Results – Best Novel Opening 2021

Congratulations to the winner of our Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults competition 2021

E J Robinson



EJ’s novel opening, “Swordfern” was judged the winner by Gill McLay after entries closed on 22nd November 2021.

About the Author

EJ Robinson is a freelance tour guide and life-long writer based in London. Her work has placed in numerous competitions including the Exeter Writers Short Story Competition, Grindstone Short Story Prize, and Saints + Sinners LGBTQ Lit Festival. Swordfern is her first novel for children, and was also longlisted for the Write Mentor Children’s Novel Award 2022.

Our Shortlistees

Bronagh Curran with Birds of a Kinder Climate

Bronagh Curran is a former national journalist and author of YA and Adult books. In 2016 her first published novel, In Het Spoor Van de Eclips, was released in The Netherlands following the acquisition of the Dutch rights of the original version The Path of Totality at the Bologna Book Fair by Gottmer Kinderboeken. Her first novel for adults, The Good Activist will be published on the 22nd April 2022 by Irish publisher Merdog Books.

A native of Oldcastle, Co Meath, she currently lives in South County Dublin where she works as a dental surgery assistant. In previous lives she ran a dog kennels, taught jewellery making and assisted a Government Senator. But throughout all these lives she has been writing.

Stewart Ashton with Children Pie

Stewart began writing fiction, when, to lighten the mood at work, he became the author of a monthly comic newsletter. Gaining permission from the owners of Sooty & Sweep, he wrote short stories featuring the pair, and with a Sweep puppet (who never behaved) attended schools teaching lessons on safety to young children. This developed to writing stories which featured a wacky group of characters of his own. Having designed cartoon images of the group, 6ft cut-outs were made, and with a collection of silly voices he visited primary schools reading his stories to children aged from 5 to 11 years.

A change in circumstances allowed him to focus seriously on his writing, dedicating time each day to writing novels. After several years of hard work, and six completed novels, Stewart now feels the time is right to seek publication … wherever it may be hiding.

Charlotte Teeple-Salas with Chimera Moon

As a child in California, Charlotte caught the story bug from Star Wars and ballet, when she yearned to be the first ballerina in space. Her writing is inspired by studies in art history, museology and mythology, her work at the Louvre Museum and the Getty Center, adventures in Hollywood television, life in four countries and @HarryTheCatFormerlyKnownAsJeff. Currently finishing her MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University, Charlotte lives in North London with her culturally confused French-American-British family, happily dreaming up stories of her own.

Julia Hubery with Oscar Looms is Looking

An obsessive reader from childhood, then an architect playing with light and space, it was becoming a mum and feeling how intensely her children absorbed stories which drew Julia to playing with words and writing her own picture books. With several PBs traditionally published, she’s now also creating stories for readers progressing into early chapter books, and middle grade. Working with both fiction and non-fiction crossover ideas, her inspirations are the intricacies and systems of nature, science in the everyday and the delight of surprises in people. Julia is currently seeking representation for her writing across genres and ages.

Claire Lewis with Out of Time

Claire’s background is in teaching languages, but nowadays she divides her time between writing, illustrating and working for an independent non-profit bookshop, where she is sometimes lucky enough to be let loose on the window display with a set of chalk pens. She writes across a variety of genres including picture books, poetry and longer fiction for children, and greatly appreciates the opportunities provided by competitions like this one! She has twice been shortlisted for the WriteMentor Children’s Novel and Picture Book Awards (2021, 2022), and was awarded second place in the 2021 Little Tiger / Virtual Writers’ Weekend Picture Book Competition. Last year, she also won a place on the WriteMentor Summer Mentoring Programme, which was a brilliant opportunity to develop her writing craft. She is an enthusiastic member of the WriteMentor Hub and the SCBWI and enjoys connecting with other writers via the amazing online writing community. She lives in Devon with her husband, teenage sons and a charmingly disobedient border terrier. 

Vishaka Sriram with The Art of Wrestling Tigers

Vishaka Sriram’s novel, THE GIRL IN THE COFFIN, placed runner-up in RevPit 2021. She has a Master’s in English Literature and Creative Writing and has taught both to young adults in high schools. She has interned with Penguin Random House India, HarperCollins India and Siyahi Literary Agency. She is a produced playwright. You can find her baking at midnight and making bizarre origami creatures. 

Sarah Merrett with The Others

Sarah is passionate about writing children’s fiction, and has been shortlisted and longlisted for numerous children’s novel awards. She’s worked in various children’s libraries and bookshops and has an MA in Writing for Children. In between writing, she can often be found walking in the countryside or wielding a power tool whilst renovating her house. 

Cate Haynes with The Riddle of Stanbridge Hall

Cate Haynes has wound a meandering path via selling cakes, managing a farm shop and being an Assistant Psychologist, to being a Speech & Language Therapist, Mum and cat butler. She loves writing magical middle-grade fiction for its ability to transport the reader anywhere and everywhere. She placed 3rd in the Wells Literary Festival, Writing for Children category in 2021 and has had several poems and pieces of flash fiction published in anthologies. Although Cate still secretly harbours ambitions of being a fairy, she’s thinking about experimenting with writing YA, or maybe even for adults. The Riddle of Stanbridge Hall was inspired by a piece of her family history and has received the backing of the Restricted Growth Association for its positive representation of a young person with a restricted growth syndrome.

Steve Blackman with When We Return

Storytelling has played a huge part in Steve’s career, from book chapters, technical papers and web content, to magazine articles and speeches. For just over a year, he was the editor of, and contributor to, lifestyle magazine Live It. He’s a SCBWI member, and in the summer of 2020, completed the three month Curtis Brown Creative course Writing YA and Children’s Fiction, under the tutelage of Catherine Johnson. His writing has been shortlisted in the WriteMentor short story competition and in the Searchlight Writing for Children Awards. Steve lives in South London with his wife and two teenage daughters. They spend as much time as they can in his wife’s home country Brazil; there’s more sun and the coffee’s better.