First Drafts Competition

First Drafts update
Due to the coronavirus pandemic we had to cancel plans for the 2020 and 2021 First Drafts competitions in order to focus all of our efforts into promoting our authors and their books during the lockdown periods.

First Drafts 2018—joint winners
Rutendo Chabikwa and Anni Domingo were joint winners for the 2018 First Drafts Competition for unpublished writers.

Rutendo Chabikwa was chosen for her short story about mental anguish and depression, ‘Todzungaira’. The judges found it ‘beautifully written, captivating and very moving’, commenting that ‘the author has managed to develop a story about a sensitive and taboo topic that is not only relevant but shines a light on an important subject’.

Anni Domingo was chosen for an excerpt from her novel-in-progress, Breaking the Maafa Chain. The judges commented: ‘This is a refreshing and original take on a familiar time period. The author has developed a great style, allowing readers to follow the story with ease. The historic framing is especially notable. This is a truly beautiful piece of work.’

Myriad’s First Drafts competition recognises promising work-in-progress and is open to writers who have not yet published a collection of stories or novel. In 2018, in a special edition of the competition in celebration of Myriad’s publication of New Daughters of Africa edited by Margaret Busby (March 2019), submissions were invited from unpublished women writers who identify as being of African heritage.

Margaret Busby OBE, writer and broadcaster, Elise Dillsworth, literary agent and Vanessa La Rose of New Beacon Books joined the judging panel alongside Myriad’s Publishing Director Candida Lacey, New Internationalist editor Kelsi Farrington and novelist and Martine McDonagh.

Both winning entries were published in New Daughters of Africa, an anthology compiled by Margaret Busby to showcase the work of over 200 women writers from around the world, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Malorie Blackman, Esi Edugyan, Andrea Levy, Warsan Shire and Zadie Smith, as well as overlooked historical authors and today’s emerging writers.

Our congratulations to the other finalists: Christine Amede, Gila K. Berryman, Emmanuella Dekonor, Malika K. McCoy, Ethel Maqeda, Morenike May, Melita Vurden and Roxanne Young.

About First Drafts
First Drafts is an event organised by Myriad to uncover new literary talent. It is at the heart of Myriad’s mission to nurture exceptional writers, and provides an opportunity for aspiring authors to have their work noticed by publishers and agents.

Previously unpublished writers are invited to submit entries of up to 5,000 words from a novel, narrative nonfiction or short story collection in progress. The prize is a week-long writing retreat at West Dean College, a centre of creativity and tranquillity near Chichester in West Sussex, plus detailed editorial feedback from the judges and six months’ mentoring from a Myriad author.

Previous winners
Now in its ninth year, First Drafts has a track record of launching writers who have gone on to enjoy creative and commercial success. Stephen Mullan won a TV deal and a German publisher for his thriller, The Other Side, within months of being shortlisted for First Drafts 2016 and before the UK edition of his novel is published.

First Drafts 2016 winner Vanessa Savage, who was also shortlisted for First Drafts 2014, signed a six-figure, two-book deal shortly after winning. She writes:

‘Being shortlisted and then going on two years later to win the First Drafts competition was a huge confidence boost. It made me believe I was writing something worth reading. The feedback from the judges was invaluable and the winner’s announcement event was a prize in itself. Finding time to write has always been an issue and the prize of a week’s writing retreat at West Dean offered me a dream-come-true opportunity to spend time working on my book. Now both the books entered into the competition are going to be published! I would recommend the First Drafts competition to anyone.’

Other past successes include 2010 winner Kirsty Logan, who used her retreat to write a short story that she later expanded to become her novel, The Gracekeepers (Harvill Secker); 2013 winner The Gift of Looking Closely by Al Brookes was Guardian Self-Published Book of the Month; a sample of Juliet West’s novel Before the Fall (Pan) was shortlisted in 2013; American short story writer Owen D. Cluer (winner, 2014) was signed by literary agent Becky Thomas (Johnson & Alcock); and Paul McVeigh’s novel The Good Son, shortlisted in 2013, was published by Salt and won the Guardian Not-the-Booker Prize.

Swan Song, by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, was shortlisted in 2015. It went on to win The Bridport Prize Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel and was published by Hutchinson in 2018. Kelleigh credits First Drafts with helping to launch her writing career:

‘I don’t think you could possibly know how much your early support of Swan Song meant. Myriad validated that I had created something special, and gave me the momentum to sprint forward and never look back. To now have everything come to fruition is amazing, and I know what a hugely significant role you and Myriad have played in that journey’.

Myriad has published several writers brought to its attention through the competition, including Lisa Cutts,whose crime debut Never Forget was been optioned by a major TV company; Nina de la Mer, author of the acclaimed novels 4 a.m. and LaylaHannah Vincent, whose debut, Alarm Girl, came out in 2014; S.E. Craythorne, author of How You See Me, and Sara Marshall-Ball, author of Hush, both published in 2015.