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Press release: Scottish writers receive New Writers Award

Scottish Book Trust announces the 2023 New Writers Awardees

Scottish Book Trust, the national charity changing lives with reading and writing, has today announced the 2023 New Writers Awardees – recipients of a prestigious year-long writer development programme which includes mentorship, a bursary, and opportunities to showcase work to publishing industry professionals.

There are in total 11 writers on this year's programme, including two writing in the Scots language and two in Gaelic. This year also marks the tenth anniversary of the Callan Gordon Award, a place on the programme which is awarded in memory of Callan Gordon, a young Scottish writer, and funded by the Gordon family.

This year's cohort comprises young adult fiction writer Sonali Misra; children's writer Henry Coles; poets Medha Singh, Robbie MacLeòid, Craig Aitchison and Eloise Birtwhistle; spoken word performer Oliver Robertson; and fiction writers Hannah McDonald, Alessandra Thom, Dòmhnall Eòghainn MacKinnon and Dervla Johanna.

Previous awardees include Booker Prize winner Graeme Macrae Burnet; bestselling author of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Gail Honeyman; and acclaimed writers Kirstin Innes, Rachelle Atella and Sarah Smith. Applications for next year's New Writers Awards will open at the end of May. The New Writers Awards are generously supported by the Dr David Summers Charitable Trust, The Garrick Charitable Trust, the Russell Trust, and the William Grant Foundation.

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said:

'This year's cohort of New Writers Awardees showcase some of the best new writing talent in Scotland. We're excited to support them on the next stage of their writing journeys to help them develop and hone their skills further.'

Alan Bett, Head of Literature & Publishing at Creative Scotland, said:

'Scottish Book Trust's New Writers Awards continues to launch fresh and inspiring voices into professional writing, supporting them every step of the way.

'We're excited to see the future of Scottish literature emerge from this list and, eventually, onto bookshop shelves. The list of successful authors and poets to have come through New Writers is testament to the success of the programme, helping them develop their creative work and navigate the professional challenges of these early career stages. We wish them all success.'

Alison Lang, Director of Gaelic Books Council, said: 'Tha sinn toilichte a bhith ag obair còmhla ri Urras Leabhraichean na h-Alba a-rithist airson an cothrom luachmhor seo a thabhann do dhithis sgrìobhadairean a bhith a' leasachadh an cuid obrach. Tha Duaisean nan Sgrìobhadairean Ùra air cuideachadh mòr a thoirt do dh'iomadh sgrìobhadair aig toiseach nan dreuchdan aca, agus tha sinn an dòchas nach bi e fada mus faic sinn bàrdachd Robbie MhicLeòid agus sgeulachdan goirid Dhòmhnaill Eòghainn MhicFhionghain ann an clò.'

'We are pleased to be working with Scottish Book Trust once again to offer this valuable opportunity to two writers to develop their work. The New Writers Award has given many writers a head start in their careers, and we hope it won’t be long before we see Robbie MacLeòid's poetry and Dòmhnall Eòghainn MacKinnon's short stories in print.'


Notes to editors

Please direct all media requests to Abi Baross, Marketing and PR Manager at Scottish Book Trust at abi.baross@scottishbooktrust.com(this link will open in a new window).

Download photos: https://scottishbooktrust.chorus.thirdlight.com/link/x0chunz3ohr2-5u3ohk(this link will open in a new window)

Credit: Rob McDougall

Please note Sonali Misra is missing from the group photo as she couldn't attend on the day.

Quotes and biographies from the writers

Alessandra Thom

Quote: 'I am so happy to have been awarded this incredible recognition by Scottish Book Trust! It was a completely surreal moment. I'm looking forward to all the experiences and support the award offers, and excited to see how my work develops because of it.'

Biography: 'Alessandra Thom is a Scottish writer from Aberdeenshire. Her fiction has appeared in Gutter Magazine. She holds an MLitt with Distinction in Creative Writing from the University of St Andrews. She writes literary fiction about life in Aberdeenshire and the central belt, mad women, isolation and the wild natural world. She is currently working on her first novel.' Twitter: @aless_fl

Craig Aitchison

Quote: 'I am delighted to be given this incredible opportunity to develop as a writer. I am particularly honoured (not to mention chuffed, dumfoondert and conflummixt) to be the first recipient of a Scots New Writers Award.'

Biography: 'Craig Aitchison is a writer from Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. He has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Stirling. He writes poetry and prose in both English and Scots. He has had short stories published in Northwords Now, Tangled Web, Pushing Out The Boat, Southlight, Wyldblood and in the Fly on the Wall Press anthology, 'Demos Rising'. His poetry has featured in Poetry Scotland and he was commissioned by the Scottish Poetry Library to write a poem to celebrate 250 years of Sir Walter Scott. His work in Scots has featured several timed in Lallans magazine and has won the Scots Language Centre's Sangschaw Prize. In 2022 his poem in Scots, 'Sea Room', was shortlisted for both the Wigtown Prize and the Wigtown Scots Prize. Craig is a Scottish Mountaineering Creative regularly writes poetry for the matchday programme of Gala Fairydean Rovers Football Club.' Twitter: @craigaitchison | Instagram: @craig.aitchison

Dervla Johanna

Quote: 'I'm absolutely "can't stop maniacally grinning at the bus stop" levels of ecstatic to have received this award. Writing is the thing I love the most, my characters are like dear friends, and it means the absolute world that someone has read and enjoyed something I've written.'

Biography: 'Dervla has been writing for as long as she can remember, scribbling stories at the back of her school jotters about spies, or spaceships, or adventurers. Her desire to write drew her to studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Dundee where she graduated with a first-class honours. While in university her writing often featured in The Magdalen, a student-run magazine, and in 2018 her short-story, "Baby Steps," was nominated as a runner up in the Mother's Milk Books short story prize.

After her undergraduate degree, Dervla studied a masters in English Literature at Queen's University, Belfast. Continuing her writing pursuits, she kept a blog where she wrote a new short story every day in November 2019. These stories were mostly fiction, but sometimes there were fictional characters plastered over real emotions. In December 2020 one of Dervla's stories, "Pining for Christmas," was performed on BBC Radio Suffolk as part of the Ink Festival.

Dervla graduated from her masters with Distinction and has since been focused on writing longer form fiction, including some projects that she hopes will be published one day. Her long form fiction has the same amount of heart as her short stories but with just a bit more magic.' Twitter: @dervlajm | Instagram: @dervlaj

Dòmhnall Eòghainn MacKinnon

Quote: 'It is an absolute honour to receive this award, and I'm very grateful to the Scottish Book Trust and The Gaelic Books Council for the opportunity. I am excited to work with a mentor to advance my skills. I want to write more, serve my community, and bring new Gaelic writing to the world.'

Biography: 'Dòmhnall Eòghainn completed a Masters degree in screenwriting in 2019 and has been writing award-winning scripts and films since then. His stories attracted the interest of the BBC, leading to the formation of his own production company, Macanta Media, in 2021. In 2022 his debut film was shortlisted for a Royal Television Society Award and won the audience award at the South Beach Film Festival in California. His latest work has been nominated for a Royal Television Society Award 2023 and is on the film festival circuit. His career began at age 11, composing songs in a Hebridean shed. He continues to write and perform in his spare time, with an album of new material due in 2024.'

Eloise Birtwhistle

Quote: 'I'm really looking forward to a period of focus and absorption in my writing. I'm grateful for the New Writers Award's encouragement to do this and I'm excited to meet the other awardees and to get to know their writing!'

Biography: 'Eloise Birtwhistle's poetry has been published in New Writing Scotland; Mslexia; Gutter Magazine; SPAM Zine; The Edwin Morgan Centenary Collection; Wet Grain; Algia; From Glasgow to Saturn; and Reclaim: An Anthology of Women's Poetry. She received a Distinction in her Creative Writing MLitt from the University of Glasgow, graduating in 2018. In 2019, she was selected as a St Mungo's Mirrorball Clydebuilt apprentice, where she benefitted from mentorship by John Glenday. Her writing has been exhibited by the John Byrne Award and she was a Finalist of the 2019 Mslexia and Poetry Book Society Women's Poetry Prize.

Eloise also delivers community arts projects and has hosted public readings and conversations with writers including Claire Askew and Nadine Aisha Jassat. Her creative writing workshops have been run with organisations including Glasgow Women's Library, the Survivor Arts Community, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Glasgow, and the Inverclyde Homeless Centre. Through this work she has edited zines and two book-length anthologies.'

Hannah McDonald

Quote: 'I'm absolutely ecstatic to have received a New Writers Award! It can be difficult to prioritise writing whilst also working full time, so I'm incredibly grateful for the support I will receive thanks to this award. It's also a privilege to have my writing be recognised in this way, and I'm really looking forward to getting started!'

Biography: 'Hannah McDonald is a writer and English teacher from the Southside of Glasgow. She graduated with Distinction in 2021 from the MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow. Her writing focuses on relationships, identity, and concepts of place and belonging. Hannah is also interested in fictionalising oral histories of working-class communities in the West of Scotland; this was the focus of her MLitt dissertation. One of these stories was included in 'Scotland’s Stories', published for Book Week Scotland 2023. Her work has been featured in a number of other publications such as Gutter Magazine, SPAM Zine, The Common Breath's 'Middle of a Sentence', Epoch Press, and New Writing Scotland, and she has also performed her work at various events such as Queer Theory and SPAM’s Summer Bummer.' Twitter: @mcdonaldhanny | Instagram: @mcdonaldhanny

Henry Coles

Quote: 'I'm both amazed and honoured to have been selected by Scottish Book Trust as an awardee and am looking forward to working with them and meeting other writers.'

Biography: 'Henry grew up in a small village in Yorkshire, but moved to Scotland over 20 years ago and now lives in Edinburgh with his partner and children. After dropping out of both a chemistry degree and a PhD in powder metallurgy, he became a computer programmer and an accidental expert in obscure software testing techniques.

Although he'd always wanted to write, Henry didn't actually sit down and try until his forties. Inspired by the books he'd read to his children, he decided to try and create something they'd enjoy.

His first completed book, The Cipher Engines was shortlisted for the Times Chicken House IET150 prize and Well's Book for Children competitions. His second, The Traitor's Moon, was long listed for the Bath and WriteMentor children's novel awards

Henry is currently working on a third middle grade novel full of pirates, democracy, and whales.' Twitter: @_pitest

Medha Singh

Quote: 'I am grateful to Scottish Book Trust and the judges of the New Writers Award for choosing my entry among the horde of talented writers I know to freckle the ebullient and plentiful world of Scottish arts and letters.'

Biography: 'Medha Singh is a poet, translator, and editor. She is editor of Berfrois, London. She has published a work of translation, a collection of love letters that she translated from the French, penned by Indian modernist painter Sayed Haider Raza during his time in France, I Will Bring My Time: Love Letters by S.H. Raza (Vadehra Art Gallery, 2020). Her work has appeared in Almost Island, Hotel, Berfrois, Interpret, 3:AM, Indian Quarterly, The Bombay Literary Magazine, Poetry at Sangam, The Charles River Journal among others. Her work has been anthologized in Singing in the Dark (Penguin, 2020), The Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction (Hachette, 2021), Contemporary Indian Poetry by Younger Indians (Sahitya Akademi, 2020), Best Indian Poetry 2018 (RLFPA editions), Divining Dante (Recent Work Press, 2021) Future Library: Contemporary Indian Writing (Red Hen Press, 2022), Converse: Contemporary English Poetry by Indians (Penguin Random House, 2022); The Best Asian Poetry (Kitaab, 2022). Her work has been translated into Hindi, Spanish and French. Her interviews have appeared on the website of The Pablo Neruda Foundation, Chile; NERObooks, Boston; POV, Denmark, Queen Mob's Teahouse, London and JCAM, Massachusettes. among others. Medha was longlisted for the Toto Funds the Arts Awards (India) in 2019 and 2020. She took her MSc in Creative Writing from the Uni of Edinburgh. Her collection of poems is forthcoming.' Twitter: @medhawrites | Instagram: @medha.s__

Oliver Robertson

Quote: 'I am absolutely buzzing oot my trolley that I have been awarded the New Writers Award from Scottish Book trust! When I got the call I was lost for words and I still can't believe it is real. I am so excited to make the most of this opportunity and develop as a writer and as a person.''

Biography: ‘Oliver Robertson (He/Him) is a worker, writer and spoken word artist hailing from the East End of Glasgow. Oliver was selected for the BBC Words First Scheme in 2020. He has been performing spoken word since 2020 at both virtual and online events and post pandemic he has taken his words to audiences throughout Scotland. Oliver has performed at Eden Festival, Hidden Door Festival, Doune the Rabbit Hole Festival, Platform Easterhouse Glasgow, The Hug and Pint Glasgow and Push the Boat Out Summerhall Edinburgh.

Oliver is excited to perform again at Hidden Door festival in The former Scottish Widows office complex in Edinburgh and be part of Glasgow's May Day celebrations. He has had his work published in The Scribblers Union Anthology and Retail Opportunity Zine by Speculative Books.

His work is firmly based on his perspective of growing up in Glasgow's East End and his poetry attempts to marry social commentary with humour and wit.' Instagram: @OliverhRobertson

Robbie MacLeòid

Quote: 'I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the ranks of Gaelic New Writers awardees. I've long been a fan of the New Writers Awards and look forward to finding out who has won them every year. It is an honour to be amongst them this time!'

Biography: 'Robbie MacLeòid is a poet and writer, who creates in English and Scottish Gaelic. He was the poet-in-residence for Scotland's international poetry festival, StAnza, in 2020. Over the course of the pandemic, he was commissioned by various organisations such as the University of Glasgow, and StAnza, to create poetry for them.

In 2022, the manuscript for his first poetry collection, 'Am Measg Luaithrean Beò', won Best Unpublished Manuscript at the Gaelic Literature Awards. The same collection was also Highly Commended in the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award in the same year. You can find his work in Gutter, 404 Ink, New Writing Scotland, and STEALL, among other places.

Robbie has worked in numerous forms over the years, from songwriting, to prose, to poetry, to drama, and even the odd bit of video game writing. He enjoys translating, and, with backing from the Edwin Morgan Trust, put together a zine of Gaelic translations of Edwin Morgan's poetry. In his work he explores queerness, anti-colonialism, feminism, and play.' Twitter: @robbieamacleod | Instagram: @robbiemacleoid

Sonali Misra

Quote: 'I got the news about winning the Award on a tough day, one I spent at hospital with my father, who's undergoing chemotherapy in India. He knows I've been applying to this Award for a couple years, and he's proud of my writing but also my perseverance. I won’t win anything if I never apply, and I'm thrilled my efforts paid off!'

Biography: 'Sonali Misra's life revolves around stories. She's been a reader, performer, student of literature and creative writing, editor and product manager in the publishing industry, literary magazine co-founder, PhD Researcher in publishing, and author.

Born and raised in Delhi, India, Sonali's short prose has appeared in Scottish, Canadian and Indian anthologies. Her nonfiction book, 21 Fantastic Failures: and what their stories teach us, was published in 2020. She's won writing awards at University, a spot on Gothenburg's UNESCO City of Literature writing residency, and The National Library of Scotland's Fresh Ink prize. Due to the latter, her personal essay was added to the Library archives. It was also shortlisted for the Anne Brown Prize by Wigtown Book Festival and the BBC.

Supporting others in the literature sector is key for Sonali. She's done so as the Co-founder of The Selkie Publications CIC, an international literary magazine that publishes and promotes minoritised voices, and formerly as the Co-chair of the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) Scotland and member of the Writers' Advisory Group of Literature Alliance Scotland.

Currently completing her YA political adventure fantasy novel Aasra, the first in a trilogy, Sonali aims to showcase fun fast-paced yet important Indian genre writing on the international stage.' Twitter: @MisraSonali | Instagram: @sonali.writes

Scottish Book Trust

Scottish Book Trust is a national charity that believes everyone living in Scotland should have equal access to books. Our work provides opportunities to improve life chances through books and the fundamental skills of reading and writing. Access to books and a love of books bring many important benefits from family bonding and advancing children's learning, to unlocking creativity, helping employability and improving mental health and wellbeing. Scottish Book Trust aims to support all communities across Scotland, with particular focus on those who are vulnerable and under-represented.

Our programmes and outreach work include:

In addition to the funding we receive from the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland, we need the constant support of trusts and foundations, corporate sponsors and individual donors.

Find us online at scottishbooktrust.com(this link will open in a new window). Follow @scottishbktrust on Twitter(this link will open in a new window), @scottishbooktrust on Instagram(this link will open in a new window) or like Scottish Book Trust's Facebook page(this link will open in a new window).

Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland distributing funding provided by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery. Further information at creativescotland.com(this link will open in a new window). Follow us on Twitter(this link will open in a new window), Facebook(this link will open in a new window) and Instagram(this link will open in a new window). Learn more about the value of art and creativity in Scotland and join in at www.ourcreativevoice.scot(this link will open in a new window)

Gaelic Books Council

Comhairle nan Leabhraichean (The Gaelic Books Council) is the lead organisation with responsibility for Gaelic writing and publishing, and for raising the profile and reach of Scottish Gaelic books in Scotland and internationally. Established in 1968, Comhairle nan Leabhraichean is a registered charity and receives funding from Creative Scotland and from Bòrd na Gàidhlig to support its programme of grants, professional training and events.

Find us online at gaelicbooks.org(this link will open in a new window), @LeughLeabhar(this link will open in a new window) on Twitter and at facebook.com/ComhairleNanLeabhraichean(this link will open in a new window).