UK’s biggest prize for unpublished writing was established by Professor Carol Ann Duffy
An outstanding international shortlist of new writing by emerging authors and poets has been announced for this year’s Manchester Writing Competition – the UK’s biggest prize for unpublished work.
Devised by Professor Carol Ann Duffy DBE at the start of her poet laureateship in 2008, the competition has since awarded £175,000 in prize money and helped to accelerate a number of literary careers.
Organised by the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, where Carol Ann is Creative Director, the competition is comprised of the Manchester Poetry Prize and Manchester Fiction Prize, with each winner receiving a £10,000 award.
This year’s shortlist features published and award-winning writers based in the UK, Netherlands, USA and Singapore – underlining Manchester’s status as an international destination for creative writing. Manchester was named a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017.
The two six-strong shortlists include, among others, the former Young People’s Laureate for London, a previous Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust and a journalist from The Guardian newspaper.
The full list of Manchester Poetry Prize finalists is Katie Hale, Momtaza Mehri, Lauren Pope, Karisma Price, David Allen Sullivan and Marvin Thompson.
The Manchester Fiction Prize shortlist comprises Elaine Chiew, Lauren Collett, Tim Etchells, Louise Finnigan, Molly Menickelly and Ian Sample.
From biting satire to experimental fiction, with stories of intense human emotion and powerful evocations of the natural world, there’s something for everyone.
Previous shortlisted writers include Alison Moore, who went on to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and the award-winning poet Helen Mort who used her 2008 Poetry Prize money to buy a car and travel to poetry events around the country. Last year’s prizes were given to New York-based Gabriel Monteros for his story Kolkata, while British poet Molly Underwood took home the Poetry Prize for her three poems Genesis, Corinthians/ John and Song of Songs.
Entrants submit a portfolio of three to five unpublished poems, or a short story of up to 2,500 words for consideration by the judging panel. An additional 38 writers were commended for the quality of their submission this year.
Chair of judges for the Manchester Fiction Prize, novelist, short story writer and editor of Best British Short Stories, Nicholas Royle, who is also Reader in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “Although it was not our intention to do so, we seem to have selected an unusually varied shortlist this year. From biting satire to experimental fiction, with stories of intense human emotion and powerful evocations of the natural world, there’s something for everyone. Stories are entered from all over the world and the short-listed half-dozen represent writing communities in the United States, Singapore, the Netherlands and Britain.”
The Fiction Prize judging panel is completed by Lara Williams, Tutor at Manchester Metropolitan and author of the acclaimed 2019 novel Supper Club, 2017 Fiction Prize winner Sakinah Hofler and Jonathan Gibbs.
Malika Booker, poet and artist, as well as Lecturer at Manchester Writing School is Chair of the Poetry Prize panel. She said: “When judging I look for poems that haunt me, that stand out, that encourage me to return to them continuously, work that experiments, or submerges me in good narrative, and most importantly work that leaves me changed in some way. The poems that we fought and argued for, challenged our poetics, to see the world through fresh eyes yet most importantly seem to be tackling the complicated times and politics of this modern era. We are pleased to have shorted some of the most exciting poets writing today.”
The Manchester Writing Competition serves our Writing School’s mission to enable new writing locally and internationally at every level from the primary school classroom to professional publication.
W. N. Herbert and Karen McCarthy Woolf complete the panel for the Poetry Prize.
Dr Jess Edwards, Head of English at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: "The Manchester Writing Competition serves our Writing School’s mission to enable new writing locally and internationally at every level from the primary school classroom to professional publication. For me the distinctive excitement of this anonymously judged competition, when the shortlist is revealed, is the mixture of unseen new work by established writers, and work from unpublished writers for whom success like this can be transformational."
When judging I look for poems that haunt me, that stand out, that encourage me to return to them continuously, work that experiments, or submerges me in good narrative, and most importantly work that leaves me changed in some way.
The winners of this year’s Poetry and Fiction Prizes will be revealed at a gala ceremony on Friday February 7 in the atmospheric Baronial Hall at Chetham’s Library in the heart of Manchester. The event will feature readings from each of this year’s finalists before the announcement of the winners.
Elaine Chiew is a Singapore-based writer and visual arts researcher. She is the author of The Heartsick Diaspora (Myriad Editions 2020), and compiler and editor of Cooked Up: Food Fiction From Around the World (New Internationalist, 2015). Twice winner of the Bridport Short Story Competition, she has published numerous stories in anthologies in the UK, US and Singapore. Originally from Malaysia, Chiew graduated from Stanford Law School and worked as a corporate securities lawyer in New York and Hong Kong. She also received an MA in Asian Art History from Goldsmiths, University of London, in 2017.
Lauren grew up in Devon on a diet of Jaffa Cakes, books and Coronation Street, and moved to London to study for an MA in Gender and Film. She rekindled her love of writing in 2016 with a blog of personal essays tracking her relocation to The Netherlands. In 2019, she won the Reflex Press Flash Fiction Summer Competition and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives with her family in Amsterdam, where she is studying Dutch, writing stories and lamenting the scarcity of Jaffa Cakes in The Netherlands.
Tim Etchells is an artist and writer based in the UK whose work shifts between performance, visual art and fiction. He has worked in a wide variety of contexts, notably as the leader of the world-renowned Sheffield-based performance group Forced Entertainment. Exhibiting and presenting work in significant institutions all over the world, he is currently Professor of Performance at Lancaster University. His monograph on contemporary performance and Forced Entertainment, Certain Fragments (Routledge 1999), is widely acclaimed and his collection of short fiction Endland was published by And Other Stories in 2019.
Louise Finnigan lives and writes in Manchester. She has been shortlisted for the Cambridge Short Story prize and was highly commended in Gaynor Jones’ competition A Story for Daniel. Her first novel, What is Left, is being edited with the help and support of the Orton Writers’ Circle. She teaches English literature at an inner city sixth-form college. At the weekends, she loves to drag her two young daughters out for long walks and listen to their thoughts about the world. Her stories are championed, and tirelessly proof-read, by her husband Liam.
Molly Menickelly grew up in northern Virginia, near Washington D.C. She has always been keenly interested in the natural sciences and intended to become a bovine veterinarian; instead, she earned a BA in English Literature from the College of William & Mary. She also holds an MA in Education from William & Mary and currently teaches Advanced Placement English at a high school in her hometown.
Ian Sample was born in Oxfordshire and trained as a scientist. He studied at the University of Manchester and holds a PhD in biomedical engineering from Queen Mary, University of London. He was a reporter and environment news editor at New Scientist magazine before joining the Guardian where he is now science editor. His nonfiction book, Massive, was shortlisted for the Royal Society’s Science Book Prize. He lives in London, which is unfortunate given his love of surfing, snowboarding, mountains and mountain biking.
Born in Cumbria, Katie is the author of a novel, My Name is Monster (Canongate, 2019), and two poetry pamphlets: Breaking the Surface (Flipped Eye, 2017) and Assembly Instructions (Southword Editions, 2019), which won the Munster Fool for Poetry Chapbook Competition. In 2019, she was awarded a MacDowell Fellowship, and was Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust and at Passa Porta in Brussels. Her poetry has been published in Poetry Review, The North and Magma, among others. She regularly runs writing workshops in schools, and is currently working on a full-length poetry collection, exploring her family’s female heritage.
Momtaza Mehri is a poet, essayist and meme archivist. She is the co-winner of the 2018 Brunel International African Poetry Prize and the 2017 Outspoken Page Poetry Prize. Her work has been widely anthologised and has appeared in Granta, Artforum, Poetry International, BBC Radio 4, Vogue and Real Life Mag. She is the former Young People’s Laureate for London and a columnist-in-residence at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's Open Space. Her latest pamphlet, Doing the Most with the Least, was published by Goldsmiths Press in November 2019.
Lauren runs the Scottish Universities’ International Summer School at the University of Edinburgh, where she is also pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing with an emphasis on semiotics and the anorexic aesthetic in the early poetry of Medbh McGuckian and Louise Glück. Her poetry has appeared in various journals and online publications including Gutter, Magma, The North and The Rialto. She was one of Eyewear Publishing’s Best New British and Irish Poets 2017. Her poetry pamphlet, Announce This, was published by Templar Poetry, and shortlisted for the 2018 Callum Macdonald Memorial Awards.
Born and raised in New Orleans, LA, Karisma Price holds a BA in creative writing from Columbia University and an MFA in poetry from New York University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, Four Way Review, Wildness, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem and New York University and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Poetry at Tulane University in New Orleans.
David Allen Sullivan
David Allen Sullivan’s books include: Strong-Armed Angels, Every Seed of the Pomegranate, a book of co-translation with Abbas Kadhim from the Arabic of Iraqi Adnan Al-Sayegh, published in England as Bombs Have Not Breakfasted Yet, and Black Ice. He won the Mary Ballard Chapbook poetry prize for Take Wing, and his book of poems about the year he spent as a Fulbright lecturer in China, Seed Shell Ash, is forthcoming from Salmon Press, Ireland. He teaches at Cabrillo College, where he edits the Porter Gulch Review with his students, and lives in Santa Cruz with his family. He is searching for a publisher for an anthology of poetry about the paintings of Bosch and Bruegel he edited with his art historian mother who died recently.
Marvin Thompson was born in Tottenham, north London to Jamaican parents. He now teaches English in mountainous south Wales. His debut collection, Road Trip (Peepal Tree Press, March 2020), is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. In 2019, he was one of only eight writers to be awarded a grant by Literature Wales as part of the Platforming Under-Represented Writers Funding Scheme. His war poem, ‘The Many Reincarnations of Gerald, Oswald Archibald Thompson’ was submitted by Long Poem Magazine for the 2019 Forward Prize for Best Poem. As well as having an MA in creative writing, Thompson was selected by Nine Arches Press for the Primers 2 mentoring scheme. Reviewers of the anthology described his work as ‘exciting,’ ‘dramatic’ and ‘a virtuoso performance’.