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In association with the Northern Writer’s Awards/New Writing North and the Society of Authors

JUDGES: Leone Ross, Paul McVeigh, Cathy Galvin and Will Mackie.


We are delighted to announce the winners of the Word Factory Apprentice Award 2021/22. Deborah Yewande Bankole and Amy Stewart were selected from hundreds of applicants for this innovative year-long short-story writing development scheme.

Founded by Cathy Galvin, founder of the Sunday Times Short Story Award, and Paul McVeigh, a Polari Prize winner, the award has a history of bringing outstanding talent to the attention of the publishing industry, including Claire Adam (author of Golden Child, Faber), University of East Anglia Fellow Melissa Fu (agent, Clare Alexander), Uschi Gatward (Galley Beggar Press), Holly Dawson (Harper Collins), and current award-winning Word Factory team members Giselle Leeb, Emily Devane and Divya Ghelani. This year three winners of the award, Melissa Wan, Sharon Telfer and Amy Stewart, are published in Test Signal, Northern Anthology of New Writing, a collaboration between Dead Ink and Bloomsbury publishers.

Our winners will be mentored by renowned short story writers and novelists Toby Litt and Catherine Menon.

The award, now in its eighth year, has offered a template for similar schemes across the country and has actively promoted a range of writers from diverse backgrounds. Winners have all been widely published with mainstream and independent publishers, winning and being shortlisted for national awards.

Our recipients will join the Word Factory team in exciting preparations for the tenth anniversary of the Word Factory in 2022.

“I was delighted to be a judge for the Word Factory Apprentice Award, an important mentoring initiative nurturing the voices of emerging short story writers. The quality, range and artistry of stories from this year’s winners show the short form is alive, thrilling and as wholly necessary as ever,” said Leone Ross.

“An incredible year for this scheme as it goes from strength to strength. This year the quality of the entries took another leap and the lucky award winners will work with some of the UK’s finest short story writers – what an amazing opportunity”, said Paul McVeigh.

“Publishers are now making more determined steps to seek a diverse range of writers for their lists: they really do not have to look very far. It has never been more vital that talented British based writers from every community are encouraged to find their voices and to understand the power and responsibility of language and of good writing,” said Cathy Galvin. “ Our wonderful new apprentices are joining us in an exciting year when we will be inspiring powerful new work.”

 “The Word Factory Apprenticeship was a huge boost, and it came at a time when I really needed it. It brought me into contact with other writers who were at a similar stage to me, which was wonderful for the sense of camaraderie, and also a sense of validation, i.e. not feeling like I was the lone crazy fool who had decided to dedicate so many years to this unprofitable endeavour! And my mentor, Jacob Ross, was also a massive help, not only in terms of the encouragement he gave me, but also on the nuts-and-bolts on the writing side: he helped me untangle the problems I was having with my novel’s structure, for example, and helped me move past a bottleneck I’d been stuck on for months. Also, both Jacob and I are from the Caribbean, and it was very useful to be able to discuss Caribbean literature side by side with literature from other countries,” said Claire Adam.


Deborah Yewande BankoleDeborah Yewande Bankole

Deborah Yewande Bankole is a British-Nigerian South East London based creative producer and writer. She is an occasional journalist with work published in the Huffpost UK. She was recently awarded a place on Dhalia Books’ ‘A Brief Pause’ development programme, with work due to be published in the programme’s anthology. Her writing is often inspired by familial relationships, friendships and religion, exploring the ways they take root and shape us.

“I love Bankole’s imagination. She has a wonderful eye for original, magical detail which is a rare instinct. I kept thinking: ‘oooh, I want to mentor her!’” – Leone Ross

Amy StewartAmy Stewart

Amy Stewart completed an MA in Creative Writing at York St John in 2019, for which she won the annual Programme Prize. She is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Sheffield, centred around female circus artists and the carnivalesque. Amy’s work can be found in The York JournalAurora JournalBandit Fiction and Ellipsis Zine, as well as the upcoming Test Signal anthology from Bloomsbury and DeadInk Books (July 2021).


Gillian Watson

“What a brave, deep, unrestrained writer of sexuality! I felt like pulling up a seat and taking notes…” – Leone Ross

2021/ 2022 SHORTLIST

Our sifting process was divided between New Writing North and the Word Factory team, Tom Conaghan and Giselle Leeb. New Writing North have contacted their shortlist in confidence. Word Factory would like to announce the shortlist from their sifting:

  • Deborah Yewande Bankole
  • Honaria Beirne
  • Duncan Grimes
  • Aisha Phoenix
  • Clare Reddaway
  • Gillian Watson



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