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Discoveries Prize Class of 2020-2021

BY Discoveries
16th Jun 2021

Discoveries is a unique development programme and prize, which we launched in partnership with Curtis Brown Literary Agency, the Women’s Prize Trust and NatWest, seeking to encourage and support talented and original new female writing voices from across the UK and Ireland. Discoveries did not require writers to have finished a novel – only to have started one – and it was free to enter.

Last week we were thrilled to announced the winner and runner-up of the inaugural Discoveries Prize! Emma van Straaten’s Heartstring and Lucy Keefe’s Pantheon were selected from over 2,300 entries submitted by unpublished female authors.

The winner has received an offer of representation by Curtis Brown, a £5,000 cheque and a desk to write at her local NatWest Accelerator Hub, and the runner-up has won a place on our flagship three-month Writing Your Novel course worth £1,800.

As part of the Discoveries programme, all longlisted and shortlisted authors will be offered personalised packages of mentorship from a Curtis Brown agent plus free or discounted places on our online writing courses.

We’re delighted to continue supporting and celebrating the women writers on the Discoveries longlist and shortlist. We hope you’ll enjoy reading these short extracts from the openings of their brilliant winning and shortlisted novels-in-progress…

Winner: Emma van Straaten, Heartstring

Emma van Straaten was born in London and raised in West Sussex, receiving her degrees in English from Durham University. A swiftly abandoned career in law led her to the V&A Museum where she now works in fundraising. She lives in Putney with her husband and baby daughter.

Read the opening of

Runner-Up: Lucy Keefe, Pantheon

Lucy Keefe writes urban fantasy characters who sound like the women she knows, and eat like the woman she is, living vicariously through her characters' stomachs. Raised in Dorset, Lucy made it through five years in London, before settling in Kent with her cat, Detective Inspector Fred Thursday. Her influences are John Wick, Jill Mansell, Mario Puzo and Taylor Swift.

Read the opening of

Shortlist: Lorna Elcock, Under the Light, Yet Under

Lorna Elcock’s first novel Under the Light, Yet Under is the opening instalment in a literary trilogy set in Scotland. Her short fiction has appeared in Ambit, and has been listed in the Top 60 entries to the BBC National Short Story Award. She has an MA in Creative & Life Writing from Goldsmiths, University of London.

Read the opening of

Shortlist: Nana Afua Pierre, A Boy Called Silence

Nana Afua Pierre is a British-Ghanaian writer based in Gloucestershire. Her manuscript, A Boy Called Silence was longlisted for the 2019 Mslexia Novel Competition and shortlisted for the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2020. In 2021, she was awarded a mentorship with award-winning author Sara Collins through the Curtis Brown Creative Breakthrough Writers' Programme.

Read the opening of

Shortlist: Niloufar Tabatabai, Say My Name

Niloufar Tabatabai is a British-Iranian 28 year old based in London. Despite always aspiring to be a writer, Niloufar only took up writing during lockdown in between training to be a solicitor. She has never taken a creative writing course, but hopes to in the coming months. This is the first writing competition she has entered.

Read the opening of

Shortlist: April Yee, Dosage and Control

April Yee is a writer and translator. A Harvard and Tin House alumna, she reported in more than a dozen countries before moving to the UK, where she contributes to Ploughshares online and mentors for UAL’s Refugee Journalism Project. She is shortlisted for the 2021 Fitzcarraldo Essay Prize and the University of East Anglia’s 2021/2022 David T.K. Wong Fellowship.

Explore April Yee's selected writing

Read our interviews with the winner and runner-up here.

Thank you to everyone who entered their novels-in-progress to the inaugural 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 2,300+ entries.

With special thanks to our judging panel that included chair of judgesKate Mosse, author Abi Daré, literary agent Lucy Morris, Curtis Brown Creative's founder and Managing Director Anna Davis, and Director for Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature Sandeep Mahal.

Watch this space, the Discoveries Prize will reopen for applications this September.