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How personal heartbreak set a teacher on her way to Cambridge literary glory

Lisa Dhesi, who teaches at The Hampshire School in Chelsea, used an insurance pay-out following a burglary to further her education

Teacher Lisa Dhesi with author Louis de Bernières after receiving her award(Image: Get West London)

A burglary which saw a teacher at a school in Chelsea lose jewellery of high sentimental value sparked a chain of events which has seen her claim a Cambridge University literary prize.

Lisa Dhesi, head of English at The Hampshire School in Manresa Road , scooped the inaugural Louis de Bernières Fiction Prize on December 13 with her 3,000 word short story , The Return.

The 35-year-old was presented with the award by Mr de Bernières, who compared her to “a young Bret Easton Ellis” during the ceremony, where she received £250 of book vouchers.

As a result of her success, she is now thinking about writing professionally, having being encouraged to do so by the university and by Mr de Bernières himself.

Ms Dhesi had been studying an MA in creative writing at Cambridge, after she received money from an insurance pay-out when her house was burgled, with thieves stealing irreplaceable items of jewellery.

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Having never previously entered a writing competition, Ms Dhesi only did so after being encouraged by her course tutor and, after being shortlisted for the award, was not going to attend until her partner purchased train tickets as a surprise.

Despite her success and approaches from agents, she has no intention of taking up writing full-time.

'Teaching still priority No 1'

She said: “I just love teaching so that is very much my priority at the moment.

“The award has just given me such a confidence boost.

"It never occurred to me to enter a competition, let alone look at writing professionally, but to have the support of Cambridge University and Louis de Bernières is really incredible.

“At the moment I’m just looking forward to spending my vouchers.

"I normally borrow books from the library so it will lovely to go and splash out on a few.”

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