An unemployed Wigan graduate scooped a top literary award and £1000 prize money in a glossy magazine-run competition, last week.
Bethany Whittle, a 23-year-old English graduate, entered the Grazia Orange First Chapter contest in April and succeeded in beating off stiff competition from over 1200 budding authors.
Bethany was surprised to learn that her entry, inspired by an introduction from bestselling author Kate Mosse, won and was delighted when she heard the news.
She said: “When Hannah Marriott [Grazia’s entertainment editor] rang me two weeks ago to tell me I was the judges’ choice I completely couldn’t believe it – it seemed like I wouldn’t have a chance.
“I also wasn’t sure if my story would be the right sort of style the judges were looking for. I thought they might have preferred a conventional love story.”
However, it would appear that Bethany had little to worry about, as her entry, The Deadline, impressed the judges who unanimously chose her as their newest literary star.
Clare Alexander, literary agent and editor-in-chief at MacMillan, was chair of the judging panel and praised Bethany for her unique take on the competition criteria.
She said: “Bethany stood out as the writer with the most distinctive voice and imagination, who went on from Kate’s opening in a totally surprising direction and left us wanting to read more.”
A spokesperson from Grazia magazine also paid tribute to Bethany’s winning entry.
She said: “Her creepy, suspenseful and surreal first chapter was beautifully written and utterly original.”
Bethany said she was inspired to write her entry after watching vintage Bettie Page burlesque films.
She said: “The films sparked ideas about pain and beauty which I thought would be interesting – the idea of a heroine who reads magazines and takes them more to heart than most people.
“It’s amazing to get my writing published for the first time and to know that people might enjoy reading the pieces I write.”
And it’s not only Bethany who is delighted about the win.
She said: “My mum is really proud, she can’t wait to show off the tiny picture of me to people at work.
“My dad wants me to get cracking on a Potter-esque series of books that will enable him to retire to Cornwall!”
Bethany collected her prize at an awards ceremony in London, but has no outlandish plans for spending her prize money just yet.
She said: “I’m using the prize money to get out of my overdraft, and maybe buy some bits for when I go to Oxford to study for my Masters – perhaps a second-hand bicycle with a wicker basket!”
To read Bethany’s winning entry go to http://www.graziadaily.co.uk/bookclub
For more information about the Orange Prize for Fiction at www.orangeprize.co.uk