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Writing about harrowing honour killings in the Middle-East has scooped Edge Hill University student Saffron Palmer a prestigious literary award.

The 20-year-old from Norfolk has been named the first ever Jo Powell BA Prize winner, a new category introduced in this year’s Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2013.

It was set up to commemorate and celebrate the life of crime writer Jo Powell, a well-loved and highly regarded lecturer who was a creative writing tutor at Edge Hill when she died of a brain haemorrhage in May 2011.

“I was completely shocked when I was told I had won – I couldn’t speak,” said Saffron, a 2nd Year BA (Hons) student in Creative Writing and English Literature at Edge Hill. “It’s an amazing feeling to know that my writing is liked by people. It was also a very humbling experience to know that I had been given the award in memory of someone who was so highly-respected. Meeting her family on the night of the awards in London was a massive honour. Also having the opportunity to meet literary experts was very exciting for me and I got lots of tips and advice on how to progress my writing career.”

Her winning piece, Laila, focuses on honour killings, a subject that Saffron feels very strongly about.

“I was inspired to write about the topic after reading a book about it. We see stories in the media and it’s so extreme, so cruel, but it happens and I think it’s something that needs to be addressed more widely.

Laila is just a mild example of what actually goes on and it happens in England too. It’s so scary to know that a member of a family or social group can be murdered due to the belief that the victim has brought dishonour or shame upon the family or community. It needs to be stopped.”

Saffron had not thought about writing short stories until she started studying at Edge Hill University. “It’s the perfect style for me though because I’m far too impatient and lack the attention span to actually write a novel.”

She added: “I have always got my nose in a book and since coming to Edge Hill I’ve loved being able to explore different genres and trying out new ideas. I’d recommend the University to anybody because the course is one of the best in the country and the level of support from tutors is amazing, it’s a great place to study and I’m loving my time here.”