81-year-old Irish debut novelist shortlisted for Society of Authors award

Church of Ireland minister Norma MacMaster, Sheila Llewellyn and Niall Bourke in running for prizes

Irish debut novelist Norma MacMaster, 81, this year’s oldest nominee for one of the Society of Authors’ awards, has made the shortlist for her book, Silence Under a Stone.

She is joined on the shortlist for the inaugural Paul Torday Memorial Prize, an award for a first novel by a writer over 60, by Sheila Llewellyn, 71, who lives in Enniskillen and though born in England of Welsh heritage has joint British and Irish citizenship.

A previous winner of the P J O'Connor RTÉ Radio One Drama Award (2011), she is shortlisted for Walking Wounded, which deals with the PTSD of returning war veterans and traumatised civilians from the second World War.

Niall Bourke has been shortlisted for the ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award, won last year by Chris Connolly, for his short story, Gerardo Dreams of Chillies.


The shortlists for the Betty Trask, McKitterick, Somerset Maugham, ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust awards and the Paul Torday Memorial Prize were announced by the Society of Authors with bestselling author Heather Morris (The Tattooist of Auschwitz), Women’s Prize shortlisted Imogen Hermes Gowar (The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock), 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize winner Claire Fuller (Tiny and Pointed) and independent bookseller Samuel Fisher (The Chameleon) among a list of 31 shortlisted writers and poets. Broadcaster and journalist Sally Magnusson (The Sealwoman’s Gift) and debut author Anne Youngson (Meet Me at the Museum) have been shortlisted for two prizes.

MacMaster was born and reared in Co Cavan before continuing her studies in Derry, Dublin, Belfast and Montreal. She was a secondary school teacher and counsellor in Ireland and Canada and was ordained a minister of the Church of Ireland in 2004. A contributor to Sunday Miscellany on RTÉ Radio 1, she is the author of a memoir, Over My Shoulder. She and her late husband have one daughter. Norma lives by the sea in north Co Dublin, and wrote Silence Under A Stone “a bit now and a bit then”, typing with two fingers in her attic.

Bourke is the author of a novella in verse, Did You Put The Weasels Out? published by Eyewear Publishing in March 2018 and the short stories The Closest We Got To The Sugarcane, published in Prole Magazine January 2016 and Daedalus, published in Holdfast Magazine July 2016. From Kilkenny, he lives in London.

The judges for each award, including Kate Mosse, Gary Younge, Mark Lawson, Anita Sethi, Vaseem Khan, Susan Hill, Stuart Evers, Irenosen Okojie and Jen Campbell were united in their praise for “inventive, courageous, challenging and evocative writing that explores both the everyday and the extraordinary” with stories exploring the personal and political via themes of displacement, love, friendship, community and loss.

The five prizes will be awarded at the Society of Authors’ Awards on June 17th, which will see the UK’s biggest literary fund of more than £100,000 awarded by authors for authors. The event has rewarded the early works of some of today’s most prominent literary figures such as Zadie Smith, Seamus Heaney, Helen Dunmore, Hari Kunzru, Carol Ann Duffy and Mark Haddon and honoured the careers of established figures including Dylan Thomas, Fay Weldon, William Golding and Margaret Drabble.

The shortlists for each award are:


The Betty Trask Prize and Awards are presented for a first novel by a writer under 35. Judged by Ben Brooks, Elanor Dymott and Vaseem Khan.

The Litten Path by James Clarke (Salt)

The Chameleon by Samuel Fisher (Salt)

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (Harvill Secker)

Paul by Daisy Lafarge (unpublished)

Sweet Fruit, Sour Land by Rebecca Ley (Sandstone Press)

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (Hamish Hamilton)

The Watermelon Boys by Ruqaya Izzidien (Hoopoe/AUC Press)


The McKitterick Prize is awarded to a first novel by a writer over 40. Judged by Susan Hill, Chris Tayler and Abir Mukherjee.

What We’re Teaching Our Sons by Owen Booth (4th Estate)

West by Carys Davies (Granta Books)

Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott (Hutchinson)

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday (Granta Books)

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson (Two Roads)

Who’s Who When Everyone is Someone Else by C.D.Rose (Melville House)

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson (Doubleday)


Sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, The ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award is awarded for a short story by a writer who has had at least one short story accepted for publication. Judged by Stuart Evers and Irenosen Okojie.

Once We Were Syrians by Dima Alzayat

Gerardo Dreams of Chillies by Niall Bourke

Tiny and Pointed by Claire Fuller

The Kids by Bruce Meyer

Blessing by Bunmi Ogunsiji


The inaugural Paul Torday Memorial Prize will be awarded to a first novel by a writer over 60. Prize fund £1,000 plus a set of the collected works of British writer Paul Torday, who himself only published his first novel Salmon Fishing in the Yemen at the age of 60. Judged by Mark Lawson, Kate Mosse and Anita Sethi.

Sealskin by Su Bristow (Orenda Books)

Walking Wounded by Sheila Llewellyn (Sceptre)

Silence Under a Stone by Norma MacMaster (Doubleday Ireland)

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson (Two Roads)

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (Zaffre)

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson (Doubleday)


The Somerset Maugham Awards are for published works of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by writers under 35, to enable them to enrich their work by gaining experience of foreign countries. Judged by Jen Campbell, Barney Norris and Ian Thomson.The Perseverence by Raymond Antrobus (Penned in the Margins)

The Stopping Places by Damian Le Bas (Chatto & Windus)

Shrines of Upper Austria by Phoebe Power (Carcanet)

The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair (John Murray)

The Crossway by Guy Stagg (Picador)

Mrs Gaskell and Me by Nell Stevens (Picador)