Ayr Writers Excel at 2021 Scottish Association of Writers’ National Writing Awards

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The Scottish Association of Writers (SAW) annual Weekend Writers’ Conference hasn’t been held back one iota this year. It’s been business as usual – but just online.

From a welcoming (Zoom) Cocktail Party on the Friday night, to a packed programme of Workshops, Key Speakers, and Live Events, there’s been so much to watch, learn, and do.

But it’s the national SAW competitions that are one of the biggest conference draws each year. It’s a chance for Scotland’s writing club members, nation-wide, to compete for the coveted trophies and prize-winning places.

A magnificent total of 26 prizes were awarded to 14 AWC writers this year, and included 4 first place trophies.

The adjudicators’ comments on all of the prize-winning club entries are transcribed below –


NOVEL IN A SPECIFIC GENRE (CRIME) – First 10,000 – 15,000 words. Also, 2-page synopsis.

Commended – Linda Brown – “I really enjoyed this book. It made a great story. It was well written. The narrative was good, the atmosphere, and you gave the novel a sense of place with well-rounded characters; and I liked the dialogue too. The story-line was engaging, and I loved the historical aspect of it. That really chimed with me, and it opened on my birthday – not the year of my birth, I must say. The synopsis too let me know exactly how the story would pan out.” – Teresa Talbot, Adjudicator


NOVEL AIMED AT TEENS – First 7000 words. Also, 2-page synopsis. (11 entries).

1st Place – Kirsty Hammond, ‘Shoot for the Moon’ – Winner of the Silver Thistle ‘The first time that I read this, and even when I came back to it a couple of times, it really did stand out to me, because, overall, it probably had the most professional writing style, and I just thought it was excellent writing in general, it really flowed really well. My brain had a lot to take in, because I was being introduced to different worlds and characters, but I thought this flowed really well between the chapters. I really loved the worlds that the writer had created, and the ideas within these. I also thought that the writer captured the main protagonists’ voices really well. I liked the fact that there was a split between the girl and the boy’s viewpoint. I was actually really disappointed that I only had the first few chapters to read of this book, because I wanted to continue reading on – and I think that’s a sign of really good writing. It’s a book that I genuinely would like to read one day, so I hope that the writer has completed this novel and, if you have, I hope that you are going to start submitting this for publication. Really well done for the winner, loved your book.’ – Victoria Gemmel, Adjudicator

3rd Place – Kirsty Hammond, ‘Solar’ – ‘This style of writing really stood out as I thought that it was a really good entry. I thought that the writer had great pacing within the first few chapters. It was a really intriguing plot. The world that the writer has created is very clever and imaginative and I felt the writer had really well-drawn, believable teen characters within the book.’ – Victoria Gemmel, Adjudicator


DRAMA – A One Act Stage Play. Maximum of 5 Characters. Approximately 45 minutes in length. (4 entries).

2nd Place – Helena Sheridan – ‘I loved this play. It made me laugh, and it was very entertaining. Fast-paced, witty dialogue, fantastic characterisation and packed with twists and turns – yet managed very successfully to tie up all loose ends in a most satisfying manner. Well done. What a great piece of work.’ – Gillian McNeil, Adjudicator


UNDER 7s SHORT STORY – Maximum 750 words. (23 entries).

Commended – Greta York, ‘Ten Little Hedgehogs.’ – ‘A picture book which is one of the examples where the rhyme and the rhythm really worked. And the text really brought to mind the illustrations that would go with it, which I think is very important – to be able to read a picture book text and see how it might look alongside.’ – Morag Hood, Adjudicator


FLASH FICTION – Under 250 words. (47 entries).

‘Because flash fiction is a very short story, the essence of the story should rest in what is not told, as much as in what is told. The sheer economy of flash fiction dictates this layering of the story. The authors in the shortlist essentially achieved this iceberg effect, and especially the top five.’ – Strathkelvin Writers’ Group, Adjudicators

3rd Place – Fiona McFadzean, ‘History Lesson’ – Strathkelvin Writers’ Group, Adjudicators


3 – 5 MINUTE SKETCH – Humorous or Non-Humorous. (13 entries).

2nd Place – Catherine Lang, ‘Keeping it Neutral’ – ‘This script was excellently written, and it was set out very clearly for anyone to pick up and to be able to execute. There was a great introduction and direction, and that’s really  quite important in a lot of plays – that introduction and the direction of the characters just to start off with. It was an appropriate setting as well for the action, very appropriate. Characters were very credible, and they were also quite distinctive. And the writer gave great insight into the personalities and provided a very strong ending to the main subject of the story, which was Janey. And Janey didn’t actually really turn up until the end, but she was the main subject. So it was cleverly written. It was well-paced. A clever piece of writing with a surprising conclusion.’ – City Writers, Adjudicators

Commended – Carolyn O’Hara, ‘ Reality Check’ ‘The writing quality was creative and there was a great script format. It was easy to follow with very clear stage directions and details given for actions on the stage. Its drama format in itself was actually quite simple, and could be one of those plays which could be situated anywhere, and that adaptability was a positive. It was a nice romantic twist at the end – great quality script direction was one of the main takeouts from this sketch.’ – City Writers, Adjudicators


PRESIDENT’S PRIZE – Marketing Contest

3rd Place – Susan McVey – ‘Susan had a fantastic plan for press, both online and print. She has really put together a wonderful series of plans, as well as the underpinnings of a terrific outreach campaign – to both the online press and both the print press – and I think she’s got a really good understanding – and that’s going to give her a really strong chance of getting a lot of press for her book.’ – Amy Collins, Adjudicator


NON-FICTION BOOK – First 10,000 – 15,000 words. Also, a 2-page synopsis. (8 entries).

‘It was quite hard to put it in some kind of order and to choose the best all the way through.’ – Sarah Grace, Adjudicator

2nd Place – Linda Brown, Historical Non-Fiction Book – Sarah Grace, Adjudicator


WOMAN’S SHORT STORY – Aimed at a Woman’s Magazine. 1000 – 3000 words. (41 entries).

1st Place – Nigel Ward, ‘Inklings’ – Winner of the Margaret McConnell Trophy – A story about two ninety-something women in a care home, with a shared past. This stood out because of the originality of the plot – the poignancy of it – and, not least, its lovely writing.’ – Kate Blackadder, Adjudicator

2nd Place – Jeanette Driver, ‘Semi-Skimmed’ ‘It was really hard to choose between the top two. I loved this one because the voice was so original, with such a sly humour. The narrator’s voice, trying to resolve the lack of her love-life, was novel, to say the least. And there was a twist I didn’t see coming.’ – Kate Blackadder, Adjudicator


POETRY – Maximum of 40 lines. (68 entries).

‘What I look for in a poem, is originality of thought and, alongside that, the power of imagery.’ – Sheena Blackhall, Adjudicator  

Commended – Damaris West, ‘Secrets’ – Sheena Blackhall, Adjudicator


SELF-PUBLISHED BOOK – Entries will be judged on every aspect – the book itself, quality, editing, and cover. (14 entries).

Self-publishing to professional standards is something to be proud of.’ – Debbie Young, Adjudicator

Commended – Greta York, Illustrated by Maggie Bolton, ‘The Tartan Witch and the Highland Escapade’ – ‘A book written for children, but will be enjoyed by adults too.’ – Debbie Young, Adjudicator


BOOK REVIEW – Review a book of your choice, but you must give full details, including the ISBN. 350 – 500 words. (16 entries).

1st – Catherine Lang, Winner of the May Marshall Silver Book Trophy – A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré – ‘The winner made our decision easy. The first prize was a well-deserved and unanimous winner for all three of the adjudicating team. It was impossible to fault. An enticing quotation opened the review and set the tone. We were given – what the book was about, the narrator’s voice, and the essence of the plot – in the first couple of short paragraphs, without it being an information dump. Hints and suggestions, written in excellent prose, all successfully intrigued the reader. The review flowed between the past and the present. And, whilst linking to earlier titles, introduced various characters. Reference was made to flawed men and women who you’d want to meet, and settings you’d want to picture. Readers of the review were brought to an ending that remains unclear until they’ve read the book. 

2nd – Yvonne Jack, ‘Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Adams’ – A review of one title that came twice within our 16 entries, came second. This review fluently set the scene and highlighted the themes this debut novel addresses. It teasingly hints at how our main characters and their lives will intersect as the plot develops. We were forewarned of conflicts and tensions, and the issues the reader will have to address, without revealing details that might spoil their enjoyment. The appreciation of poetic language and imagery was supported by excellent examples. It must have been a challenge to acclaim such a widely-acclaimed book, especially one receiving critical coverage in many places. However, the challenge was well met.’ – Ayr Writers’ Club, Adjudicators

3rd – Catherine Lang, ‘A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborourgh’ – ‘This is a clear, well-structured review that contains effective observations about the way in which the subject is presented. The opening paragraph is well thought out, successfully and succinctly introducing the author and his credentials. We quickly know what the book is about, it’s scope and scale. The thrust, but not the details, of the author’s arguments are powerfully revealed. Positive comments were made about the book’s presentation, the images selected, and even the clarity of explanations and statistics. And, usefully, the presence of a glossary. But, perhaps there, an example might have added a little more colour. This was a campaigning title, almost a polemic, about which the reviewer is clearly supportive – not always an easy fine line to tread – begging the question about any counter-balancing arguments. There was a tendency to include, perhaps, too much detail, and parts came close to becoming a precis, but, despite this, the review stood apart from many, and was deservedly placed.’ – Ayr Writers’ Club, Adjudicators

Highly Commended – Catherine Lang, ‘The Planets by Andrew Cohen and Professor Brian Cox’ – ‘This review quickly conveyed the passion of the book’s authors. We were immediately given the context and background to the title. The opening paragraphs forewarned of difficulties the reader might face, and the reviewer was honest to admit that it was not always going to be an easy read. Illustrations, captions and explanations were commented on; illuminating snippets were offered to lure readers in. And whilst the review was lighter on analysis than it could be, this didn’t detract from its overall quality and it was deserving of its place. And, as we all look heavenwards and follow the progress of perseverance on Mars, it’s timely.’ – Ayr Writers’ Club, Adjudicators


GENERAL ARTICLE – Of Your Choice. 1000 – 2000 words. (32 entries).

1st Place – Catherine Lang, ‘Living Without’- A powerful and challenging article. The writer describes the changes that come with widowhood – from a factual perspective, from the experience and reactions of others, and her own journey. Personal recollections stand alongside quotes from other people who have been through the same experience. Most poignant of all are the things that do not change, which are examined. Although a beloved partner of many years has gone, there is still the shopping, and the washing, to be done. Life continues. This is an extremely challenging piece, and I would challenge anyone who has ever loved, to read it, and not be affected. Yet, it is not overly sentimental. It is practical, realistic, and honest. Describing the adjustments she has had to make, the voice of the writer comes through as a woman who is not only strong, but who has had to be strong. Who regrets nothing. And is able to share her pain – not as a warning, but as an insight to the realities of widowhood.’ – Caroline Dunford, Adjudicator

3rd Place – Linda Brown, ‘Digging Up the Dirt’ – A serious fan of archaeology, and who managed to be both informative, and laugh-out-loud amusing. Well done.’ – Caroline Dunford, Adjudicator

‘Both these Commended entries were delightful and amusing.’ – Caroline Dunford, Adjudicator

Commended – Linda Brown – ‘The tale of legendary Lewis, an old-fashioned shopping store, with personal recollections from both the writer and others.’ Caroline Dunford, Adjudicator

Commended – Yvonne Jack – ‘An amusing recollection of the long-lost, well-staffed, grocery shop – and what it was like to work for a summer.’ Caroline Dunford, Adjudicator


GENERAL SHORT STORY – All types of short story are welcomed in this category – 2000 to 2500 words. (44 entries).

I was just so impressed with the quality of the stories that I read, I found myself making notes, and wanting to read them again. Many of them I noted to the author that I thought that they could be even a novel, some of them were such great starts to stories. I was just very very impressed, and I loved reading all of  your work. And everyone should be very proud of these stories.’ – Shawn Reilly Simmons, Adjudicator

2nd Place – Damaris West, ‘Albatross’ Shawn Reilly Simmons, Adjudicator

3rd Place – Linda Brown, ‘Finding the Right Muffin’Shawn Reilly Simmons, Adjudicator

Highly Commended – Linda Brown, ‘Kill for A Dance’Shawn Reilly Simmons, Adjudicator

Commended – Jennifer West, ‘A Trusted Employee’Shawn Reilly Simmons, Adjudicator

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