Winner of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature’s writing prize announced

The winner of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature’s prestigious competition for unpublished novelists has been announced today. Recognised as one of the most successful writing competitions in the region, it has a proven track record in finding new writing talent, producing nine published authors in the last seven years. First-time novelists from the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia are eligible to enter, providing that they are 21 years or older and have never published a novel before.

This year’s first place goes to Benjamin Crossland with MindSet, a science fiction novel about changing relationships. The runners up were Avril Erskine with McGovern Town, a novel about a young boy growing up in the north west of Ireland, and Saudi-based Susan Bryceland with Welcome to Raptorville, a mystery story for middle-grade students.

All entries were judged by international literary agent Luigi Bonomi, founder of Luigi Bonomi Associates (LBA) and literary agent. “It’s always fascinating to see the breadth of entries submitted each year, and this year was no exception, with a particularly high standard,” said Bonomi. “Although winning the competition is no guarantee of getting published, the success rate in the past has been extraordinary and shows how high the standard of writing in this region is.”

The winner has the chance to discuss their manuscript with Luigi Bonomi. A number of past winners have gone on to be represented, earn multi-book deals and become published authors.

Festival director Ahlam Bolooki says that the track record for the competition speaks for itself: “Anyone serious about their writing should take the opportunity provided by this competition to get their work noticed. It has been very exciting for us to have played a part in enabling publishing success for so many new authors.”

The latest winner to get published is Polly Phillips whose debut novel, My Best Friend’s Murder, is signed to Simon & Schuster, and is now available as an ebook and audio, with the paperback following in July. Helga Jensen-Forde, one of the winners in 2017, will also see her first novel on the shelves in a bookstore this summer. Charlotte Butterfield has announced a new publishing deal with Hodder and Stoughton for her novel My Second-Chance Life, due out in paperback and ebook in April 2022. Other alumni of the competition include Annabel Kantaria, Rachel Hamilton, Lucy Strange, Tamsin Winter, Karen Osman, Jessica Jarlvi, Farzeen Ashik and Ahmed A. Bukhatir.

The three winners also receive a special Montegrappa pen.

The announcement was made at this year’s Festival during a panel discussion on the route to getting published. This year’s Festival programme has seen live appearances and virtual sessions across three weekends and three venues with an array of topics appealing to all: Jameel Arts Centre (29-30 January), the big middle weekend at the Festival’s home, the InterContinental Dubai Festival City (4-6 February) and Alserkal Avenue (12-13 February). Not to be missed authors include Nobel Prize winner Malala, acclaimed authors Elif Shafak and Amin Maalouf among many others.

The Festival is fully compliant with all Covid-19 prevention regulations and guidelines from the Dubai Health Authorities, including social distancing measures across all three venues and mandatory masks. See full details on the Emirates LitFest website.

The Festival is held with Founding Partners Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated authority for heritage, arts, and culture, and is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

For the full list of authors, visit More information can be found online and year-round news of #EmiratesLitFest

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