Stormzy’s #Merky Books has crowned Jyoti Patel the winner of its annual New Writers’ Prize.
Her coming-of-age novel Six Of One, which explores what it means to be a person of colour living in the UK today, emerged as the winner over more than 2,000 other submissions – nearly double the number submitted in the previous year.
Covering themes of identity, personal myths and the stories people use to manage trauma, the novel is told from the perspectives of 18-year-old Nik and his British-Indian mother Avani.
Patel, 28, will receive a publishing contract with #Merky Books at Penguin Random House UK.
She said: “I’m delighted to be joining the #Merky Books family and am so grateful for the opportunity to have my novel published.
“Penguin has been my dream publisher since I was a child so it’s very exciting to know that my debut will be in such great hands.
“I’m very much looking forward to working with (commissioning editor) Lemara (Lindsay-Prince) and the #Merky Books team and can’t wait to get started.
“Thank you so much to everyone involved in organising the New Writers’ Prize, including the guest judges, and all those in the industry who are fostering space for stories like mine. It means the world.”
Patel impressed a panel of judges including founder and grime star Stormzy, author Candice Brathwaite, author and broadcaster Emma Dabiri, comedian and actor Guz Khan and Olympic heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson.
Emma Wallace, senior brand manager for #Merky Books, said: “Not only did we receive nearly double the submissions than the previous year, but we also received a higher number of works of fiction.
“It really felt like many of the young writers were sending us fictional stories that were based around themes of hope, fantasy and escapism during a time that was extremely difficult for so many.
“Jyoti’s writing in particular was extraordinary and, just like with our previous winners Hafsa Zayyan and Monika Radojevic, we’re all really excited to be publishing Six Of One under the #Merky Books imprint.”
In April, #Merky Books is launching a writers’ prize alumni in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature, to provide previous, current and future longlisted writers with ongoing mentorship, advice and a space to connect with each other.
Previous winners include Hafsa Zayyan, author of the recently published We Are All Birds Of Uganda, and poet Monika Radojevic, whose upcoming collection Teeth in the Back of the Neck is published in May.