Richard Booth Prize for Non-Fiction
Article by C. Harris
We had a very good response this year with a wide variety of interesting submissions, and our judge, the award winning writer Oliver Bullough, commented that the entries were of a high standard. We are also eternally grateful to Richard Booth, (known to many as the King of Hay) who generously sponsors this competition and Richard was recently on hand to present the prizes to our winners at the annual Hay Writers’ Summer Lunch.
Oliver was kind enough to provide a commentary on all the pieces and made encouraging comments on all of them. He also suggested possible improvements, which was very helpful, as one of the major benefits of holding competitions is the opportunity to have constructive criticism from independent, skilled and recognized writers.
First place was awarded to Marianne Rosen for “Unspeakable”. This is a poignant piece, originally written as a “homework” exercise. Marianne was characteristically modest about it when she presented it to the group but was encouraged by us to enter it in a competition. Oliver described it as “beautiful and very moving”. He commented on the effectiveness of the “curious grammar” and the ambiguities that make the piece read “like someone who’s sleepwalking through life”. It is a piece with many emotional layers which “slowly unfolds its secret”; “a very profound bit of writing”.
Joint second place went to Jean O’Donahue for “Seurat and Monet”. This piece was “a great story about seemingly small items with deep significance”. Oliver commented on her gift for describing things from her own perspective and on her confidence as a writer, bringing in “massive things as if they are tiny” and “small things as if they are massive”.
The other joint second place went to Jo Hill for “Sandy – a case study”. A “powerful piece” about an emotionally disturbed child, it impressed Oliver with the “bravery of writing”. He commented on the effective narrative devices and the portrayal of the child. His final comment was particularly encouraging – “I think it could even be a pitch for a book. I’d read it.”
The pieces entered for this competition demonstrate the talents of our writers, highlighting the quality and variety of the writing currently being produced.
Many congratulations to everyone who entered, especially to the prize-winners.
Our sincere thanks are due to Richard Booth, for his continued support of our group and also to Oliver Bullough, who has been a fantastic judge; generous with his time and his expertise. Thank you.