Behind the Scenes at the New Writers Awards

Category: Writing

We are now open for applications for one of my favourite projects, the New Writers Awards. A great deal of my time is spent removed from the creative process, entering data into spreadsheets and writing reports, so it’s lovely to work with eight talented writers and watch them progress over a year. I have met some fantastic people and I’m really excited about the work they are going to produce.

The downside to working on the New Writers Awards is I also get to see how many great writers don’t make it through. I once got chatting to a lovely writer at one of our conferences; I recognised her name and asked if we had met before, she replied ‘You turned me down for a New Writers Award.’ She looked a bit hurt. I explained that this was not the case at all, we just didn’t choose her, we chose eight other writers out of the 150 people who applied. There were plenty of others who nearly made it and some who were successful later down the line. She perked up a bit. When you look at it like that it’s not so bad.

As there are only eight places available every year I always suggest that writers see applying to the awards as one of many things they should do to develop their writing and careers. Writers should also apply for retreats like Cove Park, go on creative writing courses in places like Moniack Mhor, get out to events such as the Literature Salons, send work to magazines, get the novel finished and send it out to agents and publishers. If you have submitted your work and no-one’s interested, try a manuscript appraisal.

After the panel has made its decision, I often get emails from applicants who haven’t made it. Many people tell me that pulling together the information was a useful process. Occasionally people get in touch to say that they have later found a agent or publisher, which is great, those emails cheer me up. There are always a few from people who are very angry telling me how wrong we were. During the awards period we work closely with the New Writers and we usually pair them with a mentor. Our New Writers have to open themselves up to criticism and rejection in order to improve and take advantage of opportunities. It is important that they behave professionally. I have therefore never looked at one of those angry emails and regretted the panel’s decision, not once.

If you apply for the awards you have taken the first step, your work is out there which puts you well ahead of the dabblers. Don’t worry if you don’t make it this time. To survive as a writer you need to be determined, you need to take the risk and make sure your work is seen by as many people as possible. It’s a first step, but it has to be one of many or I can guarantee you won’t get too far. And you never know, this time it might just be you.

The Scottish Book Trust New Writers Awards are open for applications until Thursday 24th November 2011 at midday. Click here for all the information you need to apply.

Caitrin Armstrong

Caitrin Armstrong is the Writer Development Manager for Scottish Book Trust.