Winner Announcement: The Gift of Returning


Our first shortlist this year pits newcomer Nicola Messer against regular contributor Sophie L Macdonald.

The brief asked for magical moments as an antidote to holiday consumerism. Much to our delight, both tales delivered.

In The Party, Nicola Messer presented Christmas at the Melbourne College of Witches and Warlocks:

“Which rule are we going to break this year? We’ve got to keep the tradition alive,” Simon winked, “I was thinking either, rule 89; ‘the school song must always be sung in key,’ or rule 104; ‘there should be no more than one ring worn on each hand at all times.’”

While it’s a delightful little tale, what really caught me as a reader was to see urban fantasy done in Australia. Too often it’s a British institution where budding magical hopefuls go to learn there craft. Well done Nicola injecting a bit of difference into an often stodgy genre!

Sophie L MacDonald’s Mama is also laced with the magical, but it’s a more ethereal, transportive theme. Here, the nature of birth, life and death is presented lyrically and with hope.

Still layered with the veil and shadow synonymous with the author’s oeuvre (wow we went deep there) the gift that is returned is life, a soul reaching out (or is it in) one more time.

“It wasn’t meant to be.” That’s what people told her. “It wasn’t the right time.” Banal, hurtful, as if there was a point to it—as if I didn’t just disappear for no reason at all, like a candle flickering out, or a leaf blowing on the breeze.

And the winner is…

For a debut author like Nicola a head to head with Sophie L Macdonald was always going to be a tough one.

Sophie’s almost always an unstoppable force. Part of that is she’s a great writer. Another part is that she writes often, and the third ingredient is there she is an active member or Needle In The Hay who contributes beyond the award as a book editor and more.

For the Gift of Returning Award, Sophie delivered a stand out story that hooks you in and keeps you there, leaving the reader with a sense of hope and well-being.

Well done Sophie, and congratulations on winning this week’s award!

Stay tuned for more shortlists soon, as well as more competitions including our major prize.

And don’t forget Seasons of Discontent is out now. Make sure you pick up your copy today.

The Gift of Returning Award