Announcing…the Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize SHORTLIST

It’s been 6 months since the competition submissions closed, three months since we selected our longlist and one week since we selected our shortlist.  It’s time to reveal the finalists for the Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize 2013! There are finalists from the UK, Australia and USA (including Tasmania and Alaska!); stories featuring giants, pirates, automatons, love, death, romance and the best and worst of society.  I tell you, there are some incredibly talented young voices out there and especially on the shortlist this year:

For 9- to 12-year-old readers

JASPER’S GIANT SECRET by Frankie Jones, aged 24

Frankie_Jones_photo Bristol born and Sussex bred Frankie Jones currently lives somewhere between London and the sea. Frankie has studied creative writing at both BA and MA level where she wrote lots of poetry, stage drama and the odd essay about Shakespeare. She now works as an editor in educational publishing and moonlights as a writer of children’s fiction. Frankie’s free time is spent blogging, sewing and exploring but she struggles to do all three at once.

JASPER’S GIANT SECRET is a fantastical adventure set in a wonderful but crumbling castle and touches on themes of friendship and growing up, drawing much inspiration from the mythology of Scotland.

KITIWAKE HOME by Polly Keeble, aged 25

Polly PictureBorn in London, Polly was glad to escape the city for the Devon coast where she spent three years studying Ancient History at Exeter, but really surfing, running and climbing. After graduating with a knack for winging exams and a taste for the sea she embarked on a career as a runner and assistant producer with a television company specialising in children’s TV. She’s met a few famous people, but the highlight of her celeb spotting remains a back stage pass she got for a Ronan Keating gig when I was 14. Now, back in the big smoke, she spends her days dreaming up stories and trying to keep them long enough to pin them to paper. This is proving harder than she ever imagined.

KITIWAKE HOME is the story of a girl, living in half a house, perched on the cliffs battered by the wind who, one day, spies more than she was expecting to out of her binoculars…

CHARLIE IN THE DARK by Lyndon Riggall, aged 23

LRiggall PhotoLyndon Riggall is a young writer from Tasmania, Australia who worked in a children’s bookshop for six years before graduating from the University of Tasmania in 2012 with First Class Honours in Creative Writing. He has written everything from poetry through to videogames, and likes any job that gives him a chance to make something up. You can find him on Twitter @lyndonriggall and on his blog at

CHARLIE IN THE DARK is an exciting urban fantasy that crosses the boundaries between worlds and realities featuring a young boy and a mysterious dectective. It’s about overcoming adversity, and how far we will go to save the people we love.

THE LUCKY BONES by Abigail Slater, aged 19

ASlater PhotoAbigail was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, where she currently resides to attend the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Her goal is to write books with diverse characters that speak to young adults all over the world. She is of Unangax, Irish, and Norwegian descent. She would like to be the first woman to direct a superhero film, and would like to create the first female Alaska Native superhero someday. The Lucky Bones is her first novel.

Set at the turn of the century, THE LUCKY BONES begins when an unusual orphaned boy with the highest connectsion begins working in a museum of automaton creatures. The atmospheric story examines the importance of culture, connection to home, and family.



For 13- to 19-year-old readers:

ZAFRE IN THE WILD by Kate Herrell, aged 24

Kate Herrell headshotKate Herrell was born in Denver, Colorado. She studied theatrical performance for five years, at which time she explored writing for the theatre. Kate has been a writer since her youth, one of her earliest stories being a fantasy tale about the Muppets on the Millenium Falcon. In 2007, Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin chose Kate’s admission’s essay for use as exemplary recruitment tool. The essay focused on the relationship between William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the companion music written by Felix Mendelssohn. Kate’s short story entitled “The Last Letter” made it to the 2010 finals of the Three Minute Fiction contest on NPR. Her first novel attempt, “Ragamuffin”, was shortlisted in the 9-12 category for the Guardian Hot Key Books Young Writers Prize in 2012.   Kate’s is inspired by the work of Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Maureen Johnson, John Green and many others. Kate hopes to inspire young children to achieve whatever they want, no matter the circumstances. She currently resides in Santa Cruz, California, where she works and performs for a top children’s entertainment company.

ZAFRE IN THE WILD is a stunning and vibrant fantasy that begins with a girl who is going blind, imprisoned in a hospital. Soon, a whole people is counting on her to escape. Holding nothing back, this story will grip you in its well-realised world.


SAVING SAXON by Martha Lane, aged 26

photoMartha has spent the last two years working towards her MA in Creative Writing while working full time for Mslexia Publications. She has lived in Newcastle upon Tyne for seven years but was brought up in the East Midlands. She has written two books for children, though both remain in a drawer at the moment, and SAVING SAXON is her first book for young adult readers, and was submitted to the prize when she was still 25. She’s an avid watcher of stand up comedy and will be treading the boards herself in October after a six-week course in the art of mirth. She’s had many film reviews published in the past but her first publication of note came in June 2013 when her short memoir piece ‘Odds On’ appeared in Alliterati Magazine.

SAVING SAXON is a powerful novel about running away, and finding help in the most unusual of places. This uniquely-written novel begins when a young boy meets an unusal girl in a barn.

THE BUTTON MAKERS by Kahli Scott, 23

KScott PhotoKahli Scott was born in Canada but grew up in Brisbane, Australia. She studied creative writing at Queensland University of Technology, where a youth and children’s writing assignment prompted her to pen the first chapter of The Button Makers. She spent two years living in Vancouver after graduation, but is currently hanging out in Brisbane again until life takes her elsewhere. She is inspired by nostalgia, fantasy, popular culture, and creativity in all its forms.

THE BUTTON MAKERS is set in a world ruled by the Fine Arts. Those that are gifted with artistic talent live lavish lifestyles, but those that aren’t live harsh lives working in factories. But when loyalty for a friend turns one Exquisite boy down an Unremarkable path, society could change forever.

MISS KITTY AND THE PIT by William Van Niekerk, aged 23

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWilliam van Niekerk was born in the UK, but raised in Zambia, before returning to the UK where he completed his secondary education and a Zoology degree. The inevitable result of all this travel is a conviction that being somewhere else must be better than being wherever he happens to be and so, on a recent and long-awaited trip to visit family in Zambia, he immersed himself in a fictitious adventure around the Great Lakes region of North America to write Miss Kitty and the Pit.  His previous achievements are extremely limited, the greatest being placed third in a rotary-club writing competition in Lusaka around twelve years ago, and self-publishing an earlier work of fantasy which, re-reading several years later, he likes to pretend he never thought anyone else would want to read. More recently, he has focused on short stories and animations, although some of these short stories – such as Miss Kitty and the Pit – have eventually extended to over fifty-thousand words and, as such, probably warrant re-labelling.

MISS KITTY AND THE PIT tells an off-beat tale of a contemporary afterlife in New York, as experienced by the recently-deceased John Hart. Although primary a supernatural mystery, it also contains elements of comedy and light romance.

THESE CRAZY THINGS by Amy Whitear, aged 22

Amy WhitearAmy Whitear grew up in South London but dreamt forever of wearing flowers in her hair in San Francisco. She enjoys falling asleep to soothing documentaries about murderers or the occasional unsolved mystery case. She has two cats who don’t particularly like her, leaving her to wish, instead, that they were jaguars. Although she doesn’t have a degree, she does read a copious amount of textbooks, just for fun, which means that she’s a good person to have on your quiz team. In addition to a chronic book addiction, she blogs incessantly at, and Tweets in her sleep @AmyWhitear

THESE CRAZY THINGS is set during a long hot summer in the UK. Hosepipes have been banned, health warnings have been issued and Megan Castle is contemplating what her mother will say when she returns home to discover her only child has melted into the sofa. But when her mother doesn’t return home, Megan’s life is turned upside down.




So, that’s it – the books are off to the judging panel and I’m sure the decision will not be easy. All shortlisted entrants have already won a Kobo Aura – kindly donated by our supporters, Kobo. Last year, Katie Coyle (Vivian Versus the Apocalypse) and Joe Ducie (The Rig) won a £10,000 worldwide publishing contract with us, and we can’t wait to see who we will welcome on to the list this year.


Good luck to all the finalists and thank you to everyone who entered.