Northern Writers’ Awards 2021: £40,000 to support outstanding unpublished works from the North of England

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As the Northern Writers’ Awards 2021 open for entry today (26 November), writers from across the North of England are invited to send in their unpublished work-in-progress for the chance to win a share of £40,000 in cash awards and professional development.


The Northern Writers’ Awards were founded by New Writing North in 2000 and exist to recognise talent and support new work towards publication or broadcast. The awards are the largest of their kind in England and have a reputation for identifying some of the country’s best unpublished writing.


Writers are invited to submit their work to the Northern Writers’ Awards 2021 until midnight on Thursday 18 February 2021.


The Northern Writers’ Awards 2021 winners will join an impressive list of more than 300 writers who have been previously supported through the programme, many of whom have gone on to critical acclaim.


Previous Northern Writers’ Awards winners include:

  • Yvonne Battle-Felton, who won an award for her debut novel Remembered (Dialogue Books), which went on to be longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and shortlisted for the Jhalak Prize.
  • Okechukwu Nzelu, who received an award for The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney (Dialogue Books), which went on to be shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.
  • Benjamin Myers, who was awarded for his novel Beastings (Bluemoose), which later won the Portico Prize for Literature.
  • Poets Rachael Allen (Kingdomland) and Zaffar Kunial (Us) who were both supported with awards for their debut collections, which were subsequently published by Faber & Faber.
  • Karen Powell, whose debut novel The River Withinwas published by Europa Books this autumn.
  • Books due out in 2021 by Northern Writers’ Awards winners include The Biscuit Factoryby James Harris (Hachette Children’s Group), Alfie Miller, Lightning Catcher by Clare Weze (Bloomsbury Children’s); Diamond Hill by Kit Fan (Dialogue); Castles from Cobwebs by A. Mensah (Saraband).

Other previous winners include the crime writers CJ Cooke, Mari Hannah; short story writers Carys Davies andAngela Readman; poets Phoebe Powerand Vidyan Ravinthiran; and television writer Jayshree Patel.


Judges for this year’s awards include the writers Cathy Rentzenbrink and Jacob Ross, who will judge fiction and narrative non-fiction categories. The poetAndrew McMillan won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2014 for his debut poetry collection, physical, which went on to win the Guardian First Book Award. This year he will be judging poetry entries.


The Northern Writers’ Awards offer support for writers at all stages of their careers, including mentoring, developmental support and cash awards to buy time to write.




The Northern Writers’ Awards flagship awards strand, which offers cash prizes of up to £5000 to support writers of fiction, narrative non-fiction, YA, graphic novels, short stories and poetry.


The Hachette Children’s Novel Award is open to debut children’s writers with a full-length manuscript. The winner will receive £5000 and a guarantee of publication with the Hachette Children’s Group, whose list includes authors such as: David Almond, Onjali Q. Raúf, Cressida Cowell, Piers Torday, Jessica Townsend, as well as previous winners of this award, James Harris (2019) and Hannah Durkan (2020).


The Channel 4 Writing for Television Awards offer two emerging writers development opportunities within television. One writer will receive a mentoring placement with Lime Pictures working on their award-winning serial drama Hollyoaks for Channel 4 and E4. The second writer will develop an original TV drama project with Bonafide Films, whose recent shows include The Last Post by Peter Moffat for BBC One. Both winners will receive a bursary of £3000.


The Northern Debut Awards offer structured developmental support to writers of fiction, young adult fiction, narrative non-fiction or poetry who are yet to publish a full-length work. The package of support includes a £2000 bursary, mentoring and access to New Writing North’s development activities. This year, there are three Northern Debut Awards for poetry and three for fiction. One additional fiction place will be made in memory of the North East writer Andrea Badenoch (1951-2004), whose novels include Blink and Loving Geordie. This award is open to debut writers over the age of 42 who self-identify as women or non-binary.


The Northumbria University Student and Alumni Award,worth £2000, for fiction or poetry, is open to final-year students and recent graduates of the university in any discipline.


The Sid Chaplin Award, in partnership with Newcastle University and the North Literary Agency, supports writers of fiction and narrative non-fiction who identify as originating from a working-class background. The winning writer will receive a bursary of £2000 and a comprehensive package of support. Additionally, this year’s winner will receive a week-long writing retreat at Embleton Bay in Northumberland, generously provided by EmbleArts. The award is made in memory of the writer Sid Chaplin (1916–1986) whose novels including The Day of the Sardine and The Watchers and the Watched. This year’s judging panel will be joined by the writer Eleanor Thom.


The Word Factory Northern Apprentice Award offers a bursary of £1000, eight months of mentoring and support from the Word Factory to a writer of a single short story. This year’s mentor is the acclaimed author Catherine Menon.


TLC Free Reads Scheme offers up to three poets or prose writers an in-depth editorial report from The Literary Consultancy and a £500 bursary.


The Arvon Award offers a prose writer the chance to undertake an Arvon residential creative writing course.


The Matthew Hale Award is open to young writers who show promise but have had limited opportunities to pursue their talent. This award is for a young person in Year 7 upwards (up to a maximum of 18 years of age) and consists of a package of support created by New Writing North, worth £500.


The Young Northern Writer Award will recognise one young writer in Years 7 to 9 and one in Year 10 upwards (up to a maximum of 18 years of age) whose work shows exceptional promise. Each writer will be awarded £150.


In addition to individual awards, New Writing North supports its winners with up to 12 months of tailored support. In 2021 selected winners will be offered additional opportunities including:

  • The chance to pitch work to literary agents and editors at the annual Summer Talent Salon in London;
  • Membership of The Society of Authors;
  • A professional development session with the leading independent publisher, Oneworld Publications;
  • Advisory sessions with literary agents Madeleine Milburn Associates.


The Northern Writers’ Awards are produced by New Writing North with support from Northumbria University and Arts Council England. The full suite of awards is made possible by a range of vital partnerships with Arvon, Bonafide Films, Channel 4, EmbleArts, Hachette Children’s Group, Lime Pictures, The Literary Consultancy, Madeleine Millburn Agency, Newcastle University, The North Literary Agency, Oneworld Publications, The Society of Authors, The Word Factory as well as generous donations from individual donors.

Apply by Thursday 18 February 2021 at