Spotlight on Author Sheena Wilkinson

It has been an exciting year for fiction writer Sheena Wilkinson whose first novel for adults, Mrs Hart’s Marriage Bureau, a feelgood feminist romance set in 1934, was published by HarperCollins Ireland in March 2023. We feel a particular glow of pride for Sheena as she is also the winner of the Write By The Sea 2022 Fiction Short Story prize and we had the pleasure of hosting her on stage at our September 2022 festival when she read her winning story.

We caught up with Sheena recently and she shared with us how her 2022 Write By The Sea success proved to be an important turning point in her writing fortunes. As our 2023 competition is now open, Sheena has strong words of encouragement for anyone who thinks they might like to enter. You can read our interview with Sheena below and you can read the 2022 winning entries and enter our 2023 competition here: http://localhost:82/wbts2/writing-competitions/#competition-entry

Sheena: “After a spell of some success in short story competitions, and then some barren years, I’d lost heart – nothing I wrote seemed to be getting even longlisted anymore. I was confident these stories were as good as the ones that had been winning prizes a decade ago – better, surely, as I knew I’d developed as a writer in those years? I’d had novels published, and won awards with them, but I seemed to have lost my way as a short story writer.

When I saw the Write by the Sea competition, however, I decided to dust off one of those stories and give it a go. I had always believed in my story ‘The Beachcomber and the Mermaid’, a bittersweet wartime romance, and I wondered if this might be its chance – it sounds silly, but I thought the seaside location of both the festival and the story might be serendipitous. I knew, of course, that Write by the Sea had a wonderful reputation as a friendly and beautifully curated festival in a breath-taking location.

The emails saying I was shortlisted, and eventually that I had won, were bright spots in summer 2022 for me. I was ecstatic and there was no question but that I would make the long trip to Kilmore Quay for the prize giving. As I had expected from the whole way the competition had been run, everything about the event was delightful. Of course the location is out of those world, and the sun sparkled on the sea all weekend, but what made it special was the atmosphere. I’ve been to many festivals but this one made me feel like a star! Having the opportunity to read my story to a very engaged audience was amazing – it’s rare to be given the chance to read more than a few paragraphs. This festival, and its competitions really are gems. The prize was generous, thanks to the sponsorship of Rosslare and Municipal District Council, and even better than the money, there was the most beautiful hand-crafted trophy. And of course the publicity associated with winning a prestigious prize is always very welcome.

I’d encourage any writer to have a go, even if you’ve lost a bit of confidence. Literary competitions are so subjective, but if you write the best story you can, sooner or later, as mine did, it will find its audience – and you never know, that might well be the Write by the Sea judging panel!”

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