An American actress has been unveiled as the winner of Bath Spa University’s Novel in 25 words, as a new anthology celebrates 25 years of the creative writing department.
Kelly Doran’s pineapple-themed story, ‘FYI’, beat more than 1,400 entries to claim the £500 prize with Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons reading out all three shortlisted entries at the ceremony in London on Friday (15th September).
The pace of world events affected the nature of the entries with the Grenfell Tower tragedy in West London inspiring a “distinct shift in tone”, according to one of the judges, author Beatrice Hitchman.
The runners-up were Clare Gallagher for ‘Early Learning’ and Michael Hunt for ‘Rise of the Shy Horticulturalist’.
Winner of Bath Spa University's Novel in 25 Words competition, Kelly Doran, with Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons
The celebratory 420-page anthology, "A Place in Words", was also launched on 15th September to celebrate the department's quarter-century of teaching, featuring the work of the “most celebrated alumni and staff” including Tessa Hadley, Richard Francis, Evie Wyld and Hensher as well as a deleted chapter from Naomi Alderman’s Baileys Prize-winning novel, The Power (Viking). The excerpt, from the Bath Spa professor’s dystopian thriller focuses on sexual tension and escalating violence at a party in Delhi.
The competition launched in May, and was judged by author and Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, Philip Hensher, and senior assistant editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, Jonathan Dent as well as Hitchman, also a Bath Spa University graduate.
Hitchman revealed that topical events affected the tone of the 1,415 entries during the month-long competition period.
She said: “Interestingly, these topics changed as the news agenda changed, highlighting to us how peoples’ thoughts, feelings and writing can be affected by prominent stories in the media. In this case, there was a distinct shift in tone after the Grenfell Tower tragedy and when another story of the worsening refugee crisis came to light.”
(L-R) Beatrice Hitchman (judge), Michael Hunt (finalist), Kelly Doran (winner), Chancellor Jeremy Irons, Clare Gallagher (finalist) and Philip Hensher (judge)
Hensher praised the “sly humour” of FYI. He said: “It's a real skill to open up a new range of possibilities in the final words - here are two lives tantalisingly hinted at.”
Doran’s winning entry, 'FYI', reads as follows: “Obviously I’m not judging Carl; I just think it would’ve been nice to know about the whole pineapple situation before I moved in with him.”
Doran revealed she was “absolutely delighted” by the win, particularly as she “realized quite quickly how difficult it was to write something eloquent within the constraints of such a small word count”.
All three shortlisted entries are available on the Bath Spa website.