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1 February 2024

2024 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize Opens for Submissions

For 15 years, the Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize has awarded some of the most exciting new voices in life writing, poetry, and fiction from around the world. We are pleased to share that the 2024 edition of the prize, in the 40th anniversary year of the magazine, is now open for submissions until 5pm BST on 1 July 2024.

Representing more of the globe than any other prize of its kind, the prize supports writers who have not published book-length works, with no limits on age, gender, nationality, or background. The winners of each category will receive a £1,000 cash prize and publication in Wasafiri magazine. All winners and shortlisted writers will be offered the Chapter and Verse or Free Reads mentoring scheme in partnership with The Literary Consultancy (dependent on eligibility), and a conversation with The Good Literary Agency to discuss their career progression, as well as a one-year print subscription to Wasafiri. 

Past winners and shortlistees of the New Writing Prize include the likes of Akwaeke Emezi, Caleb Femi, and Louise Kennedy, who have gone on to score deals with major international publishing houses such as Penguin, Peepal Tree Press, Bloomsbury and Hachette, and to be shortlisted for and win prizes including the Women's Prize for Fiction, the Forward Prizes, and the Bocas Poetry Prize, among many others.

This year's multi-award-winning judges are Margaret Busby (Chair), Cristina Rivera Garza (Life Writing), Meena Kandasamy (Poetry), and Isabel Waidner (Fiction).    

The prize will be chaired by the visionary and trailblazing literary figure Margaret Busby, who says she is 'proud to have been associated with the prize since it was launched 15 years ago'. Margaret's long association with Wasafiri and the prize places her in a unique position to judge work with 'cross-cultural coverage across worlds and genres' and which offers 'inspiring dialogue and acts as a necessary reminder of what is possible when the imagination is freed from the constraints of margins and borders'. She will be joined by a truly remarkable panel of poets and authors.

Fiction judge, Isabel Waidner will be 'looking for fiction that is adventurous and inventive in its approach to literary form. That writes difference with urgency and criticality. That doesn't underestimate humour as a strategy of resistance. And that knows, or knows it doesn't know, what it wants'. Speaking about the magazine, they added that, 'Wasafiri continues to be one of the most reliable and effective counteragents in a publishing industry defined by sameness'.

Meena Kandasamy remembers the moment she first read Wasafiri: 'it felt like another way of looking at the world, and reading the reviews and the interviews gave me this sliver of insight into how writers and artists approached the world around them'. As judge of the poetry category, she will be 'looking for the things I look for in the best of poetry: something to still my blood, something to make me say a prayer, something to wipe a tear, something which makes me raise my fist in a march. I'm waiting to be moved, I'm waiting to read someone bear witness, I'm waiting for the singular pleasure that language offers'.

And, Cristina Rivera Garza is looking forward to 'courageous, inquisitive, path-opening pieces of writing' as judge of the life writing category.

Read the terms and conditions and enter the prize here.


About the judges 


Margaret Busby CBE, Hon. FRSL (Nana Akua Ackon) is a major cultural figure around the world. Her career has spanned work as a publisher, editor, interviewer, reviewer, scriptwriter, lyricist, radio and TV presenter, activist and mentor. She has judged prestigious literary prizes, including the Booker Prize, and served on the boards of such organisations as the Royal Literary Fund, Wasafiri magazine, Tomorrow’s Warriors, and the Africa Centre in London. She has been a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. In 2023, she was appointed President of English PEN.

Cristina Rivera Garza is an author, translator and critic. Recent publications include Liliana’s Invincible Summer (Hogarth, 2023), which was long listed for the National Book Award in nonfiction. The Taiga Syndrome, trans. by Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana, (Dorothy Project, 2018), won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award. Grieving. Dispatches from a Wounded Country, trans. by Sarah Booker (The Feminist Press, 2020), was a finalist National Book Critics Circle Award In Criticism. She is M.D. Anderson Distinguished Professor and founder of the PhD Program in Creative Writing in Spanish at the University of Houston, Department of Hispanic Studies, and a MacArthur Fellow 2020-2025. 

Meena Kandasamy has been described by the Independent as a ‘one-woman, agit-prop literary-political movement’. Meena Kandasamy is a poet, writer, translator, anti-caste activist and academic based in India. Her extensive corpus includes two poetry collections, Touch (2006) and Ms Militancy (2010), as well as three novels, The Gypsy Goddess (2014), When I Hit You (2017) and Exquisite Cadavers (2019). In 2022, she was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL) and was also awarded the PEN Hermann Kesten Prize for her writing and work as a ‘fearless fighter for democracy, human rights and the free word.’ Her latest published work is Tomorrow Someone Will Arrest You, a collection of political poetry written over the last decade.

Isabel Waidner is a novelist based in London. They are the author of Corey Fah Does Social Mobility (2023), Sterling Karat Gold (2021), We Are Made of Diamond Stuff (2019), and Gaudy Bauble (2017). They are the winner of the Goldsmiths Prize 2021 and were shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize in 2019, the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction in 2022 and the Republic of Consciousness Prize in 2018, 2020 and 2022. They are a co-founder of the event series Queers Read This at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and they are an academic in the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London.

Photo credits: Margaret Busby CBE - Luke Daniels ©, Cristina Rivera Gaza - Annette Hornischer ©, Meena Kandasamy - AR Sumanth Kumar ©, Isabel Waidner - Robin Christian ©


Click here more information on submitting for the 2024 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize.


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