Stormzy has announced the winners of his new writers prize.
Monika Radojevic’s poetry collection, 23 And Me, and Hafsa Zayyan’s novel We Are All Birds Of Uganda have scooped the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize.
Both writers receive representation from The Good Literary Agency and a contract with #Merky Books, the grime star’s own publishing imprint.
Stormzy, who was one of the judges, said: “A lot of talented people don’t fulfil their potential, they are so talented but they sit on it. I call it the beautiful shame.
“But you guys have the confidence to write, to do something about it, and that’s amazing.”
Judges hailed the winners as “among the best writers of a new generation”.
Radojevic’s poems “paint a story of the joys, the confusions and the moments of sadness behind having one’s history scattered around the globe”.
Zayyan’s novel We Are All Birds Of Uganda is the story of 26-year-old Sameer, the son of penniless refugees who has secured a job with a six-figure salary at one of London’s top city firms but feels like there “is something missing”.
Zayyan was born to a Nigerian father and Pakistani mother. She lived in several different countries before her family settled in the UK.
Radojevic, 23, who is half-Brazilian and half-Montenegrin and was born in London, said: “Winning the first #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize feels absolutely amazing, because it has shown me that people can connect with the story I have to tell.
“It has given me a platform for my voice to be heard in a way that I have never before experienced.”
Zayyan, 28, said: “Winning the New Writers’ Prize is really a dream come true − a dream I’ve had since I was a young child to one day have a book I’ve written be published…
“I am so grateful − and so excited − to have been given the opportunity to tell a story that I have wanted to tell for a long time.”
More than 1,200 submissions were entered for the prize, which was announced in March to promote “the stories that aren’t being heard and to find the best writer of a new generation”.
The prize was open to aspiring writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry from the UK and Ireland, aged between 16 and 30, and is run in collaboration with The Good Literary Agency and First Story.