The prize, which was launched last year in conjunction with the Lost the Plot Writers’ Community, celebrates the potential of works in progress while encouraging writers to stop hiding their stories and start focusing on finding feedback. The winner receives a consultation with an Agora Books editor and a Peters Fraser + Dunlop literary agent.
Traversing four generations of women torn apart by familial trauma, The Girl in the Maze explores the complex relationships and challenges involved in both mothering and being mothered. While sorting through her deceased mother’s effects, Emma Bowen discovers a birth certificate for a child her mother gave birth to as a teenager – a sister she never knew about. The clues her mother left behind lead Emma on a journey from sleepy Sussex to rural Lancashire and back to 1950s London.
Publisher at Agora Books and competition judge Sam Brace said: ‘The standard of the entries this year was astounding. Amid such an uncertain time, it was incredibly comforting to see that storytelling is as strong as ever. This year’s judges were whisked away from the here and now with writing that spanned centuries, explored identity, and ruminated on belonging, and Cathy Hayward’s The Girl in the Maze epitomized these themes. Based on its opening, visceral scene alone, I know Hayward is an author to watch.’
Cathy Hayward said: ‘The inspiration for The Girl in the Maze came when I was clearing out my late mother’s house. I didn’t discover anything which helped to explain our difficult relationship (and the one that she’d had with her own mother) although I wish I had. But writing the story was a form of therapy in itself. I’ve always been fascinated by books about family secrets and intrigue and am thrilled that the judges loved The Girl in the Maze too.’