Sarvat Hasin has won the inaugural Mo Siewcharran Prize for unpublished authors from BAME backgrounds, securing a deal with Dialogue Books.
The award, named in memory of Nielsen Book’s director of marketing and communications, was announced at Hachette UK’s Carmelite House offices on Monday evening (4th November).
Hasin, a former PR worker for Hachette Children’s Books who now works for the Almedia Theatre, also won £2,500 and will see her debut novel The Giant Dark published in 2021.
She said: “Thank you very much to Dialogue Books because I think this prize is incredible and I think it’s doing something that’s really important in the industry and more than a lot of the conversations that I think are happening at a lot of publishing houses that are maybe more box-ticking. I think what Dialogue is doing is literally putting their money where their mouth is and that’s really important.”
Congratulating the other shortlisted authors, she thanked those who had supported her. She said: “Writing a book, particularly before you have a publishing contract or any idea of how to write a book can be a devastatingly lonely thing and the best thing you can have is people who support you and who believe in you.”
Alien, Go Home by Temitope Owolabi was named second runner-up, winning £1,500, while Suparna Mansions by Vasundra Tailor finished third. The works were chosen from around 185 submissions, whittled down to an eight-strong shortlist who each got a bag of Dialogue books and a copy of On Writing by Stephen King (Hodder).
The winners were judged by a panel featuring Candice Carty-Williams, Guy Gunaratne, Curtis Brown agent Catherine Cho, Dialogue publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove and Viki Cheung, co-chair of THRIVE.
Lovegrove, who said she would be sharing the other shortlisted titles with others in the trade, said: “It’s amazing to do this on behalf of someone who has given so much to the industry and really believes in what we as people of colour, where we should be within this industry. To know that this prize is now putting books on shelves and in the hands of readers is the best feeling in the world.”
The award was supported by Nielsen with Siewcharran's husband John Seaton and run by Hachette’s Changing the Story initiative with the aim of nurturing new talent from under-represented backgrounds.
Siewcharran was a champion of diversity in publishing and, following her sudden death in June 2017, Seaton launched a fund to encourage young people from BAME backgrounds to pursue a career in the arts.
Thanking Hachette and Lovegrove for her “brainwave” in launching the prize, he said: “Mo wasn’t famous, she wasn’t eminent, but she was something much more important than that. She was a wonderful, beautiful human being. Mo personified those qualities that so often these days seem in short supply – gentle, thoughtful, kind, tolerant, a believer in fairness and diversity. She absolutely would have loved this award."