Saturday, October 27, 2012

Awards and rewards

Northern Writers' Awards, Monday 22nd October, 1pm, Waterstones Deansgate, Events Room

Words by Sarah-Clare Conlon. Photograph by Jon Atkin.

To celebrate the fact that, after 12 years, the Northern Writers' Awards are extending their reach to include areas outside the North East, New Writing North is officially launching the 2013 competition at this event as part of Manchester Literature Festival.

New Writing North chief executive Claire Malcolm introduces the awards, of which there are a number (for example, the Andrea Badenoch Award, for women writers over the age of 42, the Waterhouse Award for Poetry, and various new fiction bursaries). As well as financial support, winners receive exposure to mentoring opportunities, editorial expertise, professional development, exchange programmes and events with the chance to meet agents and publishers.

So far, over 100 writers have benefited from the scheme and previous winners Mari Hannah (2010) and Dan Smith (2005) join Claire to read from their work and discuss how the support they have received has steered their writing careers. Mari reads from The Murder Wall, one of a three-book deal Pan MacMillan signed her up for. The crime series features the character Detective Inspector Kate Daniels and is based in the North East, this one in the area around Hadrian’s Wall. Dan gives us an extract of his third novel through Orion, The Child Thief, about a kidnap in 1930s Ukraine; features of his thrillers being foreign locations and historical settings.

So, how has being a winner of the Northern Writers Awards helped the two writers here today get to this stage? Mari puts it down to the confidence she felt by winning: “Somebody else is saying: ‘We think your writing’s strong’.” Dan nods wholeheartedly. “It’s the encouragement you feel,” he agrees.

This year’s awards pot has increased from £25k to £40k, and submissions (which are all online) will be accepted between 1 December 2012 and 31 January 2013. The judges are different each year, and this time round reflect the awards’ extended area: Cumbria’s Sarah Hall (fiction) and Yorkshire’s Ian McMillan (poetry). We’ll give Mari the last word; if you need any more encouragement to apply, this is it: “Get your submissions in - honestly, it can change your life. It did mine!”

Sarah-Clare Conlon is a freelance writer, editor and press officer. Her award-winning blog, Words & Fixtures, is about language, literature, arts and culture.