Bedford International Writing Competition

WELCOME to the Bedford International Writing Competition that donates all its proceeds to charities or projects that help adults and children improve their literary skills. This is the fifth year that BIWC has run annual short story and poetry competitions from 1 May to 30 September. We are increasing the first prize in both competitions to £500. It has been a joy and privilege to read the numerous entries received and we look forward to reading the submissions for 2018.

Bedford has an exceptionally rich cultural and racial diversity for a town of its size. With people coming to live, work and settle here from every part of the world, the music of many languages can be heard daily on our streets. As well as donating monies to appropriate charities and encouraging good writing, our aim is also to encourage and contribute to this cultural vivacity. The Bedford Prizes are specifically for Bedford residents. Thanks to the Harpur Trust’s donation of £200 we are able to offer £100 for the highest placed short story and the highest placed poem by local writers.

A few comments received by entrants:

‘I have found BIWC to be a well- organised competition site’ --- PC of Swansea

‘Thank you for your comments which were much appreciated’ --- DA Perth, Australia.

2018 Competition

2018 Competition – Judges

Short Story Competition Judge

Sue Moorcroft

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times and international bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle. She’s won the Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award, the Katie Fforde Bursary, and has been nominated on several other occasions, including for the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards.

She is a former judge of the Writers; Forum competitions.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing guides and courses have appeared all over the world.


Bedford Prize, Short Story Judge

Sharon Priestley

Dr Sharon Priestley has presented literature courses for the University of Cambridge, The Letchworth Settlement, Bedford’s Rothsay Education Centre and two American universities. The topics of her courses range from classic English and American novels to those that have won the Man Booker Prize, short stories from around the world, poetry, women’s writings and children’s literature. She has also presented courses on James Boswell and Samuel Johnson and has given papers focused on those fascinating individuals at the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies conferences and Literary London conferences.

Poetry Judge and Bedford Prize, Poetry Judge

Rory Waterman

Rory Waterman was born in Belfast and grew up in Lincolnshire. His second poetry collection, Sarajevo Roses, has recently been published by Carcanet. His debut, Tonight the Summer's Over (Carcanet, 2013), was a PBS Recommendation and was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Prize. He co-runs New Walk Editions, and writes for the TLS and other publications. He is senior lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University.


2017 Competition – Winners and Judges

The shortlist and winning entrants for the short story competition have been temporarily withdrawn from publication while a misunderstanding concerning the results is investigated.

Short Story Judge

Ruth Hogan

Summary: Ruth Hogan worked for ten years in a senior local government position (Human Resources – Recruitment, Diversity and Training). After an accident In her early thirties she was unable to work full-time and this convinced her to start writing seriously. She got a part-time job as an osteopath’s receptionist but spent all her spare time writing. She passed the time recovering from cancer and enduring chemo-therapy by writing, and the eventual result was The Keeper of Lost Things, published early 2017 which rapidly became a best-seller. Her next book, The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes is available from May 2018.

Poetry Winners

First Place



Cheryl Pearson

Second Place

Sugar Thief


Catherine Rose

Poetry Judge

Lesley Saunders

Lesley Saunders is the author of nine books and pamphlets of poetry, most recently Periplous: the Twelve Voyages of Pytheas, a chapbook from Shearsman Books. Her poems have been widely published and have won many awards. Her collection Cloud Camera was described by Michael Hulse in The Poetry Review as ‘the most intelligent and thrilling book of poetry I’ve seen in several years’ and elsewhere as ‘a modern classic’. Lesley has performed her work at various festivals and on the radio; she has worked on collaborative projects with artists, photographers, sculptors, dancers, and a composer and choir. She runs writing workshops for major organisations as well as for local groups.

Bedford Prize Short Story Winner

Blind Truth


Jack Beck

Bedford Prize Poetry Winner

Blanche Rose


Daphne Warrick

Bedford Prize Judge

Steve Lowe

Steve Lowe is a journalist, academic and one-time local politician. He first began working for Bedfordshire on Sunday as a political reporter and commentator in 1996. In 1999 he became the news editor and in 2000 the editor. After leaving in 2014 he has worked as a freelance journalist. Steve gained a BSc (Hons) at the OU in Politics and an MSc at Birkbeck College, University of London, in European Politics and Globalisation. He has lectured on politics and journalism at the University of Bedfordshire, Press Association, and at many colleges and secondary schools.

2017 Competition – Shortlist

Poetry Competition - Shortlist

Poem Title Poet
Attention-seeking Bill Greenwell, Darlington, County Durham
Conserving Time Ali Pardoe, Royston, Hertfordshiret
Death in the city Anne Casey, New South Wales, Australia
Fledgling Cheryl Pearson, Levenshulme, Manchester
Goose Girl Cheryl Pearson, Levenshulme, Manchester
Hotel Mary Gilonne, Pourrieres, France
Japanese Watercolour Sue Norton, York, Yourkshire
Mr Abercrombie A F Pollard, Worksop, Nottinghamshire
Rabbit and tortoise find each other on a window sill Kay Cotton, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire
Sissy writes to her father from Funchal Kay Cotton, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire
The Solace of Bearings Susan Davies, Fareham, Hampshire
Sugar Thief Catherine Rose, Ickwell, Bedfordshire
Trial Cheryl Pearson, Levenshulme, Manchester
Vicarage Kitchen Paul Canon Harris, Bournemouth, Dorset

2017 Competition – Awards Evening

Not yet available - Expected April 2018

Our Patrons

Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah is a best-selling author of atmospheric, psychological thrillers and her poetry is studied for exams. In September 2015 BWC invited her to be interviewed before a live audience at the Trinity Theatre, Bedford. She entertained us with her recollections of how she became a successful writer and shared some of her novel-writing secrets.

Leigh Russell

Leigh Russell is a best-selling crime novelist. Her association with the BWC began in 2014 when the competition went ‘international’. She has been the judge for the 2014 and the 2015 competitions. We are extremely grateful for the encouragement that she has given us and gives to writers of all abilities.

Toby Litt

Toby Litt is an English writer and academic in the Department of English and Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London. He has several publications to his name both novels and collections of short stories. Born in Ampthill and a former pupil of Bedford Modern School. In 2016 he was the judge of the BIWC Short Story Competition.

Margaret Norwich

Margaret Norwich was the judge of the Bedford Prize in 2015 and 2016. She studied liberal arts at Vassar College, New York and then came over to England to read English at Girton College, Cambridge. As well as working in publishing and the voluntary sector, Margaret lectured for many years on English Language and Literature at De Montfort and Cranfield Universities. American born, she now regards herself a true Bedfordian.

Ian McEwen

Ian McEwen was the judge for the 2016 Poetry Competition. He has had his poems published in a variety of magazines as well as producing a pamphlet, The Stammering Man and his first full collection in book form, Intermittent Beings. He is interested in opportunities to broaden the practice and appreciation of poetry, through readings, workshops or residencies.


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