The Scottish Book Trust has announced the 11 recipients of the New Writers Awards 2021, which provide a selection of talented writers who have not yet published a full-length book or collection with professional guidance to help them move towards publication, as well as financial support. Funded by Creative Scotland and run by Scottish Book Trust, the national charity transforming lives through reading and writing, the awards have supported over 100 creative individuals since 2009.
The prestigious judging panel included Scots Makar Jackie Kay, Niall Campbell and Colin Waters for poetry; Tendai Huchu, Janice Galloway, Denise Mina and Alan Bett judging fiction; and Dean Atta, Lari Don and Hannah Sycamore (Scottish Book Trust) judging Children’s and YA entries. The Gaelic Books Council selects the two Gaelic New Writer Awardees.
Former New Writers awardees include Nicola White, whose novel The Rosary Garden (Profile) was re-released in January; Helen Sedgwick’s third novel Where the Missing Gather (Oneworld) will be published in May 2021 and Man Booker Prize shortlistee Graeme Macrae Burnet will release Case Study (Saraband) in October 2021.
The 2021 awardees are:
- Nasim Rebecca Asl
- Thomas Stewart
- Tim Craven
Children’s and Young Adult
- Hazel Knox
- Sally Costelloe
Fiction and Narrative Non-Fiction
- Deborah Chu
- Gillian Shearer
- Hannah Nicholson
- Samantha Dooey-Miles
- Beth Frieden
- Roddy Neithercut
Each of the 11 recipients will receive a £2,000 cash award and support tailored to their needs including mentoring from writers and industry professionals, training opportunities, and the platform to showcase their work to publishers and agents.
Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said:
“In uncertain times, it is more important than ever to celebrate and discover new writers in Scotland. Working within COVID restrictions, Scottish Book Trust will support the awardees through online training, workshops and mentoring. As always, the standard of the applications were very high and we look forward to future publications from this group.”
Alan Bett, Interim Head of Literature, Languages & Publishing, Creative Scotland said:
“The list of past winners speaks for itself and gives us all reason to expect that the names on this year’s list will be on bookshelves across the country in future. It was a pleasure to sit on the fiction panel and the wealth of talent, while hugely encouraging, made decision making a near impossible process.”
Alison Lang, Director of the Gaelic Books Council, said:
“The Gaelic Book Council’s on-going partnership with Scottish Book Trust allows us to give Gaelic writers this valuable opportunity early in their careers to work with experienced mentors and develop their craft, and we are excited to be working with new writers of Beth and Roddy’s calibre this year as they work towards their first publications.”
The New Writers Showcase, a celebration of work by last year’s awardees, will be held online through Scottish Book Trust’s social media accounts on Wednesday 31 March. Information about tickets will be available on Scottish Book Trust’s website soon.
Awardees biography and quotes
- Nasim Rebecca Asl is a poet and journalist living in Glasgow, originally from Washington, Tyne and Wear. She was selected for the BBC’s Journalism Trainee Scheme in 2017 and now works in the realm of political television. Consequently, current affairs regularly seep into her poetry, though familial relationships, heritage, and the experience of being mixed-race feature heavily in her work. Her poetry has appeared in Gutter Magazine, Modern Poetry in Translation and Middleground Magazine, as well as on Young Poet’s Network and Tapsalteerie’s anthology pamphlet Ceremony. In 2020 Nasim was featured in the poetry-film project Sorry I Was On Mute, part of the inaugural Fringe of Colour Films, and participated in the Traverse Young Writers programme. Nasim Rebecca Asl said: “Receiving a New Writers Award has been a real beam of light during a pretty dreary time. I’m very grateful to have been selected by Scottish Book Trust. To have this support and encouragement in my poetry is so exciting, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.”
- Thomas Stewart is based in Leith, originally from Cardiff, Wales. A writer and an English teacher, his debut pamphlet empire of dirt was a Poetry Book Society selection and is published by Red Squirrel Press. He was highly commended in the Verve 2020 Poetry Competition and his poetry has been selected for the Best Scottish Poems 2019 anthology and We’ve Done Nothing Wrong, We’ve Nothing To Hide, published by Verve Poetry Press, 2020. Thomas Stewart said: “I think I’m still in the moment of receiving the award – stunned, elated, full of disbelief and wonder. Come to think of it, it’s the same feeling as writing poetry. Honestly, to receive the New Writers Award is an incredible honour, many of the previous recipients are writers I greatly admire, so I am extremely humbled and thankful and excited to venture ahead and write my first collection.”
- Tim Craven was raised in Stoke-on-Trent and is now based in Edinburgh. He has an MFA from Syracuse University and completed his PhD thesis at the University of Edinburgh on the characterisation of mental illness in Confessional poetry. His poems have recently appeared in The Scotsman, The London Magazine, The Manchester Review and the SPL’s Best Scottish Poems. His pamphlet, Lake Effect is published by Tapsalteerie. Tim Craven said: “I am thrilled and immensely grateful that my writing has been recognised in this way. The New Writers Award is a terrific opportunity to focus on my poems as I work towards compiling my first full collection.”
- Hazel Knox is a Children’s Occupational Therapist from Thurso, who now lives in Edinburgh. She has been writing picture books and middle grade for children for six years. Her passion is writing funny books and she shamelessly harvests material from her two children. Hazel was shortlisted in the 2020 Chicken House Open Coop and given an honourable mention in a 2020 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) slush pile challenge looking for funny middle grade. She is a regular contributor to MADE (Mums and Dads Edinburgh) magazine. Hazel Knox said: “I missed the call from Scottish Book Trust and after I spoke to them I went back and listened to their message six times to convince myself it definitely happened. I’m excited they see potential in my writing and very grateful for the opportunity. I plan to drink in every moment of support and advice in the year ahead.”
- Sally Costelloe was born in Essex and now lives on the Isle of Mull, Argyll & Bute. She spent 20 years as a journalist and editor for tattoo art magazines. After leaving behind the world of relentless monthly deadlines a few years ago, she revived her love of writing fiction. She is currently editing the manuscript of her first children’s novel. Sally is passionate about writing for the seven to ten age group as she feels that is when a life-long love of reading can begin. The stories she writes are based in reality but with a real sense of adventure. Sally Costelloe said: “I am so excited to receive a New Writers Award. The support and mentoring will be invaluable as I hone my technique, settle into my style and hopefully edge towards publication. If my writing inspires just one child to carry on reading, that would be the ultimate achievement.”
- Deborah Chu was born in Taipei and raised in Vancouver, moving to Scotland in 2015 to complete an MSc in Literature and Modernity at the University of Edinburgh. She is currently a Content Editor at The List and has written for them since 2018, with a specialisation in theatre and green arts initiatives. In 2019, she was the recipient of the Fringe Society’s Allen Wright Award for excellence in arts criticism. Her current area of focus is on short stories, with a particular interest in the role of form and structure in storytelling. As someone who learned English as a second language, she’s also invested in exploring how language both shapes and places limits upon our understanding of the world, and the opportunities that arise when words fail us. Deborah Chu said: “Even weeks after the fact, I don’t think the enormity of the news has quite sunk in yet! Thank you so much to Scottish Book Trust for this incredible honour, and the support and guidance this award will provide. I cannot wait to get started.”
- Gillian Shearer is a writer and poet from Aberdeenshire. She writes in both English and Scots. She initially trained as a nurse and worked in the NHS for several years before studying English Literature at Aberdeen University as a mature student. She then went on to take a PGDE in Secondary education and a MLitt in Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in Southlight, Causeway/Cabhsair, Lallans and Northwords Now. She is currently working on a novel based on the life of the Welsh war poet Alun Lewis as well as a collection of fictional/semi-autobiographical stories based in and around the north east coast of Scotland written in her native Scots. Gillian Shearer said: “I still can’t believe it! I’m so honoured to be selected for a New Writers Award. To move that bit closer to completing my novel with the support of Scottish Book Trust is a dream come true.”
- Hannah Nicholson is originally from Brae in Shetland but has lived in Aberdeen since 2016. Her earliest writing achievement was winning the Shetland Library’s Young Writer of the Year Award in 2005. She was a runner up in the 2009 Keith Wright Memorial Prize and studied MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen and then completed an MSc in Information and Library Studies at Robert Gordon University.
Hannah has had work published in Gutter, Northwords Now, Causeway, and Silk & Smoke, as well as in some student publications. She has written a number of works in Shetland dialect, in some cases incorporating local folklore, as well as work that focuses on mental health, isolation and loneliness. Hannah Nicholson said: “It really cheered up a dreich and dull December day to be told I’d won a New Writers Award and I’m still processing it. This was my sixth try and it was worth the wait. I’m really excited to experience the opportunities it brings and to meet my fellow awardees.”
- Samantha Dooey-Miles is a writer from Hamilton who focuses on short-form work told in first-person, female voices. Her stories have appeared in Severine, Postbox, Razur Cuts, and Clover & White. She has had monologues performed by Slackline Productions and Coronavirus Theatre Club. Two of her short plays have been staged at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch. Samantha Dooey-Miles said: “I am thrilled to have been selected to receive the New Writers Award and have the opportunities it brings made available to me. One of the hardest things about trying to find an audience for my writing has been the feeling that routes to progress are difficult to find or make your way through – with this award it feels as if I’ve been given the map.”
- Beth Frieden is from New Hampshire, USA and now lives in Glasgow. She is a writer, actor, and voice artist, working in Scottish Gaelic and English. She is Associate Artist at Theatre Gu Leòr in Glasgow and a member of the Workers Theatre cooperative. Beth’s work has appeared in New Writing Scotland, Gutter, and the Gaelic Books Council’s website, and will be featured in StAnza’s Poetry Loops event this March. Her poem ‘Taobh na craoibhe’ was runner up in the 2019 Morton Writing Competition. Beth Frieden said: “I am so pleased and excited for the mentoring process and the opportunity for more writing that this New Writers Award will give me in 2021.”
- Roddy Neithercut grew up near Callander in the Trossachs and now lives on the Isle of Skye. Roddy has worked in Gaelic medium education across the country as a secondary school teacher and, in recent years, as a primary school teacher. Writing has played an important part of Roddy’s teaching career and has engaged with many genres, including fiction, poetry and non-fiction, and he has also written for Gaelic publications such as Steall. With the support of this award, he hopes to expand his writing skills and complete his first novel. Roddy Neithercut said: “I am incredibly humbled to be offered this New Writers Award. It is a fantastic opportunity for any writer, and I am sure will help me take my writing to the next level.”
Scottish Book Trust
Scottish Book Trust is a national charity that believes everyone living in Scotland should have equal access to books. Our work provides opportunities to improve life chances through books and the fundamental skills of reading and writing. Access to books and a love of books bring many important benefits from family bonding and advancing children’s learning, to unlocking creativity, helping employability and improving mental health & well-being. Scottish Book Trust aims to support all communities across Scotland, with particular focus on those who are vulnerable and under-represented.
Our programmes and outreach work include:
- Gifting books to every child in Scotland to ensure families of all backgrounds can share the joy of books at home, through Bookbug and Read Write Count
- Working with teachers to inspire children to develop a love of reading, creating innovative classroom activities, book awards and author events such as Authors Live with the BBC and our Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour
- Supporting and nurturing Scotland’s wide-ranging literary talent, both emerging and established through our training, awards and writing opportunities including New Writers Awards
- Creating events to share books and connect writers with communities, including Book Week Scotland
- Proving support to people living with dementia, and their carers, through Reading is Caring
In addition to the funding we receive from the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland, we need the constant support of trusts and foundations, corporate sponsors and individual donors.