First Chapter

Read our 2020 Grazia First Chapter winning story

Photo of person writing for the Grazia First Chapter competition article


The Women’s Prize x Grazia First Chapter competition ran for 12 years and has now been discontinued, with 2022 being the last year the competition was run. We keep an archive of past winners and runners-up to inspire future writers to tell their stories. Scroll on to read the 2020 entry that stunned the judges and participating author Diana Evans. Feeling inspired? You can enter our Discoveries programme for emerging writers. Learn more here.


2020 marked our tenth First Chapter competition in partnership with Grazia magazine. We are always blown away by the entries for the competition, and 2020 was no exception. Almost 500 people entered – and while coronavirus restrictions delayed the usual celebrations, our Grazia First Chapter winner, Abigail Moss, was announced on October 19 in a virtual ceremony.

The judges were deputy editor Rosamund Dean, features and special projects editor Rhiannon Evans and award-winning author Diana Evans, who wrote the opening paragraph for the competition.

Diana will now mentor Abigail, who said, ‘My biggest ambition is to make a career out of writing fiction. I’m so excited to have such a talented and inspiring writer as Diana Evans as a mentor.’

Read Abigail’s story in full here, plus scroll on to read those of our runners up Sun Hee Park and Laura Payne.


How Diana got the story started…

If you steal something from another time, they will never find you. That’s what he’d promised. You disappear. You never were or are not yet. You’re transient, like speed, or like the wind. So easily she had stepped into those magical machines with their white coils and sharp rims, believing in the next world, the next moon and the next theft. But one day she was caught, and everything she discovered thereafter destroyed everything she knew about time. It does not move or tick. It is one place, one moment. It is we who are moving. None of this is real.


Our winner, Abigail Moss, continues the story…

Move towards the edge slowly. Shuffle your feet in the dust. Stretch your arms like a tightrope walker. The desert is so flat you won’t see the canyon until you’re right on top of it. You know this. Flatness, flatness, flatness, flatness and then BAM! The ground isn’t there, your toes are inches from the void. The earth tumbles downward away from itself, like all that nothingness couldn’t sustain and fell inwards, collapsing like a dying star. Layers of red earth, millennia of mineral formations. It feels like staring across a vast lake. Throw a rock and watch as it sails in a slow arc over the side and down, plunging from view. Push a little tide of gravel over the precipice with your foot. Listen to it clattering down the craggy edge. Think of fairground coin pushers. Think of avalanches. Think of all the words you can for red.

It always starts this way, the tentative shuffle towards the edge. You stand and stare. Lateritious, brick red. Ferruginous, the colour of rust. Dare yourself to stare a little longer. Kermes, a red dye derived from beetles. Just a little longer. Haematic. You lean forward while pushing your weight back, see the spiny edges of a hardy desert shrub clinging to a rocky outcrop beneath you. Step away when the primal pull becomes too strong. When your fingertips get that vertigo tingle. When you start to think, imagine if I jumped. You never jump. Don’t want to jump. That’s not what this is.

Pull the brim of your hat low to shade your face. Roll up your sleeves. Drink some water. Lift your binoculars and stare across the canyon. There’s a figure on the other side. Wonder how the hell she got there. Squint and frown. She looks like she’s waving. She waves more dramatically, she jumps up and down. She has your hat, your slacks, her sleeves are rolled. She has your tattoo. Her hair is also curly, and it lifts in the breeze like yours. Your face is flushed and sweaty. She is unaffected by the heat. Rub your eyes because this can’t be real. She has your binoculars, but she doesn’t need them. She sees you clearly. She smiles and waves and waves and waves and waves and waves.

And in a moment, you know you will blink, and she will be gone. The dream always begins and ends the same way. You wake up sweating and remember that you got away. The learning of this is new every time, always the moment of forgetfulness, followed by the swell of relief so huge it burns your eyes.

Always another unfamiliar room. A hotel mattress that is too hard, too soft, or lumpy. A friend’s sofa, a friend’s guest bedroom. Sometimes you wake to the sonorous rumble of a moving train or a coach and that’s when you feel the safest, hurtling forward, increasing the distance.

His voice, his lies, come to you through the darkness sometimes. An imagined sound, of course, but for a moment, enough to make you sit up in bed, fumble for a lamp, stare around you with your heart pounding. This isn’t real. You repeat your mantra. This isn’t real. You left, you escaped. They can’t follow you here.

You started running but now it’s time to do more than just run. Even though the enormity of it is like standing at a precipice on tiptoe, daring yourself to look down.


Four more women have come forward to make official complaints to the London Metropolitan Police about Avery Wilson, founder of the communal living facility known as The Collective.

According to the women, who cannot be named for legal reasons, Wilson held them against their will within the compound, a former rope factory located in Limehouse, east London, for many months. Echoing previous statements, the women claim they were coerced into sexual activity with Wilson and other male members of the group. They also claim they were unwittingly given psychoactive drugs on a regular basis.

In a letter sent to this newspaper, one of the group’s co-founders Greta Belrose, denounced the women’s claims. ‘These sad young women are confused.’ Belrose wrote. ‘They came to us looking for friendship and family and that is what they found. Any claims of mistreatment, sexual or otherwise, are nothing more than delusion and lies.’ Miss Belrose declined further comment.

Other members of the group have spoken out in support of The Collective. Twenty-year old John Barnes described the commune as ‘a utopia, a beautiful place’. However, experts have expressed concerns over the group.

Dr Mari Chamborne, Professor of Sociology at UCL, said: ‘The Collective displays several characteristics of a destructive cult.

I commend the bravery of the women who have so far come forward, but remain gravely concerned for any other women, many of them young and vulnerable, who have been indoctrinated into this extremely dangerous group. I would like to appeal to them to reach out to friends and family and seek intervention immediately.’

Avery Wilson is thought to be travelling in North America, where he has family, accompanied by his wife Faith Avery and their adopted son, five-year-old Jet Avery. Mr Wilson has maintained silence regarding the claims against him. The case is ongoing.


Read the wonderful stories of our runners up Sun Hee Park and Laura Payne over at Grazia >

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