Two local talents are among the winners of the Northern Writers’ Awards which this year have extended their reach and upped the prize pot to £40,000.
Whitley Bay author Carolyn Jess-Cooke and poet Toby Martinez de las Rivas from Gateshead were among 22 winners announced at an awards ceremony in Newcastle last night.
Previously open to North East writers only, the awards – run by city centre-based writing agency New Writing North – widened their scope beyond the region for the first time this year, a decision which saw submissions increase three-fold.
While £40,000 was up for grabs – an increase from £25,000 – at a time most arts funding is being reined in, the announcement reveals that the vast majority of it is going outside the region, with 12 of the winners sharing the cash and the others given bursaries.
Carolyn and Toby are both previous award-winners: Carolyn, whose latest novel is The Boy Who Could See Demons, won a New Writers’ Award in 2008 and Toby won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award and had his first poetry collection published in pamphlet form in 2009.
This time Carolyn – awarded £500 to attend a poetry development course to help her finish her second collection, Boom! – is one of five fiction winners. The others are Carys Davies from Lancaster; Jordana Hill of Manchester; Jude Brown from Sheffield, and Sophie Coulombeau from York.
Toby, whose work is published by Faber & Faber, is the first ever winner of its International Residency Prize. Besides £5,000 in cash, this includes a two-week October residency at New Writing North’s partner organisation in Newcastle, New South Wales.
Six poetry awards are made: three of them to writers from Sheffield (Geraldine Monk, Suzannah Evans and Beverley Ward); the others to Ian Duhig from Leeds; Benjamin Myers from Hebden Bridget; and Zaffar Kunial from Shipley. There are a further 10 bursary prizes for works-in-progress.
The winners from the wider north will also benefit from the support that accompanies the financial investment.
Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North, said: “This year we are bucking the trend of the economic climate and have grown the awards both in size and scale to ensure that the profile of writers from the North continues to grow.
“With five of the 22 winning writers from Sheffield alone, an area which previously wasn’t eligible for the Northern Writers’ Awards, this year has demonstrated that there’s a clear role for New Writing North in helping to support and shape development for writers across a wider landscape.”
Launched in 2000, the awards aim to support both new and established talented writers in any genre to develop their work. With the help of the prize money, mentoring, networking opportunities and feedback, three-quarters of recipients have gone on to have work published.
Previous winners include poet Ian McMillan who was one of this year’s judges. He said he had viewed his award, which came early in his career, as an acknowledgement that he was doing something right and is proud to celebrate and help writers “producing marvellous work in difficult times”.
Another judge, novelist Sarah Hall who helped pick the fiction winners, said: “It’s going to be fascinating to see projects already underway come to fruition and to see what future work will be produced.
“They really are great ambassadors for creativity in the North and should be celebrated and supported as much as possible.” Claire added: “Our region continues to be an exceptional place for new writers to learn their craft and the North has many stories to tell about itself, but talented writers need to be connected to opportunities as well as resources.
“The core of the publishing industry remains focused in and on London. The Northern Writers’ Awards offer a unique package of cash, support and introductions that has seen many writers go on to achieve book deals and to progress their work.”
The 2013 awards mark the second year of support from Northumbria University, which has given a total of £60,000. With Northumberland-based Potts Print also sponsors, this secures the future of the awards.
Entry for 2014 opens in October. For more information visit www.northernwritersawards.com