The Grads are All Write

29 Apr 19
Three book covers

The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox by Claire Gradidge (PhD Creative Writing 2009-2018)

 Winchester graduate Claire Gradidge has won the Richard and Judy ‘Search for a Bestseller’ competition for first-time unpublished writers. Claire’s World War Two crime novel was written as part of her PhD and is set during World War II in the Hampshire market town of Romsey where she was born and brought up.

In The Unexpected Return of Josephine Fox, Jo revisits her hometown of Romsey on a quest to solve the mystery of who her father was. She arrives in the town just after an air raid has destroyed a local pub. Seven known bodies are retrieved from the ruins, but an eighth body – that of an unknown girl – is also recovered. As Jo works alongside the coroner to establish the identity of the girl and discover who the murderer is, she also uncovers her own personal history.

Claire’s prize is a publishing contract for world rights with Bonnier Zaffre worth £30,000 and specialist advice and representation from literary agency YM&U (formerly Furniss Lawton). The book will be published in July 2019 and will be stocked in WHSmith stores across the country.

Following the news of her win, Claire said: “I’m absolutely thrilled by winning this competition. Ever since I was a small girl, I have wanted to be a published writer and it’s very exciting that my dream will come true later this year. The University has been a very creative place to develop my writing and has helped me to grow as a writer. It’s a fantastic forum for sharing work, which is always important.”

Flight by Dr Vanessa Harbour (BA English, 2002-2005, MA Writing for Children, 2005-2007, PhD Creative Writing 2007-2011)

Now a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University, Flight is Vanessa’s debut novel. Aimed at 8-12 year olds, the novel is inspired by the true story of the rescue of the Spanish Riding School’s Lipizzaner horses during the Second World War, known as Operation Cowboy. The book was announced as one of the New Statesman’s ‘Best children’s books of summer 2018’ and has been longlisted for the Branford Boase Award 2019.

 “The University of Winchester was instrumental in my development as a writer,” said Vanessa. “My studies here encouraged me to experiment and inspired me to try writing for children. This support has led to my dream career as an academic, writer and, now, an author."

Debt of Honour: Winchester City’s First World War Dead by Jen Best (BA Archaeology 2002-2008), and edited by Emeritus Professor Tom Beaumont Jones

Published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the book commemorates the sacrifice of those men of Winchester who lost their lives in the conflict.

William Finds The Feather, William Finds The Butterfly, William Finds The Robin by Nikki Piper (BA Education and English, 2004-2008)

Nikki wrote these stories to offer gentle narratives to bereaved children to explain death and to help them cope with the loss of relatives and pets.


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This article originally appeared in the spring 2019 issue of Venta, our alumni magazine.

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