Some of the region’s most talented and promising writers were rewarded this week at the 2015 Northern Writers’ Awards.
The awards were founded in 2000 by Newcastle-based New Writing North, the writing development agency.
Originally open exclusively to writers based in the North East, the awards were thrown open to the wider North a few years ago as part of New Writing North’s funding settlement with Arts Council England.
But the North East, long famous for its literary traditions and nurturing, was well represented at this year’s Northern Writers’ Awards which are supported by Northumbria University.
Poets and fiction writers from across the region were among the 27 – out of 866 applicants – who shared a £46,000 prize fund.
Newcastle poet Degna Stone received a Northern Promise Award in 2010 in acknowledgement of her talent and potential.
This year, that promise having been realised, she is one of the main poetry award winners. Degna edits an online anthology called Deseeded and is co-founder and managing editor of a poetry magazine, Butcher’s Dog. She has an MA in creative writing from Newcastle University.
Other poetry winners were Steve Ely (West Yorkshire), Caleb Klaces (York) and Eileen Pun (Grasmere, Cumbria).
Shelley Day Sclater, who lives on the Northumberland coast, has had success in several competitions and this time won an award for short story writing.
Another specialist in this genre, Catharine Mee, who writes as CS Mee, won the new Clare Swift Short Story Award for her story, Metaphrasis.
The award was given in memory of Clare, from Whitley Bay, a lover of fiction who died in 2013, aged 47, after a short illness.
Peter Wilby, a distinguished journalist and newspaper editor for whom Clare once worked as a PA, helped to judge the category and said of Catharine’s winner: “Her story lingered in my mind for days after I had read it.
“It is a wonderful meditation on childhood memory and nostalgia, on family tensions, on the creative process and the writer’s relationship to her characters.
“The author creates an atmosphere of mystery and faint menace and makes skilful use of metaphor. She hints at a complex reality beneath the surface.
“This is a bold and ambitious story and it is to the writer’s great credit that she pulls it off.”
Catharine grew up in Birkenhead and now lives in Durham. She writes short stories and is currently working on a novel.
The new Conor Robinson Award, created in memory of a talented Oxford University student from County Durham who died in 2013 after a fall, was set up to recognise a promising young writer. It went to 16-year-old Wyatt Sugden, from Bishop Auckland
Another young County Durham writer, 17-year-old Jowita Krasik, from Newton Aycliffe, won the Matthew Hale Award which was presentedby Jeanne and Spike Hale in memory of their son.
The Arvon Award was won by Sarah Wray, originally from Yorkshire but now living in Newcastle, who works as a technology writer and editor. She is currently working on a novel.
Kathleen Bainbridge Moran, from Newcastle, and Jasmine Simms, from Durham, were award winners in the category New North Poets along with Jared Carnie and James Giddings (Sheffield), David Borrott (Lancashire) and Tom Cleary (Hebden Bridge).
The Cuckoo Young Writers Award went to Zainab Abbass, from Sheffield, and the Andrea Badenoch Award, in memory of the Newcastle novelist who died of breast cancer, to Sally Jubb, from Scarborough.
New fiction bursaries went to Amy Lord (Middlesbrough), Martin Feekins (Northallerton), Karen Featherstone (Cumbria), Kay Ryder (New Brighton) and Steve Timms (Manchester).
Other awards were won by Charlotte Fairbairn (Cumbria), Mark Illis (West Yorkshire) and Okey Nzelu (Manchester).
Also new for this year were the Channel 4/Northumbria University Writing for Television Awards which provided bursaries for two writers, Sharma Walfall, from Manchester, and Nuzhat Ali, from Bradford, to undertake 10 months of mentoring with Red Production Company and Lime Pictures.
Daljit Nagra, who judged the poetry submissions, said the field had been strong.
“The best poets had a clear vision for their work which was matched by their formal dexterity,” he said. “I found myself being constantly thrilled, moved to tears and made to laugh aloud at the range of the exciting poetic stories.”
Literary agent Caroline Sheldon, one of the prose judges, said she had been impressed by the quality and vigour of the writing.
“Finding a commercial publisher is such a hard task today that awards such as these are critical in building up a writer’s CV ,” she said.
“It is also a great fillip to a writer to get encouragement in their work.”
Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North, said: “We will be working with the writers over the coming year to provide support and opportunities and we look forward to playing a role in their future successes.”
Lucy Winskell, Northumbria University’s pro-vice chancellor (business and engagement), said the awards demonstrated the university’s ongoing commitment to celebrating and nurturing creative talent in the region.