Escalator Literature: 2007 Winners



Kathryn Skoyles

'London, July, 1922

The man they called the Watcher leaned over the grime-encrusted basin and peered into the mirror that hung, slightly askew, on the dingy bathroom wall.  His bleary eyes stared back at him for a moment, full of accusation.  Is this what he had come to?'

Kathryn was brought up in King’s Lynn and now lives in Norwich.  In between, she has lived in London, the Middle East and Australia.  She has been at various times an academic, a bookseller and an RAF intelligence officer as well as a commercial lawyer.  Kathryn won an international writing competition in 1995 and her short story, A Friend in Need, was published in 2002 in Crime in the City, an anthology published by the UK Crime Writers Association.  She completed her first novel, The Judgment of History, in 2005 and is currently working on her second, provisionally entitled Death of an Unknown Soldier

extract from Death of an Unknown Soldier


Claire Jarrett

'I lie on the table, on a length of blue crepe paper. It’s dawn. Strip lights shine on me.
The window opens, the table tips, I slide like the remains of a meal into the compost bucket. A big hand sweeps me off. I fall through the air.'

Clare studied at Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art where she later taught drawing. She worked as a freelance editorial illustrator and visual artist, publishing and exhibiting nationally and internationally. In 1991 she won the Malvern Open Drawing Prize. Since 1996 she has written and illustrated five children’s books. The first, Catherine and the Lion, won the 1997 Mother Goose Award. Her most recent picture book will be published in Spring 2008 by Walker Books. She began writing adult fiction in 2001, received an Arts Council Literature Award in 2005 and has recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. She is currently working on her first novel.

extract from Blue Crepe Paper


Caroline Gilfillan

'August 21st 1939

I have agreed to take part in the Mass-Observation exercise, having responded to an advertisement in the South Hatch Gazette.  It will keep me occupied in the evenings.  I love my Josh more than life itself, but a child’s company can become tedious.'

Caroline spent her formative years in London working as an editor and musician.  A fiction writer, poet, and dramatist, she’s won several national short story competitions, and her poems and short stories have appeared recently in The London Magazine, Poetry News and MslexiaDrowned in Overspill, a pamphlet of her poetry, was published by Crocus Books in 2000.  She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, and teaches creative writing for the Open University and the University of East Anglia.  She’s currently developing a novel and dramas for radio and stage. 

extract from This is Nylon


Ed Parnell cropped,Ed Parnell cropped,Ed Parnell cropped,Ed Parnell cropped

'Up the stairs is a ghost house. Sun slants through the glassless windows, bathing the greying walls and pale spaces where pictures used to hang. We came here to play when I was little, and Rachel said if you listened hard enough you could catch them laughing from all the way back.'

After graduating with an English degree from Hull University, Edward worked in a number of creative media roles before enrolling on the prose MA in Creative Writing at UEA in 2006. He is currently completing his first book, a dark multi-narrator novel that unravels the family secrets of a small rural Norfolk village during the early days of World War II. The novel focuses on twelve-year-old William Abrehart who, a year later, is still haunted by the death of his father.

extract from The Listeners


Fraser Grace

'When Eve began giving birth to her child – the First Child, Ever – she was alone. Sweating and fearful, she lowered herself on the ground and wondered what God would cause to sprout from her.'

Fraser worked as an actor and performance poet before becoming a playwright. Plays for theatre include Perpetua, about the ‘abortion wars’ in the US (joint winner of the Verity Bargate Award) and most recently, Frobisher’s Gold - the true but fantastical story of Elizabeth I’s quest for gold in the Arctic. Breakfast with Mugabe was produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and was joint winner of the John Whiting Award for best new play of 2006. Plays for radio include Bubble (with Andrea Porter 2004), and Breakfast with Mugabe, 2006, which was awarded a Silver Sony Award after broadcast on R3 and The World Service. His plays are published by Oberon books. Fraser is currently writing an opera with the composer Andrew Lovett, called Don’t Breathe A Word, and a new play commissioned by the National Theatre. With the help of NWP/Escalator he hopes to complete his first collection of short stories.

extract from Kick


Susan Sellers

'I am lying on my back on the grass. Thoby is lying next to me, his warm flank pressing into my side. My eyes are open and I am watching the clouds, tracing giants, castles, fabulous winged beasts as they chase each other across the sky. Something light tickles my cheek. I raise myself onto my elbow and catch hold of the grass-stalk in Thoby’s hand.'

After a nomadic childhood, Susan Sellers ran away to Paris. Renting a chambre de bonne, she worked as a barmaid and tour-guide, bluffed her way as a software translator and co-wrote a film script with a Hollywood screenwriter. She also became closely involved with leading French feminist writers and translated Hélène Cixous. From Paris she travelled to Swaziland, teaching English to tribal grandmothers, and to Peru, where she worked for a women’s aid agency. She has written books on myth, literary and feminist theory and women’s fiction. She is Professor of English and Related Literature at the University of St Andrews and a General Editor of the Cambridge Edition of Virginia Woolf. She has published a number of short stories and in 2002 won the Canongate Prize for New Writing. She lives near Cambridge with her husband, a composer, and their young son.

extract from Vanessa and Virginia


Katherine Morton cropped

"You can always judge a man by his shoes, Nikolai Vorakin’s mother used to say. This Oleg – this man sitting next to Nikolai at the bar of the Bim Bam Club – his shoes are far too expensive. They are deep tan and strangely burnished and clean. He must be somebody important. By now, though, he and Nikolai are very good friends".

Katharine is beginning to explore stories based on her experiences as an international financial journalist. Between 1990 and1997 she wrote and edited Environment Risk, International Bond Investor, Treasury Manager and Finance Asia (from Hong Kong). Underneath the headlines of big numbers and dollar signs, pollution and fat cats are real and imagined people, places and intrigue. Her second novel marks a first attempt at a crime thriller. Caviar Cat is set in Russia: a detective becomes embroiled in the world of caviar smuggling while the sturgeon struggles to survive in the polluted Caspian Sea. Katharine is a graduate of King’s College, Cambridge, where she studied economics. She now lives near Cambridge.

New extract from Caviar Cat


Guy Saville

'Three days ago my father unplugged his fountain pen and wrote out a cheque. It was a cheque his company could ill afford. A cheque for £290,000. The nib flashed gold as it scratched out the zeros.'

Guy was born in 1973. After graduating from London University he became a freelance foreign correspondent, living first in South America then the Middle East (with a brief period in Burma). During this time he filed for various newspapers including The Independent, Telegraph and Observer Foreign News Service. His experiences of gang violence in the slums of Rio appeared in an anthology published by Yale University. More recently he has concentrated on writing fiction and at present is working on a thriller – The Africa Reich – set in an alternative history where the world has been divided between the British Empire and Nazi Germany. He is represented by Curtis Brown.

extract from Africa Reich


J Jacques cropped

'In that grim, grey place, the art room was a bright haven.  I was used to the racket, the clang and jangle of restraining metal, the scuffing of a hundred dejected feet, the muttering of men thrown in on themselves, the swearing, the sudden cries of pain and laughter, anger and remorse.' 

Jacqueline took early retirement from teaching in order to satisfy a lifetime’s need to write. She had some early success with short stories and articles and soon embarked on her first novel, Lottie, which was published in 1997 by Honno. That same year her second novel, Someone to Watch Over Me was published by Piatkus, followed shortly by two more novels about the psychic Potter family, Wrong Way Up the Slide and A Lazy Eye. Skin Deep is a political/SF thriller with roots in the Nazi concentration camps (published in 2004 by Honno).  Painted Black is about an art teacher who falls for a con-man. Jacqueline has just finished her seventh novel, Breaking the Rules, about an older woman longing for young love.

extract from Painted Black


E Ferretti

'I feel like crying now, so I do. I cry for all the lost souls, the raggedy bitsy ones that come up when the tide is low. Seeping and whispering their way through to me curled on my bed, lapping round me like waves. It gives me shudders when they are that close and I wrap my blanket round me tight. They want me to tell their story, I know that, but I am not ready yet.'

Elizabeth was born in 1968. Following a degree in Modern Languages from Oxford University, she spent five years in Italy where she began a career as an editor. Since then she has also worked as a copy-writer and non-fiction writer. Elizabeth has always harboured a secret desire to write and, after patiently waiting for something to interesting to say, some characters walked into her head one day and have refused to go away. The book she is currently working on, Anglian Archipelago, is set along the East Anglian coast in a dystopic future. It charts the dramatic changes to our landscape that we will witness within a generation and beyond, and aims to paint a realistic picture of what life will be like for our descendants.

extract from Anglian Archipelago

To read the work submitted by the three commended writers, click on their names below:

Nicole Carrel, Christina Crews, Johnny Fincham