The 2024 All Ireland Scholarships Roger Downer Creative Writing Award winners have been announced. A range of superb fiction, non-fiction and op-ed entries were received and reviewed by judges Emma Corcoran, Donal Ryan, Marian Keyes & Roddy Doyle.

THIRD PLACE: MOUSE – Surnaí Molloy

KNOCK KNOCK – Lorraine McEvoy

Winning entries can be read below. Competition chair, Prof. Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, wishes to sincerely thank all who entered.

On behalf of this year’s judging panel for the AIS Alumni Association’s Roger Downer award for Creative Writing, I’m absolutely delighted to announce that ‘Rites of Passage’ by Surnaí Molloy has been selected as the overall winner. The judges also picked ‘Mouse’ by Surnaí Molloy in third place – a superb achievement. This is a very special achievement and speaks to her writing talent and craft.” – Prof. Sarah Moore Fitzgerald.

Here is what the judges said of the winning entry, RITES OF PASSAGE.

This is written with an insistent rhythm, which gathers force as the piece continues. The way it’s written mirrors the steady accumulation of daily aggressions women are met with. As the piece progresses, each new violation stacks up on the previous, building to an intolerable weight. It’s truthful and powerful.” (Marian Keyes)

An excellent story; chilling, frightening; very well told.” (Roddy Doyle)

Winner & Runners Up



At a time when I was buried in study and stress, and the strains of a dying relationship, I found a walk that took me above it all, in solitude, in what was nearly wilderness: a path alongside the railway tracks, above and overlooking the lake. I went in the day and walked along it. But as I walked, instead of the expansion, peace, relief, I expected, my body was chilled, stiffened; I was wheezy with fear. At one point, a man was coming towards me on that narrow, lonely route, and all of my learned, practiced behaviours were gone from me; I was weakened and useless. But he passed by, of course, without a glance. Still, fighting the urge to panic, to run, I eventually made it off the path, and back into the busy suburbs.
And I walked that path again. I would not be restricted by fear. It was safe, it was daytime, and it was a nice place to walk. And again, I was chilled, shaken, terrified, every single step of the way.
I asked about the path. It’s safe. It’s grand. Until, isn’t that where that girl was murdered?

Cat-calling always catches me off guard; confuses me. What did he say? And I carry on, a little smaller, a little less sure.

Don’t leave your drink uncovered. Why not? Don’t go to the bathroom alone. Why not? Don’t lose your friends. Why not? The hands touching me – that I didn’t know whose hands they were; that I was being felt constantly and anonymously, like in a bazaar, when all of the vendors are calling, but here, they were calling with their hands, and they were not offering anything, only taking – the noises, the lights, overwhelmed me, so I would seek solitude, I would stray and wander with my thumb over the mouth of my beer, and step out into the smoking area, like a rabbit stepping into a kennel. There, I would at least be offered a cigarette, some conversation, and it would seem wholesome, until I wondered if they would let me leave.
In the clubs, we were drinking, we were having fun; we were flirting, we were flattered: young women letting loose.
Instead of walking home, I would sit in the back of a taxi, confined in a space with the man I was paying to keep me safe: a man who stares at me in the rear-view mirror, who asks for a hug when he asks for his money.
But this was years ago, when I didn’t know anything. Since then, I’ve decided, I don’t go to clubs. I don’t like them.
Why not?

Wandering in a pretty town in Europe, I find myself alone on a cobblestone street with a man, and all of a sudden, I lose my breath.
Bounding across the Burren, high up on the magnificent coast, a man makes his way down the lanes in a pickup truck, and I lose my breath.
Striding across Spain on a sacred pilgrim way, men are gathered on the path ahead, on the quiet rural route, and I lose my breath.

When I was just barely nineteen, I went for a walk. Working as an Au Pair in France, I had some time before dinner, so I wandered towards the coast. It was four in the afternoon. A cyclist slowed and struck up a conversation with me, and I was proud that I could speak to this man in French; he lingered a moment too long. I passed my turn, so that he wouldn’t know where I was going.
When he cycled on, I doubled back, and turned into this beautiful open space, a green wilderness on a clifftop overlooking the Mediterranean sea. My heart filled.
A man stood on the path that traced alongside the cliff, the path I planned to walk, watching me. I took photos of the sea, I lingered, I waited. Too cautious, too fearful. When he was gone, I started walking.
It was a beautiful place, the path was shrouded with bushes. I turned a bend, and the man hadn’t gone, he was standing right there, close enough to touch, holding his bared penis in his hands.
And I was gone then. My body got me out of there. It understood. Why was he there? Half a second, half a glimpse. What was in his hands? As my body hurried away, I looked back and he was still watching me, this man hooded in darkness, staring. A male jogger crossed my path and I nearly collapsed with fright. That jogger would run right past that man, wouldn’t notice, wouldn’t worry.
Back on the road, as I walked along the footpath, a red convertible with two young men inside pulled up, they looked me up and down, asked if I wanted a lift. I mumbled something in French – thanked them. Non, ça va, merci.
I had dinner with my host family that evening. And no, I didn’t tell; I was confused and embarrassed; I didn’t know what had happened. But the annex where I slept a little away from the house was too hot to keep the window closed and the window was by my bed. As I tried to sleep, what if he followed me home? So I stayed awake and watched the open window, taut with tension, with fear, with an unnamed, uncomprehended trauma, waiting for the dark man to appear. I was untouched, unharmed. I didn’t sleep.

I learn about energetic boundaries; I learn about how people will dump all of their darkness on to you, and take your light; I learn about the different types of violation.

There was a winter I collapsed. Because I was thinking, noticing, talking, friends were sharing their stories, and it was as if all of the bright, bouncing women surrounding me pulled up their sleeves, lifted their shirts, to show lacerations, bruises, welts. And all the men around me grew dark.
But I was confused, because men were the ones who walked me home, who minded me; they were the protectors. Men were my friends and family, they were strong and solid, they had always made me feel safe. And I was hearing the cold, apathetic words of the media come out of their mouths, and I was afraid of them.
It became difficult to leave the house. The world had been stripped of its comfort, its safety; I learned that I was not invincible, I was not exempt. Everyone learns this eventually. But I learned something else too: that there were those who meant me harm.
Eventually, with the spring, I rose and in rising, then, I remembered that I had fight in me, not just flight. So I came out of hiding, and I trusted my judgement, and men began to notice me again, and I went on dates and found a very sweet and gentle boyfriend for a time.
And when I told him the story of the man in France, he laughed. At the part where I worried the dark man had followed me home. Ridiculous.
I was too confused to say anything. I was too confused to be angry.

When I talk about learning self-defence, my male friends always challenge me. They love to prove how easy it is for them to defeat me; how they can crush me, pick me up, throw me to the ground. They stand a foot above me, nearly twice my weight. They think it’s play; they mock me, tease me.
When I talk about my fear, they say I should just take self-defence.

A comment sets him off. Carrying the bags of clothes home late at night, I say I wouldn’t have felt safe in that laundromat on my own. And then he is telling me how men are attacked too, how men are robbed and beaten all the time, how there is danger for men, not just women. I have learned to stay calm. All it takes is one word, said quietly. Violation. He understands then, and he is apologising; he is saying how he doesn’t want to know, admit, feel how bad it is.

Grown up and free in the world, I tried to walk in a Canadian forest. Stepping inside was like stepping underwater, and wonder carried me some of the way, the trees magnificent, impressing a drumming presence upon the darkened space. Until I was about to turn a bend, and in this wilderness, still in sight of the road, I lost my breath, I dizzied with fear. And when forcing myself to go on did not work, I turned and fled.
After taking a bus all the way to walk in the forest, I walked beside the highway instead: sad, defeated, confused. Over the course of that season, I slowly learned that this was not fear, this was panic; this was not fear, this was memory. And I felt around until I found that crack within myself that occurred four years before, on that afternoon stroll; that half a second.
So I took the bus to the forest again, and I chose the busier, lighter section, compromising with myself. And at every turn, at every shortened breath, I thought, this is old, this is not now, he will not be there. And I made it through the forest, I kept my breath, and taking the steps down to the beach that rested at the bottom of the cliff, I was filled with triumph, so that I stepped lightly along the sand, and said hello easily to the man passing me – the man who wore a hoody, and nothing else.
I stopped. There was another man, by the cliff, entirely naked. Over there, another, sitting on a log. Alarm mixed with confusion and horror, but my body was calm. I remembered the phrase ‘clothing optional’ in relation to this beach.
So I was stranded, marooned, trapped on a shore that was scattered here and there with naked middle-aged men, moving slowly over the sand like enormous seals. Ungainly and harmless. This is new. My body was calm, my mind was present. I covered my eyes, and both delighted and appalled by the irony, I walked, hopped, light-footed like a bird, and giggled my way to the steps.

A man speaks to me, and I watch his movements, his gestures. I am no longer surprised by the malevolence of many men, just as I am no longer surprised by the innocence and ignorance of many others. Women still tell me their stories, but now they are often younger than me; they are girls.
A man speaks to me, and I step slightly backward, I monitor the boundary of space between myself and him, I smile and listen and wait to relax.

Sometimes, especially when I’m home – where I know every stone, every boreen, every curve of the coast – I feel the world is mine; I forget. And after a drink, or two, or three, a spree of wildness gets into me, so that I want to sprint home alone on the low road; where there are no houses; where there are bats, and the sea; where an owl lives. And I forget that a man could follow me from the pub, could follow me down the dark hill, down the dark road. When my ears prick up, I change course, I dart left, up to the well-lit high road, I ring somebody and speak on the phone, I am alert and suddenly sober; and maybe he is drunk, or his heart isn’t in it, or he is harmless. I am safe, more or less, but I am no longer a young woman moving toward something, toward the sea, in the dark night. I am moving away. He has changed my direction.



The snowfall bursts in harsh entropic shapes, blown about by wind. The evening’s last light trembles down over the roof of the train station as the snow starts to recede, the dregs wrung out aslant. Through the thick but slowing snow, as through the gaps in a blind, you make out the grey form of a man. He is just past the bloom of thirty and wrapped in a long charcoal coat. Alone among the families, couples and harried commuters, his expression is carefully relaxed, emitting the self-contained gleam of satisfaction.

Follow his gaze as it moves along the platform, until it pauses on a young woman bent over, paddling in her handbag. She successfully locates some pacifying object, a chapstick or lotion, and her spine shudders free from its awkward hump. Her body is enclosed in a long, synthetic pullover, no jacket, the flat slabs of her cheeks inflamed with cold.

The man walks forward and stops precisely before a column supporting the platform’s roof, obscuring him from the woman’s sight. He recovers a mobile phone from his pocket, which displays the insistent white band of a message alert. He turns his back to the column, taps a response without hesitating, then puts away the phone. For several moments, he stares ahead at the snowdrift which has gathered on the slope of the opposite platform, drawing a seamless white line down to the railroad. His gaze is still, and his narrow, colourless mouth is inscrutable. The woman then changes position, striding toward a bin to dispose of a plastic wrapper. Without changing his expression, he rounds the column away from her.

When he was twenty-two, he and the woman saw each other on Thursday afternoons, sometimes in the café of the university library, but most often at her apartment. He remembers this period as one in which he became suddenly alive to the beauty of his surroundings, experiencing a sort of horror at the banality and ugliness of his adolescent life. Delivered from the tyranny of school and parents, colours and sounds transformed into phenomena, palpable and close to him. His days became motivated by an urge to observe and participate in the beauty that enwreathed him. His memories from that time are a series of still lifes – cool, smooth mornings with the tiles slipping under his feet, the amphibian creak of the radiator and the coruscating sounds of the street. Going to an art gallery to look at paintings of persimmons sliced in half-moon wedges, the holy smell of the bakeries in December, the braid of a loaf. Something charged moved under the surface of all daily experiences, if he only paid attention – a new secret, essential layer to his life.

He met Maudie through a class on morphology, designated partners for a set of assessed presentations. They drew out ideas in the living room of her apartment, the strangely dim, north-facing penthouse of a four-storey she rented from and shared with an older postdoc. The postdoc was the father of two small girls, whose wife had taken the daughters and left him for another man. He was rarely home during the day. Once home to a marriage, the space had none of the usual cheap student trappings, fitted rather with dark woods and interesting fabrics. Prayer plants swooned solemnly in all corners from terracotta pots stippled with efflorescence. Retreating to that loft to work, he used to think of monarch butterflies, veins of soft, flushed colour radiating out into the Byzantine dark. Maudie herself did not fit in that gloam. Her little room, which he never fully entered, was ordinary and girlish, her belongings organised in little pastel plastic crates. Corporate self-help books were scattered among her library loans. She was surrounded by unusual, enviable beauty, but it did not seem to touch her; she persisted languidly in her poor taste.

She was forthcoming and did not avoid his questions. While working, especially in their early sessions, they talked personally – he learned of an unremarkable ex-boyfriend from high school, a spoiled kid sister and a terrier she loved best back home. She played hockey for the university team and went vegetarian after watching a documentary about cattle slaughter at sixteen. He tried to draw her into confidence but despite her ready responses, their dialogue moved only in torpid and senseless directions. He was used to conversations with other students feeling inventive, confessional – expressions of what moved him, what frightened her, a gradual undressing of closely-held secrets. Her insensibility and lack of expertise in charming another person left him feeling oddly depleted. He certainly wasn’t in love with her – he preferred girls with outwardly combative personalities who were privately desperate and malleable. Perhaps he would have been frustrated if her resistance to intimacy was active, a protective barrier he could press up against. But Maudie was neither hard nor soft. Her disposition was rubbery and benign – a mould that no matter how plied, would always return to the same shape.

Still, he looked out for some ripple, a glimpse into the sheen of an inner life. He was patient with her, even generous. He loved her apartment. He listened to her talk about animal rights, inattentive to his lack of interest. Although living off a meagre government loan, he brought up coffee in a mime of domesticity that entertained him. In the library, he held doors open for her to breeze through mid-conversation – she always halted and thanked him needlessly. As she remained oblivious to his attempts to choreograph a deeper relationship, he began to bow to her, resigned to the uniformity of her inertia, until the afternoon that Conor came home.

A key scrabbling in the lock, then a muttered curse. He looks up at Maudie and she wears an expression he hasn’t seen before. Until then, he has never actually met her flatmate, but assumes the tall, dark-headed figure in the doorway is him. The older man nods at him, fingers curled around the neck of a beer bottle, eyes hooded – he’s drunk. He gruffly apologises for interrupting, which strikes an odd note given his ownership of the apartment, and that he’s practically middle-aged. Conor doesn’t look at or address Maudie personally, and in the absence of contact, he realises with a bright shock that there is a current of sexual energy running like a live wire between them. The flatmate washes his hands in the sink, then opens the fridge. Its wan light turns his silhouette into a shroud, his back a dark mass of negative space. He rolls out a can from the bottom shelf, catches it with a dull slosh and retreats to the back bedroom.

For a moment, there are only the resonant plops of the tap and the thumps of Conor making himself comfortable in the other room. Maudie’s mouth keeps wrinkling inward, then pulling straight, as if puppeteered by strings. She turns to him, says it’s a bit awkward to work on with Conor there, it’s already five and he’s likely after his tea, she’ll help heat something up from the freezer. I had no idea you were such a little wife, he’s about to joke, but stops when he realises she is tuned out, ears pricked to the cadence of unseen and mysterious movements. They agree to review the notes separately, she’ll finish the talking cards, he’ll build the last slides, and reconvene the next morning. On the walk home, he replays Conor’s morosely masculine appearance, the proprietor of all those nice things, and feels an odd stab of excitement. His alcoholic smell invading the kitchenette, yet something sly and watchful in his motions, as if in deep anticipation. The caught, leporine look on Maudie’s face strikes him as really terrible. He cannot imagine her desiring him, and vice versa. The ravine between them, not merely in age but something more fundamental, seems absurd and appalling.

In class the next day, nothing at first was amiss. He plugged a USB into her laptop and quietly showed her the finished deck during the first pair’s presentation. When it was their turn, Maudie ran easily through the introductory points, but at the slide where they’d separated the previous evening, she fell silent and didn’t continue. Her face, grim and unsure, came sharply into focus. He retraced the thread of her sentence and subtly swept the prompt card from her hand, a magic trick. This is why, he was saying, it can be problematic to think of morphemes as directly corresponding to single characters, since some characters will express two meanings at once. He clicked to the next slide, glanced over – it was still her turn, but she didn’t show any indication of wanting to speak. Seized by the urgency of continuing without rupture, he angled her gently behind him, shielding her from the faces of the other students. As he talked, he became gradually aware of a pressure accumulating, first fluttering low in his side, then lifting and beating against him, a high writhing thing. He spoke confidently, transitioning to the next slide, weaving between his ideas and hers like the anabranch of a river. The beating was the feeling of her desperation, how much she needed him to continue, how important it was to go on. The weight of her pressing into him all at once was exciting, almost unbearable. He could sense her embarrassed, helpless look from behind, pinioning him to the professor’s table all the way through the presentation. He began to feel nauseous, frightened of what would happen when he stopped speaking. Should he have stayed the previous evening? Did he hurt you? Did you want it?

When it was over, he pressed shut the lid of his laptop, caressing it slowly with his palm. She must have moved some distance behind him, for he couldn’t feel her body nearby anymore, her damp mammal warmth. He braced himself and turned back to look at her. She was perched on the professor’s swivel chair, mouthing thanks?, a little bewildered but otherwise her usual placid self. The other students were clapping; they didn’t speak. Pink spots clustered across his cheeks.

He doesn’t remember the last time they talked – their final class opened out to a group discussion, followed immediately by the carnival of exams. He has actually seen her two or three times since, always by accident, looking vague in the drugstore or hurrying across the street. He resents these desultory appearances and feels a slick of shame when he sees her, although he avoids examining too closely the source of that feeling.

She is looking up and down the train platform, and he hunches unnaturally into his coat, against recognition. In its collar, he catches the ghost of a musky perfume – the girl he’s seeing likes to wrap herself in this coat in a sweetly possessive gesture. Feeling suddenly ridiculous, he turns in Maudie’s direction, hoping she will come and greet him. There are so many people gathered by now – the train is late, the snow flurries have started up again. Close to her, a man emerges from the kiosk, gripping some optimistic vegetable concoction in flatbread. He attacks the sandwich, face contorting around the bite and spraying juices down his scarf. In polite synchrony, those nearby turn away, but Maudie stares at him, mouth slightly open, inadvertently rude. He experiences a rapid, familiar twitch of annoyance.

The train now approaches, the sound at first just a whisper, then an inevitable rhythmic whir. The snow is brutal and brilliant. The bullet of the train slices through it and comes to a halt with a shrill, protracted screech. Trains don’t steam or decompress anymore, he thinks uselessly, they don’t show their inner workings. He joins the nearest clamour of people pushing to board first and thinks she finally sees him – but her attention is only caught by two toddlers shoving at each other, formless and ancient in their snowsuits. He steps onto the train and she vanishes from sight.



There was a mouse living with me. I could hear him in the attic, at night, my eyes flying open to a squeaking and a shuffling and a scurrying over my bed. He knocked something over once; I wondered what it could be, that thing rolling above me. One morning I came down to the kitchen and startled the mouse – or the mouse startled me, rather – and he shot behind the stove. Crouching down, I tried to see him again; he was only little. Hello, I whispered up the chimney, but there was no answer. The next morning there was mouse poo all over the countertops, and under the draining board. I hadn’t noticed until after I’d had my morning coffee from the mug that had been drying overnight, and I spent the day wondering what kind of virus I could get, what part of the mouse had gotten inside me. Needless to say, I’ve started sanitising the countertops in the mornings, and I keep my mug inside the cupboard.
There was a night I woke up thirsty, so I shuffled my way downstairs in my slippers, but paused at the kitchen door, thinking the mouse was probably inside. It felt wrong, somehow, to intrude, so I waited until morning to have my drink of water. In the evenings, I found myself going to bed earlier.
I did put a trap by the stove, of course, but every morning it was empty, and every night I heard the squeaking adventures of the little mouse, very much still alive.
In the meantime, mould had developed on the ceiling of my bathroom. The house was newly renovated, everything was fresh and functional, but the winter was just too cold for the bathroom to dry, so the mould began to grow until the room darkened and softened with it. With bright yellow rubber gloves, and standing on a chair, I scrubbed and scrubbed. Small flecks fell on my face and I found myself imagining mould settling in, taking root, growing rhizoids into my skin.
Using the same chair, I rose up and stuck my head into the attic, feeling uncomfortable; I nearly whispered excuse me. Silly. I dropped the mouse trap there, quick, before scurrying back down.
It was a nice area, where the house was; I was new to it. A gardener kept the lawn short. The bins went out every week, and it seemed the kind of place one would wave to their neighbour in the process. But somehow I missed them, the neighbours, every time, and was always solitary rolling the landfill out, and then hurrying back inside, with the door banging shut behind me from the wind.
Recently, I’d found a verruca on my foot, like lichen on a stone, or even a barnacle on the calloused back of a whale. I can’t say where it came from, it just appeared there, embedded in my heel. Seems you can freeze it, or treat it with potato. If that doesn’t work, the only thing is to wait ten years for the fungus go away on its own. A long sentence, I thought.
In the mornings, I would come into the kitchen cautiously, stretching my head around the door before tiptoeing inside. When there was no one there, I would wipe down all the counters and put my fruit back out (I hadn’t liked the thought of little mouse feet on my pears). Then, after lighting the stove – keeping the mouse toasty – I would take my mug from the cupboard and have some coffee. Only after all that, would I go upstairs to check the trap.
I caught the mouse. I did actually say excuse me that time, it slipped from my mouth as I poked my head up into the attic space. But it was redundant; the mouse was dead. So I got my yellow gloves and took the mouse, broken in the trap, out back. Lifting the heavy plastic lid to the landfill, I paused, holding the mouse out before me, not quite looking at it. Shouldn’t I bury it? I thought. But the lawn was so tight and neat and hard, it did not seem like the kind of ground that would accept the dead body of an animal. I didn’t have a spade, so I’d have to use a spoon or something. Maybe the compost bin would be better, but that would mean disentangling the soft broken body of the rodent from the hard trap, which was definitely not compostable. It felt, impossibly, like it would hurt the mouse to lift the metal band.
It was too much. Landfill would have to do. But for a dizzying moment, I stood holding the mouse in his trap over the black plastic bag in the hard plastic bin – filled with dirty, stinking waste that would never fully decay – and could not, for the life of me, draw breath. Around me, in the wind, the neighbours’ hard squat monopoly houses watched, perfectly still. My fingers, protected within the cool rubber, pinched the wooden trap with the little lifeless body motionless on top, except for the tiny hairs stirred by the wind, the tail swaying. Was he still warm?
I came back to myself, and dropped the mouse in the bin and dropped the lid shut, and inside I went, and the door of the house banged behind me. I sanitised the gloves, hesitated, then threw them out.
There was only the one. I listen at night, in the hope that I’ll hear a scuffling, a squeaking, but no, and there hasn’t been any more mouse poo in the kitchen. So that’s that. The bathroom is looking better, I bought a dehumidifier for it. The house belongs to just me again. All my own. Around me the hard empty walls echo silently. I sit alone in the kitchen late into the evening, rubbing potato on my foot.

Judging Panel


Professor Sarah Moore Fitzgerald is an award-winning teacher, researcher, novelist, writer and author, who chairs the All Ireland Scholarships Alumni Creative Writing Competition. Sarah is a Professor of Teaching and Learning at the University of Limerick, with a particular interest in creativity. She has published several novels, with her fiction being adapted for the stage at the Edinburgh Festival and the Arts Theatre in London’s West End. Sarah has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Prize and the CBI Book of the Year Award. In 2015 she received a Kirkus Star for her second novel, 'The Apple Tart of Hope', and in 2016 won the Irish Writers’ Centre’s Jack Harte Award.


Donal Ryan is a multi-award-winning author and lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick. His 2013 novel The Spinning Heart won the Guardian First Book Award, the EU Prize for Literature (Ireland), Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, and was voted 'Irish Book of the Decade'. In 2021, Donal became the first Irish writer to win the Prix Jean Monnet for European Literature for his work ‘From a Low and Quiet Sea’.

On the competition, Donal said: “The written word is one of the greatest ways we have of sharing human experience with one another. Whether fact or fiction, creative writing shines a light on something that might otherwise go unnoticed. I can’t wait to read the range of writing and new stories that this competition will generate.”


Emma received an All Ireland Scholarship in 2011 and completed a BSc in Human Nutrition & Dietetics from TUD & TCD in 2015. She now works as a Senior Dietitian in the Mater hospital, Dublin.

She loved reading since a young age, reading mostly fiction, and the work of other authors always inspired her. When it comes to her writing, people are her biggest inspiration - their thoughts, emotions, and how they see, interact with, and react to, the world.

Commenting on Emma’s winning fiction piece ‘A Little Bird’, the judging panel said: ‘Powerfully told, we were taken by this story from the very first sentence. The writer evidences superb powers of observation. I loved the central protagonist’s world view and wanted to know more.’

Emma was the winner of the 2023 AIS Creative Writing Award.


Roddy Doyle is an internationally acclaimed and Booker Prize-winning novelist, dramatist and screenwriter. He is one of Ireland's most prolific and best-loved writers, and creator of some of our most unforgettable fictional characters.

He is the author of eleven novels for adults, eight books for children, seven plays and screenplays, and dozens of short stories. Several of his books have been made into films, beginning with The Commitments in 1991. Doyle's work is set primarily in Ireland, especially working-class Dublin, and is notable for its heavy use of dialogue written in slang and Irish English dialect.


Marian Keyes is the multimillion copy, internationally bestselling author of some of the most widely loved, genre-defying novels of the past thirty years – including Rachel’s Holiday, The Break and Grown Ups. Readers are irresistibly drawn by her warmth and wit, fearless honesty, relatable characters and relationships, and sheer storytelling magic. Not only has Marian inspired and entertained countless readers, but also the next generation of writers too.

Both critically acclaimed and commercially unstoppable, Marian’s fifteenth novel Again, Rachel – the sequel to the groundbreaking Rachel’s Holiday – was an instant Sunday Times and No. 1 bestseller. In 2022, Marian was named the British Book Awards Author of the Year.