Two international shortlists have been revealed for the Manchester Fiction Prize and Manchester Poetry Prize, which together make up the Manchester Writing Competition 2021, the UK’s biggest awards for unpublished writing.
Set up by then Poet Laureate and current Creative Director of Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University Professor Carol Ann Duffy in 2008, the competition has since awarded more than £200,000 in prize money.
The two awards celebrate Manchester as an international city of writers, finding diverse new voices, and creating opportunities for writer development. Each year two £10,000 prizes are awarded: the Manchester Poetry Prize for best portfolio of poems and the Manchester Fiction Prize for best short story.
The competition has helped to accelerate the careers of previous winners and finalists including Mona Arshi, Helen Mort, Alison Moore, Pascale Petit and Momtaza Mehri.
This year’s Fiction Prize includes a best-selling author and Richard and Judy Bookclub Choice, an accountant, and emerging writers from the UK and Canada.
The Poetry Prize features an international shortlist of award-winning poets from the UK, USA, Australia, Jamaica and the Philippines.
Fiction Prize judges said that choosing the six-strong shortlist was ‘nerve-shreddingly difficult’, while the Poetry Prize panel hailed entries ‘not afraid to experiment and push the boundaries of poetry’.
Manchester Fiction Prize shortlist
Manchester Poetry Prize shortlist
Laura Paul Watson
The winners will be announced at a special prize-giving evening on May 26, hosted in Manchester Metropolitan’s fantastic new home for Arts and Humanities, Grosvenor East.
Novelist and short story writer Nicholas Royle, Chair of the Fiction Prize judging panel and Reader in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “Many of the stories that didn’t make the final cut have stayed with us, and we hope to come across them again when they’ve found their place in the short story ecosphere.
Whittling down our (unofficial, unpublished) longlist to the final shortlist was nerve-shreddingly difficult, yet also a privilege and a pleasure.”
The Fiction Prize judging panel was completed by Hilaire and Simon Okotie.
Malika Booker, award-winning poet, Chair of the Poetry Prize judging panel and Lecturer in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan, said:
“This year we were struck by the fact that most of the entries were not afraid to experiment and push the boundaries of poetry. Yet we were drawn to portfolios that felt considered as a collection, where the poems were in conversation with each other while demonstrating the poet’s range. We were struck by the strong distinctive sense of voice displayed by all our shortlisted poets, as well as their poetic ambitiousness.
“These poems delicately and rigorously grappled with heavy subjects ranging from personal illness, death, nature, historical and cultural norms with formal dexterity, lyrical delicacy, and a sonic precision that both haunted and mesmerised us. Even the darkest poems resonated a sense of wonder while grappling with what it means to be human. We found ourselves reading lines to each other and luxuriating at the richness of the language on our tongues. We are proud of this selection.”
The Poetry Prize judging panel was completed by Romalyn Ante and Zaffar Kunial.