The Bath Novel Award &
Finding the best unsigned novelists across the globe
January 26th 2017
Bath Children’s Novel Award Winner (£2,000)
GARETH OSBORNE for COGS of CASTILE
“Fast moving, deft, original, surprising, I was electrified by this adventure. It’s got everything I look for in an MG adventure: a great idea at the heart of it, a sense of fun and liveliness in the writing, rich setting, high stakes, flamboyant characters, automaton rats! I loved it!” JULIA CHURCHILL, award judge and children’s literary agent.
GARETH OSBORNE is a former travel journalist for national newspapers including The Sunday Herald and The Australian. He has lived in London, Glasgow, Srinagar, Columbia SC, and Tokyo before settling in Madrid. He says teaching 6-18 year olds at the British Council Madrid Young Learner Centre made him realise his true passion was writing for a younger readership. Osborne went on to study Creative Writing on the University of Roehampton’s MA pathway and says Cogs of Castile grew out of a desire to give Madrid the children’s thriller it deserves. “It’s a wonderful yet underused setting. I wanted to take the popular C19th backdrop and give it an new Iberian twist, with caped mercenaries and mountain bandits.”
Award founder Caroline Ambrose commented: “This pacy, Pullmanesque adventure drew our team of junior judges into a brilliantly realised wintry Spanish setting at the end of the C19th. Main character Nieve is a feisty, determined girl whose twin brother, Carlos, has been kidnapped and will not be returned unless Nieve’s mother reveals the location of the Devil’s Gold; a unique precious metal that is able to understand the will and intent of the maker. Nieve must find her brother while being pursued by the Devil’s Kin and a terrifying menagerie of deadly mechanical animals. The plot is strong and linear, the writing is atmospheric, cinematic and rich in original detail.”
Read the opening chapter of Cogs of Castile by Gareth Osborne
Bath Children’s Novel Award Runner up (£500 Cornerstones Prize)
SARAH HOUSE for The MAGPIE GARDEN (MG, realistic)
“A beautiful novel with real heart. A story about Stacey, whose mum is taken into hospital with mental illness, and Stacey is sent away to live with her hostile grandma in the middle-of-nowhere. The development of the relationship between Stacey and her remote grandmother is delightful, as is the cleverness with which it feeds into the sub-plots.” JULIA CHURCHILL, award judge and children’s literary agent
SARAH HOUSE lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and teenage sons. After studying computer science at university she spent “quite a few years” designing computer systems and dreaming of being a writer. When ill-health forced her to leave her job, she set about making her dream a reality. Five years, three manuscripts and lots of rejections later, she briefly considered giving up but instead applied for Bath Spa University’s MA in Writing for Young People and wrote The Magpie Garden.
House says The Magpie Garden developed very differently to other manuscripts she’d written: “It started with a place very close to my heart and a minor character who sprang to life in a writing workshop. I knew they fitted together somehow, but trying to think a plot into life got me nowhere – so I abandoned my usual structured approach, and wrote random scenes in the hope of finding their story. A favourite theme of mine – belonging – soon worked its way into the mix, and I knew early on that I wanted mental health issues to have a presence too. Other than that, I tried to let the characters direct me – they led me down quite a few blind alleys, but also provided some wonderful moments when seemingly unrelated events fell into place.”
Award founder Caroline Ambrose commented: “Twelve-year-old Stacey treasures the oddments she has collected from the various places she has lived with her depressed mum. Stacey is desperate to stay in one place long enough to belong, but when Mum is taken into hospital, she is sent to her frosty grandma’s in Devon. She hates it there – until she discovers the magical Magpie Garden in a hidden cove. Filled with ‘beautiful-again’ things made from beach finds, it’s somewhere Stacey feels instantly at home. This polished manuscript nails what it’s like to be raised in a broken family, with the message that even hopeless situations can be fixed. Our younger Junior Judges especially enjoyed the book’s themes about resilience, friendship, second chances and never losing hope.”
Read the opening chapter of The Magpie Garden by Sarah House
Bath Children’s Novel Award Shortlisted:
SOPHIE GREEN for POTKIN & STUBBS (deceased) MG ghost detective
Lil (Potkin) is an aspiring young reporter who catches sight of a boy no one else can see: a ghost called Nedly (Stubbs) who is desperate for someone to believe in him. They team up to solve his murder, with the help of a hardboiled Private Investigator somewhat down on his luck. The trio uncover a link to a sinister web of crime that is engulfing Peligan City along with a clue to Lil’s hidden past.
SOPHIE GREEN writes children’s fiction, short stories, and scripts. She has a degree in Zoology and an interest in folklore. Her first novel The Last Giant was shortlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition in 2011. Her short stories have been highly commended for the Bridport Prize 2012, longlisted for BBC Opening Lines in 2013 and 2015 and won second prize in Words with Jam in 2014. She was born and still lives in Suffolk and works in a public library.
“I began writing Potkin and Stubbs (Deceased) five years ago as Austerity was starting to bite and it felt like people were falling through the cracks in the system and becoming invisible. A feeling which coalesced into Nedly, a lonely ghost who no one could see, and who arrived fully formed and sitting in the bus station, in grave need of someone to fight his corner. I love hybrid genres and so decided to mix up the ghost story by steeping it in Noir with its sharp dialogue, battered glamour, and great potential for comedy.”
Award founder Caroline Ambrose commented: “This is an MG with a confident, pacy plot, spunky heroine and wonderfully gritty ‘detective noir’ setting. Characters are memorable and compelling with strong interrelationships and witty one liners. Our younger Junior Judges loved the message that it’s easier to get someone to believe in you when you believe in yourself and were thrilled by the properly scary climax and cliffhanger ending which perfectly sets up a second book.”
Read the opening chapter of Potkin & Stubbs (Deceased) by Sophie Green
Bath Children’s Novel Award Shortlisted:
FIONA LONGMUIR for The WAITING ROOM (YA, supernatural thriller romance)
When a prank on her headmaster goes horribly wrong, seventeen-year-old Jess finds herself in the Waiting Room: a bureaucratic afterlife, where the recently deceased are processed before moving on to Heaven or Hell. Here she has to navigate bloodthirsty demons and surly staff and the most ill-timed romance of her life, all while trying to wrap her head around the fact that she is dead. To top it all, the only way Jess can move forward in the queue is by giving up the only valuable resource she has left: her happy memories. Jess is torn between forgetting who she was and the thought of being stuck in the Waiting Room forever.
FIONA LONGMUIR is a London-dwelling Glaswegian who has just turned 25. She is a university admissions officer and writes for Standard Issue Magazine: “I’ve always loved telling stories. From the second I could hold a pencil, I could reliably be found scribbling away in a corner, performing plays for my long suffering parents or desperately inventing tales to distract my horrendously carsick little sister. Eventually, my scribblings turned into a blog, The Escapologist’s Daughter, but the itch to write a novel never really went away.”
Bath Children’s Novel Award Shortlisted:
NOAH WEISZ for ECHO of LIGHT (YA diverse, magic realism)
Fourteen-year-old Gabby is a Latina girl who was adopted at birth by white Jewish parents. Whilst deeply connected to her family’s faith and close to her wildlife enthusiast ‘twin’ brother (Simon) Gabby is increasingly conscious of her physical otherness. When Gabby’s estranged former best friend Danielle suddenly loses her mother and has a crisis of faith, Gabby and Simon find themselves thrust into Danielle’s family’s life for the seven-day mourning period called shiva. They meet Elijah, an elderly naturalist who has escaped his retirement home to camp out in the neighbouring woods. During a night-time visit to the woods a thunderstorm erupts, Elijah vanishes and wild animals, including a pack of coywolves flee to the suburbs. With the neighbourhood plunged into panic and terror at the invasion of wild animals, the teenagers must track down Elijah and discover how to make the animals return to the woods.
NOAH WEISZ currently teaches creative writing as an adjunct faculty member at St. Edward’s University in Austin. He also teaches creative writing classes at two elementary schools and, through the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, leads occasional writing workshops for kids, adults and seniors at libraries, a museum, and other local institutions.
“Echo of Light started as an overly long short story that I wrote soon after beginning my M.F.A. in Fiction at the New Writers Project of the University of Texas at Austin. It grew into a novel that I turned in as my thesis in April, 2016, and I’ve continued revising it since then. The seeds for much of the story came from my experiences growing up in a diverse Jewish community outside of Washington, D.C. The forest near my neighbourhood became a model for the book’s main setting, which serves as both a refuge and (as in a lot of fairy tales) a testing ground for the questions of identity that the characters have to face as they grow up. Although the natural history of the novel’s suburban woods is mostly accurate, the characters have far more success finding flying squirrels than my friends and I have ever had.”
Award founder Caroline Ambrose commented: “This is a highly original and beautifully written book with a gripping, quirky plot and imperfect characters the Junior Junior judges found themselves really rooting for. It’s a novel about friendship, faith, the wonder of nature and the magic in discovering your perfect place in the world.”
Read the opening chapter of Echo of Light by Noah Weisz
Bath Children’s Novel Award LONGLISTED:
|Dominic Brownlow||The Curse of the Naseby Horses|
|Laura Bridge||Secret History|
|Gareth Osborne||Cogs of Castile|
|Nicola Currie||Zachary No One and the Zoo|
|Kathryn Dunnett||The Memory Gate|
|Mark Eccleston||Billy and Chester: Partners in Grime|
|Grace Cullen||The Legend of the Star Arrow|
|Lisa Glasgow||The Book of Magnificent Things|
|Sophie Green||Potkin & Stubbs (Deceased)|
|Ruth Griffiths||Violet Bloomfield and the Despicable Dinner Lady|
|Dale Hannah||Billy Grimshaw and the Mystery of the Missing Humans|
|Jane Hankin||Bad Blood|
|Jennifer Harvey||Tell Me, Cody, Where’d You Go?|
|Sarah House||The Magpie Garden|
|Fiona Longmuir||The Waiting Room|
|Ruth Moore||Emily Arden and the Letter That Lost the War|
|Natalie Poyser||Master Alabaster’s School for Illusionaery|
|Mandy Rabin||Phil Glum and the Imagination Palace|
|Mandy Rabin||The Girl Who Tangled Time|
|Hannah Foster||Take Flight|
|Kate Taylor||The Girl in the Claroscope|
|Noah Weisz||Echo of Light|
The Bath Children’s Novel Award 2017 will open to entries from 2 May 2017 until 19 November 2017