Words and Women have launched their fourth annual writing prize for the East of England and a new national award for women over 40.


The national award, generously sponsored by Hosking Houses Trust, marks the fifth anniversary of Words and Women and offers women over the age of 40 the opportunity to win £1,000 and a month-long writing retreat.


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 Words and Women: Four, alongside 20 runners up. The anthology, published in partnership with Unthank Books in Norwich, will be launched on International Women’s Day, 8th March, 2017.


This year’s guest judge is Naomi Wood, the prize-winning author of The Godless Boys and the bestseller Mrs. Hemingway (both from Picador). Mrs. Hemingway has been translated into ten languages, won the Jerwood Fiction Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2015 International Dylan Thomas Prize. It was also a 2015 Richard and Judy Bookclub choice.


‘We are having a wonderful fifth anniversary year,’ said Belona Greenwood, co-organiser of Words and Women. ‘It is incredibly generous of Hosking Houses Trust to sponsor such a substantial national prize and a brilliant opportunity for women writers over 40. We are looking forward to receiving stories from London to Limerick. And to have Jill Dawson’s mentoring session added to our regional prize is immensely supportive and provides a great opportunity for our regional winner.’


‘To have a judge of the calibre of Naomi Wood is also a huge boost for our organisation,’ said Lynne Bryan, co-organiser. ‘Naomi is a terrific writer and her expertise will enable us to select the most worthy winners.’

As far as Naomi Wood is concerned, she is looking for ‘writing that is smart but also honest. Writing that challenges the reader and writing that may take risks in voice or form. But most of all, I’m looking for writing that has a big heart, and where the reader is left moved by the whole experience of being in the world created by the writer.’

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 packages.


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, memoir, life-writing and creative non-fiction are all welcome. Extracts from longer works will not be considered. The deadline is 15th November 2016.  Winners will be announced in January 2017.


Norwich-based Words and Women showcase and celebrate women writers who live in the East of England, at all stages of their professional careers.  The organisation which began as a simple reading event five years ago has gone on to host more vibrant and eclectic reading events, make a film, hold a garden festival and commission new work. About, funded by Arts Council England, gave four women writers the opportunity to produce new work for page and performance. This year, in partnership with Norfolk Library and Information Service, Words and Women has mentored 30 women in rural isolation to produce an anthology of life writing due to be published in October 2016. Belona Greenwood and Lynne Bryan were runners up for the Women in Publishing’s Pioneering Venture award, 2015.


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