new MSc course 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.

Kathryn Ross 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.”

                        Hurts So Good by Lucy van Smit 

Kathryn Ross 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 bay, 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.

The Caledonia Novel Award 2016 Longlist

A Shadow in the Blood by Martin Gilbert

Hope by Brogan McEllan
Hurts So Good by Lucy van Smit Published by Chicken House in 2018 as The Hurting

It Must Follow, As The Night by Paula Hunter

One Act of Defiance
 by Rachel Malcolm

Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron Published by Macmillan Children's Books in 2018

Savage Hill Road
 by Claire Delahunty

The Gallachists
 by Joanna Lilley Published by Ronsdale Press in 2018 as Worry Stones

The Liar Bird by Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

The Promise of Water by Andrea Crossley Spencer

Wimmera by Mark Brandi Published by Hachette Australia, and by Legend Press in the UK in 2019 as Into the River

Zoo by Kate Tregaskis

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