Why is the Manchester Writing Competition so important to you?
“The Manchester Writing Competition offers the biggest prize in the UK, and possibly the world, for new, unpublished writing. And it’s open to all writers age 16 or over – both new and established. A key aim of the Competition is to encourage new writing and showcase talent – it is so important that people are encouraged to express themselves creatively. The competition allows us to provide a platform from which we can share, draw attention to and celebrate, exciting, new work, and, in many cases, new voices.”
Part of Carol Ann Duffy’s original vision for the Manchester Writing Competition was to establish Manchester as the focal point for a major literary award; many major UK writing awards are London-based and closed to new writing and new writers. Carol Ann felt that Manchester’s vibrant cultural and literary scene provided the perfect backdrop to a global celebration of excellence in writing that sees Manchester looking out across the world and inviting writers to join this thriving creative community.
“As National Poet for Wales Gillian Clarke said when judging the first Poetry Prize, ‘It’s a delight to give money to poets’ – and to prose writers, too, of course. It gives them a massive confidence boost and, in many instances, buys them time out from other commitments – gives them the freedom to concentrate on their writing.”
Why has the Manchester Writing Competition changed this year with both Fiction and Poetry prizes running together?
“It was always the long-term plan to run both at once, and we’re now confident that there’s sufficient interest to do so. When we’ve alternated the prizes in recent years there’s always great demand for the strand that’s not running. By running both we can help to ensure that the brightest emerging poets and writers can get their chance to share their work.
“The funds raised through entry fees are put to good use, allowing us to hold author readings and other arts and cultural public events and courses which could not otherwise be offered, particularly as funding has been stripped away from arts and humanities. The Manchester Writing Competition helps us to address any shortfall in what we’re able to offer and ensures that creativity in writing is encouraged and rewarded.”
“Many winners and shortlisted entrants have gone on to have their first collections published. Alison Moore, shortlisted for the Fiction Prize in 2009, went on to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2012 for ‘The Lighthouse’.”
What’s the typical profile of your entrants?
“There isn’t one. Our entrants, like our winners, come from incredibly diverse backgrounds from all over the world. Entrants from as far afield as Australia and New York have been shortlisted and we’ve had entries from 16 year olds to 96 year olds! Creativity has no upper age limit and neither has the competition.”
How are the judges selected?
“A member of the team from the Manchester Writing School here at Manchester Metropolitan University always chairs the panel together with two external judges, selected because of the quality of their own work – and we aim to make sure the panels reflect a broad spectrum of tastes. It’s also worth noting that all entries are judged anonymously; the judges are blind to reputations and allegiances, and don’t know the age, gender or location of the writer of each piece until the short-list and winners have been chosen. There’s also no pre-selection process – every piece entered goes directly to the main judging panel.”
What advice would you offer to anyone that’s considering entering?
“Read, read, read! Voracious readers consume styles and techniques and this helps to open up new options for your own storytelling and poetry. But, most importantly, we would urge you to just go for it. Mandy Coe, our joint winner from 2008, had lost confidence in her writing and submitted her entry at the very last minute, with no expectation of getting anywhere – but her poetry struck a cord with the panel, and she won. Mandy credits this win as the catalyst that transformed her approach to writing. It gave her confidence a huge boost and, crucially, afforded her the time to pursue her writing, and she has since gone on to great success.”
Could the Manchester Writing Competition be your launch pad? Is it time your tale was told? To find out more about how you could get that break you’ve been looking for go to: www.manchesterwritingcompetition.co.uk Deadline for entries: 30th August 2013.
Notes to editors: Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy is Professor of Contemporary Poetry and Creative Director of the Manchester Writing School and Manchester Children’s Book Festival at MMU. She is a celebrated poet, playwright and librettist, has been awarded an OBE and CBE, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. The Manchester Writing Competition is a major, international literary competition that has been celebrating excellence in creative writing since 2008.