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De Beauvoir writer shortlisted for award recognising the novella form

PUBLISHED: 09:00 01 August 2015

Zoe Ranson

Zoe Ranson

Archant

A writer has spoken of her delight in being shortlisted for a prestigious new award which recognises the wide scope of unpublished novellas.

Zoe Ranson, 37, of Southgate Road, in De Beauvoir, has been recognised for her short novel, The Year of the Horse, which explores female friendship against a gritty Manchester backdrop.

Now in its second year, the Novella Award aims to find a short novel to rival classics like Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange and is awarded to a previously unpublished work of fiction.

Zoe said: “It was such a surprise to be shortlisted because I wasn’t really expecting that when I entered the competition. It was a real treat to see my name on the list.

“I wrote the Year of the Horse after a break having finished a couple of drafts of my novel. The novella is entirely different in style and tone and it was almost like an experiment to test myself and see if I could break out. So I was delighted to be recognised for that, and for the narrative voice which was what got the novella noticed.”

Zoe said writing the novella was an entirely different experience to writing a full length novel or a short story, getting the balance between plot, setting and characterisation being integral to the process.

She said: “It is good because of the limited word count, I find short stories can be too short and I really admire people who can consistently pull them off because I find them pretty tough. You have a bit more scope with novellas to develop characters and a story but with a limited focus. You can’t have too many characters because it gets unwieldy.

“You need to be ruthless with a novella and keep the focus tightly on one storyline and the central character.”

She added: “It’s really great if you were going on a short journey and it is holiday season at the moment so it’s a satisfying length and you can read the whole thing and go on a journey with the characters – there is no room for excess”

Zoe, who has also worked at youth literacy charity Hackney Pirates, said that it was important that young people could read to grow their confidence as budding writers.

She said: “It’s a real privilege to see how the kids grow and change over the year and I think it is just brilliant that there are projects in Hackney that give people that confidence and encourage a love of reading because with all good writers comes a 
love of reading and constantly returning to books they admire – you can study the craft of how someone has managed to do something to try and figure it out for yourself.”

The winner of the Novella Award is announced in October.

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