Impact case study: Kit Fan

“Winning a Northern Writers’ Award has changed my writing life.”

“Thank you, New Writing North for supporting my writing.”

Born and educated in Hong Kong, Kit moved to the UK when he was 21. He won his first award for poetry in 2011. His debut book of poems, Paper Scissors Stone, won the inaugural HKU International Poetry Prize. Juggling writing alongside a full-time job at the Hull York Medical School, Kit continued to find success when, in 2018, his collection As Slow As Possible was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and one of the Irish Times’ ‘Books of the Year’.

It was in that same year that Kit turned his pen to fiction. “As a published poet”, he remembers “I didn’t have a lot of experience in writing fiction apart from a couple of short stories.” Applying for a Northern Writers’ Award, gave him “a goal and momentum”, while challenging him to ‘focus’ his mind and become “more pragmatic and strategic” in drafting his synopsis. “Simply by applying, it forced me to launch the project from my head to the outside world, making it more real.

In 2018, Kit won a Northern Writers’ Award for Fiction for his debut novel, Diamond Hill – still a work-in-progress, at the time. Set in 1987 in Hong Kong’s Diamond Hill area, when the neighbourhood, once known for its film studios, was a shanty town, the story follows the narrator, ‘Buddha’, a former heroin addict who has been sent to live in a nunnery. “Writing the book connected me to my beloved city, as if I was able to ‘live’ there again through the lives of my characters”, Kit reflects.

Winning a Northern Writers’ Award gave Kit “a confidence boost and many opportunities that helped me develop as a novelist”. More than that, it “changed my writing life”. Like other Award winners, Kit benefited greatly from the support that followed his prize.

The pitching workshop organised by New Writing North was a godsend and taught me how to present and promote my work. As part of the supportive programme, we met with Juliet Mabey and her team at OneWorld. It was a real eye-opener to see a high-calibre publishing house. I attended the Summer Talent Salon in London with other winners, meeting with and pitching to a wide range of literary agents and publishers.

Not long after the Summer Talent Salon, Kit found an agent in Matt Turner at RCW. “Matt”, he says, “has been my indispensable ally ever since”. Diamond Hill was published in 2021 by Dialogue Books. “Looking back”, Kit recalls, “this publication story wouldn’t have begun without the spur of the moment when I decided to enter the Northern Writers’ Award and managed to put a thought onto a page”.

After the publication of Diamond Hill, Kit continued to find success – including with New Writing North again, when, in 2022, he was awarded another Northern Writers’ Award. This time, for poetry, with his collection, The Ink Cloud Reader. The same collection was later shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize for Best Collection.

Kit has now twice been shortlisted for The Guardian 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize and the TLS Mick Imlah Poetry Prize. He won The Times Stephen Spender Poetry Translation Prize and POETRY Editors’ Prize for Reviewing. In 2023, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and appointed a Non-Executive Board member of Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).

[Editor’s note: Kit’s full list of achievements is pretty amazing. Click here to read more! >]