Simon & Schuster UK is delighted to announce the winner of the www.booksandthecity.co.uk #HeatSeeker short story writing competition in partnership with heat magazine.

Created to discover the newest and most exciting writing talent, entrants were asked to submit 2,500 words to an expert panel of judges comprising:

Paige Toon, Sunday Times bestselling author

Lucie Cave, Editor-in-Chief at heat

Isabelle Broom, novelist and Book Reviews Editor at heat

Rebecca Ritchie, Literary Agent at A. M. Heath

Emma Capron, Editor at Simon & Schuster UK

Sara-Jade Virtue, Brand Director at booksandthecity.co.uk

578 entries were received in total, with a final longlist of 19 comprising:

Square One by Alice Beazer

One Final Thing I Must Do by Ami Henderson

Are You Still Having Fun by Chloe Dorigan

The One Show by Clare Cummings

Media Madness by Emma Lefley

The Last Good Day by Hannah Pearl

The Fitting by Hannah Varley

Spilt Milk by Jennie Domett

Found by Jodie Payne

The Wedding Singer by Jolie Davison

A Fresh Start by Katie Lawrance

Dry Shampoo Days by Leah Mohammed

A Sky Full of Stars by Lisa Allen

Shattered by Megan Barnett

Emma by Sally Alden

Wishful Thinking by Sally Foan

Stepping Out by SJ King

Lost in La-La Land by Victoria Dyson

Mission Wedding by Yvonne Lang

The winner of the competition, Hannah Pearl, has received an author mentoring session with Paige Toon, a critique of her work over lunch with Rebecca Ritchie and an eBook contract with Simon & Schuster.  Her short story has now been published under our #DigitalOriginals eBook programme.



The Last Good Day

last good day Paige quote

The runners up in the competition were A Sky Full of Stars by Lisa Allen and Stepping Out by SJ King; the latter of which won the @TeamBATC Choice Award and has also been published in eBook under our #DigitalOriginal programme.



emmaEmma Capron, Editor said: “It has been an absolute pleasure being on the judging panel for the #HeatSeeker competition. From the very first entry I was hooked! We’ve had many fantastic submissions, so it was a real challenge to get to a longlist of 19 from 578! Our winner, Hannah Pearl’s story was a heart-breaking delight. It came in quite early on in the process and stayed with me throughout, a clear sign of greatness. I loved equally our two other shorlitstees, and I cannot wait to see what comes next for all three of them.”


RR headshotRebecca Ritchie, Literary Agent said: “It has been so exciting to see the entries for the #HeatSeeker competition flooding in and to see how many talented writers are out there. Of the nearly six hundred entries the longlist of 19 really shone, with short stories shining a light on serious emotions like grief, identity and heartbreak, and of course there were lots which made us laugh too. From that we have one incredibly deserving winner and two brilliant runners up, whose stories cover some powerful, contemporary themes. Our winner Hannah Pearl’s story really moved us with its poignant portrayal of female friendship, and we were impressed by her characterisation and delicate use of humour when writing about grief. I think she has a bright future writing commercial fiction.”


BroomIsabelle Broom, Book Reviews Editor at heat said: “It’s been such a privilege to be part of the #HeatSeeker writing competition, and the heat team and I were bowled over by stories that made us laugh, weep, swoon and everything in-between. Whittling down our 578 entries was tough, but I truly believe we have a very worthy winner. I’m personally beyond excited for them as they take the next exciting step towards publication. Having been in their shoes before, I know exactly how incredible it feels.”


sjvSara-Jade Virtue, Brand Director said: “I am so excited that our search for a fresh new writing talent has resulted in not one, but two brand new authors for our #DigitalOriginals publishing programme.  Working with my fellow judges, and reading close to 600 short stories this summer has been an absolute delight and I am so happy for Hannah, whose story absolutely touched my heart.”





#Heatseeker competition

In booksandthecity.co.uk’s most exciting literary competition yet, we teamed up with heat magazine to find and publish an exciting new women’s fiction short story writer.

The plotline could have be anything; the only requirement was that it must fall within the women’s fiction genre!

The term ‘women’s fiction’ is generally used to mean fiction that appeals primarily to women, though is not necessarily written by a women, and tends to be full of modern relationships featuring friends, family and lovers.

It can be funny, it can be sad, but most of all it covers great storytelling with believable characters and plot.

So, whether you had been itching to write for years and just needed that final push; you’re a huge fan of women’s fiction and thought you could write the perfect short story; or you just fancied the ultimate literary challenge for the summer, you could have been in with a chance of becoming a published author!


Fabulous Writing Tips from judge Paige Toon!

eNeWSYcVWrite what you love, not what you think you should. Yes, it can make commercial sense to follow a trend, but if your heart’s not in it, your readers will see through you, if not now, then later. If you love what you’re writing, there’s an audience out there who is guaranteed to love it, too. The trick is finding that audience, and that starts with a publisher who also needs to love how you write and who wants to do everything they can to widen your readership. There’s little lovelier than getting lost inside characters and stories that you believe in, so always follow your heart on this one.

Do your research. I don’t follow a set formula with this. Sometimes I’m writing and I come to a section that requires me to know more about my characters, so I take a break and spend some time researching. But this can halt the flow of your writing, so I’ve also been known to write BLAH and then come back to it later in the editing stage. The fastest I’ve ever written a book was when I spent a solid week researching everything from bars and clubs that my heroine might go to, to the dresses she might wear, to the names and characteristics of the people she might meet. It was so quick to open those documents and choose what fitted the situation.

Try to go to the places you’re writing about. My family holiday each year is often dictated by where my next book will be set, or if we’re choosing the location before the story, I’ll almost certainly try to set a book there in future. The Last Piece of My Heart is set in Cornwall, where I went with my family last summer. We camped in our old campervan (Hermie – yep, he’s real), but it wasn’t until we were driving out of the campsite at the end of the holiday that I realised the setting would be perfect for Bridget’s story. We also went to Thailand (another location in the book) for Christmas the year before last and it was so beautiful, I knew I had to find a plot that would take my characters there. Nothing brings your creations to life more than when you’re sitting in the places that they might sit and writing about what you’re seeing and feeling. Ideas spring to mind from out of nowhere.

Find quiet time to reflect. For me, it helps if I go for a long walk and listen to music. Away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, my mind has a chance to wander. To begin with, it often just processes things completely unrelated to my books, but soon enough it’ll move in the direction of my stories and before I know it, my characters are having conversations inside my head. The trick, then, is remembering those conversations later. Sometimes I jot down stuff down on my phone as I’m walking, but I know I should get more used to using a Dictaphone…

Be inspired by beauty. When I got a book deal for Lucy in the Sky I was too scared to read women’s fiction for several years afterwards. I was worried I’d read work by other authors and think I fell well short in comparison. Now I’m more comfortable in my own shoes, and reading other authors just inspires me to do better. It also helps unlock writers’ block. There’s no point in sitting in front of your computer and staring at a blank page or hating what you’re writing. Take a break, read a book, go for a walk, go see a movie – even if your breaks lasts several days or even weeks, sometimes it’s what you need to see the wood for the trees and get writing again. It also sometimes helps to skip to a scene you’re really excited about writing, or try to get past the tricky part as quickly as possible – you can always go back and fill out those sections in the editing stage if you need to.


Top Tips from @BookMinxSJV

  1. Write a story you would most like to read
  2. Make me laugh
  3. Make it fresh and original
  4. Make me cry
  5. Keep the story moving
  6. Grab me from the first line
  7. Tell me a story I haven’t read before
  8. Excite, engage and captivate me
  9. Create characters I will believe in and like
  10. Remember, we are only looking for a short story in the ‘women’s fiction’ genre!