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Manchester Writing Competition winners announced at Chetham’s Library

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By Joanna Shaw

Winners of the Manchester Writing Competition were annouced on November 25, 2016 at the eighth annual Manchester Poetry and Fiction Prize Gala hosted in the city’s Chetham’s library by the Manchester Writing School.

The writing competition, founded by Poet Laureate and Writing School Creative Director Carol Ann Duffy, gives emerging and established writers from all over the world the opportunity to have their work recognised as well as receive £10,000 in prize money.

The winning story was All This Concrete Beneath Your Feet by D.W. Wilson, who received a £10,000 prize and Dante Di Stefano and Rebecca Tamás split the £10,000 Manchester Poetry Prize.

Set among the medieval gothic backdrop of Chetham’s Baronial Hall, the gala began with an energetic drinks reception where nominees, judges, guests and hosts alike socialised and nervously awaited the announcement of the winner.

The nominees for the Manchester Poetry Prize were: Eric Berlin, whose poems have featured in publications such as North American Review, Dante Di Stefano, whose collection Love is a Stone Endlessly in Flight was published earlier this year, Sakinah Hofler, an MFA candidate in Florida State, Rebecca Tamas, who is currently working on a collection focused on witchcraft, Ruth Tang, who was longlisted for the International Poetry Prize 2016, and Eoghan Walls, who lectures in Creative Writing at Lancaster University.

When Humanity Hallows spoke to Eric Berlin, he described his writing style as a self -hypnosis. He said, “I try to focus on the imagery and the musicality of language as a way to approach discoveries indirectly. A memory based narrative seems to be where I have a lot of room for growth. I think with a couple of pieces I was trying something new for myself, and maybe the excitement that I felt writing it is on the page a little bit and available to other people.”

The nominees for this year’s Fiction Prize were: Michael Conley, who took third place in the 2014 Bridport Flash Fiction Prize, Erinna Mettler, who describes her career highlight as having one of her short stories being read by an actor from the hit TV series Game of Thrones, Laura Pocock, who will soon be graduating with an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University, Lucy Ribchester, who has written two novels, Factory and Amber Shadows, and Sophie Wellstood, who described her writing style as, “quite light, but with a very dark undertone, hidden darkness. My story is about scattering someone’s ashes, but as it’s revealed we find out it’s not just a straightforward husband that’s died, it becomes much darker.” The final nominee was D.W. Wilson, who is the youngest winner of BBC’s National Short Story Award.

The event got off to a lively, amusing start, as the comperes for the evening, James Draper and Matthew Frost, decided to present the ceremony entirely in rhyme. They joked about recent world events, and how fiction and poetry provide a significant amount of escapism for both author and reader.

The nominees then read out their entries to an attentive audience. Since Sakinah Hofler, D W Wilson, Dante Di Stefano and Lucy Ribchester were unable to attend the event, their entries were read by judges Janice Galloway, Sarah Howe, and previous winner and new member of the Writing School, Helen Mort. The stories and poems varied in style and theme; from a woman’s dog finding a human foot stuck in a boot on the beach, to a woman fantasising about affairs, and a father reflecting on being a parent while his son sleeps in the back of the car. Each story and poem clearly painted a picture in the listener’s mind, and all were deserving of this coveted prize.

After the thanks and praise were gratefully accepted by the judges, Nicholas Royle took to the stage to give an amusing speech about how he was tempted to simply copy and paste his speech from last year, until he realised that none of it would make sense. After a tense moment of silence, the D.W. Wilson was announced winner of the 2016 Manchester Fiction Prize and this year’s £10,000 prize.

Next, came the winner of the Manchester Poetry Prize. This year, the judges were unable to decide between two of the nominees. Therefore, the £10,000 was divided between Rebecca Tamas and Dante Di Stefano. Speaking to Humanity Hallows about her win, Rebecca said, “It’s really amazing to win and to share the prize with Dante, who unfortunately isn’t here. It’s something great to win, and even nicer to share it.”

Manager of the Manchester Writing School James Draper was pleased that the night had wonderfully. He said, “To hear the entries read by the actual authors and the judges just brought the whole event to life. We have some really deserving winners as well, I’ve just emailed D.W. Wilson, who is currently in Canada, and he replied with a simple exclamation point, so I think he can’t quite believe that he’s just won £10,000.”

James added, “It’s a shame we can’t give them all prizes, but as we’ve heard, just being picked for this prize can be a platform to many major things. A couple of the poets have already been contacted by agents wanting to publish their work. I think it’s a good celebration of writing. We were joking during the event about all the misery and terrible stuff going on in the world, and a night where we can celebrate writing and talent and give writers awards and platforms to big opportunities is fantastic.”

For more information about the Manchester Fiction Prize and Manchester Poetry Prize and to read this year’s winning stories and poems, visit the Manchester Writing Competition website.

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