Young Writers Awards: An insider's view

Young Writers Awards
Category: Writing

 I received a Scottish Book Trust Young Writers Award in 2010. For me, the award was very important and formative, and I feel as though I have improved greatly as a writer and have been opened up to many opportunities as a consequence.

Firstly, meeting other people who consider themselves serious writers was new to me and very inspiring. Our group—the winners, and our mentor, Catherine Forde,—were a pleasant mix of personalities and fit together neatly from the outset. Talking about our favourite books and reading and critiquing each others’ work created an exciting, productive atmosphere. Not only did these sessions keep me motivated, they also provided some good memories. To this day, I’m still in touch with the other winners.

Moreover, the sessions with Cathy taught me some vital skills. Having an experienced writer (and reader) tell me what she felt worked and didn’t work was revelatory. Her suggestions and interpretations of my work helped me express myself more clearly and precisely. I learned the importance of editing and rewriting, clarifying my own turns of phrase and cutting out anything unnecessary. Being able to discuss every detail of a piece of work, down to the last punctuation mark, is very rare, and was so useful in developing my writing style.

The Young Writers Awards programme also gave me valuable insight into the publishing industry. We met an agent, who talked to us about what she looked for in a cover letter, and which mistakes condemn a piece of work to the slush pile. This advice was not only interesting; it has helped me with my confidence in submitting pieces of work to publications.

On another occasion, we were coached on reading our work aloud and performing, in time for the New Writers Awards Showcase. Reading aloud exposes your work in a unique way. Up until that point, I had barely thought about how the words I was writing would sound. The coaching we received encouraged me to experiment and I have now performed at live poetry events in Edinburgh such as Inky Fingers.

Finally, receiving a Young Writers Award lent my stories a larger amount of exposure. Performing at the New Writers Awards Showcase and being published in New Writing From Scotland meant that I was able to meet other writers, make friends and acquaint myself with Scotland’s literary scene. In a way, the awards experience never ended because I now knew more people who wanted to read and talk about my work. My entry for the competiton was even published in The Guardian.

I will never forget my time at the Scottish Book Trust, and I am so thankful for the opportunities they have given me. I would strongly advise any young writer to apply for the Young Writers Awards 2013—even if they feel insecure, or don’t think they’ll get picked. If you’ve got something you want to say, and an original way of saying it, you should enter. Don’t hold back.

The Young Writers Awards 2013 are now open for applications. Find out how to apply here

Amber Kennedy

Amber Kennedy received a Young Writers Award in 2010.