If you are an unpublished UK writer with a novel manuscript ready for submission, I’d strongly recommend that you check out the Luke Bitmead Bursary. Submissions for the 2012 contest are open from now until 3rd August. It’s for UK residents only.
This is the contest I entered back in 2008 and, to my amazement, won. Everything that’s happened in my career since then has been a result of entering that contest, so please give yourself a chance and go for it. I was the first winner, and since then three more people have got publishing contracts through the Bursary:
- Ruth Dugdall, The Woman Before Me
- Sophie Duffy, The Generation Game
- J.R. Crook, Sleeping Patterns (forthcoming)
There’s no entry fee, and the winner gets a cash prize plus a publishing contract with Legend Press. If you have a novel ready, there really is nothing to lose.
For everyone else, I’d recommend visiting Luke’s website to find out more about Luke Bitmead, a talented writer who suffered from depression and committed suicide only a few months after his debut novel, White Summer, came out. His second, Heading South, was published posthumously, and a third, The Body is a Temple, which he actually wrote before White Summer but which was never published at the time, is being launched this week.
The Luke Bitmead Memorial Fund was established by Luke’s mother to support young writers in getting published and to raise awareness of the issue of depression. The website is Luke’s original blog, maintained and added to since his death by his mother Elaine. I find it strange visiting the site, and seeing news of the Bursary’s current development mixed in with Luke’s own blog posts and photos from shortly before his death in 2006. I love that Elaine has left them up there for everyone to see, and hope that they always remain there, but it’s so sad and incomprehensible to see the optimism of book signings and reviews and to know that it was followed so swiftly by suicide.
But that’s the thing about depression, isn’t it? It can’t be easily explained or rationalised by people on the outside. That’s why any effort to understand it better is so important. If you can, please consider supporting the Memorial Fund either with a donation, or by buying one of Luke’s books, the royalties of which are donated to the fund.
Update: check out UK writer Tom Quigley’s beautiful response to this post and to Luke’s story here.