We’re delighted to share this year’s Discoveries Prize, shortlist comprised of six novels-in-progress from unpublished women writers currently residing in the UK and Ireland.
Over 2,500 women submitted their works of fiction to Discoveries (up from 2,300 in 2021). Sixteen authors were initially longlisted by a judging panel that included chair of Chair of judges Kate Mosse, international bestselling novelist and Founder Director of the Women’s Prize, and her judging panel: esteemed writers Ayisha Malik and Irenosen Okojie, Curtis Brown literary agent Lucy Morris, and Anna Davis, Founder and MD of Curtis Brown Creative.
Chair of judges Kate Mosse says:
“We were blown away by the breadth and range of new writing submitted this year – confident and ambitious storytelling, imaginative and challenging, from diverse voices and written in many different genres. Submissions have arrived from all over the country and beyond, from women of all ages, showing us that Discoveries is creating a platform for emerging authors of all backgrounds, enabling them to discover their potential with the support that they need. We can’t wait to see how each of these novels develops in the months, and years, to come.”
Anna Davis, Curtis Brown Creative, and Lucy Morris, Curtis Brown, said:
“We are thrilled to unveil our shortlist – six unique voices that drew us in and captured our imaginations within a few short pages. We can’t wait to read the chapters that will follow – and indeed to discover what will happen next for these six talented writers, as well as for our longlistees and the many other amazing stories that thousands of writers shared with us this year.”
Sui Annukka, Thursday
Of Sri Lankan heritage, Sui Annukka grew up in London and Colombo. Sui read Drama at the University of Bristol, and later studied Production Design at the National Film and Television School. She left her career in film art direction to spend more time on her writing.
Sui has had poetry and short fiction published in the following anthologies: Filigree: Contemporary Black British Poetry (Peepal Tree, 2018), Shots in the Dark (Crocus Books, 2018), Sounds Exceeding 80 Decibels (Crocus Books, 2017) and Elevator Fiction (Crocus Books, 2016). She was a participant of Manchester Commonword’s Women in the Spotlight Programme, and an Eclipse Theatre SLATE supported artist.
Sui is a proud Aunty to the best niece in the world. She currently lives in Hounslow and works as a Teaching Assistant in a High School.
Sadbh Kellett, Hunt the Hare
Sadbh is an Irish writer and poet from Meath whose work has been featured as part of Ireland’s Culture Night 2021, at the Out of Orbit visual arts festival, and in anthologies and journals. Sadbh is also a PhD student researching Gaelic Mythology in modern Irish and Scottish Literature at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Previously, she also studied at Trinity College Dublin. Sadbh’s novel is inspired by her Meath surroundings and medieval Irish literature.
Nikki Logan, The Last Card in the Suit
Nikki Logan is currently writing her first novel having taken part in several online creative writing workshops during and since lockdown. She has a degree in photography and has been a commercial writer for 13 years with articles published in regional magazines, newspapers and trade publications.
The idea for her novel was inspired by her grandfather’s experience of life as a British West Indian in 1940s Jamaica and Deep South USA before moving to England in 1950. She began recording his life story nearly ten years ago and has immersed herself in research ever since.
Nikki enjoys reading character-driven novels. She believes fiction is a powerful tool to entertain as well as inform and influence social empathy, changing the way people see the world.
She lives in Suffolk with her husband, two sons and labradoodle.
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin, The Next Life
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is an Irish writer. She lived in London for eight years, working in journalism and social justice communications. Her stories, essays and articles have appeared in Gutter, the New Statesman, The Millions, Sexualities and other publications. She now lives in Edinburgh.
Katy Oglethorpe, Stitches
Katy is writing her first novel, at the same time as expecting her first baby. She grew up in London and continues to live there with her partner and two chickens, Dorell and Kelly-An. Her day job is doing communications for a think tank, where she enjoys trying to make clever people’s thoughts more intelligible.
Ruth Rosengarten, Over
Ruth Rosengarten is an artist, bibliophile and recovering art historian who finds herself currently living with her dog in a village in Cambridgeshire. She has also lived in Israel, South Africa, Portugal, Oxford and London. In lockdown, after years of writing about paintings and photographs and installations and objects, her life changed and she wrote a story, and out of that grew Over, which is still being pieced together in fragments that suit her digressive attention and failure to grasp the concepts of plot and genre. She considers collage to be the principle that best describes both her studio practice and her new writing.
The Discoveries Prize winner will be announced on Wednesday 1st June. The winner will be offered representation by Curtis Brown Literary Agency and a cash prize of £5,000, plus have the opportunity to workshop their manuscript with an Audible commissioning editor, who will be specifically matched to their writing style and genre.
Interview with our shortlisted winners
How does it feel to be shortlisted for Discoveries?
Sui Annukka: I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such pure and unfettered joy. It’s like being lit up. It’s like the volume being turned up on life. And I want to share the feeling with everyone. Thank you so much for shortlisting me. I can’t wait to meet all the other writers at the workshops with Charlotte Mendelson. I am so excited to see how my writing develops with feedback and input from industry experts. This is such a privilege, and a phenomenal opportunity, so it’s also a little overwhelming. I am praying for the humility and courage to fully embrace the experience with an open heart. I hope that whatever results from this journey brings joy to many readers and makes my family, friends, and teachers proud.
Sadbh Kellett: Wow! I’m so incredibly astonished and truly honoured for my work to be shortlisted! Huge congratulations to the other shortlistees as well.
Nikki Logan: It feels like a dream! I have planned this novel for years and thrown away multiple drafts. The story means a lot to me personally, so it’s the first time I’ve plucked up the courage to share it with anyone because I really wanted to do it justice. I realise I have a long way to go with it, but having such an incredible panel of judges believe in my writing has given me a massive confidence boost. It’s such a huge honour to be on the shortlist and I’m so grateful for the support that comes with it to help me complete my novel.
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin: I’m thrilled to be on the shortlist, particularly when there were so many talented and energetic writers on the longlist. I can’t wait to read their books.
Katy Oglethorpe: Being shortlisted feels a bit like living in a parallel universe to be honest, where I’m the sort of person who might actually become a writer. So it means an enormous amount, thank you!
Ruth Rosengarten: I am still reeling with the news and utterly besides myself with surprise and delight. I had to reread the email several times; not telling absolutely anyone is the hardest part! It is thrilling and a little bit overwhelming to know that my words (and the world they are building in tiny moveable parts) has passed muster with this fantastic judging panel.
Where do you like to write?
Sui Annukka: I tend to favour different spaces for different parts of the writing process. I like being out and about on my own, ideally exploring somewhere I am not familiar with, when generating ideas. When I am writing, I need to be alone and quiet. I like editing in cafés, with life going on around me. I have specific tables and seats in particular cafes that I am very territorial about, and I am practically on first-name terms with the baristas.
Sadbh Kellett: Nothing beats a good café where I can disappear for hours into my writing.
Nikki Logan: I am lucky enough to have a mezzanine office space in our bedroom, which is my little writer’s retreat. It’s accessed via a ladder that my children still accept is too unsafe for them to climb (I’m not sure how much longer I can get away with this though!).
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin: In the corner of the spare bedroom. My desk is right by the window and a cast of raucous local cats do their best to distract me.
Katy Oglethorpe: One day I hope to have a den, attic, shed or room of my own, with post-it notes mapping my plot and inspirational quotes on the wall. But at the moment I mostly write lying down on the sofa with a hipster French radio station on in the background. (At the risk of being too meta, but this is what I’m doing right now).
Ruth Rosengarten: I write notes (notebook, app) all the time, but when I’m writing purposefully and with focus, it has to be on my desktop computer in my study, which is that perfect room of light and silence and industry.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Sui Annukka: Write what you need to write.
Sadbh Kellett: Show up for the muse!
Nikki Logan: Toni Morrison once said “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” I often refer back to this when I’ve found myself questioning the lack of books like mine and who might want to read it.
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin: I learned so much from A Swim in A Pond in the Rain by George Saunders. In particular, his advice to really dig into your sentences, trusting that thousands of line-level edits and micro-decisions will evolve into something richer and more interesting than you knew you were capable of.
Katy Oglethorpe: It’s not a sentence you could put on a poster, but I remember the first time I heard the phrase ‘sh*tty first draft’ (possibly on Hattie Crisell’s amazing In Writing podcast). It was liberating and weirdly revolutionary to be reminded not to treat writing too preciously, to keep going, and that first attempts are often by nature, well, sh*tty.
Ruth Rosengarten: Hmm. Just do it!