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Interview with Manchester Writing Competition 2015 Judge Stuart Kelly

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By Jacqueline Grima

Offering an astonishing £10,000 in prize money to both its Fiction Prize and Poetry Prize winners, the Manchester Writing Competition closes on Friday 25th September. Humanity Hallows spoke to writer Stuart Kelly, one of the judges of this year’s fiction strand, to find out what he is looking for amongst the 2015 entries.

Humanity Hallows: Stuart, is there a particular quality you are looking for amongst this year’s Manchester Fiction Prize entries?

Stuart: I always prefer work of raggedy brilliance to stolid perfection. All literary forms should expand the possibility of the form; there’s a reason we call long prose “novels”. The story is similarly capacious. I’m looking for something adventurous, daring, experimental, avant-garde, not a reheating of older forms.

HH: What are the common mistakes prose writers make that prevent their story from being shortlisted?

Stuart: There are legions of mistakes that new authors can make. Subject alone is insufficient to make a story new. I think when authors are inexperienced they tend to give too much exposition. They try to make the reader think a particular thought, rather than leaving space for the reader to create their own meanings.

HH: Aside from the £10,000 prize money, how can winning the Manchester Fiction Prize benefit a writer’s career?

Stuart: So much is published now that any prize brings a glimmer of more attention. Hopefully, it also gives new writers the confidence to follow their abilities.

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The judges joining Stuart this year are Nicholas Royle and Leone Ross, looking at the prose entries, and Adam O’Riordan, Olivia Cole and Kei Miller are judging the Poetry Prize.

Past winners of the Manchester Fiction Prize include Martin MacInnes, who won in 2014 with his story Our Disorder and novelist and creative writing teacher Toby Litt, who won the first Fiction Prize in 2009.  Both winners were awarded £10,000 in prize money and have each gone on to become highly regarded writers.

There is still time to enter both the prose and poetry strands of the Manchester Writing Competition and to give yourself a chance of winning a massive £10,000. The competition is open to anyone age 16 or over.  For more information and to read the competition’s Terms and Conditions, visit the Manchester Writing School website.

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