We're delighted to announce the winner of this year's Discoveries Prize selected by our judging panel from the 2,500+ unpublished women that submitted their works of fiction.
The winner of the prize is Sui Annukka with her compelling novel-in-progress Thursday. As the winner of Discoveries, Sui recieves an offer of representation by Curtis Brown Literary Agency, a cash prize of £5,000, and the opportunity to workshop her manuscript with an Audible commissioning editor.
We are also very pleased to announce that Nikki Logan has been chosen from the shortlist of six writers as the Discoveries Scholar, with her novel-in-progress, The Last Card in the Suit. Nikki wins a place on our three-month Writing Your Novel course.
Chair of judges Kate Mosse says: 'The judging panel was delighted by this original, intriguing and engaging novel. Strong and distinctive female characters, a strong sense of place with the tension of a thriller and the charm of a coming-of-age story, we cannot wait to read more. Huge congratulations to Sui Annukka.'
Curtis Brown literary agent Lucy Morris and Curtis Brown Creative founder and Director Anna Davis said: ‘We are thrilled to name Sui Annukka as our Discoveries winner. An ambitious and hugely talented writer with a gift for bringing her characters instantly and compellingly to life, Sui’s entry Thursday was utterly unputdownable!
We are also delighted to announce Nikki Logan as the Discoveries scholar for The Last Card in the Suit. We are excited to support Nikki as she continues to transform her years of incredible research into a vividly realised, beguilingly told page-turner that will capture readers’ hearts. And, of course, we are so eager to see where each of our talented shortlistees and longlistees take their novels-in-progress.’
Read on to find out more about our talented winner and scholar.
Winner: Sui Annukka, Thursday
Of Sri Lankan heritage, Sui Annukka grew up in London and Colombo. Sui read Drama at the University of Bristol, and later studied Production Design at the National Film and Television School. She left her career in film art direction to spend more time on her writing.
Sui has had poetry and short fiction published in the following anthologies: Filigree: Contemporary Black British Poetry (Peepal Tree, 2018), Shots in the Dark (Crocus Books, 2018), Sounds Exceeding 80 Decibels (Crocus Books, 2017) and Elevator Fiction (Crocus Books, 2016). She was a participant of Manchester Commonword’s Women in the Spotlight Programme, and an Eclipse Theatre SLATE supported artist.
Sui is a proud Aunty to the best niece in the world. She currently lives in Hounslow and works as a Teaching Assistant in a High School.
How does it feel to be the winner of the 2022 Discoveries Prize?
My soul is doing cartwheels.
I am fifty this year. For me, writing has been a life-long conversation with parts of myself that are mostly invisible to the world. In more ways than I can say, writing has saved me. The opportunity to now share my work more widely is a huge privilege. One that I am profoundly grateful for.
Since receiving the lovely phone call telling me that I have won, I have been reflecting on the fact that though writing is a solitary activity, it is not the product of a singular effort. I am only here because so many people, over so many years, have worked very hard to encourage and support me. I have a lot of heartfelt thank yous to make over the coming days.
Winning this prize marks the start of a new adventure. It is a lot to take in. Much humility and courage, and wisdom, are needed. I want to develop as a writer. I want to create work that is beautiful. And I want to support and champion the writing of the sixteen wonderful women with whom I was longlisted. We are on this path together and we have so much to learn from each other. Thank you to the Women’s Prize, Curtis Brown and Audible for giving us all this extraordinary opportunity. So, let’s begin. Let’s do this. It’s going to be amazing!
Is there any advice you’d like to share with the writers thinking of submitting to Discoveries when it opens again for entries in September
Because the prize is about discovering work that shows potential rather than in finding a polished end-product, it gives anyone burning with a story that wants to be told an opportunity to be heard. That is such a rare thing. So, my advice would be to just go for it! Write what makes you come alive. Write what you dare not forget. Write. Submit. No matter what, something important would have happened in the process.
What initially inspired your novel-in-progress?
I wrote Thursday specifically to enter the Discoveries prize. For a very long time, I had been working on a fantasy epic, The Reading House of Mount Yaa, which has a huge cast of characters and an intricate plot spanning three hundred years. With Thursday I wanted to challenge myself to write something completely different: Thursday takes place over the course of one day. It features just three characters and is set in a world very close to the one I live in. Though it started out as a technical challenge, the characters have now thrown down the gauntlet and are demanding far more from the story than I had originally intended. It is hard to say any more about it at this stage because the process is far from over.
Do you have a particular writing routine?
If I am not working, I like to write from about 9am to 2pm, Monday to Friday. That really works for me. However, I currently have a full-time day job, so I only tend to write at the weekends.
You used to work in film art direction. Do you think that your experience in the world of film has had an impact on your novel-writing?
Absolutely. It helped me become a more attentive reader, which, in turn, has informed the way I think about writing.
Breaking down a screenplay in the art department involves a process comparable to what an actor might do when approaching characterization: delving into the silences and exploring the peripheries of the text to interpret and portray a character. In the art department, you are mining for hidden layers in the screenplay in order to design and build physical environments that embody and communicate the lived histories of characters in a way that is nuanced and interesting.
Really great screenwriters, through their choice of locations, through the way they punctuate dialogue, through the tiniest visual details, embed hundreds of other stories/histories that have given rise to the one you are trying to help tell. Reading a cracking screenplay can feel like channeling. A magical experience, through which a purposeful act of co-creation occurs; something practical and tangible results from engaging with the text.
When I write, I am striving to give readers that experience of being active participants. I am hoping that something beautiful, energetically speaking, is created through the encounter that takes place between my text and the reader. My intentions are alchemical!
Also, my art department training has given me a deep love of world-building. The first draft of The Reading House of Mount Yaa was pretty much just narrative production design. Over the years that has changed, and I like to think I have got much better at balancing character and plot with my need to indulge in writing beautiful settings! (Okay, so I have a weakness for chandeliers and stained-glass windows . . .)
Though I have been working in education for several years now, and my time in the film industry feels like another life entirely, it is an experience that is deeply ingrained in me; and hugely important to me.
And finally, can you give a book recommendation? What have you loved reading most recently?
I would love to give a big, fat shout-out to Rebecca Zahabi’s debut novel Game Weavers.
It is about Seo, a young Korean man who is a Champion Twine player (a highly pressured national sport where players, or weavers as they are known, craft creatures out of Twine emanating from their fingertips and battle against their opponents’ creations). Seo is outed and his high-flying career is put in jeopardy. With the help of his younger brother, Minjun, and his lover, Jack, Seo tries desperately to get his life and career back on track – whilst also trying to win the Twine World Championship. The novel explores homophobia, sexism, and exploitation in elite sport. It blends fantasy and contemporary satire subtly to create a moving story about love, family, and self-acceptance. For me, the highlight is the achingly beautiful portrayal of the bond between the siblings: Seo and Minjun get me every time. Plus, the Twine battles are a visually spectacular treat: stunning, edge-of-your-seat, page-turney, breathless-making stuff. Dream Weavers is a YA LGBT+ fantasy for grownups. Go read it! And, someone, please make this into a film. It’s a gorgeous book.
Runner-up: Nikki Logan, The Last Card in the Suit
Nikki Logan is currently writing her first novel having taken part in several online creative writing workshops during and since lockdown. She has a degree in photography and has been a commercial writer for 13 years with articles published in regional magazines, newspapers and trade publications.
The idea for her novel was inspired by her grandfather’s experience of life as a British West Indian in 1940s Jamaica and Deep South USA before moving to England in 1950. She began recording his life story nearly ten years ago and has immersed herself in research ever since.
Nikki enjoys reading character-driven novels. She believes fiction is a powerful tool to entertain as well as inform and influence social empathy, changing the way people see the world.
She lives in Suffolk with her husband, two sons and labradoodle.
How does it feel to be the 2022 Discoveries Scholar?
I feel quite overwhelmed! I was shocked to have even made the longlist, so to have been shortlisted and now named the Discoveries Scholar feels like a lot to take in. The support that comes with this will be invaluable. It’s the start of something very exciting and an achievement I will be proud of forever.
You’ve been awarded a free place on Curtis Brown Creative’s three-month Writing Your Novel course – what are you looking forward to about the course?
Having direction that is specific to my novel. So far, my only guidance has been from generic tips and advice via online articles and webinars, which have been a great help, but I’ve had to decide which techniques to apply (e.g. narrative tense and point of view) and figure out the best way of doing this on my own. I’m looking forward to having some help from experts!
What initially inspired your novel-in-progress?
Ten years ago, I started recording my grandad telling stories about growing up in Jamaica as a British West Indian and how he was contracted to work in Florida in the 1940s cutting sugar cane before moving to England at the age of 24 in 1950. He was showing signs of dementia so initially, the recordings were for my family to keep, but I soon realised his story gave a unique insight into a significant part of British history.
I felt there was an untold story I needed to write. My novel is fictional but inspired by my grandad’s harrowing yet life-affirming accounts, which also include the challenges he and my Nan faced as an interracial couple.
Do you have a particular writing routine?
I would have to use the word routine loosely as my writing time revolves around my children! I find smaller windows of time during the day are best for research and planning, and evenings until the early hours are when I’m most productive and creative with writing. I just need my laptop, a quiet room and plenty of snacks!
Your novel-in-progress is inspired by your grandfather’s experiences. Do you have any advice for writers in navigating that intersection between fiction and family history?
This is a really interesting question and something I have put a lot of thought into. I’ve really wanted to respect my family history whilst making the most of the creative license of fiction. Firstly, it’s taken many years of research to get to this point but, to a certain extent, I’ve had to walk away from that research to let my imagination run free. The facts are now there for me to draw from but they don’t dictate the story, my characters do. Two of the characters in my novel are inspired by my grandparents and this includes how they responded to true life events, however, all other characters are entirely fictional, as is the main storyline, and this has enabled me to creatively explore different perspectives, points of view and hopefully page-turning conflict!
And finally, can you give us a book recommendation? What have you loved reading most recently?
I loved Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. It’s clever, original and I enjoyed reading the points of view of so many overlapping characters.
Thank you to everyone who entered their novels-in-progress to this year's Discoveries Prize. You displayed such a wealth of writing talent and made it very difficult to select one winner and one runner-up from the 2,500+ entries.
Watch this space, the Discoveries Prize will reopen for applications this September.