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The 2023 Discoveries Shortlist!

We are thrilled to announce the 2023 Discoveries shortlist! The Discoveries programme, run by the Women’s Prize Trust in partnership with Curtis Brown literary agency, the Curtis Brown Creative writing school and Audible, aims to find and support aspiring female writing talent from across the UK and Ireland and culminates in the awarding of the Discoveries Prize. 

This year’s incredible shortlist dazzled our judges with its range of genres and ambition – from imaginings of a dystopian future through to historical fantasy, psychological thriller to romantic comedy. These six exciting new voices in fiction were selected by a judging panel chaired by Kate Mosse, bestselling novelist, playwright and Founder-Director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction; Lucy Morris, Curtis Brown literary agent; Anna Davis, Founder and Managing Director of Curtis Brown Creative writing school; and esteemed novelists, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Chibundu Onuzo. 

Kate Mosse, Chair of the Discoveries Judging Panel, said: “Our judging meeting was passionate, fun, full of delight and awe at the range and quality of the submissions, and it was hard to choose just six authors. There is a fabulous range of genres – from speculative fiction to romance – novels set in the past, the recent present and the imagined future, the promise of stories of love, loss, climate, history.  We cannot wait to read each of the novels and feel certain that these are all writers to watch.”

All six writers are offered a mentoring session with a Curtis Brown agent plus a free six-week online course with Curtis Brown Creative. They’ll also take part in a bespoke two-week writing development course, led by author Charlotte Mendelson, designed and delivered by Curtis Brown Creative, as well as attending a studio session on writing and recording for audio with Audible. The overall Discoveries winner and one promising ‘Scholar’ will be announced on 1 June.

Here the six shortlisted writers tell us how it feels to be shortlisted and share what inspires them to write.

Louisa Ashton, Build Her with Green

How does it feel to be shortlisted for Discoveries? 

Being shortlisted for Discoveries has blown my mind. I had to go on a very long walk in the rain to fully comprehend the news! And then sit with my cat for a few hours. I’m still in shock, but I’m also absolutely honoured and thrilled to be listed amongst the other writers. It really has given me such a spark of joy, feeling that this story could potentially have a life beyond my laptop. 

Who is your favourite female novelist and why?  

I have been inspired and intrigued by so many female novelists, including Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Arundhati Roy and Eimear McBride. However, right now, I’m revelling in the act of losing myself in Sarah Hall’s work. I’m utterly absorbed by her compelling yet frightening speculative fiction, and her work is amongst the most evocative place and nature writing I’ve encountered.

What inspires you to write? 

Since I was a child, my imagination has been a rampant, chaotic mess and writing helps to channel the stories and characters that insist on sticking around. As a reader, I turn to books to feel something visceral; to put my senses through their paces and to challenge the way I view the world. I think the thing that continues to keep me writing is the exhilaration of trying to capture that visceral experience in my own work.

Fiona Campbell, The Wife of Riley

How does it feel to be shortlisted for Discoveries?  

Incredible. I entered the competition with no expectations whatsoever, so to be on the shortlist feels truly amazing. I’m so grateful to everyone involved with Discoveries for this wonderful opportunity. 

Who is your favourite female novelist and why?  

Marian Keyes without a doubt! Her writing is funny, clever and so warm-hearted. The skillful way she balances humour, romance and serious issues is a joy to read. I love using Audible on the go and when I listen to a Marian Keyes novel (especially when she narrates it herself) it’s like having her sitting right beside me on the train or bus, making me laugh so much I often miss my stop.  

What inspires you to write? 

Sharing the funny observations of life. I love stories that make me laugh but equally move me to tears and help me think about deeper issues. Writing for me is like chatting to an old friend who waits patiently for you to decide what to say on the page. I am inspired by the thought that, one day, someone else might read that page and resonate with it. 

Georgina Charles, Colour Me In

How does it feel to be shortlisted for Discoveries? 

This is SO OVERWHELMING in a good way. I feel like my dreams have become attainable and I’m super motivated to pursue them thanks to all the positivity I’ve received since being longlisted!

Who is your favourite female novelist and why?  

It’s not fair to make me choose so I’ll give you a list. Madeline Miller, for obvious, devastating reasons, Naomi Novik’s worldbuilding, Seanan McGuire’s atmosphere, Liselle Sambury’s family drama, Sara J Maas for a GOOD TIME, and romance author Talia Hibbert. I think she’s the writer I relate to most – black, British, autistic, giving energy to diverse romcoms like I’ve never seen. I low-key think we could be besties… Talia, your move.

What inspires you to write? 

I’ll hear random facts or anecdotes and my brain just lights up in every direction. It’s hard to ignore something so loud and beautiful as when that happens.  

Paige Cowan-Hall, Marooned

How does it feel to be shortlisted for Discoveries? 

I can’t believe it. To be in the final six of this competition is unreal. I honestly was so close to not applying, thinking the writing wasn’t good enough. So, to be shortlisted is proof that you should always go for it.  

Who is your favourite female novelist and why?  

It changes depending on my mood but currently Madeline Miller is my favourite. Her ability to create stories that come full circle and the way she weaves plot and character development with mythology is truly beautiful. 

What inspires you to write? 

I just always have. I’m a fantasist at heart and writing down the stories that I craft in my head just makes sense to me. As children my brothers and I used to create stories and characters and act them out, perhaps that’s where it started.  

Riana Duce, Without a Trace

How does it feel to be shortlisted for Discoveries? 

Making the shortlist is just more joy, more disbelief, and more immense gratitude; things I thought had reached their peak when I was longlisted! I’m unbelievably grateful to the teams behind Discoveries for the opportunities they’ve provided with this programme. It’s been so galvanising, and I’m fizzing with excitement for what’s to come.  

Who is your favourite female novelist and why?  

My favourite author is Andrea Levy. Small Island taught me more about the Windrush generation – and with it my own family history – than school ever did. There isn’t a book Levy wrote that I don’t adore. Her voice, her wit, the intimacy and scope of her work, and her phenomenal characters will live with me forever.  

What inspires you to write? 

The phenomenal, talented, supportive women in my life – my biggest hope is to write a book they’d want to read. And my brilliant grandpa, who can still be found writing most days at the age of 100. 

Emily Utter, The Night Room

How does it feel to be shortlisted for Discoveries? 

I’m overcome with emotion about the whole thing and have been oscillating between moments of pure joy and disbelief. I’m profoundly pleased to have my writing recognised in this way and am trying to enjoy the moment and soak it all in! I’m so looking forward to the next few months and all the opportunities and experiences to come. A million thank yous to the judging panel and the reading team.   

Who is your favourite female novelist and why?  

Claire Keegan. She is a master of form. The way she uses language – the precision, her endings – perfection. Every word has its place. I’ve read Foster more times than I can count and each time I see something new. She is the short story writer’s novelist.  

What inspires you to write? 

Just about everything that I encounter: a bit of over-heard conversation, an interesting looking tree in someone’s front garden… the complex lives of the people around me. I’m particularly drawn to memory and how we shape, narratively speaking, the stories we tell about ourselves. I love the malleability of language – I love how an ordinary moment can be transformed when it is conveyed with the right words.

Alongside the announcement of the overall winner of Discoveries 2023 on 1 June, one promising writer from the shortlist of six will be named the ‘Discoveries Scholar’.

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