The winner of the 2018 Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers is Hannah Begbie with her contemporary novel Mother, published by Harper Collins. Hannah was presented with her award and a cheque for £1,000 at the RNA’s Summer Party, held today at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.  

The Joan Hessayon Award is generously sponsored by gardening expert Dr David Hessayon OBE, in honour of his late wife Joan, who was a longstanding member of the RNA and a great supporter of its New Writers’ Scheme.

The judges for the award, which included RNA Chair, Nicola Cornick, and award-winning bookseller, Emma Milne-White from Hungerford Books, were unanimous in their decision to crown Mother the winner. The book was selected from a list of seventeen contenders, all authors whose debut novels have been accepted for publication after passing through the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, which offers support and manuscript advice to unpublished authors.

“The quality of the writing really shone out from the page, and the handling of the subject matter was sensitive and compelling – I felt like I learned a lot about Cystic Fibrosis yet always remained immersed in the story,” commented Emma Milne-White. “I enjoyed the way the plot took unexpected turns – I was hooked! It had depth and heart. She is clearly a confident and eloquent writer – I hope she goes on to write more and that ‘Mother‘ receives the praise it deserves.”

Hannah Begbie’s novel Mother is the story of Cath, the frightened mother of a newborn diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Richard is the ‘we-can-beat-this’ father of a teenage girl, gravely ill with the same disease. When the two meet at a charity support evening, their mutual needs push them into an intense affair that will jeopardise everything. Even the health of their children.

The full shortlist for 2018 is: 

Mick Arnold, The Season for Love, Passion in Print

Donna Ashcroft, Summer at the Castle Café, Bookouture

Susanna Bavin, The Deserter’s Daughter, Allison & Busby

Cryssa Bazos, Traitor’s Knot, Endeavour Press

Hannah Begbie, Mother, Harper Collins

Anita Belli, The Traveller and the Rose, Endeavour Press

Lynn Forth, Love in La La Land, Crooked Cat

Erin Green, A Christmas Wish, Aria Fiction

Lisa Hill, Meet Me at Number Five, Choc Lit

John Jackson, Heart of Stone, Crooked Cat

Jane Lacey-Crane, Secrets and Tea at Rosie Lee’s, Aria Fiction

Zoe May, Perfect Match, HQ Digital

Sue McDonagh, Summer at the Art Café, Choc Lit

Kate Ryder, Summer in a Cornish Cove, Aria Fiction

Elaine Roberts, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, Aria Fiction

Tanya Jean Russell, Broken Trust, Evernight Publishing

Awen Thornber, Foxtrot in FreshbyCrooked Cat

You can view a gallery of photographs from the event here.

2 Comments
  1. Mick Arnold 2 months ago

    A lovely lady and a well deserved winner! Loved chatting to you on Thursday.

  2. John Jackson 2 months ago

    Agreed, Mick! I’ve just heard that Hannah is donating her prize money to charity for Cystic Fibrosis.

    Although I already knew most of the contenders, it was great to meet the rest, in person, as it were.

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