The Kelpies Prize for Writing – Previous Winners

The Kelpies Prize for Writing was launched in 2004 (as the Kelpies Prize). Find out more about our previous winners below, or find out how to enter this year’s Kelpies Prize for Writing.

2020 Winner

Glasgow-based surgeon Jude Reid was announced as the winner of the Kelpies Prize for Writing 2020 at our first virtual award ceremony in May 2021.

The judges enjoyed Jude’s assured and engaging characterisation, involving plot, and perfectly pitched tone for middle grade readers. They were also drawn in by her ability to write both adventure and emotion with equal skill.

Entrants to the 2020 prize were asked to submit three writing samples, including the first five chapters of a children’s book, a synopsis for a different children’s book and a short piece of writing for children starting with the phrase, “[Character name] had a secret that no one must ever discover…”

Click here to read a sample from Jude’s entry

2019 winner

Catherine Rayner and Christopher Mackie

The winner of the Kelpies Prize 2019 was revealed as Edinburgh-based dentist Christopher Mackie at an exclusive award ceremony at Edinburgh International Book Festival on Thursday 15th August. Author and illustrator Catherine Rayner was there to open the top-secret envelope and present the winner’s trophy.

Christopher has won a year of mentoring with the editorial team at Floris Books, along with a publication deal, £1,000 cash and a week-long writing retreat at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s creative writing centre.

The judges enjoyed Chris’ insightful characterisation, his powerful, engaging narrative voice, and skilful writing for older readers. In this extract from his teen novel, fifteen-year-old Nathan is struggling after the death of his older brother.

Perhaps Mrs Havers is right. Perhaps we all ought to go inside.

I go to open the back door again, but not before a familiar, unwelcome tingling passes down my fingertips. “Not now,” I mutter, “please. Not with all these people…”

But pleading with the sensation never helps, never speeds its passing. Obsessive compulsion is as unreasonable, unseasonable and unfeasible as Scottish weather. It cannot be bargained with or implored upon. It comes when it wishes and departs when it alone sees fit.

My fingers find the cold metal of the handle and pull down. Then push up. Down. Up. Down. Up. The latch clicks, releasing then relocking, as my hand twists back and forth, a perpetual motion machine that opens and closes the door twelve times.

“Let. It. Go!” I tell my disobedient hand, as tears begin condensing.

Catalogued Emotion #1: Frustration
A feeling of upset or annoyance at not being able to change something.

Tears of frustration, that’s why I’m crying. It has nothing to do with Stuart; it’s just that my tics are especially disruptive today. I file this emotion into the banks of my mind, nestling it amidst the others, a fragile egg in an unstable nest.

“Why don’t you let me?” Mrs Havers takes my hand gently, sliding it from the handle and opening the door in one swift, easy motion.

2018 winner

And the winner is... Hannah Foley!

Hannah Foley is presented with her giant cheque by award-winning children’s author Lari Don

The 2018 Kelpies Prize was won by Hannah Foley with The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle, a middle-grade fantasy adventure set in Edinburgh.

Part-girl, part-cat, Avery Buckle has always known she’s a little different (after all, her tail is a bit of a giveaway). What Avery doesn’t know is that she is the only one who can uncover a forgotten magical secret and bring back a great lost wizard.

Teaming up with shape-shifting best friend Low, and with help from her witch guardians, Avery is plunged into a haphazard world of shadowy monsters, bewitched libraries and flying bicycles.

Grab your enchanted tandem bike and hold on tight! Wildly inventive and packed with fantastical thrills, The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle is a warm and quirky whirlwind of an adventure, full of magical heart. Coming in Spring 2020!

2017 winner


Emily Illett won 2017’s Kelpies Prize with The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow.

On the morning of Gail’s birthday, her shadow escapes under the kitchen door. Gail’s not surprised it’s decided to leave. Her dad has left for good and her sister Kay, who has always swum through life with her, is sinking into sadness. Gail is angry: angry that Kay doesn’t seem to care any more. Then Gail’s anger frightens her sister’s shadow away too.

Determined to put things right, Gail chases after it. But where there are shadows, there’s darkness, and Gail discovers she’s not the only one looking for something lost. Gail’s love for Kay will be tested to the extreme, but can she retrieve her sister’s shadow, and her own?

A magical and beautifully lyrical tale of sisterhood, The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow is a story about bravery and the power of friendship, and being strong enough to ask for help when we really need it. Check out Emily’s guest post on our blog!

2016 winner

Elizabeth Ezra won the Kelpies Prize 2016 with her magically humorous witch story Ruby McCracken: Tragic Without Magic. Ruby McCracken’s life is OVER. Her parents have forced her to move to the Ordinary World and that means — new home, new school and worst of all, no magic! Despite her best witching efforts, the Ordinary World remains tragically magic-deprived, until Ruby receives a mysterious hext that seems to offer an answer. That is, if she can figure out what it means and, more importantly, who sent it. Packed with great humour, loveable characters and witty banter, Ruby McCracken: Tragic Without Magic is perfect for fans of Witchworld and The Worst Witch.

2015 winner

Mark A. Smith won the Kelpies Prize 2015 with his superhero caper Slugboy Saves the World. Thanks to an unfortunately tasty-looking radioactive garden slug, eleven-year-old Murdo McLeod is now the world’s worst superhero. It’s a world where superhero competition is fierce, and Slugboy is so underrated he doesn’t even make the list when an evil mastermind devises a plan to capture all the other superheroes. Now, Slugboy has to use his not-so-super and oh-so-gross abilities to free the other superheroes and save the world. Let’s hope he doesn’t slip up.

2014 winner

Renfrewshire primary teacher Lindsay Littleson won the Kelpies Prize 2014 with the funny and beautifully written The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean. Lily’s got loads going on with her loud, messy family and distracted mum. But when she starts getting warnings about a holiday on the little Scottish island of Millport, her summer gets weirder and weirder… Sequel The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean was published in March 2017. Don’t miss Lindsay’s latest book, Guardians of the Wild Unicorns.

2013 winner

Alex McCall won the Kelpies Prize 2013 with Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens. The city of Aberdeen is being terrorised by giant robot chickens who want to peck out every last sign of human resistance. Jesse and his friends must hatch a plan to defeat the fowl fiends in this weird and wonderful adventure. Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens was a winner at the 2015 Scottish Children’s Book Awards. Revenge of the Giant Robot Chickens is Alex’s second book.

Feeling inspired?
Find out how to enter this year’s Kelpies Prize for Writing!