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2017 Manchester Writing Competition open for entry until 29th September

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By Jacqueline Grima

The Manchester Writing Competition is the UK’s biggest award for unpublished writers, offering a massive £10,000 each to the winners of the Manchester Fiction Prize category and the Manchester Poetry Prize. The competition was founded in 2008 by poet and Creative Director of the Manchester Writing School Dame Carol Ann Duffy. Since then, over £135,000 has been awarded to the competition’s national and international winners. Writers wanting to enter the 2017 Manchester Writing Competition have until 29th September to submit their entries.

Last year’s Fiction prize was won by DW Wilson for his story ‘All This Concrete Beneath Your Feet’. The 2016 Poetry Prize was shared by Dante Di Stefano and Rebecca Tamás, who received £5000 each. Dante, from New York, talked to us about how delighted he was to be announced as winner: “I was elated. I did not expect to win. The prize was all the more meaningful because of my esteem for the judges: Adam O’ Riordan, Sarah Howe, and Helen Mort. After reading Rebecca Tamás’ poems, I was even more pleased to share the prize with a poet whose work so profoundly engages nuances of gender through Christian mysticism.”

The Poetry Prize category of the competition invites poets to submit a series of poems, Dante’s winning pieces including ‘Verrückt’, ‘Reading Dostoyevsky at Seventeen’ and ‘Reading Rilke in Early Autumn’. What are the advantages of being able to submit more than one poem?

“You are able to demonstrate more of your range and you are capable of curating a theme in your submission.”

This year’s competition is currently open for entries. We asked Dante what advice he would give to poets who are considering entering.

“Firstly, send your best poems. I only sent three poems because I only had three strong poems at the time I entered. Don’t send three strong poems and two mediocre ones. Sending even one weak poem might colour the judges’ view of the remaining poems.

“Secondly, don’t expect to win. Don’t be discouraged if you lose. Think of your entry as a charitable donation and as a means of showing solidarity with other poets. Be happy that there are many great poets writing today, and you are part of that vibrant chorus.”

Despite not writing with prizes in mind, Dante feels that winning the poetry section of the competition has very much benefitted his writing career.

“It’s an affirmation and an encouragement, a recognition of participation in a global communion of poets. Ultimately, though, none of us write for either prizes or career, we write because we cannot do otherwise. Still, it’s amazing to win an award that avows your ineluctable nature!”

Rebecca Tamás also thinks that being joint winner of the 2016 Poetry Prize has positively impacted her writing career.

“These things are quite subtle, but I don’t doubt that it’s helped my work get more recognition. The poems that won the competition went on to make up part of my poetry pamphlet Savage, published by Clinic Press, which has been an extremely exciting and important publication for me.”

Rebecca also told us of her delight at being announced joint winner when she attended the prize-giving ceremony at Chetham’s Library.

“It was an extremely surreal but thrilling moment. I was profoundly excited, overwhelmed and humbled; it’s a very special thing for your work to be recognised by writers you hugely respect.

“The prize giving ceremony was a really lovely event, as I got the chance to meet some of the other shortlistees in the flesh and talk to them about the experience of being part of the prize; as well as the chance to talk to the judges and find out about their experiences.

“The event took place in a stunning venue, and all in all was a real celebration of the writing life, not just for the winners, but for everyone there. We felt very lucky to be a part of it.”

Would she encourage other writers to enter?

“I would definitely encourage other writers and poets to enter, it’s a phenomenal opportunity. Even getting shortlisted is, in itself, a huge boost to your writing profile. I never thought I’d have a chance of winning, which just shows that you never know, and that you have to throw your hat in the ring!”

Is there a way that writers and poets can make their work stand out?

“I don’t think there is any way to make your entry ‘stand out’ beyond writing the absolute best and most original work you are capable of. Don’t try and write the kind of thing you think the judges might like, or which seems popular. Just use it as an opportunity to share work that you’re passionate about, that challenges you as a writer and which expands what your voice is capable of. That’s all you can do.”

The Manchester Writing Competition is open to both poetry and prose writers and the deadline for 2017 entries is 29th September. For more information and terms and conditions, visit the competition website.

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Jacqueline Grima

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