Hachette UK has launched the inaugural Mo Siewcharran Prize to help discover unpublished fiction writers from BAME backgrounds.
The initiative, named in memory of Nielsen Book’s former director of marketing and communications (pictured), aims to nurture talent from under-represented backgrounds writing in English and give them the chance to be published by Little, Brown imprint Dialogue Books.
Siewcharran, who worked at Nielsen Book for over 16 years and before that for Hamlyn, Penguin and Haynes, died suddenly in June 2017. Nielsen is supporting the new prize along with Siewcharran's husband John Seaton, who launched a fund to encourage young people from BAME backgrounds pursue a career in the arts.
Submissions for the prize, run by Hachette UK’s Changing the Story diversity and inclusivity initiative, open today (30th April) on what would have been Siewcharran’s birthday. Judges are looking for compelling, unique, relatable novels that say something about the world we live in and the breadth of human experiences from previously unpublished, UK resident writers aged 18 and over.
Sharmaine Lovegrove, Dialogue publisher and co-chair of Changing the Story, said: “It’s been such an honour to create an award in the memory of Mo Siewcharran. Mo was a brilliant advocate for inclusion in publishing and she truly believed in the power of books. I very much look forward to reading the entries and finding brilliant new voices from BAME backgrounds to publish in her legacy.”
Seaton added: “This is a brilliant idea. I can say that without embarrassment as it is not mine. I have Hachette, and especially Sharmaine to thank for that. It is a wonderful initiative in bringing to the fore writers from under-represented backgrounds. I am thrilled, much more to the point I know Mo herself would have been. That it is being announced on what would have been Mo's birthday gives it an added poignancy.”
Entrants must send a 700-word synopsis of the plot of the novel, a list of the book’s characters and no more than 8,000 words - either the first three chapters or first fifty pages - by 12th July to the competition website.
The winner will receive £2,500 prize money plus the chance of a publishing deal, subject to contract, while second placed writers will get £1,500 alongside a book hamper. Third place gets £750 plus a hamper of books.
Lovegrove, co-chair of Hachette UK’s BAME employee Network, will judge the first round. The shortlist, winner and runner-up will be judged by authors Candice Carty-Williams and Guy Gunaratne alongside Curtis Brown agent Catherine Cho, Lovegrove and Viki Cheung, co-chair of THRIVE.
Gunaratne said: “I'm delighted to join the fellow judges on this inaugural panel. It was initiatives like the Mo Siewcharran Award that led to my early writing being read by agents and editors. Be brave. I'd encourage you all to apply.”
Stephanie Enderby, senior marketing manager at Nielsen Book said: "Nielsen Book is delighted to be supporting the Mo Siewcharran Prize. Mo was a much loved and integral member of Nielsen for over 16 years. Her enthusiasm for reading and the book industry was infectious and well recognised both internally and amongst our clients. We are thrilled to be involved in this fitting tribute to her memory.”