A TEACHER turned full time writer who calls Bridport home has scooped an award in the prestigious Bridport Prize competition.

Maria Donovan, from Bridport, came first in the flash fiction category with her story Aftermath, which was selected from nearly 1,400 entries by judge Kirsty Logan.

Kirsty said: "Aftermath leapt out immediately: it's a masterclass in flash fiction, cramming more character development and world-building into 250 words than some writers manage in a whole novel. It's a truly impressive piece of writing."

Maria grew up in Bridport before moving to the Netherlands, where she trained as a nurse. She travelled around Europe as a musician and performer, studied English at the University of Glamorgan and worked as a teacher, eventually becoming a senior lecturer in creative writing.

Upon her return to Bridport, Maria began writing full time. Her debut novel, The Chicken Soup Murder, was a finalist for the Dundee International Book Prize and runner up in the Writing Prize at this year's Dorchester Literary Festival.

As the county's highest placed writer in the Bridport Prize competition, Maria also wins the Dorset Award. This accolade is sponsored by The Bookshop in South Street, Bridport's independent bookseller.

The Bridport Prize is one of the most prestigious open writing competitions in the English language. Established in 1973, more than £18,000 is won in prize money each year and the competition attracts entries from across the world. 2019 saw submissions from more than 10,000 writers from 83 countries, who competed for one of the 34 winner and highly commended awards.

Categories include poetry, short stories and flash fiction, where entries must be 250 words or fewer. The Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award, named in honour of the Bridport Prize's founder, is awarded to the best debut novel.

The literary competition is the flagship project of Bridport Arts Centre and raises vital funds for their work each year. Past winners have included Kate Atkinson, Gail Honeyman, Kit de Waal and Helen Dunmore.

An anthology of this year's winning entries, including Maria's flash fiction story, is available from the arts centre box office and the Bridport Prize website.

The competition for 2020 will be launched on January 6, with entries accepted until May 31. It is open to anyone so long as the submitted work is previously unpublished, and entries can be made by post or online.