Shortlist of three announced for the inaugural Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award.

Shena Mackay (Chair), Owen Sheers and Kate Summerscale, the judges of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writers Award, today (Thursday 14 April) announce their shortlist of three. These first-time writers, one of whom will win £10,000 to support them financially while they complete their first book, have been chosen from a submissions total of 885 entries.

The judges began their reading in early March, from a longlist of eight entries chosen by agents within Rogers Coleridge & White. After six weeks of reading and debate, the shortlist is announced today during the London Book Fair.

The three writers in contention for the award are:


Imogen Hermes Gowar - The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock

Guy Stagg - The Crossway

Sharlene Wen-Ning Teo - Ponti

Chosen from a longlist of eight, including the following:


Jane Archer - Cutting the Roses

Divya Ghelani - Runaway

Sinéad Gleeson - Thin Places

Patrick Langley - The Brothers King

Amanda Mason - A Haunting at Iron Sike Farm

Shena Mackay, Chairman of the judges, comments:

“It goes without saying that it is a huge honour to be the Chair of this first Writers Award of the Deborah Rogers Foundation, which pays tribute to Deborah Rogers in the most appropriate way – the encouragement of new young talent.

I like to think Deborah would be impressed by the range of entries for this generous Award: – Kate, Owen and I certainly were. The finalists all display some of the criteria we think necessary for a piece of work to be considered art: does it touch the heart? Are its characters interesting and/or plausible? Can it create a time, a place, a world? Has it acuteness of observation or an original slant on things? Does it show originality of thought or imagery or colour in the writing? If unfinished, how will it develop and where is it going? Is the writing particularly fine?

With those points in mind we arrived at a very strong short-list which represents the diversity of contemporary new writing. It has been a pleasure to judge this Award, and all the entrants deserve congratulations for their unique contributions.”

The winner will be announced on Thursday 5 May at an Award Ceremony in London where he/she will receive a cheque for £10,000 from Ian McEwan. On Saturday 28 May, Peter Carey will host an event at the Hay Festival to honour Deborah and to introduce the winner of the first Deborah Rogers Award to the audience. Both Peter Carey and Ian McEwan were longstanding clients of Deborah’s.

In keeping with Deborah’s lifelong objective to seek out and nurture new talent, this £10,000 award is for a first-time writer whose work demonstrates literary talent but who needs support to complete their first book. This should be fiction, non-fiction or short stories, but not poetry.

To enter, writers – who must reside within the British Commonwealth and Eire and whose work must be written in the English language – were required to submit 20-30,000 words of literary merit.

Gill Coleridge, Chairman of RCW, comments:

“We were both amazed and thrilled to have had so many submissions for the inaugural Writers Award and are most grateful to our Judges, Shena Mackay, Kate Summerscale and Owen Sheers for giving so much of their time. The remarkable shortlist that they have chosen from a very strong longlist of eight represents the breadth of new writing in both fiction and non-fiction. It is very exciting to discover such wonderful new talent which will bring great credit to the name of the Deborah Rogers Foundation.”

The Judges

Shena Mackay

Shena Mackay enjoyed a long friendship and professional relationship with Deborah Rogers. She was one of her very first authors when Deborah set up her agency in 1967. Shena Mackay 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 has three daughters, Sarah Clark, a teacher, Rebecca Smith, a writer, and Cecily Brown, a painter, and five grandchildren. 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 with his wife and daughter. 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, will be published in May 2016. 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 and Peter Straus with David Miller as secretary. The Members of the Foundation, which includes writers Ian McEwan and William Fiennes, 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 (FourColmanGetty)



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


April 2016


The Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award


2016 Shortlist


Imogen Hermes Gowar’s novel The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, is set in 1780s London, a period that attracted her with its beguiling language, humour and mentality. Her research has included not only contemporary written culture – novels, pamphlets and memoirs – but also a rich visual one, from high fashion to satirical cartoons.

Imogen 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. She is represented by Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown.



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 (b. 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. Ponti is her first novel.



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