Here's our 2019 Winner & Shortlist
The Caledonia Novel Award 2019 Winner
We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Caledonia Novel Award 2019 is The Unmaking of Eden by American novelist,
Dakota has now signed with Claire Roberts at Claire Roberts Global Literary Management.
2019 Winner of the Caledonia Novel Award
The Unmaking of Eden by Dakota Canon
Dakota Canon is a left-brained professional by day, masquerading as a right-brained artiste by night. Her short work has received mention in the Manchester Fiction Prize, the Writer’s Digest Annual Short Story Contest, the Faulkner-Wisdom Short Story Contest and the Brilliant Flash Fiction Competition. She has recent pieces, either published or forthcoming, in Hobart, Moon City Review, Fiction Southeast, Literary Orphans, Citron Review, Cold Creek Review, Microfiction Monday Magazine, Speculative 66 and Seven Deadly Sins: A YA Anthology WRATH among others. She is a reader for the literary magazine, Cease, Cows, and lives in California with her husband, daughter and cat.
“I often find myself reading books and wishing they would take me on a particular journey. But books rarely do what I want them to. Eden started with the decision that, since I couldn’t find the story I wanted to read, I’d write it. It was a purely self-indulgent endeavor. I never imagined I’d share a single page of it with anyone. I had the plan of a story about a traumatized young girl who was really a superhero but didn’t know it, and she would save the world — or one little corner of it — only she needed to be saved herself before she could do any saving. It was meant to be rife with triumph and guilty pleasure. But it didn’t quite turn out how I intended. The characters took over, and their relationship took over, and the story morphed into something I couldn’t even characterize. I became obsessed with the writing, preferring the company of my characters to many real people. This literally went on for years until, finally, I realized I had something resembling a novel on my hands. Moreover, I realized I enjoyed reading it. So I ventured out, put a toe in the vast public waters, and to my surprise, the world didn’t bite. It warmed me instead.”
Victoria Hobbs: “I was bowled over by the phenomenally powerful storytelling here. In our heroine, Eden, we have one of the most engaging, spiky, heartbreaking 12-year-olds I have had the pleasure of encountering on the page. She brings real heart and high emotional stakes to this intricately plotted story of the collision between a commune, a drug company and a fierce and damaged young woman. There is an unlikely but beautiful relationship at the core of the story – one that swells your heart with hope and makes you desperate to keep turning the pages to see where this pair will end up. I was wholly in its grip from first page to last and can’t wait to see more from this writer. There is real ambition here.”
Our 2019 Caledonia Novel Award Judge
Our shortlist judge, Victoria Hobbs, Literary Agent and Director at AM Heath Literary Agency, commented:
“It has been such a pleasure judging the Caledonia Novel Award. As an agent you are always looking for something interesting, challenging, new, or unexpected. I was delighted to find all of the above and more when I sat down to read entries for the Caledonia Novel Award. The standard of the shortlist we selected is incredibly high, and the writing which has risen to the top is both exciting and hugely varied. Our shortlist encompassed everything from coming-of-age YA to literary thrillers, to heart-warming romantic fiction. It really has been a joy moving between these very different voices and worlds.
I am very glad to have been able to meet all these writers on the page, and very proud to announce the winner. The Unmaking of Eden is a brilliant, epic, immersive piece of storytelling. In Eden we have an unforgettable young heroine whose escape from a commune sets in motion a series of events which had me genuinely unable to put the book down until I had finished. Not only is it an exciting read, it is also emotionally engaging and beautifully written. It is hard to believe it is the work of a first-time writer, such is the confidence and sophistication of the story-telling.
Elinor Snow by Emily Ruth Ford
Emily Ruth Ford is a writer and translator living in North London. In 2017 she completed the MA in Creative Writing at UEA, graduating with distinction. She won the Royal Society of Literature’s V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize in 2017 and 2018. Before that, Emily studied English at Oxford University and spent 10 years as a journalist for The Times and Agence France-Presse, reporting from China, India, Malaysia and Myanmar. She speaks Italian and Mandarin. Elinor Snow is her first novel.
“Elinor Snow started life at UEA, where I submitted an early draft of the opening chapters for my final dissertation. I’d written mostly short stories on the MA and hadn’t intended to start a novel, especially not so late in the programme. But I was travelling in Sri Lanka on honeymoon when I had the initial idea (ironically enough, about a crisis in a marriage!) and knew I had to try and write it.
The story focuses on four close friends in London and sets a private, domestic crisis against the backdrop of a large-scale national emergency. It explores how one night, April fourth, triggers a chain of events that changes the lives of everyone in this tight-knit group. The voice of the first-person narrator came to me quite quickly, while other parts of the book took much longer to realise. I love both quiet domestic and state-of-the-nation novels and essentially wanted to see if I could place a mostly interior story about one individual’s trauma in dialogue with a much bigger tragedy for a city and a country. I wanted to see how two catastrophic events, bound by time and place, would resonate against one another.”
Victoria Hobbs: “There was a great deal to admire in this impressively poised and convincingly intense novel which has at its centre four friends caught up in a devastating terror attack. At the heart of this is the very powerful portrait of a new mother who has given birth as the chaos unfurls outside on the streets of London. The father of her child disappears in the mayhem and the subsequent depiction of her confusion, fear and loneliness runs in careful, moving tandem with the wider sense of fear and isolation engendered by the attack. I was convinced from the start and pulled along by the excellent characterisation.”
A Thousand Ways by Gráinne Murphy
Gráinne Murphy writes both long and short fiction. Her short story Further West recently placed third in the Zoetrope All-Story Contest 2018. Earlier novels have been shortlisted for the Virginia Prize for Fiction 2014 (On a Sunday) and the Luke Bitmead Bursary 2016 (Where the Edge Is) and longlisted for the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize in 2017 and 2018. Gráinne’s several lives include stints in forensic research, human resources, training, volunteering and copy editing. She has an MPhil in Applied Psychology from University College Cork and an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. After several years abroad struggling to eavesdrop in cafes, Gráinne now lives and writes in a gloriously rainy corner of Cork, Ireland.
“I think a lot about family and about identity, most of my stories are some sort of exploration of the ways in which those two things intertwine. A Thousand Ways started in my head as a wondering about the unconditional love that is assumed to be fundamental to parenting. Is there a point at which someone’s values and beliefs become the conditions under which they can love someone else? Within a family, how much of love is really a shared understanding of the world? Those were the questions that interested me and the ones that Elizabeth, the mother in this story, lives out. I also wanted to explore the loneliness that comes with having an ill child, that sense of distance it creates, a sort of impatience with the outside world. It is its own very particular, very peculiar bubble, and I was interested in seeing how these two parents would live differently within that.”
Victoria Hobbs: “This novel was really striking in its precision, capturing fraught emotional states and bringing them to life on the page. It tells the devastating story of what illness does to a family, and to all the individual relationships therein. There is a huge amount to admire here, but above all I was struck by the unflinching and nuanced study of a mature marriage where long-term love is meeting terrible, potentially insurmountable strain.”
Guard Your Heart by Sue Divin
Sue Divin is a Northern Irish Derry-based writer but, hailing originally from Armagh, can’t quite classify herself a ‘Derry Girl.’ Peace worker, knackered mammy, musician and juggler of life, she remains clueless how she finds time to write. Emerging in fiction in 2018, she was selected for the Irish Writers Centre X-Borders project and her short stories appeared in the Honest Ulsterman and Funny Pearls. With a Masters in Peace and Conflict studies and a ‘day job’ in community peace-building for over 15 years, Sue’s writing often touches on diversity and reconciliation in today’s Northern Ireland. In life, just as in her writing, she attests that hope happens because of risk takers…
“Fiction set in Northern Ireland overwhelmingly takes place during the Troubles, yet in 1998, a generation ago, the Good Friday Agreement ended violent conflict. Guard Your Heart was inspired by an urge to write a gritty, contemporary romance set in the complexity of peace, the legacy of the Troubles. Aidan and Iona, 18, were both born on the day of the peace deal but they live in a society where identity is still tattooed under your skin, in your blood. At the novel’s core are universal challenges and themes – identity, poverty, grief, radicalisation, conflict, belief, division and ultimately, peace and hope.
In 2021 it will be the 100th anniversary of the Partition of Ireland – yet the Irish border still dominates today’s headlines. Guard Your Heart was inspired by the desire to tug hearts and minds into empathising that wherever it takes place, and in whatever form, building reconciliation can be a fragile process. A courageous risk."
Victoria Hobbs: “I loved this Northern Irish Romeo and Juliet story. I thought the politics was handled with an interestingly light touch, while clearly imbuing every aspect of the lives of these two teenagers on different sides of the divide. There was something unusual and completely compelling in this contemporary take on the Troubles from the point of view of teenagers who have grown up in a time of peace. Fundamentally, though, it was a very charming love story, one I am delighted to have read.”
The Station Master by Kate Swindlehurst
Kate Swindlehurst moved from Cumbria to Cambridge in 2008 and, after completing a Creative Writing MA at Anglia Ruskin, has been writing ever since. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2004, she is a firm believer in the therapeutic power of Argentine tango, explored in her memoir Parkinson’s & the Tango Effect: my Year on the Dance Floor, to be published by Unbound in January 2020. As well as health and wellbeing, Kate is interested in our relationship with the natural world. Inspired by visits to the Calais ‘Jungle’, her novel explores our attitudes to migration. She is about to embark on a new work about the north.
“The Station Master was born out of my growing distress and frustration about the 2015 ‘migrant crisis’. As the first refugees began to arrive in my home town, I joined a ‘Refugees Welcome’ demonstration and took part in my first convoy in October 2015, visiting ‘the Jungle’ in Calais. I returned a number of times during the next year or so. I was inspired by those I met there, people who had fled their homes with such stories of courage, hope and despair, as well as people from across the world who had turned up to volunteer. I was already interested in migration in the natural world, especially bird migration, and was very excited to discover that Bulgaria, which was becoming a land route for refugees heading north and west, was also home to three migration flyways for raptors and other big birds.
It was around this time that I first came across photographer Veselin Malinov’s poignant collection of images of an abandoned railway station in southern Bulgaria. This touched my heart and fired my imagination: what if, somehow, this derelict branch line could be reopened and play a part in a refugee’s journey? My dad was a railwayman all his life – I think it’s in the blood! So, in May 2016 I persuaded a friend to join me as my driver on a research trip to Bulgaria. The rest, as they say, is history…”
Victoria Hobbs: “I really enjoyed this timely tale, which is set amid the migrant crisis in Bulgaria. I was particularly struck by the delicately-balanced relationship between the young, mute refugee and the jaded station master which lies at the core of this novel. Deftly written, unflinching and often lyrical, this is a story crying out to be heard.”
Up She Rises by Damhnait Monaghan
Damhnait Monaghan was born and grew up in Canada but now lives in the UK. A former teacher and lawyer, she holds an MA in Creative & Critical Writing with Merit from the University of Winchester. Her short fiction has won or placed in several competitions and is widely published and anthologised. Her writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfiction. Her flash fiction pamphlet, The Neverlands, is forthcoming with V. Press later this year. She is a member of the editorial board for FlashBack Fiction, an online literary journal that publishes historical flash fiction.
“The inspiration for Up She Rises was the province of Newfoundland, Canada. A long time ago, I spent two years teaching in a small fishing village there. My novel tells the story of an outsider, broken by grief, and out of her comfort zone, who finds acceptance and purpose in the tight-knit community of Little Passage. But I was also keen to establish a strong sense of place, and, in some ways, the novel is an homage to Newfoundland and its people.”
Victoria Hobbs: “There was a huge amount of charm in this novel: it’s the light, funny, romantic story of a teacher who finds herself marooned in a closed and remote community. I thought the drawing of the local characters was absolutely beautifully done – warm and singular and with dialogue that crackles on the page and brings to life this strange and unpredictable group of people! I particularly relished the glorious women who gathered with their hooks to make rugs and quilts…”
The Caledonia Novel Award 2019 Longlist
A Thousand Ways by Gráinne Murphy Where the Edge Is was published by Legend Press in September, 2020
Elinor Snow by Emily Ruth Ford Signed with Victoria Hobbs at A M Heath Literary Agency
Guard Your Heart by Sue Divin Published by Macmillan in April, 2021
Lumi by Kaddy Benyon
Meet On The Ledge by Jim Middleton
The Ingénu by Will Pank
The King’s Indian by Lucy Balmer Hooft
The Station Master by Kate Swindlehurst
The Unmaking of Eden by Dakota Canon Signed with Claire Roberts at Claire Roberts Global Literary Management
Up She Rises by Damhnait Monaghan Published by HarperCollins in March, 2021 as New Girl in Little Cove