Announcement of winner of the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award

The winner of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writers’ Award 2016 is Sharlene Wen-Ning Teo for Ponti, a work of fiction. This was announced today Thursday 5th May at a small ceremony in London. Shena Mackay (Chair of the Judges) introduced the shortlisted authors after which Ian McEwan announced the winner and presented her with the prize of £10,000.

The two runners-up were Imogen Hermes Gowar (The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, a historical novel) and Guy Stagg (The Crossway, a work of non-fiction). They were each presented with a book token of £100.

Shena Mackay, Owen Sheers and Kate Summerscale, the judges of this inaugural DRF Award, made their shortlist selection from a longlist of eight. This longlist was chosen by agents within Rogers Coleridge & White, after reading a staggering 885 entries.

The winner, Sharlene Wen-Ning Teo (born 1987), is a Singaporean writer based in the UK. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Esquire, Magma Poetry and Eunoia Review. In 2012 she was awarded the Booker Prize Foundation Scholarship to undertake an MA in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia, where she is currently in her second year of a PhD focusing on Singaporean and Malaysian trauma writing. She is the recipient of the 2013 David T.K. Wong Creative Writing Fellowship and the 2014 Sozopol Fiction Fellowship.

Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan with DRF WA winner Sharlene Teo


Shena Mackay, Chair of the Judges, comments:

My fellow judges, Kate Summerscale,Owen Sheers and I, were very impressed by the high standard and diversity of all the longlist entries we read but we were unanimous in our choice of a strong shortlist of three. Each of those entries show considerable merit, originality and promise and, interestingly, represent three different categories of writing – contemporary fiction, non-fiction and historical fiction.We are delighted to choose as our overall winner Ponti, Sharlene Teo’s strange and compelling evocation of a misfit adolescent girl growing up in sultry, sweaty Singapore. Despite its setting, Owen Sheers calls it a breath of fictional fresh air’. The Crossway, Guy Stagg’s breathtaking and meditative account of a pilgrimage, both personal and physical, across the Alps in winter, veering from the awe-inspiring to the amusingly absurd, is a worthy runner-up, as is The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar. This exploration of credulity and corruption in louche eighteenth-century London has, according to Kate Summerscale, ‘great momentum and confidence, narrative brio, but the creepy mermaid hints at the darkness beneath the romanticism and nostalgia of this kind of historical fiction’.Overall, we think Deborah would be thrilled at the quality of the entries.



Ian McEwan, presenter of the Award, comments:

Ponti is a remarkable first novel in the making. With brilliant descriptive power and human warmth, Sharlene Wen-Ning Teo summons the darker currents of modernity - environmental degradation, the suffocating allure of the sparkling modern city and its cataracts of commodities and corrupted language. Against this, her characters glow with life and humour and minutely observed desperation. I read this extract longing for more.”

Gill Coleridge, Chair of Rogers Coleridge & White and Director of the Deborah Rogers Foundation, comments:

“Deborah was never more excited than when she had discovered an extraordinary new voice and would have been thrilled to read the work of these three very talented new writers at the beginning of their writing careers.The response to the Writers Award has been very encouraging on all fronts so I can say tonight that we plan to continue this Award on a biennial basis in years ahead. Next year we will be announcing a bursary for a young person working in the publishing and agenting business.”

The winner, Sharlene Teo, will appear on Saturday 28th May at the Hay Festival at an event to celebrate the life of Deborah Rogers. This will be compered by Peter Carey, who will introduce Sharlene to the audience. Michael Berkeley, (Deborah’s widower), Peter Straus, (MD of RCW), and Gill Coleridge (Chair of RCW) will also take part.

Note to the editors:

The DRF Writers Award is the first initiative of the Deborah Rogers Foundation, set up in 2015 in memory of the much loved and respected literary agent, Deborah Rogers.In keeping with Deborah’s special talent for nurturing and supporting emerging new writers, this £10,000 award is for a first-time writer whose work demonstrates literary talent and who needs financial support to complete their first book. The deadline for submissions was 31st January 2016. Entrants – who must reside within the British Commonwealth and Eire - were required to submit 20,000-30,000 words of literary merit of fiction, non-fiction or short stories, written in English.

The 2016 shortlisted authors:


Imogen Hermes Gowar completed a BA at UEA’s Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts before working in museums, where she started writing small pieces of fiction inspired by the artefacts she worked with and around. Her fiction is often set in the past, and she is particularly interested in exploring the historical experiences of women. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock began as her dissertation submission for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA in summer 2014 – where an excerpt was awarded the Curtis Brown Prize – and in March 2016 an early draft of the novel was a finalist in the MsLexia First Novel Competition.Imogen’s short fiction has appeared in The Pigeonhole’s Sex Staves anthology, and has been read at the Liar’s League ‘Boom and Bust’ event with BBC Radio 4.


Guy Stagg was born in 1988. He read English at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a scholar. He later worked in politics and journalism, and has written for The Daily Telegraph, the New Statesman, and the Literary Review. In 2013 he walked from Canterbury to Jerusalem.


Sharlene Wen-Ning Teo / PONTI


Sharlene Teo was born in 1987 and is a Singaporean writer based in the UK. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Esquire, Magma Poetry and Eunoia Review. In 2012, she was awarded the Booker Prize Foundation Scholarship to undertake an MA in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia, where she is currently in her second year of a PhD focusing on Singaporean and Malaysian trauma writing. She is the recipient of the 2013 David T.K Wong Creative Writing Fellowship and the 2014 Sozopol Fiction Fellowship. Ponti is her first novel.

The Judges

Shena Mackay

Shena Mackay was one of Deborah Rogers’ first authors when Deborah set up her agency in 1967. Shena was born in Edinburgh in 1944. Her writing career began when she won a prize for a poem written when she was fourteen. Two novellas, Dust Falls on Eugene Schlumberger and Toddler on the Run were published before she was twenty. Redhill Rococo won the 1987 Fawcett Prize, Dunedin won a 1994 Scottish Arts Council Book Award, The Orchard on Fire was shortlisted for the 1996 Booker Prize and, in 2003 Heligoland was shortlisted for both the Orange Prize and Whitbread Novel Award. Her latest book, Dancing on the Outskirts, Selected Stories (Virago) was published in November 2015. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in Southampton.

Owen Sheers

Owen Sheers is a poet, author and playwright. His first novel, Resistance, was translated into ten languages and adapted into a film. The Dust Diaries, his Zimbabwean non-fiction narrative, won the Welsh Book of the Year. His awards for poetry and drama include the Somerset Maugham Award for Skirrid Hill, The Hay Festival Poetry Medal and the Welsh Book of the Year for Pink Mist and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award for his play The Two Worlds of Charlie F. He is Professor in Creativity at Swansea University and lives in Wales. His second novel, I Saw A Man, was published by Faber & Faber in 2015.

Kate Summerscale

Kate Summerscale is the author of the bestselling The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and the Galaxy British Book of the Year Award and was adapted as an ITV drama. Her other books are The Queen of Whale Cay, which won a Somerset Maugham award and was shortlisted for the Whitbread biography award, and Mrs Robinson's Disgrace, a Sunday Times bestseller. Her new book, The Wicked Boy, is just published to great acclaim. Kate Summerscale has also judged various literary competitions including the Booker Prize. She lives in north London.


Deborah Rogers Foundation


The Board of the Foundation, chaired by Lord Berkeley of Knighton, Deborah’s widower, comprises people who knew and loved Deborah, including RCW colleagues Gill Coleridge, Peter Straus and David Miller (secretary). The Members of the Foundation are:



Lord Berkeley of Knighton CBE



Gill Coleridge (Chair, Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd)

Peter Straus (Managing Director, Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd)

Tamsin Eastwood (Stone King LLP)

Dotti Irving (Four Colman Getty)


Company Secretary:

David Miller, RCW (Director, Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd)


Members include:

Richard Cable

Liz Calder

Carmen Callil

William Fiennes

Peter Florence MBE

Andrew Franklin

Mark LeFanu OBE

Ian McEwan CBE

Stephen Page

Baroness Rebuck of Bloomsbury DBE


For media information, please contact:


Gill Coleridge

Rogers Coleridge & White Ltd

+44 0207 221 3717


Dotti Irving,

Four Colman Getty

+44 (0) 20 3697 4240





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