It hasn't been easy for our judge Linda Strachan. Faced with an impossible choice, to pick one from six brilliant stories, she's finally delivered her verdict.

But before we reveal the winner, Linda has a few words to say about what she was looking for in the story. 

Linda: It was a very difficult decision to make as all of the shortlisted stories were strong and appealed for different reasons. I wanted a story that was well written, original in concept and yet still able to grab the reader it was aimed at and made me want to read on.  

Writing a synopsis is always a challenge but it was also important to understand where the story is going and if it would be strong enough to sustain any initial promise to a satisfying conclusion.

So, without further ado, we can announce that the winning story is...

Wildlands by Emma Murphy

Congratulations, Emma!  

LindaI was torn between all the stories on the shortlist, but Emma's entry combined great writing with a strong story line that is original and touches on several themes that are very relevant today - but not to the detriment of the story and our engagement with the main character.  I look forward to discussing it further with her.

Since finding out about her genetic father, 14 year old Astrid has distanced herself from both her mothers. On a train from her home town of London to Glasgow, to stay with Mark - or ‘Dad’ as she’s supposed to call him – Astrid broods about the unfairness of it all. 

But this train passes right through The Wildlands Project, a vast area of reestablished wildernesses that covers Northern England and Southern Scotland. When the train makes an unplanned stop, one bad decision leaves Astrid alone in the Wildlands, fighting for survival. Can she find her way back to her family, in all the ways that matter? 

Emma will win a critique on her writing from Linda including a phone call/Skype session to discuss next steps as a writer, a complimentary place at our How To Write for Children & Young Adults conference on Saturday 29th February 2020, as well as a copy of the latest Children's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook and the revised edition of the Guide To Writing For Children & YA by Linda herself.

Congratulations must also go to our other shortlisted authors who have won a copy of the latest edition of the Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, a choice of one of our Writing Companion Guide series, a copy of the new edition of the Guide To Writing For Children & YA by Linda Strachan

Our shortlisted authors:

Jenny Ireland, Claire Marshall, Helen Boyere, Olivia Wakeford, and Chiara Bullen 

Linda: To all the shortlisted and highly commended writers. I know how disappointing it is not to be the winner, but take heart that your story was shortlisted or highly commended. It is another step along the road to publication and I wish you all every success with your writing in the future.

Our highly-commended authors: Beatrice Obe, Karen Walk, Heather Davey, Liam Hogan, and Helen Davies

A massive thank you to everyone who entered this competition. We were overwhelmed with the amount of entries and urge you to keep writing, keep revising, and to keep your eyes peeled for further free writing opportunities from W&A!