Five authors have been shortlisted for the inaugural W&A Working-Class Writers’ Prize, with a PhD student, former psychiatric nurse and a teacher in the running for the award.
Writers and Artists (W&A), part of Bloomsbury, launched the prize in March calling for writers who consider themselves to be from a working class background and without current publishing contract or agent. 220 writers entered the prize.
The winner will receive editorial feedback on their writing from author Natasha Carthew as well as a complimentary place at one of W&A’s How To Get Published events held at Bloomsbury Publishing or one of the other locations W&A is hosting an event at in 2019.
Meron Berhanu has made the shortlist with Mystic Treats, which tells the story of 15-year old Sara, whose backstreet abortion sends chaos rippling through her family life in Addis Ababa. Berhanu, who has also been shortlisted for the Beyond Borders 2019 Short Story Competition is entering her third year of studies for English and Creative Writing at Royal Holloway. "The story is told from the perspective of Sara's loving, admiring younger brother who struggles to understand what’s happened to his sister," said W&A.
Plutoshine by Lucy Kissick is also in the running and follows the tale of Nou, a young girl mute from trauma, who finds alien life on her home world of Pluto. W&A said: "When terraformers arrive to build the planet’s sun, Nou finds the courage to share her discovery and most importantly, rediscover her voice." Born and raised in Southport, Kissick is currently a PhD student in Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford, where she researches the chemistry of ancient Martian lakes and how they once interacted with the planet’s atmosphere.
Kissick and Berhanu face competition from Robin Richards with his non-fiction, Footslogger. "Writing with heart about real-life events, the best of humanity is captured in this non-fiction retelling of the Billy Butlins footrace from John O'Groats to Land's End," said W&A. "A forgotten story of daring and good old fashioned British eccentricity." Born in industrial Sheffield, Richards is now retired but enjoyed a variety of different careers including a stint as an apprentice and psychiatric nurse. He's been writing since the 1990s and has self-published two books.
The Red Moon Trails by Nabin K Chhetri has also been shortlisted. W&A said: "Illuminating an unexplored chapter in history, The Red Moon Trails takes place in Nepal in the early 90s during the upheaval of civil war. When Roshan’s father is killed by the police, he begins to follow a dangerous path. An unflinching, honest look at the devastation of war."
Bruise by Caledonia Novel Award shortlistee Adrian Markle makes up the shortlist. Originally from Canada, Markle works as an editor and teacher in Cornwall. "Bruise follows Jamie, a former champion prize fighter, struggling to accept the reality of a career-ending injury as he returns to the birthplace he fled as a teenager," said W&A. "It’s a story of rebirth, of a man trying to build a new life in a familiar, unchangeable world."
The winner will be announced on Monday 5th August.
The prize comes after research by The Bookseller revealed almost 80% of people in the publishing industry who see themselves as working class feel that their background has adversely affected their career.