A creative writing student who was encouraged to have her work published by her late husband who was killed in Afghanistan has had her dream come true.

Sue Stout, who is studying for her Masters at Edge Hill University, has won the GQ Norman Mailer Award 2011, which means she will have her work printed in the British GQ magazine as part of the prize.

The 40-year-old from Allerton lost her husband on military duties in 2008 but one of his dying wishes was to make sure she followed her ambitions and have her work published.

“When Paul was alive we’d always laugh about our dreams and goals so when he died it was almost like he knew it was going to happen and he had prepared for it by making provisions so that I could actually do what I’d always said I wanted to do, which is write. He left a letter telling me to achieve my goals, make sure I get my work published and also to train because it would help me stay focused and keep positive.”

Based on his words, she enrolled on the MA Creative Writing programme at Edge Hill and then went on to enter the GQ Norman Mailer Award with a memoir.

The work she entered, Sticking to the Letter, details her battle to get fit in a funny and touching way and also draws on her experiences as a writer.

The mother-of-two explained: “Everything I talk about in this memoir stems from the letter, hence the title. I didn’t want it to be a sad story though, which is why I focused it mainly on trying to look after myself and my experiences at starting out in triathlons, which was so funny at times.

“When I entered into the competition, I didn’t think I’d win at all, so when I got the call I couldn’t believe it. The editor said that they thought it was a really controlled, topical piece of work that was well put together and kept a heavy topic quite light. For me, to finally have work published is like a dream come true and is what Paul wanted for me.”

Winning the award means that Sue will also get to spend a month at the Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony, a residential educational centre based at the legendary author’s former home in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

The giant of American literature, novelist, journalist, film director and two-time Pulitzer prize-winner passed away at the age of 84 in 2007 and the colony was set up in his memory to nurture the development of future writers by using his contributions to literary culture as a guiding force.

Sue said: “This will be such a fantastic opportunity for me to share experiences with other writers and it will hopefully allow me to write my manuscript and develop my skills in non-fiction writing. I’ll really miss my children but they want me to go. For me, although I’m a teacher and love my job, my ultimate dream is to make a living out of writing and if I can do this I’m sure Paul would be proud of me.”

Senior Lecturer Daniele Pantano. Programme Leader for the BA Creative Writing course, said: “Winning the GQ Norman Mailer award is a major accomplishment, especially for an unpublished author, and Sue’s success proves yet again that we have many exceptionally talented writers studying creative writing here at Edge Hill University. We are all extremely proud of Sue’s achievement.”