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The WOW factor

19 December 2005

Sarah Wray has won the children's novel competition launched by Waterstone's and the publisher Faber & Faber, seeing off 3,500 other writers to win the coveted prize of Faber publication and front-of-store display in Waterstone's when the book is published next September.

At first sight the mother of three is an unlikely winner, but not when you discover that she's been writing for years and has six unpublished novels in her bottom drawer. It may also be relevant that she has worked in a medical research laboratory, as a science teacher and as a childminder, and currently runs a mother and toddler group. She said: 'I'm so excited about winning, being a published author is a dream come true for me, the fulfilment of a life-time's ambition, but I really hope that this is the just the start of a long career as a writer.'

Her book, The Forbidden Room, also sounds a bit of an unlikely winner, but perhaps that's precisely why it beat off the opposition. The main character is a teenage girl who is left orphaned and disabled after a car crash, and lives in a care home until she is fostered. She soon realises that her foster family is hiding a secret and, when she discovers diaries written by a previous foster child, she is able to unlock the shocking truth.

The judges included successful authors G P Taylor and Anna Dale, and eleven-year-old Robin Geddes, the winner of Junior Mastermind 2005.

The WOW competition was set up to attract writers working for the popular 8-12 and teenage fiction markets. When it was announced, George Grey, head children's buyer at Waterstone's said: 'There's never been a better time to be a children's writer. The country's top three bestselling fiction authors are all children's writers and UK leads the world in children's fiction. THE WOW FACTOR is giving new writers a unique chance to get the financial and marketing support needed to become a successful children's author.'

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