Here’s our 2021 Winner & Shortlist
The Caledonia Novel Award 2021 Winner
We are delighted to announce that the winner of the Caledonia Novel Award 2021 is Structural Damage by Sally Bramley.
Huge congratulations to Sally, who wins £1,500 and this year’s specially-designed trophy by Edinburgh artist, Lucy Roscoe.
As the author of the best novel from the UK and Ireland, Sally also wins the free place on a writing course at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre.
Sally has now signed with Laura Williams at Greene & Heaton Ltd.
2021 Winner of the Caledonia Novel Award
Structural Damage by Sally Bramley
Sally grew up in the north of England on a farm. After qualifying as a teacher, she moved on to working in public health, supporting community groups on health and emotional wellbeing issues. Later, she completed an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. Since that time, she has lived in Bristol and written lots of reports and health strategies, as well as writing novels and short stories. Many of these have reached the shortlist stage of writing competitions. When she is not writing, she walks long distance trails, which gives her time to think.
“Structural Damage came about after a visit to the east coast of Yorkshire. As a child, I had stayed there, with my cousins, in the summer holidays. It was a shock to find that the cliff-top café where we used to hang about and the caravan site where we had a paper round had long gone, taken by the sea. Coastal erosion happens fast in this area. And I wondered about the people losing their homes and the farmers seeing their fields disappear. How on earth did they cope? For some time, the interconnections between people’s lives and the landscape have featured strongly in my writing. And as the novel progressed, the story tied in with my interest in the ways that people manage change and, in particular, cope with endings. As the characters developed, all these things came together.”
Laura Williams: “This novel swept me away, and it was a clear winner to me as soon as I turned the last page. The story of a Yorkshire farm about to fall into the sea after centuries of coastal erosion runs alongside the love story of two people who have missed all their chances. How do you move forward when you’ve lost everything you’ve ever known? How do you grab hold of life when you feel it slipping away? This is a beautiful literary novel, set among wind-battered clifftops and beaches, and I fell in love with it with my whole heart.
I was thrilled to offer Sally representation, and I can’t wait for readers to meet Manny and Pearl!”
Our 2021 Caledonia Novel Award Judge
Our judge, Laura Williams, commented: “I was so looking forward to judging the Caledonia Novel Award, and it was just the experience I’d hoped it would be. It was a pleasure to dive into so many different stories from all over and of every different genre. The calibre of entries was exceptionally high, and it was deliciously difficult to select the shortlist from the longlist, and then the winner from these six novels. The shortlist ranges from heartbreaking literary fiction to a brilliant YA adventure story, from stunning true crime to gripping historical fiction. It was a pleasure to read each and every one of these stories.”
Weyward by Emilia Hart
Emilia grew up in Sydney, Australia and has written stories for as long as she can remember. She studied English Literature at university before training as a lawyer: a career that has enhanced her love of precise language. After having a life-changing stroke in her 20s, she decided to pursue her childhood dream of becoming an author. She has recently completed Curtis Brown Creative’s Three Month Online Novel Writing Course. She lives in south-east London with her partner and far too many books.
“I spent part of 2020 living in Cumbria, where Weyward is set – its wild beauty was a huge inspiration, as was the grim history of the Pendle witch trials that took place nearby in 1612. During the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, I was haunted by thoughts of those trapped at home with their abusers. These three things coalesced into the idea for Weyward. I wanted the novel to examine male violence while also showcasing female power and resilience: a story about witches seemed the perfect way to do this. At the end of the day, I think other women have been the greatest inspiration for Weyward – I really wanted to highlight that many of us don’t realise how much inner strength we have, until we need to use it.”
Laura Williams: “I’m delighted to place Weyward in the highly commended spot, this is an incredibly accomplished novel. The three storylines weave together and apart until the irresistible climax, paying homage to latent feminine and wild natural power. There is a huge amount to admire here – from the wonderful characterisation of Altha, Violet and Kate to the slow gathering of pace as the dangers to these women close in around them.”
Lumi by Kaddy Benyon
Kaddy is a former television scriptwriter and a Granta new poet. She was shortlisted for the inaugural Picador Poetry Prize and went on to win the Crashaw Prize with the manuscript for her first collection Milk Fever (Salt). Her second collection The Tidal Wife (Salt) was published in 2018. Kaddy’s work appears regularly in literary magazines, and her poems have been selected for anthologies including The Poetry of Sex, Poems for the NHS, #MeToo, and Writing Motherhood. Kaddy has collaborated with a costume designer, a painter, and several local charities. She works as a mentor to emerging writers, as well as to students with disabilities at the University of Cambridge.
“Several years ago, I was invited to become poet in residence at The Polar Museum in Cambridge. During this time, I made a research trip to Finnish Lapland where I observed reindeer herders at work in a freezing forest just below the Arctic Circle. It was both fairy-tale beautiful, as well as a stark encounter with a landscape in flux, where humans are confused by a climate they no longer understand and where animals are struggling to adapt to their rapidly changing environment. In the months after my return, I noticed that the size of a poem couldn’t contain everything I wanted to say about my concerns for those living in the far north.
Then, a beloved mother figure died and inspired by Jenny Offill’s fragmentary style, I began to recall our relationship by writing prose vignettes in response to her objects. These were the seeds of Lumi: a pregnant woman in freefall after her mother’s death trying to decide what from her childhood to hold onto, and what would be best to let go; a mourning daughter who has recently moved from England to Lapland to make a new life with her herder partner and is struggling with the alienation and displacement that come with being an incomer. At its heart Lumi is a love story asking the timely question: where do we place our hope?”
Laura Williams: “This is a remarkable literary novel about unsettlement – of what makes a home and a family, and of climate anxiety and personal doubt. Set amongst reindeer herds in the Arctic Circle, the cold pervades the novel as a sense of dread, but the warmth of the love story prevails. I loved reading this unusual novel, and I know its themes will stay with me.”
The Iron Widow by Victoria Rohner
Victoria grew up in the small town of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, USA. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a marketing degree and working for a year in retail, she confirmed decidedly that retail was not for her. So, she sold her car, took out many loans, and enrolled at NYU School of Law. Upon graduation, she took a litigation position at a large Chicago law firm where she made partner before scaling back to focus on her three children. Victoria currently assists her husband in the running of a letterpress printing company and, of course, writes!
“I confess that the inspiration for The Iron Widow didn’t arise from any personal experience or ideology, but from a story I actively sought out. As a lover of mysteries and realistic historical fiction, I went looking for an unsolved crime set in the past to write about, and when I came across the Hall-Mills murders, I knew I had found it. The 1922 double murder of the Episcopalian Reverend Edward Hall and choir singer Eleanor Mills incited one of the first ‘media circuses’ in the United States and reportedly inspired elements of The Great Gatsby. Yet most intriguing to me was the reverend’s enigmatic widow and prime suspect Frances: a middle-aged heiress who kept faith in her husband despite overwhelming evidence of his affair with the lovely and much younger Eleanor.
As a woman ‘of a certain age’ myself, I connected immediately with Frances and her plight. The wide press coverage of the story was another gift. The New York Times‘ daily reports on the trial of Frances and her brothers recorded the words of some of the most brilliant attorneys of the day. The newspapers also provided reams of background material and clues, such as Edward’s and Eleanor’s love letters and local gossip – I lost myself for months in the research of the crime and characters.”
Laura Williams: “The author has taken a fascinating true crime story and worked narrative magic on it. Frances is a wonderful character and the reader questions her motives and her honesty while we watch her sit through her trial. This is a story of lust and passion, and a gripping crime novel, which asks us to taste the sweetness of revenge for ourselves.”
The Map of Lost Lands by Lucy Steeds
Lucy Steeds was born and raised in London. She studied English Literature and then World Literatures at Oxford University, where she specialised in postcolonial literature. She was one of 38 writers selected for the London Library’s inaugural Emerging Writers Programme, where she wrote The Map of Lost Lands. The manuscript won the Joan Aiken Future Classics Prize and the Flash 500 Novel Competition. She is interested in the legacy of colonialism, its impact on literature, and forgotten aspects of history.
“Writing The Map of Lost Lands began with a question: what would happen if everything you drew on a map happened in real life? I have always been fascinated by cartography, and the idea that maps not only reflect the world around us, but create it too. I wanted to write the story of a girl searching for her lost homeland; an island not found on any map. I set the novel in 1871, a time of high imperialism when Europe was ruthlessly carving up the rest of the world. It was a time when there were still blank spaces on European maps; unexplored, ‘undiscovered’ lands. My characters came to life from the pieces of research I gathered, magpie-like, along the way, embodying strange and horrifying facets of the era: an artist, an explorer, a circus impresario, a nomad, a pawn-shop owner, and a ‘human spectacle’. At the heart of the novel is Marnie’s search for her homeland, but there is also a larger relationship between people and places; of people belonging to places, and places belonging to people.”
Laura Williams: “I love young adult fiction that engages with the real world around us, and this adventure novel does just that. Marnie is a brilliant protagonist, and her search for her real home encapsulates themes of belonging, identity, judgment and prejudice that make this novel feel both exciting and vital.”
Truth Like Water by Carys Shannon
Originally from the North Gower in Swansea, Carys studied Theatre at Aberystwyth University before going on to work as a producer for National Theatre Wales, Volcano Theatre Company and other socially engaged arts projects. In 2013 she moved to Andalucía for a year, lost her heart to the califal city of Córdoba and stayed for seven years. Keeping her connections with Wales strong, she graduated from the University of South Wales with an MPhil in Writing in 2017 and has had short stories published by Honno Press, Parthian Books and most recently, Mslexia Magazine. She now lives in Aragón, Spain where she works as a facilitator and language teacher.
“Truth Like Water began as the creative project for my MPhil in Writing; initially it was a novel about a traumatized teenager coming to terms with death in the midst of rural and personal isolation. I lost my own mother very suddenly when I was 22 and the explosion of grief and subsequent disintegration of my family unit was something I was completely unprepared for. As morbid as it sounds, this made me fascinated to write about loss and the many powerful ways it can turn lives upside down and inside out. In the first version of the book Catrin was grieving but in denial, and the missing girl was a catalyst for her finally admitting to her loss. Although I had positive feedback about the character and setting, something in that version was just not working. I received some clear-sighted feedback that suggested an adult’s POV could offer greater room for emotional depth and perspective. It clicked and I rewrote the book from scratch, thoroughly enjoying the change of POV, adding more layers for Catrin to contend with and threading in lots of secrets, grudges and unspoken menace from the supposedly close community she lives in. Although I wanted to show her unresolved grief and how this was blocking her from moving forwards in life, I also wanted to create a page-turning tension with the twin threads of ‘what really happened to her mother?’ and ‘what is going to happen to the missing girl on the estuary?’”
Laura Williams: “I was entranced by this novel from the start – the opening imaginings of what could drive a woman to lie down in floodwaters and let them take her is brilliantly done. Catrin and her small claustrophobic Welsh village had me hooked. This is a story of a missing girl, but at its heart it’s the story of lost women – some who can be found again, and some who can’t.”
The Caledonia Novel Award 2021 Longlist
Hidden Cost by Sara Cox
Lumi by Kaddy Benyon
Mountain by Rose McDonagh Signed with Kate Evans at Peters Fraser + Dunlop
Nettles by Lucy MacRae
Silverlees by Dorothy Yamamoto
Stone Fruit by Emily Prince
Structural Damage by Sally Bramley Signed with Laura Williams at Greene & Heaton Ltd
The Iron Widow by Victoria Rohner Signed with Madeleine Milburn at Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV & Film Agency
The Map of Lost Lands by Lucy Steeds
This Heathen Land by Kathleen Hayes
This Is What Will Happen by Laura Ashton
Thou Shalt Not Suffer by Andrew Barnes
Too Soon by Alison Marlow
Truth Like Water by Carys Shannon
Weyward by Emilia Hart Signed with Felicity Blunt at Curtis Brown