Rozie Kelly wins the NorthBound Book Award

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Rozie Kelly has been announced as the winner of the NorthBound Book Award for her manuscript Kingfisher, which will be published by Saraband as part of the prize. Rozie was announced as the prize winner at an awards celebration held at the University of York this evening (Wednesday 10 April).

The NorthBound Book Award is produced by New Writing North in partnership with the University of York and Saraband, as part of the Northern Writers’ Awards. The award celebrates the innovative spirit of independent publishing and the richness of writing from the North of England.

Each organisation offers a unique element of support to the prize winner, including publication with Saraband; a package of support from New Writing North, a £5,000 advance on royalties, supported by the University of York; and an invitation to include the work in the Writing at York series.

This year’s judges of the NorthBound Book Award are Maya Caspari, Lecturer in English and the Creative Industries at University of York; Sara Hunt, publisher at Saraband, previous winner Adam Farrer, author of Cold Fish Soup; and writer Shaun Wilson, who featured in Kit de Waal’s Common People anthology and is a winner of two Northern Writers’ Awards.

Rozie Kelly is a prose writer based in West Yorkshire. After reading English Literature and Creative Writing at Warwick University and the University of Manchester, she moved to Hebden Bridge where she works for Arvon, hosting creative writing courses. Her current work-in-progress, Salt Tooth, was shortlisted for the PFD Queer Fiction Prize 2023. She is one of the eight participants in the inaugural 2024 Prototype Development Programme, a new scheme offering extended support and career development to eight emerging writers and artists in partnership between Prototype Publishing and New Writing North.

On receiving the award, Rozie Kelly said: “I have always dreamed of finding a home for this strange little book, and felt so attached to the characters, so I couldn’t be happier to know that Kingfisher will be made reality with Saraband. Winning the Northbound Award is such a gift, and feels like the beginning of something very exciting.”

Will Mackie, Senior Programme Manager (Talent Development) and Programme Leader (MA in Publishing), New Writing North, said: “We’re delighted to be announcing Rozie Kelly’s novel, Kingfisher, as the winner of this year’s NorthBound Book Award. The award has built a reputation for recognising outstanding work-in-progress that is close to publication and Kingfisher will take its place alongside a growing list of fantastic previous winners. This is a special novel — lyrical, bold and intimate — by a writer with enormous talent who has an exciting future. It’s always a joy to work with Saraband and the University of York on this unique partnership and we’re especially grateful for the expertise and commitment of this year’s judges.”

Maya Caspari, Lecturer in English and the Creative Industries, University of York, said: “It was a privilege to join this year’s NorthBound Book Award judging panel. The award is vital for supporting emerging northern writers and it was exciting to read so much promising work. This year’s brilliant winner, Kingfisher by Rozie Kelly, stood out for its strikingly original voice and its compelling exploration of the intricacies of love, care and power in human relationships.”

Sara Hunt, Publisher at Saraband, said: “We’re delighted to be working with Rozie Kelly on the publication of her debut novel, Kingfisher, a very worthy winner of this award. Rozie is an exciting new talent and her novel is original, startling, beautifully written and often darkly funny, with unforgettable characters.”

Adam Farrer said: “I was delighted to have been asked to join the judging panel for this year’s NorthBound Book Award, as winning it in 2021 was transformative for me. Through this award New Writing North and Saraband have created a real platform for emerging northern writers and provided so many opportunities for them to be heard. Thanks to the NorthBound, I’ve been able to build a writing career and I’m excited to see the same thing happen for Rozie Kelly. Kingfisher is a deserving winner and an immaculately crafted novel. I’m looking forward to readers discovering this distinctive new voice and connecting with the compelling characters Rozie has created.”

Shaun Wilson said: “It was an honour to join the judging panel for this year’s NorthBound Book Award. This partnership between New Writing North, University of York and the trailblazing independent publisher Saraband is a major development in the recognition of the North as a rich source of literary talent. In a London-centric industry viewed as increasingly risk averse, such awards are vital in celebrating books that break new ground and reflect cultures largely unrepresented in mainstream publishing. The diverse array of voices, lived experience and settings featured in this year’s entries highlights the key role of the North in the progression of British literature. The winning entry is a beautifully rendered novel exploring the psychology of relationships, whose fresh voice, stylistic flair and keen observational insight stunned me, as a fellow writer, with a curious mixture of admiration and envy.”

At this evening’s event, as well as announcing the winner of the NorthBound Book Award, the four judges and chair Haleemah Alaydi, discussed prizes, their publication experiences, and much more.

The Northern Writers’ Awards are produced by New Writing North and supported by Northumbria University, Arts Council England, and a range of partners. Find out more about the awards