Poet and teacher Kate Clanchy today beat established names such as Orange Prize winners Lionel Shriver and Naomi Alderman to land the BBC's National Short Story Award.
Clanchy picked up the £15,000 prize with only her second attempt at short story-writing.
The award - now in its fifth year - is run by the reading charity Booktrust and Radio 4 with the winner announced on the station's Front Row tonight.
Clanchy, who has worked as a teacher and as Poet in Residence for the Red Cross, has published a number of volumes of her poetry. She also won acclaim for her most recent book Antigona And Me about her friendship with her cleaner, who fled Kosovo during the 1999 war.
The winning tale, entitled The Not-Dead And The Saved, examines parental love and sacrifice in a story set in a hospital ward. It was read by Penelope Wilton for a Radio 4 podcast.
More than 600 entries were submitted for the prize, which in previous years has included shortlisted works by Hanif Kureishi and Rose Tremain.
Singer Will Young, author Dame Margaret Drabble and Orange Prize winner Helen Dunmore were among the judges.
Chairman of the judges Tom Sutcliffe said: "Kate Clanchy's story was the unanimous choice of the judging panel - an account of a deeply painful experience that we felt had become richer on every re-reading.
"We were all impressed by its acute control of emotional tone and by the vividness and generosity of the writing."