The Women’s Prize Trust announces the 2021 ‘Discoveries’ Shortlist

The Women’s Prize Trust the charity championing women writers on a global stage today announces the 2021 Shortlist for its new ‘Discoveries’ writing initiative.

The Women’s Prize Trust’s Discoveries, powered by NatWest and Curtis Brown, aims to find untapped female writing talent from across the UK and Ireland. Over 2,300 women submitted their works of fiction to the inaugural Discoveries programme, 73% of whom live outside London. 

16 authors were initially longlisted by a judging panel chaired by Kate Mosse, bestselling novelist and Founder Director of the Women’s Prize; with Abi Daré, debut novelist; Sandeep Mahal, Director for Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature; Lucy Morris, Curtis Brown literary agent; and Anna Davis, Founder and Managing Director of Curtis Brown Creative writing school. 

Six authors at the start of their writing journey have subsequently been selected for this year’s shortlist. This list boasts a diverse range of genres and themes from six distinctive voices, including a British-Ghanaian writer now based in Gloucestershire, a young writer who began with Taylor Swift fan fiction, and a translator. Also in the mix is a Scottish writer with an MA in Creative & Life Writing from Goldsmiths, a British-Iranian writer navigating her 20s in London, and a fundraiser who works at the V&A. Their writing spans from 15th century West Africa to Texas via New York; from an empty flat where we find an obsessive cleaner, to the job interviews of a woman whose name is continually mispronounced; from a Scottish youth hostel, to the fantasy world of the undead.

The shortlist (in alphabetical order) is as follows: 

  • Under the Light, Yet Under by Lorna Elcock
  • Pantheon by Lucy Keefe
  • A Boy Called Silence by Nana Afua Pierre
  • Heartstring by Emma van Straaten
  • Say my Name by Niloufar Tabatabai
  • Dosage and Control by April Yee

Kate Mosse, Chair of Discoveries Judging Panel, said:

“It was a tough decision to whittle down our longlist to only six, but it was a discussion full of admiration, of celebration and of excitement. We were looking for promise, for imagination and distinctive voice, for diversity of genre and experience, age and background, but most of all for writers at the beginning of their writing journeys with something special to say. Some have been writing for a while and so are the right place to take things forward, others picked up their pens for the very first time as part of Discoveries. We’re delighted that Curtis Brown literary agency and creative writing school are offering a range of mentoring and writing support initiatives and look forward to seeing what each of these six writers will do next. A huge thank you to my fellow judges – Abi Daré, Anna Davis, Sandeep Mahal and Lucy Morris – and congratulations to all the authors on our inaugural Discoveries shortlist.”

All 16 longlisted authors will be offered personalised mentorship packages from a Curtis Brown agent or industry expert tailored to their needs, free or discounted places on Curtis Brown creative’s writing courses and access to NatWest’s Business Builder, a digital tool designed to give the right support at the right time to individuals and their business. Shortlisted authors are also invited to attend the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 ceremony in July and will be gifted access to NatWest’s ‘Women in Business’ events and a financial health check. The winner of the 2021 Discoveries programme will be announced on 9 June, and will receive an offer of representation from Curtis Brown literary agency, £5,000 and desk space in a NatWest Accelerator Hub. The runner-up will win a place on Curtis Brown Creative’s flagship three-month Writing Your Novel course worth £1,800.

To inspire as many budding writers as possible to enter and to help writers craft their submissions, the Women’s Prize Trust, NatWest, Curtis Brown Literary Agency and Curtis Brown Creative Writing School, curated a programme of open source online and podcast content, including interviews with publishing professionals, practical advice and inspiration from former winners of the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and teaching notes by Curtis Brown Creative Writing School. Several masterclass-style events were also hosted with a number of partners to reach as wide an audience as possible, with free or discounted places available to under-represented groups for every session, including Guardian Live, How To Academy, Bradford Literary Festival, and the Writers Weekend Festival, with more planned in 2022.


Notes for editors about Discoveries:

  • The closing date for submissions was 17 January 2021
  • There were 2,378 entries.
  • The longlist (of 16) was announced on 5 May; the shortlist (of six) is announced on 19 May and the winner, as well as the runner-up, will be announced on 9 June.
  • Discoveries 2021 was open to all women aged 18 and above, residing in the UK or Ireland and writing in English. The programme accepts novels-in-progress in any genre of adult fiction.
  • Discoveries was launched in honour of the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and in recognition of untapped diverse and exceptional writing talent across the country.
  • Discoveries 2022 will call for entries in September 2021. 
  • More information about Discoveries can be found here:

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