Words and Women launch their fifth annual writing prize for the East of England and continue to offer a national award for women over 40.

The competition is open for entries from 5th September with a deadline of midnight, 15th November.  The short prose competition offers the opportunity to enter not only short stories but non-fiction, memoir, and life-writing and this year’s guest judges arrive fresh from non-fiction triumph with their co-authored book, A Secret Sisterhood: The hidden friendships of Austen, Bronte, Eliot and Woolf.  Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney are also award-winning writers of fiction. Emily is a winner of the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize, and Emma is author of the award-winning novel Owl Song at Dawn. They co-run SomethingRhymed.com, a website that celebrates female literary friendship.

Both judges are looking ‘for compelling voices that combine a sensitivity to the musicality of language with a story that holds the reader’s attention from beginning to end.’ Narratives that are nuanced, complex and unusual will make them sit up and take note.

The national award, generously sponsored by Hosking Houses Trust, offers women writers over the age of 40 the opportunity to win £1,000 cash and a month-long writing retreat at Church Cottage, Stratford-Upon-Avon.

The East of England prize offers the winner £600 and a mentoring session with Jill Dawson of Gold Dust.  Both national and regional winners will be published in a compendium of the best stories published by Words and Women over the last five years. The compendium will be launched on International Women’s Day, 8th March 2018 in Norwich, as part of a year of activities supporting The Year of Publishing Women, a provocation launched in Norwich last year by Kamila Shamsie and supported by Words and Women.

‘We are very grateful and excited that Hosking Houses Trust has agreed to sponsor our competition with such a substantial national prize for a second year. It is a brilliant opportunity for women writers over 40 and we are looking forward to receiving entries from Billericay to Belfast.  And to have Jill Dawson’s mentoring session again as part of our regional prize is immensely supportive and provides a great opportunity for our regional winner,’ said Bel Greenwood, co-organiser of Words and Women.

‘This year, we have two outstanding guest judges with experience of both non-fiction and fiction, and we are looking forward to working with them and hearing their views on the selected long-list,’ said Lynne Bryan, co-organiser of Words And Women. ‘We work closely with the judges to select the winners but ultimately it is their choice after much discussion! It’s always an exciting process.’

Hosking Houses Trust is a unique charity which offers women over the age of 40 time in which to start, continue or complete interesting or innovative work, in a residency free from the pressures of everyday life. Writers who have been awarded residencies include Joan Bakewell and Sally Vickers.

Jill Dawson is the author of nine novels, including the best-selling Fred and Edie, (short-listed for The Whitbread and Orange Prize) and Watch Me Disappear (long-listed for the Orange Prize). Her novel The Great Lover, about the poet Rupert Brooke, published in 2009, was a best-seller and a Richard and Judy Summer Read.   Her latest is The Crime Writer, about Patricia Highsmith. Jill is the founder of Gold Dust, a high calibre mentoring scheme.  Gold Dust will offer all entrants to our competition a special discount on their mentoring scheme.

The Words and Women prose competition has proved itself to be a great showcase and previous winners have gone on to secure agent representation and increased interest in their work.

Entries should be 2,200 words or under.  Short works of fiction of any genre, memoir, life-writing, essays and creative non-fiction are all welcome. Extracts from longer works will not be considered. The deadline is 15th November 2017.  Winners will be announced in January 2018.  See the website for details.

2018 is set to be a busy and fulfilling year for Words and Women, who plan to mark the Year of Publishing Women and the Centenary of the Representation of the People’s Act 1918 with a full programme celebrating women’s literary and political achievements.

Visit the Words and Women website for more information about the competition.