There has been a long and important history of literature and poetry set in East Anglia. But speaking of the present day here, just recently, Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, set in Colchester and along the Blackwater Estuary, and featuring the story of a woman and her quest for a mythical Essex serpent, was a Waterstones Book of the Year and a Sunday Times best seller.
Graham Swift’s Mann Booker shortlisted novel Waterlands, was set in the East Anglian Fens. Helen MacDonald’s prizewinning H is for Hawk, is a story of grief and nature set in beautifully realised East Anglian landscapes. And these are just a few examples of the rich heritage of literature that the region can call upon.
The prestigious New Angle Prize for literature is an Ipswich based biennial award for a book of literary merit set in or influenced by the outstandingly beautiful, varied and historic region of East Anglia. The Student New Angle Prize (SNAP) competition runs alongside the New Angle Prize.
The SNAP competition is an annual event and offers all students of the University of Suffolk the chance to enter by submitting 500 words of original writing as prose or poetry. Like the New Angle Prize, all entries must either be set in or clearly influenced by our East Anglian region. The SNAP competition gives us a chance to hear new voices in the region and encourages our students to add to the literary representations of the region which continue to make East Anglia such an important place for art and literature and poetry.
- The competition is open to all full-time or part-time students currently enrolled at the University of Suffolk.
- The piece must have an East Anglian connection: theme, topic, influence or association.
- The work may be in prose or poetry but can be fiction or non-fiction.
- It should not exceed 500 words in length.
- Entries should appear in a standard font (Arial, Times New Roman), 12 point size, with 1.5 or double line spacing.
- Only one entry per student is permitted.
- Students must not submit any work that is or has been submitted for assessment on a degree at the University of Suffolk.
- Students should submit their entries as word.doc attachments via email: SNAP@uos.ac.uk Please put the title of your submission (in uppercase) in the subject box of your email.
- Entrants should provide their personal details (full name, student ID number, and course of study) in the body of the email.
- There will be one cash prize of £100 for the winning entrant and one cash prize of £40 for the runner up.
- Paper copies of the winning work will be available at the showcase event for the New Angle Prize and the winner will be invited to this event as a guest.
For more information on the New Angle Prize for literature, click here.
SNAP Winner 2021
‘The Singing Tides’ by Bradley Garnham, English undergraduate
How does it feel to be the winner of the 2021 SNAP Award?
I think I would best describe the feeling as satisfying. Not necessarily because I was fortunate enough to win, but more regarding the progression of my SNAP entries, given that I was shortlisted my first year, runner up my second, and the winner in my final year at university. It’s a really nice progression.
Was there a particular location or memory that inspired your story?
I chose to focus on the town of Dunwich, just north of Sizewell, that was progressively washed into the sea, with the ghost story surrounding it, saying that you can sometimes hear the bells of the ruined churches. While I certainly dramatised it a bit, the story itself was entirely true – I did hear the bells at Dunwich many years ago, when I was walking with my Grandma along the shore!
What is your writing process like? Do you plan your stories or just write freely?
It depends entirely on what I’m writing. I find short stories like this are best done freely, and ironed out once I’ve hit a reasonable ending. Longer work or anything with a substantial plot is much easier to build upon when you know where it has to go, so I always plan that ahead of time. That is, when I’m not procrastinating like I am right now (I’ll get one of my novels finished eventually).
Are you inspired by anyone in particular in your writing?
No. I wish I could give you a more substantial answer than that, but I write simply because I enjoy it. Being good at it is just a happy coincidence.
What advice would you give to future entrants of SNAP?
Listen to music that suits the tone of your piece as you write it. If I could have a certain track play in people’s heads as they read, I absolutely would. Seeing as I can’t, writing it with the music in the background is the next best thing.
SNAP Runner Up 2021
'Aelfthryth' by Sarah Clark, English undergraduate
How does it feel to be the runner up of the 2021 SNAP Award?
I’m thrilled! It’s really boosted my writing confidence, as I’m really interested in both reading and writing historical fiction. Coming this far has meant I’ve proved to myself that I can do it.
Why did you choose the Anglo-Saxon Queen Aelfthryth as the focus of your story?
I picked the name after I had been researching old Anglo Saxon witch names – Aelfthryth was the name of a queen from the 10th century who was accused of witchcraft and I thought the name fitted perfectly with the themes of my story. The real Aelfthryth was accused of murdering the Abbot Brihtnoth of Ely, so there was a good local connection to the name as well. The Aelfthryth in my story isn’t intended to be the real Queen Aelfthryth, but it was a good way of linking all the elements of the story together – the location, subject and historical setting all fitted.
What was the planning process like for your entry?
I already knew that I wanted to set the story in and around the Fens, and that it was going to be witchcraft-related. I spent a lot of time living and working in Cambridge, Soham and Ely so the area was familiar to me and had always intrigued me. I came up with the idea of Agamede, a young pregnant village girl, terrified and looking for the witch to help her out of her predicament, as the starting point. I tried to make it as geographically and historically accurate as I could. It helped that I could already picture Wicken Fen as it is now - I tried to imagine how eerie it would have looked and felt all those years ago and my imagination took me from there.
Does the writing experience vary depending on each story?
Definitely. Although I always start with an idea, sometimes as with Aelfthryth, the idea is influenced by a theme like East Anglia. Other stories I’ve written come from a germ of an idea I have that won’t go away. I love historical fiction and I think that’s because if you have some information about an event, time or person, you can weave a completely different story around them, but the historical element always gives you a point of reference. It also means you get to find out a lot of interesting things when you’re researching a story!
What advice would you give to future entrants of SNAP?
Just enter. It doesn’t cost anything and it’s just 500 words. I’m sure everyone says that, but I’ve found entering writing competitions is great for my creative writing practice and I certainly don’t win everything – this is the first time I’ve come close to winning any of the writing competitions I’ve entered. It’s also fun. If you take an area of East Anglia for inspiration that holds special memories for you, or has always fascinated you (like the Fens) – or perhaps something that is there already like folk tales and myths that you can explore - I think that is a good starting point.
Interviews by Rose Gant, English undergraduate and Life at Suffolk student blogger
SNAP Winner 2019
‘Balkerne Blues’ by Lucy Tate, English undergraduate
How does it feel to be the winner of the Student New Angle Prize 2019?
Surreal, honestly. I kind of assumed that a more experienced writer would do better than me.
How did you initially approach the brief, what aspects of East Anglia influenced your story?
I was born and raised in Colchester, so it was always going to be a big focus for me. I’ve never really travelled so I wrote about where I knew best.
What led you to write this particular story, is the ‘I’ of the story based on yourself at all?
It very much is. I went through a bad patch a few years ago and I used to stare at the Balkerene walls and think about endurance and the way that the walls are constant and always there, they’ve survived through everything.
Are there any writers you took inspiration from to write your story?
Honestly, not really. I tend to tap into my emotions when I write. For my story I sat down to write and it just came out of me.
What advice would you give to students who are considering submitting an entry to SNAP next year?
100% go for it. Even if you are in your first year, it’s always good to just go for it. That’s what my story is about, the importance of trying is vital.
SNAP runner up 2019
‘Kingdom of East Angles’ by Amy Gillingham, English undergraduate
What was your reaction when you heard that you were the runner-up?
Shocked to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it. I entered and put it to the back of my mind. It was exciting to find out I was the runner-up.
What is the main inspiration behind your story?
My love of historical fiction. I’ve always read it and it’s the first genre I really fell in love with. I also really enjoy the research process when writing historical fiction.
Your story is called ‘Kingdom of East Angles’, what aspects of East Anglia influenced your story?
I think visiting Suttonhoo was a big inspiration because of the historical Saxon vibes. As well as the coastline in general, the fact that East Anglia is home to me made it the perfect setting for me to write my story.
Where did you draw inspiration from to create your main protagonist, what is the origin of his name?
His name actually isn’t very creative, I looked up Viking names and I liked the way it sounded. My inspiration for him was that he seemed lost in himself and I wanted the hope of a new land to bring him some substance.
What advice would you give to other aspiring writers at the university?
Having confidence in yourself is the biggest thing. I’ve always lacked confidence but I think entering the competition gave me the boost that I needed.
Interviews by Kay Saberton, English graduate and Co-Editor of Student Life magazine
SNAP Winner 2020
‘The Shotley Marsh’ by Hannah King, English undergraduate
How does it feel to be the winner of the SNAP award?
It feels incredibly encouraging, a real push to keep writing and believe that my work has potential to make an impact on others.
What ideas did you have when you first read the brief and what parts of East Anglia helped influence your story?
At first I was going to write something historical about Framingham castle, but then while in a short story class we were prompted to think about a familiar place and really immerse ourselves there. That was when I knew I wanted to write about Shotley.
Did you take any inspiration from East Anglian Writers at all or any writers in general?
Not directly or consciously, but I read a lot, including writers from East Anglia, and so I’m sure there’s inspiration there subconsciously.
What made you write this particular story for this award?
I’m not sure. I’ve lived in East Anglia most of my life and SNAP has been in my peripheral throughout my time at University, so it just sort of happened this way. I saw the brief and felt inspired, and with others’ encouragement, the story evolved.
What made you choose to write about Shotley?
I’m from a family of keen sailors and so Shotley is a place I’ve visited often due to that. It’s a really familiar place and has really great associations for me of time spent with loved ones. I wanted to write something that felt real and Shotley is a place I can conjure up in my head vividly.
Do you have any advice for those who are interested in writing an entry for the SNAP competition?
I’m going to give the advice they’ve probably heard a million times before – just do it! I put it off last year and this year I was encouraged by my tutor and my friends with the same advice. I really enjoyed sitting down and sharing a little bit of East Anglia close to my heart.
SNAP runner up 2020
‘The Dead of Night’ by Bradley Garnham, English undergraduate
How does it feel to be the runner-up of the SNAP award?
Surprising, to be honest!
What inspired you to write about World War One?
I remembered St. Clements used to be an asylum rather than a mental health hospital, which I then found out was changed just before the war. After that, it all just fell into place.
Do you have any advice for those who are interested in entering the SNAP competition?
Just do it, you really don’t know unless you try!
Interviews by Louisa Sadler, English undergraduate
SNAP Winner 2017
'The Froth' by Danielle Newman, Fine Art MA Postgraduate
How did you feel when you heard that your poem had won the Student New Angle Prize?
I never expected to win, I didn’t think I could. I’m studying for an MA in Fine Art here at UOS so I didn’t think I had a chance against the English students! It has been a great boost for my confidence and it means a lot that my writing has gained some recognition in its own right and not just as part of my art.
What inspired you to write 'The Froth' and were there any specific aspects of Suffolk which influenced you?
I was inspired to enter because I felt I had something to say which answered the brief. I only ever write something if I feel it or have some experience of it. I’ve been in Ipswich studying now for five years and have walked along the waterfront hundreds of times and at all different times of night and day. I’ve seen every kind of person along there, people of different ages and classes mingling together. I’ve seen lonely people, groups of teenagers, parties, the police! I’m from London which is such a vast place and it can often feel like living in a sea of strangers. The waterfront feels like the community heart of Ipswich, where people know the town, the roads and each other. I wanted to write a poem that captured the essence of community in Ipswich.
You’re studying Fine Art. Is your poetry inspired by your art, or vice versa, in any way?
My art has been described as dark and uncanny and is a mash up of many different media: painting, digital art, photography, film, poetry. I see my poetry as ‘spoken word’ and write it as artwork to be used in my art in a collaborative way – I believe art itself is a form of public speaking. I’m so pleased that this time my writing is the focus and I think the darkness of my art comes through in the poem, too. My art and poetry isn’t optimistic; I like to highlight dark things which most people don’t see or choose not to see.
Have you been writing poetry for long and have you entered any other poetry or literature competitions?
I had some poetry published in a book a couple of years ago and it’s still available. I want an outlet for my writing and feel I need people to see my work. Winning the SNAP prize has been brilliant for my confidence and self-esteem and I will definitely continue to pursue my writing.
Are there any poets or writers who particularly inspire you?
There’s no one particular writer or poet I feel influenced by. I’ve read loads of poetry over the years and feel as though I’ve learnt to write from reading. Ultimately I just do my own thing.
What advice would you give for other students who are aspiring writers?
I would say, just go for it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s really important to find a platform for your work and get it out there so that it reaches someone. This competition is a great platform and I’m excited about meeting people at the awards evening, although I’ll be nervous if I have to read the poem!
Read 'The Froth' by Danielle Newman
Interviewer: Caroline Roberts, English Undergraduate
SNAP Runner Up 2017
'The Casual Observer' by Tara Lucy, Arts Practice MA Postgraduate
What was the main focus and inspiration behind ‘The Casual Observer’?
It was inspired by a train journey I take to see my folks and to go to university. ‘The Casual Observer’ is the name of a notebook I have which records different things I’ve seen which I find interesting. Notes of events and moments which make me smile. It was one of the pages from this notebook.
Why did you specifically choose a train journey instead of any other mode of transport?
I regularly travel by train and I enjoy the experience. I cycle too and the train allows me to take my bike with me wherever I go. Once I’m on board I can kick back and read, it’s a nice time to relax.
The story itself focuses strongly on you and your outlook. How did you feel when thinking back on your train journey to write this?
It’s a familiar journey for me, it feels second nature so I can sit back and take it all in. I enjoy watching the world go by and from this you notice lots of things happening around you. This story was inspired by one of those moments. I have a whole collection of little moments like this written in ’The Casual Observer’ notebook which I will develop into a series of short comics at some point.
You are currently studying art; did that affect your writing in any way?
The main focus of my practice is creating comics and writing is part of the process. Text and image work in collaboration in the comics I create, both aiding the development of the narrative. Art has inspired my narratives, looking to different art movements for inspiration such as German Expressionism and Fluxus for approaches to drawing and writing. I am currently working on a longer narrative which is loosely biographical about the life of an ex-prisoner turned artist.
What would you say to other aspiring writers and artists?
Go for it. Find something you enjoy doing, develop your ideas and get them out there for people to see.
Read ‘The Casual Observer’ by Tara Lucy
Interviewer: Elliot Woods, English Undergraduate
SNAP Winner 2018
'Dunwich Woods' by Jayd Green, English Graduate
What is the inspiration for your poem?
My poem is about a walk I took through the woods in Dunwich with some friends, about eighteen months ago now. We set off quite early in the morning, and it was raining constantly throughout the day. We were walking for hours, and then we took shelter in a pub, what felt like the only pub in Dunwich, and then walked back through the woods in the dark. We were out there for so long, it felt like we got to see the whole scope of the day, it was eerie, very atmospheric.
Are there any poets whose work is particularly inspiring to you?
I really like twentieth-century poets, like e. e. cummings. His poems are full of such vivid images, yet he’s able to express them in just a few words. Langston Hughes too, he does a similar thing, even though their poems are completely different. I like poets who are economical with their words; they show that poetry doesn’t need to become wordy and complicated. It can just be simple.
Where else can we find your poetry?
I’ve been sending my poems to magazines for a couple of years now, and I have been published a few times online, in places such as Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. Sometimes they have my poems for such a long time before they do anything with them that I’ve forgotten all about it, and it’s a wonderful surprise when all of a sudden, they’re published!
You’re in your final year of your English course now. What’s next for you? Are you going to keep writing poetry?
I’m planning to do an MA next year at the University of East Anglia in Creative Writing and Poetry. I’m really excited about the course; the aim is that by the time you’re finished, you’ll have put together a body of poetry the length of a collection, which you can then do something with. I’m looking forward to concentrating on poetry now, and exploring the flaws in my writing which I haven’t yet been able to. I’m keen to introduce elements of folklore into my poetry; I take great inspiration from ‘Goblin Market’ by Christina Rossetti, and how she tells her fantastical story through poetry. I’d like to combine poetry with storytelling.
Some writers have a particular process that works for them when it comes to writing. How do you write?
It’s different every time, but the main thing for me is just sitting down and starting to write. I can never leave a poem unfinished - if you walk away and come back to it, the moment is lost. For that reason, I write all my poems in one sitting, so I can capture the feeling of that moment.
Finally, how does it make you feel to be the winner of the SNAP Prize 2018?
Amazing! I didn’t expect to win, of course. I don’t think anybody ever does. But when realised I had won, I had this moment of enlightenment when I thought, yes, this is a good poem and I’m proud of it. Then comes the embarrassment of wanting to tell people, but not knowing how to!
Read 'Dunwich Woods' by Jayd Green
Interviewer: Abygail Fossett, English Graduate
SNAP Runner Up 2018
'The Button Boy' by Matt Annis, English Undergraduate
What is the inspiration behind your story?
My story is based around the HMS Ganges and the training site in Shotley. It's about a character who sneaks on to a derelict site, a sailor who sneaks in and reminisces about the old naval history.
The character is based on and named after my grandad. He was never the type to tell stories, so I started learning about him after he passed away, by talking to my dad and researching. The story makes an illusion to the Battle of River Plate, which he was involved in.
How do you feel about being the runner-up?
The news that I was runner-up was actually really uplifting, it was a reminder to me that I have talent, and I can do things. I'm really chuffed! My dad was really proud – I read it to him beforehand, because some of the details in the poem are so personal to the family, but he loved it, and he’s thrilled that I’ve been made runner-up.
Do you have any plans to take your writing further?
I have always loved writing creatively – I have been writing and performing my own poetry for a few years now, and I think I always will. But now I want to concentrate more on writing short fiction, like flash fiction and short stories.
Are there any writers you take inspiration from?
I love contemporary spoken word poets, particularly Salena Godden and Dean Atta, who I actually once supported at the John Peel Centre. Both of their writings are very tender, and very real. I also like more traditional romantic poetry, the older, more flowery poems.
What advice can you give to an aspiring writer?
I remember when I won the SNAP prize in 2016, I said that it’s important to look up any new words and concepts that interest you. I think I’d like to add that it’s always important to jot down your ideas, don’t let them slip away. You need to hang on to your ideas. When I was writing my story, my notebooks were all full of sketches of ships’ masts!
Read 'The Button Boy' by Matt Annis
Interviewer: Abygail Fossett, English Graduate
SNAP Winner 2015
'Across the Water' by James Cullen, English Graduate
Entrants were asked to submit something that has an East Anglian connection: a theme, topic, influence or association. How does East Anglia feature in your writing?
I used to live in Sudbury, Suffolk, until I moved to Ipswich for university. A lot of what I wrote for my piece is influenced by my life. The events that took place are quite close to home in that regard. What interested me was the perspective of the father as opposed to my own perspective. It was fuelled by that. There were a couple of issues about not belonging that I wanted to explore as well. It's not necessarily that I don't feel like I belong, but there's an aspect of not-belonging surrounding those events that took place.
You write about people – a father and his son, the son's half-sister and her relationship with the community – but the only proper names you use are place names: Donegal in Ireland, Sudbury and the River Stour in Suffolk.
I'm not sure if that was a conscious decision or not but I think it might have been for the best. The names of the people didn't matter so much as the situation that they found themselves in, and what happened before to lead up to that situation, and what might happen afterwards. Which is why a lot of the background details are either implied or ambiguous.
In what ways has your time at Suffolk influenced your writing?
I would say the short story module I did in my second year was one of the pivotal things. I had written short stories before but more as an enthusiast. I didn't really understand the techniques or anything like that. Having been primarily interested in novels of the more fantastic persuasion, writing short general fiction was sort of a new thing for me.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
The best thing to do I think is to write as much as possible. Any writing, whether it's good or bad, ultimately serves as practice for the thing that comes next. You pick up various bits and bobs from actually doing it yourself.
Generally speaking the best writing comes from direct experience or at the very least experience that's been filtered through and reflected upon. If you're able to take an experience and then try and relive it through another person's eyes that can be a powerful thing.
Did you write 'Across the Water' based on that concept?
Yes, but events didn't exactly pan out the way they do in the story. That interested me, and that's the last thing I would say to other writers - write what you're interested in.
Read 'Across the Water' by James Cullen
Interviewer: Selena Timmins Chapman, English Graduate
SNAP Runner Up 2015
'Suffolk Bells' by Sean Antonioli, Graphic Design Graduate
What research did you undertake for the subject of your story?
The story is actually based on real life. About two or three years ago, I was watching some bell-ringers and a lady came up to me and asked, ‘Do you ring?’. I was invited up and, because bell-ringers are so enthusiastic about their skill, I was taught the complexities of the bell-ringing process.
You study Graphic Design - is writing a hobby of yours?
I studied English in the States, so writing is a part of my education, but then I moved to Venice where I kept diaries of everyday thoughts, memories and notations. I’d see something special and write it down in my diary, because I didn’t really have anyone out there to share it with. It felt quite natural to write ‘Suffolk Bells’ the way I’d written in Venice.
What made you submit an entry for SNAP?
One of my module leaders was handing out pamphlets for the competition, and I thought it would be a great way to share this story.
The last paragraph of your story almost sounds like a mini-advertisement; what made you shift from first person to a detached tone of voice?
The Suffolk bell ringing community is rich in history, and the Guild of Ringers relies on new recruits for the survival of their traditions. The average bell ringer is of retirement age and, although some will pass on their knowledge to their children, the Guild always looks for enthusiastic people who want to learn this amazing skill. I thought that this would be a worthy concluding thought.
Read 'Suffolk Bells' by Sean Antonioli
Interviewer: Jennifer Meredith, English Graduate
SNAP Winner 2016
'The Bridge' by Matt Annis, English Undergraduate
How did you set about writing 'The Bridge' and where did your inspiration come from?
The initial idea for the story came from a memory. When I was a teenager, a friend and I decided to cross the Orwell Bridge on foot in the middle of winter. I'm not sure exactly why we did it, all I can remember is that we walked over it and back again and that it was freezing cold. At first I thought this location might have been too obvious for my story, because the bridge is such an iconic landmark, but I felt I had a personal connection to it, having lived and worked nearby. When I started to research the bridge I thought it was odd that it was difficult to find information about the suicides that have taken place there. While it's definitely a main artery for life and business in the area, I think if you live locally it's hard to escape that darker association, and that became the main inspiration for the story.
Which writers inspire you the most?
Edgar Allan Poe is my biggest influence. I studied 'The Tell Tale Heart' and 'The Raven' when I was young, and I fell in love with his unique style. My early poetry certainly tried to imitate that deeply Gothic atmosphere, and I'm sure there's a touch of that inspiration in my writing still.
Now that you've won the Student New Angle Prize, will you get involved with other writing competitions?
I'm definitely going to enter some more competitions, poetry and short story competitions are what interest me the most. I've started looking at opportunities locally and online, and I'll dedicate some time to writing new material. I'm also hoping to set up a creative writing group in the near future.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
People often say, write a lot and read a lot, which is really good advice. But I'd also say be curious with it, so that if you come across a word or a concept you don't know, don't just pass over it - look it up, learn more about it and make it part of your toolkit. You never know when it might come in handy for your own work.
Read 'The Bridge' by Matt Annis
Interviewer: Luke Mayo, English Graduate
SNAP Runner Up 2016
'The Sailmaker' by Janet Attfield, English Undergraduate
You write about the Suffolk days suddenly becoming the war days. What inspired you to write about this?
It seemed like an interesting topic to look at. I didn't know much about Ipswich's involvement in the war, so I conducted some research and found out that boats that were here actually did go off to act as cargo ships during the war. After I discovered this I saw a shopping arcade with the name 'Sailmakers' on it, and I just thought combining the two would make a good story.
Would you say that your time at Suffolk has influenced your writing?
I would say that it has definitely influenced my writing. Before I came here, I hadn't written creatively since school. Then I took the Short Story module taught by Gill Lowe, which I found really fun and interesting. It rebooted my enthusiasm for creative writing. I also didn't know about the techniques of writing which I learned about on the module.
What made you submit an entry to SNAP?
As I hadn't written anything since school, I decided to give it a go after taking the Short Story module. I hadn't expected to do so well, I just thought I'd give it a shot!
This is a great achievement. What advice would you give to fellow writers?
I would tell aspiring writers to just write about things they are interested in and see how things go. You don't lose anything by trying and can always develop your skills. You may not expect to do well but you never know, it could turn out to be a good decision to have a try at writing for competitions like this one.
Read 'The Sailmaker' by Janet Attfield
Interviewer: Tim Smith, English Graduate