By Jacqueline Grima
The 2016 Manchester Writing Competition is now open to entries in both its fiction and poetry categories. Established in 2008 by Dame Carol Ann Duffy and the Manchester Writing School, the competition offers a whopping £10,000 prize money to both the poetry and prose winners and attracts entries from all over the world.
Humanity Hallows recently caught up with two of the international finalists who were shortlisted for last year’s competition to ask them about their experience.
Tess lives in Pennsylvania and teaches literature and creative writing at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. Her poems ‘Wild Fennel’, ‘My Father’s Remains’, ‘Raspberries’, ‘Near the Ocean’s Edge’ and ‘After Singing Midnight Mass’ were shortlisted for the 2015 Manchester Poetry Prize. We asked her how she came to enter the Manchester Writing Competition.
“My love and admiration for the work of Carol Ann Duffy led me to learn about the Manchester Poetry Prize. I completed a dual-residency MFA program that took place in the U.S. and Ireland and as part of my coursework poet Mark Roper assigned Carol Ann Duffy’s work. Duffy has been and remains an important influence.”
How did she feel about submitting her work?
“I was fortunate to be a finalist for a few other poetry prizes in the U.S. and U.K and that affirmation gave me the courage to keep writing and keep submitting. Submission is an act of hope and one that as writers we must keep repeating. Submitting to the Manchester Prize, because of its prestige and big purse, was a long shot, but also an act of hope and an act of belief in the work.”
Tess was delighted when she find out she’d made the shortlist.
“When I got the email from James Draper telling me I was shortlisted I had to read it several times. Being shortlisted for a prize so big and so prestigious was a very encouraging and affirming gift for an emerging poet in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, looking to publish a first collection. I am so grateful for the honor and all the good it has brought.”
Although it is always a great honour to be chosen as the winner of a writing competition, Tess thinks that just being shortlisted for the Manchester Poetry Prize has had a huge impact on her writing career.
“Being shortlisted not only encouraged me as a writer, it opened doors. I’ve had requests to submit from publishers and publications since the shortlist was announced, something that had not happened before. I am hopeful it will help me in publishing my first collection of poetry. I believe because the prize is well-known and well-regarded it gives those associated with it a bit of shine. This is invaluable to the emerging writer looking to place a first book.”
Entering the competition couldn’t be easier, no matter where in the world a writer may live, and Tess wouldn’t hesitate to encourage other international poets and writers to submit their work.
“Technology has made it remarkably easy to submit your work worldwide. This is a wonderful thing for writers and readers. There are so many opportunities for poets writing in English in the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and the United States. I encourage any serious writer to submit some of their best work to these international competitions and to do so with hope.
“The opportunity to have your work read by acclaimed authors and perhaps make it to the shortlisted group is well worth the submission fee.”
Kierstin, from Colorado, was also shortlisted for the 2015 Manchester Poetry Prize with her poems ‘Demimonde’, ‘Ella Belladonna’, ‘Hunger is the Villain’, ‘Ella Unrequited’ and ‘Mining Town’. When she heard she had made the shortlist, she was shocked but knew immediately that she wanted to come to Manchester for the prize-giving ceremony at Number 70 Oxford Street, home of the Manchester Writing School.
“The poems I compiled for consideration were part of a larger project that I recently finished revising. None of the work from my project had yet been submitted anywhere.
“After hanging up the phone with the prize coordinator, my husband and I decided to fly to Manchester on a whim. We called my mother to come stay with our school-aged daughter, bought new ‘gala-worthy duds’ and boarded the plane. Knowing I had a 1 in 6 chance of winning was enough to make the adventure worthwhile. Life is too short to miss moment markers like these.”
Kierstin and her husband loved getting to know Manchester during their time here.
“Exploring Manchester was a delight. We especially loved chatting with scholars at Chetham’s Library and browsing the art shops and independent boutiques in the Northern Quarter. We fought through our jet lag during our short trip so we could take in as much as possible.”
Like Tess, Kierstin firmly believes that being shortlisted for the Poetry Prize has changed her writing life for the better and she would very much encourage other international writers to take part.
“Along with several other works, the poems short-listed found a home in a beautifully printed book by Lithic Press called Demimonde. I’ve also been on a reading tour this summer and hope to continue it into the fall and winter.
“It was an incredible experience to be among such talented writers. The Poetry Prize short-list was all women, which has, to my knowledge, never happened in the history of a prize this large—and it thrilled my feminist bones to the marrow!”
Read Tess and Kierstin’s shortlisted poems here.
The 2016 Manchester Writing Competition closes for entries on Friday 23rd September. For more information about how to enter and be in with the chance to win an amazing £10,000 in prize money, visit the competition website.