Two Newsquest journalists are celebrating after winning prestigious awards for their writing.
Bournemouth Daily Echo journalist Faith Eckersall was presented with the Grazia Magazine Women’s Prize for Fiction First Chapter Award at the Women’s Prize for Fiction Awards held in London’s Bedford Square.
The chapter was started off by Paula Hawkins, the best-selling author of The Girl on the Train and began a story entitled Favourite Child. Faith was one of more than 700 writers who finished the chapter and sent it to the competition which was judged by Paula Hawkins and two senior staff members of Grazia magazine.
Presenting the award, Grazia editor Hattie Brett said: “As you’d expect, there was fierce debate amongst the judges but one entry really stood out. Thanks to an intensely off-kilter twist and a darkly ambivalent central character, we were so intrigued we wanted to read more.”
Following her award, Faith was able to see the Woman’s Prize for Fiction awarded to Kamila Shamsie, for her novel Home Fire.
The event was attended by some of UK publishing’s biggest names, including new Dorset author, Libby Page, whose debut novel The Lido came out recently, and Sarah Waters, Howard Jacobson, and Kathy Lette.
As part of her prize, Faith will now be meeting editors and agents in the industry.
Speaking afterwards Faith said: “I feel very humbled and grateful to receive this award. I’ve been writing all my life and won many awards for my journalism but, like most journalists, I’ve always wanted to write a book — in my case the kind of novel people buy at the airport or wander round the house reading because they can’t bear to put it down.
“It has been fantastic to receive this recognition for my work as well as meeting so many amazing and successful agents and women writers, including Paula Hawkins, on the night. It’s the inspiration I need to finally finish my novel.”
Also celebrating scooping an award is one of Newsquest’s veteran farming journalists who’s been named Britain’s best in her field.
Maureen Hodges, pictured left, is the farming and rural affairs editor at The Cumberland News and News & Star in Carlisle, who has had years of her dedication and determined reporting recognised with the Stuart Seaton Award.
The accolade, presented by the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists in memory of the Farmers Guardian’s founding editor, rewards the work of regional journalists covering the specialist subject area.
Maureen’s impressive submission to judges focused on her work in The Cumberland News, which features a weekly farming section, and the Newsquest-owned title’s monthly Farmer supplement.
She’s a well respected figure in agricultural circles, having worked as a specialist in the subject for most of the past 25 years. She’s been at the heart of reporting issues ranging from the devastating foot and mouth crisis of 2001 to the fluctuating fortunes of the dairy industry and is one of the most recogisable figures at her area’s agricultural shows.
Maureen said: “I am absolutely thrilled to win this award. It’s not only a huge boost personally, but a great accolade for The Cumberland News.
“We take pride in taking the major issues affecting the industry and looking at the human impact of what they mean for our hard-working farmers and the countryside in Cumbria.
“As well as being a way of life, agriculture remains one of the most important parts of the county’s economy. The ups and downs of the industry have a profound impact on life in our part of the world and it’s important that we reflect that.”
Maureen will be presented with a framed certificate, while The Cumberland News will be able to carry the title of Regional Farming Newspaper of the Year, as judged by the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists.
Chris Story, editor of The Cumberland News and News & Star, said: “Maureen’s award is very well deserved.
“Farming and rural affairs is a challenging sector to cover — with many farmers in Cumbria facing punishing battles for survival at times — but such is the respect that Maureen has built over the years that people trust her to tell their stories.
“I’m sure many of the farmers whose successes she’ll be covering at agricultural shows this summer will be as delighted as we are with her success.”