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Writers enjoy a share of £25,000 | 12-May-08

Writers enjoy a share of £25,000
New Writing North is delighted to announce the winners of this year's Northern Writers' Awards ahead of the public event that will celebrate the winning writers' work. The ceremony will take place on Sunday, 4th May, at 3pm at the Queen's Hall Arts Centre, as part of the 2008 Hexham Book Festival which runs throughout the Bank Holiday weekend.
This year seven writers will share a prize fund of £25,000 and each receive awards worth £3,500 to help them devote time to their writing and to further support their work towards publication.
The winners are:
Carolyn Jess-Cooke (30), a poet from Gateshead
Claire Lewis (24), a fiction writer living in Newcastle
Mark Magrs (35), a children's fiction writer from South Shields
Paul Summers (41), a poet from North Shields
Zainab Radhi (31), fiction writer from Iraq, who settled in the North-East when she was a teenager.
Two special awards, which are named in the memory of North East writers will also be awarded:
Gibby Keys (47), a novelist from Hexham will receive the Andrea Badenoch Fiction Award, a special award in memory of the writer Andrea Badenoch which is supported by friends and relatives of the author. As part of this award Gibby will also receive a free short writing course from Newcastle University and her work will be read by Andrea's agent Jane Conway.
Toby Martinez de las Rivas (30), a young poet from Gateshead will receive the Waterhouse Poetry Award, a special award named in the memory of the poet Andrew Waterhouse, a talented young poet who died in 2001.
Manuscripts from over 120 writers were read by this year's judges Alice Quinn, Director of the Poetry Society of America and poetry editor for The New Yorker for 20 years, and Karolina Sutton, Literary Agent at ICM Books in London. Claire Malcolm, Director of New Writing North, chaired the decision process. 
Claire Malcolm, Director of New Writing North says:
"The seven winners show both the depth and diversity of the North East writing scene at the moment.  It's great to see younger writers such as Carolyn Jess-Cooke, Zainab Radhi and Claire Lewis coming through with such strong work.  The quality of the writing submitted for the awards this year was really impressive and highlights the dynamic writing environment that is flourishing in the region".
The Northern Writers' Awards have supported writers to develop their work for the last nine years. Each year New Writing North help emerging authors to work on their manuscripts with mentors and support the winners to place their work with agents and publishers. Many previous winners of the awards have gone on to be published such as Joanna Boulter, Jacob Polley, Kitty Fitzgerald and Charles Fernyhough.
If you would like to attend the awards ceremony, or organise an interview with the winners or with Claire Malcolm, please contact or 0191 222 1332.
Winners' biographies:
Carolyn Jess-Cooke
Carolyn moved to the North East from Northern Ireland three years ago to take up a post teaching Film Studies at Sunderland University ? on the day that she arrived she also met her husband to be. Her poetry has been published in magazines such as Poetry London, Poetry Ireland Review and The Stand and in 2005 she won a prestigious Gregory Award for her work from the Poetry Society. An award of £3,500 will help her to develop her new collection of poetry, Inroads, which explores themes of travel, belonging and progress. She is a mother of two children and lives in Gateshead. She is 30.
Gibby Keys
Gibby is 47 and has lived with her family in Hexham, Northumberland for ten years. She has previously written poetry and drama. Her play Stuff was produced by Queen's Hall Arts last year. The novel for which she has won the award, The Handfastin' is her first attempt at full-length prose. She started to write prose eight years ago whilst attending a creative writing class at Newcastle College. The Handfastin' was developed during a writer's retreat at the Arvon Foundation, supported by Queen Elizabeth High School in Hexham where she teaches in the Drama department.
Claire Lewis
Claire is 24 and has lived in the North East since 2006.  She currently lives in Newcastle. She has just graduated from a journalism course at Darlington College and before that worked full-time in a betting shop. She studied Creative Writing at the Cumbria Institute of the Arts. An award of £3,500 will allow her to develop her novel, The Dinosaur Room, which in 2007 was the runner up in the Helen du Coudray Prize run by Maia Press and Oxford University.
Mark Magrs
Mark grew up in County Durham and now lives in South Shields with his young family. An award of £3,500 will support him to develop his new novel for children, Moving the River.  The novel is about Chris, a teenage boy who decides to change the world for the better.  He is 35.
Zainab Radhi
Zainab is a British citizen who was born and raised in Baghdad and lived in Iraq until she was 16.  Her family lost their home during the Gulf War and her teenage years were spent travelling.  She is 31 years old and currently lives in Newcastle. She has lived in the North-East for the past seven years and works as a Continuing Education Tutor for Newcastle City Council, teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages. She has also worked closely with ethnic minority communities who needed assistance and guidance to get back into education, giving them the opportunity to improve their lives.  Since her childhood days she has had a passion for writing but never had the opportunity to pursue it professionally. She recently graduated from an MA in Creative Writing at Northumbria University. An award of £3,500 will support her to develop her novel Home, which she describes as 'a story of humanity, children, innocence and naivety.  It is how I saw the Gulf War'.
Toby Martinez de las Rivas
Moved to the North East ten years ago and currently lives in Gateshead with his partner, stepson and new baby.  He has been writing seriously since he was 21 and currently works as a part-time teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages in Gateshead. He has been particularly influenced by the landscape of Northumberland, the energy of contemporary Gateshead and the work of poets from the region such as the late Barry MacSweeney. His poetry has been published in magazines such as Dreamcatcher and Ambit and in 2005 he won a prestigious Gregory Award for his work from the Poetry Society.  His award will help him to develop his first full collection of poetry. He is 30 years old.
Paul Summers
Paul was born in Blyth in Northumberland and has earned his living as a writer and creative practitioner for the last ten years. He is 41 and lives with his wife and two children in North Shields. His first full collection of poetry, The Last Bus, was published by Iron Press in 1998 and his most recent, Big Bella's Dirty Café was published in 2006 by Dogeater Press. He will use the award to work on Broken Land, a collection of poems which he describes a 'Grand tour of the often unseen, unfashionable and fast disappearing North assembled through a montage of poetic postcards''.
Further Information
New Writing North is the writing development agency for the north east of England. 2008 marks twelve years of activity working with writers from different genres and forms to develop career opportunities, new commissions, projects, residencies, publications and live events. NWN work in partnership with a broad range of organisations, universities, local authorities, regional development agencies, sponsors and media producers to develop opportunities for writers in our region.
Olivia Mantle
Projects and Marketing Officer, New Writing North
Culture Lab, Grand Assembly Rooms, University of Newcastle, King's Walk, Newcastle, NE1 7RU
Tel: 0191 222 1332
Fax: 0191 222 1372
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