I was happy to see a call for entries for the Luke Bitmead Writers’ Bursary 2009. Luke wrote an excellent book, White Summer, in 2006, but died only a few months after it was published. His second book, Heading South, co-written with Catherine Richards, was published posthumously. His family then set up a foundation to help other young writers, and award a prize every year to an aspiring novelist.
This is the prize that I won last year, leading to the publication of On the Holloway Road. You enter the first three chapters of your novel, and it’s judged by a panel including novelists Deborah Wright and Zoe Jenny, as well as Luke’s family and the Legend Press team. The winner gets £2,500 and a publishing contract with Legend Press.
I’d strongly recommend this to any unpublished writers who are looking for a break. It’s free to enter and winning is a fantastic way to get published. It has quite literally changed my life.
I love contests in general, especially for new writers. The big advantage is that you’re on a level playing field. Usually the manuscripts have to be anonymous, so it doesn’t matter whether you have any track record, any contacts in the publishing world, etc. It’s all about the writing, and that’s what you want as an unpublished writer. Also, the contest organisers have actively asked for submissions and are looking for a winner, so you know your work will be read. It’s very different from submitting your manuscript to an editor or agent who’s swamped with submissions and is looking for any excuse to reject you. If you win, or are even shortlisted, it’s something to put on your writing CV for the rest of your life. Contests are how I got my first essay, my first short story and now my first novel published. Enter more contests!!
Even if you don’t plan to enter, the website for the foundation is worth a look. It was originally Luke’s personal website/blog, so you can see his posts and photos from 2006, and his family have now added information about the memorial fund. As well as helping new writers, the fund aims to spread awareness of mental health issues and encourage greater research and understanding, so it’s a good cause. And do check out both of Luke’s books – they are both well-written, very good reads.