Polly Philips
Polly Philips, winner of the Montegrappa Writing Prize 2019, with Luigi Binomi, Judge of prize and Charles Nahhas, distributor of Montegrappa in Middle East. Image Credit: Shafaat Shahbandari/Gulf News

Dubai: A Dubai-based British housewife won this year’s Montegrappa Writing Prize at the Emirates Airlines Literature Festival on Saturday for her gripping novel about friendship and betrayal.

Third time lucky, Polly Phillips’ success shows persistence eventually pays.

“This is my third year trying and I am just absolutely thrilled to have finally bagged the prize. I have entered this competition twice before with two different manuscripts but didn’t go anywhere with those, so I went back to the drawing board and kept trying, kept learning,” said Phillips, speaking to Gulf News after winning the prize.

Walking away with a Montegrappa Bespoke Pen that will have a sketch of the winner engraved on it, Phillips, like the six previous winners, could have a chance of landing a book deal.

A resident of Dubai for the last two years, the wannabe author from London hopes to finish her manuscript over the next few months, while working with the judge and literary agent of the Montegrappa Pirze, Luigi Binomi.

The winning book Keep Your Friends Close deals with the nature of competition between women, focusing on a friendship that is terribly destructive with a secret burning away at its core.

Linsey Eames
Linsey Eames Image Credit: Shafaat Shahbandari/Gulf News

“This is a story about two women and their apparent friendship. It is a dark tale of revenge and betrayal that will strike a nerve with lots of readers,” said Binomi, describing the winning book.

The annual competition received 128 entries this year, with the top five having a chance to discuss their prospects of landing a book deal with Binomi, who is a top literary agent form the UK.

Al Ain-based librarian Lynsey Eames is one of those who can harbour high hopes of getting published soon as her book Like Me, Love Me, Loathe Me is the first runner up this year.

“I am still quite shocked as I didn’t expect to be in top five. I am very happy as I have waited for this for a long time. I am participating in this competition for the second time,” said Eames, who has two-thirds of the draft ready.

Eames’ book deals with the life of a self-obsessed social media addict, whose life revolves around her Facebook and Instagram profiles.

“I have been writing all my life but mainly short stories, but this time I thought of writing a novel, drawing from the experiences of my life, mainly through social media. The story follows a girl called Zaidi, who lives her entire life on this app called ‘Like Me, Love Me, Loathe Me,’ where you post a picture and people can like it, love it or loathe it. It basically deals with the modern issue of how you live two totally different lives on social media and in reality,” said Eames, who like the winner of the prize, is also from London.

The prize announcement was preceded by a panel discussion with two previous winners, Annabel Kantaria and Karen Osman, who have become successful authors with multiple books under their belt.

Kantaria, winner of the first Montegrappa Prize in 2013, has published four books so far with the fifth in the pipeline, while Osman, winner of the 2016 prize has published two books, with the third in the making.

Drawing from their experience both authors urged aspiring writers not to lose heart and keep trying.

“One of the ways of improving your chances is promoting your work on social media. If you have a big following on social media platforms, it certainly helps in selling in your ideas to the publishers,” said Kantaria.


The Montegrappa Writing Prize has facilitated the publishing of 20 books by eight authors since its inception in 2013.

Open to all writers over the age of 21 of any nationality, the participants are required to be residents of the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

The participants have to submit the first 2,000 words of their manuscript and a synopsis of 400 words. The novel could be of any genre, but has to be written in English.