Results – Best Children’s Bedtime Story

Congratulations to the winner of our Best Children’s Bedtime Story competition 2021.

Abby Voss


The Witch Who Couldn’t Spell

“The Stories on the shortlist each demonstrate an imaginative and unique approach to the bedtime story. There’s playful language and characters, fun and family relationships, there’s attention to detail and a good visual understanding – I could see their illustrations, the layout of the words.

Good bedtime stories become firm favourites, to be repeated and learnt by heart, or some detail to be seen afresh, and I was pleased the writers paid attention to this. Most importantly they take us on a journey, with simplicity, wit and warmth – congratulations to the shortlisted authors, and I look forward to turning the pages one day on their published books.”


Abby’s story, “The Witch Who Couldn’t Spell” was judged the winner by Finbar Hawkins after entries closed on 16th August 2021.

About the Author

After 12 years working in London finance, Abby now lives in Somerset with a husband, dog, tortoise, goldfish and a pair of book critics posing as her children. When she’s not writing character-driven, action-packed stories for small people, Abby chooses to spend time in nature or meditating − anything, in fact, to avoid housework.

Our Shortlistees

Beverley Sutton with Charlie and the Dark

Having spent the last couple of years rekindling her lifelong love of writing, Beverley is an unpublished writer of fiction and poetry, most recently concentrating on fiction aimed at children and young adults. In 2020, she came first in the Tourist Trail Parent Writing Competition, and has since had work longlisted in several competitions, including the Stories of the Nature of Cities and Mono Poetry competitions. Currently a night-time scribbler, Beverley works in the social housing sector by day. She lives with her partner and two young children in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Kathryn Boyes with Counting Sheep to go to Sleep

Kathryn grew up in Norfolk and was an avid reader and animal lover as a child. She showed a passion for writing at an early age and was published in a young writer’s anthology and magazine. After qualifying as a teacher in 2013, she received her Masters in Education from Homerton College, Cambridge in 2017. She has been teaching in London since 2015 but lives in Norfolk with her partner and their seventeen-year-old rescue cat. Kathryn began writing again after turning thirty, submitting her first finished children’s story to the Searchlight Awards.

Matt Cuyes with Detective D

Matt enjoys writing for children (and big kids too). Whilst working as a tennis coach, he loved making up games and funny rhymes to keep the children engaged. One of the most memorable moments was hearing the children recite his lines to their baffled looking parents. ‘Keep the ball in, to avoid the shark fin! If you hit it out, be careful, SHARKS ABOUT!’ Matt then swapped his racket for a trusty pen and started jotting his ideas down. He joined a creative writing group at The Story Museum and attended numerous courses on writing for children. He also became a member of SCBWI and the WriteMentor Learning Hub which has helped him connect with so many other talented writers. As an aspiring picture book author, Matt hopes to introduce children to the wonderful world of stories and inspire a lifelong love of reading. He describes his entry, Detective D, as a humorous rhyming text that puts a fun twist on learning the alphabet and would like to thank all of the dedicated readers at Searchlight for championing his work. 

Jude Campanella with How to Spot a Gweegle

Jude started writing after developing a love of picture books whilst reading with her young son. Her childhood favourites include The Quangle Wangle’s Hat by Edward Lear and Funny Bones by Allan and Janet Ahlberg. Jude lives in Hertfordshire and works for a charity based in London, and as well as writing, her favourite things are cuddles with her son (the inspiration behind The Gweegle), her cats and eating cake!

Peter Frederick with Legs

Pete is a professional persuasive writer with a passion for storytelling. His children’s stories are quirky, subversive and designed to make both children and adults laugh out loud. Pete writes mainly picture books but lists fairytales, non-fiction and chapter books within his portfolio, and is close to completing his first middle grade novel.

He has twice been shortlisted for Writing Magazine’s Amy Sparkes Picture Book Prize (2019, 2020), and longlisted for the 2020 WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award. He is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Away from children’s books, he is a published business author (Persuasive Writing: How to Harness the Power of Words, Pearson Business, ISBN 978-0273746133) and runs courses on using psychology, including storytelling, in business writing.

Harriet Howe with Little Bear’s Winter Wish

Harriet Howe lives in Suffolk with her husband and two children.  The daughter of an Early Years librarian, she has enjoyed picture books since childhood.   She is a member of SCBWI and recently graduated from the Golden Egg Picture Book Programme under mentor, Tessa Strickland.  When she’s not writing, Harriet works in television; credits include award-winning documentaries, music programmes and travel shows, as well as content for CBBC.

Harriet is represented by Chloe Davis at the Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency. 

Hannah Laing with Pirate O’ Clock

Hannah is originally from Glastonbury, which she credits for starting her love of fairies and all things magical. Now living in the Midlands, she feels privileged to work with refugees and asylum seekers. Hannah previously worked as a primary school teacher and her favourite part of the day was definitely story time. She also worked in a children’s theatre which provided a wonderful opportunity to see children’s stories being brought to life on stage. All of these experiences have enriched her own writing. Her love of writing started at a young age but has been rekindled over the past few years, as she’s connected with online writing communities, such as WriteMentor. Being shortlisted for the Searchlight Writing Awards has been a wonderfully encouraging experience, that has really helped her to grow in confidence in her writing journey.

Eleanor McPhail with There’s a Growling in the Freezer

Eleanor McPhail was born in Kingston-upon-Thames within spitting distance of where she resides today. She spent three years studying Mathematics at The University of Kent before she came to the conclusion that it wasn’t really for her. She has since dabbled in administration and nannying, as a cook and a nursery teacher, whilst jotting down scraps of stories at any available moment. And when her tabby cat, Amy, has a penchant for waking her up at two in the morning, there are so many moments in which to write.

Jason Lang with The Sun Lantern

Jason has been writing picture books for a number of years but finally took his writing up a notch a year ago − getting involved in writing courses, joining a wonderful critique group and entering competitions with all his fingers crossed. He loves to read stories with heart, with humour and with that something about them to make you think. If Jason can write stories like this too, he’ll be very happy. In his spare time he is a deputy headteacher, husband and father. Jason is currently seeking representation.