First winners of Owned Voices Novel Award crowned

First winners of Owned Voices Novel Award crowned

Kitty Edwards and Cathy Cole have been crowned winners of the inaugural Owned Voices Novel Award for writers from underrepresented backgrounds.

The prize was set up by creative writing workshop organisation Owned Voices and is open to writers who identify as LGBTQ+, ethnic minorities, and writers with disabilities. Both this year's winners of the prize are unpublished and unrepresented.

Edwards (pictured above) won with her novel titled The Blue Poppy about myopic botanist Dr Gill Pearce, who travels from London to Nepal in search of a rare blue flower that can heal the mind.

The author grew up in Manchester, the daughter of a botanist and a South African Indian immigrant who became a mental health social worker. Her work has previously been longlisted for the Bridport Prize.

She said: “It’s fantastic to know that the Owned Voices team has read my work and enjoyed it. Writing can be such an isolating process that recognition and support from an award like this is invaluable.”

Cole (pictured right) won with her novel The Hungry Ghost, a mystery about a class reunion on a remote island that stirs up secrets from the past and awakens a murderer determined to keep those secrets hidden.

The author, a novelist, prize-winning short story writer and Pushcart-nominated poet from Northern Ireland, said: “I am beyond delighted to find out I am one of the winners of the Owned Voices Novel Award 2021. To have my work validated this way means the world to me. Thank you so much to all involved.”

Radhika Sonagra, award judge and publishing executive at Hachette, said: “The quality of the submissions has been very impressive, making it a tough but fun competition to judge. When reading the submissions, the two key things I was looking for were a stand-out pitch and strong writing to support that. It’s been brilliant to see so many writers delivering both of these things. I have high hopes for the winners and cannot wait to see how Leodora [Darlington, founder of Owned Voices and commissioning editor at Canelo] and the Owned Voices team nurture them further.”

Both writers will attend the "Routes to Getting Published" Q&A panel on routes to getting published alongside other shortlisted authors. Sitting on the panel is Bell Lomax Moreton agent Katie Fulford, an agent at, Hera Books co-founder Keshini Naidoo, and RNA Agent of the Year Hattie Grünewald.

Both writers also receive a £250 cash prize, written editorial feedback on their manuscripts, a one-to-one virtual meeting with their designated publishing professional, and a follow-up call with a publishing professional following their first meeting.

Darlington added: “It has been brilliant reading such a wide variety of submissions. Not only have I been blown away by some of the superbly thought-out pitches, I have also been impressed to see so much raw talent in the writing, with many writers demonstrating a spellbinding and masterful command of their narrative voice. At Owned Voices, our commitment has always been to bringing underrepresented voices to mainstream audiences, and with the strength of concepts and writing here, I’m hopeful that the novel award will generate new success stories.”