About the SI Leeds Literary Prize
The SI Leeds Literary Prize is an award for unpublished fiction by UK-based Black and Asian women, aged 18 and above. Our aim is to act as a loudspeaker for fresh and original literary voices from an under-represented group, and to help them reach new audiences in mainstream culture. With the help of our partners, shortlisted writers take part in a programme of craft and career development, the Prize Plus programme. Many of our entrants have gone on to land publishing deals, agents, and critical acclaim for their writing. Watch Prize Director, Fiona Goh, introduce the Prize and explain the role it plays in the UK’s literary ecology.
The Prize is awarded biennially, and the last award – the fifth edition of the Prize – was made in October 2020.
The prizes in 2020 were as follows:
£3,000 for the 1st Prize Aspire-igen award, plus a free place on an Arvon creative writing course, and manuscript assessment through The Literary Consultancy.
£1,250 for the runner-up and £750 for the third-placed writer, and manuscript assessment through The Literary Consultancy.
Shortlisted entrants will be supported through the Prize Plus programme of writer development. They will be offered 1:1 writer development sessions through Inscribe as well as the opportunity to join other great networking and development opportunities through our partners New Writing North. Our partners have explained why they work with the Prize, and tell us a little bit about the support they offer: watch Andrew Kidd from Arvon, Aki Schilz from The Literary Consultancy and Will Mackie of New Writing North talk about their relationships with the Prize.
The 2020 Aspire-igen 1st Prize was awarded to Wenyan Lu for ‘The Funeral Cryer’. LM Dillsworth won 2nd prize for ‘The Sun Sets in the East’ and third prize went to Sumana Khan for ‘The Good Twin’. The SI Readers’ Choice award was given to Sumana Khan for ‘The Good Twin’, being the favourite shortlisted entry as chosen by over 40 readers, including members from Soroptimist International. Nana Afua Pierre‘s ‘A boy called Silence’, Aisha Phoenix‘s ‘Bat Monkey and Other Stories’ and Huma Qureshi‘s ‘Things We Do Not Tell The People We Love’ were shortlisted and you can see all the shortlisted readings here.
The 2018 Aspire-igen Prize was awarded to Shereen Tadros for ‘Say Goodbye to Her’. Yvonne Singh won 2nd prize for ‘One Man’s Revolution’ and third prize went to Kavita Bhanot for ‘Baba Ji on Boulton Road’. The SI Readers’ Choice award was given to Omega Douglas for ‘Hibiscus, Rose, Jacaranda’, having the top number of votes from a range of Soroptimist International readers from across the UK. Mona Dash‘s ‘Let us Look Elsewhere’ and Yoanna Pak‘s ‘Wolnam’ were also shortlisted.
The 2016 Prize was awarded to Amita Murray for ‘Marmite and Mango Chutney’. Winnie M Li won 2nd prize for ‘Dark Chapter’ and Jamilah Ahmed won 3rd prize and the SI Readers’ Choice award for ‘Recognising Strangers’. Stella Ahmadou‘s ‘Deadly Sacrifice’, Fran Clark‘s ‘When Skies are Grey’ and Harkiran Dhindsa‘s ‘Our Staggering Minds,’ were also shortlisted.
Update on our alumni
Congratulations to Stella Ahmadou from our 2016 shortlist, who has signed a contract with Jacaranda to publish her shortlisted entry, Deadly Sacrifice, in 2020.
The 2014 Prizewinner, Mahsuda Snaith, has signed a two-book deal with Transworld publishers. Her award-winning entry, The Constellation of Ravine Roy, has been published by Doubleday as Things We Thought We Knew and her follow-up novel, How to Find Home, was featured as BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime in 2019. We were delighted that Mahsuda funded a series of bursaries for low income writers to enter the 2020 Prize, as well as chairing an event for the 2020 shortlist at the online Home by 10 Fest in October 2020. Watch Mahsuda explain what the Prize means to her.
Season Butler won second prize in 2014 for Hanging from the Hammer of the Bell. Season has a publishing contract with Dialogue Books for her new novel Cygnet.
Kit de Waal won the SI Readers’ Choice award in 2014, as the favourite manuscript of readers drawn from Soroptimist International membership, for Blue in Green. Kit has a three-book deal with Penguin. Her debut novel My Name is Leon was published by Viking to critical acclaim. Her novel, The Trick to Time, was longlisted for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction. Watch Kit explain what the Prize means to her, and the role that prizes play in writer development.
2016 runner-up and 2018 judge, Winnie M Li’s entry Dark Chapter won the 2017 Not the Booker Prize. It has been published by Legend Press.
2016 winner Amita Murray has signed a two-book deal with Harper Collins and Finding Rose was published in 2019.
Founders and core partners
The Prize is an initiative of Soroptimist International of Leeds, an organisation dedicated to the development and support of women. Soroptimist International helps women across the world achieve their potential and have an equal voice. These principles are embedded in the SI Leeds Literary Prize. Watch Val Saunders of SI Leeds explain why SI Leeds set up the Prize, and how it fits with their work.
We work in partnership with Yorkshire-based literature organisations, Ilkley Literature Festival and Peepal Tree Press. These organisations have a track record in literature development and are committed to promoting and developing black and minority ethnic writers. Watch Erica Morris of Ilkley Literature Festival explain the Festival’s involvement with the Prize and Hannah Bannister of Peepal Tree Press on the role the Prize plays in the industry.
The SI Leeds Literary Prize is funded by Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants and sponsorship from aspire-igen, a Yorkshire-based social enterprise. Watch Stephen May of Arts Council England discuss why ACE supports the Prize and how it fits with its funding through National Lottery Project Grants.