The 26 winners of the Northern Writers’ Awards have been revealed, sharing a prize pot of £40,000, following the “most competitive” ever selection process.
Two new prizes were awarded at the ceremony in Newcastle on Tuesday evening (27th June). The £5,000 Northern Book Prize was scooped by Amy Arnold, from Windermere, whose novel Slip of a Fish will be published by the Sheffield-based independent publisher And Other Stories. The inaugural Word Factory Apprentice Award went to Pocklington author Sharon Telfer for her “outstanding” short story, ‘The Earth Sheltering’. The prize includes a £1,000 bursary; mentoring from the writer Jenn Ashworth and a year’s free access to all events and masterclasses run by writing organization Word Factory.
Judges included poet Imtiaz Dharker, literary agent Jonathan Ruppin and authors Kerry Hudson and Lisa Williamson who presided over the “most competitive ever” selection process, according to prize organisers, following more than 1,400 entries from writers across the region.
The Northern Writers’ Awards aim to recognise talent and support new work towards publication or broadcast, with awards for writers at different stages of their careers, including mentoring, developmental support and cash awards “to buy time to write”.
“Winning the award means that there are people out there who aren't afraid to look at different types of work and acknowledge that they have a place in literature,” Arnold said. “It buys me time and gives credence to the idea that hard work and taking risks pays off.”
Meanwhile Telfer described the Word Factory win as “such a boost to my writing confidence", adding "writing can be a solitary business."
Founded by New Writing North in 2000, the awards are the largest of their kind in the country, aiming to discover and support some of the most exciting writing talent in the North of England.
The Northern Writers’ Awards for Fiction and Narrative Non-Fiction went to Dima Alzayat from Manchester for her novel Daughters of Manat, York-based Kit Fan for Diamond Hill and Lucie Brownlee, from County Durham for The Song of Annie Chapman.
Elizabeth Barrett from Sheffield was one of the five winners of the Northern Writers’ Awards for Poetry, for her third collection Fall. Liverpool-based Eleanor Rees also took the prize for The Well at Winter Solstice along with Towards a General Theory of Love poet Clare Shaw from Hebden Bridge, Sheffield poet Helen Mort for Failsafe and Lindsey Holland from Ormskirk, for Hauntings.
Meanwhile the Northern Writers’ Awards for Children’s and Young Adult Fiction went to Sheffield-based Edward Baker for Nightflights, Emma Hill from Stockport for Baby Girl and Jennifer Lane, from Manchester, for The Second Hand Boy.
The winners of the TLC Free Reads Scheme were revealed as Rahila Hussain from Huddersfield for an untitled work, Newcastle writer Caroline Murphy for Totality, as well as Dan Robinson from Leeds for The Two Ys and Danny Marshall from Calderdale for Radio Silence.
The Northumbria University Student and Alumni Award went to Newcastle’s Laura Steven for Creatia while Lancashire resident Taiba Amla scooped the Channel 4/Northumbria University Writing for Television Awards for Television Drama, for her work P.O.E.T.S. The award’s counterpart for Serial Drama went to Luke Delaney from Salford, who wins an attachment to “Hollyoaks”.
Warrington writer Marian Smith won the Andrea Badenoch Fiction Award for Answers to Absolutely Every Question while the Arvon award went to Iain Rowan from Sunderland for Going Under.
Allison Birt from Newcastle took the Cuckoo Young Writers Award with high commendations going to Dite Bagdonaite from Sefton and Sheffield-based Georgie Woodhead while Bradford writer Scarlet Clayton completed the awards list by scooping the Matthew Hale Award.
Ruppin, who judged the fiction awards nine months after launching his own literary agency, praised the "stylishly powerful voices and strikingly original narratives" in the entries
“I set up my agency in part to help counteract the London focus of British publishing, so I was delighted to be asked to join the judging team," he said. "I hope we’re able to encourage writers from the North that there is a growing understanding that their stories are needed to ensure that the British literary scene continues to flourish and remain relevant.”
“It's very exciting to be giving awards to a new cohort of writers this year,” Claire Malcolm, c.e.o. of New Writing North, said. “We know from our research that winning an award can be a transformative moment for writers; often setting them off on a new career trajectory or boosting their confidence to take their work to a new level.”
She added: “The North is a hotbed of writing talent and I'm looking forward to seeing this year’s work that we are supporting come to fruition.”
Northumbria University’s Head of humanities, professor Julian Wright said: “The Northern Writers’ Awards celebrate the essential importance to our culture and society of creativity and the capacity to tell new stories in our confused modern world.”
The awards are produced by New Writing North with support from Northumbria University and Arts Council England. Partners And Other Stories, Arvon, Bonafide Films, Channel 4, Lime Pictures, The Literary Consultancy, Oneworld Publications, The Society of Authors and Word Factory.
Some of the Northern Writers’ Awards winners