23 May 2019

The Creative Future Writers’ Award – competition for under-represented writers

From left: Jade Cuttle (2018 Gold Award for Prose) and Ava Ming (2018 Commended for Fiction)
by Creative Future Events

Today we’d like to tell you about the Creative Future Writers’ Award –  a national writing competition open to short fiction writers and poets, run by national arts charity Creative Future, who work with talented and under-represented writers and artists.

The award was founded in 2013 – and this year invites creative-writing entries on the theme of ‘HOME’ from under-represented writers who feel their opportunities are limited due to mental health issues, disability, health or social circumstance – the full eligibility criteria are set out here. In the poetry category you can enter a maximum of 300 words; while in prose you can submit up to 2,000 words. The awards will include cash prizes and some great writing development opportunities, as well as publication in the award anthology. Curtis Brown Creative is delighted to be contributing a Gold Prize Award of a free place on one of our 6-week online novel-writing courses (worth £200) to one talented writer who shines in the category of ‘Prose’.

The Creative Future Writers’ Award competition is open until June 2, and will be judged by a panel that includes author Kerry Hudson, poet Anthony Anaxagarou and Curtis Brown literary agent Catherine Cho. For full details of eligibility criteria, prizes and Terms and Conditions please visit the Creative Future Writers’ Award website here.

To find out more about the competition and about how Creative Future works with under-represented writers, we caught up with two of last year’s prize winners, Ava Ming and Jade Cuttle:

What has winning a Creative Future Writers’ Award meant to you, and how it has impacted the direction of your writing?

Ava: (2018 Commended for Fiction) Winning an award, as well as being published, is always a kind of validation. A stranger has taken the time to read, appreciate, award and publish what you’ve written. Being validated as a writer in an ocean of writers is a wonderful feeling.

Jade: (2018 Gold Award for Prose) It’s actually the first time I’ve managed to write anything longer than a song, which made it an even greater surprise when I heard I’d won Gold. Winning this prize has definitely encouraged me to probe my curiosity for story-writing further.

What do you feel is different about the writing experience for under-represented writers? What do you feel under-represented writers need most?

Ava: I’ve led many writing workshops for young, unpublished writers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Initially they write about what they commonly read and what they commonly read tends to be stories from the dominant culture. They state that ‘this is all that’s out there, so that’s what publishers want.’

When I explain that they can write about whatever they want, including their own cultural background and experiences, and that writing your own truth makes you a better writer, these young writers feel liberated. That freedom, however, is a two-sided coin, the flip side being that they don’t expect to see their books on the shelves believing no-one outside of their community is really interested in black stories.

They often haven’t heard of the late Andrea Levy, Courttia Newland or Marlon James. More high-profile black writers like these, writing about black experiences, would have a great impact on black and under-represented writers.

Can you tell us a little about your winning entry and why you think it was chosen by the judges?

Ava: ‘The Walk In’ is about a soul abruptly ripped from its body due to an untimely death and, after hanging around for several millennia, becoming desperate to walk into a new, willing body in order to live again. I challenged myself to inject humour into a fairly grim  subject to make the story fun to read and unpredictable. I think the judges chose it because it was different.

Jade:  ‘Hearts for Sale’ is a surreal story set in a supermarket that sells human hearts. With hearts being produced on an industrial scale, factories are churning out bulbous cheeks of beating tissue faster than you can blink. The story comments on capitalism, materialism and mass-production with a cynical and somewhat comical tone. It’s also a comment on greed and bad romance as one customer comes in and orders far more hearts than they need. I guess it probably caught the judges’ attention because it’s so wacky!

Do you think more visible action is currently taking place in the writing world in issues of diversity and representation?

Ava: Yes I do, but sadly I also think this is a case of ‘same script, different cast.’  Initiatives promoting inclusivity come around every few years. They can be a great spur, unearth some fantastic writing and writers of potential – but once they end, writers who felt that they finally had a seat at the table can find themselves on the other side of a closed door. The door may have a glass panel so they can still see what’s going on, but essentially, they’re no longer part of the process.

Jade: I’ve been lucky to have been selected to join the Ledbury Emerging Critics Programme which was founded last year to encourage diversity in poetry, open to dedicated BAME poetry critics in the UK. I’ve also been asked to write for publications like the Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement, The Poetry Review and many others as a direct result of being selected for this brilliant scheme. The intensive workshops, one-to-one mentorship and critical feedback has really helped to hone my craft, and develop a professional reputation.

Do you have any advice for young under-represented writers at the beginning of their journey?

Ava: Don’t ask for a seat at the table, build your own table! The publishing world is so different to when I started and publishing houses had all the power. Now, it’s easier to publish your own work your own way. External validation is nice, of course, but that can come from your growing army of readers.

In addition, build your craft. Don’t expect to create a masterpiece the first time you write. Show the world, publishers or whoever you want to see your work the absolute best of you. I re-drafted my story somewhere between 30-40 times and most long-term writers will agree that’s the norm. Write every day and push yourself to keep improving.

Jade: I’d encourage all budding writers to embrace the ‘risk-taking’ aspect to creative exploration! Don’t be daunted by conventions.

What would you say to an under-represented writer who is thinking of entering the competition?

Ava: I would say; “what are you waiting for?” And, “don’t leave it till the last minute!” Give yourself time to edit and re-draft your story. Follow the rules, there’s no reason the judges should make an exception for you. Have fun with what your write. Try to write something you would really enjoy reading.

Jade: Go for it! I managed to win Gold by submitting my very first story which was written because I’d seen the competition advertised, so it’s never too late to start.

How do you feel about the Creative Future Writers’ Award theme this year – ‘HOME’? How would you tackle it?

Ava: It’s great to see the competition is always moving forward, giving writers a chance to be seen, heard and read. In terms of this year’s theme, ‘HOME’ I would think through all of the usual ideas, stereotypes and clichés, then discard them – allowing space for something original to filter through. Then I’d pick whichever one of these new ideas resonates the most, begin there and see where it takes me.

Jade: Stay tuned… I might just be entering again!

The Creative Future Writers’ Award competition is open from now until June 2, and is open to all writers of poetry or short fiction who identify as under-represented due to their identity, disability, social or other circumstances. For a full explanation of what is meant by under-represented groups click here. For full prize details click here.

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