Meet Our TLC Free Reads Winners

About TLC Free Reads

Funded by Arts Council England, TLC Free Reads gives a number of talented writers the opportunity to benefit from TLC’s normal manuscript appraisal service

The Literary Consultancy's manuscript appraisal service gives developing writers the chance to receive honest and constructive feedback from an experienced editor. The Literary Consultancy will also advise writers whether their piece of work is suitable for a commercial literary marketplace, and if so, will help the writers to discover a suitable agent and publisher. TLC can also provide information about self-publishing and the alternatives that online publishing can provide.   

WCN delivers this opportunity to writers resident in the East of England who write prose (fiction, non-fiction, short stories) poetry, and scripts for TV, Film, Radio or Theatre.

If you think a manuscript reading giving you sage industry advice and honest, constructive feedback would help you progress then do sign-up to our e-news service on the top-left of this page to receive first notice of when you can apply for our next Free Reads scheme. If you'd like to learn more about TLC Free Reads first hand, Tracy Ann Baines a TLC 2011 winner, has written us a blog about her experiences.

The TLC Free Reads Winners

In 2012 we had nine winners. These talented writers range from authors of historical fiction, to those who write for young adults, to poets and playwrights. All of the winners are accomplished writers who show strong signs of promise, and we look forward to showcasing their writing once it’s been through the TLC treatment. In the meantime you can view biographies, synopses of their work, and photos from the winners, below. 

The 2012 Winners

Sally Alexander

Sally Alexander lives on a small holding in Kenninghall. She completed a MA Creative Writing at UEA in 2004 and has been published by Gatehouse Press; ink, sweat and tears; and Poetry Unbound. She writes poems when things cannot be said in prose and is finally finishing her first novel, Less Than Kind.

Less Than Kind

Less Than Kind is an epistolary novel which tells the story of Daniel Laird. Daniel returns to his childhood home in order to take care of his father, a famous artist, who has suffered a series of strokes. Whilst there, he writes regularly to his sister, his lover and his employer. But, amongst the details of his bohemian upbringing and his great love for one of his father’s models, the reader begins to seriously question Daniel’s view of his world.

Christopher Bridgman

Despite my scientific and engineering academic background, I have always had an artistic side – singing, playing musical instruments and writing. In my school printing shop I co-edited, typeset and printed the monthly magazine. After retraining as a pianoforte tuner I won editorship of Piano Tuners’ Quarterly and wrote about music for many magazines. Since retiring I have drawn together my experiences in poetry and prose. My poems have appeared in local publications, readings and been set to music for Coastal Voices. My TLC Free Reads entry is a novel, fictionalizing the history of the 122 year-old piano in Cromer’s museum.

Picture a Piano

A little upright pianoforte lies unremarked in a seaside town museum. Now dilapidated, the instrument was once a fine one, constructed in 1891 by London master-builder Frederick Priestley – a member of the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood working with artist Edward Burne-Jones.

When a piano tuner retires to the area, he is intrigued by the piano and begins to unfold its history using old photographs and documents. The instrument’s progress from showroom to museum involves a prosperous fin-de-siècle family, a forgotten concert pianist, a Friends Meeting House caretaker turned wartime code-breaker and cold war spy and, finally, a small-time entrepreneur and petty thief.

Sally Hepworth-Smith


I remember going on a school trip to Haworth Rectory in Yorkshire as a ten year old and seeing the Bronte children’s tiny, homemade books. This more than any other event, encouraged me to write my own stories and make my own small books, clouded with ink and mistakes. I created worlds I was gloriously terrified of and worlds I desperately wanted to be part of. I wrote on the backs of envelopes, in notebooks and finally, on laptops. I wrote in secret, as babies slept and as I stirred the saucepan. I just kept on writing. Recently I have attended an Arvon week tutored by Melvin Burgess and Celia Rees and have been listed for the 2012 Mslexia Children’s Novel Award (under the title ‘The Feeding’).

The Death Protocol

I’ve always had the suspicion that underneath the veneer of human civilisation there lies a raw, bloodbath of a story; the true history of our creation.

We believe we are free creatures but we have less control over our fate than a tethered pig. The dimension we inhabit is in fact our jail, our jailers are cosmic scientists who farm our souls for their consumption.

For every aspect of your life there exists a protocol. Dixie is a girl who has spent many lifetimes challenging such protocols, determined to live as free a life as possible. However, it’s only when she falls in love that she rails against the ultimate protocol; the Death Protocol, with devastating consequences.

The Death Protocol
is a novel for young adults.


Deborah Kelly

Due to illness, I left school without qualifications, but went on to study creative writing with the Open College of the Arts and philosophy and psychology with the Open University. When deteriorating health prevented me from finishing my degree, I began to write fiction in earnest. Since 2005, I have maintained the blog Diary of a Goldfish, where I write about books, films, social justice and anything else that comes to mind. I live on the edge of the Fens, where I am working on my second novel. When I am not writing, I paint portraits and play the ukulele.

To Fear The Light

The story of To Fear The Light is set in Whitby, North Yorkshire, where winter is approaching, the sea mists are rolling in and the nights are getting longer – which is good news if you’re particularly prone to sunburn. Helen Finch has her life turned upside down by a car accident involving a driver who looks uncannily like her long dead friend. As the ghosts of her past draw in around her, Helen must uncover the truth about the people she loves and decide where her loyalties lay.


Iain Ross


Iain had his first play performed when he was 17, and went on to study English and Creative Writing at UEA. Now living in Norwich permanently, he splits his attention between playing in a moderately unsuccessful electro-indie band, toiling in a shop, and writing screenplays. He's currently working on several play scripts for radio, and hopes that the TLC Free Read will give him the feedback and the confidence to help him launch into a writing career. He has yet to decide which genre he is supposed to be confined to, but thinks his style might be 'Woody Allen meets George Lucas', if that were at all possible.

Isotryplene (a full length screenplay)

Boy meets Girl. Girl meets Boy. Whale swallows Girl. Boy rescues Girl. Girl has lover. Inevitable love triangle. They must escape. All in prison. All in space. All in threes.

Stephen Tull


Steve has an accent you can’t place and won’t tell you where he’s from.

Sounds south, out of this hemisphere south. If you push him he’ll claim he’s from Norwich but chances are he’s lying.

He manages a restaurant but mysteriously doesn’t do nights or weekends.He goes off the radar.Says he’s ‘unavailable’.

Once he was bundled out of an aircraft at 14,000 ft by two half-crazed strangers. It hurt but he survived.

He studied Ninjitsu for three hours, so you’ll probably see him coming.

He writes. This is his first novel.


A dark, muddy Mythological Greece. The place you know but a little bit twisted. Medusa isn’t dealing with snakes yet. The centaurs are still fighting extinction.

Myth is an action-packed fantasy about a world of witches and gods and the cruel things they made. Of men bred with beasts and the terrible armies gathering in the dark north. It’s the story of a shattered kingdom, a damned king, and the boy who put him on the throne. Myth is the story of how the boy saved his brother from the gates of hell, and how he began to regret it.

Julia Webb

Julia Webb was born in London and raised in Thetford. She spent almost a decade living in a commune in the Norfolk countryside.  She moved to Norwich in 1991 after a brief stint in Cornwall.  She has a degree in Creative Writing from Norwich University College of the Arts and an MA in Creative Writing (poetry) from The University of East Anglia.  Julia has had work published in various journals and anthologies and in 2011 she won The Poetry Society’s Stanza competition with her prose poem Lent. Julia teaches creative writing and runs a poetry book group. She is on the editorial team of Lighthouse – a journal for new writing published by Gatehouse Press.

The Bird Inside/Feather Factory

My poems are rooted in the discomfort, humour and sadnesses of everyday life They explore the idea of transformation and that things might not always be what they seem.  The collection is formed around two sequences of poems. The first is a sequence of prose poems that captures moments from the life of an extremely dysfunctional religious family viewed through the eyes of a child. These poems are humorous with dark undertones.  The second sequence The Sister Poems grew from a poem looking at the idea of what an ideal sister might be, and how she might not be so “ideal.” The sequence has become more metaphorical and fantastical as it has grown.  

Oliver Wingate


I have been a copywriter in advertising and design for 40 years. In 1999, I was shortlisted in the first year of the Orange Prize for Screenwriting with my script The Oracle of Essex Road and went into development with funding from Scottish Screen. The movie was not made, but I did a great deal of training as a screenwriter, attending courses by Robert McKee, John Truby, Arista, Euroscript, Raindance and the National Film and Television School. In 2005-2006, I attended an MA course, “Writing the Visual” under George Szirtes, at the Norwich School of Art and Design.

The Circus Girl and Mr Cyril

At the age of ten, Viktoria Fodor was the target girl for her father’s knife-throwing act in a Hungarian circus; as a young woman in London working for Bertram Mills Circus, she has known upheaval, bereavement and unrequited love; she has endured the harsh training as an SOE agent, preparing her for service in occupied Europe; she has suffered abduction, interrogation and prison camp in Nazi Germany; and she has been subjected to humiliation by a suspicious British Secret Service, struggling to deal with the multiple betrayals of the Cold War. What more could she possibly have to endure?

L.E. Yates


I am from Manchester but moved, via an Israeli kibbutz, to East Anglia when I was nineteen. I am now thirty-one. By my age John Keats had written Ode on a Grecian Urn and been dead for six years. Alexander the Great had conquered the Persian Empire. Even Shelley was dead. So far I am still working on my first novel, From the Mountains Descended Night, although my short stories have appeared in a range of anthologies from Parenthesis to Tessellate. I live in Norwich but dream of relocating to the Greek island that Aristotle Onassis once used to own.

From the Mountains Descended Night

My first novel, From the Mountains Descended Night, tells the true story of a once notorious eighteenth century forger. James Macpherson, the poor son of a brutal Highland farmer, catapulted himself into riches and fame when he produced poems he claimed to have translated from ancient Gaelic verses. Admired by Madame de Stael and imitated by Wordsworth and Coleridge, The Poems of Ossian very quickly became wildly popular but when Samuel Johnson accused Macpherson of having written the poems himself his life began to unravel. This novel explores the truth behind the forgery and the man.

The 2011 Winners

In 2011 five writers were awarded the opportunity to have their manuscripts critiqued. Many of the chosen winners have written extensively for years, and have found TLC to be an invaluable contribution to their writing careers and styles.

James Anderson


I was born in Northern Ireland but I’ve lived in Norwich since
coming to UEA in 1989. I’ve been a Brian MacMahon Short Story Award
winner, an Escalator winner, a runner up in the Michael McLaverty Short
Story Awards, and on Short Story Radio.

The age-old interaction of Ireland and England and the rise and
fall of the British Empire are themes that engross me, but not nearly as
much as the emotions and relationships that play out against these


1919, winter, a badly built cabin on the Thelon River, Canada. Inside three men are dying: a supposedly experienced Barrens explorer, a returned soldier, and the former lover of the soldier’s wife. 

Irishman Jack Butler recalls meeting Sarah Underhill the year before in the near-desert along the Thompson River. She takes him to Footner, a preserve of English custom in the Colonies, its second sons and half-pay officers enlisted at the call of the Mother Country. Jack and Sarah’s affair begins. 

But the Great War ends and soldiers, wounded or whole but all changed, return. Jack, now rejected, hates where he once loved, and begins to work towards the husband’s death and Sarah’s devastation. 

The relationship of Jack and Sarah throws into relief a society clinging to a way of life already doomed. Everyone, Jack not least, must change or perish. This is a story of love and hatred amid a clash of race, culture and class, and the question of how to know the worth of what you have before it is gone.

Tista Austin


Tista Austin lives with her two children beside a working water
mill in Cambridgeshire. She studied Classics at UCL and did an MA in
Literature. She’s traveled in Asia and Eastern Europe, was a bookseller
for several years but is now an English teacher. She was shortlisted for
a New Writing Ventures Award for Fiction in 2007 and published in 2009
in the Legend Writing Awards anthology Six of the Best.

In my poetry I write on personal and classical themes; I’m interested in French and Russian poetry, and influenced by visual art and archaeology. The work I’m submitting to The Literary Consultancy is a selection of poems from a collection I am hoping to put forward for publication. They are mostly short lyric pieces – dramatic dialogues or narratives addressing issues of femininity, identity and history, – responding to experiences in travel and family relationships. I’ve recently been trying to work towards a freer expressionism with experiments in line and form, and exploring intersections between poetry and verse.

Free Reads is a great opportunity to have some constructive guidance on revising my poems and focus the direction of my work with professional criticism.

Tracy Ann Baines

Tracy is an aspiring children’s and YA author. Her first novel, Pig-Boy & the Quest for the Cinnamon Forest, received an Honorary Mention in the 2008 SCBWI-BI Undiscovered Voices competition and was longlisted in Cornerstones Wow Factor. Her children’s fantasy, Escape From Above, was chosen as a promising entry in the 2011 Times/Chicken House competition and an extract published on The Times website. 

Tracy worked in a film art departments for several years but now focuses on her writing. Self-taught, Tracy writes across the age ranges and is keen to pursue her ambition of finding an agent and publisher

- a Young Adult novel.

When life’s betrayed you, who can you trust?  Who can you rely on?  

Fifteen-year-old, Ant, relies on himself.  He keeps food in the cupboard and looks after his ten-year-old brother, Squit.  His dad has died, his mum has spiralled down into depression, and all Ant wants is to keep his brother safe. 

But Ant’s on the edge.  In the world he inhabits, lines of morality become blurred and he’s haunted by thoughts of death and other dark, disturbing secrets.  But when he meets, Skye, a sixteen-year-old run-away, he sees a kindred spirit.  Perhaps redemption can be found?  Perhaps they’ve both found someone they can finally trust?

As their friendship blossoms, they try to escape into a private world away from their old lives.  But fate conspires against them.  When the hunt for a serial killer begins and Squit runs away, events start to spiral out of control.  

With Squit’s life in the balance and with gun at his head, Ant has to think fast.  In a final showdown, Ant must decide - will he do whatever it takes to make sure his little brother is safe?  No matter what the truth might be.  

Joanna Guthrie

Joanna Guthrie was born in London in 1970, and brought up on the
Norfolk-Suffolk border. She has been published as a poet for the last 14
years. In 2005, she completed an MA in Creative Writing at the
University of Exeter. Her first collection of poetry, Billack’s Bones, was published by The Rialto in 2007: “An astonishing new voice” – Catherine Smith; “Tenderness and depth and understanding...that commands admiration” – George Szirtes. 

In 2006, Hurricane Season was one of three works-in-progress short-listed in the Creative Non-Fiction category of New Writing Partnership’s New Writing Ventures which was judged by William Fiennes and Ali Smith, among others. It was subsequently awarded grants from the
Arts Council and the Society of Authors, which enabled its completion. She is currently working on her second collection of poetry, and has just been commissioned to write a series of poems towards a choral piece about the Blyth and Waveney Valleys, in conjunction with the composer Karen Wimhurst and The Voice Project, to be performed in 2012.

Hurricane Season
is a tale of fragility and oddness, told against the eccentric and beguiling backdrop of the Florida Keys - the chain of islands which are the Southernmost outpost of the USA, reaching down only 70 miles short of Cuba. In 2001, I spent seven months working in a mental health facility there, and started writing about the people I worked with and the place where I found myself - I found myself falling under the spell of both of them.
This writing evolved into a book which is part-memoir, part-history, part-multiple biography, part-travelogue. The overriding themes are of fragility in its myriad and overlapping forms. What underscores the atmosphere of the book is the fact that, although we didn’t know it, we were all in the lead-up to September 11.

Tina Meyer

Tina Meyer first started writing when she worked as a volunteer at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere and joined the weekly writing group led by the poet in residence.  Since then she has been on two Arvon courses and attended local writing groups.  She has lived in Suffolk for the last four years and recently completed the postgraduate certificate in constructing a novel at UEA.  

Synopsis/brief info
The idea for the novel to be submitted to TLC came from an Arvon Course led by Mark Haddon and William Fiennes, when the group were set an exercise to write about a character who had a superpower.  The main character of the novel believes that he can see the future and describes his visions, while telling the reader about his job recording deaths in an office next to a sweetshop. The voice for the character and a sense of his visions came out of this first exercise at Arvon. The novel, which has a contemporary setting, was developed through workshops on the postgraduate certificate course at UEA.  This is Tina’s first novel.